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The Breakfast Tart Princess

The Breakfast Tart Princess

Tag Cavello

Copyright 2017 by Tag Cavello

Shakespir Edition

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__]For Portia and Nemo[
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The Breakfast Tart Princess
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There was once a short, ugly troll who wanted nothing more than to fall in love with a pretty girl and be loved by her in return. But because he was so short and so ugly (his legs were like squished balls of cookie dough, and his hooked nose was green and lumpy enough to offend a frog), he thought that no girl would ever look at him, save to laugh, or become frightened and run.

All the girls from the village did these very things. “Look!” they would cry. “It is Pangit the troll, come to pluck rotten vegetables from the grocer’s alley!” Although Pangit never ate rotten vegetables—he liked them fresh and crisp, just like everyone else. “Look!” they always shrieked. “It is Pangit the troll, come to buy tobacco for his smelly old pipe!” Pangit did not own a pipe, nor did he even smoke. It didn’t matter. None of it mattered. The girls all hated him, and it seemed like they always would.

So one day, out of desperation, he ventured to the hills, where a kindly old witch who sometimes granted favors was said to live. For three days he walked, looking for the witch’s cottage, until at last he saw a little thatched roof peeking from a cluster of snowy rocks. Sure enough, the roof was part of a cottage. Pangit the troll went to the door and knocked.

A frail-looking old woman with gray hair answered. Pangit took off his hat. He flattened the wiry hairs on his head. Then he bowed to the woman and asked:

“I am a troll in search of a witch who lives in these hills, for her heart is said to be kind, and her magic powerful. Are you she?”

“I take it then,” the old woman replied with a raspy voice, “that you are in need of a favor?”

“Indeed I am,” said the troll, more humble than ever. “I can shovel the snow off your walk. Or perhaps chop firewood.”

“I am the witch you seek,” the woman told him. “Come inside.”

Not long after that, the little troll had laid out his story. The witch let him finish without once interrupting. She merely sipped her tea, nodded, and sipped some more.

“Well then,” she said finally, “you cannot marry a girl because you’re too ugly. What a shame.”

At this Pangit’s shoulders slipped to resemble an old, used hunter’s bow. “You cannot help me?” he blubbered.

“Oh, I didn’t say that. The shame is not in your being ugly, but that you didn’t come to me sooner.”

And on the very spot, she cast a spell that would change Pangit into a tall, handsome prince. But only under certain conditions.

“You must first fall in love with a girl,” the witch explained, “then rescue her from certain death. Only then will the spell take effect. You will become the prince of her dreams and she will love you for all eternity. Questions?”

“None at all,” Pangit came back with. And his heart was full of gratitude towards the witch, and he thanked her a hundred times.

And yes, he also shoveled the walk, and cut firewood for her.

***

It was just too bad being a hero turned out to be such hard work. After leaving the cottage, Pangit practiced for a year the art of fencing and fighting. But being such a small troll, he couldn’t get quite good enough with a sword to beat the villains who sometimes came to the village to rob and plunder. Thus, the ladies they threatened were all rescued by stronger, better men (bah!), who stole their hearts with even more skill than the villains who wanted their jewelry. Also, Pangit’s arms were too short to win a fist-fight with anyone taller than he…which meant that pretty much everyone could beat him.

For a year it went on this way. And then another. And then another. Pangit would fall in love with a damsel in distress, but fail to rescue her. Worse, all the pretty girls from the village continued to laugh and make up stories about him. It was dreadful.

Finally Pangit could stand it no more. Four years after his visit to the witch, on a windy, rainy morning, he packed his belongings, walked deep into the forest, and disappeared. No one in the village ever laid eyes on the troll again.

***

Many years later there lived a pretty young maiden who worked as a baker’s apprentice in the king’s castle. She was a patient girl with long, beautiful red hair. She liked to learn, and the head baker was able to teach her many things. Until one morning the king called for a dozen strawberry breakfast tarts to be hot and ready with his tea.

Now the maiden—whose name was Pot-Pot—had never been tasked to make breakfast tarts before, as it was a complicated dish, and her worst one by far. On this morning, however, the head baker was sick in bed, so alas, Pot-Pot had to try her best. She baked the tarts, sprinkling them with extra cane sugar to help mask whatever mistakes might have been made, then sent them off to the king’s table.

The king took one bite of Pot-Pot’s tarts, grimaced, and proclaimed: “These are absolutely the worst breakfast tarts I have ever tasted! Who dared put these on a king’s plate?”

And one of the servants gave him Pot-Pot’s name.

“Chop off her head at once!” the king demanded.

Now it should be said here that the king had a handsome son who had gone off hunting and never returned. It had been a year since anyone had seen the prince. He was feared dead. The king had been very unstable and irritable ever since.

It should also be said that Pot-Pot was a sweet girl, and had many friends in the castle. One of these friends just so happened to be at the king’s breakfast table when he tasted the terrible tarts. Upon hearing his command that Pot-Pot’s head be cut off, she rushed to the kitchen and told her the news.

“Pot-Pot!” she screamed. “The king has tasted your breakfast tarts—“

“Oh marvelous!” Pot-Pot cried. “Did he like them?”

“Hardly. He has called for your head to be chopped off!”

Pot-Pot felt her heart turn to ice. “Oh,” she said, her hands beginning to shake. “I see. The tarts were terrible.”

“They were, I’m afraid,” said the friend. “I tried one myself. Anyway, you must leave the castle. And quickly.”

“What time is the beheading?”

The friend thought for a moment. “These things normally happen at noon. For lunchtime entertainment.”

“Right then,” Pot-Pot replied. “I’m off.”

And without even bothering to pack her bags, she went straight to the castle gate. One of the guards stopped her.

“You, girl!” he growled. “Where are you going?”

On the spot, Pot-Pot thought of the best lie she could. “I am a seamstress,” said she, “and I must go to the forest and collect spider-web silk for the queen’s new gown.”

Now the guard sneered at her. “The queen expired ten years ago! The lemon-slice girl forgot to sweeten her morning juice, and her face got so scrunched up she choked on her own eyebrows!”

“Oh, did I say the queen?” Pot-Pot spluttered. “I meant the duchess. This gown is for the duchess, of course!”

“Of course,” said the guard. “Off with you, then!”

And away fled Pot-Pot into the forest.

***

For a full day she travelled, not knowing where to go or what to do. She ate berries for lunch and dinner. She drank water from a stream. At night a full moon shined among the stars. A cool wind swept the trees, scattering leaves about her feet. Growing more and more afraid of the dark, Pot-Pot began to look for a cave in which to hide for the night. Instead, she found a cottage. It stood at the base of an elm tree, looking small and quaint. Its windows glowed yellow. Puffs of smoke rose from its chimney.

When Pot-Pot knocked on the door, a funny-looking little troll answered.

“Help me please,” Pot-Pot said. “I am a baker’s apprentice from the castle, and because I know not how to make breakfast tarts, the king wants to chop off my head!”

“Hum!” the strange troll barked, looking surly.

He was a full foot shorter than she. His legs were stumpy, his nose lumpy. Pot-Pot thought him the ugliest thing she had ever seen.

The troll glanced at his kookoo clock. “Well it’s almost midnight now! You have at least twelve hours before the king will try to chop off your head again.”

“May I stay here for the night?” said Pot-Pot. “It’s so dark out, and the forest is dreadfully scary.”

“Hum!” barked the troll once more.

Pot-Pot blinked. “Is that a yes or a no?”

To her surprise, it was the kookoo bird who answered. “It means yes! Yes, yes, yes! Less is more and more is less! Owning a castle is not worth the mess!”

“Shut up!” the troll yelled. “Dag-gum loony bird!” Then, to Pot-Pot: “Breakfast tarts, eh? I love those things. Come inside and make me a batch.”

***

The troll told her his name was Pangit. He had been living alone in the forest for many years, and had learned to bake a little himself. Thus, all the material required for making breakfast tarts was readily at hand. In one hour Pot-Pot was able to whip up a batch. The troll sat in front of the fireplace, took a bite—

And spat it out.

“Bah! This is grotesque!”

“I’m sorry!” gasped the poor girl.

“I know you didn’t use rotten strawberries, yet rotten is how you made them taste. I know you used cane sugar, yet this tastes more like salt.”

“Salt!” the kookoo cried. “Salt, salt! It’s all your fault!”

Pot-Pot was close to tears by this point. “Please!” she cried. “No more criticism! Just tell me how to do better!”

“Ah!” Pangit growled back, making a face even uglier than the one he usually wore. “I could scarcely make you do worse!”

And Pot-Pot burst into tears. “Terrible troll! Ugly and mean!”

“Ugly and mean but it’s only a screen!” cried the kookoo. “Ugly and mean is how love sometimes seems!”

Pangit seized hold of his spatula. “For the last time!” And he threw the spatula at the clock, where it clanged and banged and scared the poor kookoo half out of its wits. “Shut up!” With a horrified screech—EEEEEEEEEE!—the kookoo ducked back into its clock.

Well, Pot-Pot decided she had seen enough of all this. She turned to run, and got halfway to the door when Pangit called for her to wait. Pot-Pot froze. She turned again, this time to see the terrible troll holding what looked like a cook book. Yes, a cook book. There was a spoon and fork on the cover, so it must have been that.

Pangit opened the book, tore out a page and handed it to her. On that page was a recipe for breakfast tarts.

“Follow those instructions precisely,” said the troll. “And I promise the king will have the best tasting breakfast tarts ever.”

Pot-Pot had no idea whether to believe him, except that his voice had suddenly turned kind and compassionate. With a shaky little curtsey, she thanked the troll. Then she took to the forest, with the torn page clutched in her fist.

“Well,” the troll said to himself (for the kookoo bird was passed out on its perch, somewhere inside the clock), “I suppose that’s that. Hum!”

***

Next morning, a dreadfully tired Pot-Pot found herself back at the castle. The guard arrested her on the spot.

“You!” he growled. “You’re not a seamstress! You’re the girl who makes those disgusting breakfast tarts! Come with me at once!”

And he brought her to the king’s dining room, where His Majesty had just sat down to a plate of waffles with diced blueberries and maple syrup.

“Well now,” said the king, his noble beard all aglow in the candlelight. “Our young baker’s apprentice has come to face her punishment. Brave girl.”

“Are you still going to cut off my head?” asked Pot-Pot meekly, for the king’s voice seemed so friendly this morning. Perhaps he’d had a change of heart.

The king laughed. “Of course! At twelve noon!”

“Rats,” said Pot-Pot, which made the king laugh some more.

“Not in this castle, dearest.”

Pot-Pot took a step forward. “My king, allow me to make good what I’ve done. If by noon I can bake you the best breakfast tarts you’ve ever tasted, promise you’ll spare my life, and allow me to cook in the castle forever onward.”

“Very well,” said the king, with yet another laugh. “But only because I’m so certain you’ll fail.” And he stuck a huge piece of blueberry waffle into his mouth. “Now go!” his next, mushy words commanded. “Bake me my tarts!”

Pot-Pot returned to the kitchen and set to work. She followed every instruction from the torn page, to the very letter, so by twelve noon, the king had a steaming plate of breakfast tarts set before him.

“Now then,” bellowed the king, raising a tart in his hand. “This had better be my best tart ever. Understood?”

Pot-Pot, who was standing next to the king, and surrounded by guards, nodded. Oh, but she was frightened! For she knew the king was serious. If he thought the tart even a tiny bit flawed, her head would roll. She took a deep breath, swallowed, and waited.

The king tasted the tart.

An instant later, his eyes were all but popping from his face. “My word! What a tart! What a tart!” He took another bite, and then another, and then another. His face was pure joy as he chewed. He looked at Pot-Pot and said: “My dear girl! These are quite simply the most delicious breakfast tarts I have ever tasted! Congratulations!”

Pot-Pot allowed herself to breathe again, as she had been waiting for quite a long time. She clapped her hands. Her heart danced a merry jig in her chest. The tarts were a hit—the king loved them. And best of all, she would now get to keep her head.

***

As for the king, there were more surprises yet to come. For later that day there came a knock at the castle gate. The guards answered to find a tall, dashing man dressed in white.

“I am the king’s son,” the man said. “The prince. I must speak to my father at once.”

Some of the guards—the older ones—knew his words to be true, for they remembered with great clarity that fateful day the prince left the castle, never to return. At once they rushed him to the king’s side. Overcome with joy, the king wept, and hugged his dear son.

“My boy!” he gushed, tears streaming into his beard. “My boy has come home safe!”

“I am all right, father,” said the prince. “A great, ugly bear chased me into the forest, where I became lost and alone. But now the bear is slain.”

“Well done!”

“But father,” the prince said, poking the king’s prodigious belly. “You’ve grown so fat!”

And the king laughed happily through his tears. “I eat a lot.”

***

Night fell.

In the kitchen, Pot-Pot was helping to prepare a special celebration feast, in honor of the prince’s return. Many storage rooms surrounded the kitchen. At just before dusk, Pot-Pot found herself in one of these rooms, fetching a basket of potatoes. There came a noise from behind her. She whirled—

And there stood the most handsome man she had ever seen. There stood the prince.

For many moments neither she nor he spoke. But finally, the prince smiled, and said: “So you followed the instructions from my cook book.”

Pot-Pot gasped. “Oh, my goodness! Do you mean the breakfast tart recipe?”

“Indeed I do,” nodded the fair prince.

“My prince,” Pot-Pot explained, “the instructions were given to me by a troll. A most hideous, awful, ugly troll! I had no idea the cook book belonged to you! Had I known it was stolen—“

“Stop,” the prince commanded. His smile had vanished. Now he looked irritated. “Hideous, awful, and ugly, eh? Is that how you thank a creature for saving your life?”

“Well,” Pot-Pot said, after thinking this over, “no. I suppose that was rather rude of me. It’s just that I’m so frightened you’re angry.”

At this, the prince crossed the room, and took gentle hold of Pot-Pot’s hands. “Dearest baker girl, I am not angry. Quite the reverse. I am in love with you. I fell in love when you came to my cottage, desperate and alone.”

“I don’t understand.”

“Of course you don’t. I haven’t explained everything yet.”

“Then perhaps you’d better get to it.”

The prince frowned. “My, but you’re snippy with royalty all of a sudden. Is this going to be a habit?”

“Sorry.”

“Anyway…I am the troll you found at the cottage. The ugly, awful troll, yes,” he went on, seeing Pot-Pot make a face. “A kind witch once cast a spell on me, to make me handsome and tall. But only if I could save the life of a girl I truly love with all my heart.”

“And that girl is me?” Pot-Pot gasped.

“That girl,” the prince told her, “is most indubitably, beyond any and all questions, you. I gave my own breakfast tart recipe to bake for the king. Happily for the two us you didn’t botch it.”

“No, my prince. He liked it very much.”

The prince knelt on one knee. “Will you marry me, Pot-Pot?” he asked, still holding her hand. “Marry me and become my princess.”

And as you may imagine, the heart of the little baker’s apprentice became all aflutter. She gasped, she smiled, she straightened the buttons on her dress. Then she told him: “Yes, my prince! I would love to marry you!”

***

The king never found out the truth. He continued his reign thinking the troll prince was in fact his own son. He never found out…and I’ll never tell. You won’t tell him, either. Right?

Come now. I know Her Highness’s breakfast tart recipe. Learned it by heart. And if you promise never to tell, I’ll bake you a batch in the morning.

 

April 26, 2017


The Breakfast Tart Princess

  • Author: Tag Cavello
  • Published: 2017-04-28 04:20:08
  • Words: 3133
The Breakfast Tart Princess The Breakfast Tart Princess