Sunday, 10 November 2013
A Good Night's Sleep
There are certain things, Princess Selena thought to herself, which a woman needs. Three good meals a day, a room of one's own with a good bed and the love of a decent person. Of course she was not in that position, having left her father's kingdom some months ago to seek her fortune.
"Now what do you want to do that for?" her mother had asked her,
"Before long you'll be ruler of this country - how much good fortune is that?"
Right now, Selena was thinking that her mother had had a point. She had been alright to start with. She had ridden her horse through several towns and spent her money carefully. She had not dressed in fine clothes so as not to attract thieves. She had even let herself go a little to hide much of her prettiness. Even so, she had skin as blushing as a pale pink rose, eyes as dark as sloes and hair as black as a raven's wing. Fortunately she had insisted as a teenager on learning the arts of war, just in case. She had not particularly enjoyed them, but she learned them as a duty in between reading and study, which she loved immensely. She had been teased by her two brothers Ferdinand and Floyd for it, called a 'bluestocking' which simply led to her wearing blue stockings in patterned fabrics. She ignored her brothers most of the time as a sensible sister does.
Now, she paused at the top of the hill and looked down into a lovely green valley with a small village of farmsteads and a few houses more central around a town hall and a large church. Her horse had been stolen, she had been swindled and mistreated, but still she persisted in walking in the world to seek her own fortune. There are those no doubt who would have thought her mad, she wondered at herself sometimes, but still she kept on going. She was still a virginal young woman with her own fire and wit and none of her thirst for adventure had gone yet. Although she was ready to drop where she stood and sleep.
She sat down for a little while and tightened her sash to keep her stomach from grumbling. She gazed into the peaceful valley and admired it even as her eyes scanned it curiously. After a little while, she got up groaning and taking a deep breath she trudged wearily down the hill towards the village. After a little while, she came upon a boy and his dog and greeted them both. The dog sniffed her hands and licked her hand. The boy said his name was Joe and who was she.
"I am Selena, pale as the moon, dark as night," she said.
For a moment the boy digested this before shrugging his shoulders. He was about to respond when a sharp cry came over the fields and he turned.
"Sorry, I've got to go or my mum will get cross," he said.
"May I come with you?" Selena asked him a little desperately.
Joe shrugged again and nodded, "Come on then," he said.
She ate supper with the family and before long was taken before the village council who passed her on to the town council a little way away. They in turn passed her on to the Royal Palace where it was established that she was Princess Selena and of Royal Blood. Along the way, she had reversed her fate. She was fed well, clothed in rough but clean new clothes and even managed to get a horse after helping the Ostler's wife give birth to a pretty baby girl.
Now it happened that the Queen in this land was a great reader herself. She was also unsure that Selena was who she said she was. So she determined to prove the young newcomer. If she is really Princess Selena then she can marry my son and if not, she can be my librarian. But for pretending there will have to be consequences. She told Selena this very firmly. Selena smiled and answered that she would be happy to be the Queen's librarian in any case for she loved books and for an hour or so after the two women discussed their favourite books.
The Queen had lost her husband to war and now ruled her own realm until her son was of an age where he was likely to be responsible enough to be King. He was 20 and not nearly responsible enough yet, but she did love him for he was her son. Selena had no feelings for the young prince one way or another. He was handsome enough and quite sweet in his own way, but she saw too much of her own brothers in him.
The prince was very fashionable and loved music and pictures as well as carousing and hunting. He did not mind reading in the evenings, with his mother for he loved her very much. Had she not raised him, changed his nappies when he was a baby, fed him at her breast and taught him not to misbehave with a firm but loving hand. She had and further she had insisted on educating him too. For all that he loved his mum as who should not?
So when the Queen told him to give Selena the Groovy Bedroom, he was happy to oblige. The Queen had several mattresses placed upon the bed and under them all she placed a single dried pea. You can see she knew her folktales. Selena was grateful and went to bed without a murmur. She felt the pea as soon as she climbed into bed, got out of bed and removed it before getting back into bed and sleeping very comfortably.
The following morning she took the pea into breakfast with her.
"I do hope you slept well my dear," the Queen said, placing her coffee cup on it's saucer.
"Oh your majesty," Selena answered, "you forget that I read too. So I removed the pea from the bed and slept very comfortably thank you. However, this proves that I read, not that I am a princess. Though I am, I assure you."
"Hmm," said the Queen passing Selena some buttered toast and pouring her a cup of coffee.
Selena ate her breakfast and discussed her studies of flowers with the Queen, including the Sweet Pea (Lathyrus odoratus) and the Poppy (Papaver Somniferens). The Queen was most interested and asked her what she knew of Rosaceae the Rose family. Selena answered with both wit and intelligence through breakfast.
"Hmm," said the Queen, for she had begun to look at this young woman differently.
The following evening there was to be a ball. Selena was sent by the Queen a beautiful silk brocade dress of deepest crimson, a corset of silk and whalebone and some very pretty shoes of red and clear glass. Selena sighed and shook her head but put on the corset and the dress and a pair of charming knickers that matched the corset. She wore a new pair of dark blue stockings and even tried the glass slippers on before removing them. I can't dance in those, she thought, I'll slip all over the place. She put on her serviceable red satin Jimmy Choos instead and went to the ball. All night she danced and was admired. She ate well and drank well.
How well that dress suits her, thought the Queen, but where are her glass slippers?
She asked Selena if the young woman had not liked the glass slippers. Selena kissed the Queen gently on her cheek and replied,
"Oh your majesty, they are beautiful and I am very grateful. I am at a loss to see how Cinderella could possibly dance in them though. My Jimmy Choos are a lot easier to dance in and I should hate to slip and break the glass shoes."
"Hmm," said the Queen, pleased with the answer in spite of herself.
The following morning, she sat at breakfast with Selena (the young prince was still in bed sleeping off a severe hangover).
"My dear would you like sugar with your coffee, or salt with your kipper?" the Queen asked.
Selena chuckled and leaning over the table, she kissed the Queen on her strawberry mouth.
"Oh your majesty, really! I would like a little sugar with my coffee and my kipper is sweeter with a little salt. Now will you give over you darling?" she answered.
The Queen was at a loss. Not only was Selena clearly a Princess (she had been sent a confirmation from Selena's parents that morning), but she could not possibly conceive of the young woman marrying her son.
"Selena," the Queen began her voice shaking slightly, "If you will consent to marriage, I should be honoured to accept."
"Oh my darling, I've been waiting for you to ask me to marry you!" Selena replied, "But no more tricks. Just kiss me and let us talk about books."
And so, they were married and the prince was much relieved as he preferred carousing and hunting to books and while he liked Selena he was not THAT fond of a bluestocking. He liked Betsy Trotter the barmaid at The Crown and in time he married her. And believe it or not, I assure you that they actually did live very happily. Except for the occasional grumble, but what marriage is free of those?