Just Ella

Overview

The Cinderella legend gets a realistic twist in this enchantingly believable adventure from New York Times bestselling author Margaret Peterson Haddix that Booklist calls “provocative and entertaining.”

Ella dreams of going to the royal ball and marrying Prince Charming, just like every commoner in the kingdom of Fridesia. But after she is chosen to marry the prince—no magic involved—life with the royal family is not the happily ever after that Ella imagined. Pitiless and cold, ...

See more details below
Just Ella

Available on NOOK devices and apps  
  • NOOK Devices
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK 7.0
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK 10.1
  • NOOK HD Tablet
  • NOOK HD+ Tablet
  • NOOK eReaders
  • NOOK Color
  • NOOK Tablet
  • Tablet/Phone
  • NOOK for Windows 8 Tablet
  • NOOK for iOS
  • NOOK for Android
  • NOOK Kids for iPad
  • PC/Mac
  • NOOK for Windows 8
  • NOOK for PC
  • NOOK for Mac
  • NOOK for Web

Want a NOOK? Explore Now

NOOK Book (eBook)
$6.99
BN.com price
Note: Kids' Club Eligible. See More Details.

Overview

The Cinderella legend gets a realistic twist in this enchantingly believable adventure from New York Times bestselling author Margaret Peterson Haddix that Booklist calls “provocative and entertaining.”

Ella dreams of going to the royal ball and marrying Prince Charming, just like every commoner in the kingdom of Fridesia. But after she is chosen to marry the prince—no magic involved—life with the royal family is not the happily ever after that Ella imagined. Pitiless and cold, the royals try to mold her into their vision of a princess. Ella’s life becomes a meaningless schedule of protocol, which she fears she will never grasp. And Prince Charming’s beautiful face hides a vacant soul.

Even as her life turns to misery, stories persist that Ella’s fairy godmother sent her to the ball: How else could the poor girl wear a beautiful gown, arrive in a coach, and dance in those glass slippers? But Ella got herself into the castle on her own—and that’s the only way she’s going to get out.

In this continuation of the Cinderella story, fifteen-year-old Ella finds that accepting Prince Charming's proposal ensnares her in a suffocating tangle of palace rules and royal etiquette, so she plots to escape.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

Booklist
"Provocative and entertaining."
SLJ
"Imaginative...reminiscent of Gail Levine's Ella Enchanted."
Publishers Weekly
PW wrote, "Haddix puts a feminist spin on the Cinderella story, beginning her tongue-in-cheek novel where the traditional story ends. Her straightforward, often gleefully glib narrative breathes fresh life into the tale." Ages 10-14. (Aug.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
KLIATT
To quote KLIATT's Sept. 1999 review of the hardcover edition: In this continuation of the story of Cinderella, the 15-year-old fiancée of Prince Charming is living in luxury in the royal palace, receiving lessons in royal protocol, and hating every minute of it...when she tries to get out of their engagement, she is cast into the dungeon. Always intrepid, Ella is amused to hear that people have invented a fairy godmother for her, as she had managed to get to the ball all on her own. Taking her destiny into her own hands once again, Ella digs her way out of the dungeon and makes her way to the refugee camp run by a former palace tutor—the man she realizes she really is in love with. She ends up running the camp, and thinking about becoming a doctor. This feminist take on the traditional fairy tale features an enterprising and spirited heroine, who doesn't need a fairy godmother or a man to make her dreams come true. Haddix, author of Don't You Dare Read This, Mrs. Dunphrey and other YA novels, creates a swift and engaging read that will please anyone who wondered about the "happily ever after" part of the tale. An ALA Best Book for YAs and Quick Pick. KLIATT Codes: J—Recommended for junior high school students. 1999, Simon & Schuster, Aladdin, 220p., $4.99. Ages 13 to 15. Reviewer: Paula Rohrlick; September 2001 (Vol. 35 No. 5)
Children's Literature - Children's Literature
Margaret Peterson Haddix has crafted an intriguing realistic Cinderella type tale in Just Ella. No fairy godmother, no magic, just a girl whose dream to marry Prince Charming is almost realized. Ella is whisked away to the castle to learn how to be "princess." Soon bored with royal ritual, she discovers that a prince with good looks only, can't satisfy her intellectually or emotionally. She wants "out." When Ella breaks the news to him, he's speechless. No one has dared to defy him. He figures she'll come to her senses when she spends a night in the dungeon. Ha! He doesn't know Ella. With no fairy godmother to rescue her, she's got to forge her own destiny. This feisty heroine will not be denied, but she does need a bit of luck! 1999, Simon & Schuster, Ages 10 to 14, $17.00. Reviewer: Jan Lieberman
School Library Journal
Gr 7-9-This imaginative retelling and continuation of "Cinderella" opens two weeks after the ball. Ella Brown, now known as Princess Cynthiana Eleanora, reveals that neither fairy godmother nor magic helped her escape from her stepmother and the Step-Evils; rather, she relied on her own determination, intelligence, and sharp wits to attend the ball. Now, however, ensconced in the palace to learn royal etiquette and protocol, Ella's dream has become a nightmare. She realizes that Charm, although very handsome, is shallow and boring. When Ella attempts to break their engagement, the so-called Charmings throw her into the dungeon. Her spirit triumphs again, as she digs her way out via the latrine, and escapes to help in refugee camps being set up by Jed, a young man she met at the castle. Just Ella touches on many contemporary themes, including the components of love and happiness, the need for shared values in a relationship, the unimportance of physical appearance, and how young girls are manipulated by society's images of beauty. Reminiscent of Gail Levine's Ella Enchanted (HarperCollins, 1997), and of other retold fairy tales including Donna Jo Napoli's Zel (Dutton, 1996) and Robin McKinley's Beauty (HarperCollins, 1978), Just Ella has a certain charm and appeal. Written for a somewhat older audience than Ella Enchanted in terms of vocabulary and subjects touched upon, this title can be recommended for fans of that book who are now a couple of years older and the perfect age to enjoy this new take on a strong heroine.-Connie Tyrrell Burns, Mahoney Middle School, South Portland, ME Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
In the wake of Gail Carson Levine's Ella Enchanted (1997) and such recent movies as Ever After, Haddix (Among the Hidden, 1998, etc.) has her own ideas about whether Cinderella really lived happily ever after. After Ella's triumph with the prince and the glass slipper, she moves into the castle to undergo tedious training in etiquette under the unctuous Madame Bisset. She's astonished to learn that the castle servants believe she was sent to the fateful ball by a fairy godmother. Actually she wore her mother's wedding gown and tricked the village glassblower into making her uncomfortable slippers. Ella also learns that the only thing charming about her prince is his name; when she decides not to marry him she's thrown in the dungeon. With the help of Mary, a poor servant girl she has befriended, Ella tunnels her way out. She makes her way to a camp for war refugees run by Jed Reston, her only other friend from the castle. If she lives happily ever after in Haddix's version, it's because she takes charge of her own life. This cleverly done book would make a good read-aloud for younger children, an addition to units on myth and fairy tales at the middle-school level, and will also entertain high school students—and lead them to Haddix's other, more contemporary works. (Fiction. 10-16)
From the Publisher
"Provocative and entertaining."
Booklist

"Haddix puts a feminist spin on the Cinderella story, beginning her tongue-in-cheek novel where the traditional story ends."
Publishers Weekly

"Imaginative...reminiscent of Gail Levine's Ella Enchanted."
SLJ

Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781481420211
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers
  • Publication date: 4/7/2015
  • Series: Palace Chronicles Series , #1
  • Pages: 208
  • Sales rank: 1,092,821
  • Age range: 12 years

Meet the Author

Margaret Peterson Haddix is the author of many critically and popularly acclaimed YA and middle grade novels, including The Missing series and the Shadow Children series. A graduate of Miami University (of Ohio), she worked for several years as a reporter for The Indianapolis News. She also taught at the Danville (Illinois) Area Community College. She lives with her family in Columbus, Ohio. Visit her at HaddixBooks.com.

Read More Show Less

Read an Excerpt

Just Ella


By Margaret Peterson Haddix

Rebound by Sagebrush

Copyright ©2001 Margaret Peterson Haddix
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0613909283


Chapter Four


A long, dull afternoon of needlepoint stretched ahead of me, so I dawdled leaving the dining room. That meant I was alone when I felt a timid tug on my dress.

"Please, miss. I mean, Princess."

It was the child I'd sent for the doctor.

"Me mum, she's the one tending to that lord now, she says he's got a fair to middling chance of making it, and if he pulls through the night, he could live another twenty years. Except nobody knows if he'll ever be really himself again, because he can't move one of his arms and one of his legs, and half his face don't move neither. But" — the last words came out in a rush — "me mum says he wouldn't be alive at all if you hadn't sent for help so quick and made sure he could breathe and all."

The child stood back on her heels, looking at me doubtfully, as if afraid I might punish her for speaking.

"Thank you," I said. "I hope somebody else thanked you too, for running for help so quickly. You're really the one who saved Lord Reston's life."

The girl hunched her shoulders modestly.

"That's what me mum says."

I felt the familiar stab of envy, hearing someone talk about a mother who obviously loved her. My own mother had died when I was born, and my father said ithurt to talk about her, so I had very little in the way of even secondhand memories. Certainly Lucille was no substitute for a loving mother. And I'd lost my father, too.

I dragged myself out of self-pity and directed my attention back to the child. Her dirt-colored hair was cut in a ragged circle around her face, and her cheeks and hands were so grubby it was hard to tell how long ago they'd been washed, if ever. And anyhow, her nose was too big and her mouth was too small — no one could mistake her purpose in life to be providing beauty. But her eyes were lively and quick, and I found myself looking at them and forgetting the rest.

"What's your name, child?" I asked.

"Mary."

"I'm — well, I guess you know who I am," I said. "How about if we make a deal. If you get a chance, could you let me know tomorrow how Lord Reston is doing? You're the Þrst person who's been honest with me. I don't have anything with me now, but I'm sure I can come up with some reward for you."

Mary giggled.

"Oh, that don't matter. I just thought you'd want to know. I heard you ask at the table. Don't that Madame Bisset beat all?"

Mary's pronunciation of "Madame" was actually better and more French sounding than mine. She probably knew more about palace protocol too. I squinted thoughtfully. Mary wasn't more than four or Þve years younger than me. It didn't seem fair that I was now a princess and she would always be a servant, just because I looked a little prettier than her.

"Madame Bisset does beat all," I agreed. "You won't get in trouble for talking to me, will you?"

"Are you kidding?" Mary said. "Not as long as you don't mind."

"All right, then — ," I started, when someone called from down the corridor, "Princess — "

"See you tomorrow," I told Mary.

I went off to my needlepoint feeling a little cheerier.

That evening was my time to meet with the prince. We had an hour together just about every other night, depending on his schedule. I saw him at the banquet table every night, of course, but that was often from a distance, because the seating chart always changed. In the beginning, they always placed me with Madame Bisset and my other instructors, so they could correct any horrifying error I made before it attracted too much attention. I could tell someone thought I was learning something, because in the last few days I'd occasionally gotten to sit near people who hadn't heard anything but the castle's ofÞcial story — that I was a foreign princess who'd disguised herself as a commoner, because I wanted to win Prince Charming's love on my own merits, not because of my father's vast lands. I thought anyone who believed the castle's ofÞcial story had to be several logs short of a roaring Þre, but nobody asked me.

Now I sat in the prince's vast antechamber, waiting. The protocol of these visits was strictly regimented. Someone — usually one of my older and therefore more mature ladies-in-waiting — had to walk me down the hall and make sure there was a chaperon in attendance. My lady-in-waiting would curtsy and discreetly remove herself. Then the door to the prince's bedchambers, a place I'd never seen, would open, and I'd catch my breath and try to make conversation with the prince, the man I was going to marry.

I studied the tapestry on the wall, a dramatic scene of huntsmen killing a wild boar. There were dogs yapping at the boar, blood pouring from his sides, a nobleman with a sword poised above him, ready to deliver the Þnal thrust. Women must have stitched this gory scene — needlepoint wasn't for men. How did that Þt with Madame Bisset's notion that women must be protected from all unpleasantness? I dismissed her ideas as too silly to even think about.

Behind me, tonight's chaperon, an ancient retainer of the king's, snuffled. He sounded like he had a bad cold. The candles sputtered in their sconces. The old grand-father clock by the door donged eight times. Not twelve — not midnight, the hour I had dreaded and run from on the most exciting evening of my entire life...

Remembering the ball, I almost missed the opening door. But then there was the prince, in all his glory: clear blue eyes, high cheekbones, rugged jaw, blond hair precisely the right length because it was cut every fourth day by the royal barber. Tonight the prince was wearing a deep blue waistcoat that exactly matched his eyes and showed off his muscular chest and trim waist. My heart quickened, as always. Dizzily, I thought back to a summer afternoon years ago, before the Step-Evils entered my life, when several of the other girls in the neighborhood and I were wading in the creek behind our house, talking of whom we would marry.

"This is posh," Vena, a gloomy girl none of us really liked, had muttered. "We'll all settle for whoever asks us. We'll just be lucky if we don't get someone like my dad."

Her father was a well-known ne'er-do-well, who spent most of his time in the village tavern.

"Not me," I said. "I won't settle. If the right person doesn't ask, I won't marry at all."

Some of the girls gasped, I remember. What would they have said if I'd vowed to marry a prince?

Now I murmured, "Your Majesty," trying to sound properly digniÞed and feminine and loving. I bent forward and extended my hand for kissing. Charm took it, and the brush of his lips on my skin sent shivers down my spine.

"Princess," he said.

His voice was low and deep, just as you would expect. Perfect, like everything else about him.

He sat down beside me, his left leg a scant inch from my skirt.

"Have you had a good day?" I asked.

"Yes," he said. "And you?"

I hesitated. Had he heard about Lord Reston? Would I be violating some etiquette rule by bringing up his condition? I didn't know if Prince Charming realized that Lord Reston was tutoring me, or if Prince Charming even knew who Lord Reston was. No wonder I kept making so many gaffes — I never thought to ask the important questions until it was too late. Tonight, I decided, the less said the better.

"My day was Þne, Your Majesty," I murmured.

"Good," he said.

The chaperon coughed behind us. The clock ticked. I saw the time on its face: 8:03. And already Prince Charming and I had run out of things to say.

I often wished, during these stiff meetings, that I could skip ahead in my life, past the glorious wedding, to maybe a year from now. Then, after many hours together without a chaperon, I could picture the prince and I cuddling cozily on these cushions instead of sitting stiffly an inch apart. We'd share our deepest thoughts and dreams, forgetting there was a castle or a kingdom or anything outside our love for each other. We'd call each other Charm and El, not "Majesty" and "Princess."

So far I'd called Prince Charming "Charm" only in my mind.

Prince Charming gave me an innocent, adorable smile. He didn't seem to realize that the chaperon made me feel awkward, or that the silence between us was uncomfortable and unnatural.

Charm and I hadn't talked much the night of the ball either, but then, we didn't need to. When we danced, he kept one hand on just the right spot on the small of my back, gently guiding me. His other hand held mine. We looked into each other's eyes, and it seemed like he already knew everything about me. He didn't let me dance with anyone else. He whispered in my ear, "You're the most beautiful girl here."

Hey, I was as susceptible to flattery as the next girl.

Sometimes he still told me I was beautiful, but it wasn't like he was really paying attention.

"What are you thinking about?" I asked.

He jerked his head toward me, jolted by the urgency in my voice.

"The hunt," he said, then looked puzzled. I may have surprised him into telling the truth.

"You went hunting today," I said, trying to coax more out of him. "Did you catch much?"

The word catch sounded odd. Back home we used to talk about catching Þsh. That's what I was thinking of. But the deer and wild boars and other animals worthy of royalty's attention weren't "caught." Should I have said "killed"? Were ladies allowed to say that? How could Prince Charming and I ever talk the way I wanted to — no holds barred, our thoughts as close as our bodies had been at the grand ball — if we couldn't even use the same words?

The prince smiled indulgently.

"Don't trouble your mind about that," he said. "The kingdom is in Þne shape. Why, we throw away food here at the castle that would be a feast in Suala."

Suala was a neighboring kingdom. We had been at war with Suala for as long as I could remember, so maybe the prince was only showing bravado, the way street urchins brag about the number of maggots in the bread they steal. But still, I wondered....

"Why?" I asked. "Why throw away food when some of your own subjects go hungry each night? Why, I myself know — "

The prince toyed with a ringlet that had escaped from the ribbon holding my hair in place. He wrapped and unwrapped my long blond curl around his Þngers. I wished my hair had feeling. I wished he were touching my hand instead. I couldn't remember what I was going to say I knew.

The prince chuckled.

"So my princess worries about the poor," he said. "If it pleases you, I'll order that our table scraps be set outside the palace gate each evening."

"It's that easy?" I asked. "Just like that?"

The prince shrugged.

"Why not? It matters not to me."

He smiled and I should have smiled back, given him the gratitude he deserved. But his last words stopped me.

Why didn't his own hungry subjects matter to him? What was wrong with this man?

Continues...


Excerpted from Just Ella by Margaret Peterson Haddix Copyright ©2001 by Margaret Peterson Haddix. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Read More Show Less

First Chapter

A long, dull afternoon of needlepoint stretched ahead of me, so I dawdled leaving the dining room. That meant I was alone when I felt a timid tug on my dress.

"Please, miss. I mean, Princess."

It was the child I'd sent for the doctor.

"Me mum, she's the one tending to that lord now, she says he's got a fair to middling chance of making it, and if he pulls through the night, he could live another twenty years. Except nobody knows if he'll ever be really himself again, because he can't move one of his arms and one of his legs, and half his face don't move neither. But" -- the last words came out in a rush -- "me mum says he wouldn't be alive at all if you hadn't sent for help so quick and made sure he could breathe and all."

The child stood back on her heels, looking at me doubtfully, as if afraid I might punish her for speaking.

"Thank you," I said. "I hope somebody else thanked you too, for running for help so quickly. You're really the one who saved Lord Reston's life."

The girl hunched her shoulders modestly.

"That's what me mum says."

I felt the familiar stab of envy, hearing someone talk about a mother who obviously loved her. My own mother had died when I was born, and my father said it hurt to talk about her, so I had very little in the way of even secondhand memories. Certainly Lucille was no substitute for a loving mother. And I'd lost my father, too.

I dragged myself out of self-pity and directed my attention back to the child. Her dirt-colored hair was cut in a ragged circle around her face, and her cheeks and hands were so grubby it was hard to tell how long ago they'd been washed, if ever. And anyhow, her nose was too big and her mouth was too small -- no one could mistake her purpose in life to be providing beauty. But her eyes were lively and quick, and I found myself looking at them and forgetting the rest.

"What's your name, child?" I asked.

"Mary."

"I'm -- well, I guess you know who I am," I said. "How about if we make a deal. If you get a chance, could you let me know tomorrow how Lord Reston is doing? You're the _rst person who's been honest with me. I don't have anything with me now, but I'm sure I can come up with some reward for you."

Mary giggled.

"Oh, that don't matter. I just thought you'd want to know. I heard you ask at the table. Don't that Madame Bisset beat all?"

Mary's pronunciation of "Madame" was actually better and more French sounding than mine. She probably knew more about palace protocol too. I squinted thoughtfully. Mary wasn't more than four or _ve years younger than me. It didn't seem fair that I was now a princess and she would always be a servant, just because I looked a little prettier than her.

"Madame Bisset does beat all," I agreed. "You won't get in trouble for talking to me, will you?"

"Are you kidding?" Mary said. "Not as long as you don't mind."

"All right, then -- ," I started, when someone called from down the corridor, "Princess -- "

"See you tomorrow," I told Mary.

I went off to my needlepoint feeling a little cheerier.

That evening was my time to meet with the prince. We had an hour together just about every other night, depending on his schedule. I saw him at the banquet table every night, of course, but that was often from a distance, because the seating chart always changed. In the beginning, they always placed me with Madame Bisset and my other instructors, so they could correct any horrifying error I made before it attracted too much attention. I could tell someone thought I was learning something, because in the last few days I'd occasionally gotten to sit near people who hadn't heard anything but the castle's of_cial story -- that I was a foreign princess who'd disguised herself as a commoner, because I wanted to win Prince Charming's love on my own merits, not because of my father's vast lands. I thought anyone who believed the castle's of_cial story had to be several logs short of a roaring _re, but nobody asked me.

Now I sat in the prince's vast antechamber, waiting. The protocol of these visits was strictly regimented. Someone -- usually one of my older and therefore more mature ladies-in-waiting -- had to walk me down the hall and make sure there was a chaperon in attendance. My lady-in-waiting would curtsy and discreetly remove herself. Then the door to the prince's bedchambers, a place I'd never seen, would open, and I'd catch my breath and try to make conversation with the prince, the man I was going to marry.

I studied the tapestry on the wall, a dramatic scene of huntsmen killing a wild boar. There were dogs yapping at the boar, blood pouring from his sides, a nobleman with a sword poised above him, ready to deliver the _nal thrust. Women must have stitched this gory scene -- needlepoint wasn't for men. How did that _t with Madame Bisset's notion that women must be protected from all unpleasantness? I dismissed her ideas as too silly to even think about.

Behind me, tonight's chaperon, an ancient retainer of the king's, snuffled. He sounded like he had a bad cold. The candles sputtered in their sconces. The old grand-father clock by the door donged eight times. Not twelve -- not midnight, the hour I had dreaded and run from on the most exciting evening of my entire life...

Remembering the ball, I almost missed the opening door. But then there was the prince, in all his glory: clear blue eyes, high cheekbones, rugged jaw, blond hair precisely the right length because it was cut every fourth day by the royal barber. Tonight the prince was wearing a deep blue waistcoat that exactly matched his eyes and showed off his muscular chest and trim waist. My heart quickened, as always. Dizzily, I thought back to a summer afternoon years ago, before the Step-Evils entered my life, when several of the other girls in the neighborhood and I were wading in the creek behind our house, talking of whom we would marry.

"This is posh," Vena, a gloomy girl none of us really liked, had muttered. "We'll all settle for whoever asks us. We'll just be lucky if we don't get someone like my dad."

Her father was a well-known ne'er-do-well, who spent most of his time in the village tavern.

"Not me," I said. "I won't settle. If the right person doesn't ask, I won't marry at all."

Some of the girls gasped, I remember. What would they have said if I'd vowed to marry a prince?

Now I murmured, "Your Majesty," trying to sound properly digni_ed and feminine and loving. I bent forward and extended my hand for kissing. Charm took it, and the brush of his lips on my skin sent shivers down my spine.

"Princess," he said.

His voice was low and deep, just as you would expect. Perfect, like everything else about him.

He sat down beside me, his left leg a scant inch from my skirt.

"Have you had a good day?" I asked.

"Yes," he said. "And you?"

I hesitated. Had he heard about Lord Reston? Would I be violating some etiquette rule by bringing up his condition? I didn't know if Prince Charming realized that Lord Reston was tutoring me, or if Prince Charming even knew who Lord Reston was. No wonder I kept making so many gaffes -- I never thought to ask the important questions until it was too late. Tonight, I decided, the less said the better.

"My day was _ne, Your Majesty," I murmured.

"Good," he said.

The chaperon coughed behind us. The clock ticked. I saw the time on its face: 8:03. And already Prince Charming and I had run out of things to say.

I often wished, during these stiff meetings, that I could skip ahead in my life, past the glorious wedding, to maybe a year from now. Then, after many hours together without a chaperon, I could picture the prince and I cuddling cozily on these cushions instead of sitting stiffly an inch apart. We'd share our deepest thoughts and dreams, forgetting there was a castle or a kingdom or anything outside our love for each other. We'd call each other Charm and El, not "Majesty" and "Princess."

So far I'd called Prince Charming "Charm" only in my mind.

Prince Charming gave me an innocent, adorable smile. He didn't seem to realize that the chaperon made me feel awkward, or that the silence between us was uncomfortable and unnatural.

Charm and I hadn't talked much the night of the ball either, but then, we didn't need to. When we danced, he kept one hand on just the right spot on the small of my back, gently guiding me. His other hand held mine. We looked into each other's eyes, and it seemed like he already knew everything about me. He didn't let me dance with anyone else. He whispered in my ear, "You're the most beautiful girl here."

Hey, I was as susceptible to flattery as the next girl.

Sometimes he still told me I was beautiful, but it wasn't like he was really paying attention.

"What are you thinking about?" I asked.

He jerked his head toward me, jolted by the urgency in my voice.

"The hunt," he said, then looked puzzled. I may have surprised him into telling the truth.

"You went hunting today," I said, trying to coax more out of him. "Did you catch much?"

The word catch sounded odd. Back home we used to talk about catching _sh. That's what I was thinking of. But the deer and wild boars and other animals worthy of royalty's attention weren't "caught." Should I have said "killed"? Were ladies allowed to say that? How could Prince Charming and I ever talk the way I wanted to -- no holds barred, our thoughts as close as our bodies had been at the grand ball -- if we couldn't even use the same words?

The prince smiled indulgently.

"Don't trouble your mind about that," he said. "The kingdom is in _ne shape. Why, we throw away food here at the castle that would be a feast in Suala."

Suala was a neighboring kingdom. We had been at war with Suala for as long as I could remember, so maybe the prince was only showing bravado, the way street urchins brag about the number of maggots in the bread they steal. But still, I wondered....

"Why?" I asked. "Why throw away food when some of your own subjects go hungry each night? Why, I myself know -- "

The prince toyed with a ringlet that had escaped from the ribbon holding my hair in place. He wrapped and unwrapped my long blond curl around his _ngers. I wished my hair had feeling. I wished he were touching my hand instead. I couldn't remember what I was going to say I knew.

The prince chuckled.

"So my princess worries about the poor," he said. "If it pleases you, I'll order that our table scraps be set outside the palace gate each evening."

"It's that easy?" I asked. "Just like that?"

The prince shrugged.

"Why not? It matters not to me."

He smiled and I should have smiled back, given him the gratitude he deserved. But his last words stopped me.

Why didn't his own hungry subjects matter to him? What was wrong with this man?

Copyright © 1999 by Margaret Peterson Haddix

Read More Show Less

If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
Why is this product inappropriate?
Comments (optional)