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The Twelve Huntsmen

After this she took leave of her father, and rode off with her girls to the court of her former lover.

Here she enquired whether the King did not want some huntsmen, and if he would not take them all into his service. The King saw her but did not recognize her, and as he thought them very good- looking young people, he said, 'Yes, he would gladly engage them all.' So they became the twelve royal huntsmen.

Now, the King had a most remarkable Lion, for it knew every hidden or secret thing.

One evening the Lion said to the King: 'So you think you have got twelve huntsmen, do you?'

'Yes, certainly,' said the King, 'they _are_ twelve huntsmen.'

'There you are mistaken,' said the Lion; 'they are twelve maidens.'

'That cannot possibly be,' replied the King; 'how do you mean to prove that?'

'Just have a number of peas strewed over the floor of your ante- chamber,' said the Lion, 'and you will soon see. Men have a strong, firm tread, so that if they happen to walk over peas not one will stir, but girls trip, and slip, and slide, so that the peas roll all about.'

The King was pleased with the Lion's advice, and ordered the peas to be strewn in his ante-room.

Fortunately one of the King's servants had become very partial to the young huntsmen, and hearing of the trial they were to be put to, he went to them and said: 'The Lion wants to persuade the King that you are only girls'; and then told them all the plot.

The King's daughter thanked him for the hint, and after he was gone she said to her maidens: 'Now make every effort to tread firmly on the peas.'

Next morning, when the King sent for his twelve huntsmen, and they passed through the ante-room which was plentifully strewn with peas, they trod so firmly and walked with such a steady, strong step that not a single pea rolled away or even so much as stirred. After they were gone the King said to the Lion: 'There now--you have been telling lies--you see yourself they walk like men.'

'Because they knew they were being put to the test,' answered the Lion; 'and so they made an effort; but just have a dozen spinning- wheels placed in the ante-room.

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