The Sleeping Princess
L ONG, long ago, there lived a king and queen who had a great deal to make them happy—waiting servants, and lands, and gold, and a fine castle—but they had no little child, which was what they both wanted most of all. At last there came to them a baby girl, and the king ordered a fine party the day she was christened. Not only did he invite all his relations and friends, but the fairies, also, who would be able to give the little princess good gifts.
Now, there were thirteen fairies, and the king had just twelve gold plates—fairies always use gold plates when they dine, you know—so the thirteenth fairy was not asked to the party; and, oh, she was very angry! When the party was nearly over, and all the relatives and friends had piled a table with silver spoons, and gold rings, and jeweled robes, and diamond mugs for the baby princess, the twelve fairies stood in the magic circle about her cradle to wish her good wishes.
"She shall be good," said the first fairy.
"She shall be rich," said the second fairy.
"She shall be very beautiful," said the third fairy; and so they went on to the eleventh fairy, when—slam, bang—the castle door burst open, and in came the angry thirteenth fairy, who had changed herself to an old woman, in a long, red cloak. She never stopped until she reached the princess' cradle, and she said, in a terrible voice: "On the day she is ten years old the princess shall prick her finger with a spindle, and die."
Then every one was frightened, but the twelfth fairy, who had not wished her wish yet, stepped up and said, in a soft voice: "The princess shall not die. She shall fall asleep for a hundred years."
Well, the baby princess grew to be a sweet little girl-princess, who was good, and kind, and very beautiful. The king ordered all the spindles in the kingdom burned; and, after a while, no one remembered the wicked fairy's wish. But the day she was ten years old the little princess wandered off by herself until she came to a high tower in the castle, where she had never been before. She climbed the dusty stairs, and she came to a little door. In the lock was a rusty key, and as she turned it the door sprang open, and there in the room sat an old woman spinning flax.
"Good day, old woman," said the princess. "What are you doing?"
"I am spinning flax, your highness," said the old woman.
"Oh, may I try, please?" said the princess. "This is my birthday, you know, and you must not say 'no' to me."
So the princess took the spindle from the old woman's hand and started spinning, but before the wheel had turned twice she pricked her finger and the wicked fairy's wish came true.
The little princess fell upon the floor, and her blue eyes closed tight. The king and queen slept upon their thrones below. The horses in the stable, the stable boys, the maids, even the flies on the wall slept. The pigeons in the courtyard tucked their heads under their wings and closed their eyes. The fire in the kitchen flickered, and then went out. The winds in the trees were still, not a leaf moved, and a thick hedge of thorns grew up higher and higher, until you could not see the castle at all.
So they slept for years and years. The young people in the kingdom grew old, and only the very oldest grandfathers remembered about the little sleeping princess.
But one morning there came a prince through the woods. His great-great-grandfather had told him about the strange castle where every one was asleep, and he wanted to find it. Other princes had tried, and had failed; but the morning this prince started out in was the last day of an hundred years, and the hedge of thorns opened wide for him, like a gate with flowers growing on either side.
It was very old and still in the courtyard. The watchdogs were asleep with the weeds and grasses growing away up over their heads. The pigeons still sat on the roof with their heads tucked under their wings. Softly the prince went through the kitchen, where the cook stood sleeping with a roast of meat in his hand; through the throne room; and he wandered about until he came to the tower where the little princess slept.
She lay just as she had fallen asleep a hundred years before. Her cheeks were warm and pink; her long, golden hair had grown until it covered her like a yellow cloak; her little hands were folded. She looked so sweet that the prince stooped and kissed her—and the little princess opened her eyes and smiled! The prince had broken the wicked fairy's enchantment, and he took the little princess by the hand and they went down the stairs together. The king and queen awoke, and rubbed their eyes. The dogs began to bark. The pigeons flew—cooing—here and there. The fire crackled merrily again, and the whole castle was awake once more.