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The Little Soldier
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Then a plan came into his head, and he determined to go at once to the Court tailor and coach builder.
He ordered the tailor to make him a mantle and vest of blue velvet embroidered with pearls, and the coachbuilder to make him a golden coach like the coach of the Princess Ludovine. If the tailor and the coachbuilder were quick he promised to pay them double.
A few days later the little soldier was driven through the city in his coach drawn by six white horses, and with four lacqueys richly dressed standing behind. Inside sat John, clad in blue velvet, with a bouquet of immortelles in his hand and a scarf bound round his arm. He drove twice round the city, throwing money to the right and left, and the third time, as he passed under the palace windows, he saw Ludovine lift a corner of the curtain and peep out.
The next day no one talked of anything but the rich lord who had distributed money as he drove along. The talk even reached the Court, and the Queen, who was very curious, had a great desire to see the wonderful Prince.
'Very well,' said the King; 'let him be asked to come and play cards with me.'
This time the Kinglet was not late for his appointment.
The King sent for the cards and they sat down to play. They had six games, and John always lost. The stake was fifty crowns, and each time he emptied his purse, which was full the next instant.
The sixth time the King exclaimed, 'It is amazing!'
The Queen cried, 'It is astonishing!'
The Princess said, 'It is bewildering!'
'Not so bewildering,' replied the little soldier, 'as your change into a serpent.'
'Hush!' interrupted the King, who did not like the subject.
'I only spoke of it,' said John, 'because you see in me the man who delivered the Princess from the goblins and whom she promised to marry.'