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art by Jonathan Westbrook

Hazel Tree

Melissa Mead lives in Upstate NY. You may have seen her stories in DSF before. She's a member of SFWA and Codex, and her Web page is carpelibris.wordpress.com. Go to Twisted Fairy Tales to read the other stories published so far in Melissa's series.

Once there was a beautiful girl whose mother had died. Her father remarried, to a woman with two daughters of her own. The stepmother banished the girl to the kitchen, and made her do all the hardest housework.
(Oh, you know this story already? Glass slippers? What glass slippers? All right, I'll go on.)
The girl planted a hazel branch at her mother's grave, and watered it with so many tears that it grew into a magnificent tree that produced bushels and bushels of hazelnuts.
(Gold and silver dresses? Those don't grow on trees.)
The girl worked magic with those hazelnuts. She made hazelnut butter and hazelnut torte, hazelnut mousse and hazelnut-crusted lamb. Even her stepsisters, who scorned everything else to do with her, gorged themselves on her treats.
(Yes, I do realize that this is a fairy tale, not a cookbook.)
One day the King sent word that he would hold a great festival, in hopes of finding the perfect maiden to wed the Prince. The stepsisters rushed out to buy elegant silks and jewels in preparation for dancing.
The young lady fetched the most becoming of her late mother's dresses and made it over to fit her. Her only jewelry was a pin that her mother had given her. The day before the festival she made a tray of her finest hazelnut tarts. Once her stepmother and stepsisters had set off in their carriage, she started walking toward the castle.
(Pumpkin? All right: She took a tray of her finest pumpkin tarts…
That's not what you meant? If you'd rather tell another story, go ahead.
No? All right.)
She took a tray of her finest hazelnut tarts, walked to the castle, and stood by the gates selling them to the elegant ladies and gentlemen who entered.
Word got to Their Majesties of a beautiful girl selling tarts by the gate. They summoned her to them, scolded her for selling tarts on Royal property without a license, and commanded her to dance with the Prince. This she did willingly enough, for he was handsome and kind.
"Where'd you get your dress?" he asked.
With no trace of embarrassment, she told him.
"Did you make those tarts yourself?"
She explained that it was her recipe, but her father's kitchen staff had helped her.
"I see. And did you sell a great many of them?"
She told him, and explained how much profit would be left after she subtracted the cost of the ingredients and paid her helpers their share.
Just then, the clock struck midnight. Everyone looked at the Prince and his partner.
"That's the kitchen wench!" one of the stepsisters exclaimed.
The Prince whispered in the lovely young woman's ear. When she nodded and smiled, he led her to the Royal Dias.
"Ladies and Gentlemen," he announced, "this young lady has proven herself economical enough to manage the Royal Treasury, capable of managing a household, and resourceful. Plus she's beautiful and charming to talk to. I'm pleased to declare that she's consented to be my wife."
Everyone but the stepmother and stepsisters cheered. The Prince and the maiden were wed and lived long, sensibly, and happily ever after.
(Fairy godmother? Who needs one of those when you have determination and love? And a magic hazelnut tree.)
The End
This story was first published on Wednesday, February 27th, 2013
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