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57
THE HORSE'S SKIN.

there was among the ladies that attended the ball last night; they say it is useless for them to go to the ball again, as the king would not so much as look at them, or speak a word to them. All his interest was centred on a lovely and mysterious maiden who attended the last two dances, and who, I assure you, has nearly turned the king's brain with love; you should see her smile, her coral lips, her star-like eyes—the very image of yours, I declare!—and the fascinating manner in which she danced—there—I only wish I was a prince to marry her!"

The princess's only reply to all this, was: "Leave me alone; what matters it to me whom the king admires? To-night I shall be at my old woman's, as usual."

At the last ball the princess wore her own robes, the colour, stuff, and make of which harmonised with her beauty still more than did her sister's garments; and as she mingled among the invited in the state apartments that night, she outshone all the other ladies—princesses, marchionesses, duchesses, and squires' daughters—like a brilliant gem of the first water. The king, fairly captivated, danced with her alone, and towards the end of the evening gave her the ring, as the sign of his having chosen her to be his spouse and queen. And though he had set several of his Court courtiers to watch and see which way she took when she left the palace, the princess