"The Magic Spectacles"
By Ruth Plumly Thompson
From the Philadelphia Public Ledger,
January 30 - February 6, 1916
Once upon a time there was a king who was no longer young and wishing to see his only daughter suitably married and his kingdom wisely bestowed ere his death, he issued a proclamation bidding all the princes of the surrounding realms to present themselves at his court that he might choose among them a husband for his daughter. This should not surprise you, as it seemed to be quite the usual thing for ancient kings to do--at least, all the kings of whom I have read. The proclamation also stated that the prince bringing with him the gift most pleasing to the princess would certainly be chosen. As you can well imagine, this caused no end of excitement in the country round about.
The highways leading to the palace were soon crowded with princes determined to win the kingdom and the princess, whose charms were such that even without a kingdom, she would not have been wanting for a husband. Some came with their whole retinue of servants, others came unattended, some rode in gold chariots, some in silver, others who wished to appear especially gorgeous, came riding on elephants and camels. Such confusion! Such running to and fro among the palace servants to attend to all their highnesses. Such a grumbling among the royal cooks; indeed, it is a wonder the poor old queen was not driven crazy with it all. As for the princess, she grew so stiff from continually curtseying that she retired to her tower and refused to welcome another one, and so crowded did the palace become that the two princes arriving last were obliged to satisfy themselves with quarters in the stable.
The king, seeing what a commotion he had brought about his ears, hastily appointed the next morning for the presentation of gifts. "For," as he said to the queen, "with all of these gentlemen eating up my money, there will soon be none left to bestow!"
So early next morning the princes filed through the royal salon and so many there were that it was quite 5 o'clock before the last two princes wound up the procession. As for the gifts, the princess was scarce visible behind the stack, for each prince left his offering at her feet. There were dozens of ruby and diamond necklaces, shimmering brocades, a dog so tiny he could sit upon the palm of one's hand, music boxes and trained birds, an Arabian horse, rugs, chests, golden chairs, and soup tureens all jumbled together, and dear only knows what not besides. But the princess had not so much as smiled at any one of them and seemed inclined not to choose at all. The poor king was quite worn out and had tied his silk handkerchief around his head, which ached sadly from the squawking of the birds and music boxes, etc.
At 5 o'clock, as I have said before, came the last two princes and one was but indifferent to look upon, being neither very tall not yet very short and in no wise remarkable, but the other, ah! he was a prince, indeed, tall and strong with flashing black eyes. He stepped confidently up to the princess and dropping gracefully on one knee, proffered her a tiny leather case. "This, gracious lady, will enable you to know your enemies!" said the prince. Curious for the first time, the princess eagerly opened the case and was much astonished to find--what do you think? A pair of smoked spectacles. "With these MAGIC SPECTACLES you can see the evil which exists in every creature's heart and thus protect yourself from all harm!" continued the Prince.
"Ah!" muttered the old king, "would that I possessed such a treasure!" Even the princess was interested now and setting the spectacles upon her small nose turned upon her chief lady in waiting! Mercies! Away flew the pleasant companion she had known and in her place an ugly tempered scold who shook the serving maids and boxed the ears of the cook's children when no one was looking. The princess drew away from the lady in waiting, though, of course, the poor woman could not guess what she had seen. Now she turned to the next lady in waiting only to see this trusted friend slipping one of the diamond necklaces into her pocket. And so it went, no matter where she looked she found evil, fancy even in her royal father, for turning upon him suddenly, the father she knew faded away and in his place she saw a miserly old man counting off his money bags in a deep cellar that she had never know to exist. "Is it not a wonderful gift?" chuckled the prince, rubbing his hands together delightedly.
"Let me try them! Let me try them!" urged the king, and the princess quietly passed them to her father. "What a wicked world this is!" she reflected sadly. "Only yesterday everything was so different. Oh, well, it is a good thing I am to possess these magic spectacles," and she began running over in her mind all the people she would try them on. Meanwhile, a terrible commotion had arisen, for the king had no sooner put on the spectacles than he began loudly calling for the guards. Looking at his prime minister, he saw him opening the money boxes and stuffing the gold into his pockets. Every one he looked at he saw cheating him in some way or other. The magic spectacles showed what every one thought and what they were plotting and no matter what evil they had done, whether it was months and months ago, the king saw it all now! He fairly tore his hair with rage and disgust and the courtiers could not imagine what had happened.
In the very midst of the excitement, the second prince stepped up to the princess. In the general confusion he had been entirely forgotten. The king waved him angrily aside. "The princess accepts the magic spectacles!" he announced haughtily. The princess was about to nod her head "Yes," when she caught sight of a case in the second prince's hands exactly like the one that had contained the dark spectacles.
"Would your highness care to look at my gift?" asked the prince, and so pleasant was his voice and though no one would have called him handsome, there was that about him which compelled the princes to look at the gift. She snapped open the leather case and there was another pair of spectacles--only this pair was pink! "To enable you to know your friends!" said the second prince, as the princess continued to gaze in astonishment at the spectacles. The first prince grew quite indignant at this and tried to push the second prince aside, but he stood his ground firmly and just then a remarkable thing happened.
The king caught his daughter by the arm and thrusting the smoked spectacles into her hands, whispered something in her ear. Can you guess what? The princess immediately put them on and looked at the first prince. "Oh! Oh!" she cried in distress, "I can never marry him!" No wonder, dears and ducks, for through the smoked glasses the prince appeared quite differently, kicking the dogs in his stable and whipping his horse, pushing aside a lame old beggar man; in fact, showing himself as he really was, cruel and selfish.
Hardly knowing what she did, the princess turned to the second prince and looked at him through the evil spectacles. But he changed never a whit, indeed, he looked even pleasanter than before. So wrought up was the Princess that she declared upon the spot that she would marry him and no one else, and though it was declared afterward to have been unbecoming in a princess, she threw her arms about his neck.
Whereupon the prince immediately set the pink spectacles upon her nose and straightway everything changed. For the pink spectacles showed one all the hidden good in people and when once you know something good about a person it is hard to think evil of him. The waiting woman they showed taking care of her blind sister with great tenderness and patience, indeed, they showed so many good points in everybody that the princess had never suspected, that she became merry as a lark,
The first prince took his smoked glasses and departed in a temper and the second prince, whose name was as sensible as himself, being just plain John, married the princess next day amid general rejoicing. And with the magic pink spectacles to help them they found so much good in their subjects that their kingdom became the happiest place in the world.
Copyright © 2001 Eric Shanower and David Maxine. All rights reserved.
More Tiger Tales