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THE MATCHLESS MAIDEN LOSES HER GOLDEN SLIPPER
ERE, the maidens were walking in the King's garden,
gathering roses of the white and red, and telling each
other about this and that that was said at the ball,
and about such and such that was worn; there,
Maid-alone, seated by the ashy hearth, was eating her
luncheon of scraps and listening to the Ratcatcher
complain against the servants for saying that he was
letting the rats eat up all the tallow that they had
for candles; and yonder, in her lady's chamber, Dame
Dale sat listening to what her daughters,
Berry-  bright and Buttercup, were saying about he strange
maiden who was the last to come into the King's ball.
"She came late and she sped away before the end to
start people talking about her," said Buttercup.
"And her slippers!" said Berry-bright. "Was it
noticed, I wonder, that her slippers were
bronze-colored? That one should come to the ball not
wearing grass-green slippers was an affront to the
Chamberlain who had arranged everything to bring out
the gold on the ground."
"Nobody seemed to notice that she spoiled the whole
ball. Everything was going very agreeably before she
came in," said Buttercup. "And the King's son would
have asked me to distribute the citrons and
pomegranates; that is one thing I am sure of."
"You need not be so sure of that, sister," said
Berry-bright. "I saw him look from the citrons and
pomegranates to my white hands, and I know for a surety
what was passing in his mind."
Outside the King's son was looking over the
 garden wall to see if the maiden who came last to the
ball was with the others. And not seeing her there he
sighed and rode away.
And at that very moment the Chamberlain had finished
writing down the points of beauty of the maidens who
were present, and all the points of beauty that the
Maiden in the bronze dress had. She had no name that
he knew of, but opposite her count he wrote:
THE MATCHLESS MAIDEN.
Then the evening breeze came and shook the strings of
the little bells of silver that were hung across the
Solar Gallery; the little bells chimed and chimed,
wakening the nine nightingales in their darkened cages.
The nightingales all began to sing. The score of
servants came in and lighted the thousand candles and
scattered the rose-leaves on the cloth-of-gold carpet.
Then the seven servitors took their places upon the
great scarlet stairway, standing ten steps above each
other, each holding a silver candle-stick of seven
branches in his hand.
All in their gauzes and spangles and laces the
 maidens began to come up the grand stairway. They all
wore in their hair the high combs that the king's
mother had given them for presents, and each had a rose
behind her ear. When the maidens had taken a turn in
the Solar Gallery the King's son and the young Peers of
the Realm came up the stairway, the King's son with the
diadem on his head, and all the Peers with velvet
cloaks, and the Dukes wearing diamond buckles in their
shoes. Berry-bright and Buttercup did not go up the
stairs with the rest of the maidens; when the others
were in the Solar Gallery they came in; gracefully, as
their mother had taught them, they curtsied to the
right to the king's son and to the left to the Peers of
That night there were more musicians than the seventeen
fiddlers in the little gallery. They all tuned up
their instruments and played the Laughter Tune, and if
there were any there who were not gay before they were
made gay now. The King's son took off his diadem and
the Peers of the Realm took off their velvet cloaks,
and the maidens in their robes of gauze and spangle, of
 silk and satin, walked round in the procession. The
King's son and the Peers of the Realm held their hands
high for the procession to pass under; the King's son
took the hand of the last maiden, and the dance began.
The King's son and all the Dukes would have been
looking over their shoulders to the entrance of the
Gallery to watch for someone else, only there was a
fiddler who played more enchanting music than the rest.
The Chamberlain signaled him when the dance began and
he stood forward and played a music so bewitching that
no one could remember anything but the dance. The
King's son danced with Buttercup and with Berry-bright
and he smiled so kindly upon them that each thought she
surely would be asked to distribute the citrons and
pomegranates that were on the table.
But the music ceased and nothing was heard but the
jingle of the little silver bells that were hung across
the Gallery. The fiddlers had left down fiddle and
bow; all the maidens and all the Peers of the Realm
were looking towards the entrance
 of the Solar Gallery. The king's son looked, and the
heart in his breast gave a leap when he saw that she
It was she indeed, the
MATCHLESS MAIDEN. All in silver
was she dressed, with a shimmering veil and glimmering
shoes. Her dark hair fell down to her waist and her
eyes were full of light. Slender was she as the barely
noticed moon in the sky.
She curtsied to the right to the King's son and she
curtsied to the left to the Peers of the Realm. She
stood as if she were listening in delight to the
chiming of the little silver bells that were hung
across the gallery.
The King's son went to her, and after he had bowed, he
"Where have you come from, bright damsel?"
"From Lost-ember Moor," said she.
"And will you dance with me?" said he.
"When you rede aright where I've come from," said she.
The King's son drew back from her, not knowing what to
say. Then the Duke who had the largest
 diamond in his shoe came forward and led her into the
Dance after dance went on, and one Duke after the other
asked the MATCHLESS MAIDEN to be his partner. But when
there was a lull in the music the king's son went to
her and said:
"We beg of you to come to the table and distribute the
citrons and pomegranates amongst the company."
The MATCHLESS MAIDEN walked with him to the table, and
those who were little looked over the others' shoulders
to watch her pass. She took a citron in one hand and a
pomegranate in the other, and gracefully and graciously
she offered them to one of the maidens.
The King's son went to the gallery where the musicians
were. Besides the fiddler who played enchanting music
there was a harper there who played music still more
enchanting. The King's son spoke to him, and he took
up his silver harp and began to play.
The music he played was so enchanting that it seemed to
all who were there that they lived only
 in his notes. They forgot what was before and what was
behind them. The King's son was the most enchanted of
all; he stood still and watched the
MATCHLESS MAIDEN,the citrons and pomegranates in her hands, giving them
gracefully and graciously to this one and that one of
Suddenly there came a loud and a heavy sound into the
gallery. It was the Clock in the Tower striking
twelve. No one heeded the strokes, and the
MATCHLESS MAIDEN,filled with that enchanting music, went on
giving the citrons and pomegranates to this one and
that one in the company. But suddenly she stopped and
listened to the last strokes of the Clock. The citrons
and pomegranates fell from her hands and went rolling
across the floor. She ran to the wide doorway. Before
anyone knew she was out of the Gallery she was past the
seven servitors and down the scarlet stairway. They
saw her in the hall. But when the King's son with the
Peers of the Realm, the fiddlers and the harper, and
the score of servants who had lighted the candles came
into the hallway, the maiden in the silver dress, with
 shimmering veil and the glimmering shoes, was nowhere
to be seen.
But now there was no one in the Castle that wasn't
concerned about her. Even the outlandish servants in
the underground kitchens heard of the stranger-maiden
who had made an appearance at the two Balls in the
Solar Gallery, and they and the Ratcatcher talked for
the length of a morning about her, forgetting the
quarrel that they always had about the fewness of the
rats taken, and the great quantity of tallow that was
made away with.
The King's son called on the Chamberlain seven times in
the course of the morning. And each time he informed
him that if he did not do something to hold the
MATCHLESS MAIDENafter the Clock struck Twelve, he, the
King's son, would have him sent out of the Kingdom when
he came to the throne. The Chamberlain was all
flurried and flustered. He went to this one and that
one, asking what was to be done; no one could help him,
and we verily believe he would have been driven to
distraction if it hadn't happened that
 he met the King's Fool on the grand stairway. "How, in
the name of all the King's horses, can we hold the
MATCHLESS MAIDEN who runs down this stairway when the
Clock strikes twelve?" he asked the Fool. And the Fool
put his hand to his mouth and whispered . . .
But what it
was the Fool whispered will have to be told you later.
Anyway the Chamberlain ran lightly down the stairs and
sprang lightly up the stairs. He had the thousand
candles lighted in the Solar Gallery. He had the seven
servitors take their places on the grand stairway, with
the silver candle-sticks of seven branches in their
hands. Then the maidens came up the stairway, the
little bright ear-rings gleaming in their ears.
Buttercup and Berry-bright came in after all had
assembled, so that they might have the opportunity of
curtsying to the right to the King's son and to the
left to the Peers of the Realm, with all the airs their
mother had shown them.
The little silver bells strung across the Gallery
chimed in the breeze; the nine nightingales began
 to sing in their darkened cages, and the Peers of the
Realm and the maidens assembled indulged in most
delightful conversation. Not so the King's son. He
went from place to place and from company to company.
It was on account of his restlessness that the dancing
did not begin.
And even when the fiddlers tuned up their instruments
and played the dancing tune, and when he was out on the
floor with the partner he had chosen, the King's son
was ever and always looking over his shoulder to the
wide doorway that was the entrance of the Solar
Gallery. Others, we must think, were looking towards
that entrance, too. For, as if it were at a signal,
the music stopped and the dancing, and all the company,
the maidens and the Dukes they were dancing with, all
stood gathered together as the
The King's son saw her standing there in a dress of
gold, with a shining veil and golden shoes. She walked
more gracefully than the others danced; a smile of
gentleness was on her lips, and the star on her
forehead was plain to be seen.
 The King's son went to her. "Where have you come from,
brightest of maidens?" said he.
"From where a dog's tongue lapped water from my hands,"
"I cannot rede where that may be, but will you not
dance with me?"
"I may not dance with you till you rede all I say,"
He drew away from her, and the best favored of the
young Dukes came, and, bowing before her, claimed her
for a dance. When the dance was over, and when the
music was still, the King's son went to her and begged
her to distribute amongst the company the citrons and
pomegranates that were on the table. All the company
stood in a double line to watch her pass; Buttercup and
Berry-bright were standing opposite each other, and the
bright little ear-rings fell out of their ears with the
anger that came over them.
The MATCHLESS MAIDEN took a citron in one hand and a
pomegranate in the other, and gracefully and graciously
she handed them to Berry-bright. And again she took a
citron and a
 pomegranate, and gracefully and graciously she handed
them to Buttercup. To no others in the company did she
hand citrons and pomegranates. Suddenly a loud and a
heavy sound was heard in the Gallery. It was the Clock
in the Tower striking twelve. The citrons and the
pomegranates that were in her hands fell and rolled
upon the floor.
She sped towards the wide doorway. Past the musicians
and towards the grand stairway the
MATCHLESS MAIDENran. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven steps of
the scarlet stairway she ran down. And then something
held her foot.
It was the pitch that held her, the pitch that the
Chamberlain had put there immediately she had entered
the Ball-room. That was what the Fool had whispered
him to do when he met him on the grand stairway the
time he was near distraction.
The pitch held her foot. The last strokes of the Clock
were being struck. The company were running out of the
Ball-room. The MATCHLESS  MAIDEN took her foot out of her golden shoe and went
speeding down the rest of the stairway.
The last of the seven servitors saw her in the hall.
But when the King's son with the fiddlers and the
servants and all the young Peers of the Realm came down
into the hallway the maiden in the dress of gold, with
the shining veil and the one golden shoe, was not to be
seen. But the Chamberlain was there, standing before
the King's son, with a golden shoe in his hands.