The king motioned to a log beside the path. “Let’s sit here and talk,” he suggested. “It won’t be dark for a while yet.”
They sat down side-by-side on the log. Sariah looked at her father expectantly.
“It was a cold winter day,” he began. “I had gone to the village often that winter because a terrible illness was afflicting the village. People were dying every day. There was little I could do to help. On this particular day, three little children and a young mother died. None of the remaining family members would return to the palace with me, even though that was their only means of hope. I left the village cold, tired, and discouraged. Then I saw you.” He stopped, remembering.
“Where was I?” she prompted.
“You were lying beside the path, no where near any house. You were wrapped in a thin, ragged blanket and that was all. I picked you up. At first, I thought you were dead, but as I held you close to me, I felt you move. You were clearly quite new, not brand new, but no more than a few days old. It was snowing and the snow had already begun to cover you when I found you. Much longer and you wouldn’t have made it.” He swallowed hard and then continued.
“There you were, tiny and helpless. I loved you instantly. My first thought was to rush back to the palace with you, but I knew I must first try to figure out who you were. I put you inside my coat and went from hut to hut. No one seemed to know anything about a baby. I’m fairly certain I know who left you in the snow, but they denied any knowledge of a baby, just like everyone else.
“I knew than that you were mine. I took you home as fast as I could. It didn’t take long for you to change from being a starving, half-dead infant to a beautiful, chubby baby girl. Everyone at the palace was delighted with you! You have been such a treasure to me. I have often wished I could thank your parents, but those I suspected of being your birth parents died of the disease shortly after I found you.”
Sariah hardly knew what to say. She had never felt rejection before. She had always assumed that her parents had given her to the king or that they had died and he had taken her in. But to think that they had wanted her to die!
The king, knowing her turmoil, put his arm around her and held her close.
|Princess (EXPLORED) by Courtney Carmody / CC BY-SA 2.0|
“You are my princess, Sariah,” he said softly. “I’ve loved you from the moment I first saw you. Of all the people in the village, you were the one that I was able to help that winter. You’ve never known another life and I’ve been able to shield you from many of the scars borne by those who joined the royal family later in life. You are a treasure, my daughter.”
Sariah wiped away some tears. “Thank you for telling me this,” she choked. “I had wondered about many of those things. It’s so sad!”
“Yes, it is terribly sad,” the king agreed. “It’s sad what the people who insist on living in the villages do to each other. They live in constant heartbreak. I’m so glad I was able to give you at least a happy story!”
“A happy story,” Sariah repeated. Yes, her life had certainly been happy. She had danced and sung her way through childhood. Life had been almost perfect, until just recently. Was that why the king had chosen to tell her the story now, she wondered as they walked the rest of the way home in the twilight. Did he know about the questions that had been haunting her?
Sariah went to the village with the king several more times that spring, She didn’t particularly enjoy being there, but at least it was something to do. Life at the palace bored her more all the time. Each time she went, she saw the same group of five and imagined how fun it would be to join their group, if only they wouldn’t make fun of her. After a while, she started hanging back a little from the king, looking for a chance to talk to them.
Finally, the opportunity came. The king was at the far end of the village helping someone and the children Sariah had been entertaining ran off to something else just as the group of young people walked up. They saw her sitting alone and stopped to talk to her.
“Hey, you’re the princess!” one of them said, not unkindly.
“Don’t you ever get tired of those fancy dresses?” another asked. “How can you do anything?”
Sariah suddenly realized that she was tired of her dresses, but was saved from replying by a third member of the group, who asked, “Want to join us for a game? We always have to play with five, but it’s a lot more fun with six. Or will the king get you in trouble?”
“He won’t care!” Sariah assured them, although she knew that depending on the game, he might care very much. Regardless of any misgivings, she went with them and enjoyed herself immensely.
The king found her with them later and said nothing about it, although he was strangely quiet on the way home. There was nothing at all wrong with that, Sariah told herself. Why should he care if I have a little innocent fun? After all, he likes me to be happy.
…and I shall return again next week with part 4!
Keep looking up!,
Keep looking up!,
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