The Hidden Room
Of all the rooms in the castle, there was only one which no one was ever allowed to enter. This particular room was guarded by a large oak door, which let no light in or out, save by a tiny key hole in it’s very middle. Many people looked through that key hole, but each saw a different thing inside. One said that there was only darkness behind the door, while another claimed that the room held the home of an evil witch. The only thing that all agreed upon was that there was an odd feeling of magic about the place. It was because of this that those who lived in the castle were sure to avoid the room altogether, and those who had to pass by it did so quickly.
There was a castle servant, called Celine, whose vision through the key hole was something entirely different from everyone else’s. She saw a handsome young prince, who seemed to be troubled about something or another. And unlike everyone else, Celine loved to spend long hours watching the prince looking out of his window. Sometimes, the prince cease his gaze to sort through a large pile of unruly scrolls on his desk, but always he would return to his watch. Celine often wondered what he was looking for-and why.
The most important servant in the castle, however, did not share Celine’s enjoyment of the magic room and it’s keyhole. In fact, the most important servant in the castle did not agree with just about anything. Margarite by name, her temper had run rather sour after so many years of work at the castle, causing her to be disagreeable with everyone and everyone to be disagreeable with her. And all of this disagreeableness had to let out on someone, and that someone was Celine. Margarite could not, for some reason she was unable to define, stand all of Celine’s pretty little ways and her good character- they were quite tedious to the former. And so, poor Celine was made to suffer for it. But the worst was when Celine was found staring into the magic room. Margarite would give the girl a cuff over her head and would exclaim,
“I can’t understand how you could look into that room! There isn’t anything in there, save a dirty coup of peacocks!”
One day, when all the castle was preparing to watch a great tournament, Margarite told Celine that she was to remain in the castle and scrub the floors of the kitchens. This was for Celine, for she had so longed to watch the games. However, she had no choice but to collect rags and a bucket and begin the long work of washing the floors. She tried to sing as she did so, but her heart could not help but to long after the sounds of laughter and talk from outside. She made up games to keep her mind busy, and tried putting her favorite poems to song. But the work was so tiresome, and the kitchens were so hot! The only time she received relief was when the water in her bucket would become dirty and she had to go to the courtyard to draw some fresh water from the well. And along the way to the courtyard was the door! Celine could not help but to take a quick peak as she passed; but that quick peak would soon turn to a long glance. The only thought that aroused her was that of the cleaning; then she reluctantly went off to the courtyard.
But later on in the day, Celine left off playing games and singing songs. Margarite had told her that when she finished, she could go out and enjoy whatever was left of the tournament. With this in mind, she resolved not to look into the keyhole when she passed so that she could get back to work quicker. But as she lugged that clumsy bucket past the door, a soft voice called out from within.
She paused, and looked about her. No one was there. And yet, as she began to walk again, the voice called out again; this time a little stronger.
“Celine- will you not look once more?”
This time, Celine jumped.
“One who has known your name for a long time. Will you not come to the door and look in?”
Celine cautiously took a step closer.
“What will I see?”
“You shall find out!”
Celine carefully put the bucket down and slowly approached the door. She knelt and looked into the keyhole. Inside, she saw the prince looking out of his window as usual. She could tell that he was disturbed by something, as he always was, but unlike the other times, he turned and looked at her. His face suddenly lost it’s weariness, and a smile replaced the once-troubled countenance.
Suddenly, a pot landed on Celine’s back. She leapt up and turned to see who had thrown it, and beheld an infuriated Margarite in the hall.
“I set you to work, and instead of doing it, you squander your time by looking into that useless door! I’ll teach you to cross me!”
And with that, the angry woman pulled a length of knotted rope from her surcoat. Celine was stunned, and meekly sank to her knees as Margarite advanced upon her. The older woman whirled the rope and struck a blow on Celine. The hit was so strong that it knocked the girl over against the door.
But before Margarite could strike again, the unexpected happened. The door opened inwards, causing Celine to fall inside. A blinding light came from within. Margarite shrieked and fell to the ground.
As the light faded to a warm sunlight, Celine could make out the room she had so often seen. And there was the prince, standing tall and fair at the other end of it! His pure blue eyes shone kindly at Celine as she pulled herself up from the floor. Margarite also rose, but he gave her a look that was none too kind.
“Why did you strike her?” he cried, as he moved forward. “She had been working hard- she only came to the door because I asked her too!”
Margarite was speechless. She opened her mouth to say something, but closed it upon finding that she had no excuse. She got up and ran away to find someone.
The prince then offered his hand to Celine. She too could not say anything, for she was as astonished as Margarite. Celine merely took his hand and let him help her up. He led her to the window, where she could see the entire kingdom.
“Are you hurt badly?” the prince asked.
She shook her head.
“No- not badly. Just a bruise…”
The prince smiled.
“Good. Forgive me, but while I know your name, I have not told you mine. I am Edmond.”
Celine recognized that name, and curtseyed respectfully as she spoke.
“Prince Edmond, son of our Queen Beatrice?”
“Aye, the very same! But you will be wondering how I am here! Allow me to explain. When I still lived in the castle, my mother and I searched for a suitable young woman who would become my queen. We searched and searched, but we could not find anyone whom I truly loved. Those princesses were all the same- they had all the appearance of goodness, but their hearts were only desirous of my wealth and title.
“So I thought of a plan. I knew of a craftsman, who was renown for his marvelous and most magical creations, so I went to him. Together, we created a door that would keep me hidden for a time being. The only break in the door was the keyhole. Through this keyhole, one would see a reflection of themselves if their heart was not true. But if their heart was as gold, and unclouded by any unworthy desires or thoughts, they would see what was truly in the room.”
Here, Edmond stopped, and took Celine’s hand. He kissed it, and looked up at her.
“And you, Celine, saw me. If there was any girl in the kingdom who could look through the keyhole and see who I was, then I knew she would be the one who I would marry.”
Celine’s eyes grew wide and soft. Then, her face grew trouble.
“I am perhaps the lowest in the castle, my lord Edmond!”
While they were speaking, Margarite had run out to the tournament and began shouting and screaming hysterically. One of the guards was able to calm her down, and told her to tell him quietly what she was so distressed about.
“It’s that cursed door! It’s opened, and there’s a man inside!”
The guard looked at her for a moment, then threw his head back and laughed merrily until tears rolled down his cheeks. Margarite slapped him across the face, causing him to quiet down. The guard looked at her in astonishment.
“What was that for?” he asked, tenderly feeling the spot where she had stuck him.
“If you don’t believe me, then come and see for yourself!”
And just as Celine had told the Prince Edmond that she was the lowest servant the guard and Margarite burst into the room. Both fell to their knees at the sight of the hidden room. Edmond turned and stood before them. The guard looked up, saw the Prince’s face, and smiled.
“My lord Edmond! But- we thought that you… that you had…”
“No! But now, the entire kingdom shall have it’s prince back. And,” he turned to Celine, and held out a hand, “and a new princess?”
Margarite sat in her room. Her eyes were sore and red from the abundant tears she had shed. She had cried, indeed, until she could do so no more. She could not believe that Princess Celine had pardoned her, or that she was even permitted to retain her duties as the head servant. On top of this, Princess Celine treated her as if she had always been so kind to her! From then on, she promised to be a better person, and a better mistress.
Celine and Edmond walked hand in hand down a sunlit hill to lay down beside a river. While she was a princess, Celine insisted that she be treated the same way as before. But Edmond had always thought of her as his princess, and therefore treated her with the greatest respect and love. Even now, as they lay looking up at the soft blue sky, he was fussing over everything so that she was absolutely comfortable. As he bent back some grass stalks that were tickling her nose, she looked up and him and smiled.
“You know what, Edmond?”
“I think that we shall live happily ever after.”
And they did.