A daughter was born one day to the King of a prosperous kingdom. She was christened Malade. She was a very even-tempered and pleasant girl, and a joy for her father to behold, until one day she was afflicted with a tremor about her features. A severe juddering affected her hands and face and was found by all to be quite disquieting. In fact, she could not hold a teacup without quivering so badly that the contents were spilled. The Princess was the only child of the King and Queen. Malade, of course, had a plethora of tutors and so did not have to be around others her own age; that would have caused the King severe embarrassment, as well as being humiliating for the young girl herself. One must keep up appearances, as the King well knew.
When she was six years old, Malade was given lessons in the equestrian disciplines. A young groom, older than Malade by about one year, was there, and the two young people struck up a cordial though not close relationship. This youth was called Judicieux, and he was very good at his job, and soon he was tasked with servicing all the horses that the damsel used. Judicieux was sensitive to the plight of Malade, as he was himself lame. Though she was starved for attention from children, they both recognized their proper places.
Years passed. As Malade grew into young adulthood, she was beset by the responsibilities of her position: functions of ceremony at her father's table and in the King's stead. But her malady never lessened; the juddering continued.
"Oh, judicieux," she said one day in the stables, preparing to mount her steed. "What shall I do?" I am to meet the prince from the northern kingdom. His father and the King desire that the prince and I wed and effect the joining together of our kingdoms. "What if the prince hates me?"
"He can't help but love you, Milady," said the groom with feeling.
"But my quivering," she said sorrowfully. "With all the beautiful women in our two kingdoms, why would he give me even a second glance?"
"If he has but eyes to see, Milady," he said from his heart. He then limped back into the stable.
Malade thought of Judicieux, "or a cripple, he has many beneficent qualities. He shall make some peasant girl a fine mate. And she thought nothing more of Judicieux or her dilemma, for she was astride a horse.
"Milady," said Inepta, watching as her mistress struggled with her palsied hands, "perhaps if you concentrate, if you tell yourself to be calm, you will not judder, and things will be alright."
"Thank you, Inepta," said Malade, "but in seventeen years that strategy has been to no avail.
"Yes, Milady," murmured Inepta, looking sadly at the princess.
That night, the kingdom was astir. The king would formally announce the engagement of Malade to the prince of the neighboring kingdom, Prince Stephen, who was rich, handsome, powerful, and heir to his kingdom. Much was made of the festivities. It was wintertime as well, and Christmas was likewise celebrated. This was everyone's favorite time of year. Sumptuous comestibles proliferated, and sparkling wine flowed like rivers. Everyone partook heartily of the rich food and libations, and at the summit of the evening, attention was focused on the prince and princess.
"Daughter," intoned the King robustly, "you have before you a prince worthy of your honor."
She looked shyly into the eyes of Prince Stephen. He returned her gaze, but his face fell.
"Great King," said he, "I cannot marry the Princess Malade."
"But," the King objected."It is all arranged."
"That may be, but I have our mutual kingdoms to consider." What will become of us if I marry the Princess and our children are born who are as deranged as she is? How would our realms function? How would our diplomats sort it out if it were thought that the royal family was addle-minded? We would surely become a laughing stock throughout the continent." The prince's words pierced like a dagger the heart of the princess.
The king took a great breath and released it wearily. He knew what the prince said was conventional wisdom. He released the prince from his betrothal.
So the Princess returned to her solitary existence, seeing no one other than her lady in waiting, Inepta, and her groom, the lowly Judicieux. She continued to relish her time spent among her magnificent stable of horses. Starved for companionship, Princess Malade began conversing ever more intimately with Judicieux on any number of subjects; to her great surprise, she found that he was informed, intelligent, and wise far beyond his station in life. He rivaled the courtiers, in fact, in his canniness. She began to harbor an idea. Despite the fact that Judiceux was neither rich nor handsome, nor the heir to a great throne, she was completely smitten with him.
One day Malade approached the King and inquired, "Father, shall I never marry?" The King, surprised that the Princess would want to marry after the debacle with Prince Steven, responded to his daughter.
"Why, Malade, you will never be wed to a sovereign, as you have seen, but you may of course marry—if only for companionship. And I suppose that if you have a male child, he will inherit the throne, whether he is a juddering idiot or not."
"I have chosen my husband," she announced excitedly. The king, with little enthusiasm, asked who it would be. "I shall wed the most intelligent, thoughtful, and wisest man in all the kingdom," she told him.
"Have you only just met him?" he inquired.
"I have known him half my life," she replied. "And the King, seeing as Mlalade was very old now—almost twenty—knew this to be a long time indeed."
"If you have made your decision, word shall go out, and a wedding will be arranged," he said, but still with scant enthusiasm. "Er... who have you chosen?" he asked.
"Judicieux, chief groom of the stables," she told him. The King swallowed any remarks he might have had.
And so a wedding was held. All the dignitaries attended, including Prince Stephen, who had since married and was beset by a harpy of a wife. He was barely able to draw a breath, but she would criticize him for it. But she had a fertile womb, and all of her children were likewise disposed to be curmudgeons. Stephen's kingdom was almost constantly at war due to his poor diplomatic skills. The prince looked upon Malade now with admiration, for certainly she was the most beautiful bride ever to grace this or any other castle. He had simply never noticed before.
After the wedding, Judicieux, as the king's only daughter's husband, sparked an interest in the king. Like his daughter, he was pleasantly surprised by the native intelligence, thoughtfulness, and wisdom of his son-in-law. And as a part of the royal family, the former groom was drawn into the diplomatic corps and soon became the outstanding minister in his Majesty's service. And as his abilities became well known, so too did Malade's grace, manners, and loving instinct. They had many children, but one of them--like the princess and later the queen--had tremors, but the child was treated with patience, understanding, and compassion. After a long reign by her parents, that child, christened Empathique, served as the greatest sovereign that the kingdom ever saw.
About the author:
Bill Tope is a retired Public Assistance caseworker who lives in Illinois (almost in the very shadow of the majestic Gateway Arch) with his mean little cat Baby. He has been a construction worker, a cook, a nude model, you name it.