Here the poor princess looked almost sad.
“I shall be most happy to fall in with you any time you like,” said the prince, devotedly.
“Thank you. I don’t know. Perhaps it would not be proper. But I don’t care. At all events, as we have fallen in, let us have a swim together.”
“With all my heart,” responded the prince.
And away they went, swimming, and diving, and floating, until at last they heard cries along the shore, and saw lights glancing in all directions. It was now quite late, and there was no moon.
“I must go home,” said the princess. “I am very sorry, for this is delightful.”
“So am I,” returned the prince. “But I am glad I haven’t a home to go to—at least, I don’t exactly know where it is.”
“I wish I hadn’t one either,” rejoined the princess; “it is so stupid! I have a great mind,” she continued, “to play them all a trick. Why couldn’t they leave me alone? They won’t trust me in the lake for a single night! You see where that green light is burning? That is the window of my room. Now if you would just swim there with me very quietly, and when we are all but under the balcony, give me such a push—up you call it—as you did a little while ago, I should be able to catch hold of the balcony, and get in at the window; and then they may look for me till to-morrow morning!”
“With more obedience than pleasure,” said the prince, gallantly; and away they swam, very gently.
“Will you be in the lake to-morrow night?” the prince ventured to ask.
“To be sure I will. I don’t think so. Perhaps,” was the princess’s somewhat strange answer.
But the prince was intelligent enough not to press her further; and merely whispered, as he gave her the parting lift, “Don’t tell.” The only answer the princess returned was a roguish look. She was already a yard above his head. The look seemed to say, “Never fear. It is too good fun to spoil that way.”
So perfectly like other people had she been in the water, that even yet the prince could scarcely believe his eyes when he saw her ascend slowly, grasp the balcony, and disappear through the window. He turned, almost expecting to see her still by his side. But he was alone in the water. So he swam away quietly, and watched the lights roving about the shore for hours after the princess was safe in her chamber. As soon as they disappeared, he landed in search of his tunic and sword, and, after some trouble, found them again. Then he made the best of his way round the lake to the other side. There the wood was wilder, and the shore steeper—rising more immediately towards the mountains which surrounded the lake on all sides, and kept sending it messages of silvery streams from morning to night, and all night long. He soon found a spot where he could see the green light in the princess’s room, and where, even in the broad daylight, he would be in no danger of being discovered from the opposite shore. It was a sort of cave in the rock, where he provided himself a bed of withered leaves, and lay down too tired for hunger to keep him awake. All night long he dreamed that he was swimming with the princess.