Adrianna was wandering through the woods again. She felt comfortable there away from people. Her morning chores on their farm had been completed early, as usual. She enjoyed the solitude, the animals, and the smells of the forest. She was sitting on a log at the edge of the glen daydreaming about being pretty. She always wondered what she would have looked like if she wasn’t burned in the barn fire. Adrianna was startled back to reality when she heard a crash behind her. She could hear moaning coming from the direction of the noise and went to investigate. An old lady sat up in the ferns rubbing her head.
“Are you alright?” Adrianna asked walking up the lady.
“Oh my, yes! I am so clumsy sometimes. I tripped over that fallen log hidden by the ferns.” The lady said pointing to the half decayed log she had tripped over.
Adrianna extended her hand, helping the lady stand up.
“Thank you young lady.” The old lady said looking curiously at her face.
“Were you in a fire?” The old lady asked looking closer.
“Yes I was; ten years ago when I was nine. That’s why I like to spend my days in the woods, so people won’t see me.”
The old lady took pity on the young girl. She told Adrianna that she had magic hat at her home that was enchanted long ago and had a special power. The first man that sees a woman wearing it will believe her to be the most beautiful woman in the world and will instantly fall in love with her. The old lady cautioned that once this happened, that the hats power would be gone forever.
“You will not be physically changed. However, the man who sees you in the hat will forever see you as beautiful and will be madly in love with you.” The old lady repeated this to make sure the girl understood.
Adrianna so longed for male companionship that her face lit up at the thought. Adrianna followed the old woman deep into the woods. A simple little one room house of sticks and daub was nestled neatly in a small clearing. The woman went in and brought out a plain brown wool cloche ‘bucket bell’ winter hat.
“Just put this on when you see the man you want to spend your life with,” The old woman said with a smile giving her the hat.
Adrianna thanked her and followed their trail back the way they had come. On her way back to town Adrianna heard a robin chirping frantically and saw that her baby bird had fallen out of the nest before it could fly. She put baby bird in her new hat and held it with her teeth while she climbed the tree. Standing on a branch she returned the baby to the nest. Adrianna put the hat on her head so she could climb back down. She was half way down when she stepped on a dead limb and it broke. Three horsemen were riding down the road together when they heard the branch crack and saw Adrianna fall from the tree. They all saw the girl at exactly the same time. All three of them instantly fell in love with the gorgeous girl laying there along the road. All three lifetime friends, Paul, Jack and Tom, gathered around girl who was now sitting up. Each of them was vying for her attention.
“Are you alright?” Paul asked.
“Can you stand? Want me to help you?” Jack said offering his hand.
“What was a lovely girl like you doing in a tree?” Tom said smiling while leaning in to look at her more closely.
Adrianna had never seen these three handsome men before, she was certain they did not live near her town. She took Jack’s hand and stood. It only took her a minute to realize they were all affected by the hat. They were all talking to her at once and arguing over who saw her first and which of them should take her to town on his horse.
“Gentlemen, stop arguing, I am fine. I will walk to town.”
The three men agreed to all walk with her and lead their horses by the reins. All three men were telling her about themselves and complimenting her on how beautiful she was. They were interrupting each other and she had no chance to be heard. She stopped and put her hands over her ears and they all became silent.
“This farm is where I live. Paul, you may call on me tomorrow at mid-day. We shall spend the afternoon together. Tom, you may call on me the following day, and Jack on the third day. I cannot handle all three of you at once.” Adrianna said sternly before walking into her house.
The following day at noon Paul arrived to take her riding. He brought a gentle mare for Adrianna to ride. He looked so handsome. He was tall and lean with blond curly hair and deep blue eyes. They rode into the foothills and talked the whole way. Paul was a carpenter by trade and she discovered all three men knew each other from childhood. They spent the afternoon picnicking under a large oak tree overlooking a meadow of wildflowers. When she was lying there with her head in Paul’s lap, he asked her to marry him. She told him she was not ready to make a decision until she knew all three better. Paul was the perfect gentleman and respected her wishes.
The next day Tom arrived around noon and picked her up in a horse driven carriage. He too was a very nice looking man. He had shoulder length brown hair and brown eyes. His hair was neat and clean and framed his square jawed ruggedly handsome face. Tom took Adrianna to a nearby lake and they walked around the lake getting to know each other. Tom was a blacksmith and was very muscular and very gentle. They ate French bread and cheese and drank wine sitting by the water’s edge. Tom asked Adrianna to marry him, she told him the same thing she told Paul, that she would have to wait and see.
On the third day, Jack arrived on foot just before noon. Jack had brown wavy hair and incredible bright blue eyes. He was slight of build and had leathery tanned skin. Jack held Adrianna’s hand and walked down the road toward where she fell from the tree. Jack encouraged Adrianna to talk and said very little except to ask her a question from time to time. He asked her what her favorite color was. Where she liked to go to relax and think. What she liked to read. When Adrianna asked Jack if he had a trade he told her that he was a poet and a writer. When they arrived at the spot they had met, Jack recited a little poem to her that he had memorized.
My lovely lady, fell from yonder tree
Ensnaring my heart with her beauty
No matter which of us you choose
Forever you’ll be with me; my muse
Then Jack kissed her tenderly on the cheek, and took her hand and walked her home. Jack never actually said the words, “Will you marry me.”
Adrianna loved them all. All night she wrestled with her decision of who to pick. She didn’t want to hurt any of them. She didn’t want their friendship with each other to suffer either. Adrianna got up early and grabbed the hat and went in search of the old ladies house. Thankfully the old lady was home. Adrianna told her story about the bird, tree and the three men.
“I could not live with myself if I broke up their friendship. I love them all. They are all special in their own way. I wish this never would have happened.” Adrianna said with tears welling up in her eyes.
“Now, now, my dear, don’t cry. There may be a way to put things back. We will burn the hat. That might just work to break the spell.”
Adrianna agreed that she would rather lose them all then hurt them. They threw the hat in the fire and it burned with a bright purple flame.
“You have a kind heart, I wish you well sweetie.” The old lady said bidding her goodbye.
Adrianna went back to her farm. Around noon all three men rode up to the farm to find out if Adrianna had made a choice. She walked out to greet them. She could see the shock in Tom and Paul’s eyes as they saw her disfigured face. They were too kind to say anything but she knew the look. Jack however looked at her with different eyes. He had a poet’s eyes per chance; as he was clearly seeing her beauty within.
“I choose Jack if he will have me.” Adrianna said feeling love in her heart for Jack.
Tom and Paul seemed relieved to be free from their commitment. Jack rushed to Adrianna and swept her up in his arms, hugging her tightly.
Jack and Adrianna were married shortly after. All four of them remained friends for life.