One morning in late autumn when the trees were nearly bare, she danced in a meadow as the sun rose. Over all was a hush which seemed to whisper that winter was near. And as she danced, she became aware of a presence at the edge of the meadow: a stranger who sat watching her in silence at the foot of a spindly tree.
Frightened, she stopped dancing and stood staring at him. A thought crossed her mind: could this be the One whose voice she had come to know so well?
She let her gaze drop to her feet – her poor, cold, bare feet.
“Go on,” said the stranger. “Continue. Your dancing pleases me well.”
She raised herself on tiptoe. Then, lifting her right foot, she held it poised in mid-air for one breathless, graceful moment.
Suddenly she heard the Voice.
“Do not dance for this man,” it said.
Immediately she let her foot fall to the ground.
“I too am a dancer,” the stranger said smoothly and easily. “In fact, I am Master of a Dance Troupe in the city. You shall have the leading part if you come away and dance for me.” He smiled and nodded. “Proceed,” he said.
She stood staring at her feet. Again the Voice whispered to her:
“Do not dance for this man.”
“Of course,” the stranger continued, “you will need a fine pair of shoes.” And with that he put his hand into his coat and drew out the most beautiful dancing shoes the little dancer had ever seen.
She caught her breath at the sight. “Oh!” she softly exclaimed.
“Would you like to try them on?” coaxed the stranger. “Come. They are yours to keep if you come and dance for me.”
She stood as if under an enchantment. For what seemed a very long time she was unable to move or speak.
“Do not take the shoes!” The Voice was urgent now. “Do not dance for this man!”
She stared down at her feet, cold and bare in the frosted grass.
“My mind is playing tricks on me,” she told herself.
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