Below is the second part of "The Twelve Dancing Princesses."
When the princesses were ready, they put on their dancing shoes. Then the eldest princess tapped on her bedpost three times. The bed sank into the floor and became a long staircase.
The eldest princess stepped down into the opening in the floor. One by one, her sisters followed her.
The soldier sprang out of bed and threw on the cloak. Then he followed the youngest princess down the stairway.
Because his leg was lame, the soldier stumbled and stepped on the hem of the youngest princess' gown. She shrieked with alarm.
The princesses and the soldier continued down many flights of stairs until at last they came to a forest of marvelous silver trees. Then they came across trees of gold and trees of diamonds. As they passed each forest, the soldier reached up and broke off a branch from each kind of tree. Every time a branch cracked, the youngest princess cried out. And every time, the eldest princess reassured her that there was nothing to worry about.
The twelve princesses hurried to the edge of a beautiful lake. There, twelve princes awaited them in twelve little painted boats. Each princess took the hand of a handsome prince.
The soldier quickly hopped into the boat with the youngest princess and her companion.
On the other side of the lake stood a splendid castle. As the beautiful little boats approached the castle, a fanfare of trumpets announced the arrival of the twelve dancing princesses, and fireworks lit up the sky.
The princes and the princesses stepped into the castle, where beautiful music welcomed them to the ballroom. The princesses danced with their princes for half the night.
Soon the princesses' slippers were worn out. The princes rowed the twelve princesses back across the lake, and this time the soldier rode with the eldest sister. The princesses bade their princes good-bye and promised to return the next night. Then the princesses hurried back the way they had come.
The princesses were so tired that they slowed down at the top of the last set of stairs. The soldier was able to dash ahead of them, throw off his cloak, and jump into his bed.
The princesses dragged themselves into their room and put their worn and tattered shoes in a row. The eldest princess checked on the soldier to be sure he was asleep and said to her sisters, "We are safe!" With that, all twelve sisters fell fast asleep.
The soldier wanted to see the forests and the castle again, so he followed the princesses the next night and the next. The third night, the soldier took a golden cup from the castle to show the king as proof.
The next morning the king sent for the soldier and asked him, "Good soldier, have you discovered where my daughters dance their shoes to shreds every night?"
"Your Highness, I have," said the soldier. "They sneak down a hidden staircase. Then they walk through three enchanted forests to a beautiful lake. Twelve princes take them across the lake to a castle where they dance the night away."
The king couldn't believe the soldier's story until the soldier showed him the golden cup and the branches of silver, gold, and diamonds. The king called his daughters, who admitted the truth.
The king told the soldier to choose one of the princesses to be his wife. The soldier had already decided that he liked the eldest princess best. She was clever and spirited as well as beautiful. For her part, the princess thought the soldier was clever and kind.
The soldier was given royal garments to wear. He and the eldest princess were married, and the wedding guests happily danced the night away.