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|The Light Princess||George MacDonald|
13. Here I Am
|Page 2 of 2||
'No, thank you," replied the prince.
"Very well," said the king. "Would you like to run and see your parents before you make your experiment?"
"No, thank you," said the prince.
"Then we will go and look for the hole at once," said his Majesty, and proceeded to call some attendants.
"Stop, please your Majesty; I have a condition to make," interposed the prince.
"What!" exclaimed the king, "a condition! and with me! How dare you?"
"As you please," returned the prince, coolly. "I wish your Majesty a good morning."
"You wretch! I will have you put in a sack, and stuck in the hole."
"Very well, your Majesty," replied the prince, becoming a little more respectful, lest the wrath of the king should deprive him of the pleasure of dying for the princess. "But what good will that do your Majesty? Please to remember that the oracle says the victim must offer himself."
"Well, you have offered yourself," retorted the king.
"Yes, upon one condition."
"Condition again!" roared the king, once more drawing his sword. "Begone! Somebody else will be glad enough to take the honour off your shoulders."
"Your Majesty knows it will not be easy to get another to take my place."
"Well, what is your condition?" growled the king, feeling that the prince was right.
"Only this," replied the prince: "that, as I must on no account die before I am fairly drowned, and the waiting will be rather wearisome, the princess, your daughter, shall go with me, feed me with her own hands, and look at me now and then to comfort me; for you must confess it IS rather hard. As soon as the water is up to my eyes, she may go and be happy, and forget her poor shoeblack."
Here the prince's voice faltered, and he very nearly grew sentimental, in spite of his resolution.
"Why didn't you tell me before what your condition was? Such a fuss about nothing!" exclaimed the king.
"Do you grant it?" persisted the prince.
"Very well. I am ready."
"Go and have some dinner, then, while I set my people to find the place."
The king ordered out his guards, and gave directions to the officers to find the hole in the lake at once. So the bed of the lake was marked out in divisions and thoroughly examined, and in an hour or so the hole was discovered. It was in the middle of a stone, near the centre of the lake, in the very pool where the golden plate had been found. It was a three-cornered hole of no great size. There was water all round the stone, but very little was flowing through the hole.
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