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The Book of Fables and Folk Stories by  Horace E. Scudder

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THE SLEEPING BEAUTY IN THE WOOD

I
THE BEAUTY GOES TO SLEEP

ONCE upon a time there lived a king and queen who grieved that they had no child. But at last a daughter was born, and the king was very happy. He gave a great feast, and asked to it all the fairies in the land, seven in all. He hoped that each would give the child a gift.

In front of each fairy at the table was set a heavy gold plate, and by each plate a gold knife and fork. Just as they sat down to the feast, in came an old fairy who had not been invited. No [87] one knew she was living. Fifty years before she had shut herself up in a tower, and had not been seen since.

The king hurried off to find a gold plate and knife and fork for her also. But nothing could be found so fine as the seven plates which had been made for the seven fairies. The old fairy thought herself ill-used and grumbled in a low voice. At that, one of the young fairies feared she meant mischief to the child, and so, when the feast was over, hid herself behind the hangings in the hall. We shall soon see why she did this.

The fairies now began to give gifts to the child, beginning with the youngest. She gave her beauty; the next gave her wit; the third gave her grace; the fourth said she should dance perfectly; the fifth gave her a voice to sing; the sixth said she should play beautifully on the harp.

The turn of the old fairy had now come. She shook her head wickedly and said the child would grow up, but when she was grown, she would pierce her hand, when spinning, and die of the wound. At this, all the company began to weep. But the fairy who had hidden came forward and said:—

[88] "Be of good cheer, king and queen. Your daughter shall not so die. I cannot entirely undo what my elder has done. The princess must pierce her hand when spinning, but instead of dying she shall fall into a deep sleep. The sleep shall last a hundred years. At the end of that time a king's son will come to wake her."

The king was very sad, but he hoped he might prevent the evil. So he made a law that no one in the kingdom should spin or have a spinning-wheel in the house, under pain of instant death.

All went well for fifteen years. Then it chanced that the princess was with the king and queen in one of their castles, and was spying about for herself. She came to a little chamber at the top of a tower, and there sat an honest old woman spinning. She was very old and deaf, and had never heard of the king's command.

"What are you doing?" asked the princess.

"I am spinning, my pretty child."

"How charming it is!" said the princess. "How do you do it? Let me try if I can spin." She seized the spindle, but she was hasty and careless, and pierced her hand with its point. She fainted, and the old woman, in great alarm, [89] ran for help. People came running from all sides, but they could not rouse her.

The king heard the noise and came also. Then he saw that the cruel fairy had had her wish. His daughter would not wake for a hundred years.. He laid her on the bed in the best room, and stood sadly looking upon her. She was asleep. He could hear her breathe. Her cheeks were full of color, but her eyes were closed.


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Now the good fairy, who had said the princess should wake in a hundred years, was thousands of miles away at the time. But she knew of it, and came at once in a chariot of fire drawn by dragons. The king came to meet her, his eyes red with weeping.

[90] The good fairy was very wise and saw that the princess would not know what to do if she awoke all alone in the castle, in a hundred years. So this is what she did.

She touched with her wand every one in the castle except the king and the queen. She touched the maids of honor, the gentlemen, the officers, the stewards, cooks, boys, guards, porters, pages, footmen. She touched the horses in the stable, the grooms, the great mastiff in the court-yard, and the tiny lapdog of the princess that was on the bed beside her.

The moment she touched them, they all fell asleep just as they were, not to wake again until the time came for their mistress to do so. Then they all would be ready to wait on her. Even the fire went to sleep, and the roasting-spit before the fire with its fowls ready for roasting.

It was the work of a moment. The king and queen kissed their daughter good-by and left the castle. The king sent forth a command that no one was to go near the castle. That was needless. In a quarter of an hour, a wood had grown about it so thick and thorny that nothing could get through it. The castle-top itself could only be seen from afar.

II
THE BEAUTY WAKES

[91] AFTER a few years the king and the queen died. They had no other child, and the kingdom passed into the hands of a distant family. A hundred years went by. The son of the king who was then reigning was out hunting one day, when he noticed the tower of a castle in the distance. He asked what castle it was.

All manner of answers were given to him. One said it was a fairy castle; another said that a great monster lived there. At last an old man said:—

"Prince, more than fifty years ago I heard my father say that there was in that castle the most beautiful princess ever seen. She was to sleep for a hundred years, and was to be waked at last by the king's son, who was to marry her."

The young prince at these words felt himself on fire. He had not a doubt that he was the one to awaken the princess. He set out at once for the wood, and when he drew near, the trees and thorns opened to offer him a path.

He was on a long, straight road, and at the end was the castle in full view. He turned to [92] look for his comrades. Not one was to be seen. The wood had closed again behind him. He was alone, and all was still about him. Forward he went and came to the castle-gate. He entered the court-yard, and stood still in amazement.

On every side were the bodies of men and animals. But the faces of the men were rosy; it was plain that they were asleep. His steps sounded on the marble floor. He entered the guard-room. There the guards stood drawn up in line, with their spears in their hands, but they did not move. They were fast asleep.

He passed through one room after another; people were asleep in chairs, on benches, standing, sitting, lying down. He entered a beautiful room covered with gold, and saw the most wonderful sight of all.


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There lay a maiden so fair that she seemed to belong to another world. He drew near and knelt beside her. She did not stir. Her hand lay on her breast, and he touched his lips to it.

As he did this, her eyes opened and looked at the young man. She smiled, and said:—

"Have you come, my prince? I have waited long for you."

The prince hardly knew how to answer. But he soon found his voice, and they talked for [93] hours, and then had not said half that was in their heads to say.

The moment that the princess waked, her little lapdog waked also. The great mastiff in the court-yard awoke; the horses in the stable and the grooms awoke; the footmen, the pages, the porters, the guards, the boys, the cooks, the stewards, the officers, the gentlemen, and the maids of honor, all awoke. The fire began to burn again, the spits turned round, and the fowls began to roast.

So while the prince and the princess forgot the hours in talk, these people began to be hungry. The maids of honor went to the princess [94] to tell her that they all waited for her. Then the prince took the princess by the hand and led her into the hall.

She was dressed in great splendor. But the prince did not hint that she looked as the picture of his great-grandmother looked. He thought her all the more charming for that, but he did not tell her so. The musicians played excellent but old music at supper. After supper the prince and princess were married in the chapel of the castle.

The next day they left the castle. All the people followed them down the long path. The wood opened again to let them through. Outside they met the prince's men, and glad they were to see the prince once more. He turned to show them the castle, but there was no castle to be seen, and no wood.

The prince and princess rode gayly away, and when the old king and queen died, they reigned in their stead.


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