Ardov Earing, email

ONCE upon a time, there was a prince who was cast under a spell by an evil witch. The curse was that the prince could speak only one word each year, or he would die. However, he could save up the words so that if he did not speak for a whole year, the following year he was allowed to speak two words.

One day, he met a beautiful princess and fell madly in love with her. With the greatest difficulty, he refrained from speaking for two whole years so that he could look at her and say: “My darling.”

But at the end of those two years, he wished to also tell her that he loved her. So he waited three more years without speaking, bringing the total number of silent years to five.

At the end of these five years, he realised that he had to ask her to marry him. So he waited another four years without speaking.

Finally, as the ninth year of silence ended, he led the lovely princess to the most secluded and romantic place in the beautiful royal garden. The prince knelt before her, and taking her hand in his, said: “My darling, I love you!

Will you marry me?”

And the princess tucked a strand of golden hair behind her dainty ear, opened her sapphire eyes in wonder, and parting her ruby lips, said: “Pardon?”