A Wise Choice

There was once a rich merchant’s son who had the pick of three sisters to marry. To help him decide which one would make the finest wife, he set a seemingly simple task for the girls to complete.

“You see that old oak yonder?” The young man pointed to the tree in question. “I will marry the girl who is able to walk up to that tree and away again without coming to grief.”

 

Dipping a low bow, he mockingly led the eldest sister forward. “Come along, sweet one. Lead the way for your sisters to follow.”

The older sister, being rather grand and haughty in her manners, had a habit of walking with her nose stuck high in the air, and therefore she did not see the line of pins the merchant’s son had scattered on the ground before the oak tree. Stepping on one of the pins, the girl let out a sharp scream and ran home to her mother, leaving a bloody trail behind her.

 

The merchant’s son laughed loudly to see such a sight before beckoning the middle daughter forward. “Come, my pretty. Your turn!”

 

This middle child, in contrast to her sister, was sour in spirit and dull of mind. As she trudged towards the mighty oak, her head hung low and she was able to see and avoid the pins. What she did not see, however, was the tree itself until – SMACK! She had walked straight into the sturdy trunk and knocked herself even more senseless than before.

 

The girl lay dazed for a second or two, while the merchant’s son clutched his sides in merriment. Then she staggered to her feet and stumbled away to join her injured sister, a nasty lump already beginning to swell on her brow.

 

When he could speak again, the merchant’s son turned to the final sister. Still chuckling, he indicated for her to start walking. “Come, my little dove. Your turn!”

 

This youngest child – a pretty little latecomer who had been pampered by her parents and never taught fear – stepped forward with a dainty air. As she approached the tree, she gazed straight ahead, marvelling at the great size and beauty of the ancient oak. She looked down and, seeing the pins, lifted her skirts and skipped lightly over them. Upon reaching the tree, she shook her hair free of its butter-yellow ribbon before tying the length of silk around the trunk.

 

When she had returned to the merchant’s son (again, avoiding the scattered pins), the delighted young man moved to sweep her into his arms.

 

“You are the most sensible of women. I shall have you for my bride,” he declared.

 

“Not likely!” replied the girl, stepping back hastily. “Now I have seen how amused you are by other people’s pain, I’d like to think I’m clear-sighted enough not to want you as a groom. But I thank you for the lesson, all the same.”

 

“What lesson?” asked the bemused boy.”

 

“To tread my own path. Good day!”

©2020 by Nicola Niemc