E HAD FALLEN in love with her almost, already; for her anger made her more charming than any one else had ever beheld her; and, as far as he could see, which certainly was not far, she had not a single fault about her, except, of course, that she had not any gravity. No prince, however, would judge of a princess by weight. The loveliness of her foot he would hardly estimate by the depth of the impression it could make in mud.
"Put you up where, you beauty?" asked the prince.
"In the water, you stupid!" answered the princess.
"Come, then," said the prince.
The condition of her dress, increasing her usual difficulty in walking, compelled her to cling to him; and he could hardly persuade himself that he was not in a delightful dream, notwithstanding the torrent of musical abuse with which she overwhelmed him. The prince being therefore in no hurry, they came upon the lake at quite another part, where the bank was twenty-five feet high at least; and when they had reached the edge, he turned towards the princess, and said:
"How am I to put you in?"
"That is your business," she answered, quite snappishly. "You took me out—put me in again."
"Very well," said the prince; and, catching her up in his arms, he sprang with her from the rock. The princess had just time to give one delighted shriek of laughter before the water closed over them. When they came to the surface, she found that, for a moment or two, she could not even laugh, for she had gone down with such a rush, that it was with difficulty she recovered her breath. The instant they reached the surface—
"How do you like falling in?" said the prince.
After some effort the princess panted out:
"Is that what you call falling in?"
"Yes," answered the prince, "I should think it a very tolerable specimen."
"It seemed to me like going up," rejoined she.
"My feeling was certainly one of elevation too," the prince conceded.
The princess did not appear to understand him, for she retorted his question:
"How do you like falling in?" said the princess.
"Beyond everything," answered he; "for I have fallen in with the only perfect creature I ever saw."
"No more of that. I am tired of it," said the princess.
Perhaps she shared her father's aversion to punning.
"Don't you like falling in, then?" said the prince.
"It is the most delightful fun I ever had in my life," answered she. "I never fell before. I wish I could learn. To think I am the only person in my father's kingdom that can't fall!"
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."