ONCE UPON A TIME (trite as that may sound but true), there lived the fairest of maidens, a young lady of exceptional birth. A beauty inside and out, she was destined to be adored by the entire world from corner to corner and end to end. We shall call her Diana, for this is in fact a fairytale tribute to a real Diana who was and remains equally beloved around the globe. A princess those of us fortunate to have shared the earth with can never forget, and those who come aft her radiant age will regard indefinitely as a gentle spirit, a shining presence. And thus her light will never dim.
For she was The Queen Of Hearts.
Lady Di, the regal heroine of our story, dwelled near a forest fringe where plentiful woodland creatures romped and prowled.
Each manner of beast, great or small, fierce or benign, was smitten by the kindness and glowing reverence that emanated from this sweet woman's soul. A myriad of "fanimals" -- crawling, creeping, slinking, scurrying, lumbering, lunging, bunching, burrowing, sliding, springing, waddling, whittling, fluttering, flapping -- broadly flocked about her whenever she strolled. They made a riotous annoying clamor, so loud she could scarcely hear herself contemplate.
The serene girl was therefore motivated to frequent spaces where she might sit and ponder without the ruckus and commotion of her adulating followers. It was in a quiet secluded grove that she would encounter the dashing prince of her dreams.
Well, perhaps not dashing by traditional standards. He was not that young or flawless, not that bold or pure. He was imperfect as people are. Except, of course, for she. Diana's glory would be proclaimed on every lens to glance her way; on the surface of every glass or unrippled pond her visage graced.
My portrait is an idyllic idealist study, not a fault-sifting exposition. And yet, by Reality's harshest terms, Lady Di was and is an extraordinary symbol of humanity.
This fine glistening morn, she had snuck from the abbey she tended with her father and siblings (her favorite chore teaching at the orphanage) to perch on a log amidst a clearing. Mayhap she spared a brief sentiment, a waning recollection for the matriarch who deserted them eons ago. Perchance her intellect roamed to wistful yearnings of a life less impoverished. No one ought to be abandoned or poor in Diana's opinion. Whatever the mood, she was deeply concentrated when the prince of the land meandered into view. Actually, he bounded.
The prince, it happens, was bewitched by a local enchantress. The fellow had been reduced to the physical stature of a mere toad. A disgusting bumpy despicable toad, so vile and repulsive no available female (even the homeliest, the most shriveled prune) could possibly fall for him.
The spell's primary purpose -- while causing a wretched inconvenience for the victim -- was to prevent that staid target of the occultrist's affections from being snared by a more suitable match. The conniving sorceress herself, humbly born but highly ambitious, did not qualify to wed the kingdom's crown prince.