This is Chapter Two of my Tell a Fairy Tale Day short story The Second Pair of Glass Slippers.
The day of the ball arrived quickly. Early that morning, though not quite as early as she had intended, Stella was handed into her carriage. The road to the palace was long and tiring. It led through two mountain passes, across three rivers, and through five forests. It may sound like more than a day’s journey, and for others it would have been, but the enchantress had ordered her horses to travel swiftly, and so they did. In the third forest, trees uprooted by mighty strong wind blocked the roadway. It took the coachman, footman, and guards about an hour to clear the road so the carriage could continue on its way. The remaining journey went quickly, and Stella arrived safely at the ball. However, despite her swift horses, she was significantly late.
The prince’s palace was stunning. Her parents’ castle was tall and compact, but this palace was low and spreading. A broad set of stairs led up to its entrance. Across the drive from the stairs was a circular fountain. Water from around the fountain edge arched steeply upward and fell gracefully just short of the family of swans forming its centerpiece. The coachman halted the carriage between the fountain and the stairs, and the footman opened the door and handed her out.
Stella entered the palace and was shown directly to a large, splendidly decorated room so well-covered with exquisite, brightly colored gowns and sparkling jewels that it might have been a spring-time garden with sunlight sparkling in the morning dew drenched flowers.
Stella looked about her as she entered and was dismayed to find that everyone was watching the Prince as he danced with an uncommonly beautiful girl. She learned from the whispers going around the ballroom that no one knew who the girl was and that prince appeared to have fallen “head over heels” in love with her as soon as she entered the room.
Stella watched the couple closely. They did seem to be unusually absorbed with one another. They did not seem to notice anyone else. The girl, a slender, graceful girl with long blonde hair, had an air of enchantment about her. Her gown and jewels were too bright and attractive to be real. Stella remembered reading about an enchantment that infused a person’s clothes with some the characteristics of that person’s heart and character. A loving, kind, pure-hearted person would have shining, spotless clothing of very fine material while a cruel person would have ugly and unflattering clothes which would make an on-looker feel uneasy no matter how beautiful or handsome the wearer was otherwise. Stella concluded the girl must be under this kind of enchantment and was probably a person of no consequence, since she apparently could not afford a real gown. Everyone is admiring a peasant girl! she thought contemptuously. She did not stop to consider what the girl’s gown had revealed about the more important aspects of who she was.
Stella was, by that time, in what is commonly called a “bad mood.” She was tired from her lengthy journey, her pride had been insulted by the little notice she received, for no one paid attention to anyone accept the prince and the mysterious beauty, and she was hurt that the prince she had convinced herself she was going to marry, was in love with someone else—and a peasant girl at that. It was easy to see that the Prince and the girl were devoted to one another. She knew not even her beauty could tempt the prince away from that young woman.
Nevertheless, she did not despair. Knowing that the kind of enchantment the girl was under must end at midnight and, therefore, that the mysterious girl must leave before then, she ordered one of her attendants to wait outside the palace until the girl left and then to follow her home. As the clock began to chime the midnight hour, the mysterious young woman made herself more mysterious to everyone at the ball, except Stella, by running away from prince out of the ballroom, down the stairs, and out of the palace. The girl rushed passed Stella on the front stairs and was handed into a round, silver carriage. The carriage swiftly left the palace grounds, but not before Stella noticed it was beginning to turn orange in color. Hearing footsteps, Stella returned her gaze to the palace entrance. The prince picked up a glass slipper from the stairs. Stella, a detailed observer, noticed the slipper was the right foot slipper and was made for a very small foot. Knowing it had slipped from the fleeing girl’s foot, she was somewhat surprised it had not reverted to an old, ragged shoe. The slippers must have been made especially for the girl by whoever had enchanted her clothing, Stella assumed. She would undoubtedly keep the other as a reminder of a memorable evening.
Although he did not see her, Stella was able to get a good look at the prince. He was even more handsome in person than in the vidēre and had such attractive, expressive eyes. He should marry someone of royal blood, someone who with an education and upbringing similar to his own, someone who knows how to manage a kingdom, not a simple servant girl or peasant who only knows about milking cows and scrubbing floors.
Stella had, in her own way, been in love with the prince since she saw him in the vidēre. She already thought of him as her own and felt they would be an ideal couple and an excellent king and queen. She was jealous of his affection and angry at this surprising turn of events.
Click on the next post for Chapter Three.