This story is copyrighted by Rosemary Lake. All Rights Reserved.
The Once Upon a Time When the Princess(tm) series

 

The Statue Queen's Cave

 

Once, in a little town in the foothills of a dry rocky mountain, there was a little girl who lived in an orphanage, but it wasn't too bad. Though the food was plain and the walls were bare, she had many friends among the younger orphans, and every day she spent hours playing with them and telling them stories. Then one day the Mayor said: "Clementina, you are old enough to earn your own living now."

"Very well," she said. "I can baby-sit, I can bake cookies, I can teach tricks to puppies--"

"No," said the Mayor, "we have no jobs like that. The only job is working for old Miner Hardscrabble up the mountain." So they sent her up to a little hut way up on the high dry side of the mountain, to live with a mean old Miner who spent all his time digging and scraping and scratching in the dirt for bits of iron ore to sell, and made her do the same.

One day while she was digging in the stony dirt, Clementina saw some ants struggling to carry something shiny out of their nest. It was a little crystal ball no bigger than the palm of her hand. "Would you please help us?" the Queen of the Ants asked courteously. "We cannot lift this heavy thing."

So Clementina carefully lifted the crystal ball and held it with two fingers till all the ants had jumped off. Then she put it in her pocket.

"Thank you very much," said the Queen. "If we can ever help you, please call upon us."

When Clementina got home, she emptied her pockets, and held up the crystal ball to look at it. Just then, a beam of mellow evening sunlight shone through the window and lit up the crystal. Suddenly all sorts of tiny pictures appeared in the ball, swirling around like summer clouds. There were many beautiful scenes of the mountain, the creek, and the trees and all the animals in the forest.

Clementina sat gazing in delight! But some of the pictures were so small and mixed together that she could scarcely make them out. "Oh, I wish the pictures were larger," she murmured.

Instantly the ball showed the pictures much larger!

"I wish," Clementina said, experimenting, "that I could see the big pine tree that is on the other side of the mountain."

Instantly the ball showed the big pine tree that was on the other side of the mountain, needles and jaybirds and all.

So of course Clementina said: "I wish I was as rich as a king!"

Nothing happened. The ball just got cloudy.

"I wish I had a good dinner …. I wish I were as beautiful as the day …. I wish I were smart enough to think up the very best wish…."

Nothing happened. She tried and tried, but the only wishes the ball would grant, were about what pictures it showed, and how big, and from what direction, and things like that. Still, that was quite enough! So all evening Clementina played with the ball, and it showed her pictures of everything she asked about. Then the sun sank behind the mountain, and the pictures vanished, and Miner Hardscrabble came in, and found no supper ready.

When the Miner saw the table empty except for the crystal ball, he yelled: "Stop wasting your time with that thing!" And he grabbed the ball and threw it out the window.

That night Clementina snuck outside and searched till she found the crystal ball, unharmed and gleaming in the moonlight -- though it would show no pictures. But next morning it worked again, and worked from then on, as long as some light of the sun was striking it.

From then on she kept the ball hidden in her pocket, and played with it only in the early mornings before the Miner awoke, or while she was safely hidden in the forest. She soon found that by asking the ball where to look, she could find some quite nice fruit and berries even on the dry side of the mountain; so on many days she was able to stay out from dawn to dark, which was much nicer than going home to lunch

Then one day at breakfast Miner Hardscrabble said: "You must work harder. I need some money to pay the taxes. Today you must climb up to the high stony creek and try to find some iron nuggets we can sell."

"Very well," said Clementina, and set off. But as soon as she was out of the Miner's sight, she sat down with the crystal ball, and said: "Where can I find a whole lot of precious jewels?"

The ball showed her a dark little hole under a fallen juniper bush.

Clementina found the fallen bush and the dark hole. Sure enough, inside was a pile of beautiful blue turquoises, each shining like a lake of the purest blue water.

Clementina filled her pockets with the beautiful stones, took them to the Miner and said: "Look, we're rich now, we can stop working so hard."

The Miner looked at the turquoises and growled. "These can't be real. No one could find real turquoises so easily." So he threw the turquoises down a deep brushy ravine. "Now climb up to the high stony creek and find some real iron nuggets."

"Very well," said Clementina, and went and hid and asked the crystal ball, "Where can I find some more jewels?"

The ball showed her a dark little hole under a fallen chokecherry bush. She went and found there a pile of rubies, each glowing bright as a sunset. She filled her pockets, and started off to town to sell the rubies herself.

But along the way the old Miner saw her. "Why are you not working like I told you?

There seemed nothing for it but to show him the rubies. "I was just going to town to sell them for you."

The Miner looked at the rubies and growled. "These can't be real. No one could find real rubies so easily." So he threw them down the deep brushy ravine. "Now go to the stony creek and find some real metal nuggets."

"Very well," said Clementina.

But this time, as soon as she was out of the Miner's sight, she asked the crystal ball: "Where can I find something that will solve this whole problem?"

The ball showed her a big dark cave overhung with blueberry bushes.

Clementina sighed. "Listen, ball, this isn't working. Every time I find something in a dark cave, he catches me and throws it down that ravine."

The ball's picture expanded: it showed that the big dark cave was at the bottom of the same deep brushy ravine where the old Miner had thrown the jewels.

"Are you really sure--?"

The picture darkened and lightened three times.

"Oh, very well." Clementina went to the deep brushy ravine and climbed down to the bottom; which wasn't easy, as it was quite full of briars and brambles. At the bottom she looked around for the rubies and turquoises the Miner had thrown away, but the ground was so covered by thick thorny briars that she could find only a few of the stones.

Then she looked around for the big dark cave, but there were many different kinds of bushes all so tall and thick that she got lost. It was hot and dry, and soon she began feeling thirsty; so she asked the ball, "Can you show me anything to eat or drink down here?"

But so little sunlight reached the bottom of the ravine, that the ball could show nothing at all. Or was there just a little red-gold gleam, somewhere deep within it…?

At any rate, it wasn't very helpful. Curling up round her empty stomach, Clementina lay down and began to cry.

"Hello, little girl," said a voice that was strange and heavy and slow, but cool and rather sweet. "What is the material?"

Clementina sat up. "The -- what?"

"The material … the heaviness … the weight that makes you sigh so sadly?" The voice seemed to be carried on a cool, damp, fragrant breeze, which moved low across the ground. A slow, heavy sort of breeze, if you know what I mean.

"Er, the matter, do you mean?"

"Hylas," the voice sighed. "Now come along."

Following the breeze backward to its source, Clementina found the big dark cave the crystal had shown! "Er, hello," she called politely. "May I come in?"

"Come in, come in...." the cave echoed sweetly.

Clementina went in. The voice was coming from a big stone Statue! Of a beautiful, slightly plump, woman, wearing a simple, graceful toga, with her hair arranged in a beautiful high mound.

"Are you all right?" said Clementina. "Have you been turned to stone? Can I help you?"

"By Persephone, no!" the Statue said coldly. "What a thought! Have you been turned to flesh? Can I help you turn back to stone?"

"Er, I beg your pardon," said Clementina.

"Granite," said the Statue, and kindly asked to hear her story. When Clementina had told it all, the Statue called in the Queen of the Moles and the Queen of the Ants, each with all her subjects; and a great many moles and badgers and gophers came along too. They all began digging madly in all directions, till at last they had found all the rubies and turquoises which the Miner had thrown in the ravine (as well as some seed pearls, and several disembodied bones).

Then the Statue called many tiny Gnomes, who cut and polished all the thrown-away jewels, so that they were so sharp that Clementina had to be careful picking them up. "May we keep some of your jewels here to play with?" the Gnomes asked her.

"Er, of course," said Clementina politely.

So the Gnomes amused themselves by carving a number of stone crowns in which to set the jewels, each more complex, ornate, and spikey than the last. "It is nice to have such a sparkling afternoon’s entertainment," the Statue said.

"Thank you so much!" said Clementina after a while. "But I really should go now. I have to go to town and pay our taxes."

"Please do come again soon," said the Statue, and gave her a bag of rock candy and a handful of sharply cut rubies to take with her. "Don’t let them make   a hole in your pocket."

After bidding the Queen a polite farewell, Clementina climbed up the side of the ravine, toward the path to town. Just then Miner Hardscrabble walked up to the other side of the ravine and yelled across to her: "Where are you going?"

At least he could not get to her across the ravine! "To town," she said, walking along.

"Get back to work, you lazy girl!" he said. "I need some iron nuggets to sell for food!"

"No you don't!" yelled Clementina, and threw her bag of rock candy at him. "Eat this!"

This made the Miner so mad that he started shouting and jumping up and down, right on top of where the moles and gophers had dug all their tunnels. He yelled and yelled and yelled, and he jumped and stomped so hard that the ground itself collapsed right out from under him!

Clementina stared in astonishment!

The whole far side of the ravine collapsed, and the Miner fell straight down, down, down into the Statue Queen's jewel room, and landed right on the spiky silver crowns, and the sharp points of the diamonds and rubies sliced him into a million tiny pieces.

"What in the world has befallen us?" cried the Statue Queen coldly.

"Er, I’m sorry—" Clementina said, climbing back down.

The Queen took it all rather hard at first; but the ants and some visiting ravens and jackdaws soon arrived to clean up the mess, and the moles smoothed her down. While the badgers were repairing the roof of the cave, Clementina apologized again, and said, "Would you like the jewels back? I suppose they’re all yours, really."

"Certainly not," said the Queen firmly. "However, please go at once and sell one or two rubies and buy this whole mountain, so that no more Miners will come here. Till now they have only scratched the surface, but breaking in like this is too much."

So Clementina climbed up again and set out for town at once. But along the way she thought, What if the people in town say the jewels aren’t real? So she sat down in a private place in the woods, in the middle of a grove of old oaks, and held the crystal into one of the tiny beams of sunlight that danced there, and said: "Can you show me someone who could help with this problem?"

The ball showed a picture of a very richly-dressed, very old lady in a room full of old books in a tall old house over-looking the village. Clementina thanked the crystal, then went straight to the old house and found the old lady and showed her one of the rubies.

The old lady was very nice, and called her lawyers, and took care of lots of grown-up stuff. Then the lawyers asked Clementina: "What do you want to do, now that you are rich as a king?"

First, of course, Clementina bought the whole mountain, and had signs posted all over saying "NO MINIING ... NO HUNTING ... PICNICS WELCOME" and so forth.

Then Clementina bought the orphanage. When all the orphans had finished hugging her and crying with delight, she ordered lots of good food and nice beds for them, and bright paint and pictures for all the walls. Then she had lots and lots of trees and flowers and grass planted in the playground. Then she had all the orphan puppies and kittens in the town brought there too, and the orphans all sat down and played with them on the grass, with Clementina right in the middle of the hugs and joy.

And all this was from the sale of only one ruby! So next week, Clementina sold a few more, and turned the whole orphanage into a beautiful palace, with a beautiful estate around it; and gave the villagers all the good food and soap and fresh paint they needed to make the whole village as beautiful as the day, too.

When all was done, the whole village had a big party; and the Statue Queen sent as her gift a magic carved marble arch, through which Clementina (and a few of her very special girl-friends) could step at any time, and at once find themselves in the Queen's underground chamber for tea and cool, polished conversation.

And so every single one of them lived happily ever after.

 The End

 

All mine. (So to speak. :-) -- RL

 

This story is copyrighted by Rosemary Lake. All Rights Reserved.
The Once Upon a Time When the Princess(tm) series
Once Upon a Time When the Princess Rescued the Prince,
Once Upon a Time When the Princess Beat the Dragon
Once Upon a Time When the Princess Cast the Spell
Once Upon a Time When the Princess Got the Treasure

Home Page
rosemary@rosemarylake.com