The Two Princesses
Then, as the sun was rising, she threw away the lotus and, covering her face and arms again with the withered skin, went hastily away.
When the prince got home the first thing he said to his mother was, "Mother, I should like to marry that old woman who stands all day at the farmer's gate, just opposite."
"What?" cried the Ranee. "You are mad! Marry that skinny old thing? You cannot - you are a prince. Are there not enough princesses in all the world that you should wish to marry a wretched old beggar woman?"
But he answered, "Above all things I should like to marry that old woman. You know that I have ever been a dutiful and obedient son. In this matter, I pray you, grant me my desire."
Seeing he was really in earnest about the matter, and that nothing she could say would alter his mind, she agreed; not, however, without telling him in no uncertain terms what a terrible mistake he was making, and sent out the guards, who fetched the old woman (who was really the princess in disguise) to the palace. There she was married to the prince as privately, and with as little ceremony as possible, for the Ranee wanted no one to know of the matter.
As soon as the wedding was over, the prince said to his wife, "Gentle wife, tell me how much longer you intend to wear that old skin? You had better take it off; do be so kind."
The princess wondered how he knew of her disguise, or whether it was only a guess. She thought, "He seems kind, but if I take off this ugly skin, my husband will think me pretty and perhaps he will shut me up in the palace and never let me go away, and then I shall never be able to find my sister. No, I had better not take it off." So she answered, "I don't know what you mean. Nobody can change their skin." This she mumbled as if she were a very old woman indeed, and had lost all her teeth and could not speak plain. At this the prince laughed very much to himself and thought, "I'll wait and see how long this lasts.