THE UNLOOKED-FOR PRINCE 303
what would happen, he took up one of the garments, and leaving his horse loose, to wander about the adjoining fields, he hid himself among some willows and waited. In a few minutes a flock of geese which had been paddling about in the sea approached the shore, and put on the dresses, struck the sand with their feet and were transformed in the twinkling of an eye into eleven beautiful young girls, who flew away as fast as they could. The twelfth and youngest remained in the water, stretching out her long white neck and looking about her anxiously. Suddenly, among the willows, she perceived the king's son, and called out to him with a human voice:
' Oh Prince, give me back my dress, and I shall be for ever grateful to you.'
The Prince hastened to lay the dress on the sand, and walked away. When the maiden had thrown off the goose-skin and quickly put on her proper clothes, she came towards him and he saw that none had ever seen or told of such beauty as hers. She blushed and held out her hand, saying to him in a soft voice :
' I thank you, noble Prince, for having granted my request. I am the youngest daughter of Kostie'i the immortal, who has twelve daughters and rules over the kingdoms under the earth. Long time my father has wraited for you, and great is his anger. But trouble not yourself and fear nothing, only do as I bid you. When you see the King Kostie'i, fall straightway upon your knees and heed neither his threats nor his cry, but draw near to him boldly. That which will happen after, you will know in time. Now let us go.'
At these words she struck the ground with her foot and a gulf opened, down which they went right into the heart of the earth. In a short time they reached Kostiei's palace, which gives light, with a light brighter than the sun, to the dark kingdoms below. And the prince, as he had been bidden, entered boldly into the hall.
Kostiei, with a shining crown upon his head, sat in