The Fall of the Rich Young Woman
There was once a young woman who was very rich and, as she lived in a castle and had lots of servants, seemed very important. People made curtsy to her and deferred their opinions until she had spoken. They laughed at her little jokes and complimented her silk dresses. And yet, though her life was paved with ease and grandeur, she had never found herself precisely happy.
Yet when the day came that she lost her castle and all her wealth, the loss was such that surely what she was before must have been called happiness. For now she was degraded and scoffed on, ridiculed and slandered and chased away until her silks turned to rags and all was misery.
She fled to the woods where she found an abandoned cottage. Now, there are some to whom this is the beginning of a perfect life, with freedom and independence and the opportunity to make something of yourself. But that is what those who have only read or dreamed fairy tales might think. They cannot feel the whole story. For those who have lived fairy tales, they know that the cottage had leaks, that the mice chewed all fabric and all boxes and all crates, that fleas infested every ounce of bedding, and that the holes in the sides of the house were so large that one could not quite call the hearth of the cottage an indoor space. Of course, too, the food stores in the cottage were long molded, and the cost of anything from the nearby village too dear. And all the young woman felt in the most miserable of moments when she could not help but observe herself was to know that she had lost favor in the eyes of God.
But, as this is a fairy tale, it was the cottage that pulled her from her misery. Or, rather, what was in it. For one day, as she did her best to set the one decrepit room to rights, she found tucked into the corner behind the rotten bedding a yellowing book of potions. In it were descriptions of edible plants, many of which grew in the weed-infested garden that surrounded the hovel cottage. She lived on those and what mushrooms, berries, and nuts she could find for a time. She grew thinner and weaker, but each day had just enough within her to bottle one potion beyond the gathering of her daily food.
Enough time passed to have something of a store of medicine set aside when a messenger boy fell in front of her cottage, ill from fever. She offered him a potion, and soon he was well enough to carry on his messages. It is perhaps needless to say that he carried news of her work as well.
The requests for potions came quickly. The young woman filled them up as fast as she could, though it took all the time in a day to make enough for what was asked. The payment came in food and cloth and warming spirits, and sometimes even a coin or two. It was always just enough to see to her garden and to her pantry, and to set a little aside.
So life went on, until one day when the young woman sat back and took stock of her life. Suddenly she found that though she was no longer important, she was useful. That was better, for it made her happy. And then life went on again.