Bedtime Audio Stories - What Happened To Those Beautiful Feet?

 What Happened To Those Beautiful Feet?

Long long ago there was a handsome prince in France named Pipin. His father died and it was decided that he should ascend the throne without much delay. But according to the custom of the age, the coronation could not be considered complete unless he had his queen to sit by his side. And there was no queen to sit by his side simply because he was yet to marry! And why should he not marry? Well, princes had their own whims and Prince Pipin desired to marry the princess with the most beautiful face. In fact, he had already despatched a committee of experts on beauty to survey all the eligible princesses in different kingdoms and he was expecting their report any day. And the committee was back soon. The members were unanimous that no princess had as beautiful a face as Princess Bertha of Hungary. But her feet were rather big. "I don't mind that as long as she had the most beautiful face," said Prince Pipin. So, an official delegation with a lot of presents was sent to Hungary. The king and the queen of Hungary were happy with the proposal and they despatched their daughter to France with her dearest friend and maid. Aliste.

Bertha and Aliste had to spend many days in traveling to France, camping in valleys and towns at night. At last, when their party arrived at its destination, Bertha was so tired that she fell asleep immediately. But before that, she told Aliste, "Do not disturb me tonight. You may represent me in any function. You are so much like me that nobody would find out that you were not me!" Aliste was looking with great wonder and joy at the city, from the balcony of the palace. Suddenly some royal messengers came to her and said, "The auspicious moment is at hand. Come on immediately." They practically dragged her into a decorated hall. Little did Aliste know that the function about to commence was the wedding proper! She was pushed into one ritual after another at such speed that at no point she could speak out that she was not the bride! Well, soon she felt great fun at acting as the king's bride! And before long she was pronounced the queen! All this was fun, no doubt, but she could not get over the fear of Bertha. What would happen when Bertha would wake up and claim that she was the bride? Now, two officers of the king who were in the party that had gone to fetch the bride knew the difference between Bertha and Aliste. The whispered to Aliste at an opportune moment, "Will you like us to tie Bertha's hand and foot and leave her in the forest? You can pay us for our services later. We are in no hurry for that." Aliste hesitated and said, "I think that is the only sensible thing to do now!" So, it was done. Bertha was gagged, tied, bundled, and carried to the forest. She was left at a spot around which there were dens of tigers. The officers were sure that nothing of the bundle, save its covers, would be there to see the sunlight.

But Bertha struggled for a long time and managed to free herself by morning. She could imagine what had happened. She wept for a while. Should she find out the way to the palace and expose the mischief? She wondered. Then she decided to bear with the situation. The officers could have killed her! If they did not, that should be satisfaction enough for her. And what was wrong with the forest, after all? It was a peaceful place. There was a sweet brook. Fruits and roots were available in plenty. Bertha could even recognize a few vegetables that tasted delicious when cooked. Soon she located a cave that could serve as her abode. She also made fire by rubbing one stone against another. She continued to live in the forest. The tigers somehow decided to leave her in peace. At some distance lived some forest dwellers. They were surprised to see her. But their chieftain said, "What is surprising in the goddess of the forest living in the forest? Haven't you seen her feet? They are big like those of a goddess!" Thereafter they would carry different gifts to her and silently leave them in front of her cave. Meanwhile, King Pipin told Aliste, "How much they scared me by saying that you had big feet! If your feet are big, mine must be huge!" "My Lord, they must have seen me with big shoes. Big shoes are a fashion in Hungary," said Aliste. Days were passing smoothly. But one evening something most unexpected happened. Someone came running and announced that the queen of Hungary was there! She was coming in! She was here. The queen stormed in. 

Aliste did not know what to do. She blew the lamp off. The queen hugged her. But as the queen's feet touched her feet the queen exclaimed, "I decided to give you a pleasant surprise, but I am surprised myself with your feet. What happened to those beautiful big feet?" Someone lighted the lamp. "And what happened to your beautiful small face? Oh, this is only Aliste. Where is my Bertha?" demanded the queen. Aliste broke down. The king did not know what to make out of the scene. Then, crying and sobbing, Aliste confessed to everything that had happened. The king and his mother-in-law stood stunned and aghast. Then said Bertha's mother, "Let us not waste time. Let us go into the forest and look for Bertha." They reached the part of the forest where Bertha had been left. The two officers who carried her there, though under arrest, led the way. They met some forest dwellers and asked them if they had seen a beautiful girl the like of whom they would have never seen. They replied, "We have seen none but the goddess of the forest, the goddess with a pair of beautiful big feet." "With a pair of beautiful big feet? Where is she?" asked the queen of Hungary most anxiously. They were led to Bertha's cave. The mother and daughter hugged each other. They returned to the palace. Bertha was married to the king. The two nasty officers were whipped for their wickedness but were also thanked for not killing Bertha. But Aliste was not to be seen. Nobody knows where she went.

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