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The Twelve Huntsmen

Once upon a time there was a King's son who was engaged to a Princess whom he dearly loved. One day as he sat by her side feeling very happy, he received news that his father was lying at the point of death, and desired to see him before his end. So he said to his love: 'Alas! I must go off and leave you, but take this ring and wear it as a remembrance of me, and when I am King I will return and fetch you home.'

Then he rode off, and when he reached his father he found him mortally ill and very near death.

The King said: 'Dearest son, I have desired to see you again before my end. Promise me, I beg of you, that you will marry according to my wishes'; and he then named the daughter of a neighbouring King who he was anxious should be his son's wife. The Prince was so overwhelmed with grief that he could think of nothing but his father, and exclaimed: 'Yes, yes, dear father, whatever you desire shall be done.' Thereupon the King closed his eyes and died.

After the Prince had been proclaimed King, and the usual time of mourning had elapsed, he felt that he must keep the promise he had made to his father, so he sent to ask for the hand of the King's daughter, which was granted to him at once.

Now, his first love heard of this, and the thought of her lover's desertion grieved her so sadly that she pined away and nearly died. Her father said to her: 'My dearest child, why are you so unhappy? If there is anything you wish for, say so, and you shall have it.'

His daughter reflected for a moment, and then said: 'Dear father, I wish for eleven girls as nearly as possible of the same height, age, and appearance as myself.'

Said the King: 'If the thing is possible your wish shall be fulfilled'; and he had his kingdom searched till he found eleven maidens of the same height, size, and appearance as his daughter.

Then the Princess desired twelve complete huntsmen's suits to be made, all exactly alike, and the eleven maidens had to dress themselves in eleven of the suits, while she herself put on the twelfth.

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