At length the Prince came up with him, and said in a civil tone, “Pray can you tell me whither this road leads, and if it will be very long before I get to some house where I can find rest and food?”
“It leads to a very fine and beautiful castle,” replied the other somewhat doggedly, and still walking on. “I think, if you come along with me, you will get there in time. I am generally well received there, and in some sort may call myself the master of the house, so that those who go with me are generally made welcome by my lady, who, though she is sometimes a little whimsical, is the most charming person in the world when she smiles upon me. But you must keep on steadily with me; for if you stop or turn aside, a thousand to one you will be lost.”
When the Prince found him so communicative, he asked him if they could not cross one of the meadows to refresh themselves a little, and told him how he had been tempted to do so just before he saw him.
“Lucky you did not,” answered the other; “for those meadows are full of swamps and quagmires, the groves filled with snakes, and many of the fruits poisonous. You might have got yourself into such troubles that not even I could have helped you out of them.”
“If it is not improper, may I ask your name?” said the Prince.
“Come along,” answered the other, “Names matter little; but if you want to know mine, it is Perseverance.”
Not long after the Prince began to think he saw several tall towers glittering before him in the distance, with some misty clouds round about them, which only seemed to make them look the more beautiful.
“What a fine castle!” he exclaimed.
“That is where I am leading you,” answered the other; “and the first prospect is always very charming. But we have some way to go yet, I can tell you, and not a little to overcome. You would never get there without me; so come on, and do not be daunted at anything you see.”
The Prince soon found that his companion’s warning was just. The way did seem very long; and sometimes, as they went over hill and dale, the sight of the beautiful castle, which cheered him so much, was quite shut out from his eyes, and at length, when they were coming very near it, with nothing but one valley between them and the building, he perceived that the road went over a narrow drawbridge, and saw two terrible monsters lying close beside the way. Their bodies were like those of lions, very large and very strong, but they had necks like that of a snake, and from each neck issued a hundred horrible heads, all differing in kind from one another.
The poor Prince was alarmed, and said to his companion: “Do you see those horrible brutes? Is there no other way into the castle but between them?”
“There are a thousand ways into the castle,” replied his companion, “but every way is guarded by monsters just like those. But do not be alarmed. Go on with me, and I will help you. Besides, some one will come out of the castle, most likely, to give us assistance.”