THE TWELVE DANCING PRINCESSES 9
For three nights Lina neither saw nor heard anything extraordinary ; on the fourth she heard a rustling among the diamond-spangled leaves of the wood. That day there was a branch of the trees in her bouquet.
She took the Star Gazer aside, and said to him in a harsh voice :
' You know what price my father has promised to pay for our secret ?'
' I know, Princess,' answered Michael.
' Don't you mean to tell him ? '
' That is not my intention.'
' Are you afraid ? '
' No, Princess.'
' What makes you so discreet, then ? '
But Michael was silent.
Lina's sisters had seen her talking to the little garden boy, and jeered at her for it.
' What prevents your marrying him '?' asked the eldest, ' you would become a gardener too; it is a charming profession. You could live in a cottage at the end of the park, and help your husband to draw up water from the well, and when we get up you could bring us our bouquets.'
The Princess Lina was very angry, and when the Star Gazer presented her bouquet, she received it in a disdainful manner.
Michael behaved most respectfully. He never raised his eyes to her, but nearly all day she felt him at her side without ever seeing him.
One day she made up her mind to tell everything to her eldest sister.
' What! ' said she, ' this rogue knows our secret, and you never told me ! I must lose no time in getting rid of him.'
' But how ? '
' Why, by having him taken to the tower with the dungeons, of course.'
For this was the way that in old times beautiful princesses got rid of people who knew too much.
But the astonishing part of it was that the youngest sister did not seem at all to relish this method of stopping the mouth of the gardener's boy, who, after all, had said nothing to their father.