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preparations were at once made for the christening, and every good fairy in the neighbourhood was invited to act as godmother to the little Princess, that she might be under the especial protection of the fairies in after-life, and that they might shower gifts and graces upon her.
For in those days—a very long while ago, you may be sure—the fairies used to take a great interest in what was done by men and women and children ; and it is said that they often worked for them, and did such tasks as getting in the harvest for fear it should be spoilt, or even churning milk in the dairies.
But in sending out the cards of invitation, a great mistake was made. One old fairy, of great power and a very crabbed temper, was by accident left out. She had been travelling abroad, and the King's chamberlain did not know she had yet returned. That is how it happened.
When the christening was over, the guests all went into a great hall to partake of a splendid banquet. The King and Queen had made every effort to do honour to their company; and each of the seven fairies, who had come to act as godmothers, was provided with a plate of pure gold to eat from, and a case containing a knife, fork, and spoon, enriched with rubies and emeralds, as a token of the parents' respect and gratitude. They had only just begun their feust when the old fairy came hobbling in, and in a sulky tone desired that room should be made for her among the other fairies. This was done at once, and she sat down to table. But when she saw that her knife and fork were inferior to those used by the other fairies, she was angry indeed, and began muttering between her teeth in a very ill-tempered way.
Luckily, one of the fairies had noticed these black looks, and knowing the old hag's character, she felt sure she would cast some wicked spell over the little innocent baby. So when the banquet was over, she went and hid herself behind the tapestry hangings of the dining-room, so that when the other fairies offered their gifts to the Princess, she might come last, and try to avert any mischief the old hag might try to do.
And as she stood there, she listened to the talk that was going on; and she heard the different fairies talking cogether about the little child ; and one of them said what pretty eyes it had; and another admired its little fat hands, and another its soft brown hair. And all this while the wicked old fairy stood apart, muttering to herself.
The fairies came forward and bestowed their gifts upon the little baby Princess. The first promised her splendid and brilliant beauty; the second, cleverness and ability to learn ; the third, kindness of heart and gratitude; and so they went on, each giving her some good quality or other, until it came to the turn of the wicked old hag to speak.
That bad fairy came straight into the middle of the floor, and stretching out her hand, exclaimed, “My gift to the Princess is—that she shall pierce her hand with a spindle, and die of the wound.”
All present were astonished and horrified at this wicked speech, and stood looking at the old fairy, doubtful whether she could have spoken in earnest. But once more she stretched forth her hand and looked round, and repeated, “My gift is—she shall pierce her hand with a spindle, and
die of the wound !” Then, with a yell of laughter and a look of the deadliest spite, she vanished.
All present were seized with horror and amazement, from the King who sat on the throne to the little scullion who peeped at the festivities from behind the door. The King and Queen were so much grieved that they wept, and many of the courtiers expressed their sympathy in a similar manner. But at this moment the young fairy stepped from behind the tapestry where she had stood, in the confident expectation that the wicked fairy would try to inflict some injury upon the pretty little babe, to gratify her own wicked malice and spite. It is a good thing to have the last word, when that last word is spoken wisely and well, as it was by this fairy who now showed herself looking from the
tapestry where she had been concealed, and said, in a gentle voice, " Do not grieve, my good friends, for things are not so bad as you imagine. The old fairy has spoken in hate and malice; but I can partly avert the effect of her anger, though not completely. Your daughter shall indeed pierce her hand with a spindle,” she continued, turning to the King and Queen ; " but she shall not die of the wound: she shall only be cast into a deep sleep.' For one hundred years she shall be insensible to everything around hier:
Far from strife, and from trouble free,
She must slumber and take her rest.