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Sleeping beauty in the wood.

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It was the work of a moment. The king and queen kissed their daughter farewell and left the castle, issuing a proclamation that no person whatsoever was to approach it. That was needless, for in a quarter of an hour there had grown up about it a wood so thick and filled with thorns that nothing could get at the castle, and the castle top itself could only be seen from a great distance. A hundred years went by, and the kingdom was in the hands of another royal family. The son of the king was hunting one day when he discovered the towers of the castle above the tops of the trees, and asked what castle that was. All manner of answers were given to him. One said it was an enchanted castle, another that witches lived there, but most believed that it was occupied by a great ogre which carried thither all the children he could catch and ate them up one at a time, for nobody could get at him through the wood. The prince did not know what to believe, when finally an old peasant said: "Prince, it is more than fifty years since I heard my father say that there was in that castle the most beautiful princess that ever was seen; that she was to sleep for a hundred years, and to be awakened at last by the king's son, who was to marry her."

The young prince at these words felt himself on fire. He had not a moment's doubt that he was destined to this great adventure, and full of ardour he determined at once to set out for the castle. Scarcely had he come to the wood when all the trees and thorns which had made such an impenetrable thicket opened on one side and the other to offer him a path. He walked toward the castle, which appeared now at the end of a long avenue, but when he turned to, look for his followers not one was to be seen; the woods had closed instantly upon him as he had passed through. He was entirely alone, and utter silence was about him. He entered a large forecourt and stood still with amazement and awe. On every side were stretched the bodies of men and animals apparently lifeless. But the faces of the men were rosy, and the goblets by them had a few drops of wine left. The men had plainly fallen asleep. His steps resounded as he passed over the marble pavement and up the marble staircase. He entered the guard-room; there the guards stood drawn up in line with carbines at their shoulders, but they were sound asleep. He passed through one apartment after another, where were ladies and gentlemen asleep in their chairs or standing.

He entered a chamber covered with gold, and saw on a bed, the curtains of which were drawn, the most lovely sight he had ever looked upon--a princess, who appeared to be about fifteen or sixteen, and so fair that she seemed to belong to another world. He drew near, trembling and wondering, and knelt beside her. Her hand lay upon her breast, and he touched his lips to it. At that moment, the enchantment being ended, the princess awoke, and, looking drowsily and tenderly at the young man, said: "Have you come, my prince? I have waited long for you." The prince was overjoyed at the words, and at the tender voice and look, and scarcely knew how to speak. But he managed to assure her of his love, and they soon forgot all else as they talked and talked. They talked for four hours, and had not then said half that was in their heads to say.

Meanwhile all the rest of the people in the castle had been wakened at the same moment as the princess, and they were now extremely hungry. The lady-in-waiting became very impatient, and at length announced to the princess that they all waited for her. Then the prince took the princess by the hand; she was dressed in great splendour, but he did not hint that she looked as he had seen pictures of his great-grandmother look; he thought her all the more charming for that. They passed into a hall of mirrors, where they supped, attended by the officers of the princess. The violins and haut-boys played old but excellent pieces of music, and after supper, to lose no time, the grand almoner married the royal lovers in the chapel of the castle. When they left the castle the next day to return to the prince's home, they were followed by all the retinue of the princess. They marched down the long avenue, and the wood opened again to let them pass. Outside they met the prince's followers, who were overjoyed to see their master. He turned to show them the castle, but behold! there was no castle to be seen, and no wood; castle and wood had vanished, but the prince and princess went gayly away, and when the old king and queen died they reigned in their stead.


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