Princess Angelice is to be married to the young and handsome Prince yyy III. There is just one catch: her father has decreed that Princess Angelice cannot get married until her older sister, Princess Beatrice, does. However, Princess Beatrice is not exactly the most beautiful woman in the kingdom. So, the two princesses embark on a quest to trap a husband . . .
The beginning of the story:
Once upon a time, in a far and distant land, there lived two princesses. The younger sister, princess Angelice, had just celebrated her fifteenth birthday, and so was at the prime age for marriage. She had a lithe body and a beautiful face, which was framed by long, golden ringlets of hair. Everyone agreed that she was the fairest maiden in the kingdom. She had many suitors, and men from the kingdom would visit the castle hoping for a glimpse of such an angelic young lady.
The older sister, however, had a far different appearance. Beatrice had a plump figure, a large flattened nose, and dark hair which was perpetually in tangles. She did, however, have a lovely singing voice, but was too shy and insecure to let anyone but her family hear her. She never got a chance, anyways, since people would look at her and hurry off in the opposite direction. It was said that she was the most hideous maiden in the land. Needless to say, she had no suitors to pursue her. At the age of seventeen, she was nearly an old maid.
Our story begins on one fine spring day, when King yyy II from a neighboring land was visiting the princess' father. King bbb proudly showed off his two daughters.
"What a vision of beauty!" King yyy declared upon seeing the princesses. "Your daughter is far more beautiful than any in my kingdom. My eldest son, Prince yyy III, should be married soon, and I would be most appreciative if you would consent to giving him your daughter's hand in marriage."
King bbb was pleased. Prince yyy III was rumored to be somewhat handsome, and very kind. He would treat Princess Angelice well. Although he heard that some of the customs in the kingdom were different than theirs, King bbb was sure that Princess Angelice would live a happy life there. However, he did not agree to the match right away, not wanting to appear too eager and thus raise the dowry.
"That is a fine offer, King yyy, but before I agree or decline, I would want Prince yyy II to visit. I must see that my daughter wishes him for a husband."
The kings agreed that Prince yyy III would visit in two weeks. After other political matters were discussed, King yyy II left the castle.
Now King bbb looked at his daughters. Princess Angelice was smiling and chattering away excitedly. Princess Beatrice was forcing herself to smile, but could not hide her disappointment. King bbb's heart went out to his oldest daughter. She was such a wonderful, caring young lady, but she had not been blessed with the same good looks as his younger daughter and deceased wife. Beatrice was taunted by his subjects, and young men avoided her. He so wanted her to be married and live happily ever after, but no man would have her.
"It would break her heart to see her younger sister married first," he thought.
Princess Angelice had finally stopped talking and looked at her sister. She saw a tear forming in Princess Beatrice's eye. Beatrice left the room, so Princess Angelice approached the king.
"Father, it grieves me to see Beatrice so. I would do anything to make her happy, even postpone my marriage until she finds a man with the common sense to realize what a wonderful person she is. Please, Father, I do not want to marry Prince yyy III if it will cause my sister sorrow."
"Not to worry, my angel. I will make sure that Beatrice marries first. I will do anything to find a young man to be her husband. There has to be a match for my little duckling out there somewhere!"
Somewhere in the middle of the story:
"Just trust me," Princess Angelice said, looking down the road. "Here they come - hurry!"
Princess Beatrice sighed and reluctantly positioned herself on the edge of the bridge. Two men on horseback came into sight, their horses trotting along at a leisurely pace.
"Now!" Princess Angelice ordered her sister, and the latter jumped off of the low bridge.
"Help! Oh, help!" Princess Angelice cried as the horsemen drew nearer. When the men saw the beautiful damsel in distress ahead on the road, they immediately galloped towards her. When they reached the bridge, they pulled their horses to a stop, and a cloud of dust swirled around them.
"Fair damsel, how may we be of assistance?" the blond one asked, hopping down from his horse. The dark-haired man also dismounted.
"Help me, please," the princess implored, assuming her best damsel-in-distress look. "My dear sister has fallen in the river, and I fear she will drown." She grabbed the blond man's hands as she spoke, and let a tear fall from her eye.
"Do not fear," he told her, "We shall save your sister. If she is as fair as you are, then it would be too great a loss to the world if she should perish." With that, the two men walked over to the edge of the bridge and looked down at Princess Beatrice. She was wet and bedraggled, and the water was up to her chin.
Upon seeing the men, Princess Beatrice almost stood up. Then, remembering what she was supposed to do, she remained kneeling, and began waving her arms in the air. "Help! Help me!"
"Oh my God, what is that?" the dark-haired man exclaimed.
"It looks like . . . like some kind of monster or something!"
"Look at the nose on that thing!"
The blond man turned to Princess Angelice. "M'lady, I just recalled that I am unable to swim."
"And I also, M'lady."
"I am afraid we must be going . . ."
"We are late for . . . for an appointment."
"Yes, that is it, an appointment. Might a fair damsel such as yourself care to accompany us?"
"Oh, you ignorant fools!" Princess Angelice yelled at the men. "My sister could be dead by now!"
"I hate to tell you, M'lady, that the world shall be a more beautiful place without her."
"Get out of here!" Princess Angelice screamed, slapping each of the men in turn. They mounted their horses quickly, and galloped back in the direction they had come from.
"Men!" Princess Angelice climbed down the river bank and waded out into the water. She held out her hand and helped her sister to stand up. "Maybe my plan wasn't so great after all."
"Maybe it is hopeless," the older sister said with a sigh.
"Nothing is ever hopeless," the younger one said defiantly. "Now, lets go back to the castle, change into some dry clothing, and eat chocolate. There is nothing like chocolate to help you think." With that, the two princesses headed home, hand and hand.
Somewhere in the middle of the story:
"Why had I not thought of it before?" cried Angelice suddenly, as she and her sister sat in her chamber.
"What?" asked Beatrice, perking at the thought of a solution to their dilemma.
"A wisewoman!" Angelice cried. "We can have her give you a love potion! If only the thought had struck me sooner, we could have been spared our previous troubles! It is the perfect plan!"
"I do not know," said Beatrice, shaking her head slowly. "I am not sure I believe in love potions. And anyways, forcing a man to fall in love with me just does not seem very nice."
"Oh, never mind that. Men are too stupid to do it on their own . . . they only require coaxing."
"And, what about the gold required? Will Father not be displeased if we spend our allowance on something silly such as a love potion?"
"Oh, what are a few coins when your future is at stake? Besides, it is worth a try. If the wise woman cannot help us, we will be set back no farther than our present state. What have we to lose? And, if it works, you will have a husband and we will both be married and live happily ever after!"
Beatrice sighed. "I suppose it is worth a try."
So the princesses set off through the woods to the wisewoman's cottage.
* * *
"This place looks deserted," said Beatrice, eyeing the wisewoman's cottage skeptically.
"I am sure the wisewoman has more important things to do than repair the building. She has herbs to gather, potions to prepare, ancient spells to study, spirits to contact . . . one such as her need not worry over mundane things."
"Well, if she knows such a vast quantity of spells, you would think she could find one to tidy her house a bit!"
"Shh," said Angelice, "she may overhear. If we offend her, she may not aid our quest." With that, Angelice walked up to the cottage door. With her head held high like a true princess, she rapped on the door. There was no answer, so Angelice rapped louder. Still not hearing any answer, Angelice pushed the door in slowly. "Is anyone here?" she called out cautiously. She stepped inside the cottage.
At that moment, the wisewoman turned from the table at the center of the room to the door. Upon seeing the princesses, she dropped the bottle she was holding.
"Drat!" cried the wisewoman. "That 'un was my best bottle! Two rascals break into an ol', defenseless woman's home and give her heart failure! Children 'ese days!" She shook her head as she slowly bent down to pick up the pieces of glass.
"We are awfully sorry!" cried Angelice.
"Here, let us help you," offered Beatrice, rushing to the woman's aid.
"Eh?" cried the wisewoman. "Whisper so as a poor 'ol soul can't even hear what they say, that they do. My best bottle! Given to me by my Great-Grandmama on her death bed. 'Tis enough to break an ol' woman's heart!"
"We said we are very sorry," Beatrice said loudly.
"Make yerself useful an' get my broom from beside the door. And mind ye don't break it!"
The princesses helped the wisewoman clean up the mess. "Now, what do ye want, now that you've made a mess o' the place?"
"We were hoping for your assistance," Angelice stated.
"My assistant? I don't have an assistant. Tried one once an' she broke more 'an the two of ye 'ave. Such a silly young thing. Y'arnt lookin' for 'er, are ye?"
Angelice shook her head. "No, no, we wanted your help, for a spell."
"I have a wish . . ." Beatrice began.
The wisewoman nodded. "I can help ye for a spell. Now, what's this 'bout fishin'?"
"We wish to attract a man," Angelice said, "for my sister here."
"Eh? What would ye want ta' do 'at for?"
The sisters looked at each other. "Well," said Beatrice, "surely you know enough of the ways of the world to see the answer! For love, for companionship, for someone to call my own and to be there for me."
The wisewoman chuckled. "Silly girl! I can think of better ways to give ye what ye want! What do 'ey know of love? But, if that's what ye want, I'll help ye. Don't ye come back to me when you are left disappointed and with a broken heart!" The wisewoman walked towards her shelves, which were filled with jars and bottles with all sorts of unidentified contents. She began mixing some into a cauldron.
"Was that a dead fish?" Beatrice whispered to her sister as she watched the wisewoman.
"Shh!" Angelice chided as she watched attentively.
Finally, the wisewoman ladelled some of the potion into a vial, fitting a cork in the end. "'Ere ye are! It'll attract 'em like nothin' else!"
"Thank you!" Angelice beamed, handing the woman a few gold coins. The princesses walked towards the door. "We cannot thank you enough!"
"Eh?" But the two princesses were already out the door.
* * *
Beatrice opened the vial. "Whew! Such a stench!"
"Ugh!" cried Angelice. "Let us hope that it works, although I am sure it would drive men away more than it would attract them!"
"It may attract carrion birds!" commented Beatrice as she cautiously dabbed some of the liquid behind her ears.
"Well, you will have to use more than that if you wish to attract a man!" Angelice splashed a liberal amount of the liquid onto her sister. "There! Now every man in the kingdom will be falling at your feet!"
"Maybe if they faint from the smell!" Beatrice said as she wrinkled her nose in distaste. "I only hope this works!"
They walked on, with Angelice keeping upwind of her sister. They were following a path along a river. Suddenly, a fish jumped onto the bank by Beatrice's feet.
"Oh, my!" Beatrice cried as the fish flopped at her feet. "Poor thing."
"What are we to do?" asked Angelice as she approached her sister.
"Here, help me to put him back in the water."
"Ugh," said Angelice. "Must I touch that slimy thing?"
"Yes," answered Beatrice firmly, "unless you wish the poor creature to die." The fish flopped and slipped by the princesses' fingers, but finally they managed to heave it back into the water. Angelice washed her hands in the river.
"We must hurry and attract your man before the potion wears off" Angelice said.
The princesses walked on, but again a fish jumped out of the water and flopped at Beatrice's feet. "Another one!" cried Angelice.
Beatrice looked at the fish. "I swear it is the same fish!" The princesses heaved it back into the water and continued on their way. A moment later, the princesses heard a splash and a thump, and the fish was again flopping helplessly at Beatrice's feet.
Beatrice shook her head. "How odd!" The princesses heaved the fish back into the water, then distanced themselves from the river.
"It must be your love potion!" said Angelice. "Instead of attracting a man it is attracting -" Angelice stopped, turned, and looked at her sister. "What kind of fish was that?" she questioned.
Beatrice thought back to her studies. "I believe it was a . . . salmon."
"So," reasoned Angelice slowly, "we asked the wisewoman, who was hard of hearing, for a potion to attract a man. Instead, you seem to be attracting . . . salmon." The two princesses looked at each other for a moment, then broke into a hysterical fit of laughter.
As the fit died down, the two princesses wiped the tears from their eyes. "Salmon!" Beatrice shook her head. "She really is hard of hearing."
"Just think if she had given you a potion to attract wolves!" The princesses laughed again.
"Only that would not be funny at all, Angelice!" Beatrice said, laughing.
"Come on," said Angelice, sobering. "We have to rid you of that horrible smell!" The two princesses headed back to the castle, avoiding all rivers and ponds along the way.