As a gifted young lutenist tries to rouse a dying princess with his music, her spirit coaxes him to join her in the beautiful netherworld; instead, he chooses to stay, at least for a time, with those who need him--his poverty-stricken neighbors and the grieving king. The princess promises to wait. Dim lighting and pale floral borders give this picture book for older readers a subdued background well suited to Cieslawski's diaphanous ghosts and eerily twisted foliage. But Freschet's stiffly formal prose (""The music I play is more filling to me than the bread I could buy with a fortune"") will keep readers at a distance; like the illustrator, she is more successful in creating atmosphere than in supplying the small details of plot and character that bring a story to life. Except for a twist on the conventional happy ending, mood is about all this has to offer.