Then all the fairies vanished.
The King, in the hope of avoiding his daughter's doom, issued an edict forbidding all persons to spin, and even to have spinning wheels in their houses, on pain of instant death. But it was in vain. One day when she was just fifteen years of age, the King and Queen left their daughter alone in one of their castles, where, wandering about at her will, she came to a little room in the top of a tower, and there found a very old woman, who had not heard of the King's edict, busy with her spinning wheel.
"What are you doing, good old woman?" said the Princess.
"I'm spinning my pretty child."
"Ah, how pretty! Let me try if I can spin also."
She had no sooner taken up the spindle than, being hasty and unhandy, she pierced her finger with the point. Though it was so small a wound, she fainted away at once and dropped on the floor. The poor old woman called for help; shortly came the ladies-in-waiting, who tried every means to restore their young mistress; but all in vain. She lay, beautiful as an angel, the color still lingering in her lips and cheeks, her fair bosom softly stirred with her breath; only her eyes were fast closed. When the King, her father, and the Queen, her mother, beheld her thus, they knew that all had happened as the cruel fairy meant, and that their daughter would sleep for one hundred years.
They sent away all the physicians and attendants, and themselves sorrowing laid her upon a bed in the finest apartment in the palace.
There she slept and looked like a sleeping angel still.
When this misfortune happened, the kindly young fairy who had saved the Princess by changing her sleep of death into this sleep of a hundred years, was twelve thousand leagues away, in the kingdom of Mataquin.
But, being informed of everything by a little dwarf who wore seven- league boots, she arrived speedily in a chariot of fire drawn by dragons. The King handed her out of the chariot, and she approved of all he had done. Then, being a fairy of great common sense and foresight, she thought that the Princess, awakening after a hundred years in this old castle, might not know what to do with herself if she found herself alone. Accordingly, she touched with her magic wand everybody and everything in the palace except the King and Queen: governesses, ladies of honor, waiting maids, gentlemen ushers, cooks, kitchen girls, pages, footmen; even the horses that were in the stables, and the grooms that attended them, she touched each and all.
Nay, the dogs, too, in the outer court, and the little fat lapdog, Mopsey, who had laid himself down beside his mistress on her splendid bed, were also touched, and they, like all the rest, fell fast asleep in a moment. The very spits that were before the kitchen fire fell asleep, and the fire itself, and everything became as still as if it were the middle of the night, or as if the palace were a palace of the dead.
The King and Queen, having kissed their daughter, went out of the castle, giving orders that it was to be approached no more. The command was unnecessary, for in one quarter of an hour there sprang up around it a wood so thick and thorny that neither beasts nor men could attempt to penetrate there. Above this dense mass of forest could only be seen the top of the high tower where the lovely Princess slept.
When a hundred years were gone the King had died, and his throne had passed to another royal family. The reigning King's son, being one day out hunting, was stopped in the chase by this great wood, inquired what wood it was and what were those towers which he saw appearing out of the midst of it. Every one answered as he had heard. Some said it was an old castle haunted by spirits. Others said it was the abode of witches and enchanters. The most common story was that an Ogre lived there, a giant with long teeth and claws, who carried away naughty little boys and girls and ate them up. The Prince did not know what to think. At length an old peasant was found who remembered having heard his grandfather say to his father that in this tower was a Princess, beautiful as the day, who was doomed to sleep there for one hundred years, until awakened by a king's son, who was to marry her.
At this the young Prince, who had the spirit of a hero, determined to find out the truth for himself.
Spurred on by love and honor, he leaped from his horse and began to force his way through the thick wood. To his amazement the stiff branches all gave way, and the ugly thorns drew back of their own accord, and the brambles buried themselves in the earth to let him pass. This done, they closed behind him, allowing none to follow.
Nevertheless, he pushed boldly on alone.
The first thing he saw was enough to freeze him with fear. Bodies of men and horses lay extended on the ground; but the men had faces, not death white, but red as roses, and beside them were glasses half filled with wine, showing that they had gone to sleep drinking. Next he entered a large court paved with marble, where stood rows of guards presenting arms, but as still as if cut out of stone; then he passed through many chambers where gentlemen and ladies, all in the dress of the past century, slept at their ease, some standing, some sitting.
The pages were lurking in corners, the ladies of honor were stooping over their embroidery frames or listening to the gentlemen of the court; but all were as silent and as quiet as statues. Their clothes, strange to say, were fresh and new as ever; and not a particle of dust or spider web had gathered over the furniture, though it had not known a broom for a hundred years. Finally, the astonished Prince came to an inner chamber, where was the fairest sight his eyes ever beheld.
A young girl of wonderful beauty lay asleep on an embroidered bed, and she looked as if she had only just closed her eyes. Trembling, the Prince approached and knelt beside her. Some say he kissed her; but as nobody saw it, and she never told, we cannot be quite sure of the fact.
However, as the end of the enchantment had come, the Princess waked at once, and, looking at him with eyes of the tenderest regard, said, sleepily: "Is it you, my Prince? I have waited for you very long."
Charmed with these words, and still more by the tone in which they were uttered, the Prince assured her that he loved her more than his life.
For a long time did they sit talking, and yet had not said half enough.
Their only interruption was the little dog Mopsey, who had awakened with his mistress, and now began to be jealous that the Princess did not notice him as much as she was wont to do.
Meanwhile all the attendants, whose enchantment was also broken, not being in love, were ready to die of hunger after their fast of a hundred years. A lady of honor ventured to say that dinner was served, whereupon the Prince handed his beloved Princess at once to the great hall. She did not wait to dress for dinner, being already perfectly and magnificently attired, though in a fashion somewhat out of date.
However, her lover had the politeness not to notice this, nor to remind her that she was dressed exactly like his grandmother whose portrait still hung on the palace walls.
During dinner a concert by the attendant musicians took place, and, considering they had not touched their instruments for a century, they played the old tunes extremely well. They ended with a wedding march, for that very evening the Prince and Princess were married.
After a few days they went together out of the castle and enchanted wood, both of which immediately vanished, and were nevermore beheld by mortal eyes. The Princess was restored to her ancestral kingdom, and after a few years the Prince and she became King and Queen, and ruled long and happily.
THE FAIR ONE WITH GOLDEN LOCKS
Retold by Miss Mulock
THERE was once a King's daughter so beautiful that they named her the Fair One with Golden Locks. These golden locks were the most remarkable in the world, soft and fine, and falling in long waves down to her very feet. She wore them always thus, loose and flowing, surmounted with a wreath of flowers; and though such long hair was sometimes rather inconvenient, it was so exceedingly beautiful, shining in the sun like ripples of molten gold, that everybody agreed she fully deserved her name.
Now there was a young King of a neighboring country, very handsome, very rich, and wanting nothing but a wife to make him happy. He heard so much of the various perfections of the Fair One with Golden Locks, that at last, without even seeing her, he fell in love with her so desperately that he could neither eat nor drink, and resolved to send an ambassador at once to demand her in marriage. So he ordered a magnificent equipage-more than a hundred horses and a hundred footmen- in order to bring back to him the Fair One with Golden Locks, who, he never doubted, would be only too happy to become his Queen. Indeed, he felt so sure of her that he refurnished the whole palace, and had made by all the dressmakers of the city, dresses enough to last a lady a lifetime. But, alas! when the ambassador arrived and delivered his message, either the princess was in bad humor, or the offer did not appear to be to her taste; for she returned her best thanks to his majesty, but said she had not the slightest wish or intention to get married. She also, being a prudent damsel, declined receiving any of the presents which the King had sent her; except that, not quite to offend his majesty, she retained a box of English pins, which were in that country of considerable value.
When the ambassador returned, alone and unsuccessful, all the court was very much affected, and the King himself began to weep with all his might. Now, there was in the palace household a young gentleman named Avenant, beautiful as the sun, besides being at once so amiable and so wise that the King confided to him all his affairs; and every one loved him, except those people-to be found in all courts-who were envious of his good fortune. These malicious folk hearing him say gaily: "If the King had sent me to fetch the Fair One with Golden Locks, I know she would have come back with me," repeated the saying in such a manner, that it appeared as if Avenant thought so much of himself and his beauty, and felt sure the princess would have followed him all over the world; which when it came to the ears of the King, as it was meant to do, irritated him so much that he commanded Avenant to be imprisoned in a high tower and left to die there of hunger. The guards accordingly carried off the young man, who had quite forgotten his idle speech, and had not the least idea what fault he had committed. They ill-treated him very much, and then left him with nothing to eat and only water to drink. This, however, kept him alive for a few days, during which he did not cease to complain aloud, and to call upon the King, saying: "Oh King, what harm have I done? You have no subject more faithful than I.
Never have I had a thought which could offend you."
And it so befell that the King, coming by chance, or else with a sort of remorse, past the tower, was touched by the voice of the young Avenant, whom he had once so much regarded. In spite of all the courtiers could do to prevent him, he stopped to listen, and overheard these words. The tears rushed into his eyes; he opened the door of the tower, and called: "Avenant!" Avenant came, creeping feebly along, fell at the King's knees, and kissed his feet:
"Oh sire, what have I done that you should treat me so cruelly?"
"You have mocked me and my ambassador; for you said, if I had sent you to fetch the Fair One with Golden Locks, you would have been successful and brought her back."
"I did say it, and it was true," replied Avenant fearlessly; "for I should have told her so much about your majesty and your various high qualities, which no one knows so well as myself, that I am persuaded she would have returned with me."
"I believe it," said the King, with an angry look at those who had spoken ill of his favorite; he then gave Avenant a free pardon and took him back with him to the court.
After having supplied the famished youth with as much supper as he could eat, the King admitted him to a private audience, and said: "I am as much in love as ever with the Fair One with Golden Locks, so I will take thee at thy word, and send thee to try and win her for me."
"Very well, please your majesty" replied Avenant cheerfully; "I will depart to-morrow."
The King, overjoyed with his willingness and hopefulness would have furnished him with a still more magnificent equipage and suite than the first ambassador but Avenant refused to take anything except a good horse to ride, and letters of introduction to the Princess's father.
The King embraced him and eagerly saw him depart.
It was on a Monday morning when, without any pomp or show, Avenant thus started on his mission. He rode slowly and meditatively, pondering over every possible means of persuading the Fair One with Golden Locks to marry the King; but, even after several days journey towards her country, no clear project had entered into his mind. One morning, when he had started at break of day, he came to a great meadow with a stream running through it, along which were planted willows and poplars. It was such a pleasant, rippling stream that he dismounted and sat down on its banks. There he perceived gasping on the grass a large golden Carp, which, in leaping too far after gnats, had thrown itself quite out of the water, and now lay dying on the greensward. Avenant took pity on it, and though he was very hungry, and the fish was very fat, and he would well enough have liked it for his breakfast, still he lifted it gently and put it back into the stream. No sooner had the Carp touched the fresh cool water than it revived and swam away; but shortly returning, it spoke to him from the water in this wise:
"Avenant, I thank you for your good deed. I was dying, and you have saved me; I will recompense you for this one day."
After this pretty little speech, the fish popped down to the bottom of the stream, according to the habit of Carp, leaving Avenant very much astonished, as was natural.
Another day he met with a Raven that was in great distress, being pursued by an Eagle, which would have swallowed him up in no time.
"See," thought Avenant, "how the stronger oppress the weaker! What right has an Eagle to eat up a Raven?" So taking his bow and arrow, which he always carried, he shot the Eagle dead, and the Raven, delighted, perched in safety on an opposite tree.
"Avenant," screeched he, though not in the sweetest voice in the world, "you have generously succored me, a poor miserable Raven. I am not ungrateful, and I will recompense you one day."
"Thank you," said Avenant, and continued his road.
Entering in a thick wood, so dark with the shadows of early morning that he could scarcely find his way, he heard an Owl hooting, like an owl in great tribulation. She had been caught by the nets spread by bird-catchers to entrap finches, larks, and other small birds. "What a pity," thought Avenant, "that men must always torment poor birds and beasts who have done them no harm!" So he took out his knife, cut the net, and let the Owl go free. She went sailing up in the air, but immediately returned hovering over his head on her brown wings.
"Avenant," said she, "at daylight the bird-catchers would have been here, and I should have been caught and killed. I have a grateful heart; I will recompense you one day."
These were the three principal adventures that befell Avenant on his way to the kingdom of the Fair One with Golden Locks. Arrived there, he dressed himself with the greatest care, in a habit of silver brocade, and a hat adorned with plumes of scarlet and white. He threw over all a rich mantle, and carried a little basket, in which was a lovely little dog, an offering of respect to the Princess. With this he presented himself at the palace gates, where even though he came alone, his mien was so dignified and graceful, so altogether charming, that every one did him reverence, and was eager to run and tell the Fair One with Golden Locks, that Avenant, another ambassador from the King, her suitor, awaited an audience.
"Avenant!" repeated the Princess. "That is a pretty name; perhaps the youth is pretty too."
"So beautiful," said the ladies of honor, "that while he stood under the palace window we could do nothing but look at him."
"How silly of you!" sharply said the Princess. But she desired them to bring her robe of blue satin, to comb out her long hair, and adorn it with the freshest garland of flowers; to give her her high-heeled shoes, and her fan. "Also," added she, "take care that my audience- chamber is well swept and my throne well dusted. I wish in everything to appear as becomes the Fair One with Golden Locks."
This done she seated herself on her throne of ivory and ebony and gave orders for her musicians to play, but softly, so as not to disturb conversation. Thus, shining in all her beauty, she admitted Avenant to her presence.