Also it seemed to him that the king's skin was not so crimson in color as before, and that a thin growth of hair had covered his head.
However, no one else appeared to notice any change--least of all Terribus--so Nerle seated himself at the table and began to eat.
"It was very kind of you to return so soon to my poor castle," said the king to Prince Marvel, in his sweet voice.
"We could not help it," laughed the prince, in reply; "for the road wound right and left until we knew not which way we traveled; and then it finally circled around again to your castle. But to-morrow we shall seek a new path and bid you farewell forever."
"Still," remarked the king, gravely, "should you again miss your way, I shall be glad to welcome your return."
The prince bowed politely by way of reply, and turned to address the little maiden he had once saved from death by poison. And so in feasting, dancing and laughter the evening passed pleasantly enough to the prince, and it was late when he called Nerle to attend him to their apartment.
12. The Gift of Beauty
The following morning Marvel and Nerle once more set out to leave the Kingdom of Spor and its ugly king. They selected another pathway leading from the castle and traveled all day, coming at nightfall into view of the place whence they had started, with its solemn rows of giants and Gray Men standing ready to receive them.
This repetition of their former experience somewhat annoyed the prince, while Nerle's usually despondent face wore a smile.
"I see trouble ahead," murmured the esquire, almost cheerfully. "Since the king can not conquer us by force he intends to do it by sorcery."
Marvel did not reply, but greeted the king quietly, while Terribus welcomed their return as calmly as if he well knew they could not escape him.
That evening the prince made another pass toward the king with his hand and muttered again the magic word. Nerle was watching, and saw the upper eye of Terribus glide still farther down his forehead and the other eye move again toward the left. The swaying nose shrank to a few inches in length, and the skin that had once been so brilliantly crimson turned to a dull red color. This time the courtiers and ladies in waiting also noticed the change in the king's features, but were afraid to speak of it, as any reference to their monarch's personal appearance was by law punishable by death. Terribus saw the startled looks directed upon him, and raised his hand to feel of his nose and eyes; but thinking that if any change in his appearance had taken place, he must be uglier than before, he only frowned and turned away his head.
The next day the king's guests made a third attempt to leave his dominions, but met with no better success than before, for a long and tedious ride only brought them back to their starting-place in the evening.
This time Prince Marvel was really angry, and striding into the king's presence he reproached him bitterly, saying:
"Why do you prevent us from leaving your kingdom? We have not injured you in any way."
"You have seen ME, returned Terribus, calmly, "and I do not intend you shall go back to the world and tell people how ugly I am."
The prince looked at him, and could not repress a smile. The two eyes of the king, having been twice removed from their first position, were now both in his forehead, instead of below it, and one was much higher than the other. And the nose, although small when compared to what it had been, still resembled an elephant's trunk. Other changes had been made for the better, but Terribus was still exceedingly repulsive to look upon.
Seeing the prince look at him and smile, the king flew into a fury of anger and declared that the strangers should never, while they lived, be permitted to leave his castle again. Prince Marvel became thoughtful at this, reflecting that the king's enmity all arose from his sensitiveness about his ugly appearance, and this filled the youthful knight with pity rather than resentment.