The Sleeping Beauty

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Now what joy there was in the hearts of everybody in the palace! The King was so excited that he went into council in his dressing-gown instead of his royal robe, and he did not care a bit when his courtiers smiled. There was coming and going in all the halls and corridors. Couriers on swift horses were sent out to bear the glad news to the most distant parts of the kingdom. All the bells in the churches were rung; flags were put out in the houses and streamers were hung across the roadways. Then the cannons were fired, bang, bang, bang, to tell the people that everybody was to have a holiday, so that all, from the highest to the lowest, might rejoice in their Queen's happiness.

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"Never was there such a beautiful child," said the King, looking down at his little daughter as she lay in her mother's arms. He wanted very much to nurse her, but this could not be allowed, because men are so clumsy with babies.

"What shall her name be?" said the King. And he suggested all the grandest names he could call to mind, for he thought that such a wonderful child must certainly have a name to suit. But the Queen would have none of them.

"She shall be called Briar-Rose," said the Queen; and so it was arranged.

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A few weeks later the christening took place. That was a splendid ceremony to be sure, for all the lords and ladies of the kingdom were present in their richest dresses, together with princes and ambassadors from distant countries. The little Princess was as good as gold all the time. She did not cry once, but opened her big blue eyes and smiled at the glittering company as though she understood everything that was going on.

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Outside the cathedral the roads were crowded with people waiting to see the guests come and go. The carriages extended for nearly a mile, and as they drove away, headed by the royal coach, in which the Queen sat with the Princess Briar-Rose in her arms, the spectators took off their hats and shouted and cheered. Some of the little boys perched themselves on the branches of trees and the lamp-posts in order to get a better view, and I have been told that there was one poor woman who saw nothing at all, because her boy tried to climb up to an inn sign, where he dangled in such a dangerous position that his poor old mother had to stand with her back to the procession, holding on to his legs in a terrible state of anxiety lest he should fall.

At the palace, a magnificent feast had been prepared.

Now it was the custom in those days, when a King's child was christened, for all the fairies in the country to be invited to the christening feast. Each fairy was bound to bring a gift, so of course it stood to reason that the royal child would have everything that the heart could possibly desire.

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There were thirteen fairies in the King's realm, but one of them lived in a lonely place on the outskirts of the kingdom. There, for the last fifty years, she had shut herself up in a ruined tower with only a black cat to keep her company, and as she kept herself to herself, everybody had forgotten her very existence. The result was that she was not invited to the christening feast, and though she had nobody but herself to blame for this, she was very angry about it. The truth of the matter is that she was always a miserable, sour creature, with no love or kindness in her heart, and nobody missed her because she had never given anybody any reason to care for her.

Well, the guests assembled in the banqueting hall of the palace and the feast began.

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CHAPTER III

THE King and the Queen sat on a dais at the end of the banqueting hall, and above them in a little gallery there was a band of fiddlers and flute-players. On either side of the royal pair sat the twelve fairy godmothers, six on the right hand and six on the left. In front of each fairy was a golden plate and a golden casket made to hold her knife, fork and spoon. These caskets were beautifully carved and engraved, and each one was of a different shape. One was in the form of a ship, another of a shell, a third in the form of a castle with turrets, and so on; nothing more beautiful could be imagined, for they had all been specially made for the occasion by the cleverest goldsmiths in the kingdom, and they were the King's presents to the fairy godmothers. He felt very proud when the fairies spoke admiringly of these caskets and said that they would be pleased to accept them.

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