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Saturday Storytime: Peas, Plots, and Peril

Sometimes, you think you know exactly where a story is going. Then it turns left.

Melissa Mead is the author of several short stories and one novel.

The hardest part was spreading that silly rumor in the first place. I didn’t use magic. A dairymaid’s pay doesn’t cover hiring sorcerers. No, I spent months discretely complimenting the ladies who came to the dairy on the delicacy of their complexions, working my way up to the nonsense about, “A true princess can feel a dried pea through a dozen mattresses.” Soon the dressmakers doubled their orders for fine silk and satin, because any lady with pretensions to quality claimed that ordinary calico chafed her delicate skin.

People are foolish and vain, and our former Royal Family doubly so. Word spread to the Palace. The Prince broke off his engagement, claiming that his planned bride was “too coarse,” and commandeered enough geese to make a dozen feather mattresses.

He was an idiot. But a good-looking idiot, with wealth and power enough to make up for his lack of wits. Besides, this only proved that he’d make a biddable husband.

I laughed when I heard the news. The dairy mistress beat me for my impertinence and sent me packing, which suited my plans just fine.

The dress I stole from the lady of the manor both looked elegant and hid the bruises. It was raining, too. Perfect. I arrived at the palace bedraggled and dripping. Their Majesties exclaimed over my state, and over my smooth, ladylike dairymaid’s hands.

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Comments

  1. Steve R says

    I love it when someone takes one of the old tales and puts a kink in it. It’s worth mentioning that the origin of the “Milkmaids have such lovely skin” meme is that dairy workers usually contracted cowpox, rendering them immune to the smallpox that disfigured most of the population in those days.

  2. Didaktylos says

    If I remember rightly, I think that dairymaids tended to get cowpox sores on their hands and fingers.

    And just an “a propos of” thought – how likely is it that cowpox was the original disease with smallpox being a mutation?

  3. Katalina says

    Dark! And awesome! We don’t often get a fairytale heroine who is the evil one.

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