"All right, boys, let's take it from the top!" shouted John. He plucked out a guide note on his ukulele, then started singing, "This happened once before, as I came to your door – no reply-y-y-y."
Paul, George and Ringo joined in with their instruments as soon as John stressed the final syllable of the word 'before.' John continued singing the next line of his song:
"They said it wasn't you, but I saw you peep through…your window!"
Paul stopped playing. "Funny thing, John, but there's a bird peeping through our window just now."
John turned his head and flinched. "Damn, I thought you meant a little flying thingee! There's a young lady peeping through our glass."
"Our fans won't leave us alone," George muttered bitterly.
"Maybe she's not a fan," Ringo suggested. "Maybe she's a Peeping Tom. Or a Peeping Tammy. Or whatever you call a tart who gets her jollies out of spying on blokes."
Paul stepped away from the tea chest bass he'd been playing and walked to the door. "Hello little girl!" he called out to the uninvited guest. "Can I help you?"
"Oh, I do hope so!" she replied in an irritably high-pitched voice. "I was just picking berries so I could make a pie for my little men, but I've gotten lost. Barnaby seems to have led me astray."
She looked down at the floppy-eared rabbit by her feet. He cast her an embarrassed look, then hung his head in shame.
Paul rolled his eyes. "You should never listen to that daft bunny. He couldn't find his way out of sack with a knife."
"Well, of course he couldn't!" the girl exclaimed. "He couldn't even hold a knife with his wittle-bitty paws!"
George poked his head out of the small, rounded door of the cottage. "Is there something you need from us, miss?" he asked impatiently. "Because we're rather busy. We're rehearsing for our upcoming performance at the Dingle fête."
"Oh, please, good sir," she said, turning towards him and fluttering her eyelids. "I do so want to get back to my little men's cottage. Perhaps you know them. Why, you're almost as small as they are!"
John grimaced and gestured for Paul to slam the door on the girl.
Paul threw John a rude look, then turned back to his uninvited guest. "Better come in, love. Have you got a name?"
"Oh, yes, I'm Snow White!" she cried, her voice sliding into an even higher pitch. She stooped down so she could walk through the door. "Actually, that's not my real name. I have a fancy, princessy title with a lot of extra names tagged on. But everyone just calls me Snow White, because my skin is as pale as the falling snow."
John repositioned his glasses so he could examine her more closely. "I dare say I'm a whiter shade of pale than you are, love, but people just call me John."
"And what do people call you other little men?" Snow White asked Paul, George and Ringo.
"I'm Paul, and that's George," Paul said. He pointed at the large-nosed dwarf sitting behind a set of small overturned pots. "And that's Ritchie, but we call him Ringo, because he makes such a nice ringing sound when he drums on his kit of metal dishes."
Ringo winked at Snow White, then tapped out a quick drum roll on one of his pots and finished off his solo by clanking a tin cup.
"Ooh, how lovely!" Snow White chirped, clasping her hands together in merriment. "I do so wish I could hear you four play a cute little song on your teeny, tiny instruments, but I must get back to my own little men. Perhaps you know them. There are seven of them – Doc, Grumpy, Sleepy, Sneezy…"
"Yes, yes," George interrupted. "And Happy, Bashful and Dopey. We know them. They're miners, the lot of them."
"That's right," Snow White agreed. "And if you could help me get back to their cottage, I would be ever so grateful."
John grabbed a pencil and piece of parchment off the table by his side and drew her a small map. "Can you read this, love, or should I give it to one of your small animal friends?"
The crowd of forest creatures who had followed Snow White into the cottage gathered around John and inspected the paper. A red-breasted robin nodded to a bluebird, then snatched the sheet from John.
"I think Bibble and Fribble know the way!" Snow White exclaimed, clapping her hands in excitement. "I'll follow them. Thank you ever so much!" She leaned down and kissed each of the four musicians on their foreheads, then followed the two birds out of the house. The deer, rabbits and squirrels in Snow White's entourage rushed out the door after her.
"Well, I'd say we've done our good deed for the day," John noted. "Now, let's get back to work." He strummed his ukelele a few times, then started singing the next verse of his song:
"I know where you've been, 'cause I saw you walk in…our door."
John and Paul leaned their heads closer together and sang, "She's got the devil in her heart!"
George took the next line in the call and response: "No, no, this I can't believe!"
John and Paul broke into harmony as they continued singing: "She's gonna tear your heart apart!"
George shook his head as he replied: "No, no, nay will she deceive!"
Ringo slapped an angry rat-a-tat on the bottom of his upturned caldron.
John lifted his hand from his ukulele and made a gesture for his bandmates to stop playing. "I don't think that drum-fill goes well just there, Ritchie. Maybe you should hold off until after the next verse."
"Are you telling me how to drum?" Ringo retorted angrily, standing up from his stool to maximize his diminutive stature. "I've been drumming for longer than you've been strumming that little baby guitar of yours! I know where the fills should go and when I should hold back…"
Before John could reply, a loud knocking thudded through the front door.
"Bloody hell, how are we supposed to rehearse with all these uninvited guests?" Paul groused.
"I'll go see who it is," George offered. He rested his quarter-sized guitar against the wall, then opened the door.
A hunchbacked hag in a torn black robe stood before him. She plucked a shiny red apple out of the wicker basket flung over her elbow and held it up for him tantalizingly. "Apples, m'dear?" she asked. "Wouldn't you like to taste one? They make such lovely pies!"
George scowled at the old woman. "Thanks, but we already have all the fruit we need." He started closing the door, but the hag pushed it open and stepped into the cottage.
The old woman counted the musicians, then scratched the large wart on her nose. "There are only four of you! Where are the other three?"
A wave of recognition washed over Paul's face. "Oh, sorry, ma'am. I think you're looking for the cottage of the seven miners. It's across the glen. Here. Let me draw you a map."
"I'll do it," John groused. "You're bound to get granny here lost in the woods with your cack-handed chicken-scratches." He grabbed another sheet of parchment off the table and wrote out directions for the old woman.
She grabbed the sheet from John and squinted her huge eyes so she could read it, then retreated to the door step. She threw one long, last look at the four musicians, as if she was committing their faces to her memory, then let out a loud cackle.
"There's so much you don't know about me!" she taunted them. Then she raised her hand and a crack of thunder burst out of the heavens. Torrential rain started pouring from the suddenly dark sky. The hag laughed her wicked cackle once more, then backed away from the door step. A soft, whitish mist enveloped her. When the fog cleared, she was gone.
Paul arched his eyebrows in a curious expression. "Well, that was weird."
John nodded. "Pity the old cow left without leaving us one of her apples. I'm hungry. What do you say we nip off for a bit and have some tea?"
Ringo flipped his tin cup right-side-up and rested his drumsticks inside. "It's your turn to cook," he said, pointing to Paul. "Get yourself together now and give me something tasty!"
George grabbed another sheet of parchment and took the pencil from John. "I just got a brainstorm for a song lyric. What do you think of this? – In the fog and in the rain, through the pleasures and the pain, on the step outside you stand…"
"What comes next?" asked John.
"Dunno," George replied. He picked up his guitar and started working out chords. "Let me set those lines to music first, then I'll come up with the rest."
George plucked out the last notes of a Spanish-sounding guitar solo, then Paul started singing:
"Bright are the stars that shine, dark is the sky…
I know this love of mine – will never die!
And I love her."
A second man's voice crept into the room through the crack under the front door, singing:
"A love like ours will never die,
As long as I have you near me!"
"Bloody hell!" John shouted. He tossed his ukulele on the carpet and stood up from his chair. "How many more visitors are we going to have today?" He marched to the front door and flung it open. "So what do you want?" he shouted at the well-dressed, impossibly handsome young man standing on the front step.
"Why, I thought I had made my motives clear, peasant!" the man called back to him. "I have come to seek the hand of my true love, the princess Snow White!"
"Bullocks!" John cursed. "She's not here. She's staying at the miners' cottage across the glen. Do you need a bleedin' map?"
The man glowered at John. "Of course not! My trusty steed Alfred knows every inch of this kingdom. He will deliver me to my beloved's home!"
"Well, the stupid beast dropped you off at the wrong cottage just now, didn't he?" George challenged, looking out the window and throwing a cross look at the white stallion who was defecating on the grass in front of the cottage.
The handsome man puffed out his chest and assumed a bold pose, then immediately collapsed into tears. "I'm so sorry. I didn't mean to be rude just now. I'm just so very lost. I've been riding around these woods for days now, trying to find the girl I met by the wishing well. I didn't even realize she was a princess until some of the forest animals told me! So that should please Mummy and Daddy, anyway. I'm a prince, you see." He waved his hand in a theatrical flourish, then bent into a deep bow. "Prince Charming, at your service, my good dwarves!"
"What the hell kind of a name is that?" Ringo sneered.
"Charming is short for 'Charmander, the name of a dragon my father the king captured when he was just a lad," the prince replied. "Do you mind if I step inside?"
John held the door open for him. The prince stooped down and entered the small cottage, knocking his feathered cap askew as he stepped through the low doorframe.
"Why didn't your dad just kill the damned dragon instead of capturing it?" George asked.
"Charmander was just a baby dragon," Prince Charming explained. "My father kept him as a kind of pet. He didn't breathe fire, mind you, though he did have a little flame at the end of his tail that sometimes set the tapestries in the castle ablaze. Charmander grew up eventually, however. First he grew taller and stronger, and insisted on being called 'Charmeleon'. But then he sprouted wings and grew horns on the back of his head. His flaming tale became a fire hazard, so my father set him free. But he still sometimes flies back to the castle to visit Daddy."
John stole a glance at Paul and made a gesture with his finger to imply that the prince was crazy. Then he forced a smile and looked back at his new guest. "Why don't I draw you a map to the miners' cottage? I've gotten rather good at it lately."
"Oh, thank you, little dwarf! My love for Snow White has overwhelmed my reason these past few days. I must see her again."
"Wait," said George. "Do you mean to tell me you only just met this bird a few days ago?"
"Yes," Prince Charming replied. "She was singing a song by a wishing well when I came upon her. She was frightened by my sudden appearance, of course, so she ran into her castle. I serenaded her while she stood on her balcony. Then she kissed one of the doves that had gathered at her side and sent it down to me, to bring me her kiss. She hid behind her curtains immediately afterwards. I assumed, of course, that she was a servant girl, since her skirt was patched. But since that meeting, the forest animals have informed me that she was the princess and the evil queen was trying to kill her, so she fled into the woods and is now taking shelter in a cottage full of dwarves."
"Let me get this straight," John said. "You heard this bird singing at a well, so you approached her and she ran away. Then you sang her a song and she sent you a kiss from her balcony by way of a carrier pigeon, and now you want to marry her?"
"Yes," the prince sighed. His face flushed with joy. "Tell me, good dwarves, do you believe in a love at first sight?"
"Yes, I'm certain that it happens all the time," Ringo replied.
John cast him a dubious look.
Ringo shrugged. "Oh, c'mon, Johnny. We're talking about royal folk here. They're usually forced into arranged marriages when they're still children. At least this pair of blue bloods got to meet on their own terms and form an attachment. I imagine they'll make a lovely couple."
Before John could reply, a herd of forest animals ran into the cottage through the open door and started dragging the prince away by the hems of his clothes.
"Has my beloved sent for me?" he asked Barnaby, the floppy-eared rabbit.
The bunny started speaking in rapid gibberish.
"Oh, no! My darling is in danger!" shouted the prince. "I must hasten to her side!"
A young buck started butting the prince's backside, forcing him out of the room.
"Duty calls!" Prince Charming yelled over his shoulder as he ran out of the house. He jumped onto his stallion and rode away.
"Could you understand a thing that rabbit said?" John asked his bandmates.
They responded with indifferent shrugs.
Paul cleared his throat. "Well, in any case, I hope that's the last of them. Now where were we? Oh yes, I think we've got my first song down pretty well. Let's try another."
He plucked out a fast rhythm on the string of his tea-chest bass and started singing:
"I've just seen a face I can't forget the time or place where we just met,
She's just the girl for me, and I want all the world to see we've met!
John nodded at Paul and George to call in the next verse. The three dwarves started singing together in tight harmony:
"You say you've seen seven wonders, and your bird is green,
But you can't see me…You can't see MEE-EEE!"
Paul stopped playing his tea-chest bass and stared out the window in slack-jawed amazement. George fell silent as well. His eyes grew wide with fear.
"Bloody hell, what is it now?" John cursed. He turned his back from the wall, looked out the window, and gasped.
A giant, orange-reddish dragon was hovering outside the cottage, flapping its outstretched wings and spouting periodic bursts of flame from its tail. It held a large envelope in its teeth.
"I think I've just seen the eighth wonder," Ringo muttered under his breath.
"Should one of us go see what it wants?" Paul asked nervously.
"I got the door last time," John immediately replied.
"And I did the time before that," George pointed out.
"I took the first turn this morning when Snow White popped by," Paul added.
Ringo scowled at his bandmates, then jumped off his stool, crossed the room, and opened the door.
The dragon flapped over to the door step, dropped the letter at Ringo's feet, then flew away, screeching out a cry that sounded like, "Char-ih-zarrrd!"
The four dwarves released a collective sigh of relief. Ringo picked up the envelope and brought it into the cottage.
"Hey, d'you suppose that dragon is the one that used to belong to Prince Charming's dad?" John asked.
"I think that's a good guess," Ringo replied. He tore open the envelope and read the enclosed message aloud:
"Their Royal Highnesses Princess Snow White and Prince Charmander request the honor of your presence at their wedding, to be held at half-past seven this evening at the Cottage of the Seven Miners. Just across the glen."
"Well, that was quick," Paul laughed.
"There's a second message scribbled in the margin," Ringo continued. "Please bring your instruments! The prince and princess want you to play at the dance!"
"Do they mention anything about paying us?" George asked dryly.
"I imagine we can negotiate a fee later," said John. He slipped his ukulele into its case and looked at his bandmates. "So what are you waiting for? Pack up! We've got ourselves a gig!"
"I have some serious misgivings about this whole affair," George replied. "That couple barely knows each other. I hardly think this marriage has much of a shot."
"Never mind that," Ringo said. He started stacking his pots inside each other to make them easier to transport. "Even if they don't pay us, there's bound to be food at the party. And our cupboard is practically bare."
"I like your way of thinking," Paul laughed. "I could use a proper meal. Do you suppose that old lady ever found the cottage and made up some pies? Those apples of hers sure looked tempting!"
Inspired by the Disney film "Snow White," screenplay by Ted Sears, Richard Creedon, Otto Englander, Dick Rickard, Earl Hurd, Merrill de Maris, Dorothy Ann Blank, and Webb Smith (1937).