April 13, 2021

The Innocent Princess, by Miriam Kresh


Editor’s note: What a charming story. Miriam took a truly famous fairy tale and gave it fun and unexpected twist! I love it when someone finds a new way into a well-worn tale, and the result in this story is very entertaining. Enjoy!

The gilded, horse-drawn carriage came to a halt in front of the castle entrance. The King, Queen Matilda, Prince Rupert and the younger princes and princesses waited to welcome the Princess Alice.


They saw a delicate foot shod in white leather hesitating on the carriage step, followed by rustling, billowing skirts, and then the princess herself emerged


“Ah!” they breathed. For she was almost supernaturally beautiful. Hair of a blond almost silvery; smooth and glowing pale skin, olive-black eyes under arched eyebrows. There was a glow about her. She advanced and dropped deep curtseys in front of the King and Queen.


Prince Rupert gaped, recovered himself, and bowed. His brothers and sisters bowed or curtsied in turn.


The King took her arm with a proprietary air, and led her forward into the castle.


The Queen observed Rupert’s bewildered air. He was half smitten already.


“We shall see,” she said.


At dinner, Alice ate only a slice of soft white cheese and a couple of figs, refusing wine and asking for linden-flower tea.


“I’ve never been a very big eater,” she said, apologetically.


But she was a good conversationalist, talking wisely and wittily—and a good listener too. Everyone was enchanted with her.


Rupert drew her aside after dinner to talk privately before everyone retired for the night. The Queen Mother left the great hall to give the maids some orders. The King, who’d regaled Alice with some of his well-worn stories, reluctantly left the young people alone.


“You must know that my parents are pressing me to marry,” Rupert said.


Alice said, “I appreciate your directness, Prince. And you must know that my parents are putting me forward in hopes of uniting our kingdoms through marriage.”


“I like you,” Rupert said, pulling his chair closer. “All other princesses I’ve interviewed have—not pleased me.” He looked deeply into her black eyes, whose contrast with her blondness gave him a small thrill.


“Oh yes, you’re famously picky. But for this to work, I must like you, too, Prince Rupert.” Alice gazed back at him steadily, confident in her worth and beauty.


She patted down a yawn, for it was late, and she’d traveled far that day. The Queen Mother appeared, with a maid behind her.


“You must be exhausted, Princess,” she said kindly. “Stella here will show you your room.”


Alice took her leave with soft goodnights, and followed the maid to her room.


“Everything she does is so graceful,” Rupert said to his mother, following Alice’s exit with his eyes. “She’s so proud, yet so delicate. Other women I’ve met look coarse, compared to her.”


“We shall see,” said Queen Matilda.


Alice appeared at breakfast next morning looking tired. Her eyes had dark shadows under them, and she yawned a few times.


“Didn’t you sleep well, my dear?” asked the Queen, handing her a dish of porridge.


“Thank you, ma’am, I would like only milk and a little fresh fruit,” said Alice, looking at the steaming dish. “I’m sorry to say that I could hardly sleep at all. Despite the lovely soft mattresses and feather comforters, there seemed to be something hard underneath them. Look, I’m all bruised.” She extended a lovely bare arm, which sure enough, showed several blue bruises.


“Heavens,” said the Queen, “How very sensitive you are!  I confess, my dear, that I placed three hard-boiled peas under the bedding. Only a true-blooded princess would have felt them. Now,” she said to Rupert, who was stirring sugar into his porridge, “You may marry Alice, if she agrees.”


Rupert put his spoon down and took Alice’s hand across the table. “And do you agree, Alice?” he said tenderly. “A funny way to propose marriage, but, will you?”


Alice dropped her eyes. “Yes,” she said. But took her hand away.


The Queen noticed that any little pressure on the flesh seemed to bother the princess. “Hm,” she thought. “We have a problem. How will she bear children if she can’t stand to be touched?”


That evening, Matilda took Alice to the midwife, Ethel. Bunches of medicinal herbs hung from the roof rafters. Pots and jars stood on the worktable. Ethel came forward, taking off her apron.


Matilda said, “This is the Princess Alice, soon to wed Rupert. I’ve ascertained that she knew nothing of how children are born, and furthermore, that she is so extraordinarily sensitive in her body that she won’t be able to sustain her wifely duty. In bed,” she clarified.


Alice, uncomfortable, explained that when she was born, a fairy blessed her with great beauty and sensitivity. As for children, her mother had told her that a stork brings babies in the night and puts them under the cabbages in the garden.


Matilda rolled her eyes at Ethel. “Do you understand? I had to educate her in the ways of men and women. Most embarrassing. Now, can you lift the spell off her?”


“I can, Your Majesty,” Ethel said, “But,” turning to Alice, “Some of your beauty will fade. Are you prepared for that?”


Alice was tired of looking for a husband, and Rupert looked like a good prospect. She decided to risk it.


Ethel held her hands and chanted over her, then sat her down to eat a large chickweed salad laced with a garlicky dressing.


Chickweed is first cold, then becomes hot, she explained. It will melt your coldness. And garlic cleanses body and soul.


When Alice had eaten her fill, Ethel massaged her with oil of roses, leaving her relaxed from head to toe. And sent her to bed.


Alice awoke next morning after a restful night. Her mirror showed her still beautiful, although the silvery glow about her had vanished. Yet she was comfortable in her body as never before.


Rupert hung over her every word and movement at breakfast. She blushed, and returned his hot glances with caressing looks of her own.


“Hungry?” he asked her.


“I could eat,” she admitted. “Pass the porridge, please.


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Bio: Miriam Kresh is an American ex-pat living in Israel. She writes about the ecology in the Middle East and culinary culture. She has been published in JewishFiction.net.


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This story was brought to you by Gary Kohl and Linda Willson—two of our generous patrons! To learn more about supporting EC, please go to our Patreon page. Every dollar counts. Literally!


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Image by Eugenio Recuenco.


6 comments:

Angelika said...

Hah, that's fantastic. One hyper-sensitive princess, cured by chickweed salad. I love it.
Incidentally, if you're wondering how the pea under the mattresses could have held up to all the weight, it wasn't a cooked or fresh pea, it was a dried one (like an un-split split pea). I did an experiment on it; they're amazingly strong: https://www.fairytalemagazine.com/2018/03/fairy-tale-food-peas-recipe-of-month.html

Katew said...

😊 That’s amazing. I’m following that link!

Unknown said...

Terrific! My attention was captured the whole time and there was such elegance in the prose.

Miriam Kresh said...

Thank you, that's lovely to hear!

Miriam Kresh said...

Very cool, Angelika, and thanks for the link.

Ellie a.Goss said...

What a giggle of an ending.

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