A tall pale girl sat by her window in the early spring morning. The chill in the air caused her to shiver. The girl's proud, yet anxious face turned and looked at the ground below her north tower chamber. The wizened old gardener, William was puttering among the shrubs and flowers, humming a little tune to himself all the while. Beyond the belt of trees that surrounded the castle, the clatter of the peasants setting up for market day could be heard. The kingdom was lovely, cozy and quaint, but at the moment, her castle tower had never felt more like a prison to the girl. The heavy wooden door of her chamber was locked- on the outside. Strange as this was to her, she had accepted this as just another way for her uncle the Duke to be cruel. This Duke saw the girl as selfish and a brat, even though nobody else had the same opinion. The chambermaids were especially fond of her. She was a bit headstrong, no doubt, but a nice child, was what they said. The girl's gaze turned from the window and fell once again upon the leather bound journal that was sitting in her crimson velvet lap. The top of the first page read, "The Journal of Her Royal Highness Princess Melana". Beneath that, there seemed to be just words, written in a list, not any sort of normal journal entry at all. The Princess turned to the small table beside her and picked up her eagle feather quill and dipping it into her crystal ink bottle, she poised it gently on a fresh page. After writing the Duke's name at the top, she started scrawling mean, hateful words underneath, as fast as she could go. This to her, was the only way to release all the pent up anger against her uncle, even though it was forbidden. Yes, sadly, the Duke perceived writing as a useless waste of time and energy. At one time, Princess Melana had written normal journal entries about daily activities, thoughts, fancies, whatever pleased her, but her Uncle Duke had discovered the journal. Becoming purple faced with fury, he had started yelling at her about how she shouldn't be wasting her valuable time. He had then thrown the journal into the fire and spat upon it.. The Princess wept bitterly for days. Then one day, deciding that her Uncle would not control her, she snuck down from the castle and bought a new book in the peasants' village. A rapping at the door brought Melana away from her thoughts. Hurriedly, she locked the journal into its cupboard, and sedately said, "Come in". A key was heard clicking in the lock and a chamber maid entered. "M'lady", the maid said with a curtsey and nod of her head, "the Duke wishes to speak with you." "What is the reason?" Melana demanded. "Oh, your Highness, 'tis not my place to know nor tell, even if I did. I am only the messenger," she said rather nervously looking at her feet. "Tell the Duke that I do not wish to speak with him," responded Melana holding her head high. "He said it was a matter of utmost importance," said the maid earnestly. "Oh, I will go entertain him. Open the door, please," she said sounding exasperated. The door was opened and they descended the stairs, the Princess holding the elbow of the maid. This was something new demanded of her. She was now never allowed to go up or down stairs without assistance. She kept wondering why. When they reached the door of her Uncle's private study, the maid asked permission to leave the Princess. Melana granted the request and suddenly wished she hadn't. For some reason she felt tense and uneasy and wished for the simple comfort of having the maid by her side. Taking hold of the ornate brass knocker, she banged on the door. A gruff, "enter", was heard from within and Princess Melana stepped inside. Under normal circumstances, she would have enjoyed the beautiful study, but she was far too nervous to think of anything but what the Duke was going to say. Pointing to a horsehair armchair in front of the desk, the Duke beckoned Melana to sit down. Staring down at her with his beady little eyes, he demanded, "How old are you child?" "I am fourteen years of age, your grace," adding a title to what she said. Melana decided that to keep the Duke in good spirits, formalities would be necessary. "Are you aware that by your age, most girls are married?" he asked. "Yes, I am." "Does the knowledge that you are not married trouble you at all?" asked the Duke, almost sneering. "Not in the least, Uncle Duke," the Princess replied coolly. "That is the incorrect response. It should trouble you greatly. Never mind feelings though, they are of little importance. The notion that you would be happy as a spinster is quite distressing for me. No princess should go through life unwed. Therefore, I am arranging a marriage for you." Princess Melana felt somewhat dizzy all of a sudden, and a million questions went racing through her head. Where would I live? Who is it? When would I be wed? Her Uncle's voice, still talking, droned on in the background of her panicked thoughts. "I have found a suitable man. His name is Prince Carlyle, of the very prosperous kingdom east of here. He's quite an upstanding fellow, very strong and strict. He would keep a rapscallion like you nicely in line." The Duke patted his fingers together gleefully at what he thought was a brilliant plan. Melana knew instantly the moment the Duke had muttered "prosperous", what this arranged marriage was all about. "You want me married off because you'll get loads of money from the dowry! This is what this arranging of my future is really all about, isn't it!" the princess spat out, her hands clenched to control them from slapping the Duke. Her Uncle only looked at Melana reproachfully and said calmly, though slightly sarcastically, "Kindly lower your voice. Prince Carlyle would not find it becoming to be married to a girl who shouts." This did not calm the Princess in the least, and she continued to shout in her rage. "How can you expect me to marry some Prince Carlyle of the east from whom I have heard nary a whisper? I have not even seen a portrait! I know nothing about this man. Would you have me marry a phantom?" "That is irrelevant. I know this man, and he is more than suitable. This matter is not debatable. In fact, this interview is over. You have my leave to go." A sweep of his arm told Melana that arguing would be a pointless venture. Turning slowly, still feeling numb with disbelief, she plodded to the door. From behind her, the Duke called out, "Don't slouch girl! Stand up straight with your shoulders back! Are you a princess or a peasant?" This hateful comment sent Melana flying from the room. She didn't stop running until she reached her tower staircase. Without waiting for the help of the maid who was standing ready to assist her, she stumbled up the stairs. Slamming the door behind her, she tumbled into her canopied bed, shedding tears of sadness, though the predominant feeling was that life was not fair. Even though it was no fault of his, she was furious at Prince Carlyle. For her, he represented a life she would never want to live. Melana decided then and there that the wedding would never happen, because she would not be in attendance. She slowly sat up and rubbed her red eyes. Already, a plan was formulating in her mind. She would escape. The Duke must not have his way. The escapades of the day had stressed her, and she traipsed wearily toward the basin to wash her puffy face. As she dried it on a fluffy towel, the Princess happened to glance at the door, and something dawned on her. Her Uncle knew her mind. The door was locked because he had deducted that she would attempt to escape. He was right and this thought frightened Melana. She was a necessity if he was to get the money from the marriage to Prince Carlyle. This must also be what motivated the Duke to employ the practice of her being assisted on stairs. She mustn't hurt herself, after all. What value would she have to a Prince, if she broke her neck? Her plan to escape the clutches of the Duke was now fully formed. She must act quickly. Melana knew that if she sat here brooding for days, she may go mad. Another rap on the door was heard, and she knew that this was her chance. Just as she thought, a different maid entered with fresh bed clothes. Before the maid could address the Princess, Melana knocked her out with the china pitcher. Quickly apologizing to the limp body, she sprinted to the door and down the stairs. Soon she found herself out of the castle, marveling at the success of her simple plan. She had wandered into the forest and had been walking for what seemed like hours. Her feet ached and her cloak was torn and coated with burrs. At first, she had enjoyed the feeling of freedom, but now she was cold and almost wishing for her tower chamber. She swiftly reminded herself of the fate that lay behind her. All that kept her going now was that knowledge. The enormous trees stretched up on either side of the barely visible path. Darkness was quickly enveloping the world in a velvety blackness. She trembled. What would become of her now? Earlier she had felt self- sufficient, but self doubt now pervaded her thoughts. All of a sudden, the pounding of hooves was heard a little ways up the path. Feeling at first worried, and then excited, she stood her ground, and awaited whomever was atop that horse. A great white steed halted in front of her, the rider still partially hidden by the horse's massive form, said, "M'lady, is there a problem?" Melana suddenly felt calm, as though she could trust that voice. It was rich and melodious, and sounded genuinely like it wanted to assist her. She replied, "Well, you might say that.I suppose." Although she had denied it before, Melana now realized how dire her situation really was. Swallowing her pride, she confessed, "Yes sir, I do need help." "Come here," he said, and helped her up on to his horse. Finally catching a glimpse of her saviour, the Princess saw that he was clothed in the finery of the rich. Wondering who he was and where he came from, Melana inquired politely, "Surely 'tis my right to know the name of he who has rescued me." Turning to her, he replied, "My title, if you please fair one, is Prince Carlyle."