The Sleeping Beauty

Play Audio | Get the Book | Del.icio.us

[Illustration]

At last she rose and cast an evil glance round.

"Have you all finished?" said she. "Hear, then, my wish. On the day when she reaches her fifteenth birthday, the Princess shall prick her finger with the spindle of a spinning-wheel, and shall immediately die!"

This terrible prophecy made the whole company shudder. The Queen gave a cry and hugged the sleeping baby still closer to her breast.

"No, no! Have pity!" she cried. "Call down your dreadful fate on my head if you will, but do not harm this innocent child."

At this mournful appeal there was hardly one of the guests who could keep from tears, but the old crone only mumbled to herself as though she were uttering a spell. Then the King leapt to his feet, his hand at the jewelled hilt of the dagger that hung at his girdle. In another moment he might have stretched the wicked creature lifeless at his feet, but before he could draw the weapon from its sheath, another voice arrested him.

"Stay your hand, O King, lest even worse befall. No mortal may strike at a fairy and go unpunished. And, for the rest, take comfort, for your daughter shall not die!"

Then the twelfth fairy stepped out from behind the arras where she had been hidden. "My gift is still to come," she continued. "As far as I can, I will undo the mischief which my sister has done. It is true that I have not the power to prevent altogether what she has decreed. The Princess shall, indeed, prick her finger with the spindle of the spinning-wheel on the day when she attains her fifteenth year; but instead of dying she shall fall into a deep sleep; and this sleep shall last for a hundred years, and when that time is past, a King's son shall come to waken her."

[Illustration]

CHAPTER V

SO the worst was averted, but the fate of the poor little Princess was still terrible enough, and it was only to be expected that the King should do his best to prevent the prophecy from coming to fulfilment.

The first thing he did was to summon all the magicians of his own and neighbouring countries, promising a rich reward to the one who could show him a way to defeat the old fairy's malice. The magicians came in scores, some with long beards reaching to their feet, some without any beards at all, some with bald heads, and some with matted hair that looked as though it had not been combed for centuries. For days there were so many magicians about the palace that they were commoner than cats, and it was impossible to enter any room without surprising one or the other of them, sitting in deep reflection and looking as wise as only a magician can look. But nothing came of their thinking, and one after the other they gave up the task and departed, having first asked for their travelling expenses.

At last there came a wizard who was wiser and more venerable than all the rest, and when he heard what was required of him he said he would go home and consult his secret books which contained the magic lore of all the ages, and which had been written by the greatest of all the magicians, Merlin himself.

Home, then, he went, to his cell, which was in a rocky cliff on the side of a mountain, and having uttered the word of power which unlocked the massive door, he entered and prepared to begin his researches.

[Illustration]

Now the books of magic lore which Merlin had written were in many volumes, and everything in them was set down in alphabetical order, so that it could be found easily. The old wizard, therefore, turned first of all to the word _Princess_. Five hundred pages were devoted to this subject, and, truly, there was a great deal of very interesting information. As thus:--

PRINCESS: How to transform Goosegirl into.

Spell for causing Princess to be surrounded with high walls of bronze, which may by no means be broken down except by the notes of a certain trumpet (_q.v._).

Next Page