The story you are about to read is a sad one, but one that is re-enacted year by year.
Once upon a time there lived a beautiful princess with her mom and dad in a remote part of this world. I don't know just why they lived so far from any neighbors but this was the case.
And so it was that the Princess grew up longing for someone to fellowship with, other than her mom and dad, in fact, her father was away much of the time. When he was home he often told the Princess of the beautiful places he had been and of a Prince who said he would one day come for her as his bride. But first he had to secure his kingdom to himself.
She at first lived in expectation of the Prince coming and kept herself radiantly beautiful. But as the years pasted she grew weary of waiting and began to wonder if ever she would be wed. So it was that she began to wander in the woods and fields nodding to the birds and flowers as she went. They seemed to smile back and nod to her in a friendly fashion; sometimes she would sit on the grass and talk to the rabbits and squirrels that came to nibble the sweets that she brought to them.
Sometimes she put flowers in her hair and pretended she was dressed for her wedding to the beautiful Prince. And as the summer grew warmer she walked farther in the woods, musing of her father's return and hoping the Prince would be with him. And so it was she came upon the Forbidden Plain. There were no flowers and birds to greet her as she set foot into its barren waste.
In fact, the birds from the nearby woods seemed so upset that she went back to see what was wrong. They started to sing as soon as she turned back and the drooping flowers lifted their heads. The Princess scolded them for being so noisy and started back - having wondered what was on the other side of the plain.
Early next morning she packed a picnic lunch; told her mother she would be gone for most of the day, and would have lunch in the woods. Her mother cautioned her to be careful and to return before dark. With a bag of peanuts and other goodies for the birds, squirrels and chip monks, she stared on her journey to the Forbidden Plain. It was so much fun playing with the animals and birds she almost forgot where she was headed.
As she neared the plain the animals and birds began to linger behind and scold her. It seemed the flowers that nodded to her were now shaking their heads as if to say, no no, don't go.
This upset the Princess very much as she was one who was happy most of the time and did not know why her friends seemed so sad.
There must be a reason, she thought, as she sad down on a grassy knoll near the Forbidden Plain.
Being quite tired from her walk; she soon dosed off to sleep. The loud cries of the Blue Jay awoke her with a start. What could be wrong? The little animals were scampering back the way she had come, in fact, one little squirrel being braver than the rest was tugging at her sleeve trying to get the Princess to go back.
Now the Princess had never had a reason to fear so she patted the little squirrel, gave him a nut and arose to see what the cause could be for everything running back.
Then it was she saw something or someone at the edge of the Forbidden Plain.
Going near she said, "Who or what are you?"
"That's not very nice of you," said the figure, whom she supposed was a man, though he was most horrible to look upon. "Because I am less fortunate than you, is no cause to look down on me."
"I am very sorry," said the Princess, "I meant no harm. It is just that you are so different, perhaps you would like to have lunch with me. I have plenty for two, and more."
"What is your name pray tell?"
"Mine is Hope, Princess of Faith Castle."
"I could have guessed you were a Princess because of your beauty and manners," said he. "My name is Saul and I would be pleased to join you in lunch. Come with me. Just over yon rise is a beautiful river. It has clear water, beautiful fish and pretty flowers. And agates along the shore and much more."
As the breeze shifted it seemed she could smell the faint order of roses.
"Come," said he, "it is quite safe. I will guide you over the Forbidden Plain."
"I would be glad to go," said Hope, "but just last night my mother cautioned me not to set foot on the Forbidden Plan, telling me of its dangers, so you shall have to join me under yonder tree for lunch or we can not eat together."
"Did your mother forbid you to cross the Forbidden Plain?" asked Saul.
"Mother never forbid me." Said Hope. "Her word of caution is enough. She has much more experience than I, so I rely on her advice to keep me safe."
"But," said Saul, "she could not know there would be someone to see you safe over. And I would. You could go and see the beauty of the river and take back a present for your mother. There are wild strawberries and many other dainties just waiting to be gather. Won't you come?"
The Princess's face became grave, her eyes lost there sparkle. Then she spoke ever so softly.
"Saul, I am surprised that you would ask me to go against my mother's advice. I can see I have made a mistake in talking with you. No present to my mother would be sufficient to cause her to forget that I had willingly disobeyed her advice. No, she knew not that you or anyone else would be here to offer me safe passage over. But Sir, one thing she did know was that I would not be crossing, with or without an escort."
"Forgive my deception," said Saul, as he pulled a rubber mask off his face and revealed a beautiful countenance.
Then dropping his tattered cloak he stepped out of the Forbidden Plain, dressed in a beautiful robe.
"Why, why, I don't know what to think or say," said Hope. "You are very handsome, almost as handsome as my father - Saul."
"Please call me Paul, beautiful Princess. And I am flattered to be compared with your father, I know him well. It was he who mentioned that a most beautiful and chaste Princess lived in this remote area. Though, to tell you the truth, I quite doubted you could ever have measured up to his words, you have just now set my heart at ease. And if I may be so bold, on such short notice, I would like to ask you to be my bride!"
"Hope, your father had mentioned you to me, several years ago. Had I known you were so lovely, I would have been here sooner. Yet, I had to service my Kingdom after my father's death, but I am thankful to find you are still here. Though, of a truth, had you gone with me over yon rise, to the river, I should quite have returned to my home and your father would have never known I had been here. Forgive my chatter and pray tell me, will you be my bride?"
The Princess's eyes became thoughtful and her face looked grave. Then ever so gently she said, "Under one condition."
"What condition?" asked the Prince, surprised.
"That the wedding be here among my friends." Said the Princess.
"Sure, sure." Said the Prince. "But what friends are you talking about, I thought no others lived in these parts?"
The Princess laughed and as the Prince placed some flowers in her hair, she stepped up beside a beautiful fawn, held her hand down to the raccoon that was standing on his hind legs.
"These are my friends," said the Princess. "I love them all."
"Well, anyone whom the wild creatures trust," said the Prince, "has to be good. I will be honored to wed you among such loyal friends. Let us go, I must ask your father and mother for your hand in marriage."
And so they were married.
The sad, sad part of this story is that too many girls go over the Forbidden Plain, to see what there is over there. And guess what they find?
Heartaches: For it is cold and bare.
Elder Carl Stewart
House of Prayer Sabbath Ministries