Backwards Pupil


Albert J. Manachino

The princess swore. "I've been kissing frogs all damn'd day and I haven't come across a single prince yet."

The queen reminded her, "That's because you didn't pay attention to your wizard. Believe me, I didn't have any trouble locating your father after I matriculated."

"Mother! Things were different in those days. I wouldn't have any difficulty finding father either. Just look in the wine cellar."

The castle grounds bustled with activity. Attendants scurried hither and yon setting up tables under spacious elm trees in preparation for Prince Rudolph's visit.

Princess Angela continued. "Do you realize what it's like … kissing frogs from morning till night with nothing to show for it except chapped lips?"

The queen thought for a moment. "Of course I can, Dear. After all, I married your father, so I can speak from both sides of the fence. There really isn't that much difference. I could never get used to his cold, wet lips."

The tables assumed garments of linen. Costly silverware and cut glass gleamed. Oxen and geese turned slowly over charcoal fires. The already immaculate lawns outdid themselves to appear as carpetlike as possible.

The subject turned to Prince Rudolph. "I hear he is one of the handsomest men in Europe," the princess sighed.

"The handsomest!" said the queen.

"It is also rumored that he is one of the wealthiest men in the world."

"He happens to be the wealthiest," said the queen.

The princess lowered her eyes demurely. "Is he really as well hung as…?"

Her mother interrupted quickly. "You mustn't listen to all the gossip, dear. You know how some of the ladies will exaggerate."

"Isn't he one of the most intelligent men on the continent?"

"Actually, he's kind of stupid but you mustn't expect everything."

"One of the noblest?"

"He is as noble as a golden retriever."

They looked up as Mr. Brown joined them. Mr. Brown was the king's private magician and the Princess Angela's late instructor. He was distinguished by a thaumaturgical hat, now full of freshly baked cookies, and a very long nose. Both were pointed. Angela threw her frog of the moment back into the moat.

"Any luck?" he asked.

"No, Mr. Brown. Isn't there any other way I can obtain a prince. Ordering one through a mailing house catalog?"

The wizard frowned. "I'm afraid that would be contrary to tradition. You never were a very attentive pupil. If you had applied yourself to your lessons, you'd have landed one by now."

"I'm sorry, Mr. Brown. School bored me."

The wizard shrugged and munched on a cookie.

"You'll wind up an old maid," the queen prophesied gloomily.

The prospect seemed doubtful; Angela was a genuine beauty in the classical tradition. Gorgeous blond hair fell back over perfect shoulders and her lovely features were totally unblemished. Eyes of the most heavenly blue sparkled from behind a peaches and cream complexion. Her divine figure was graced by a gown stitched by the most skillful fingers in the kingdom. And, she had a great deal of money.

The activity continued. Under the sommelier's direction, champagnes and wines went into ice filled tubs near the tables. Mr. Brown had obtained the weather's cooperation and it was going to be a glorious day. He eyed the vintages.

"That looks inviting," he hinted to the queen.

She was agreeable. "Let's go over and sample a glassful. I can use a snort myself."

Angela's mother and the magician wandered away. Prince Rudolph chose that moment to appear. A bored expression on his face was replaced by one of explicit interest as he beheld Angela. His nostrils flared like those of a stallion.

"Let's make chemistry," his eyes said.

"A 0 K," her smile replied. Inwardly she thought, "To Hell with the frogs."

Rudolph waved his hand in a well known signal. "Scram!" it said.

His courtiers scrammed.

The two beautiful people blended into a passionate embrace. Their lips hungrily sought one another's and they experienced the ecstasy of a first kiss together.

Prince Rudolph slipped through her arms and landed on the ground with a resonant "Plop!" A frog looked up reproachfully.

Mr. Brown and the queen returned in time to witness the incident.

"Angela always was a backwards pupil," he declared.

Story Copyright by
Albert J. Manachino

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