Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Day and Night (07/10/14)
TITLE: Once Upon a Time
By Elizabeth Baize
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Stared at Sigmund’s gleaming castle;
“What would life hold for me,” she thought,
“If I were not a vassal.”
She turned her back upon the dream
and soon with practiced hands,
She milked each cow, then poured the milk
Into the waiting cans.
Pressed close into the last cow’s flank
Kate’s task was near complete,
When up stepped such a stranger
That she almost lost her seat.
The stranger’s wizened face then smiled
Beneath his snow white beard.
“Fair lady, just a cup of milk;
Please, don’t you be afeard.”
Now Kate had quite a kindly heart;
She would not drink deny.
But impishly she flipped her braids and laughed,
“Should I comply?
What will you give me in return
for fresh and foamy milk?
A bag of coins, A prancing steed,
Or dress of finest silk?”
Without a smile he shook his head
and peered right back at her.
“On one condition –one alone –
All these I will confer.”
With bated breath the milk maid
strained to catch his every word,
But then recoiled a tiny step
For this is what she heard.
"A princess, you shall live by day
As long as sun shines bright,
But when dusk falls, you must consent
To be a rat by night.
Now you must make a lasting choice;
‘Twill never be undone
Unless you choose a poor man’s love,
And he your heart has won.”
One moment only did Kate pause
then reached in eager haste.
“Quick! Let me fill your little cup;
Do not a moment waste!”
She filled the vessel to the brim
And watched him quaff the drink,
But suddenly he vanished
Before she could even blink.
“Come back!” Her useless cry appealed;
As then the sun’s first ray
Stretched out and touched her pleading hands.
It took her breath away . . .
For fingers that must be her own
Now flashed within her sight
Bejeweled by several diamond rings
That sparkled in the light.
Instinctively she touched her gown;
Its smoothness made her start.
Her hand flew up and pressed itself
Against her pounding heart.
A friendly snort behind her
Made Kate jump and whirl around.
A snow white steed stood saddled,
And a purse lay on the ground.
This morning when the sun came up
King Sigmund took a ride,
And suddenly he saw the one
He wanted for his bride.
With regal pose she sat her steed;
Her hair was flaming red.
He guessed her eyes were emerald green;
He spurred his horse ahead.
King Sigmund and the Princess Kate
Rode side by side that day,
But when the sun began to set
Kate cried out in dismay.
“Please let me go; I’ll come again.
The hour is drawing late.”
King Sigmund frowned and shook his head,
“I wish for you to wait.”
He grabbed the bridle of her horse;
She jumped down to the ground.
The last light faded.
Kate and steed were gone without a sound.
The king leaped from his saddle,
Shock and anger in his eyes.
‘Twas then he saw the creeping rat
Of quite unusual size.
He drew a dagger from his belt.
In rage he took good aim,
But just before he let it fly
A young man called his name.
“King Sigmund, wait!
I beg of you a boon.
Please spare the life of yonder rat
Don’t cause its death so soon.”
Impatiently King Sigmund rode
Away into the night.
The young man neared the cringing rat;
It was a curious sight.
It had green eyes all filled with tears;
They even seemed to speak.
He bent upon one knee and thought,
“This rat is quite unique.”
He cleared his throat, “You look worn out;
I know you must be scared.
Just use this sack here for your bed.
For now your life is spared.
At break of dawn he hurried back,
And paused in stunned surprise.
A princess stood, his sack in hand,
And then he saw her eyes.
“It cannot be!!” he shook his head.
She bowed her head in shame.
“Because I valued fame and wealth,
For this I am to blame.”
“And now?” John cried and reached a hand.
Kate smiled, “Like night and day
I see contentment and true love
Prove much the better way.”
A princess took one step and
clasped John’s fingers in her own;
A milk maid and a poor man
Found a love before unknown.
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