Hope hesitated. It seemed rather silly to do so, but she did. “I want to find a real prince – one who will love me and fight for me and care for me. I- I don’t want to be alone.” Her eyes filled with tears and she listened to the song of the frogs over the dark swamp. “If I have no hope here, where can I put my hope?”
“Put your hope in me,” the Prince answered earnestly. “Get out of the mud and surround yourself with the sweetness and loveliness of the garden of the golden roses. You won’t be alone. Let me help you and care for you and fight for you. And trust me with your desires – trust me to choose and train the right prince at the right time for you. Will you do that?”
Looking into his loving and trustworthy eyes, Hope knew she could do all he asked of her, and she nodded.
“Then use this last evening in the Swamp well, Princess Hope, and I will return for you in the morning.” The Prince walked into the mist, and like a dream he was gone, except Hope felt more peaceful, joyful, and hopeful than she ever had before.
“Hop! Oh, Princess Hop! Where are you? I am ready for my goodnight kiss!” Hope shuddered a bit at the voice of the frog coming nearer. “There you are! I’ve been looking all over. What have you been doing?”
“I met the Great Prince,” Hope said.
The frog croaked. “That big royal joker? Sorry you had to deal with that… he can be pretty self-righteous, and stuck-up, can’t he?”
“Actually, he was quite wonderful. He gave me a new robe and good food, and offered to help me and care for me.”
“You’ve got to be kidding me! The nerve of that-”
“He’s coming for me tomorrow, and I trust him, so I’m going to leave and follow him… and never return.”
While Hope was very calm, the frog got more flustered by the minute. “What’s he got that I don’t got?!”
Hope almost laughed as a dozen answers instantly came to mind. But she felt a little sorry for the pitiful, selfish frog. He wasn’t evil; he was just a frog who put his hope in a kiss. She knelt in front of him. “I’ve had fun learning about your life and spending time with you in this swamp. But I want to live like a princess, and the Great Prince can show me how. And I think one of these days you will want to live like a prince, and He’s the one who can help you learn how. So when you are ready, find him, follow him, imitate him. You’re a good frog. And some day you will make a good prince.” With those words, she gave him one last kiss goodbye – a kiss of true compassion – and walked away.
Hope did not sleep that night. She wandered around the pond, sipping tea from lilies, singing with the cicadas, and mimicking the dance of the glittering fireflies. She was saying goodbye to the Swamp – her disappointments, failed dreams, and foolish hopes – without a tear of sadness. All she longed for now was the golden rose garden, a room prepared just for her in the Great Castle, and all the hopes that were to be fulfilled by the Great Prince in ways far more beautiful than she could imagine.
At dawn she saw his shadow, then his robe and his smiling face. He held out his hand to her, and as she took it, she stepped out of the Enchanted Swamp forever. Yes, she trusted him. She would put all of her hope in the Great Prince.