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Story - Tales of Kings, The Dovekeeper

The Dovekeeper

A tale of Kings

Once upon a time, long ago in a kingdom not too far away, the King’s Dove keeper died. The little dove house in which he died, resided beautifully in the royal garden and was very important to the King. While other Kingdoms used regular homing pigeons or the occasional well-trained falcons for their private correspondences, the King used his beloved white doves. The dove house was not far from the King his private rooms and windows. Therefore, he was always able to send his personal letters at any time to whomever he pleased. However, the King’s faithful counsellors thought it not important to inform the King of the loss of a mere dove keeper and issued to find a replacement right away. Important as his doves were to him, the King had been completely unaware of the replacement of this employee. A new dove keeper was found and all went on as before.

Not a year had passed and the King finally started to notice a difference. The doves that came and went to deliver his letters seemed more obedient, healthy, friendly and quite radiant. The newborns were spotless and their beaks and claws were of a beautiful pinkish colour. The King thought it to be because the change of seasons had come late, or even because of a mere coincidence, so he paid no mind to the change. Only after the radiance and extreme change of his doves were mentioned in his personal correspondence, the King could no longer overlook it. He personally demanded an explanation and drastically gathered all his counselors.

‘Why was I not informed?!’ the King bellowed in a deep, loud voice. He was quite upset when he heard of the loss of his former Dove Keeper. ‘I had personally examined him years ago for the task, for the Dove Keeper is capable of accessing and tampering with my personal correspondences.’ said the King. ‘How can I put trust in a new servant if I have not inspected his character for myself? How am I to rule over my people if I do not know them?’

The counselors mumbled to themselves and each other, because they knew the King was right, of course. Then, the counselor responsible for finding the new Dove Keeper stepped forward.

‘Your Majesty, it was I who is at fault for not informing your Majesty of the death of the Dove Keeper, and of the renewal of the Dove Keeper’s position’, he said, and bowed his head, asking for forgiveness. ‘I did not think your Majesty would have thought the change of employment important. I was gravely mistaken. But know this, your Majesty: I was aware of the delicacy of your private affairs and have judged the new Dove Keeper myself. I concluded that it would be unlikely that this uneducated creature would tamper with your Majesty’s affairs.’

The King was a bit puzzled by this remark and looked at all his counselors for answers. ‘Your Majesty could imagine the state we were in when we had found the former Dove Keeper dead’, they said, and then they began to explain their findings, their reasons for the replacement and the concealment of the new Dove Keeper.

You see, when the former Dove Keeper died and they were in need of a replacement, one of the counselors, was on his way to a meeting when he came across a harmless, homeless creature sitting in the gardens. At first, the counselor wished to call the guards to remove the intruder, for how on earth had he entered the castle’s walls. But when he approached the poor creature of a man, he saw the King’s doves circle around him. It almost seemed as if the doves were naturally drawn to the poor creature sitting between the flower pots in the gardens. When the counselor drew near and spoke to the creature, an honest and gentle voice answered. The counselor discovered a guard had fallen asleep, which had allowed the creature to wander inside and admire the gardens. It did not think anyone would take notice of him, and then he apologized politely and offered to leave. However, as soon as he did, the doves began to follow him out of the castle, for they had grown instantly attached to him. The counselor could stop him from leaving before he left together with all the doves. Then, the counselor was facing a dilemma: he couldn’t employ any mere stranger as the new Dove Keeper, yet the doves would not leave this stranger of whom we speak. Not even the former Dove Keeper had such a natural gift with the doves. Not even, he confessed, the King himself. The counselor mused with the idea, then took one last good look at the tattered, dirty, homeless yet clearly harmless and gentle creature. Then, being positive this stranger was trustworthy enough, offered him to stay at the castle to become the new Dove Keeper for the King’s doves. After much thought and nervous contemplation, the creature accepted.

‘I must also include’, said the counselor, ‘ever since the creature was given this new position, it never left the dove house. There, he has humbly resided. The maids bring him bread and water each day, for he wishes nothing else. He never associates with any of them nor any other servants.’

‘You do not think of this as strange behavior?’ Asked the King.

‘Yes, your Majesty. And no, your Majesty’, answered the counselor. ‘At first glance he is indeed a strange and filthy creature. Quite repulsive. None wish to stay in his presence for long. Nonetheless, none is truly bothered by him, because of his politeness, gentleness and noticeably good work. Also, the King’s doves have come to love him. It is so that we came to the conclusion that when a shy animal takes a liking to another creature, the creature cannot be bad natured or have cruel intentions.’

The King agreed on the last remark, for it was his teaching which the counselor preached. The King was still a bit troubled, however, with all that he had heard. “Quite repulsive, yet polite and gentle?” To the King it all sounded suspicious and strange, because he had not met this strange creature himself and could not form his own conclusions. The King dismissed his counselors and gave a warning never to withhold any other changes in the future. He returned to his private room and went to his window, where he could look down to the dove house. No one was seen, except the doves walking around. Then, the King started to come up with an idea. He decided to go down personally and judge the character of the dove keeper himself. It was never done before, a king visiting a servant unannounced and unaccompanied. But why not? The castle is his home and he still did not trust the Dove Keeper with his personal affairs in reach. By meeting him unexpectedly, he hoped to discover what kind of creature this new, strange and mysterious Dove Keeper truly is. And so, the king ventured to his gardens, alone and unannounced to where the dove house resided.

The King arrived to the little dove house and began to wonder; How can a man live within such a small dove house. For a dove it is perfect, but for a man it is much too small. The dove house was built many years ago by the King’s grandfather. The faded colours stained the walls and the wood had splintered, but it still kept its architectural beauty and was clearly built to last for another hundred years. The King knocked on the little door, but no one answered. He knocked again, more angrily, and he could hear the doves suddenly stirred inside. Someone approached the door. The door creaked open just a little and a soft voice, soft as a whisper, asked: ‘Who knocks on this door at this uncommon hour? The servants are all busy and it is not yet time for supper.’ His voice was soothing and disarming. The King did not expect this. He replied, ‘I wish to meet the keeper of the King’s doves. I have heard much of him. Step out and present yourself.’

The door almost closed. ‘Much is heard of me, you say? Ah, I see.’ was said from behind the door. His voice had become sad. ’This muchness cannot be a good much, for I am a poor pauper turned keeper by the good mercy of the King’s counselor. Therefore ,you cannot wish to meet a pauper turned Keeper like me’, said the Dove Keeper. A shy creature? Or is he afraid I will hurt him? the King thought to himself. I shall reveal myself and see how he will reply.

The King lowered his voice and harshly replied: ‘The good mercy of my counselor? Yes, he is indeed a good man with good intentions when he turned you into the new Keeper. His good nature is one of the main reasons why he is in my court, but I always wish, and always have wished, that I inspect my servants in the flesh before employing them in my home and in my gardens. There he has made a big mistake.’ The King smiled a little for successfully presenting himself as angry although he was not. The Dove Keeper realized who was speaking and the King noticed there was a slight hesitation and shudder when he opened the door. When the dove keeper eventually did open the door, the King was first met with a flock of doves flying out in the King’s view. White feathers blocked the King’s eyes while the Dove Keeper stepped out. The feathers were blown away by the wind and the King lifted his hand to his face to cover the smell which met him first. He had to compose his emotions of shock and horror when he first glanced at the Dove Keeper, for he was covered from head to toe with the doves’ feces, straw and other unrecognizable dirt of which the King did not wish to know the origin. His hair contained leaves, twigs, feathers and other disgusting filth which hid his face completely. Vile, unrecognizable, brown, white and green filth covered so much of his body that the layers of tattered robes underneath were barely visible. The horrid, fecal stench that arose from his presence was alarming to the King. When the King observed a little closer, he saw that, among the filth, three beautiful white doves were resided on the Keeper’s shoulders and seemed to be sleeping peacefully. Another dove had made her nest in his right side pocket.

‘Please forgive me, my King. If I knew you were the one knocking on this door, I would have never let your Majesty wait’, said the Dove keeper. Again, his voice was disarming, soothing, soft and gentle, but with a hint of nervous fear. The King lowered his hand, collected himself and tried to ignore the smell that made his eyes water. How can anyone live like this? The King thought. He had never anyone, not even the poorest of paupers, to be in a state like this poor creature before him. However, examining the creature, seeing his harmlessness and gentleness clearly, the King understood why the counselor employed him. He took pity on him, thought the King, and seeing him, so do I. The doves sitting on the Keeper and moving around him so peacefully, softened the hideous appearance to the King and he was reminded how much good work this strange creature had done in such a small measure of time. He has shown diligence in his work, but pity or not, I still have to find out his character and trustworthiness. At this point, though, I am not sure how, the King thought, and he stood in silence quite a while. The Dove Keeper stood before him, almost bowing his head to the ground, not daring to gaze into the King’s eyes while he awaited a reaction. However, the King was  still speechless and lost for words. The long silence eventually became too much for the Dove Keeper, who shifted nervously.

‘Does my appearance disturb your majesty?’ the Dove keeper asked sadly. Again, the soothing voice snapped the King from his thoughts and he finally spoke:

‘I cannot tell a lie. I fear your appearance does alarm me greatly’. The Dove Keeper quietly sighed and bowed even further. ‘Then I shall remove myself from my position and take my leave, so I can not disturb your Majesty any further’, said the Dove Keeper. He turned around and started to walk away, but the King immediately put up his hand. ‘No. Stay. Do not go’, he said.

‘But my appearance disturbs your Majesty. It is only natural for me to leave’, said the Dove Keeper, clearly surprised the King ordered him to stay.

‘It is true that I am very alarmed to see any man in the condition you are in, but however you have been treated in the past, I have learnt not to treat my people the same way. On the contrary’, said the King, although he was clearly concerned about the filth before him. He composed himself and tried to stay clear of any prejudice. ‘My doves are very precious and important to me and you have done formidable work since you have taken the position as the new Dove Keeper. It is the reason why I have come down to meet personally’.

The Dove Keeper looked up, but still didn’t gaze upon the King. His face was hidden behind hair, feathers and dirt. He nervously started fidgeting with his hands.

‘But I am a pauper, vile creature who has touched the doves your hands have touched, that your close companions have touched.’ The Dove keeper said. The King had not thought about this. It was true the very idea seemed horrid, let alone if his close friends would discover such a sight. The King then looked upon the doves surrounding him and all were clean, gleaming and beautiful like no other bird he had ever seen.

‘As I said before, your work has been formidable. The doves are healthier than ever before, therefore all is fine. Still, I am curious. How have you come to be like this?’ asked the King and gestured towards the Dove Keeper’s attire. The Dove Keeper bowed again.

‘My past may be considered a sad one. One that has happened so long ago, I myself have forgotten what had come to pass, nor do I feel I wish to remember. As for my vile appearance, I have wandered homeless and penniless through many lands and many kingdoms. I have been cast out of many villages and towns. No one has shown me kindness because of my hideous appearance, which has worsened through the many years I have wandered. I did not mind. I was glad I was alive and not dying tomorrow. My life only consisted of wandering, until not too long ago when I saw a dove flying by, a creature I dearly love. I had unknowingly followed it into your gardens where your counselor found me. Before he could cast me out and call the guards, I volunteered to leave freely. Yet when I did, he offered me the position as Dove Keeper.’

‘And here we stand’, said the King. ‘I have heard this tale from my counselors. You were given this position without my knowledge, however.’

‘Of this, I must confess, I was aware, your Majesty’, said the Dove Keeper. He stood up straighter, yet still didn’t gaze upon the King and leant against the dove house. ‘I cannot lie to your Majesty, so I must confess my hopes were that you would never find out of my existence in fear of banishment. Serving you, even in non existence, has been the happiest I have ever been.’

The Dove Keeper’s words, spoken in his soothing, warm voice, brought a smile upon the King’s face. Humble and sincere. Good. Very good, the King thought. He said nothing and began to walk around the dove house. He examined its exterior. It was very well cared for since his last visit. Perhaps a layer of paint is in order, the King thought. Then, he leaned inside and examined the interior of the dove house. It was small: one could hardly stand inside. The doves, on the other hand, lay comfortably in their nests and enjoyed sitting on the pools. All was clean and ironically, the smell was less horrid than the smell which came from the Dove Keeper. How can he live in here? the King thought and turned to the Dove Keeper, who was fidgeting nervously with his hands again.

‘Why do you not live with the servants? Be among fellows? Change your attire?’ the King asked. The Dove Keeper gestured to himself and then raised his hands, on which doves flocked right away.

‘The people do not like me, nor are fond of me, in contrast to these creatures. I do not mind, however. I have a love for doves and the doves for me, so I remain with them, making me able to care for them fully, without standing in the way of others’, the Dove Keeper said.

‘I see, I see’, the King said and he stroked his short beard. ‘I have heard enough’.

The Dove Keeper was now shaking and fidgeting away, whilst awaiting the King’s next reaction. The King could clearly see that the Dove Keeper was worried and terrified of being sent away.

‘Do not fear. I shall not sent you away. On the contrary, I shall hide you here. Nothing shall change, and for all your formidable work I offer you a reward’, the King proudly said. ‘And not just any reward. I will give you a reward of your choosing. Name it and you shall have it.’

The Dove Keeper was astonished. ‘A reward, your Majesty?’ he asked. The King smiled and nodded.

‘But I cannot receive such an offer, your Majesty. A pauper like me? I do not wish to cause jealousy among the servants, nor do I wish to taint your good name.’

‘I am well known for my generosity. So please, I insist’, said the King.

’Oh dear. If your Majesty insists, then I will obey’, the Dove Keeper said and began to think. And think. And think. The King waited patiently while a dove came to greet him. Then, the dove keeper looked up.

‘A book, your Majesty’, the Dove Keeper said.

‘A book?’ the King asked, surprised.

‘Yes, your Majesty. I remember them fondly from when I was a child. In those days I would read them every day, but it has been so long since. I hope I am still able to read’, the Dove Keeper explained. The King pondered on this answer for a while. Not everybody has the ability to read, he thought. Few are fortunate enough to be in possession of books. How peculiar.

‘Which book would you like to have?’ the King asked.

‘A book about birds, your Majesty. In particular about doves’, said the Dove Keeper, without hesitation. ‘With more knowledge, I can improve my care for the doves, if it will please your Majesty.’ 

 ‘It would please me greatly’, the King answered. ‘As you wish, a humble reward it may be, a servant will deliver it later today.’

The King took his leave. The Dove Keeper stayed bent until he could no longer hear the King's footsteps. He then lifted his head, fidgeted with his hands and went quickly inside the dove house where he felt safe and warm.

As promised, the King made sure a book about birds was delivered to the dove house, but although he found the Dove Keeper loyal and humble, he didn’t feel at ease without knowing the Dove Keeper’s origin. So, he gave the counselor, who had appointed the Dove Keeper, the assignment to discover the Dove Keeper’s past. But to no avail. The counselor traveled long distances and listened to the tales about a filthy creature wandering into a kingdom or a town or a village. The only information the counselor could report to the King, however, were tales of cruelty, for the Dove Keeper was cast out of every place he turned to. His origins remained a mystery. Although saddened by the tale, the King was not pleased with the report, but he knew the Dove keeper had spoken true of his past and therefore no one had need of distrusting him, so all went on as before.

 

 


In the meanwhile, the Dove Keeper had almost devoured the book he had received from the King and had used his new knowledge to good use. The newborn doves grew up even more radiant, healthy and more importantly, stronger and faster in delivering the King’s personal letters. Soon, the whole Kingdom was talking about it and then the neighboring kingdoms were talking about it. Good friends of the King, lords and ladies, barons and baronesses, dukes and duchesses, were very curious on how it came to be that the doves which were send to them were so radiant. The King, who could not tell a lie, said proudly that it was the work of his brilliant Dove Keeper. Yet, however radiant the doves may have been, however proud the King of the improvement and the attention, rumors about the Dove Keeper started to spread. Rumors about how dirty the Dove Keeper was. About how filthy and how ugly. Soon, the rumors came across the King’s ears too. The King even received questions from his friends, lords and ladies, about the rumours they heard. Ill remarks to which the King replied:

‘You mustn’t believe whispers in the wind. Gossip is the lowest thing.’

However true that was, the King didn’t and couldn’t deny the rumors, for he could not lie. He slowly but surely brought himself in a tough position. The little Dove Keeper knew nothing of the commotion, of course. He was working and living quite peacefully within the dove house. The King and his counselors, however, did not expect to receive just negative reaction from the people in hearing about the appearance of the dove keeper. To the King's amazement, it truly brought a dark cloud over the kingdom. So the court was assembled.

‘They are but rumors’, one counselor said.

‘Rumors vanish quite quickly’, the second counselor said.

‘But rumors can damage the Kings integrity’, the third counselor said.

‘And leave a stain on our Kingdom by other Lords and masters’, the fourth counselor said.

‘But we cannot dismiss the Dove Keeper’, the fifth counselor said.

‘No, none in the world can raise doves like he can’, the sixth counselor said.

‘Yet his presence remains the problem’, the first counselor said, and so on and so forth. There was no end to it. Amidst the discussion, the King was pondering silently, hearing all that was said and trying to come up with a solution. All of a sudden, the discussion was put to a halt, for a dove flew in through the window, carrying a letter for the King. The King read it silently while the counselors awaited the King’s orders patiently. But then, the King sprang up from his throne, startling the counselors.

‘Written here,. my friends, Lords and Ladies, wish to come visit my castle and admire the dove house’, said the King. Now the counselors, too, sprang up. ‘They wish to arrive in two weeks.’

‘We can not refuse them to come. What shall we do, your Majesty?’ asked a counselor. Everybody focused on the King, but he became calm and began to think. He puzzled and mused over possibilities. Suddenly, he got it.

‘Of course! How simple’, the King said and raised his arm. ‘Assemble our best builders. In two weeks, we can restore the dove house to its former glory. When it is completed, let the servants place a bathtub behind it and they will clean the Dove Keeper until he appears no longer like a pauper. Wash him, clothe him, perfume him, do what is necessary.’

It was no sooner said than done. The counselors called upon the best and fastest builders in town and were set to work right away. The servants were called to find the biggest tub they could find for the hardest clean-up they could ever imagine. And our poor Dove keeper? He knew nothing. The poor creature was placed outside the dove house and was only told that the King commanded the dove house to be restored to its former glory.

‘Well, if the good King commands it, I shall obey’, the Dove Keeper said. He held his tattered book about birds close and sat on a bench nearby. There, he watched the builders build like mad. The doves were rattled by the builders, at first, but they soon found peace near the Dove Keeper. There, they sat quietly on the bench or on their Keeper each day and watch the builders build. Each night, the Dove Keeper was allowed back inside, to sleep. In the mornings, he was thrown out, so the builders could continue to restore the dove house. The rebuilding took twelve days. About this time, the Dove Keeper became anxious and afraid he would never again be able return to the dove house. The house which he considered to be his home, now. He was relieved when the builders said they had finished and left for home. When he wanted to re-enter the dove house, however, to examine which changes the builders had made, he was suddenly surrounded by five old maids. They were big and broad and wrinkled their noses at the horrid odour the Dove Keeper emitted. The youngest carried a large bucket full of soap in one hand and held a splendid new tunic in the other.

‘No running away inside’, the oldest maid said.

‘Why not? Have I done something wrong?’ asked the Dove Keeper. The maids giggled.

‘No need to worry, chap. You’ve done nothing wrong. It’s the King’s orders’, said the youngest of the maids. The Dove Keeper began to fidget with his hands.

‘Well, if it is the King’s orders, then I will obey. But uhm… what are the King’s orders?’ the Dove Keeper asked. The old maids now laughed and rolled up their sleeves.

‘You’ll soon find out’, they said while they grabbed the poor Dove Keeper and dragged him towards the back of the dove house where a big bathtub was placed. Other servants were bringing water from the well and some of the old maids went to fetch hot water for comfort. The youngest maid poured most of the soap into the bathtub and when she turned to the terrified and confused dove keeper, she said: ‘I think we are going to need more soap than this.’

When the tub was filled and only the five maids were left, they threw the Dove Keeper into the water without warning and began the biggest clean-up of their lives. However, they had barely started when a counselor came running up to them in a frenzy.

‘The King’s visitors have come two days early! They are already here’, he said. ‘They wish to see the dove house and the Dove Keeper. Is he ready?’

‘We’ve just thrown him in, Sir. He isn’t ready yet’, said the oldest maid. The counselor started panicking and the Dove Keeper popped up his head from the water.

‘Visitors of the King wish to meet me?’ said a soft voice from the bathtub. All heads turned to the small figure in the bathtub whose face was visible for the first time since his arrival. All jaws dropped.

Meanwhile, the King was welcoming his guests. The Lord and lady, the Duke and Duchess, the Baron and Baroness, arrived on horses and in carriages. The King was pleased to see his friends, yet he, too, was in a frenzy about their early arrival. There were three ladies in total who exited their carriages and three gentlemen who stepped off their horses.

‘Welcome!’ the King greeted.

‘Our greetings, your Majesty, and our apologies, your Majesty’, said the Lord.

‘Yes. We are so sorry, your Majesty. It has been so long since we have last visited you’, said the Lady.

‘Quite right. We could hardly contain our excitement and decided to come earlier’, said the Duchess.

‘We hope your Majesty is not angry with us?’ asked the Duke.

‘No, no no’, the King said. ‘I am very pleased to see my friends again. You must all be exhausted from your journey. Come inside and recover your strength.’

‘Oh, but we are so keen on seeing the dove house’, said the baroness.

‘Indeed. It is why we have come all this way. To silence our curiosity’, said the Baron.

‘And the rumours’, said the Baroness.

‘Aha, I see’, said the King. ‘Well, I fear—’ but the King was interrupted by the arrival of three beautiful white doves that flew down to the three ladies, each carrying a beautiful flower from the garden, which they gave to the ladies. Then, they flew away in the direction of the garden.

‘How lovely! ’said the ladies. ‘Your Majesty has quite outdone himself.’

‘I cannot lie and must tell, I did not prepare this lovely welcome’, said the King, fully amazed and baffled himself of the splendour he had just witnessed.

‘Shall we follow them to the gardens? The garden is always so lovely this time of year’, the lady said and the party set move towards the garden’s gates.

‘My friends, are you sure you do not need any refreshments from your long journey?’ the King implored.

‘The ladies truly wish to put the horrid rumours to rest. To even think you have a filthy pauper in your service is unthinkable’, said the Baron.

‘I too cannot believe such nonsense. I have cast many a pauper vermin out of my estate. The King would never employ a pauper to take care of his precious doves’, said the Duke.

‘We will soon silence the rumours’, said the Lord. They all entered the garden. The King had no choice now, but to follow. He closed the distance and for a minute implored them to stop and listen.

‘Please, my friends, I know you are very keen to meet the Dove Keeper, for you all have heard many rumours. As my friends, however, I must implore you to be kind. Withhold yourself and allow me to tell you the whole truth.’

The Lords and Ladies looked at each other with surprise. The King lead on and all followed him towards the dove house. However, when approaching the dove house, the King saw his counselor running towards them. The counselor arrived, bowed and then whispered to the King. ‘Your Majesty. The Dove Keeper. Before your Majesty proceeds, your Majesty must know—’ but the King raised his hand and the counselor seized speaking.

‘It is alright, good man. All will be revealed in due time’, the King said and walked on. His party followed.

‘But, your Majesty—’, the counselor implored, but the King and party went on. The counselor had no choice but to follow. Then, in the distance, the dove house was in sight.

‘Oh, how beautiful!’ exclaimed the Baroness.

‘We had it restored’, the King said. ‘Now it will remain standing for another thousand years.’

Then, the King saw a figure standing before the dove house, surrounded by doves, already bowing for the King’s arrival. Who else could it be, but the Dove Keeper, the King thought. Yet, when he grew closer, he could see a splendid tunic. The maids must have dressed him, the King thought. Two doves sat on the Dove Keeper’s shoulder. The King approached him and saw fair white-golden hair gleaming in the sun.

The maids must have also cleaned him, the King thought. When they arrived, the figure raised and the King was gazing upon deep-dark eyes, pale yet divine skin and lips as lusciously pink as the most beautiful flower. The King was gazing upon a beautiful maiden, dressed in a man’s tunic. Confused, he turned to his counselor.

‘What is the meaning of this? Where is the Dove Keeper?’ he whispered.

‘I tried telling your Majesty. This is the Dove Keeper. The very same’, answered the counselor. The King did not believe him, at first.

‘Your Majesty, lords and ladies. I bid you welcome, for I am truly honored to be in such wonderful presence’, the King heard. It was the same soothing, disarming voice which he had heard before. He turned towards her and saw how she fidgeted with her hands. Same voice, same nervous movements. The doves around her. There was no denying it. This beautiful maiden was the filthy and dirty creature the King had met before.

‘I hope you find my small tokens of welcome are to your liking?’ the Dove Keeper continued.

‘Indeed, they are beautiful!’ said the Baroness. The Duke and Duchess and Baron and Baroness took a look around the dove house, while the Dove Keeper performed a trick or two with the doves to show how well-trained and how beautifully raised they were. All was applauded. However, the King was still a little struck and remained staring silently at the maiden who was his Dove Keeper. The very same he had met many a day ago.

‘Your Majesty, she is radiant. She seems a turtledove herself. This is indeed not the horrid creature we have heard so many rumours about’, whispered the lord into the King’s ear. ‘Indeed not. Why did your Majesty made us believe the rumours to be true?’ whispered the Lady into the other ear.

‘Because it WAS true!’ the King spoke loudly.

All looked at the King with astonishment.

‘True, your Majesty?’ asked the Duchess, and the King began to speak.

‘This stunning creature before us had wandered into our gardens as a pauper, discarded wrench. We even mistook her for a man. The world turned her away. We too were prejudiced at first, but she was willing and humble to work as my Dove Keeper, after the former Dove Keeper died. We gave her a home in my home. Our kindness, understanding and trust were tested, first by my counselor and then by myself, but in the end, this pauper turned maiden has taught me a valuable lesson’.

The King turned towards the Dove Keeper.

‘Those truly humble will always be rewarded for their diligence, effort and everlasting kindness’.

The King turned to his guests.

‘Those who simply judge with super visual superiority will be punished by their own shortcoming and ignorance, for a princess may have the cold heart of a viper, while a pauper may have the heart of the purest kind.’

All looked away in shame, bowing their heads and remaining tongue-tied for the rest of their visit.

 

 

 

Not long after the revelation, the entire kingdom heard new rumours about the Dove Keeper; rumours of her beauty and the cause of her poverty. Some say it was due to losing her family and property in a fire. Some say it was the sea, for she had to have come from foreign land. Some say she ran away, because her beauty must have been a curse, and so on, and so on. The stories were endless, and although the rumours of the Dove keeper went on even outside of the kingdom, she herself remained silent. The truth was never known. Not even by the King, who occasionally visited the Dove Keeper. When the King had married, he and his children would visit the Dove Keeper and she would always be there, caring for the doves. From the King’s window he could watch her feed the doves and see how she rejected every proposal of marriage from every other male servant, even a counselor or two. The King saw how she grew older, as he grew older, until one day the King died. His successor changed the royal crest in the late Kings honor by adding three royal doves: a crest shield which was also placed upon the dove house where the Dove Keeper herself still remained. Even at old age, she remained with the doves and every day she would walk out, look upon the crest and think of her former King to whom she was so very grateful. Grateful for a home, grateful for her doves, grateful for her happiness. And many, many years later, as our story once began, a long time ago in a kingdom not to far away, the King’s Dove keeper Died. Peacefully.


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