The Two Princesses
On she went, picking up the pearls - one here, one there - until she found the last pearl just in front of the palace gate. Then she felt certain her sister must be somewhere near, but where, she did not know. She longed to go into the palace and ask for her, but no guards would have let such a wretched looking old woman enter, and she did not dare offer them any of the pearls she had with her, lest they should think she was a thief. So she determined merely to remain as close to the palace as possible, and wait till fortune favored her with the means of learning something further about her sister. Just opposite the palace was a small house belonging to a farmer, and the princess went up to it and stood by the door.
The farmer's wife saw her and said, "Poor old woman, who are you? Why are you here? Have you no one in the world?"
"Alas, no," answered the princess. "I am a poor old woman and have neither father nor mother, son nor daughter, sister nor brother, to take care of me; all are gone and I can only beg my bread from door to door."
"Do not grieve, good mother," answered the farmer's wife, kindly. "You may sleep in the shelter of our porch and I will give you food."
So the princess stayed there for that night and for many more; and every day the good farmer's wife gave her food. But all this time she could learn nothing of her sister.
Now there was a large tank near the palace on which grew some fine lotus plants covered with rich crimson lotuses - the royal flower - and of these the Ranee was very fond indeed, and prized them very much. To this tank (because it was the nearest to the farmer's house) the princess would go every morning, very early, almost before it was light, at about three o'clock, and take off the old tiger's skin that helped her to look like an old woman, and wash it, and hang it out to dry; and wash her face and hands and bathe her feet in the cool water, and comb her beautiful hair.