The king is ailing, and he wants me to marry before he dies. I have not met a woman I could imagine as my wife. He tells me to go up the staircase to the top of the tower and look carefully at what I find there.
I haven’t been up here before. I unlock an iron door with a golden key and come into a vast room with a blue ceiling. It’s sprinkled with golden stars and the carpet is made of green silk, soft as turf. Sun streams through twelve windows, and a beautiful maiden is painted in every one. I turn round and round. Each one I look at lifts her eyes and smiles at me, but does not speak.
Then I notice that one of the windows is covered by a white silk curtain. I lift it, and a maiden stands before me, beautiful as the day, and sad as a tomb. She’s clothed in a white robe, and wears a crown of pearls.
Gazing at her, I feel as if have been turned to stone, and her sadness passes straight into my heart.