10 THE TWELVE DANCING PRINCESSES
It was agreed that the question should be submitted to the other ten sisters. All were on the side of the eldest. Then the youngest sister declared that if they laid a finger on the little garden boy, she would herself go and tell their father the secret of the holes in their shoes.
At last it was decided that Michael should be put to the test; that they would take him to the ball, and at the end of supper would give him the philtre which was to enchant him like the rest.
They sent for the Star Gazer, and asked him how he had contrived to learn their secret; but still he remained silent.
Then, in commanding tones, the eldest sister gave him the order they had agreed upon.
He only answered:
' I will obey.'
He had really been present, invisible, at the council of princesses, and had heard all; but he had make up his mind to drink of the philtre, and sacrifice himself to the happiness of her he loved.
Not wishing, however, to cut a poor figure at the ball by the side of the other dancers, he went at once to the laurels, and said :
' My lovely rose laurel, with the golden rake I have raked thee, with the golden bucket I have watered thee, with a silken towel I have dried thee. Dress me like a prince.'
A beautiful pink flower appeared. Michael gathered it, and found himself in a moment clothed in velvet, which was as black as the eyes of the little Princess, with a cap to match, a diamond aigrette, and a blossom of the rose laurel in his button-hole.
Thus dressed, he presented himself that evening before the Duke of Beloeil, and obtained leave to try and discover, his daughters' secret. He looked so distinguished that hardly anyone would have known who he was.
The twelve princesses went upstairs to bed. Michael followed them, and waited behind the open door till they gave the signal for departure.
This time he did not cross in Lina's boat. He gave his arm to the eldest sister, danced with each in turn, and was so graceful that everyone was delighted with him. At last the time came for him