"You must obey when she summons," Tess whispered to her brother. She pushed him forward.

The queen had lifted her skirts and was looking around the floor by her feet. "Where's my stupid scepter?" she asked. "You always put things where I can't find them!"

The king crouched by his chair, searched the carpet, and found the jeweled scepter where it had rolled near the feet of a peasant. "Here," he said, and gave it to the queen.

"Kneel, Rafe!" the queen commanded. Then she called to her daughter. "You come up here and watch, dear! I hate seeing you so sad!"

The princess gathered her skirts and came to stand beside her parents. The schoolmaster, brow furrowed, was kneeling there obediently.

"I'm going to make you nobility," the queen explained, "but you need more of a name. Rafe is very peasant-y. You need to be Rafe the...

"Any ideas?" the queen asked the entire gathering. "It has to start with an R!"

The little orphan, who was just learning to read, made the sound to herself, thinking hard. "Rrrrr. Rafe the Ridiculous? No, I don't fink so." She giggled.

"Repellent?" suggested Duke Desmond. "No, that's me." But he grinned down at Liz.

"Redoubtable?" proposed the king. "No. Not good."

The chambermaid came forward. "Please, miss?" she said to the princess, with a curtsy.

"Do you want to be nobility, too, Tess?" the princess asked sympathetically. "Mother, could you possibly—"

"Oh, no, miss! Not at all!" The freckled face had turned pink. "'Cuz the pulley boy, he ain't nobility, and—"

"What, then?" The princess worried that it was a long time for the schoolmaster to be balanced on his knee, and he might be uncomfortable.

"I wanted to say: Remarkable. That's what he is, my brother. Always was."

The princess smiled, and said it loudly to her mother. "REMARKABLE."

So the queen touched the scepter to the schoolmaster's shoulders, one after the other, and named him as a knight. "Sir Rafe the Remarkable! Rise!"

He rose, newly knighted. "There, Sir Rafe," the queen said. "Now you're nobility. That was easy. Let's forget dinner. Let the dancing begin!" At her command, the royal orchestra, which had been waiting for the signal, began to play in the ballroom, and the doors were opened to reveal the polished floor that waited.

Sir Rafe took the hand of the princess and smiled at her. "This has been a very confusing evening, Princess..."

"Please call me Pat," she told him. "I loved being Pat."

"Very well, Pat. But I am still a bit mystified. You seem to have chosen me. Chosen me for what?"

The princess laughed. "First of all, to help me become a teacher, of course!" She took his hand and led him onto the ballroom floor. "After that? Well, we'll see." She waited, listening to the music, for him to place her arm around her waist.

The Birthday Ball

He stood there, embarrassed. "I don't know how to dance," he confessed, blushing.

"Ah!" she replied in delight, and reached out her arms to show him how to arrange his. "My first teaching assignment!"

The Happy End.


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