All story: The Sleeping Beauty in the Wood
My Web page

The Sleeping Beauty in the Wood

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

THERE was once upon a time a king and queen who were so very, very sorry at not having children, that it is impossible to express how sorry they were. They went to all the mineral springs in the world : vows, pilgrimages, every thing was tried, and nothing had the desired effect, At last, however, the queen was confined, and presented her husband with a daughter. There was, as you may suppose, a merry christening, the princes? had for god-mothers all the fames that could be found in the country, seven in number, in order that each of them making her a gift, as was customary with the fairies in those days, the princess might have all imaginable accomplishments. After the baptismal ceremony, the company returned to the king's palace, where there was a grand banquet for the fairies. Before each of them was put a magnificent dish, and a massive golden case, in which was a knife, fork and spoon of fine gold, set with diamonds and rubies. But, as they were taking their places at table, an old fairy was seen to enter the room who had not been asked to the wedding, because it was more than fifty years since she had quitted her tower, and she was believed to be dead or enchanted. The king had a dish like the others placed before her, but there was no massive gold case for her, as there was for each of the other fairies, because there were seven only made for the seven. The old woman thought that she was despised, and grumbled some threatening words between her teeth. One of the young fairies, who was near her, overheard her ; and judging that she would endow the young princess with some evil gift, she went, on their rising from table, and conceal ?cl herself behind the tapestry, with the design of speaking last, and repairing, as much as should be possible, the evil that the old fairy should have done. Meanwhile the fairies began to make- their gifts to the princess. The youngest ordained, as her gift, that she should be the most beautiful person in the world ; the next, that she should have a mind like an angel ; the third, that she should act, in all things, with an admirable grace ; the fourth, that she should dance to perfection ; the fifth, that she should sing like a nightingale ; and the sixth, that she should be a perfect mistress of the art of playing on all kinds of musical instruments. It now being the old fairy's turn, she said, shaking her head more with malice than with old age, that the princess should wound her hand with a spindle, and thereby cause her own death. This terrible decree made all the company shudder, and there was no one who did not weep. But at that moment the young fairy appeared from behind the tapestry, and pronounced these words : "Cheer up king and queen, "you shall not lose your daughter, it is true that I have not power enough entirely to prevent what my senior has determined : the princess must wound her hand with a spindle, but, instead of its causing her death, she shall only be seized with a deep sleep, which shall last for a hundred years, at the end of which time a king's son shall awaken her." The king, endeavouring to evade the misfortune announced by the old fairy, published an edict, forbiddding every body to spin with spindles, or to have spindles in their houses, on pain of death. At the end of fifteen or sixteen years however, while the king and queen were gone to their country-house, it happened one day that the young princess, running about the castle, and mounting from room to room, reached a turret, in a little gallery of which she saw a good old woman spinning with her distaff. This good woman had never heard of the prohibition which the king had issued against this mode of spinning. "What are you doing, there, my good woman ? " said the princess. " I am spinning my pretty child," replied the old woman, who did not know her. " Oh ! how pretty that is ? " said the princess. " How do you do it ? lend it me, that I may try if I can do it as well." She had scarcely taken the spindle, than, as she was rather lively and a little giddy, besides that the fairy's decree had so ordained it, she wounded her hand and fainted away. The good old woman, in great perplexity , cried out loudly for help : people arrived from all sides ; water was thrown on the princess's face ; her stays were unlaced ; her hands were shaken, and her temples bathed with Hungary water : but nothing would recover her.

The king, who had ascended on hearing the noise, at once remembered the fairy's prediction, and rightly judged that what had occurred was its unavoidable fulfilment ; so he caused the princess to be placed in the finest apartment of the palace, on a bed embroidered with gold and silver. She was so beautiful that she looked like a sleeping angel : her swoon had not dimmed the brilliancy of her complexion, her cheeks were of the delicate pink of the sweet carnation, her lips like coral ; her eyes were closed indeed, but her bosom, as she still breathed, moved gently as the summer's wave and witnessed that she was not dead. The king gave orders that she should be allowed to sleep in quietness, until the time for her awaking should arrive. The good fairy who had saved her life, by ordaining her to sleep for a hundred years, was in the kingdom of Mataquin, thirty -six thousand miles off, when the accident happened to the princess ; but she was immediately informed of it by a little dwarf, who had a pair of seven-league boots : these were boots with which one could stride seven leagues at a single step. The fairy immediately set out, for the princess's resting place, and arrived there in an hour's time hi a fiery chariot drawn by dragons. The king hastened to present his hand to assist her in alighting from her chariot. She approved of all that he had done ; but, as she was exceedingly provident, she thought that when the princess should awaken, she might be greatly embarrassed at finding herself alone hi the old castle. So she touched with her wand all that was therein (except the king and queen) ; governesses, maids of honour, chamber-maids, gentlemen, officers, stewards, cooks, scullions, errand-boys, guards, porters, pages, and foot- men : she touched also all the horses which were in the stables, the grooms, the mastiffs, and little Carlo, a small dog belonging to the princess, who was near her on the bed. On her so touching them they all went into a sleep, from which they were not to awaken until their mistress awakened also ; that they might be ready to attend on her when the hundred years were completed. The spits at the fire even, which were loaded with partridges and pheasants, went to sleep, as did the fire also. All this took place in a moment : fairies were never long at their work. Then the king and queen having kissed their dear child, quitted the castle, and published decrees prohibiting any person whatever from going near it. These decrees were unnecessary ; for in a quarter of an hour there grew, all over the park, such an immense quantity of large and small trees, briars and thorns, interlacing themselves with each other, that neither man nor beast could have penetrated it : so that nothing more than the high keep of the castle was to be seen, and that from a good distance only. It was not doubted that the fairy had, in this instance, again exercised her vocation, in order that while the princess was sleeping, she might have nothing to fear from the curious.

At the expiration of a hundred years, a son of the king who was then reigning, and who was of a different family from that of the sleeping princess, being one day hunting thereabout, asked to what castle those towers belonged which he saw above the large thick wood. Every one answered him, according to report : some said that it was an old castle which was haunted by spirits ; others that all the sorcerers of that country held their sabbath there. The best received opinion was, that an ogre dwelt there, who carried off all the children he could lay his hands on, and ate them there at his ease, without any one's being able to follow him, he alone having the power of making a passage through the wood. The prince knew not what to think of all this, when an old peasant said to him : " Your Highness, it is more than fifty years ago that I heard my father say, there was in that castle a princess, the most beautiful ever seen ; that she must sleep there one hundred years, and that she would be awakened by a king's son, whom she was destined to marry." The young prince, at these words, felt himself quite inflamed with love ; and he believed, without consideration, that he must be the one destined to put an end to so fine an adventure. Impelled by love and glory, he resolved immediately to gain the castle. He had hardly advanced towards the wood, when all the large trees, the briars and the thorns parted as he approached. He walked towards the castle which he saw at the end of a large avenue ; but he was rather surprised to see that none of his people had been able to follow him, the trees having closed themselves again as soon as he had passed. He did not hesitate however to advance ; a young and amorous prince is always courageous. He entered a large court-yard, in which all that he saw was at first enough to freeze him with fear. It was truly a frightful silence ; the image of death was to be seen on all sides, in the extended bodies of men and animals. He soon perceived, however, very easily, by thepimpled noses and red faces of the porters, that they were only asleep ; and their tankards, in which some dregs of wine still remained, sufficiently manifested that they had fallen asleep over their cups. He crossed a large yard paved with marble : he ascended the stair-case ; he entered the guard-room, where the guards were all in ranks with their carbines on their shoulders, snoring away most lustily. He passed through several rows of gentlemen and ladies, some sitting, some standing, but all asleep. At last he entered a chamber covered with gold and saw on a bed, the curtains of which were opened all round, the most beautiful sight he had ever beheld : there lay a princess who appeared to be fifteen or sixteen years of age, the splendour of whose charms was almost divine. Drawing near, trembling with admiration, he threw himself on his knees beside her, when immediately, the end of the enchantment being come, the princess awakened; and, looking at him more tenderly than a first interview would appear to sanction : "Is it you my prince ? " said she to him, "for whom I have so long been waiting?" The prince, charmed with these words, and still more with the manner hi which they were spoken, knew not how to express his joy and gratitude ; he assured her that he loved her better than his life. His discourse was perhaps badly arranged, but it pleased all the more : the less of eloquence the more of love. He was more embarrassed than she was, and it is not to be wondered at ; for she had had time to dream on what she should say to him : for it would appear (although the history does not mention the circumstance) that the good fairy, during her long sleep, had provided her with the pleasure of agreeable dreams. However, they talked together for four hours, during which they had not time to say half the things which they had to communicate to each other.

In the mean time all the palace had awakened with the princess and every body had returned to his duty ; but as they were not all in love, they were dying with hunger. The lady in waiting, as hungry as the rest, grew impatient, and told the princess loudly that supper was on the table. The prince assisted the princess to rise ; she was full dressed, and very magnificently : but the prince took care not to remark to her that she was dressed more like his grand- mother than after the fashion of the time, wearing a stand-up collar ; however, she was not the less beautiful for that. They entered a saloon of mirrors, and there supped, attended by the princess's servants. Violins and haut-boys played pieces of excellent music, although they were rather old, as it was nearly a century since they had been played before ; and after supper, not to lose time, the chaplain married them in the castle-chapel, and the lady in waiting did the honours and drew their curtains. They slept but little : the princess as may be supposed did not want to sleep much ; and the prince left her in the morning, to return to town where his father was anxiously enquiring for him. The prince told the king, his father, as an excuse for being out all night, that, as he was hunting, he had lost himself in the forest, and had slept in a collier's hut ; where he had only had black-bread and cheese to eat. His father, who was a good easy man, believed him : b * her was not entirely persuaded of the truth 01 iik- story ; and, observing that he afterwards went hunting nearly every day, and that he always had an excuse ready, when he had slept two or three nights away, she no longer doubted that he had some intrigue in hand. He lived thus with the princess for more than two years, during which they had two children ; of whom the first, a a son, was named Apollo, and the second a daughter, who being born" at the break of day, was called Aurora. The queen spoke to her son several times, in order to make him explain, about his settling in life ; but he never had the courage to intrust her with his secret : he feared her though he loved her ; for she was of the ogress race, and the king had only married her for the sake of her large fortune. It was even whispered at the court that she was an ogress at heart ; and that, when she saw little children playing, she had the greatest difficulty in the world to conquer her inclination to eat them : of course therefore the prince said very little on the subject to her. But on the king's death, which happened about two years after his marriage, on becoming his own master, he publicly declared his marriage, and went in great pomp to bring the queen, his wife, to his castle. She entered the capital city, attended by Aurora and Apollo, through a magnificent triumphal arch raised for the occasion. Some time afterwards, the king going to war with the emperor Charlemagne, his neighbour, he left the regency of the kingdom in the hands of the queen his mother ; strongly recommending to her care, his wife and children. As the campaign was likely to last all the summer, as soon as he had set out, the queen-mother sent her son's wife and children to a chateau in the midst of a large wood ; in order to enable herself, the more easily, to glut her horrible desires. She followed them a few days afterwards ; and one evening, desiring her steward to come to her, said : "I should like for my dinner, to-morrow, the little Aurora." " Oh ! my lady," exclaimed the steward. "I desire it," said the queen (with all the energy of an ogress who has a longing for a favourite meal), " and you will serve her up with sauce Robert." The poor man, who knew well that it would not do to trifle with an ogress, took his large knife, and ascended to the little Aurora's chamber. She was then about three years old ; and ran, skipping and laughing, to throw her arms round his neck and ask him for some sweet-meat. He began to cry, and the knife fell from his hand. He left her and went to the fold, where he cut the throat of a little lamb ; and, making a good sauce to it, served it up so well, that his mistress assured him, she had never eaten any thing so good. He had the precaution to remove the little Aurora, giving her to his wife to conceal in a room which she had in a distant part of the chateau. A week afterwards, the wicked queen said to her steward : " I desire for my supper, to night the little Apollo." He did not reply as he expected the order ; and had resolved to deceive her this time, as he had done before. He went therefore to seek the child, and found him fencing with a large ape : he was but four years old. The steward took him to his wife, who concealed him with the little Aurora, and he then served up, instead of the little Apollo, a very tender little kid, which the ogress declared to be admirably good.

All had gone very well so far ; but one evening the wicked queen said to the steward : "I should like to eat the queen, with the same sauce which you have given me with her children." The poor steward was dreadfully afraid that he would not be able to deceive her this time ; as the young queen was upwards of twenty, without reckoning the hundred years that she had slept away, and her skin was a little hard, although clear and white. How therefore to find in the farm- yard something, to pass for her, puzzled him exceedingly. He consequently resolved, hi order to save his own life, to cut her throat ; and ascended to her room, with the intention of doing so at once. He worked himself into a fury ; and entered, dagger hi hand, into the young queen's chamber. He did not, however, wish to surprise her ; so related to her, with much respect, the order he had received from the queen-mother. " Proceed, proceed," said she, holding out her neck to him ; " execute the cruel order you have received; I go to rejoin my children, my poor children, of whom I was so fond :" for she thought that they were dead, since they had been taken away, without her being told any- thing about them. "No, no, madam," answered the poor steward much affected, " you shall not die : you shall even re- join your children ; but it shall be in this world, and in my wife's room, where I have concealed them ; and I will deceive the queen, once more, by making her eat a young dog instead of you." He then led her to his room, and, leaving her there to embrace her children and to weep with them for joy, he went and cooked the dog, of which the queen made her supper, eating with as much relish as though it had been the young queen herself. She was very well satisfied with her cruelty ; and prepared herself to tell the king, on his return, that the wolves had eaten up his wife and children.
One evening, as she was roaming about, according to her usual custom, in the court and inner-yards of the castle, to get scent of some fresh meat, she heard, in one of the lower rooms, the little Apollo, who was crying because his mamma was about to whip him for being naughty ; and she heard, also, the little Aurora, who was begging pardon for her brother. The ogress knew the queen's voice, as well as those of her children. Furious at having been deceived, she gave orders in a terrible voice which made every body tremble, that, on the next morning, a large tub should be brought into the middle of the court yard. This tub she caused to be filled with toads, vipers, snakes and serpents, intending to cast therein the queen and her children, the steward, his wife and his servant : she gave orders, also, to have them brought with their hands tied behind their backs. They were already there, and the executioners were getting ready to throw them into the tub, when the king, who was not expected back so soon, entered the court-yard on horseback. Thunderstruck with astonishment, he demanded the meaning of this horrible spectacle. No one dared to answer him, when the ogress, enraged at the turn affairs had taken, threw herself headlong into the tub, and was instantly devoured by the ugly beasts which she had assembled for the execution of her horrible revenge. The king could not help being sorry for her crimes, for she was his mother ; but he soon consoled himself in the society of his beautiful wife and children, whom his coming had so providentially saved from destruction.


Post a Comment