GRIMM'S FAIRY TALES - online book

130 Fairy Stories Adapted & Arranged for young people

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appeared a flight of steps, down which the princesses disappeared one after the other, the eldest leading the way.
On seeing this, the soldier sprang out of bed, threw on his invi* sible cloak, and followed, the youngest, who went last, unseen. About half-way down he trod lightly on her dress, which so fright­ened her that she screamed out: "What was that? who is pulling my dress ?"
" Don't be so silly," cried the eldest; " I dare say you have a hook hanging down, which has caught in something."
When they all arrived at the lowest step, the soldier saw before him a most beautiful avenue of trees with silver leaves, which shone and glittered in the light of many lamps.
" Well," thought the soldier, " it will be a proof that I have really followed the king's daughters if I take a branch with me*"
So he broke one off, and put it in his pocket; but the branch made such a crack that the youngest again cried out: " I'm sure there is something wrong; did you not hear that crack?"
" It is the first salute-gun from the princes for joy that we are coming," said the eldest sister.
They went on till they came to another avenue, where all the leaves were golden, and at last to a third on which sparkled dia­monds. From each of these trees the soldier broke off branches, and the youngest, when she heard them crack, seemed terribly afraid, although her eldest sister persisted in calling them salute-guns.
After a while they reached the borders of a large lake, on which lay twelve pretty little boats, and in the boats sat twelve handsome young princes, who were waiting for the king's daughters. Each of them took one in his boat, and the soldier unseen seated himself with the youngest.
As this prince rowed away, he said : " I cannot tell how it is but the boat seems heavier to-day than it has ever been before. I am obliged to use all my strength to keep up with the rest."
" It cannot really be heavier," she replied, " it must be the heat which makes you weaker ; it is most oppressive weather."
On the opposite shore stood a noble castle brilliantly lighted up, and from the rooms came sounds of soul-stirring music from fife and drum. The boats were rowed towards it, and, the princes as­sisting their companions to land, led them to the ball-room of the