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The sleeping princess

THE SLEEPING PRINCESS

Once, a long, long time ago, there lived a brave king and a beautiful
queen. They ruled the land wisely; they loved each other dearly, and
they would have been happy but for one thing–they had no children.

At last there came a day of joy–a day that brought a little princess
to the palace. The baby girl grew strong and rosy and the time for her
christening drew near. Then came twelve good fairy godmothers to eat
from the king’s twelve golden plates, to drink from his twelve golden
goblets and to bring twelve good wishes to his little daughter.

Now thirteen fairies lived in the kingdom; but, as the king had only
twelve golden plates and twelve golden goblets, the thirteenth fairy
was not invited. This made her very angry and she cried, “I will go to
the christening! I will see the king’s daughter and the king shall rue
the day on which he dared to slight me!”

They named the little princess Briar Rose. The first fairy godmother
gave her beauty. The second gave happiness. “Wisdom is my gift,” said
number three. “Grace shall be hers,” cried four. “I give her wit,”
said five. The sixth godmother gave sympathy. The seventh gave
wealth. The eighth said, “The princess shall have courage and shall be
strong and brave.” Number nine cried, “Health is hers as long as ever
she may live.” The tenth gave youth. “The Briar Rose shall love her
people and she shall rule gently and where she goes joy shall go too,”
said number eleven. The twelfth fairy opened her lips to wish long
life, when, just at that moment, the thirteenth fairy, who had not been
invited, burst into the room. She pushed the good fairy aside and,
before anyone could stop her, she cried out in a loud angry voice, “The
princess shall prick her finger with a spindle, on her fifteenth
birthday, and shall die!” In a moment all was excitement. The jealous
old fairy rushed from the palace, but the people dashed after her.
“Drive the wicked witch from the kingdom! Burn every spindle in the
land!” they cried.

The twelfth fairy could not take away the bad wish, she could only
soften it. “The princess shall not die,” she said, “but she shall fall
into a deep sleep that shall last for a hundred years.”

The jealous old fairy was driven far, far away. The king ordered that
every spindle in the whole land be burned. Then every one was happy
once more, for now all thought that no harm could come near the little
Briar Rose.

Day by day the princess grew more gentle and more beautiful and all who
saw her loved her. Years flew by, the bad wish of the jealous old
fairy was forgotten. All the people thought that some day the little
princess would be their queen. She was a big girl now, almost a woman.
At last her fifteenth birthday came and, to amuse herself upon that
very morning, she went wandering about the old palace all alone. She
peeped into unused rooms; she took curious old treasures into her
hands; she walked through long halls; she ran up and down dark
corridors.

At last the princess reached the topmost tower of the great palace.
Here a flight of wooden steps led up to a little door that she had
never before seen. The door was close shut, but a rusty key stood in
the lock. She sprang upon the stairs. She turned the rusty key. The
door swung slowly open and the princess saw that, in a far corner of a
dimly lighted room, sat a little, bent old woman. She was spinning.
It was really the jealous old fairy, who had uttered the bad wish so
many years ago, but the princess did not know this.

“Good morrow, good mother,” she said. But the old woman kept on
spinning.

“Who are you and where did you come from?” cried the princess. But the
old woman kept on spinning.

“Why do you sit by yourself in this dark room? Have you no home? Have
you no friends? Have you no fire to warm you, or light to cheer you?”
But the old woman kept on spinning.

At last, getting no answer to her questions, the little Briar Rose
stepped across the threshold. She stood beside the old woman’s chair,
and, bending over it, called out in her sweet tones, “What is that I
see in your hand, good mother, which whirls about so merrily?” But the
old woman only kept on spinning.

“Let me take that curious thing,” said the princess, reaching out her
hand for the spindle.

Then for the first time the old woman lifted her ugly face. She rose
quickly from her chair. She thrust the spindle into the girl’s hand.
She opened her wicked old lips. “Take it,” she croaked, “and may death
go with it!”

Scarcely had the spindle touched the hand of the poor princess when a
tiny stream of blood flowed from her little finger and she fell into a
deep, deep sleep.

At that moment every one in the great palace fell fast asleep also.
The king slept upon his golden throne; the queen slept in her royal
parlor; the judges slept on the council benches. Fast asleep fell
lords and ladies of the court. Even the flies slept on the walls, and
the fires died down upon the palace hearths. The dogs slept in their
kennels, and the horses in their stalls. Outside the birds slept on
the branches, and the drowsy bees slept in the drooping flowers. Not
even a leaf stirred upon a single tree within the castle yard, but all
was quiet and as still as death. A hedge of thorn trees shot up around
the palace and, in a single night, the hedge grew so thick that not a
chink of light shone through it, and so tall that not even the tallest
palace spire could be seen above it.

Years went by and Briar Rose was forgotten. No one living knew what
was hidden behind the great hedge. Old tales were sometimes told of a
beautiful princess who lay there asleep and, every now and then, a bold
young prince would try to force his way through the hedge; but the
thorns were so sharp that no one had ever caught so much as a glimpse
even of the old castle, in which this beautiful princess slept.

At last there came a handsome prince, bolder than all the others, who
cried, “I will break down this hedge! I will set this princess free!”
Now it happened that that very day ended the long sleep of the Briar
Rose. All the hundred summers had just passed by. The wish had come
true and it was now time for the beautiful princess to awake, but the
bold prince did not know this. He drew his sword. He rushed upon the
hedge, when, lo! the sharp thorns turned aside; the branches opened and
there before him stood the sleeping palace.

He burst the gates. Not even a leaf stirred upon a single tree within
the castle yard. Not a dog bayed in the kennels. Not a horse whinnied
in the stalls. Not a bird sang in the branches. Not a bee droned in
the flowers. All was as still as death. He burst the palace doors.
There slept the king upon his golden throne. There slept the queen
within her royal parlor. There slept the judges on the council
benches. There slept the lords and ladies of the court; but the
princess, the beautiful princess, where was she? He looked in all the
splendid rooms. He searched the halls and corridors but no princess
could he find. He climbed the winding stairway,–higher and higher up
he went, higher and yet higher still. At last he reached the little
chamber. Would he find her here? He turned the rusty key. The low
door opened. He entered. There before him lay–could it be she, the
sleeping beauty? Her eyes were closed, but her cheeks were pink like
the wild roses at the gate. Her lips were red like the scarlet ribbon
that she wore. Her black hair had grown to her very feet and lay about
her like a splendid dress. “Would she waken?” thought the prince. He
stooped! He caught his breath! He kissed her! The charm was broken!
Her eyes flew open and the princess smiled upon her prince.

Just at that moment the king rose from his golden throne. The queen
swept from her royal parlor. The judges yawned on the council benches.
Awake came lords and ladies of the court. Again the fires leaped up
upon the palace hearths. Again the flies buzzed on the window panes.
A wind blew through the castle yard. Again the birds sang in the
branches and the bees droned in the flowers. Again the dogs barked in
the kennels and the horses whinnied in the stalls.

The hundred years were past and all was life and joy once more. Out of
the palace gates rode the bold prince, and beside him rode the happy
princess, whom his kiss had waked.