Snowey & the Three Bears
Through the twitter of bird song, and her sleep, Snowey heard the tramping of feet. “Great”, she thought, “Bumble-tum’s not alone.” She pushed off the coverlet, swung her feet off the couch and into her dainty shoes. She smoothed her hair, brushed down her skirt, rubbed her teeth clean with salt from the table, and stepped out to see.
From the forest, in line, came dwarves, carrying their lunchboxes, and assorted tools – shovel, pick-axe, grubber, and one box marked [XXX – DANGER]. There were seven, singing some little witty ditty as they came. Until they spotted her. They stopped, those in the rear bumping into those in front.
“ ‘Ere – ‘oo are you?” demanded the oldest, wiping his arm across his nose.
“Ugh, what are you?” Snowey cheeked him back. “I’m Princess Snow White, but you may call me Snowey.”
“ An ‘you c’n call me Gramps. Watchoo doin; ‘ere, ven?” He came closer – right close –the others shuffled forward after him, moving to get a good look.
“I have nowhere to go. Please, may I live here, with you handsome dwarves’?”
Gramps wanted to know more.
“ ‘Oo sent you out nowhere?” he demanded. “An’ where’re you s’posed to be headin’, then, eh?”
Snowey lowered her face, looked up at him through her eyelashes (as all good princesses know to do) and whispered “To a nunnery, sir. But my escort has abandoned me, and I am alone”.
“Well, if you can cook, an keep up wiv seven sets o’ laundry a day, you can stay. No sleepin’ upstairs but. We’ll find you a place for yerse’f”.
_ _ _ _ _
She never admitted to the dwarves, but Princess Snowey had flirted so often with men within palace and town, her worried step-mother Queen Rolly had her followed by the chambermaid, who brought back a list of a week’s dalliances.
“These are those I recognised, Your Majesty,” she bobbed a curtsey and handed a paper over.
“Oh, my word!” gasped Rolly. The list read names from royalty down through palace staff and military ranks to a stable-boy and a blacksmith’s bellows boy!
To keep Snowey’s chastity safe, Queen Rolly ordered her servant, Bumble-tum, “Escort Snowy directly to the nunnery farthest beyond the deep forest.”
Riding together through the forest all day, Bumble-tum realised – he would miss the Fair and Festival!. He detoured and brought them to a cottage. Inside, it was reasonably clean, maybe dusty on the floor; seven small beds on a mezzanine. Bumble-tum suggested she rest on a small settle under a sunny window.
“I’ll ride back to town, and let a friend know I’ll be away for some time,” he said.
“The Fair and Festival having nothing to do with this at all, of course,” chuckled Snowey.
“Oh, no, your Highness, not at all,” he lied. “I’ll be back early tomorrow.” He wasn’t.
_ _ _ _ _
It was more work than she’d expected – but, better than any nunnery. Snowey became adept at reading each dwarve’s preferred leisure and meals. She carefully catered for Gramps – he might change his mind at any irritation. She swept, dusted, baked, tended gardens, prepared their crib (no, not their bed; the miner’s tin box of food and water to eat under-ground ). She learned to make bees’ wax candles for their helmets, and to check oil in their lamps.
The dwarves were appreciative, bringing her flowers, fresh wild berries, a singing bird in a cage… and smiles – lots of smiles. Gramps was beginning to guess why she’d been on her way to a nunnery. Gramps especially noted the time Hunky spent with her – but could it be a surprise, as they were falling in love?
One day, Snowey drew Hunky aside to the edge of the clearing. “Hunky, I have to talk to you,” she murmured. As they neared the log seat, he guessed what was coming next. (How could he not? He’d been sneaking downstairs to her for many a night.)
“When’s th’ bub to arrive?” he asked, slipping his arm about her waist and giving her a reassuring squeeze.
Gramps may have been the eldest, but his hearing was the sharpest. “Wossat? A bub? You got ‘er up th’ duff, di’n’cha?” and he slapped Hunky up the back of his head. “Well, missy, that’s yer lot, Soon as bub’s arrived, you’re outa ‘ere!”
_ _ _ _ _
Months later, with baby in a basket across her back, Snowey, wandering the forest, stopped in a clearing, to feed Hank, and rest.
She heard rustling, snuffling, breaking twigs underfoot – when three bears pushed out from the undergrowth, she screamed. Her only experience of bear was watching a carcass brought in for butchery and feasting, or listening to hunters’ tales of bears’ ferocity.
She scrambled backwards, dragging Hank’s basket with her, hoping to slip away into the forest.
“Hush, love; we’ll not hurt you”, soothed the medium-sized one. ”Have you seen a girl, with tawny, curly hair, probably a bit scruffy after running for three days?”
“No,” Snowey said. “Who is she, and why chase her?”
The other two bears laughed. “Chasing her?” said the smallest “We’re trying to bring her back home.”
“She’s our housekeeper – has been since we caught her. Broke into the house, stole Bubba’s food, broke his chair, slept in his bed and tore the covers. She’s been working off the damage ever since. She took off, said we’d held her for long enough. But in the wrong direction; her home’s back the way we’ve come, past our place.”
Hank started to cry, and Snowey, felt herself beginning to tear up too. Momma Bear lifted Hank’s basket and rocked him back to sleep.
“Oh, you poor wee thing – a mother and so young. Come back to our house; you can live there till baby’s outgrown the cot. Bubba, you can get it from the attic.”
“Yeah”, said the largest bear “You’ll be doing Goldie’s work from now.”
_ _ _ _ _
Just then, Snowey was relieved to see Gramps and Hunky arrive. They’d followed Snowey to make sure she was safe. Bears and dwarves introduced themselves, and discussed the erratic and irrational behaviour of human housekeepers.
The dwarves had decided –Hunky was going to start building a cottage for his own family – Gramps orders. Snowy threw her arms around Gramps’ neck and kissed him on his bristly cheek.
“’Ere, Snowey, ‘ang on – that’s wot got you in this mess inna first place! Cor, settle
dahn, girl” Hunkey was definitely embarrassed by Snowey’s display of gratitude.
“Mr and Mrs Bear, I’ll be happy to bring Hank to your home and keep house, while Hunkey builds our own place”, Snowey remembered her court courtesy well. She curtsied, picked up Hank’s basket and followed them to their house.
_ _ _ _ _
Two days later, at the Dwarves cottage, as they were eating the fresh bread (Snowey had taught Greedie how to bake) and honey (a gift from the bears) there came a timid knock at the door.
Stumpey stumped over to open it. There was a young girl, with tawny-blonde curly tangled hair.
“Yer, watcha want ‘ere,” Stumpey managed around his mouthful.
“I’m lost, and don’t know which way to go. May I come in and rest the night?” she pleaded.
“Oy!” Gramps called. “You th’ girl called Goldie wat did hahsekeepin’ for them Bears?” Come on in, girl, an’ lessee wot we can find for you.”
© Lynne R McAnulty-Street, Rotorua NZ, 2011