The Princess and the Peasant
On a cold, fall evening, young Leonardo sat waiting. He was waiting on what he thought was his destiny. He was nervous, cold, and full of fear. He didn't know if he could do it. He brought a jug of wine along for courage. He took another gulp. The sweetness was quickly replaced with a bite of acidity. It briefly warmed his body. Then the shivering came again. He longed for the taste of Sangiovese, which he had tasted at the castle. He was a peasant; cheap Chianti was all he could afford. The wind blew swiftly. Leonardo felt the hair, hanging from beneath his hat, blowing back. He sat with his back against an olive tree alongside the road. It was nearly dark and he figured no one would easily spot him. He took another gulp of wine as a flock of leaves twirled and danced across his legs. He craned his neck to look down the road. He saw no carriages yet. It shouldn't be long he thought.
Leonardo thought back to the first time he had spied young Josephine or Josie as she liked to be called. She was playing in the castle's study by the fire place. She was dancing and singing in a funny voice. Her father, the king, seemed to pay no attention to the show. Young Leonardo noticed. He nearly dropped the pile of wood he was carrying. He walked the wood to the box; staring at Josie the entire time. She perceived his interest and danced even harder to show her prowess. Leonardo was very impressed. Josie was wearing a beautiful red and gold dress and had matching silk ribbons in her hair. Leonardo quickly became self conscious of his own attire. He was wearing his work clothes. They were tattered and dirty. Josie didn't seem to mind as she danced closer to him. She whispered a delicate "hello" and Leonardo blushed. The king seemed to take notice of the interaction and yelled, "Peasant boy! You have finished here, no? Go back to work!" Leonardo was very embarrassed and ran from the study as quickly has his short legs would carry him.
One afternoon the following summer, Leonardo was pulling weeds in the royal garden. Princess Josie ambled by and gave another hello to Leonardo. He said, "Hello Princess. My name is Leonardo." She said, "Please just call me Josie, Leonardo. Would you like to play?" Leonardo wanted badly to play, but he had work to do. He hung his head and said, "I am sorry Josie, but I will get in trouble if I do not finish my work." Josie asked, "Do you want me to help?" Leonardo shrugged his shoulders and nodded his head. So they pulled weeds and chatted. Josie told him about all the wonderful things she got to do and see. She also told him how bored she got because her father never let her play like with the other children. Leonardo told Josie how he lived with his father and grandparents, and how he did not know his mother. They both felt compassion for each other. After what seemed like only a short time, the princess's hand maiden came and scolded her for getting dirty. Josie hopped from the flowers and the hand maiden took her away. She turned and gave a wave to Leonardo. Leonardo felt a tingling all over his body.
Over the summers, the two children would steal blocks of time to chat and play. Their time always interrupted by one of the princess's keepers. Leonardo studied and watched Josie. He fell deeply in love with her He felt she loved him too. Leonardo knew the king would never allow such a union. It made him sad and angry. He dreamed of taking Josie and running away from the castle. Josie did not like being so confined. She had told him so. However, Leonardo could never muster the courage to tell Josie of his plan. On Josie's sixteenth birthday, Leonardo had scribed a beautiful poem on the most expensive parchment he could afford. He had it tied with a ribbon and tucked away in his pocket. He couldn't wait to give it to Josie. When he arrived at the castle for his daily chores, there was a strange carriage in the courtyard. There seemed to be lots pomp and circumstance hovering over the castle that day. He asked another worker at the castle what was going on. He told Leonardo the king and brought a prince from Sardinia for Princess Josie to marry. Leonardo's heart sank deeply. He ran from the castle and devised his plan.
Now here he sat, beneath the olive tree, waiting for Josie and the prince to come by in their carriage. He knew thy had being going out on nightly carriage rides. Leonardo assumed Josie only did this because she had to. After all, she hadn't read his poem or realized his love for her. His plan was to stop the carriage, threaten the prince, and express his love to Josie. Leonardo was sure Josie would wrap her arms around his neck and run off with him. The thought of this brought a big smile to his face. This was shattered as he heard the horse drawn carriage nearing. The horse's footsteps growing louder like the thunder in an approaching storm. Leonardo's heart raced, as a sweat broke out on his forehead. He grabbed for his short blade and leapt into the road. The horses screeched to a halt and reared up. Leonardo was a little light headed and staggered as the horses lowered themselves back down. The prince burst from the carriage yelling, "What is the meaning of this?" Leonardo stood firm and answered back, "I wish to see Josie." The prince laughed as Leonardo staggered into view. "Why, it is only a drunk peasant boy. Go back to your wine." Leonardo stood defiantly and said, "I wish to see Josie." The prince grew angry and started to head towards Leonardo. Josie stepped out and yelled, "Wait! I will speak to you Leonardo." She had on a beautiful long dress and looked more beautiful than ever. Leonardo told her how he felt and how he wanted to take her away. He gave her his poem. Josie read it and gave him a peck on the cheek. She said, "Leonardo, I think you are a wonderful young man, but I am a princess. I will one day be queen and my father has handpicked the man I am to marry. It may not be the most romantic courtship, but it is my destiny. I am sorry Leonardo." Leonardo turned without looking at Josie and walked through the olive trees. He hung his head and carried his broken heart all the way to his father's house in Vinci.
Moral: Unrequited love is painful and heart wrenching, but often leads to a beauty deeper and more outreaching than if the love had been reciprocated.