Once upon a time, in a land relatively far away, lived a young girl aged nine or ten years. Mornings found her milking the cow the provided her family with milk, afternoons found her picking wild flowers to brighten the dinner table, and evenings found her listening intently to the tales her grandfather spun as he whittled tiny figurines. Melly, as this girl was called, found happiness in her daily endeavors. One night, as she sat at her grandfather's feet she asked, " Gramps, why do so many of the people in your stories start out unhappy?"
"Well, Melly," he replied, setting down his carving tools, "They forget how to be happy or else they never learned how to be happy."
"How could they never learn to be happy?" Melly asked.
"Let me tell you a story." Gramps began whittling again. "Once there lived a princess, a very beautiful princess indeed, but she was not happy. Since the day she was born she'd received everything she asked for, everything except love. She was spoiled, it is true. Her parents bought anything desired, but never had a kind word for her. 'Why can't you be content with what you have?' her father asked. 'Try to sit up straighter,' her mother instructed, 'no prince will marry you if you don't.' Every day the princess left the dinner table feeling as though nothing she did would ever make her parents pleased with her. She tried not asking for so many things. 'Why have you not asked for anything new?' her father asked. 'We don't want the servants to think we mistreat you.' She sat up as straight as she could. 'Will you never learn how to take care of your hair?' her mother asked. 'No prince will marry you if you don't.' No matter what she tried her parents always found something wrong with what she did. She tried making friends with the servants--some refused because they disliked her for being so wealthy, other feared her parents anger that would surely follow any unservantlike behavior."
"What about other princes and princesses?" Melly asked. "Wouldn't they be friends with her?"
"I'm sure some would have," Gramps replied, "but they were never given a chance. The princess's parents wouldn't let her meet them until she showed them she would not disgrace them and no matter how she tried she never lived up to their standards. In time she stopped trying. She turned inward, concentrating only on herself. Now, we know that is not the way to happiness, now don't we?" Gramps asked.
"Momma always says 'To live only for oneself is misery, to live for others is joy untold,'" Melly replied.
"A wise woman your mother," Gramps said, winking at Melly's mother. "Unfortunately," he said returning to the story, "the princess had no one to share such wisdom with her. The years went by and she continued to be unhappy with herself and with everyone around her. She chaffed at the responsibilities given her and generally went around with a pout on her face. Eventually her sixteenth birthday arrived and the time to arrange her betrothal had arrived. While the princess dreamed of meeting a handsome and charming prince who would bring happiness and love into her life, she felt sure that if such a wonderful man did exist, her parents were sure to reject him as a possible suitor."
"I hope she finds someone to help her find happiness," Melly sighed.
Gramps smiled. "Well, Princes began to show up in response to the royal invitations sent by her parents. The first prince to come snorted like a pig when he laughed. The princess could have lived with that if he had been nice to her, but coming from an impoverished royal family he wooed her parents and ignored her. The blueness of his blood did nothing to recommend him to her and in time he left, making way for the next prince. Prince number two, as the princess called him, had no redeeming features in her mind. Vain, cruel, and heartless. Thankfully he left after a couple day stay--her looks did not compliment his he had explained. Prince number three spoke only of his horses and took offense at her lack of interest. Prince after prince came to see the princess and all went away. 'I knew you'd never find a husband!' her mother complained. 'Try to be more agreeable,' her father instructed. The princess went to her room. Why can't there just be one kind and charming prince? she thought. Just one. Two years went by and the train of princes became a trickle--one might come every few months."
"How sad," Melly said.
"Sad indeed, but not as sad as you might think," Gramps said. "For as she met such selfish and self-important princes, the princess began to see more clearly. She began to realize she wanted a prince who would care for her and to do that he would first have to think of her. The princess wanted to be appreciated, and so she began thanking the servants each time they did something for her, rather than just expecting them to do it. I may not find her prince, she thought, but I can be the kind of person such a prince would desire to marry. She even took up a hobby--portrait painting. Her parents despised such an unroyal hobby, but the princess stood up to them and did it all the same. She painted her parents, the servants, even the princes who had visited her. The court painter gave her lessons at first, but in time she could dabble on her own and only went to him when she had specific questions, needed advice, or simply wanted to show him something she'd painted and particularly liked. The court painter became her mentor, and more than a mentor he became like a father to her."
"Oh! He sounds very nice," Melly exclaimed.
"He was a very nice man," her Gramps replied, "and a wise man too. Humble even. He did not let his talent and position to go to his head. And so another year, and then two went by. Prince's no longer came to meet the princess. 'An old maid!' her mother exclaimed. 'My daughter is an old maid!' It hurt to be called such, for she still felt very young, but the princess took it in stride. She would rather live an old maid and be happy with her painting than be miserably married to a prince who didn't love her. 'Who will rule this kingdom after me?' her father asked. 'Cousin Ferdinand will inherit if I don't marry. You know that,' the princess reminded him, but he just shook his head in despair."
"Does the princess ever get married?" Melly asked.
"Patience, my little one," Gramps said. "I'm getting to that. One day the princess was particularly pleased with the painting she'd completed. So, she went to find the court painter to have him come see. She could have asked a servant to find him, but she wanted to stretch after having sat for such a time. As she crossed the entrance hall she heard trumpets and wondered who could have come. It had been quite some time since any prince had come. Then, realizing she still had on her painting smock, she hurried across the hall. She safely reached the other end but paused. She decided to wait behind a pillar so that she could see who had come rather than waiting until someone came by to inform her later. Soon the grand doors opened and the Prime Minister followed behind a rather handsome young man. The princess had seen much grander and handsomer princes. She wondered who this one might be, but she stood too far away to hear what the Prime Minister said to him."
"Oo. I bet it's her prince." Melly clapped her hand, her eyes alight.
"It might be," Gramps replied. "Now settle down."
Melly sat back, folding her arms to keep from clapping.
"The Prime Minister led the young man out of the hall toward the throne room." Gramps continued. "The princess sighed, for she had seen the visitor but still did not know his name nor why he'd come. Knowing that she'd eventually find out she continued on the the room the court painter worked in. She told him about the arrival as well as her finished painting. He couldn't go with her to see it then, but promised to come by later to see it. The princess slowly wandered back to her room, still thinking on the visitor. She wondered what about him had caught her attention so. At dinner that night her parents presented her to the honorable Prince Jarold. 'A pleasure to meet you, Princess Amethyst,' Prince Jarold said as he bowed over her hand."
"Oh, Amethyst--what a lovely name!" Melly exclaimed.
"A very pretty name indeed," Gramps agreed. "But back to the story. Where did I leave off? Oh yes. Prince Jarold bowed over Amethyst's hand, and her heart fluttered in response to his breathtaking smile that lit his face and eyes. 'The pleasure is all mine,' she replied according to custom and for the first time really meant it. All throughout dinner she watched and listened to Prince Jarold. He's kind and funny, she thought. I wonder why he never came until now. She also thought that perhaps in the morning he wouldn't seem so wonderful. After all, she'd waited a long time to meet a kind and handsome prince. The week passed and another came. Amethyst still found herself intrigued by Prince Jarold and the more she got to know him, the more she liked him. She wanted to ask him why he'd not come until now, but she did not have enough courage yet to ask him. One day after discovering a dab of paint on her cheek he learned of her love of painting and insisted on seeing her works. She'd been nervous about her painting. She knew it wasn't at all courtly to do so, and she feared he'd think less of her if he found out about her hobby."
"I think painting's a wonderful hobby," Melly said.
"Yes," Gramps replied, "And Prince Jarold thought so too. He even started coming to read aloud to her as she painted. Princess Amethyst continued to wonder why he'd not come until now, but for the time felt content to simply enjoy his company. Often at night she would visit the court painter and tell him how wonderful Jarold was. He would sit and smile as she repeated once again her admiration for Jarold. After a few months had passed, Jarold told her that he needed to return to his kingdom for a time, but asked that she be his bride when he returned."
"Finally!" Melly said.
Gramps smiled. "Princess Amethyst joyfully accepted Prince Jarold's proposal and told him she had someone to introduce him too, the court painter. As they walked to meet the court painter she told how he'd become like a father to her. When they arrived the court painter greeted them. 'Hello Princess Amethyst. Hello Jerry." Amethyst looked from one to the other. Both were smiling. 'Let me explain,' the court painter said. 'When Jerry, Prince Jarold, was young I lived as the court painter in his kingdom, that was many years ago. Jerry loved to come to my studio and watch me paint. About the time Jerry turned fifteen I decided I wanted a change in my life, so I came to be the court painter here. Over the years I kept tabs on Jerry and we occasionally exchanged letters. Earlier this year I decided to see what would happen if two of my favorite people met and so I asked Jarold to come and meet you.' Amethyst turned to Jarold. 'Why didn't you come years ago?' she asked him. 'By the time you came of age I had become tired of visiting princess after princess,' he explained. 'None had ever measured up to what I wanted so instead I put my energy into other pursuits. When I received a letter from my old friend here, I had become quite lonely and decided it couldn't hurt to come meet you.' He smiled down at her. 'And I'm very glad I did," he added."
Melly sighed, putting her hands to her heart, "How romantic!"
Gramps laughed. "Yes, it was romantic, and as you may guess, they all lived happily ever after."
"And now it's off to bed for you," her mother said. "Morning comes quite quickly."
"Okay." Melly stretched and yawned. "Thank you for the story Gramps," she said then hugged him and kissed him on the cheek. "I'm sure to have good dreams tonight after such a happy story."
"I'm glad," he said and smiled gently as she walked up the ladder to her bed. The End.