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Do nice girls always finish last? Princess Lily is the last of six daughters to be matched for a royal wedding. The years have passed her by and Lily remains the last princess to receive an offer for marriage. Finally an offer is received from a far, distant kingdom and Princess Lily sets out alone on a long and perhaps perilous journey to marry her prince charming.

A case-hardened scullery maid steals her identity and turns Princess Lily into a common scullery maid with no prospects of employment. Her identity is gone, her gold coin is gone, her royal carriage has left her in a cloud of dust. All she has left is an old, sway-back nag and the determination to meet her Prince Charming and prove her identity so they can be married.
But, when the real scullery maid dons the dainty gowns of royalty she decides to masquerade as the princess Lily and marry Prince Charming herself.

Do nice girls ALWAYS finish last? “Only if they give up first!” Princess Lily decides. “ONLY if they give up FIRST!

Through her acts of kindness Lily turns her disaster into a chance to triumph over her adversity. But she ends up just tending a flock of royal geese, the lowliest job in the kingdom.

The bully has won the race; Princess Lily has finished last. To the victor goes the crown.  Is it time to quit now?

“In the race to be kind and do good, what you do AFTER the world knows you can do no more is what determines the real winner.”

Do nice girls always finish last? There are twists and surprises throughout the story you find below that will endear it to children and parents alike.

Once upon a time, in a country far, far away, there lived an old Queen who had 6 lovely daughters. One by one she found princes to marry the first five daughters, but there was no prince to be found for Lily, her youngest.

“Why is it,” she wondered. “that no prince wants to marry Lily. She can do anything she sets her mind to, she is always smiling, and she is never cross for very long with anyone.”

"Yes, Lily is charming and very sweet," said Marjoram.  "But she is always mingling with the common folk and talking with them.  What she talks about most and likes best is to feed the chickens and play with the geese. No Prince wants a Princess that wants only to talk about what her chickens eat and all the Hide and Seek games she plays with the geese."

Marjoram was the Queen Mother's last Lady-In-Waiting, and she was still a young girl, much like Lily.  But, Marjoram did not like serving the Queen Mother as a Lady-In-Waiting.  She was always lazy and day dreaming.  She was very rude when no one was around to tell on her, and Lily was too nice to tell on her. 

"Why couldn't I have been born a Princess, instead of Lily?" Marjoram wondered.  "Then I'd be the one to marry a Prince, and I'd have a dozen ladies-in-waiting to pick up after me and I could go from one party to another one all day long and I would dance far into the night."

.

At last the day came when a King sent a proposal of marriage for his young son, Prince Harry.

"Why has he sent so far away for Prince Harry's bride to be?" Lily wondered.

"Lucky for you that he would accept you, sight unseen," said Marjoram. 

"You must be right," Lily said sadly.  "The terms of his marriage proposal are almost rude, as if he didn't care if I said yes or not.  He said that I must be able to pick the Prince out without anyone telling me who he is.  Why, he even said that "the maiden's family must provide her with a coach for the trip to his distant country for the wedding."

"Tsk, Tsk, Tsk." Said Marjoram.  "It does make one wonder, doesn't it?

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The old Queen sadly packed up the last of her beautiful clothes for Lily and then gave her the last 2 gold coins left in the Royal Treasury. 

"This is all the money I have left," the old Queen said sadly.  "There is no work for our people, and no more money in our Royal Treasury.  You must use this money wisely to buy food for yourself and for your horse and for lodging to last you all the way.  But once you are there, you will be happy.  That is enough to make me happy for all the rest of my days."

On the morning of her departure Lily was in an open  carriage, because the Old Queen was so poor she could not afford to send her daughter off in a coach.  The carriage was old, but it was drawn by a fine white steed named Lightning.  His ears were pricked forward and he nickered anxiously because he was so eager for the trip.  Lily leaned over to kiss her mother goodbye.  "Oh Mother, I fear I shall never see you again."

At these words the old Queen began to cry.  "That is as I feel also."  Thus they bade each other a long and painful farewell.  At last Lily was ready to set out for the bridegroom's country, and it was only then that Marjoram said, "WAIT!  I will go with thee."

She turned to the Queen Mother:  "I can pay for my own eats and slumber by working in the scullery kitchens where our Princess is to lodge.  Perhaps Lily can help me pay some of my return fare after she is married."

The old Queen Mother was delighted with the idea for, in truth, she was tired of all the grumbling and groaning Marjoram poured out day after day.  Her kind of help is seldom welcome anywhere for very long.  'Perhaps this long trip will be an adventure for Marjoram and she will become more like my Princess Lily.  Oh, But they will need an extra horse if she is to go,' the Queen thought quickly.

The only other horse they had was a jaded old nag named Susie.  She was almost 20 years old and it was hard for her to eat.   "Pulling the carriage will be too hard on Susie, but she does have a good gait for riding," said the Queen Mother.

So Marjoram was got up on Susie and a few of her things were put in the carriage with the Princess and her things.  Down the road they went, clippity-clop, clippity clop.  Everyone they met would smile and wave. 

Princess Lily said, "Why look how happy the people are in my Mother's kingdom even though there is no work for them.  I must try to become even more like her than I am now."

Marjoram was not a Princess so she had never been on a horse before and she did not ride that well.  When she saw the people smiling and waving at them she said:  "They are laughing at me because I can't ride very well and they are only waving at Princess Lily because they think she is a Princess.  Oh, if only they knew she is much more like a peasant than I am they wouldn't wave at her so cheerfully .  She likes to feed the chickens and play Hide and Seek with the geese. No, if I told them that, they would not wave so cheerfully at her."

Being a grumbler and a groaner she looked back at Princess Lily and said, "And, why should you get to ride in the carriage all the time?"

Princess Lily tried to pretend she did not hear. 

The sun rose higher and higher in the sky and Marjoram became very hot and tired.  "I don't see why the sun must be so hot when I am traveling," she grumbled.

Princess Lily looked down the hill from them and saw some geese paddling along in the water.  She became very thirsty too.  She pulled Lightning over to the side of the road and called, "Marjoram, Please go down and fetch me some water from the stream. It is so hot that I must have something to drink."

"If you are thirsty," Marjoram said. "Get down from your fine white carriage and get a drink for yourself."

Princess Lily was amazed at her rudeness.  In her heart she knew that grumblers and groaners won't stop until someone complains to them, but because Lily had just promised to be more like her mother, she swung down from the carriage and climbed down the slope.  At the water's edge she knelt by the pure, sweet flowing water.  The geese swam right over to her and honked twice.  "I'm sorry," she told them.  "I have nothing even for myself to eat, but you have lots of grass here."  Then she bathed her face and let water trickle down the back of her neck. so that she was very cool. She glanced back up the slope.

"Lightning must be very hot too," she said.  She took off her hat and filled it full with the sparkling, clear water for her horse to drink. Then she climbed back up to the carriage and held her hat while Lightning drank from it.

"Didn't you bring me any water?" asked Marjoram. 

Princess Lily stopped and stared at her, then she said, "Why no, I didn't.  I knew that if a real Princess had to get her own water then a Lady-In-Waiting must get her own water also."

Marjoram stared at the water in the sparkling silver stream, too angry to go down, and the geese were coming up the hill after Princess Lily.   Marjoram sighed and remembered how hot and thirsty she was.  At last she climbed down from her high horse and went to get some water for herself.

When the geese saw her coming they honked in fright and fled back into the water.  They met her at the water's edge. "Honk, Honk, HONK!

Marjoram was very angry.  She picked up a stick and tried to beat the geese back with it.  "Back up.  Back Up or I will break your silly necks!  I'm not going to drink with you silly geese staring into my face."

Honking in fright, the geese fled upstream.  Marjoram threw the stick after them.  Then she knelt to drink, but the water was no longer pure and sweet; it was almost brown.  Now it was also bitter to the taste.  "Those geese have done this to me with their flutter.  I wish I had hit them twice."

She had seen the Princess wash her face so Marjoram began to wash her face also.  But, the water was muddy now and as she washed her face, mud clung to her everywhere that she touched.  As she climbed back up the bank she saw a family stop beside the Princess and gaze at her; then they began to laugh.  "She has told them something funny about me.  Well, I don't think that's very funny at all.  It isn't MY fault I wasn't born a princess as she was!"

Marjoram stopped at the carriage and said, "It is your turn to ride the old nag and I shall ride the carriage in style.  Get out or I shall drag you out, and, I'll throw you into the stream down there.  By rights your horse and carriage belongs to me anyway for I am much more like a Princess than you are; this old nag will do for the likes of you!"

It was the first time Lily had ever been bullied; she didn't know how to stop it.  The poor little Princess gulped and thought she had to give in. As her dainty foot touched the surface of the road Marjoram rushed forward and began grabbing at Lily's clothes.  In a harsh, cruel voice, Marjoram ordered her to take off her royal robes too, and then she made the Princess put on her own mean garments.  Now Marjoram looked like the princess and Princess Lily looked like a frightened young scullery maid. 

When they had finished changing clothes Marjoram said, "You had better not to tell anyone that you are the real Princess or I shall tie you up and toss you into that stream, right now.

"Vow to me as a real princess that you won't tell anyone -- or I will not let you live!"

And now Princess Lily was badly frightened!  She looked down at the stream, and she said, "I promise that I will not tell a living soul that I am the real Princess Lily until you beg me to admit it is so."

"You must remember that a real Princess will not break her promise," Marjoram said.  "Therefore I believe you will keep this promise.  I will let you live, but you will not like it!"

Then Lily climbed up on the old nag Susie, and off down the road they went.. clippety clop, clippety clop.  When someone was coming towards them they would smile and wave at Lily, then they would look at Marjoram and begin to laugh as if they could not help themselves.

Every time someone came up behind them they would begin laughing and they kept laughing and looking back at Marjoram long after they had passed. 

"Why are they laughing at me?" Marjoram screamed at the Princess.

Lily looked straight ahead "Perhaps you look silly, pretending to be a real Princess."

"HMMPFF!" said Marjoram as she looked down at her clothes and robe to see what might be amiss.  "Your robes and gowns tell everyone I'm the real princess here." 

That evening Marjoram picked out the best Inn and went to the door and knocked loudly.  "Open up, open this door -- I am the Princess Lily."

The inn-keeper came to the door and cautiously peeped through the small window for a long time.  "You, are Princess Lily?" he asked at last.

"Yes, yes.  Open the door and let me in?"

"I think not," said the inn-keeper.  "But you can sleep in the chicken coop if you like."

"The chicken coop?" Marjoram asked.  She was so astonished her mouth dropped open.

"That is just the place for the likes of you," said the inn-keeper in a shrill sharp voice.  He clenched his lips together so that he looked very ugly, especially when he blubbered his lips at Marjoram with his finger. "Do, do, do, do."

Marjoram shrank back in fright and suddenly the inn keeper happened to see Lily.  His ugly face turned into a beaming smile.   "Oh!  And you, my lady, would you like to sleep here tonight?"

So, Lily went in and the inn-keeper laid out a delicious meal for her.  "There is no charge.  But tell me, please, why is your companion pretending to be a Princess while wearing all that mud on her face?"

"She made me promise not to tell," said Lily. "But it is well known that the real Princess Lily is fond of feeding the chickens and playing with the geese."

"Ah?  Yes, yes.  I understand now.  Well, I have certainly put Princess Lily in the right place tonight then, haven't I?" and he led Lily up to the best room in the inn.  "You can sleep like a queen in this bed," he said proudly.

Nor would he take money from her in the morning for her night's lodging.  "But please, tell your friends that I have served you well."

Lily promised that she would and went on outside to begin her journey once more.  Marjoram came out of the chicken pen, spluttering feathers out of her mouth and her dainty clothes were splattered with the fresh scrapings from the chicken pen.  She smelled so badly that Lily rode well ahead of the carriage.  To those they met it looked as if there were two parties of one instead of one party of two. 

Once again, everyone that they met waved at Lily and laughed at Marjoram harder than the day before because now she still had mud on her face.  She also had chicken feathers out of her hair in strange places and more chicken feathers stuck to her clothes in back.  She was furious too; "Why did that idiot make me sleep in the chicken coop while the real Princess Lily got to sleep in a bed?"  

Day after day they went on, and no matter what she did or how hard she tried to be more like a real princess, everyone they met laughed at her.  But Marjoram knew she was making progress because their laughter was much shorter than when the long trip began and some were even smiling shyly at her, and Marjoram began to smile back at them.  She was SO happy being accepted as a real princess.

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The Little Stream
That became a lake!

Then, at last the castle was in sight.  Marjoram called Lily over to her.  "Remember your promise or else I shall deal deadly with you right now."

"I give you my promise once more that I shall not tell a living soul you are not the real Princess until you beg me to do so."

"Me? Beg you to tell ----?"  and Marjoram began to laugh and could not stop until her eyes were filled with tears.  She gasped for breath then said.  "You will stay here until the sun is low in the sky.  I will go on ahead.  They will naturally think that I am the noble Princess Lily, come to marry their crown prince Harry." 

It had taken weeks to reach their destination, but now Marjoram knew it was all worth it.  Music filled the air and dancers filled the streets when she reached the castle.  Marjoram sat back primly and snapped the whip for Lightning to draw her carriage over the draw bridge.  Marjoram fancied that she looked very noble now, much like a real Princess should look as she sat back into the soft cushions.

She nodded to the dancers with haughty favor.  "Dance on!  Dance on!" she said.  To herself she added, "I will join you in these streets just as soon as the Prince and I are married."

But Lightning was of royal blood too and he was not happy with the whip being snapped at him.  Instead of a royal prance, Lightning began to lunge from side to side, trying to throw Marjoram out of the carriage.  He would fair have done so except that a handsome young prince rushed forward and took the reins.  Lightning quit lunging at once.  Marjoram flashed the young prince a grateful smile.

The old King came and took her by the hand and guided her into the reception hall.  Marjoram couldn't help being awed by all the golden shields. The size of the golden throne took her breath away.

"Why, it must be worth millions." Then she saw that she was walking all by herself.  When she looked back at the old King she found that he had stopped and was studying her with some alarm.  Marjoram rushed back to him and took both his hands in hers.  "Oh, it is so pretty in here."

The old King nodded but did not say a word.  He led her over to the long banquet table.  There he handed her a large spoon.  "Why, he wants me to take all I want," she thought as she filled up the top most plate with roast beef.  Then she felt the old King staring at her again and hastily put her plate down.  "What is he doing?  I must do the same."

Two lines had formed, one going by Marjoram and one going by the old King.  He was passing out roast beef and smiling.  So, she began passing out roast beef too, and she found it was hard to smile when she had to watch other people get all they wanted.  She faked a big smile for the watching King.  "But why should they get to eat before I do?" she grumbled.  "I'm the real princess."

"Here, let me do that for you," said a handsome young man with gold medals on his chest.  He smiled and laughed and talked with everyone as he filled up their plates.

At last they were done and the handsome young man guided her over to a table where they could sit.  When they sat down the old King stood up and went over to a window where he stood looking out; He did not look happy at all.  "Enough of this dancing," he said.  Everyone go home."

The gaiety died at once, and the people began to leave, but they were all smiling and happy as they left.  Then something outside caught the old King's eye and he beckoned for Marjoram to come to his side.  He pointed at someone in the courtyard.  "Do you know that strange person."

It was Princess Lily.  Now she looked just like a poor scullery maid.  "Why yes," said Marjoram.  "I picked her up beside the road; she was so hot.  Poor thing, she said she had no work.  Is there some work you could let her do.  She said she could do anything in the kitchen, but she preferred to work outside, you know, like with the chickens and the sire's other royal beasts."

"She is talking to the young man that drives my royal geese," said the old King.

"That would be a good work for her," said Marjoram with a big smile..  "She told me she was crazy about geese.  How soon will I be married to Prince Harry?"

The old King turned away from the window.  "Ho, Ho, Ho.  Do you already know?  Have you seen your bridegroom?"

"Oh yes, of course," said Marjoram as she pointed to the handsome young man that had helped her serve.

"Do you really think you have chosen wisely?  Well, it will be two weeks before you can be married," said the old King.  "Perhaps you will change your choice as you get to know us better."

The next day Marjoram stood at the window and watched as Princess Lily walked in front of the geese with the young lad.  The geese followed them, honking at everyone and every thing.  "What disgusting work she must do," said Marjoram with a secret smile. 

Then she turned around and went to sit beside the old King.  He said not a word and neither did he seem glad to see her.

All that day they sat there and the old King was as still as a stone.  He looked worried and sad.  He did not speak one word all day.  By the time the sun went down Marjoram was famished.  "Shall we have a spot of porridge before we go to bed?" asked the old King.

Marjoram brought up the biggest smile she could fake.  "Oh, I just love porridge."

"Well, that is certainly a very good thing," said the old King.  "We have so much of it that we often have races to see who can eat the most.  No one ever beats me, of course.  I am the King!"

So they sat, and they ate porridge, bowl after bowl and each of them packed full of steaming hot  porridge and not a drop of sugar in it.  The old King proved he could eat lots of porridge, and then he ate some more.  Marjoram tried to eat as much as he, but between bites she paused and pretended to smile, so he got ahead of her and won the race that night even though others came in late and quit early. 

Even the goose boy and the real Princess Lily came in and tried to win that grueling race.  Lily and the goose boy sat in a corner all by themselves and talked and talked away as if they were at a royal banquet.  Their sudden laughter pealed like bursts of golden bells so often that Marjoram almost wished she was with them.

"Well, it can't be this bad every day," Marjoram said to herself that evening as she listened to 3 fiddlers playing a sad song for the King. 

The next day Marjoram stood at the window once more and watched as Princess Lily walked in front of the geese with the young lad.  The geese followed them, honking at everyone and every thing.  At the gate they stopped and looked 3 ways. She watched Princess Lily lift one slender arm and point up towards the cool green hills.  The young lad nodded and they laughed together while the golden sun beamed down on them.

"What disgusting work she has," said Marjoram as she tried to make a broad smile.  Then she turned around and went to sit beside the old King.  He said not a word and neither did he seem glad to see her.

All that day people came to see the old King and they told him their troubles.  The old King listened until both people were silent, then he asked a few questions.  His advice wwas always simple and easy to use.  Some answers made one side angry, and some of his answers made both sides angry.  "What a silly old king.  When I marry the Crown Prince I shall rule this royal hall with an iron fist!"

Other times the old King simply nodded and went on with what he was doing.  The people had to wait until he was ready to hear them, then come back.  By the time the sun went down Marjoram was famished.

"Have you changed your choice of princes?" asked the King.

Marjoram smiled as if she knew what a huge joke he was playing on her.  But she pretended to look all around the room several times.  The only real smile to meet hers came from the prince she had first chosen.  "No, and I shall not," she declared.

"Well then, shall we have another spot of porridge for supper?" asked the old King.

Marjoram brought up the biggest smile she could fake.  "Oh, I just love porridge."

So they went into the reception room and sat down at a table.  Her prince came over and the three of them ate much porridge.  Marjoram tried to eat as much as they did, but it was getting harder and harder to swallow, so both of them got way ahead of her. 

When the old King scraped the bottom of the pot to get the last drop Marjoram could have cheered.  But instead, she made herself smile big and wide as she said, "Do you have any more of that good old porridge?"

"Oh, they always keep an extra pot full boiling for me," said the old King.  His smile grew bigger and brighter.  "And, I'm willing to share it with both of you, half and half.  But I will still win the race because I'm the King!"

What a strange King he was, thought Marjoram.

***

That night Marjoram would not open her mouth because she was afraid porridge would run out onto the floor.  She was so tired she could hardly keep her eyes open.  "Doing nothing must be the hardest work on earth," she said.  "But after I am married to the Prince I will make the old King have dances every night, instead of porridge contests."

The next day she stood at the window once more and watched as Princess Lily walked in front of the geese with the young lad as if they were going out on a picnic.  The geese followed them, honking at everyone and every thing.  At the gate the two guides stopped and looked down into the valley. Marjoram watched Princess Lily lift one slender arm and point to a silver stream of pure water.  The young lad nodded, and then they laughed together while the golden sun beamed down on them, almost like a halo.

"What disgusting work she does for a princess," Marjoram said sadly, and she didn't even try to make a broad, knowing smile when she said it. 

***

Princess Lily felt so good out in the open air as she walked along beside the handsome young lad that took care of the geese; he was scarcely a year older than she was.  The air was so clean and crisp.  Beneath her bare feet the dust of the trail was like fine powder.  "Is the stream very deep?" she asked.

"No, not very," said the young lad.  He glanced behind them at the long stream of geese.  "You know, I really hope you stay with us for a long time."

"Why is that?" asked the Princess.

They walked on for a bit while the young lad thought.  Then he said, "Before you came I had to drive the geese where I wanted them to go.  Now they follow us, anywhere you go.  It is much easier now."

"That's not so special," said the Princess.  "Geese like me. And geese will follow anyone they like."

"When I, umm, get bigger, I want to raise lots of chickens and keep lots of geese."

The Princess thought for a moment, then said, "Will the King let you do that?"

The young lad laughed so hard he almost fell down.  Then he said,  "Oh yes.  The King wants everyone that works hard to enjoy their work, and all his sons must work hard even if they don't enjoy their work.  Come on, I will race you to the stream."

Off they went, with the geese honking for them to wait, wait for them. "Honk, Honk, HONK!"  Several of the geese couldn't keep up by running, so they began to fly, and they flew right past the Princess and plunged into the stream, still honking.  "You silly geese," said the Princess, but she was laughing.

Later, she let down her hair and began to brush it.

"What beautiful hair you have," said the boy.  "What a fun day it is when you are with me.  You look so much like a real Princess." 

At just that moment a strong wind sprang up.  It blew away the boy's hat right over the fields, and he had to run after it. When he came back he was puffing hard. Princess Lily had her hair all put up again.  The boy stamped his foot,,, "OH!  I wanted to see your hair as you rolled it up.  Now you have it all put up, so you have taken my smile away."

"It is just as easy to smile when everything is going wrong as it is to smile when everything is going right," Princess Lily told him.

The boy thought of that for a long time before he nodded.  "I think you are right."

"Well, smile then,"  said the Princess.

Suddenly, both of them were laughing.  The geese began honking and flapping their wings.  The boy and the Princess stepped out into the water and began to splash water at the geese.  At last the boy and girl stopped splashing and sat down at the edge of the stream.  They dangled their feet in the running water. 

"I wish I had a big clear lake for my geese."

Lily turned one way to see where the stream was going, then she turned the other way to see where it was coming from.  "It would be easy to turn our little stream into a big lake," she declared.

"Really, asked the lad.

"Really," she said.  She pointed to a spot upstream.  "We can start today, if you like.  We will build a dam, right there."

"How do we do this?" he asked.

Lily pointed to a long, straight limb that had fallen from a tree behind them.  "We will drag that limb up there down here and put it solidly across the stream.  Then we'll push some shorter limbs into the mud and lean them against the big limb."

"Oh? and THAT will make a lake?"  Princess Lily laughed and the boy said, "Well, let's do this then."

It took both of them to carry the big, long limb up and notch it into place.  Then Princess Lily sent the lad back to the castle for a spade.  He was so excited that he ran all the way there and back.  When he came back, Lily asked him to pound each of the smaller limbs she had gathered, deeper into the mud. 

"Now what?" he asked.  "I don't see how a few sticks in the mud will make a lake for us.  They can't hold up enough water to make a lake."

"It looks as if I know more about water than you do," Lily told him.  "A few sticks in the right place will certainly hold up a big, BIG lake.  I have watched the common folk back home build stream blockers before, and I asked them how it was all done.  So now you will use the spade to cut out little bricks of grass and I will put them into place."

They had not worked long when the boy shouted for joy.  "Look, look.  The water is rising already." 

"We must work faster then.  Dig, dig!"

The geese stood around watching.  They honked out their advice and flapped their wings when they were ignored, then, one by one, they all jumped into the water rising behind Lily and had a wonderful time.

By sun down both the laborers were very tired, but also, they were very proud.  Their lake wasn't that much wider than it had been, but it was a lot deeper for a long, long way back.

"Why did we put bricks of grass all the way to the top?" asked the goose lad.

"By tomorrow noon our water will be running over the tops, this deep," said Princess Lily.  She laughed when the boy's eyes went wide with wonder.

Then they hurried back to the castle to fill up their bowls with porridge.  They were both so tired that they could hardly yawn.  The old King came to their table and sat down beside Princess Lily.  "What have you two been up to today?"

The boy shook his head and drew his shoulders back.  "We have built a lake, Sire."

"Just like that?" asked the King.

The boy grinned and Lily smiled as she nodded.  "Yes, very much, just like that.  Come with us in the morning and look at our little lake." 

"The King was still smiling when Marjoram came rushing to the table.  "What is it?" she asked sharply, for she was afraid that Lily might be giving away her dark secret.

"They have built a lake," said the King.

"For our geese," said the lad.  He smiled shyly and studied Marjoram as if hoping she would smile too.  But she paid no attention to him, at all.

Marjoram shook her head, turned and walked away.  "Imagine," she spoke to herself.  "All that excitement over a little lake.  It can't be very big if they have made it in a single day.  They can't even have dug out a little mud hole."

But, what the King saw the next morning was much bigger than a mud hole.  It had filled up most of the banks for as far back as he could see.  The lake was very long and several times wider than the stream had been.  When the geese saw the lake they went wild with joy and leaped in to frolic. 

Lily let the goose boy tell the King how much more lake they could have just by building the dam a little higher.  "It won't ever be very deep, Sire.  But there will be fish here, big enough to eat, and the geese will nibble down the grass real short on the banks for us.  If we build a small island for the geese they will be safe right here until winter storms approach us.  They will be much happier too without the long walk each day."

The old King clapped the boy on the shoulder and said, "Harry, I am proud of you.  This lake is a wonderful idea."

Lily said sadly,  "I wish we could have a mill here.  I love to hear a mill working"

"A mill, what is a mill?" asked the old King with sudden interest.

"Why, it grinds wheat into flour," said Lily.

"Wheat into flour?" asked the goose boy.  He turned and looked at the old King.. "That would mean --"

"No more porridge," said the old King.  He smiled so wide that Lily suspected that not even Marjoram could make a smile that big.  "Ho. Ho. Ho.  No more porridge, NO!  Oh! no more porridge, NO!"

He turned and looked at Lily then explained, "The only thing we can raise much of in our northern realm is wheat.  Our women pound it and pound it some more, but it is still so coarse that all we can get is porridge from our wheat.  For years we have been eating porridge until it comes out our ears.  We must haul in our flour from far, far away.  Our flour is precious, almost like gold.  It cannot be wasted.  So we eat porridge every day  Now you tell me that a mill can be built right here and that it will grind our hard wheat into flour?"

Lily looked at the dam, and then at the water beyond.  "As long as there is water pouring over this spot we can have a mill that grinds wheat into flour.  It might be safer to build the mill down there though."

The old King almost danced, he was so happy.  "No more porridge!  No more porridge!  Ho. Ho. Ho.  No more porridge, NO!  Oh! No more porridge, NO!" 

He stopped.  "You know, we must celebrate this idea!  We shall have a banquet tonight, with no porridge invited.  You, my daughter, you will sit beside me and be our maiden of honor."

When the old King rode off on his horse Lily turned to the goose boy.  He looked very sad.  "Why, we must teach you how to smile again," said Lily.

"I can never smile again," said the lad.  "In three more days I am to marry the Princess Lily.  I am the Prince, Prince Harry."

Lily opened her mouth, but no words came out.  "So, I am to lose you -- to her?"  The thought was too much for the real Princess Lily to bear.  She turned and gazed at the geese that played in the water.  Oh, if only she could break her promise and reveal that it was she that was the real Princess -- but no, a real Princess would never break her promise even though it had been a mean old bully that made her give it.  "So now it is I that shall never smile again.

Prince Harry laughed sadly.  "It is just as easy to smile when everything is going wrong as it is to smile when everything is going right.  Let's practice our smiles."

Lily listened to her words come back to her and she smiled sadly.  "Yes, let's practice our smiles.

"What a beautiful smile you have.  You bring joy and happiness with you to anywhere you might go."

Before the sun went down the two laborers had practiced their smiles many times, and now they were happy once more.  They had just enough time to rush back to the castle and wash themselves clean before the royal banquet opened.

There were 11 musicians on the stage to play for the celebration, and the ballroom floor was packed filled with laughing, joyful people. But Prince Harry and the real Princess Lily were almost starving from all their hard work. The line they got in was the one that came by Marjoram.  It looked as if she had been crying.  When she saw Lily, Marjoram heaved a great sigh and said.. "Well, I am glad you are happy.  Do you want more?"

"Oh yes.  Pile on the good food, we are really hungry."

Then the old King called Lily to his side and Prince Harry went back to sit hidden behind the princes of the realm.  Even in his rough garb as a goose boy he seemed much stronger and more regal than all the others to Princess Lily.  She wanted to cry and she knew she would be leaving soon.

The old King stood and begged the throng for silence.  "We have great cause for celebration tonight.  First, our goose boy has kept all our geese alive for us and added many more to the flock.  The down from our geese shall soon provide a new industry for our realm.

"Second, we have a bride for our Crown Prince.  She has come a long, long way.

"Third, because of our little goose girl here beside me, we shall have a mill in place here soon and we shall have real flour and LOTS of flour, to bake into cakes and pies instead of porridge to eat."  A great cheer rang out and porridge spoons were lifted high into the cool night air.

"The porridge has saved our lives, but I'm sure everyone will love hot biscuits much more.  And now, let us make merry and have a real banquet." 

When they had eaten the old King bid Marjoram to rise.  "This is our Princess Lily who is to marry  our Crown Prince if she can just tell us who he is."  Everyone laughed and Marjoram sniffed.  She wondered if it was a nice laugh that she had heard.

Marjoram moaned in agony as she turned towards the old King.  "Your Majesty, I have deceived you.  I am not a real Princess.  I shall not marry a real prince, and certainly not your Crown Prince."

She glanced across the aisle to where a group of men stood.  "If another man will have me for his bride then I shall honor him as my own prince for all my days.  Otherwise, I shall try to make my way back home."

There was a great pause over the ballroom as this news was explained to those that could not hear the original announcement.  The old King turned slowly and put his golden goblet down on the table.  His face had turned flour white.  "It is good you have told us this now."  He turned his gaze to meet Harry's gaze.  "It seems you have no royal bride after all, my son.  Perhaps there shall be another princess come next year."

But then Harry rose to his feet and faced his father and began walking towards the throne until finally everyone knew he was really walking towards the little girl beside the throne.  Harry kneeled before her.  "I renounce my title, father.  I give up my distant crown for the love of my little goose girl.  I only hope and pray she will choose to be my bride."

There was not a sound from anywhere in the palace as they all turned to look at the poor little goose girl rising to stand. 

Marjoram begged the right to speak once more.  "There shall be a royal wedding after all, Sire.  Lily, I beg you to release me of this royal plumage, you may tell everyone that you are the real Princess Lily."

Lily stood proudly and looked at Prince Harry.  "You have already renounced your crown in a bid for my heart.  I shall renounce --."

There was an anguished noise from everywhere, but the old King roared to be heard.  "I have not released Lord Harry from his duty.  Anyone wise enough to know the true value of a poor little goose girl is wise enough to be the Crown Prince of our realm.  Princess Lily I ask you in the name of the Living God, please say that you will marry my son Harry, the Crown Prince of our realm.

Thus it was that they were married that very night.

*

Inspired by an original story
Edited by Watty Piper in 1922

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