The Stable Hand

Posted: March 14, 2014 in Humor, Short Stories
Tags: , ,

Many centuries ago, in a land overseen by a benevolent Queen, lived a simple stable hand. He worked at the Royal Stables, and he was very good at his job – in fact none were ever better. He took great pride in his work, and always gave his very best. He felt that doing anything less than his best effort was cheating his employer of their money.

He wasn’t particularly handsome, or muscular, but he was quite pleasant looking to all who knew him. While he worked, he would spend his days daydreaming about what he would rather be doing. His great dream was to become the Queen’s court poet. It would be so wonderful to recite his best writings to the courtiers and the Queen. But, it was just a dream. He had no idea how he could ever get the Queen to read, or even hear one of his poems. She lived in the great palace, and he was not allowed there.

One day, after his work in the stable was done, he decided to practice his readings in front of the animals he loved so much. He liked reciting to them because they never complained or criticized his work. After one of his romantic poems, he suddenly heard a very deep voice say “That was wonderful, the Queen would love that.” He looked around in dismay, and saw that no one else was there. As he looked about, he noticed the Queen’s stallion looking straight at him. “Did you say that steed?”

“Yes, your poem was quite wonderful.” came the response. Bewildered, but believing, he asked “You said the Queen would like it… is that true?”

“Yes, I am sure of it. She loves romance and anything associated with it.” Said the steed.

“Do you think you could get her to read one?” The hand asked. “I’d love to be the court poet someday, but I do not know how I would ever get the Queen to see or hear one. But, with your help, maybe it would be possible.”

The steed considered this request for many minutes, and then answered “Why yes, I would be honored to help you. You’re an honest and true man, and the court has too few of those. The current court poet is a terrible man, and his writings make my mane crawl.”  The stable hand was beside himself with joy. Finally he had a chance to get a poem to the Queen, and to have her see his work and just possibly, achieve a dream.

He cautioned himself to not let his hopes rise too high. So many different things could go wrong, the worst of which was, what if she did not like his poem? The horse, seeing the distress on the face of the stable hand, spoke up “Don’t get too far ahead of yourself on this, everything will turn out the way it should, just give it time.”

“Really?” He asked

“Yes, I’m sure of it. Now, let’s get to choosing which poem you want to give her. It’s important we chose the right one.” The horse said calmly.

It was just the reassurance he needed. They got right to work looking through his best writings, and separating out the very best ones. Then he’d read them aloud to the horse, and await his reactions.  The horse had very good taste in poetry, so their task went quickly. When they had finally decided on the right one, it was a short, but very romantic poem – straight from his heart. The horse knew this would appeal to the Queen, who was very fond of romantic verse. The current court poet mostly wrote about great battles and hard-won victories. These bored the Queen, but he never seemed to notice that. A romantic poem was sure to catch her attention, they both thought. Then, maybe she would ask to see its author, and finally his dream might just begin.

Several days passed without the Queen summoning her steed. The stable hand was beginning to get worried that their plan might not work out. The horse reassured him that everything was fine. It was not uncommon for the Queen to be very busy, and not have time for riding. But, he knew she would be calling soon. She loved riding, the wind in her hair, the smell of the fresh country air were all elixir to her soul. They were the remedies for too much time spent in the stuff old palace.

Finally, after five long days, the call came down that the Queen wished for her mount to be readied for a ride. They were both excited, and as the hand began getting the steed ready, they finalized their plan.

“How should we give it to her?” he asked the horse.  “Do you think you can give it over to her?”

“No” The horse said, “I can’t be the one; she doesn’t know of me like you do, she believes me to be a common steed, only you know my truth.”

“But, what will we do, I can’t get near her, the guards make me leave as soon as she arrives.”

“Don’t worry my friend.” The horse said to him. “I have an idea. Fold your poem up and place it just under the front of the saddle, below the horn. Make sure it sticks out a bit, and she will surely notice it.”

The stable hand did as he was instructed, and placed the parchment exactly where the horse said to. He hoped with all his heart that she would see it, and read it. If she did just that much, he felt he had a chance. He was standing on the very edge of a dream now, no turning back. This was his chance to reach what he knew was his destiny.

As the horse was now ready, the Queen’s guards made the stable hand step out of the area and into a empty stall. He’d become used to the routine, but this time it stung him more dearly. As door to the stall was closed on him, he moved his face close to the edge of the door, checking to see if he had a view of her. He could just make out the rear of the horse, but nothing else. His heart sank a bit.

Then he heard the clomp of hooves on the stone floor, getting louder, coming his way. She didn’t usually exit the stables this direction, but today she was. Seconds later she rode past him, he could see her well through the crack in the door. She was so beautiful, up on her steed, raven black hair flowing in the soft breeze that cuts through the stable. Her bangs neatly trimmed above her eyebrows, and those deep brown eyes that held every image they saw in soft consideration. She wore a purple blouse, and black trousers, with a golden belt. She was a vision he savored like the taste of ripe summer fruit. She rode out of his sight, and now, even with his soaring heart singing to him, he still felt nervous when he let himself think about her finding the note. What would she do? What if she hated it? Worse yet, what if she missed it entirely? Oh, he knew he’d be sick if, when he was grooming the horse after her ride, he found the note still there where he’d put it.

Out in the green meadows of the countryside, she rode swift and far. She loved the wind in her hair, and the smell of the trees and grass. With a gentle prompt she urged the horse over a fence or two with majestic jumps. She was in her bliss. After some time, she knew her mount needed a rest, so she headed for a small glade. Apple trees and green grass, sun and a breeze – a perfect place to stop. As she dismounted she noticed something under the front edge of the saddle, a small parchment. She held the steed steady, and removed it carefully. Curiosity was suddenly overtaking her, and she unfolded it to see it was a poem.

It was a romantic poem, of great sensitivity and depth, honest and heartfelt to be sure. It was a true heart’s pouring, and it moved her greatly. She read it, and re-read it several times. She could not help but wonder if it was written for her, but how could that be? And who could have written it? Certainly this was not the work of the court poet, his ramblings were as dry as his humor was. He knew nothing of this level of feeling, or this idea of love. No, this was someone she did not know, but she would find out. She knew she had to, she would not be able to rest until she knew this man, until she could look into his eyes and see what was truly there.

As she reread the poem one more time, she heard a voice ask “So, do you like it?” She spun around, but no one was there. There wasn’t another soul to be seen anywhere. Was she going mad she wondered?

Just then though, she noticed her steed had taken a few steps towards her. He was looking right at her, right in to her eyes. But… Before she could think any further the horse asked again “Do you like it?” This time there was no doubt, that horse had spoken! Spoken to her, as any human would. She felt dizzy and confused suddenly. Horses just simply did not talk, yet he had. “I.. I did like it.” she said haltingly.

“I liked it very much actually. But how is it that you are asking me steed? Is this some trick, or black magic?” The horse tried to manage a smile, as best a horse could, and whinnied as a laugh. “No ma’am, no magic, just me. I could not remain silent any longer. The question was burning me up.” She approached him and still in disbelief, she continued, “Why are you so curious good steed? Was it you who wrote this poem of romance?” Another whinny escaped him, “No, certainly not. I’m just a horse, we rarely compose romantic verse. No, it was a good friend of mine who wrote that, and I just wanted to know if it pleased you.”

“Tell me steed, tell me of this friend of yours please. For now I am greatly curious as well. I very much desire to know the kind of man who can write with such feeling and grace. Who can pour out the contents of his heart with such conviction.” The horse had not anticipated this question, truthfully he had spoken without thinking at all, and now he was in a predicament. He truly did not want to reveal the identity of his friend, but she was the queen, how could he lie to her? He hung his head low.

She noticed this behavior immediately, “You do not want to tell me do you? You do not want to break a trust with someone dear to you. I understand that better than you may think. I won’t command you to tell me who it is, but, we should go back now, I have a poet to find.” The horse was so pleased that she honored his wish not to tell her, he thought her nobler that ever. As she mounted up, he turned and said to her “Though I won’t tell you, I will say this, do not overlook anyone. No matter their station in life, or their manner or dress. I believe that when you look at this man, you will see what you need to know right in his eyes.” She smiled, “I agree steed, I very much agree!” And with that, they raced back to the royal stables on a mission.

As the horse and queen arrived back at the stables well ahead of her usual return time, the guards had left to return to their usual posts. The stable hand, of course, heard the approaching hoof beats and came out to see what was going on. “You there!” the queen said. The stable had felt a sudden queasiness in his stomach. He’d never been directly addressed before by her, this was all so different than he had imagined it would be. “Yes m’lady, er, Your Highness, Ma’am…” he sputtered out in answer.

“Stableman, hold my mount, but do not put him away.” she said as she easily dismounted the steed. She was right before him now. He could see into her eyes, he could smell her perfume, and it made him dizzy with delight. “Yes your Majesty, I will hold him.” The queen considered this for a moment, then said “Well, better if you lead him along with me, I have some business to attend to, and this steed needs to be with me, so come along with me please.” He looked right at the horse, and almost didn’t believe it when he saw the steed wink an eye at him. He took this as a good sign…

The queen did not seem to be angry, or even upset. No, she seemed to be very determined, her voice, her pace, all on a mission. They walked briskly up the stone street that led to the palace. He wasn’t sure how far she’d let him follow, but he was keeping quiet for now. He got the feeling from the horse that he should just play along with what was happening.

As they approached the palace main gate, guards scrambled at the unexpected sight of the queen coming their way. All got to their stations quickly, and snapped to attention. The lead guard approached, “Your Majesty, I apologize for…” The queen waved her hand to silence him, not rudely, but as to let him know she had more pressing matters. “Worry not, I came back suddenly, and I have business with someone of the court. Please call the courtiers as soon as possible, I want to see them all.” She said calmly. “Yes, your Majesty, right away. Do you want me to send this stable hand and horse back where they belong?” He asked.

The queen’s face reddened, and in her response to the guard, both stable hand and horse did now hear her in her temper. “You’ll do no such thing unless you’d like to be re-stationed outside the gates! Just do as I asked, nothing more.” She said with pointed exclamation. The guard made a poor salute and ran off to do as instructed.

She entered the main courtyard and started up the palace steps that led up to the large doors of the great room. The stable hand paused, and held the horse back for a moment. “You Majesty, um, do you really want us to follow you into there?” The queen stopped, and returned to stand in front of her two new friends. “Yes, of course, my good man. You and this steed will go anywhere I go. Do not hesitate, you are with me now, no one else will question you, or why you’re here. Don’t worry further.”  With that, she took his hand and led them both up the steps and in to the Palace’s great room.

Her lead guard had done as she instructed and gathered the courtiers into the great room. Several dozen people were milling about and talking in a loud and indiscernible murmur. Some were dressed in fine clothing, fit for an audience with the queen, but others were in their evening clothes – apparently caught off-guard by the summoning to the court.

The Queen and her new escort entered the room, heads held high, and walked up the center isle. As she approached the dais where she usually sat, she gestured for the stable hand and horse to flank her to her left. She, however, did not sit down. Standing and facing her quite curious courtiers, she looked them over, one by one.

“Today, an extraordinary thing happened to me.” She said loudly enough for everyone to hear. “I was on a ride into the countryside when I discovered something truly wonderful.” The stable hand glanced at the horse, who suddenly appeared concerned that the queen was going to tell the world his secret. If a horse could actually look nervous, the hand thought this one sure did.

The queen went on “I discovered a lovely hand written love poem, just under the edge of my saddle. It was quite a surprise for me.” Both horse and hand breathed a quiet sigh of relief. “I have read this poem several times now, and it makes my heart soar skyward each time. But, the poem is unsigned, sadly. I know not who the author is. So, this is why I have asked you to assemble here this evening. Because I want to find this author, and look him in the eyes, and give him my response.”

“I know many of you may think me suddenly mad, but these words have sparked something in me that had lain dormant for a very long time. I must, at the very least, express my gratitude to this author.”

As she was speaking, the stable hand spotted the court’s poet standing off behind the front row of people. He looked as if he thought the queen was going to call upon him at any moment. A large smile, and straightening posture indicated that he was ready to step forward and claim ownership of this writing. Just then the queen spoke up again. “You may leave if you with Mr. Maloney, I quickly recognized that these were not your words, nor your handwriting. You needn’t worry that I will pick on you.” She smiled at him sweetly.

“But, let it be known that I am sure that the true author is standing in this room at this very moment. I shant embarrass anyone by asking for them to step up. No, I would rather use my own intuition to solve this mystery. For whom but I should be the one to begin to know the heart of this man? Such a love professed for me should imbue me with a sense of this person, so I cannot fail at my task.”

Then, most unexpectedly, she turned and looked right at the stable hand to her left, directly into his eyes. He was unable to move, or look away – her deep brown eyes held him captive completely.

“Please tell me your name my new friend?”  She asked him quietly.

“My name is Jonathan mi ‘lady.” He said, with some confidence behind it too.

“Well, Jonathan, you wrote this poem didn’t you?” She asked, smiling a genuine smile at him.

“Yes, yes I did indeed. I wrote it for you.” This he said even a bit louder. It was something about looking her right in the eye – it gave him a confidence that he hadn’t felt in a long time. He was speaking his heart’s truth to her and he wasn’t shy or ashamed.

“I knew it was you Jonathan, I felt it as soon as I returned to the stables. As soon as I looked at you, I knew these words were yours. Also, a good friend suggested that I not overlook anyone in my quest to find the hand that wrote these words.” She and Jonathan both glanced at the horse, who was also standing a bit more proudly.

“I’m no young maiden any longer Jonathan, but a mature woman now. I find myself wishing to be very direct with you, if you will not be offended.” She said as her gaze returned to his shining blue eyes.

“Please, mi’ lady, speak as you wish – I too am no boy, but a man, with a man’s feelings and sensibilities.” He replied respectfully

“I need to know something, and I am desiring your most honest answer Jonathan; Is this love poem a profession of an actual love for me?”

Without a blink of hesitation he answered her “Yes, from my hearts deepest recesses came this vision of love I’d been storing away for you. You may find me ridiculous because I have only seen you from afar in the past, but love does not dwell in logic, does it? It is not decided through calculations and formulas, but comes from the seat of our deepest feelings. From the first time I saw you, I felt quakes inside me, warmth of a thousand fires burning. The poem I wrote is a mere glimpse of the true emotions that flow from me, to the sea of you.”

All who were gathered there were suddenly silenced, not only by his honesty, but also the staggering depth of feeling on display before them. Not one single person spoke, or even made a noise. All eyes were on the queen now, as she was apparently considering Jonathan’s words. No one could predict her reaction to what he’d said. A stable hand, professing love for a queen, no matter how honest and true was still unheard of.

“Jonathan” She began in a very sincere tone. “In my lifetime I have seen and experienced many great and wonderful things. But, today I have been given the greatest gift of all. Your true love for me is both surprising and welcome. When I looked into your eyes just now, I saw such sincerity as I’ve never seen in my life. My heart has opened like a morning glory to the sun. And that sun is you, and your love Jonathan. Do not sit in wonder one more second, because I love you too.”

She reached out for him, and drew him close. He put his arms around her and their warm embrace turned into a passionate kiss. Slowly and progressively the courtiers began to clap and cheer. It rose like an orchestra beginning in concert. Even their mutual friend, the great steed was stomping his feet in approval.

Comments
  1. Reine says:

    Quite an astounding story. You need to write a book. Romantic indeed. Not many could write a fairytale and not sound contrived. This Kenneth is a classic piece. Thank you for allowing me to read it.

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