43 6 THE DANCING-SHOES.
castle, and they were all very soon joining in the dance with great spirit
The soldier danced among them unseen, and often when a glass of wine was brought and placed on the table, he would empty it while they turned their heads, and by so doing greatly alarm the youngest sister, whose fears, however, were always silenced by the eldest.
They danced till three o'clock in the morning, when all their shoes were completely worn out The princes accompanied the king's daughters to the boats, and rowed them back again over the lake, and this time the invisible soldier seated himself in the boat with the eldest
On reaching the shore, they said farewell to each other, and promised to be there on the following night As soon as they reached the steps, the soldier ran on before them and laid himself on his bed, so that when the twelve princesses, tired and sleepy, came slowly tripping back, he snored so loudly that they all heard him, and said : " From him we are quite safe." Then they took off their beautiful clothes, put them away, and, after placing their dancing-shoes under the bed, laid themselves down and slept till it was time to rise.
The soldier next morning, however, said not a word of what he had seen ; he wished to go again to those wonderful places, and so on the second and third nights he was with them as before. The proceedings were the same as at the first, and they danced till their shoes were worn out. On the third night, however, he took away with him a goblet as another proof of his visit
When the hour arrived in which he was expected to state whether he had made the expected discovery, he took the three branches which he had broken off, and the goblet, and appeared before the king. The twelve princesses placed themselves secretly behind the door to listen and hear what he would say.
The king asked the question : " How have my twelve daughters worn out their dancing-shoes during each night?"
" By dancing with twelve princes," replied the soldier, " in a subterranean castle." And then he described all tflat he had seen, and pointed to the proofs he had brought with him.
On hearing this, the king sent for his daughters, and asked them if what the soldier had said was true. They saw at once that all