434 THE DANCINGS SHOES.
to the town in which this king dwelt, and an old woman met him. " Why are you going to this town ?" she asked.
"I hardly know myself," he replied; and then added in joke, " unless I felt inclined to find out where the king's daughters go to wear out their dancing-shoes, and then become the future king !"
" That is not so very difficult, after all," said the old woman. " All you have to do is to keep awake, and therefore on no account drink the wine that is brought to you in the evening, or you will sleep without waking." She then gave him a little cloak, and said : " When you wear that you will be invisible, and can slip after the twelve dancers easily."
As she gave the soldier this good advice, she was so earnest with him that he took courage, and determined to go before the king and present himself as a suitor. He was as well received as the others had been, and royal robes were given to him to wear.
In the evening, when sleeping time arrived, he was led to the little ante-chamber, and, when the princesses came to bed, the eldest brought him a goblet of wine; but he had fastened a piece of sponge under his chin, so that as he put the cup to his lips, he let it all run into the sponge, and drank not a drop. Then he laid himself down, and after a little while began to snore as if' he were fast asleep.
When the twelve princesses heard this, they began to laugh, and the eldest said : " There is another that does not care for his life !"
Thereupon they all got up, opened wardrobes, and drawers and boxes, and took out the most elegant dresses, in which they arrayed themselves before the glass, and jumped and danced about for joy, except the youngest, who said: " I don't know how it is, but I feel quite miserable, as if something were going to happen."
"What a goose you are !" cried the eldest, "you always fear without a cause. Do you forget how I have always managed the king's sons already? The soldier has had his sleeping draught, and such a clown as he is not likely to wake!"
When they were all ready, they came in and looked at the soldier; but he had his eyes fast closed, and neither moved nor stirred; so they believed he was quite sound asleep.
The eldest, on this, went up to her own bed, and struck it gently. Immediately it sank down into the earth, and through the opening