A Tale of Two Kingdoms
By Eolake Stobblehouse
Once upon a time there were two small kingdoms, Deliria and Hysteria, next to each other between the shining sea and the forbidding mountains. As neighbors they had an empire to the north, and an empire to the south, and even though peace had reigned for decades, neither of the kings felt very secure.
The king in Deliria had three daughters, all of them blonde. The youngest had not been married yet, and the king was a bit worried, because while she was very bright and very talented on the pianola, she had a tendency to talk about education and to tell people the truth, and also she was generally not considered as pretty as her sisters. Sometimes she almost seemed like she scared off men and potential husbands on purpose.
The other king had three sons, and the oldest, who would become king, had quite a big head for his own ideas too, and his father was distraught that he had not found a wife yet, especially since the right answer was right next door, so to speak.
"Listen, Son," he said to the prince. "It is all well and fine that you are concerned about love and poetry and all those modern sensibilities, but picking and choosing a wife is a luxury for commoners, not royalty." (If the king realized that commoners were saying exactly the same to their sons, he probably didn't care.) "Deliria is our only ally in the world. A royal marriage would cement the alliance, and help keep peace for decades to come. You just can't be selfish on this one, you have to think of the country that will be yours one day. And too soon, if you keep aggravating me with your attitude."
"But Daaaaaad," said the prince. "I just don't looooove her. It wouldn't be riiiiiight!"
This amazing lack of fresh arguments made the king fly into a rage, and he ordered the prince to go to Deliria, see the princess Delicia, and not come home until he had damn well proposed to her.
The prince knew he could not directly oppose the king's orders, his son or not, so he chose the easy way, and went. At least he wouldn't have to talk to his father as long as he was in another country.
Meanwhile, in Deliria, princess Delicia was being talked to by the queen. "Delicia," said the queen, "your sisters have found good husbands long ago, why haven't you?"
"But Mooooom, I want a husband who respects my mind!" said Delicia. "None of them listen to what I say, they just think I am a... well, a woman."
"Surprise! You are!" said the queen. "I never took to all this modern Education nonsense, and see how I did. I married the king!"
"No buts! Prince Historectomi is coming here tomorrow, and his father has ordered him to propose to you, and you better say yes, or you can kiss your wonderful pianola goodbye. Not to mention your precious books. Waste of good firewood."
Depressed, princess Delicia went to her room. She cried herself to sleep. How would she ever find a man who respected her with cruel parents like that?
Well, due to nice weather and a relative lack of highwaymen, prince Historectomi arrived early, which was late in the evening on the day before he was supposed to arrive. So the servants did not wake the royal family, but just installed him in the largest guest room, and let him get some sleep.
As it turned out, the prince was too concerned about everything to sleep long in the morning, so soon after dawn he was up and about, and since it was too early for breakfast to be served, he went for a stroll in the royal gardens.
He came to a little decorative pond that was well hidden in the back end of the gardens, and there he froze in surprise. A young maiden, all alone, was undressing by the pond! Instinctively he ducked behind a bush, and looked, as the last garments were dropped to the ground. He was fascinated; this maiden was wonderful and more. She had long golden hair dropping past her... backside, so round as to redefine the word "round", so biteable as the fruit of the royal gardens. Her lips were like living rubies. Her front was... here the poetic abilities of the prince gave up, and he merely felt himself go warm all over, and trembled in his soul of souls. He knew then that he was in love.
He sat on the hard ground behind the bush, all comfort forgotten, and looked and looked as the maiden bathed, and he so longed to touch her that it was all he could do to keep from touching himself.
When the young maiden had finished her secret bath in the pond, the prince arranged to meet her "accidentally" in the garden as she walked homewards. The maiden seemed at first a little frightened, then flustered, and then uninterested as he gushed over her beauty. But when he likened her grace to that of the great poet Sosume's, she got interested. This was the first time she had met anyone near her own age who knew and cared about poetry.
Soon the young people were talking enthusiastically about music and art and poetry, and about the rights of the people and all those modern topics. They agreed to meet again in the gardens after breakfast to continue their talks.
As the palace was gathering for breakfast, the queen met her daughter to impress upon her how to behave when talking to the foreign prince. But she barely got past expressing her astonishment at how well the princess looked this morning, much more color and life about her... "Oh mother, I met the most wonderful man in the garden this morning! He is so wonderful and educated! You have to find out who he is, and make sure he stays..."
Here the queen interrupted, and pointed to the door. "Darling, this is prince Historectomi. Be nice." And she indicated the prince, just entering. The princess looked at him, and to her shock found him to be the very person she had spoken to in the gardens.
The prince in turn was very confused for a second there. For he knew that the princess Delicia was a very plain woman, and here she was being introduced to him as the wonderful dream creature he had met in the garden.
What the prince, and indeed everybody else, did not know was that the princess, already as a young girl on the verge of womanhood, had noticed in her perceptiveness that boys and men had started acting silly around her. They were really nice, almost overly nice and enthusiastic, but they did not listen to her. It was like they were blinded and did not really see her. What she learned to do was disguise her beauty. From the age of twelve, she was never seen by anyone except her personal maids without tying up her beautiful golden hair, tying in her pert bosom, and putting too much powder all over her face, toning down her ruby lips, healthy cheeks, and long pretty eyelashes. If she also always looked down and acted uninterested, she was indeed perceived as very plain and boring by everybody.
The princess did not reflect on the subtle irony in the fact that it was her unguardedness that morning that may had made the prince try to talk to her in the first place; she merely was happy that they could talk.
And the prince in turn did not waste much time reflecting upon whether he would have fallen so madly in love with princess Delicia if he had not seen her as nature created her and so had been struck with an intense interest in her and her beauty. He just attributed their great and sudden love for each other to a meeting of equal minds.
And it surely was, and whether that is the whole story or not, who cares? The fact is that they married and became the most popular couple ever, and the countries Hysteria and Deliria formed the strongest alliance two kingdoms ever have, and did not have any problems with neighbors for a long, long time.