The Two Princesses
Then she would gather a lotus-flower (such as she had been accustomed to wear in her hair as a child) and put it on, so as to feel for a few minutes like herself again. Thus she would amuse herself. Afterwards, as soon as the wind had dried the old skin, she put it on again, threw away the lotus-flower, and hobbled back to the farmer's door, before the sun was up.
After a time the Ranee discovered that someone had plucked some of her favorite lotus flowers. People were set to watch, and all the wise men in the kingdom put their heads together to try and discover the thief, but to no avail. At last, the excitement about this matter being very great, the queen's younger son, a brave and noble young prince, said, "I will certainly discover this thief."
It chanced that several fine trees grew round the tank. Into one of these the young prince climbed one evening, and there he watched all the night through, but with no more success than his predecessors. The lotus plants lay still in the moonlight, without so much as a thieving wind coming by to break off one of the flowers. The prince began to get very sleepy and thought the thief, whoever he might be, could not intend to return when, in the very early morning, before it was light, who should come down to the tank but an old woman he had often seen near the palace gate.
"Ah, ha!" thought the prince, "this then is the thief; but what can this queer old woman want with lotus flowers?" Imagine his astonishment when the old woman sat down on the steps of the tank and began pulling the skin off her face and arms! And from underneath the shriveled yellow skin came the loveliest face he had ever beheld! So fair, so fresh, so young, so gloriously beautiful, that appearing thus suddenly it dazzled the prince's eyes like a flash of lightning! "Ah," thought he, "can this be a woman or a spirit? A devil or an angel in disguise?"
The princess twisted up her glossy black hair and, plucking a red lotus, placed it in it, and dabbled her feet in the water, and amused herself by putting round her neck a string of the pearls that had been her sister's necklace.