The Indian shook his head.
“Your Majesty,” he said, “this horse can never be sold for money, but can only be exchanged for something of equal value. It shall be thine only if thou wilt give me instead the Princess, your daughter, for my wife.”
At these words the King’s son sprang to his feet.
“Sire,” he cried, “thou wilt never dream of granting such a request.”
“My son,” answered the King, “at whatever cost I must have this wonderful horse. But before I agree to the exchange, I would wish thee to try the horse, and tell me what thou thinkest of it.”
The Indian, who stood listening to what they said, was quite willing that the Prince should try the Enchanted Horse, and began to give him directions how to guide it. But as soon as the Prince was in the saddle and saw the peg which made the horse start, he never waited to hear more. He turned the screw at once, and went flying off through the air.
“Alas!” cried the Indian, “he has gone off without learning how to come back. Never will he be able to stop the horse unless he finds the second peg.”
The King was terribly frightened when he heard the Indian’s words, for, by this time, the Prince had disappeared from sight.
“Wretch,” he cried, “thou shalt be cast into prison, and unless my son returns in safety, thou shalt be put to death.”
Meanwhile the Prince had gone gaily sailing up into the air until he reached the clouds, and could no longer see the earth below. This was very pleasant, and he felt that he had never had such a delicious ride in his life before. But presently he began to think it was time to descend. He screwed the peg round and round, backwards and forwards, but it seemed to make no difference. Instead of coming down he sailed higher and higher, until he thought he was going to knock his head against the blue sky.
What was to be done? The Prince began to grow a little nervous, and he felt over the horse’s neck to see if there was another peg to be found anywhere. To his joy, just behind the ear. He touched a small screw, and when he turned it, he felt he was going slower and slower, and gently turning round. Then he shouted with joy as the Enchanted Horse flew downwards through the starry night, and he saw, stretched out before him, a beautiful city gleaming white through the purple mantle of the night.
Everything was strange to him, and he did not know in what direction to guide the horse, so he let it go where it would, and presently it stopped on the roof of a great marble palace. There was a gallery running round the roof, and at the end of the gallery there was a door leading down some white marble steps.
The Prince began at once to descend the steps, and found himself in a great hall where a row of black slaves were sleeping soundly, guarding the entrance to a room beyond.
Very softly the Prince crept past the guards, and lifting the curtain from the door, looked in.