The Allies' Fairy Book/The Sleeping Beauty
THE SLEEPING BEAUTY
Once upon a time there lived a king and queen who were in great trouble because they had no children. They were sorrier about it than words can tell. They offered up prayers, made vows and pilgrimages, moved heaven and earth — and for a long time it all seemed to be of no use. At last, however, their wish was granted, and the queen became the mother of a baby-girl. Such a fine christening was never seen before. All the fairies who could be found in the country—there were seven of them—were invited as godmothers of the little princess. As each one was bound to bring a fairy-gift—this being the custom with the fairies of those times it stood to reason that the princess would have everything you could think of to make her perfectly good and beautiful and happy.
After the christening was over, the whole company went back to the king’s palace, where there was a great festival in honour of the fairies. A magnificent banquet was spread for them, and in front of each fairy was set a solid gold casket, holding a knife and fork and spoon of beaten gold, studded with diamonds and rubies. But, as they all took their places at the table, along came an old fairy who had not been asked to the feast, because for the last fifty years she had never come out of the tower in which she lived, and everybody believed her either dead or under some spell.
The king ordered that a place should be laid for her; but there was no means of giving her a solid gold casket like those that had been put before the others, because only seven had been made for the seven fairies who were expected.
The old crone fancied herself slighted, and muttered some threat or other between her teeth. Now, one of the young fairies, who happened to be near, heard this, and guessing that the old fairy might revenge herself by dowering the little princess with some piece of ill-luck, she hid herself behind the tapestries as soon as the company had risen from the table. She did this so that she might be the last to speak, and could repair as far as possible any evil that the old fairy might be intending.
Meanwhile the fairies began to bestow their gifts upon the princess. The youngest promised, as her gift, that the princess should be the most beautiful woman in the world; the next, that she should be cleverer than any mere mortal could hope to be; the third, that whatever she should set her hand to she should do it with the most exquisite grace; the fourth, that she should dance divinely; the fifth, that she should sing like a nightingale; and the sixth, that she should be complete mistress of every sort of musical instrument. Then came the old fairy’s turn. Shaking her head—more through spite than through age—she said that the princess would one day prick her hand with a spindle, and die forthwith. This terrible prophecy made the whole company shudder, and there was no one there who did not feel ready to cry. Just in the nick of time, the young fairy came out from behind the tapestry. “Reassure yourselves, king and queen!” said she, speaking at the top of her voice; “your daughter shall not die. It is true that I have not the power to prevent altogether what my old friend has decreed. The princess will, indeed, prick her hand with a spindle; but, instead of dying, she will only fall into a deep sleep which will last a hundred years, at the end of which time a king’s son will come to wake her.”
The king, who did all he could to ward off the doom pronounced by the old fairy, issued an edict forbidding any one to use a spindle, or even to have one in the house, on pain of death.
After fifteen or sixteen years, while the king and queen had gone to one of their pleasure-houses, it so fell out that the princess was playing in the castle, running through the rooms and climbing up stairway after stairway. At last she came to the very top of a turret, and found herself in a little garret, where an old woman sat all alone working with her spindle.
“What are you doing there, my good woman?” said the princess. “I am spinning, my pretty child,” answered the old lady, who did not appear to recognize her. “Oh! how nice it looks,” exclaimed the princess; “how do you manage it? Do give it me, and let me see if I can do it as well as you.” No sooner had she taken the spindle, catching hold of it a little roughly in her eagerness—or perhaps it was only the decree of the fairies that ordained it so—than it pricked her hand, and she fell in a swoon to the ground.
The good old lady, who seemed in a great state of alarm, cried for help. From every side the servants came running. One of them threw water in the princess’s face. Another loosened her collar. Another slapped her hands. Another bathed her forehead with Queen-of-Hungary water. But nothing would restore her.
Then the king, who had come back to the palace, and rushed upstairs as soon as he heard the noise, remembered the prophecy of the fairies. Judging shrewdly enough that this was bound to happen, since the fairies had said so, he had the princess put in the most beautiful room in the palace, upon a bed embroidered with gold and silver. You would have said it was an angel lying there, so lovely was she, for her swoon had not robbed her complexion of its glowing tints. Her cheeks were still rosy, and her lips like
“WHAT ARE YOU DOING THERE, MY
GOOD WOMAN?” SAID THE PRINCESS
coral. Her eyes were shut, but you could hear her soft breathing, and see clearly enough that she was not dead.
He gave orders that the princess should be left to sleep undisturbed until the time for her awakening should come. The good fairy who had saved her life by dooming her to sleep for a hundred years was in the kingdom of Mataquin, twelve thousand leagues away, when the accident happened to the princess; but the news was soon brought to her by a little dwarf, who had seven-league boots, so that he could go seven leagues at each step. The fairy started off directly, and before an hour was over she had arrived, in her chariot of fire drawn by dragons, and had come down in the courtyard of the castle. The king went to her, and gave her his hand to help her out of the chariot. She approved of everything that he had done, but as she was very far-seeing, she thought that when the princess should come to wake she would be frightened at finding herself all alone in the old castle. What was to be done? How could this be avoided? The fairy soon found a way out of the difficulty.
She touched with her wand every one who was in the castle except the king and queen—governesses, ladies-in - waiting, chambermaids, courtiers, officers, stewards, cooks, scullions, errand-boys, guards, beadles, pages, footmen. She touched also all the horses that were in the stables with the grooms—the big mastiffs in the stable-yard, and little “Puff,” the princess’s tiny lap-dog, who lay close to her on the bed. The very moment that she touched them they all went off to sleep also, not to wake until such time as their mistress should wake too, so that they could attend upon her when necessary. Even the spits which were turning at the fire, laden with partridges and pheasants—they went to sleep as well, and the very fire itself. The fairies did not take long over their work.
Then the king and queen, having kissed their much-loved daughter without waking her, left the castle, and published a proclamation that no one was to approach it, whoever they might be. The proclamation proved quite needless, for in a quarter of an hour there had grown all round the park such a vast number of trees, large and small, of brambles and of briars all intertwined one with the other, that neither man nor beast could have made a way through them. So thick and high was the growth that you could see nothing more than just the tips of the castle towers, and that only from a long way off. You may take it for granted that this was another piece of the fairy’s handiwork, and all arranged so that the princess, while she slept, should have nothing to fear from inquisitive strangers.
At the end of a hundred years, the son of a king who was reigning at that time, and who did not belong to the same family as the sleeping princess, was hunting in the neighbourhood, and asked what were those towers that he saw
peeping up above a dense forest. Every one told him just what each had heard. Some said it was an old castle haunted by spirits; others that all the sorcerers in the country gathered there to celebrate their rites. The most common belief was that an ogre lived there, who carried thither all the children he could lay hands on, and ate them at his leisure, without any one being able to follow him, because he alone was able to force his way through the wood.
The prince was wondering what to think when a peasant came forward. “Fifty years ago, my prince,” said the peasant, “my father told me that there was a princess in the castle—the most beautiful princess ever seen—who was to sleep there for a hundred years. He told me, too, that she would be wakened by a king’s son, whose bride she was destined to be.”
When he heard this, the young prince was on fire with eagerness. Without worrying about any difficulties, he believed the adventure as good as accomplished, and, urged forward by thoughts of love and of glory, resolved to see straight away what was to be found there. Hardly had he reached the outskirts of the wood, when all the great trees, the brambles and the briars, parted of their own accord to let him pass through. He marched onwards to the castle, which he saw at the end of a great avenue, down which he duly made his way. It surprised him a little, however, to notice that none of his companions had been able to follow him, because the trees closed together again as soon as he had gone past. But a young man—and a prince and lover to boot—is ever valiant! He did not allow himself to pause in his path, and soon came to a larger outer court. Here everything that he cast his eye upon was of a sort to make his blood run cold. Over all was a fearful silence. The semblance of death met his gaze on every side—nothing but the stretched-out bodies of men and animals, all of them to every appearance dead. It was not long, however, before he recognized by the bulbous noses and still red faces of the porters that they were only asleep. Their glasses, where some drops of wine still lingered, served to show that they must have gone to sleep in the very act of drinking.
He passes a large court paved with marble. He mounts the staircase; he enters the hall of the guards, who were drawn up in a row, their carbines on their shoulders, snoring for all they were worth. He goes through several rooms full of lords and ladies, all asleep, some upright, others sitting down. At last he enters a gilded room, where he saw upon a bed—the curtains of which were open at each side—the most beautiful sight that he had ever known, the
The Sleeping Princess
figure of a young girl, who seemed to be about fifteen or sixteen years old. Her beauty seemed to shine with an almost unearthly radiance. He drew near in trembling wonder, and knelt down by her side.
Just then, as the end of her enchantment was come, the princess woke, and looking at him with a glance more tender than a moment’s acquaintance would seem to warrant, “Is it you, my prince?” said she. “How long you have kept me waiting!” The prince, charmed with these words, and still more with the manner in which they were spoken, did not know how to express his joy. He assured her that he loved her more than himself. They did not use any fine phrases, these two, but they were none the less happy on that account. Where love is, what need of eloquence? He was more at a loss than she, and small wonder! She had had plenty of time to think over what she was going to say! Anyhow, they talked together for four hours, and they had not even then said half of what was in their hearts. “Can it be, beautiful princess,” said the prince, looking at her with eyes that told a thousand things more than tongue could utter, “can it be that some kindly fate ordained that I should be born expressly for you? Can it be that these beautiful eyes only open for me—that all the kings of the earth, with all their power, could not do what my love has done? ” “Yes, my dear prince,” replied the princess; “I knew at first sight that we were born for each other. It is you that I saw, that I talked with, that I loved, all through my long sleep. It was with your image that the fairy filled my dreams. I knew that he who would come to free me from my spell would be lovelier than love itself; that he would love me more than his own life; and directly you came to me, I recognized him in you.”
In the meantime, everybody in the palace had woken up at the same moment as the princess. Each began worrying about his or her duties, and as they were not all lovers, they began to remember that it was a long time since they had had anything to eat, and that they were ready to die with hunger. The lady-in-waiting, as famished as the rest, grew impatient, and called to the princess that supper was ready. The prince helped the princess to get up. She was fully and very magnificently dressed; but he was careful not to remind her that her ruff and farthingale were after the fashion of his grandmother’s time. She was none the less beautiful for that.
They passed into a saloon with mirrors all round the walls, and there they had supper. The musicians, with fiddles and hautboys, played some old pieces of music, excellent in their way, though a hundred years had gone by since they were heard last. After supper, without losing any time, the chief chaplain married the prince and princess in the chapel, and they retired to rest. They slept little. The princess, to be sure, after her hundred years, had no great need of sleep, and as soon as morning broke the prince left her, and returned to the town, for he knew the king his father would be growing anxious about him.
The prince told him that, when hunting, he had been lost in the forest, had spent the night in a charcoal-burners’ hut, and had made his supper of black bread and cheese. The king his father, who was an easy-going fellow, believed him; but the queen his mother would not be so easily persuaded. She noticed that the prince was always going hunting, and seemed always to have some excuse or other for staying away several days; and she had a shrewd suspicion that he had a sweetheart somewhere or other. She often tried to get him to tell her all about it by hinting that he should be contented with life at the palace; but he never dared trust her with his secret. He feared her, although he loved her. For she came of a family of ogresses, and the king had only married her for her wealth. It used even to be whispered at the court that she herself had all the instincts of an ogress, and that when she saw any little children passing by she had to hold herself back to keep from rushing at them. So the prince thought it best not to tell her anything at all. For two years he continued seeing his beloved princess in secret, and he loved her always more and more. The air of mystery about it all made him fall in love with her afresh each time he saw her, and homely joys did not lessen the warmth of his passion.
So when the king his father was dead, and he saw himself master, he declared his marriage publicly, and went in full state to visit the queen his wife in her castle. It was with all possible pomp and ceremony that he now made his entry into what was, after all, the old capital of the country.
Some time after he had become king, the prince went to make war upon his neighbour, the Emperor Cantalabutte. He left the management of the kingdom in the hands of the queen his mother, and told her to be kind to the young queen, whom he loved all the more since she had brought him two pretty children—a girl and a boy—whom he called Dawn and Day, because they were so beautiful. The king was to be away at the war all the summer, and no sooner had he gone than the queen-mother sent her daughter-in-law and the children to a country house in the woods, where she could more easily satisfy her horrible craving. She went there herself some days afterwards, and said one evening to her steward: “Master Simon, to-morrow I mean to eat little Dawn for my dinner.” “Oh, madam!” says the steward. “I wish it,” replies the queen-mother, in the tones of an ogress, hungry for fresh young victims.
The poor man, seeing that it would be no use trying to thwart an ogress, took his big knife and went up to little Dawn’s room. She was just four years old, and she ran to him, laughing and skipping, and threw her arms round his neck, and asked him if he had brought her some sweetstuff. The knife fell from his hands, and he went to the yard, and cut the throat of a little lamb instead. This he served up with some sauce, which was so delightful that the queen-mother vowed she had never tasted anything better in her life. In the meantime he carried off little Dawn, and gave her to his wife, who hid her in their own quarters at the bottom of the yard.
About a week afterwards, the wicked queen-mother said to her steward: “Master Simon, I want to eat little Day for my supper.” He did not reply at all, but, resolving to deceive her again, went to look for little Day, and found him with a tiny foil in his hand, with which he was pretending to fence a huge ape. He was only three years old. The steward carried the boy to his wife, who hid him with little Dawn; and he served up instead to the wicked queen-mother a tender little kid, which she found admirable fare. So all was well, so far as that was concerned; but one evening the wicked old queen called out in a terrible voice: “Master Simon! Master Simon!” He went to her immediately. “To-morrow,” said she, “I want to eat my daughter-in-law.” Then at last Master Simon despaired of being still able to hoodwink the old ogress. The young queen was now some twenty years old, without counting the hundred years that she had slept. How should he get an animal to replace her? He decided that there was nothing for it. To save his own life, he must cut the young queen’s throat, and he went up to her room determined to finish the business there and then. Working himself up into a suitable frenzy, he entered the young queen’s room. He did not wish, however, to take her altogether by surprise; so with great respect he told her of the orders he had received from the queen-mother. “Kill me! kill me!” said she, offering him her neck; “fulfil the command that has been given you. I shall only be going to see my children again—my poor children, whom I loved so well! ” She believed them dead, as they had been taken away without anything having been said to her.
“No, no, madam!” replied poor Master Simon, his heart softening, “you shall not die. You shall go to see your dear children again; but it shall be in my house, where I am keeping them in hiding. I will trick the old queen once more. I will make her eat a young hind in your place.” He took her without more ado to his wife’s room, where he left her clasping her children in her arms and crying with them, and went to prepare the hind, which the ogress ate for her supper with just as much gusto as if it had indeed been the young queen. She was, in fact, quite delighted over her own cruelty, and had made up her mind to tell the king when he came back that some ravenous wolves had eaten his wife and his two children.
One evening, while the old queen was roaming about the courts and yards of the castle to see if she could sniff out some fresh dainty, she heard in one of the back rooms little Day, who was crying because his mother was going to whip him for being naughty. She also heard little Dawn asking forgiveness for her brother. The ogress recognized the voices of the young queen and her children. Furious at having been duped, she commanded—in that terrible voice of hers that frightened everybody—that on the very next morning a huge tub should be brought into the middle of the court. It should be filled with toads, vipers, adders, and all sorts of reptiles, and the young queen and her children, Master Simon, his wife, and servant were all to be thrown in together.
They were to be brought thither—so the old queen commanded—with their hands tied behind their backs. They were already there—the executioners stood in readiness to throw them into the tub—when the young queen asked that at least she should be allowed to bid her children farewell, and the ogress, wicked as she was, consented. “Alas, alas!” cried the poor princess, “must I die so young. It is true that I have been a good while in the world, but I have slept a hundred years, and surely that ought not to count! What will you say, what will you do, my poor prince, when you come back, and find that your little Day, who is so sweet, and your little Dawn, who is so pretty, are there no longer to throw their little arms round your neck, and that even I myself am no longer there to greet you? If I weep, it is your tears that I shed. Perhaps—I dread to think it—you will take vengeance for our fate upon yourself! As for you, miserable wretches, who do an ogress’s bidding, the king will have you put to death—burnt to death on a slow fire.” The ogress, when she heard these words—which went so far beyond a mere farewell—was transported with rage, and cried: “Executioners, do your duty, and throw this babbler into the tub!” They there and then approached the queen, and took hold of her by her dress; but, just at that moment, the king, whom no one expected to arrive so early, came riding into the court. He had come post-haste; and he asked, in his astonishment, what was the meaning of this horrible sight. No one dared to tell him; when the ogress, maddened at seeing the course events had taken, threw herself head foremost into the tub, and was gobbled up in an instant by the dreadful creatures she had ordered to be put there. The king did not allow himself to be grieved over-much, although she was his mother. He soon found consolation in his beautiful wife and his children.
Many a girl has waited long
For a husband brave or strong;
But I’m sure I never met
Any sort of woman yet
Who could wait a hundred years,
Free from fretting, free from fears. Now, our story seems to show
That a century or so,
Late or early, matters not;
True love comes by fairy-lot.
Some old folk will even say
It grows better by delay.
Yet this good advice, I fear,
Helps us neither there nor here.
Though philosophers may prate
How much wiser ’tis to wait,
Maids will be a-sighing still—
Young blood must when young blood will.