THE TWELVE DANCING PRINCESSES 7
After supper, the dancers all went back to their boats, and this time the Star Gazer entered that of the eldest Princess. They crossed again the wood with the diamond-spangled leaves, the wood with gold-sprinkled leaves, and the wood whose leaves glittered with drops of silver, and as a proof of what he had seen, the boy broke a small branch from a tree in the last wood. Lina turned as she heard the noise made by the breaking of the branch.
' What was that noise ? ' she said.
'It was nothing,' replied her eldest sister; 'it was onty the screech of the barn-owl that roosts in one of the turrets of the castle.'
While she was speaking Michael managed to slip in front, and running up the staircase, he reached the princesses' room first. He Hung open the window, and sliding down the vine which climbed up the wall, found himself in the garden just as the sun was beginning to rise, and it was time for him to set to his work.
That day, when he made up the bouquets, Michael hid the branch with the silver drops in the nosegay intended for the youngest Princess.
When Lina discovered it she was much surprised. However, she said nothing to her sisters, but as she met the boy by accident while she was walking under the shade of the ehns, she suddenly stopped as if to speak to him ; then, altering her mind, went on her way.
The same evening the twelve sisters went again to the ball, and the Star Gazer again followed them and crossed the lake in Lina's boat. This time it was the Prince who complained that the boat seemed very heavy.
' It is the heat,' replied the Princess. ' I, too, have been feeling very warm.'
During the ball she looked everywhere for the gardener's boy, but she never saw him.
As they came back, Michael gathered a branch from the wood with the gold-spangled leaves, and now it was the eldest Princess who heard the noise that it made in breaking.
' It is nothing,' said Lina ; ' only the cry of the owl which roosts in the turrets of the castle.'