Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Some Adventures of Princess Beauty

Princess Beauty lived in a castle in the southwestern desert with her parents. She had almost everything a girl of her age could want, except for the one thing she wanted above all else. She wanted a pair of soft, pale pink wool socks and mittens to match. Now you might ask why a princess couldn’t have her every desire. Well it’s this way!

Like all girls her age at the time she had chores that must be done. She might only be 12, but she was in charge of the Spinnery and the Weavery at the castle. She had been charged when she was 9 to make sure that every person in the kingdom got enough wool or yarn to make a new pair of socks and mittens every year. She discovered on the first year that everyone wanted the nice soft Debouillet and Rambouillet wool for their socks and mittens. The whitest and finest of wools went to the spinners first. Then everyone else in the castle could choose their wools after that. Even the lowest scullery maid had a choice before Beauty was allowed to choose her wool. Always there was only the very coarse Churro wool left. And it was always a muddy gray color and couldn’t be dyed to a nice pink at all. Oh, yes, it never wore out, but what was the point in that?

This year, she ran up the staircase in tears. She ran right up three flights to her old Nursery where Nanny was resting before the fire, knitting her new socks. Now, Nanny was old and had Alzheimer's disease, but most days she was lucid enough to understand what it was she was supposed to do. She said, “Why, Child, what ever is wrong with you this fine morning? Why are you in such a state?”

Beauty dropped to her knees beside Nanny’s rocking chair and put her head in Nanny’s lap. She cried, “Why can’t I choose some wool first? I know it’s my job to see to it that every one in the kingdom has new socks and mittens, but it’s just not fair! All that is ever left when it is my turn to choose is that old grey Churro wool that is fit only for rugs and saddle blankets! Why do I have to wait ‘til last?”

“Oh, dear me! Let me think now! I believe that your father the King had all the spindle wheels put up in the attics when you were born. I can’t remember, now, just why he did that, but he had it done,” said Nanny rubbing her forehead. “And if I remember correctly he had all the wool of that year also put up there. Now dry your eyes and wash your face and run up to the attics and see if there might not be some of the very fine Rambouillet or Debouillet wool up there.”

Beauty dashed up the stairs to the attics, there was dust everywhere above the fourth floor. No one had swept or dusted in years. Spider webs were everywhere. They covered the windows, they connected the equipment to the old chairs and other furniture. Beauty was amazed at the walking wheels. They were beautifully made pieces of walnut and mahogany. The wheels themselves were higher than her head. And there were bags of wool just laying there under each wheel.

She played with the wheels a while turning the wheel so it drew the spindle round and round. She picked up a bit of combed fleece to see how this worked. Wow!! It would spin the wool much, much faster than she could ever get it done with the drop spindles down stairs in the Spinnery. She got a lot of wool spun that first day. And as night fell, she went to dinner as expected. Then she went to the kitchens to see what Cook might have that she could dye this beautiful white wool pink. Cook said, “I have some raspberries, but you know they don’t stain my aprons, so that won’t work. But I will be using some Cactus Apples tomorrow in the salad. That stains really nicely. If you add some vinegar to it, it would be a beautiful rose pink color.”

Beauty barely slept that night. She was so excited, but knew she couldn’t go to the attics until she had completed all her chores downstairs in the Weavery the next day. Fabric for the new cloaks and shawls was being made and she had to make sure all the looms were up and working before she could do anything else. If someone were ill, she would have to fill in for them. As spinning was finished for the time being she wouldn’t have to do more than make sure the Spinnery was clean and all spindles and baskets were stored properly.

At breakfast, Princess Beauty just couldn’t sit still and kept fidgeting until the King got after her. He said, “Well, I see you are all ready to go to work. So get on down to the Weavery and make sure every loom is ready
to weave. I, too think it will be a long cold winter, and early as well.” Beauty took off in a very unprincess like manner.

She was in luck, every weaver was in place and ready to work. Of course, all weavers know that a little cold won’t keep them from dancing the treadles as this is hardly work. The only thing that will keep a weaver from her job is a broken arm or leg. Beauty loved to weave and did at every chance she got, but today she wanted to be in the attics spinning. She was so looking forward to her soft, pale rose pink socks and mittens. And there was even enough wool up there that she could have a cap to match. The weavers didn’t need minding, so Princess Beauty was able to be out of there in a flash.

In the attics there was enough light coming through the dormer windows that she had no trouble at all seeing what she needed to do this morning. She did the walking wheel dance, three steps back and three forward again, taking on the ages old rhythm of the old spindle wheels. She mused as she was spinning, .”these are spinning wheels, these are walking wheels, these are wool wheels, these are spindle wheels. Why oh, why did Father put them up here all hidden away!”

She missed morning tea, she missed lunch, she missed afternoon tea, she missed . . .! She was getting tired and bent over to her basket to get the last piece of roving and raked her arm on the tip of the spindle. She fell asleep instantaneously. Just as the wicked fairy had predicted twelve years ago, she had pricked herself with a sharp pointed object.

Now at the same time as the wicked fairy had put the curse of the pricking on Beauty, she had also condemned all the handsome princes in the world to live as ugly green frogs. They all knew the tale, but none knew who was the real Prince Handsome and who was just an ugly green frog. But, being told from birth that one of them would turn into Prince Handsome upon kissing a beautiful princess, they were all looking forward to finding one. The tale of the poor Princess Beauty asleep went out all over the kingdom and spread around the world. Every ugly green frog had to make the trip to the Fair Kingdom to try kissing the beautiful sleeping princess. Do you know how many ugly green frogs kissed that beautiful sleeping princess over the next 100 years?

Well, now it really doesn’t matter at all does it! Finally the one who was the Prince Handsome kissed the sleeping princess. She awoke immediately and he turned into the Prince. Wow!! Did she say, “Oh, my! What a handsome prince you are!”? Oh, no! Not our dedicated Princess Beauty.

She said, “Oh, Dear! Cook will have tossed out all the cactus apples she promised me so I could dye my white yarns a nice soft pink!” and down the staircases she ran. She ran into the kitchens, Everyone was different. Not a soul she knew! Clothing styles were different! No one was even wearing socks, let alone wool socks!

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