Once upon a time in the kingdom of Abristan there was a prince named Leonard whose intended bride ran away with a young courtier only days before the wedding. He had thought he had found true love and was heartbroken at the betrayal. The council still insisted he marry so they arranged for a parade of eligible young ladies.
The first young woman they sent him was Princess Britany of Elustria. She wore richly colored silk dresses and had more trunks for her clothes and jewels than could be found in the entire kingdom of Abristan. She’d showed off her dresses and jewels night and day and by the third morning Leonard had suffered long enough and sent the princess away.
Several weeks later another princess arrived. This time Princess Mallory of Lethana, a petite dark haired beauty for a moment Leonard had thought she might work out…until she opened her mouth. Before she had even properly greeted Leonard and his mother she was complaining about the journey. After that it was the size of the castle, the rooms needed aired out, it was too hot, the garden was too far, the roses were yellow instead of pink, and that was only her first day. Thankfully the queen stepped in and sent the princess away before dinner and they were able to eat in peace.
The third princess they sent for was Princess Monica of Asharia. She was a famed beauty and was sought after by the noblest of princes and knights alike but none passed the tests set forth to win her hand. Leonard was unsure how he had managed to bypass these tests but he wasn’t going to complain he was growing weary of the search. Princess Monica stayed the longest of any since Princess Jocelyn. She’d been with them for a month before Leonard found a young chambermaid in tears in the corridor outside the princess’ rooms.
He’d comforted the girl and sent her off to her own rooms to clean up for the evening meal while he spoke with the princess. After hearing the story of how the chambermaid had “wronged” her her left and had her servants pack her bags. When the queen asked him over dinner where the princess was he recounted the story of their servant, a girl that had grown up alongside his own sister, and how the princess had struck her across the face.
The queen was equally upset at the treatment of the girl and insisted to the council that the prince be allowed to at the very least review the young ladies. The council reluctantly agreed and over the course of the next four months Leonard and the queen spent evenings in the queen’s sitting room looking at the latest candidates the council set forth.
One by one they turned the girls down and the council began to struggle finding new eligible young ladies with the proper pedigree. Leonard left the choosing to his mother and started disappearing into the garden more frequently. He resigned himself to whoever his mother should choose.
One dark stormy night Leonard was eating dinner in the great hall with his mother when there was a loud bang on the door. Leonard barely looked up as the servants bustled off to see who it was. A few moments later they returned with a young man drenched from the rain and shivering.
A blanket was brought and wrapped around him, additional plates and a goblet were brought as well and set before him. Eleanora smiled at the young man as he began eating slowly. Leonard stared at the soaking wet, dirty, young man in torn clothes.
“Thank you your majesty for allowing me to shelter here.”
Eleanora glanced at her son and smiled, “It’s our pleasure my dear.”
They ate in silence for a while before the queen spoke again, “What’s your name?”
“James…most people call me Jim though.”
“Well Jim, what were you doing out on a night like this?”
He looked down at his plate and picked at his food, “Running away…”
“From what dear?”
“Everything.” Jim said quietly.
“Where are you from?” She asked with a smile as the plates were cleared away and the dessert was being brought out.
“Vuscitan…a small kingdom a few hundred kilometers away.”
Eleanora nodded and smiled as she started eating her dessert. Leonard continued to stare at Jim barely touching his own dessert. There was something about their guest that he couldn’t quite put his finger on. Something almost…royal?
The young man was damp, dirty, and wearing rags but he still seemed somehow princely.
After dinner when the servants had taken the young man away for a bath and a clean change of clothes Leonard shared his thoughts with his mother.
“I don’t know what it is…there’s just something about him…”
“Would you like to try the test on him?”
“The test? What test?”
“If you place a pea under the mattress and she feels it she is a true princess…I can only assume it will work with a prince as well. We could try it and see….”
“I’ll ask the kitchen.”
Eleanora smiled and nodded as her son left the room. Asking the kitchens for a pea was certainly an odd request and unfortunately there was not a single pea to be found. One of the kitchen maid was able to find a sack of peanuts instead. Surely it would work just as well…
Slipping into the guest room where Jim was to sleep Leonard placed the peanut beneath the mattress and slipped back out without being seen. He wasn’t sure what outcome he hoped for from the experiment. At the very least perhaps he had a friend.
The next morning dawned and found the prince and his mother seated at the table waiting for their guest. When Jim walked in he looked as bad or worse than the night before only clean and dry.
“How did you sleep dear?”
“Begging your pardon your majesty but I’m afraid I didn’t sleep well…the mattress was rather lumpy…”
“I’m sorry to hear that. We’ll give you another tonight.”
Jim smiled and nodded as he sat down to eat with them. Leonard smiled to himself and spent the day showing Jim around the palace and the grounds. When evening fell and Jim returned to his room he found a second mattress atop the first. Unfortunately he slept just as fitfully.
By the end of the week the mattresses were piled so high he needed help to climb in the bed. He was nearly in tears when he entered the great hall for the morning meal. “I’m sorry your majesty maybe I should be moving on. I thank you for your hospitality and I very much enjoyed getting to know you both but I can’t sleep one more night on that bed….”
Eleanora gave her son a knowing smile and stood to her feet. “Tell me Jim, why would a prince be running away?”
He sniffled a little and looked up at her. “Who said I was a…I didn’t…I’m not…”
“You are of royal blood are you not?”
He stared at her for a moment before nodding slowly, “Yes your majesty.”
“Good. Are you betrothed?”
“No your majesty…”
Leonard’s face slowly started to turn red as his mother continued to ask Jim questions. “Mother…I think that’s enough…”
“Yes my dear, I think it is. I’ll leave you two to talk.” She said smiling as she kissed Leonard on the forehead and made her way out of the room.
Leonard looked at Jim and smiled. “Mother worries… and the council wants me married…”
“I understand. That was part of why I ran away. Too much pressure to live up to my father and brother.”
“I’ve greatly enjoyed spending time with you Jim. I wonder if you might stay?”
Jim shook his head. “Can’t sleep…”
Smirking Leonard stood to his feet and took Jim by the hand, “Come with me.”
Jim frowned and followed Leonard through the hallways and up to his room. Stepping over to the bed Leonard stuck his hand under the mattress and pulled out the peanut. “I believe you will find the bed moore to your comfort now.”
Looking from Leonard to the peanut and then at the bed Jim shook his head. “It was all a test?”
“I’m afraid so…but you passed if that helps you at all.”