There once lived a king in a land not too far away, and he had three maidservants that tended a field with him. One spring he gathered them together and told them that after they all had sown the seeds together this year, he would be leaving to go to another land, but that he would return sometime during the harvest season. He also explained to them that upon his return, he would be choosing a queen from the three of them. “To be the chosen one, you must be prepared and do my will”, he said. So as he prepared to leave, he divided the field into three equal parts and told them that when harvest time comes that the field should be harvested and whoever was most prepared for his arrival would never work in a field again. So he departed for another land, and the three maidservants bid him farewell.
Now there was one of these maidservants who was very young and strong, her name was Mehira. And another one who was very beautiful, her name was Devira. And another that was neither strong nor beautiful, her name was Sarida. Each worked very hard throughout the spring and summer and into the beginning of autumn.
As harvest time finally reached its peak, they all decided to begin each to their own third of the field. Well, Mehira was very strong indeed, for she finished before the other two. And hearing rumor that the king’s return would be soon, she hurried back to the house and cleaned herself in preparation of the king’s arrival. She bathed, and dressed, and put fragrant oil on her wrists and neck. But as she waited in anticipation, she grew weary and fell asleep.
Now as Mehira was sleeping, Devira and Sarida heard the hoof beats of the coming of their king. So Devira ran back to the house to prepare herself by bathing, dressing, and putting on her own fragrant oil on her wrists and neck. And when she returned, she waited, staring off into the horizon looking earnestly for the king’s return. The king had told them they must be prepared for his return. However, in her haste she had not finished her section of the field. But she was very intent on watching, and she didn’t dare take her eyes off of the approaching king.
Serida, knowing that the king would soon arrive, hurried to finish her section of the field, and she did so with great efficiency. Then, looking around, she noticed Mehira sleeping and Devira gazing in anticipation with part of the field incomplete. So she hurried over to Mehira and said to her, “Hurry, let us finish the field together, for we hear the hoof-beats of the king’s horse drawing near!” But Mehira answered back, “My part is finished, and I will not soil my garments and sweat over the fragrant oil. Besides, look at Devira, it is her part of the field that is unfinished and she idles there staring at the horizon looking quite content.”
So Serida then ran across the field to Devira and said, “Let us finish together; the harvest is not complete!” But Devira replied, “I will not soil my garments and sweat over my fragrant oil. And besides, I am surely the most beautiful of the three of us and soon I will be queen and never have to work in this field again!”
In desperate submission, Serida raced to finish the harvest by herself, and she did so just as the king arrived at the edge of the field. As he dismounted his horse and crossed the field, he observed what was before him. Mehira was finished with her section and clean, but she appeared to have just awakened upon his arrival; he could tell by her eyes. And Devira, she was most beautiful and prepared and also finished with her section of the field. But what is this? Here is Serida, dirty and sweaty and just now finishing the field. The king marveled at the sight of his maidservants and wondered why they were so unprepared.
The king had nothing to say, but he listened to each of the maidservants give their testimony. In private with each, he listened to their heart plea to be queen. The king pondered for days and finally decided to gather the maidservants together to announce his decision:
“The harvest, my dear ladies, is the point. When I spoke of being prepared, what did you perceive to be prepared? When I spoke of doing my will, what did you consider to be my will? Is being queen more important than the harvest? I see selfishness and bitterness, neither of which are virtues of a queen. I see strength and efficiency in Mehira, I see beauty and honor in Devira, and I see the heart and humility in Sarida. Alas, my heart pains me for all these virtues are marks of a queen! But I cannot take the one and leave the others; I cannot choose a queen.”
The maidservants began to weep and they withdrew each to their own place and lamented over their selfishness. The king was left alone and broken hearted. All winter they went along in solemn silence, and the king spoke to them like the maidservants that they were.
As winter gave way to planting season, the king gathered the maidservants again at the field and proclaimed, “I depart once again for another land, and upon my return I will be choosing a queen, for I cannot bear being without a queen. The field is yours to plow, to sow, to tend, and to harvest; I will not divide the field. My precious maidservants, you must work together and reap a plentiful harvest. Let it be so.”
After the king’s departure, the maidservants decided to work as one. Mehira helped the other two with strength and strategy, Devira revealed to the other two the virtue of beauty and honor, and Sarida taught the other two the deepness of a loving heart. Each of the maidservants was transformed to reflect the others’ virtues, and the harvest was bountiful!
Now as the harvest was finished and stored, the maidservants prepared together for the arrival of their king. They had come to love one another and laughed at each other and embraced one another in friendship. As they stood at the edge of the field, they received their king with smiles on their faces.
The king marveled at the sight before him. The harvest is bountiful! The three maidservants were aglow with love. He announced his pleasure and the maidservants threw their arms around him and they all wept in joy.
After only a short while, the king stepped back from the maidservants to examine them. They had all been beautiful to behold when he arrived, he recognized the bond they had for each other, he recognized how wonderfully they had worked together, and he noticed that they had come to love one another. Now as he examines them: their celebration has smudged their powder, the salt in their tears has mingled with the fragrant oil, and their dresses are a mess from embracing one another. The king’s heart broke with love for his faithful and beautiful maidservants.
The king announced that he would marry all three, and all rejoiced! The maidservants rejoiced that they shall be not only queens but also life-long friends. The king rejoiced at his blessing, and all the land heard of the wedding that followed. All this happened in a land not too far away…