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

 

The Game-Keeper's Husband

 

In a forest kingdom high in the mountains of Delos, there lived a simple but nice young woman named Else, who was married to a simple but nice young man who was one of the game-keepers for the King. For Good King Freiderich allowed no hunting in his realm, and kept a staff of game-keepers (or as we might call them, forest rangers), to protect the animals from poachers. The game-keepers spent all day roaming about the forest to see what was happening, and to give the animals any help they needed.

Else liked roaming the forest also, and often when her husband, Hans, felt tired, she would leave him home minding the fire and the baby, and she would go walking and climbing and looking about in his stead.

One day when she was roaming about, Else sat down to eat her lunch in a flowery meadow, right next to a clump of blossoming lavendar. While she ate, she watched the bees crawling in and out of the blossoms, and humming and doing little dances to tell each other which flowers to go to next. "I wish I could understand animal-language," she said. "It would make the game-keeping job much easier."

Then she noticed a sad buzzing. Pushing the lavendar aside, she found a bee-trap hidden under it: a box full of honey, with little leather doors that would let the bees push in, but not let them out again. "Poor things," Else said, and opened the top of the box, and used a stick to lift the trapped bees out of the honey.

The other bees swarmed round, helping the trapped ones lick themselves clean, and feasting on the honey from the box. Else sat very still, watching them. She even let them alight on her shoes.

Seven bees lit together on her left shoe and began pointing at her and talking among themselves. It looked as though they were talking about her! Then three of the bees flew back to the bush, three walked off her shoe onto her bare ankle, and one stayed on the shoe, humming and waving orders to the others.

Else kept very still. She was a little scared (and the bee-feet felt pinchy and tickly), but she wanted to see what the bees were up to.

The flying bees lit on a lavendar blossom, bobbed it three times -- and the bees on her ankle did a certain little dance-and-hum three times. The bees were teaching her their language!

After the first lesson, Else knew the words for lavendar, clover, daisy, petal, pollen, and girl-mountain. Of course she could not do the dance-part, but she could understand it, and she could speak the humming-part; and the bees were clever enough to figure out what she meant."Thank you very much," she said when the sun began to set. "May I come back tomorrow?"

The bees hummed round her in a friendly sort of way. Else took the bee-trap home, and Hans gave it to the Head Game-keeper and got a reward. From then on, Else visited the bees every day, learning more and more of their langauge.

One day, when Else had mastered the bee-language and the bees had learned to trust her, the Queen Bee summoned her. "We Bees can make a magic nectar," she said, "which will give you the power to understand the language of all the animals of the forest. There is only one condition."

"What is that, Your Majesty?" asked Else.

"You must never tell anyone about this power. Or about us and our bee-language. You must keep the whole thing a complete secret."

"You mean -- not let the animals know I understand them?"

"That is right."

"And not even tell Hans, ever?" said Else.

"No. No one at all. That is part of the magic. If you tell anyone, the nectar will act as poison, and you will die the third day after you tell it."

Else thought over the matter. She had never kept secrets from Hans, and it might be awkward. "It would be a very useful power--"

"Yes," said the Queen Bee. "It would help you greatly in protecting the forest."

"You are right," said Else. "That is the important thing. Please do make the nectar for me. Thank you. If it is not too much trouble."

So the bees gathered one bit of pollen from every single flower in the forest, and made their special nectar. It tasted like cherry-tart, custard, pine-apple, roast turkey, toffee, and hot buttered toast. As soon as she drank it, she could understand every creature!

Using this power, and never letting anyone know about it, Else learned many useful things about the forest. She was surprised to find out that many of the animals already understood a great deal of human language, though their tongues could not speak it.

She soon became so much better at the job of game-keeping, that Hans retired to the cottage and she took his place. Soon she rose to become Head Game-keeper. Their forest was the best protected in the mountains, and the King was very happy with her.

For a long time all went well.

Then one day Else and Hans went picking blueberries together, and Hans fell into a quicksand bog. "Help, help!" he screamed. Only his shoulders were above the water, and he was sinking fast!

Else laid the baby down on some soft grass, and desperately looked around for some way to help him. No poles or vines in sight--!

Then she heard two water-snakes talking. "Poor human! He is so scared."

"Yes. If only he knew, the bottom of the bog is just below his feet. He will be standing on solid rock in a moment."

Else was so relieved that she laughed out loud.

"What are you laughing at?" Hans demanded. "I'm sinking, heeeeelp!"

Without thinking, Else called: "Don't be scared, there's rock below!"

"How do you know--?" But in a moment, Hans's feet had touched the rock. Now his fear changed to anger. "Why did you laugh at me? Did you know about the rock all along? Why didn't you tell me before?"

Woops! Else could not think of anything to say.

As she pulled him out of the mud, Hans became more and more angry. "How do you know so much about these woods, anyway? How did you get my job away from me? Just how many other secrets are you keeping from me?"

Else thought of all the things she had learned from listening to the animals. Did they all count as separate secrets? "--Please don't ask me!"

But her husband would not leave her alone. For seven days he talked of nothing other than this quarrel. Finallly, Else decided to take a little chance. "I cannot tell you," she whispered. "Or I will fall ill and die in three days."

"I cannot believe that," said Hans. "Are you under a spell? You must tell me all about it, I'm sure I can find a way to break it in time. But you must not keep secrets from me!"

Else went looking for the bees she knew, but they were nowhere to be found. To tell other bees the story, she thought, would probably be telling the secret! So, after seven more days of quarrel with her husband, at last she gave in. "Very well," she said, "I will tell you. Then in the three days before I die, perhaps we can find a cure. But before I tell you, I want to visit my mother and sisters one last time."

To this, Hans agreed.

While he packed their wagon for the trip, Else took the baby and walked sadly down to the creek that ran past their yard. While she was standing there, two mother cats came down to the water, leading their kittens. "Did you hear those humans quarreling?" said one.

"So silly!" laughed the other cat. "That female human already has a nice baby, what does she want with a silly male human anyway? She should just hiss at him and make him go away, like we do!" And when they had drunk, they went frisking off, with their kittens playing around them.

Next came two cows, leading their calves. "Did you hear those humans quarreling?" said one.

"So silly!" laughed the other cow. "Human females keep too many males around. One bull for the herd is nice, but the others should all be sold." And they drank and went their way.

Next came a mother and father monkey, with the mother carrying their baby on her back.

"Did you hear those humans quarreling?" said the male monkey.

"So silly--" laughed the female monkey.

But the male monkey growled: "The man is totally right, his wife should have no secrets from him! You don't have any secrets from me, do you?"

"I certainly do," said the female monkey, holding the baby down to the creek so it could drink. "I have plenty of secrets, and I shall keep them all."

The male monkey growled and chattered till the female became tired of it; so when she and the baby had both had enough to drink, she climbed high into a near-by walnut tree. The male tried to follow but he was too big and heavy and could not climb so high. The female sat up there playing with her baby, and they both laughed at the male and threw nuts down to him, till finally he said, "Oh, very well, have it your way. Have all the secrets you like, just please come along!"

At that, the female monkey climbed back down the tree and the two monkeys continued on their way together, talking pleasantly of other things.

Just then, Hans drove the wagon out of the yard, so Else got in and they rode along. Soon they reached the cottage of her mother and sisters, who greeted her lovingly; and they all had a nice visit.

Then, as soon as Else and Hans had bade them goodbye and stepped outside the tall white picket gate into the road, Hans said: "Now will you tell me your secret?"

"No, I won't," said Else. "I have plenty of secrets, and I shall keep them all."

Hans yelled and screamed and jumped up and down on his hat.

Else went back inside her mother's gate and locked him out. Her mother and sisters came out to the yard and they all sat down in the rose arbor and played with the baby, laughing and singing and eating fresh strawberries and sugar-vanilla cookies with fresh cream. They threw strawberries and cookies over the fence to Hans, till finally he said: "Oh, very well, have it your way."

Then Else kissed her mother and sisters goodbye again, and she and Hans went back home together, talking pleasantly of other things. And they all lived in peace and good cheer from then on.

The End

Based on a story from Grimm. -- 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

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