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TITLE: The Wedding
By dee smith

The Wedding

The King stood looking out the castle window. The day had finally come—his only son would begin the search for a wife. He didn’t notice the beautiful spring day or the birds singing; no all he could see were his subjects below preparing to sow seeds and plant the crops. His thoughts drifted back to when he selected his bride. She was perfect. He sought long and hard and finally found just the right woman for him. He hoped his son would so as well as he did; but he was concerned. Times had changed so much since he brought home his bride. People had changed so much. Was there anyone worthy of his son? He just watched the people, lost in thought.

“Father”, said the prince. Then he remembered there were servants about. “Your Majesty”.

His father turned and looked at his son. How much he had grown. He was a man now. He would have to give his permission for the quest to begin.

“Yes, my son. I know you are anxious to begin your quest for a wife. Please take your time. You will need to find the perfect wife for yourself. She must be able to rule by your side as your mother did mine”.

“What was she like? How did you know she was the one? How long did it take you?”

“You will know in your heart when you find her. It takes as long as it takes. Do not be in a hurry, you have the rest of your life in your hands. Take your time and choose wisely for you cannot change your mind. Have you decided on your disguise?”

“Yes, father. I will go out as a beggar. This way no one will notice me and I can observe and listen to her words and actions before I choose.”

“You have done well.”

There was a time old tradition of allowing the prince to choose his wife. Wives were not prizes or treaty trophies, no they were to be respected at all times and treated as equals.

There were however several restrictions on how a prince could choose his wife and how to announce the selection to the subjects of the kingdom. The prince could not choose a wife prior to his 21st birthday. She must be of good character, pure and loving. She must be worthy of leading the people. She could be no younger than 20; there was no upper age limit, although most of the queens were younger than 25 when selected. The prince was to disguise himself when he went out among the people so he could determine her true nature. The final selection and announcement would be made at a ball held in his honor. All the young maidens would attend as it was mandatory. Their families would come as well to see who would be chosen.

Everyone knew the prince was 21 today. There was much buzz about who would be chosen. How would the prince disguise himself? When and where would he begin? No one knew but the king, not even the prince himself. The king would watch from his window and select a time and direction for the search to begin.

The King looked long and hard at the prince.
“The time has come. You will go North first. Remember to take you time and choose wisely”. He knew he didn’t need to remind the prince, but he felt he had to say something. He sighed a long sigh, hugged his son and sent him off. Now all he could do was wait.

The prince hurried to his room and changed his clothes. No one knew of his disguise besides the king. How would he be treated? He hoped he would not be beaten; he just wanted to be left alone to observe.

As he walked along the streets, no one noticed him. No one had time for a beggar. Why didn’t he just get a job? He seemed to be able-bodied enough. And this time of year there certainly were plenty of jobs. Perhaps he was just lazy. Little did they know. They expected the prince to come as a traveler. They greeted each other checking making sure they knew the people on the street. It would not be acceptable to miss the prince.

The prince had thought to take a few copper coins so he could buy food, but had not planned on lodging anywhere for a long time. He wanted to spend as little time as possible, get his wife and then return to the castle and his ball. It would be glorious. Now, where to start looking for a wife.

He continued walking down the street and a street vendor caught his eye. She was gorgeous. Tall and slender with beautiful brown hair and green eyes. She commanded attention just by her looks. Surely, she would make a fine queen. He sat on the curb near her stand, but slightly hidden as he wanted to listen and see how she treated people.

“Good morning. How may I help you?”

“How much for these beans?’
“They are $3.00 per pound.”

“Oh, I can’t afford that. What do you have that is cheaper?”

“I can sell you some seconds for $1.50 per pound”.

“That will be fine. I’ll take 2 pounds”.

She seems to be caring and loving, thought the prince. So the conversations went all day. The prince just sat there listening and staring at her. She was so beautiful…

When it was time to leave, she quietly packed up her things and said good-by to the other vendors. As she walked down the street, the prince followed her. I will see where she lives and how she treats her family. Then if she is kind to them, I can go back to the castle tonight. It will be wonderful to take a bath and get out of these clothes.

She arrived home in just a few minutes. “What’s for dinner”, she demanded. That surprised the prince, but maybe she was just tired from a long day.

“Whatever you fix”, called her father. He had been working in the fields all day and had no time for her demands.

“I worked hard all day and I expect you to fix me dinner. After all, I bring home the money.”

“Yes, and you never let me forget it. I also worked hard in the field to grow the crops you sell at the market. I also am very tired. I don’t care if you eat or not! I am going to bed as I have to get up at the crack of dawn.”

“You will not get any sleep until I have had my supper!”

“Wanna bet?” With that he father turned and went into his room and locked the door behind him.

“You cannot treat me this way! One day I will marry the prince and you will be punished for how poorly you treat me. I will live in luxury and have plenty of food and you shall have none!”

The prince couldn’t believe his ears. She seemed so perfect, but clearly she was not. She was so beautiful on the outside, but the inside was selfish and harsh. No, she was not for him. He jumped up and began walking as fast as any beggar could. He kept going until he came to a farm.

By this time, it was rather late and he didn’t want to disturb the family. I will just sleep in the barn and leave early in the morning. No one will know I am here. So, the prince snuck into the barn, found a pile of hay, laid down and quickly was sound to sleep.

The prince didn’t realize how early farmers get up. The farmer walked into the barn, saw him and grabbed a pitch fork.

“You git outta here, boy!”, yelled the farmer.

“Oh, I am sorry. I was just so tired and I didn’t mean you any harm.”

“I said git!”

The farmer’s daughter heard the commotion and came running. “What’s going on?”
“This here vagrant is trespassin’ and I told him to git”.

“Father, he is not harming or threatening you. We can’t send him away hungry. Let me give him a crust of bread so he can be on his way”.

“Well, alright. But you best be quick about it girl. I want him off my property lickit split.”

“Here, have some bread and a drink of water. My father isn’t as gruff as he seems. He is just protective of what little we have. We’ve been robbed twice in the last year.”

“I am sorry to hear that”, replied the prince. Is there anything I can do for you? I am willing to work for my food.”

“No, you’d best be going”.

“Okay.” But the prince had no intention of leaving. She had shown him such kindness. However, she wasn’t georgous. She was just average, maybe below average. She was rather skinny and awkward. Her hair was blonde, but a little unkempt. But those things could be corrected—maybe. He wanted to know more about her. How could he stay and watch her without her father or her knowing?

The prince looked around the farm for a place to hide. There really wasn’t one. He began to walk down the road back towards town. Then he saw it--a large opening in a fallen tree. If he lied down just right it would hide him and he could observe them.

The farmer was soon working in the fields. His daughter began her chores. There were chickens to feed, eggs to collect, a vegetable garden to harvest, then laundry to wash and hang. Of course, there were the meals. This family didn’t have much, but they did eat well. The smell of lunch and dinner were almost too much for the prince. He was so hungry.

After lunch, the daughter went to town to purchase some material to make clothing. She was well liked by the merchants who all seemed to know her by name. Everyone treated her with respect and she respected them. What he had learned about the daughter pleased him. He learned her name was Annabelle. What a beautiful name.

As the skies turned dark, he crawled out of his hiding place and headed towards town. He was very hungry and hoped to find a place to get some dinner. He would then return to the modest inn for a good night’s sleep before returning to the palace.

The next morning the Prince rose early and walked all day. He arrived at the castle in time for dinner. He entered the private chambers of the King. “Father, I think I have found the one. She isn’t very beautiful to look at, but she has a heart of gold. She works hard and is kind to strangers. Her father is a farmer with modest income.”

“Are you sure? Remember you cannot change your mind once you are married”

“I am as sure as I can be. She will be a good wife and will rule beside me with kindness and fairness. Hard work does not scare her and the people will accept her as queen.”

“What is her age?”

“She appears to be in her early twenties.”

“Then it is time for the ball. Does anyone else know of your choice?”

“No, Father, I was very careful not to reveal who I was to anyone. Most people just ignored me as they had no time for a beggar.”

“That is good. All must be secret until the ball. We don’t want our enemies to find out and try to harm her in any way.”

The King summoned his servants and announced it was time for the Wedding Ball. News spread throughout the kingdom. Everyone was curious. Whom had the prince chosen? What disguise had he used? No one remembered seeing any strangers in their town. Had the prince broken tradition?

The servants scurried and set up for the ball. They only had 2 days to prepare and there was much to do. The ballroom must be scrubbed. The food must be prepared; tables to set and a dance floor to arrange. Everyone was busy, so busy that no one noticed what the prince was doing.

The prince had snuck out of the castle, again in disguise, to check on his “queen”. Her appearance seemed to have changed—although he couldn’t put his finger on exactly what had changed. She and her father were preparing for the ball. The material she purchased at the market had become a beautifully sewn gown. The transformation was remarkable. What talent she has—she will make a great queen.

The prince returned in time to change his clothes, bathe and get ready for the ball. It was his night after all. Dressed in royal regalia befitting his stature, the prince entered the ballroom, which now was filled to capacity with the townspeople. The King sat on his throne and watched as his son strolled across the floor. There was a quiet hush as everyone held their breath. Where was he headed? Who was the chosen one?

The gorgeous girl from the market place grew more and more excited as the prince walked closer and closer to her. But alas, the prince walked past the gorgeous girl from the market place. How could he? She was too beautiful to be passed up. Who dared to take her prince away from her?

The prince kept walking. It seemed like he was never going to stop. When suddenly he did stop--right in front of Annabelle! She almost fainted. “Why did you choose me? Look at all the other women here. I am certainly the least of all of them. I am a poor farmer’s daughter”.

“I know. That is why I chose you. You are not the most beautiful on the outside; but I was looking for inner beauty. You are beautiful. You fed me when I was hungry and protected me from your father. You are my choice for my queen”.

The farmer didn’t know what to do or say. He had tried to throw the prince out of his barn and drive him off their farm. What would the prince do to him? Terror immobilized him.

The prince saw his reaction and kindly whispered, “Don’t be afraid, you did nothing wrong. You did not know it was me. You needed to protect your daughter and your farm. I am not angry. No one knows what happened besides the three of us.”

The farmer calmed down and thanked the prince for his graciousness and kindness.
What was happening finally sank in. His daughter was to be the next queen. It was all too much for him—he started to sink to the floor. The prince caught him and a servant rushed over with a chair.

The rest of the night was uneventful by comparison. The orchestra played for several hours and people ate, drank and danced. The initial shock wore off, and people began to congratulate the couple. The King sat on his throne very pleased with the outcome. The prince had indeed chosen well.

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