THE BRIDES VENTURE. 267
He sent messengers all over the kingdom who were ordered to find eleven maidens who should resemble his daughter in face, figure, and size; and after a long time they succeeded, and brought them to the king's daughter.
As soon as they arrived, she ordered twelve hunting-dresses to be made exactly alike, and, when they were finished, each of the eleven maidens put one on, and she did the same. Then she bid her father farewell, and rode away to the castle of her former bridegroom, whom she still loved. On arriving, she sent a message to the king, saying, she was the chief of twelve young huntsmen who wished to be taken into the king's service.
He came out to see them; but, in the huntsman's dress, he did not recognise his former bride; but he was so pleased with their appearance that he said he should like them to serve him very much, and so they all became the king's huntsmen.
But the king had a lion who was a wonderful animal, for he found out every concealment or secret.
So it happened one evening that he said to the king, "You think that you have engaged twelve young huntsmen to serve you." "Yes," said the king, "I have engaged twelve huntsmen." "You are mistaken," replied the lion; "they are maidens, not huntsmen."
" Well," said the king, " that cannot be true; or, if it is, how can you prove it?"
"Oh, easily," said the lion; "strew peas in the ante-chamber, and you will soon see. A man has a firm step; he will either crush the peas, or pass over without moving them; but maidens will come tripping or shuffling along, and set the peas rolling."
The king was very much pleased with this advice, and ordered the room to be strewed with peas.
But one of the king's own servants was kind-hearted, and, as he had overheard the lion's advice, he went at once and told the young huntsmen how they were to be put to the proof, and said also, " The lion wants the king to believe that you are women."
The king's daughter thanked him, and when she spoke afterwards to the maidens about it, she said, "Remember to step strongly, and with a firm foot, on the peas."
The next morning the king sent for the twelve huntsmen, and met them in the ante-chamber; but as they passed through where