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May 20, 2024

Golden Goose

By Cheryl Haimann

Dear Diary,

You are probably tired of listening to me whine about it, but Daddy is still being a royal pain. He absolutely refuses to let me have any privacy, ever. He keeps telling me, "What is it with you and all of those books? You don't need to know about alchemy and astrology. You're a princess. You will have a staff to explain those things to you. Why don't you just run along, sweetheart? The dressmaker just got some new laces from Iberia, and I'm sure she is eager to start planning your wardrobe for next season."

So, when I should have been reading "Heliocentrism: Should Geocentrists Worry?", I was instead listening to Magda prattle on about her plans for changing the angle of all of my necklines. She gets annoyingly excited about the thought that, by the time everyone gets around to copying my clothes, she will have already changed my look again. Why do I even need a "look"?

Dear Diary,

Daddy has really gone too far now. Today, when I was in the library reading about Zuben El Genubi, he sent Bingo, his idiot jester, to "cheer me up". He is so loathsome and ridculous, and not funny in the least! He just hops around and giggles, and waves a wand in front of my face. Such a pest! I stared at him until he finally slunk away, defeated.

Dear Diary,

I can't believe it took me so long to think up such an easy way to get Daddy off my back. He thinks being cooped up inside makes me sullen, so he has been encouraging (forcing) me to take walks every day. And guess what? We have a sundial in one of the gardens. I convinced Will, the gardener's apprentice, to put a little bench near it. He's young and eager to please.

Now, if I can just figure out a way to sneak a book out there, and if Will keeps quiet, I'll be able to read to my heart's content.

Dear Diary,

My secret hideaway is not quite so secret as I thought. It turns out that the road that leads through the woods and to the next village runs near the garden. I must ask Will to turn the bench a little bit so I don't have to watch people pass by all day long. In fact, there is quite a ruckus out there right now.

Dear Diary,

I'm back, after picking up my skirts and hiking down to the road to see what all the hubbub was about. What a circus! There was a peasant boy, about my age, I guess, carrying a goose. The goose's feathers were gold. It's probably one of those magical animals that Nanny Prudence used to tell me about. Either that, or someone is a clever alchemist indeed.

If that wasn't enough, there was a girl holding onto the goose's tail feathers. Then there was another girl holding onto the first girl, and a third girl holding onto her. Then there was Parson Bailey, his sexton, and two farmers, all stuck one to another, and all shouting and thrashing as if the world were coming to an end.

I couldn't help but chuckle at this crazy scene. The boy smiled at me, sort of quizzically, and I pointed to the crowd behind him. He turned to the left, and everyone whipped around to the right where he couldn't see. Then he turned to the right, and everyone whipped back to the left.

"Why don't you set the goose down and then look?" I suggested. So he did, and when he saw his entourage, he burst out laughing. The more the people glared at him, the harder he laughed. And before I knew it, I was laughing along with him.

Apparently, Will doesn't keep secrets as well as I though he did. While Freddy (the goose boy) and I were still laughing about his silly predicament. Daddy came stomping down to the garden, with Will and the head gardener and Lord Buckley following along behind. Seeing them all in such a state, and especially seeing Lord B's fat face bobbling with each step, caused me to laugh even harder.

"What's going on here?" Daddy yelled in his best thunderation voice.

"See there, sire? She is laughing, just as I told it." That Will is SUCH a tattletale. He had best be cautious. I doubt if he would be happy if the parlor maid were to find out about the milk maid.

"So she is." Daddy's voice got softer. "So she is."

And then he sent me inside. Aargh!

Dear Diary,

Men always think they have to take care of everything. It's so frustrating!

As best as I can tell, here is what happened. Lord B reminded Daddy that he had promised my hand in marriage to any man who could make me laugh. Don't even get me started on the idiocy of pronouncements like that. Anyway, Daddy admitted that was true, but he didn't think just any peasant off the path should be able to wed his daughter, not even one with a golden goose, at least not right away, so he decided that Freddy would have to be tested for his worthiness first. He ordered Freddy to bring him a man who could drink all of the wine in the royal cellar.

Or at least that is how I heard it. Daddy told Lord B, and Lord B told Lady B, and Lady B told me. Lady B is sweet, but not the sharpest arrow in the quiver. Who knows what really happened? Oh, she also told me that as soon as Freddy agreed to the challenge, everyone suddenly became unstuck from the goose, just in case you were wondering.

If Daddy had at least bothered to tell me himself, I might have pointed out that if Freddy succeeded in this task, that Daddy would have no more wine. Duh, Daddy.

Dear Diary,

Freddy came back today, and had with him the thirstiest man you ever saw! Long story short, the wine is gone. I can't let Daddy see it, of course, but I'm secretly glad to see a peasant get the best of him.

Daddy has been keeping me on a short rein, but I managed to sneak out to the garden road and speak to Freddy as he was leaving. He has another test, to find a man who can eat a mountain of bread. They are going to be busy in the bake house for awhile.

Freddy seems really sweet. Not educated or anything, but kind and contented. I like him.

Dear Diary,

Yes! I knew he could do it! Freddy came back today with a man who could suck down bread as if it were air.

But Daddy just can't leave it alone. "Bring me a ship that can sail on the sea AND on land." I just rolled my eyes and walked away when I heard this one.

Dear Diary,

It's been a week, and no sign yet of dear Freddy. I just stare out the window, waiting to see him again. I haven't even gone to the library. Did Daddy finally best him? O, I shall never speak to him again if that is the case.

I just heard a terrible commotion out front. Off to investigate...

[one month later]
Dear Diary,

I'm sorry to have neglected you so long, but it's been a whirlwind.

That commotion? Of course it was Freddy, and of course he arrived in a sailing ship that hopped over the coastline and sailed up across the lawn as pretty as you please. The ship was gleaming white, with a golden goose figurehead. The captain, an smiling old man with gray hair, dropped the gangplank, and he and Freddy walked to the end of it.

For once, Daddy was speechless. So was Freddy, as he stared at me as if he were seeing a rare jewel for the first time. So was I, as I looked at the man who would do impossible things just to be with me.

Finally, the old captain approached Daddy and put an arm around his shoulder. Lord B's eyes almost popped out of his chubby little face, but he was as transfixed as everyone else.

"I know you still have your doubts about this young fellow, but I can assure you that I have never met a finer, more honorable young man. I would be proud to have him as a member of my family, and I believe you would be, as well." The captain cleared his throat and spoke more softly. "And he loves her, and I believe she loves him, as well."

"Is this true?" said Daddy.

"Yes, sire," said Freddy, "I do love her."

"Yes, Daddy, I mean, sire, with all my heart, I love him."

Daddy sighed, and kissed my forehead. Then he went to Freddy, and clasped his shoulder. "Welcome to the family, son."

Everyone cheered, except Lord Buckley, who staggered to bench and loosened his collar, which was probably tight because of the veins bulging in his neck.

Before anyone could start planning a fancy royal wedding, I asked the old captain if he could perform marriages. "Aye, indeed I can," he said.

I walked to the gangplank and started up. "Then let's do it now," I said. Freddy and the captain scurried up after me, and right there on the bow, next to the golden goose, my beloved Freddy and I were married.

After the wedding, we sailed down the lawn and out to sea, where we have been ever since. We'll go back home one day - but not just yet.

Article © Cheryl Haimann. All rights reserved.
Published on 2008-05-26
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