Once upon a time a girl was born with an extraordinary gift. As a tiny infant the gift was revealed, though it was not until she was four or five that her parents realized what a treasure it was.
She was born with a beautiful voice that always sang on key, no matter what. In a land that valued song, her gift was precious indeed.
Selah grew up knowing her gift was sought after and loved by the people around her. “You will marry a prince!” they would say, and then beg her to sing for them.
She was pleasant-hearted as well as gifted, so she would sing for their harvest dances and sing at their church services and sing on the market streets when asked.
Soon word traveled around the land of the lovely girl who could sing as beautifully as a nightingale. A prince from the neighboring kingdom heard the news and decided at once to go and visit. “This girl may be just what I am looking for,” he told his parents. He took his servant, packed his things, and headed toward the land-of-the-singing-girl.
One day, as Selah was wandering the market streets, the Baker stuck his head out of his shop. “Dearest Selah,” he called, “sing for us all.”
As usual, the girl smiled and did what was requested. The busy street slowed and the villagers tilted their heads to enjoy the music. A few women twirled with their grocery baskets, letting their feet patter out a waltz on the cobblestone streets. Selah laughed as she finished and the Baker tossed her a fresh sweet roll from his baking pan. “Thank you!” he called and she waved happily as she cupped the warm roll in her hands.
When she turned to continue down the street she nearly ran into someone. Stepping back, she tilted her head to look up at the man before her. When her gaze landed on the thin gold band across his forehead, she drew in a sharp breath.
“Hello, fair-maiden.” The prince bowed gallantly.
Selah could hardly catch her breath. He was more dashing, more handsome, than any of the men she knew. Why was he was looking at her so intently?
“I have never heard a voice like yours before,” the prince said. “Do sing again.”
Selah glanced around and saw that all the villagers were watching with wide eyes. Her mind scrambled to think of a song. All she could remember was the lullaby her mother sang to her as a child. Her voice stuttered slightly at the beginning, but the gift soon took over and she sang the sweet words across the market street.
“Take me to your father,” the prince said when she had finished. His look was so direct, her heart turned over in her chest.
“This way,” she said, motioning for him to follow her. They had only taken a few steps when she felt someone reaching for her basket. She looked over to see the servant lifting the heavy load from her arms. “Thank you,” she whispered. The man simply nodded, smiling gently.
When they arrived at the house, the servant reached to open the door and held it as they entered. For the first time, Selah felt uncomfortable going into her own home. What would the prince think of her family, of their modest house, their chipped dishes, and mismatched chairs? She watched him carefully, searching for any looks of distaste. His face gave away nothing and she breathed a sigh of relief.
Her father greeted the prince without a flicker of surprise. “Have a seat,” he told the younger man. The prince waited for his servant to pull out the chair, and then sat carefully.
Selah reached to pull out her own chair but her hand landed on the servant’s instead of the chair back. He smiled and winked as he pulled it out. “Thank you,” she whispered. He nodded and then stepped back.
“Your daughter has a tremendous gift,” the prince began. Her father listened intently. Selah felt her face flushing. The prince’s words continued. They were bold and strong. He spoke with authority and his looks in her direction sent shivers up her spine.
For so many years she had dreamed of a prince arriving, and here he was. The gift had served her well. Her cheeks stained pink again with the thought. Her throat was dry.
A clinking noise drew her attention up to the table. The servant set a glass of water in front of her. She reached for it and smiled his way. His response was another nod and a full-blown grin. That’s strange, she thought, I do believe his eyes dance when he smiles that way. She drank the water hungrily.
After a moment Selah’s father turned to her. “Take a turn in the garden, daughter. We will talk more.”
She nodded and rose to leave. Her chair slid out behind her. “Thank you,” she whispered again to the servant. She reached for the door and it opened before her. To her surprise, the servant followed her outside.
“I think they desire to talk alone,” the man said in explanation. “Do you mind if I walk the garden with you, or would you rather have some privacy?”
“Oh, do come along,” Selah responded pleasantly.
The two walked through the rows of peonies. Their sweet smell hung heavy in the air. After a moment, the servant spoke. “Are you nervous?”
Selah looked at him. She thought of the handsome prince sitting at her kitchen table speaking to her father. “A little.” She paused her walking. “Well, I am and I am not. If it is real, I am nervous. But I have not convinced my mind that it is real as of yet.”
“You must have turned down many a man’s hand by this time,” the servant observed.
Selah laughed outright. “Oh, my, no.” She shook her head. “I do not think another man has even talked to my father.”
The servant looked at her, his eyes puzzled. He said not a word but began walking again.
How interesting, she thought. When he is confused, it is as if his eyes change colors. Brown, then grey, then green. Right then Selah spotted a patch of begonias that were in desperate need of weeding. She stopped and knelt to pull the stray grass from among the bright pink plants.
The servant knelt beside her and worked as well, asking her questions about the garden, the grounds, the village. She answered pleasantly then sat back on her heels. “Marvelous.” She moved to push herself to her feet and found the servant’s hand on her elbow. He helped her up and then laughed.
“Whatever is the matter?” she asked.
“I’m afraid we are both rather dirty now,” he explained. “Do you have a place we can clean up before going back to the house?”
Her cheeks stained pink again at the thought of the prince seeing her in such a state. I suppose a princess does not usually work in the dirt. My, oh, my. There will be many things to learn if the prince is truly asking for my hand in marriage. Her mind scattered many directions as they hurried off to clean up.
When they returned to the house, the servant reached to open the door and Selah paused. “Thank you…” her voice trailed off.
“You’re welcome,” he answered.
The prince was standing beside her father when they entered. “Selah, see the prince to the spare room. He will be our guest tonight,” her father instructed.
She looked at the prince and her heart started flipping again. “This way,” she motioned. The two talked quietly on the short walk to the back room. The prince told her about his country. He told her how much her gift would aid the kingdom.
When the reached the doorway, Selah paused. She looked at the prince expectantly. He stopped talking. “Yes?” he questioned.
Oh, Selah shook her head. “Forgive me,” she stuttered. She reached over and opened the door.
He stepped inside and looked around. “This will do,” he said. “I will require a few more blankets though.”
“Oh, okay.” She went quickly to her room and grabbed the extra blankets from the end of her bed. When she returned, he finished their conversation as she placed them on the bed. Before she left the prince requested a short song. She sang quietly and he nodded, pleased. He bid her farewell. As Selah hurried back down the hallway, she nearly ran into the servant.
“Forgive me,” she said.
“Of no need. I enjoyed your song.” He smiled. It was a full-blown smile again and his eyes danced in the dim light. “Thank you for singing it. I was just coming to tell you that your father wishes to speak with you.”
The room was warm and glowing from the large fire in the stone fireplace. A little girl came darting in and held her hands up to the flames to ward off the chill of the outdoors. She saw her mother sitting in a chair nearby and scurried over and climbed onto her lap. “Tell me the story again,” she asked.
Her mother laughed. “Which story, darling?”
“The one about the day two men asked for your hand in marriage.”
“I have told you that story so many times, Celeste. One would think you might grow tired of it.”
“But, Mama, you never tell me the end.”
Selah smiled at her daughter, pulling the child close. “How is that? I finish the story every time.”
“No, all you say is that you married the man your father suggested.”
“This is true.”
“But was it the prince or the servant, Mama?”
Selah looked up as her husband stepped into the room. Her daughter quickly untangled herself and raced for his arms. He scooped her up and squeezed her tight. Though he came home several times a day to visit his wife and daughter, Celeste still ran to him as if he had been gone a week. When he set her back down she turned back to her mother. “Which one?”
“You tell me, Celeste.”
The little girl giggled. She looked at her father’s handsome face and back at her mama. It was obvious the two loved each other. They were always sharing looks, touching hands, laughing together. Though many years had passed, her mother still sang for any who requested it, and her father did the most. “I get confused because the servant sounds so nice, but of course you married the prince,” Celeste said with seriousness. “For who could be more of a prince than Daddy?” With that she darted from the room, off to finish her chores before dinner time.
Selah stood from her chair and greeted her husband with a kiss. He leaned back and looked at her, eyebrows raised in question. “I was telling her the story of the prince and the servant,” she explained.
“So I hear,” he responded.
“She thinks I married the prince.”
“Do you ever regret it?” He asked, concern edging his voice.
Selah tilted her head and thought seriously about his question. She pictured, for just a moment, the huge castle with all the rooms that were so large they could hardly be warmed. She thought about all the important matters that took the prince hither and yon. She could see the balls and dinners where she never got to sit beside him or dance with him, and instead was left to stand alone and sing to the crowds of people as other women fought for his attention. “My father was so wise, you know. He said very little to me that day, but what he did say altered the rest of my life. He told me it is always best to marry the one who will walk right with you and work right beside you. He said it was better to marry the man who will value you, not only your gifts. And he was right. How could I regret taking his advice?”
Her husband pulled her close and twirled her around the room as she hummed a waltz with a smile on her face. He smiled in return; a full-blown smile that made his eyes dance.