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Once upon a time there lived a prince who wanted to marry a princess; but she would have to be a 'real' princess. He traveled far and wide to find one but nowhere could he get what he wanted. There were many princesses, but it was hard to decide how far 'real' they were. So he returned home sadly.
One evening a terrible storm rose along with thunder and lightning, and rain poured down heavily. Suddenly a knock was heard at the castle gate. On opening it was found that a princess was standing at the door. But, good gracious! what a sight the weather had done to her.
The water ran down from her hair and clothes; and she was in a very bad condition and "yet, she said that she was a real princess"?!, thought the queen.
We will soon find that out," thought the old queen. But she said nothing. She went into the bedroom, took all the bedding off the bedstead, and laid a pea on the bottom; then she took twenty mattresses and laid them on the pea, and then twenty eider-down beds on top of the mattresses.
On this the princess had to lie all night. In the morning she was asked how she had slept. "Oh, very badly!" she said. "I hardly closed my eyes all night. God only knows what was in the bed… I was lying on something hard. It was horrible!"
Now they knew that she was a 'real' princess because she had felt the pea right through the twenty mattresses and the twenty eider-down beds.
Nobody but a real princess could be as sensitive as that.
So the prince took her for his wife, for now he knew that he had a 'real' princess; and the pea was put in the museum, where it may still be seen, provided no one has stolen it!
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