Four men stood on a platform draped with flowers and greenery. Behind them were the palace gates, flung wide onto a view of a long green lawn and a cobblestoned path carpeted with flower petals and lined with liveried guards; in front of them milled a large crowd of people, chattering restlessly.

On the platform, both flowers and men wilted in the hot noon sun. One of the men glanced at the sun. "They better hurry up," he grumbled. "He is just a prince, not a king or emperor. Why does he keep us waiting?"

Another of the men, a figure whose jaundiced tone may one could charitably attribute to the effect of his mustard yellow velvet coat on his pale skin, patted his curled wig and said, "Is it the Prince who keeps us waiting, or the Princess? Women fuss for hours over their clothing and consider the inconvenience to others to be part of the fun."

The third man snorted and smiled, but the fourth, a long, lanky fellow in a rich costume not quite long enough in legs or arms, frowned. "The Prince has had little call to be punctual in far too long, remember. It may take him time to re-accustom himself to society's time rather than that of the Rose."

The first man "hmphed," but the other three remained silent, watching the crowd and casting occasional glances over their shoulders toward the palace, white and gleaming far across the castle lawn.

Inside the palace, in a spacious and airy chamber from which the occupants could hear, though not see, the restless crowd outside the walls, the Prince and Princess stood in silence. The Prince wore resplendent purple silks embroidered with thread of real gold. The heavy purple ermine mantel he wore made him sweat, and the towering gold crown glittering with emeralds and rubies made his head hurt. "Come," he said to the Princess for the fourth or fifth time. "The people are waiting. Please, you must come so they may see you."

The Princess, no cooler than the Prince in her layers of petticoats and purple satin, also had a headache, though not from the light crown of spun gold which sat atop her curled and up-done hair. "Must I?" she asked, also for the fourth or fifth time. "Must we?"

The Prince just looked at her, and in his brown eyes the message he was too weary of arguing to verbalize shone clear: they must. The Princess sighed.

"It is just…this is not what I meant. It is what I wanted, but it is all…different, now," she said. Then she stiffened her back and straightened her shoulders. "Well, if it must be done, it must be done," she said. "Let us go."

The sun was not so very much past its zenith when the Prince and Princess finally emerged from the palace doors and made their way down the long, petal-strewn path to the platform at the gate. The soldiers made their salutes sharply, glad for the end to their hours of waiting under the sun. The four men on the platform smiled with relief and began applauding for the royal couple. The crowd hushed, then broke forth with new noise, cheering and whistling and clapping, as they finally caught sight of their long awaited Prince and Princess.

The Prince mounted the steps and held his hand out to the Princess, and she ascended as well. The four men on the platform bowed low to them both, and the crowd followed suit, the girl-children wobbling in their curtsies and the boys being shoved by their fathers into bows, and all of them, young and old, peeking even with faces lowered, to see the Prince who was again a Prince and the Princess who had saved him.
The first man on the platform gave a loud speech of welcome and return and gratitude, and then the Prince introduced his Princess. The crowd renewed their cheering then, for the Princess had done what none of them had been able to do, and returned their Prince to them, and she was comely and well-dressed and her shy smile endeared them to her. But some clapped only hesitantly, for the long wait had worried them, and they were still not certain of their returned Prince or his silent, shyly smiling bride. Perhaps these could hear the weariness and headache in the Prince's words, and see that the Princess's smile did not reach her blue eyes, but the majority of the crowd clapped and cheered and made merry with light hearts when the Prince announced the week of Carnival.

The royal couple followed the four men through the crowd, surrounded by stern-faced guards and smiling dancing maids. The guards' red livery and the flouncing, short red dresses of the maids lit up the road, rosy patches of color beside which the finery of the townspeople, and even of the royal couple themselves, faded. Amid the drawn gleaming swords of the soldiers and the white, high-kicking legs of the maidens, the entourage and the crowd about them reached the town square.

Here they climbed another platform and ate a feast at a high table, and then, guards all but forgotten, the people swarmed about them, eager to meet the royalty in their midst. Noblemen and farmers and great ladies and humble seamstresses pressed in and out of the Prince's view until he quite lost track of all of them. As the sky grew darker and the crowd grew drunker, he realized suddenly that he had lost track of the Princess, as well. Trying to forestall panic, he moved through the crowd, straining for a sight of purple satin, of spun gold nestled in brown curls. Once he thought he saw her; his eyes met blue ones shining with familiar haloes, but the girl wore only the plain blue homespun finery of a peasant, and though she smiled at him, he turned away before he noticed the sadness in that smile.

And there was the Princess, laughing and flirting with the mustard yellow minister. The Prince, relieved to not only find her, but find her relaxed and enjoying herself, moved quickly to her side and kissed her head. She turned to him with a bright smile and said, "There you are, darling," before he could. He smiled and bent to kiss her lips, his eyes meeting her smiling brown ones. The Prince stopped, staring at those warm brown eyes. They crinkled in a question, and the Princess pulled back, asking, "What's wrong?" The Prince looked at her, and he knew, and he turned to find again the girl in the blue homespun dress, but she was nowhere in sight.

"Darling?" asked the woman in the purple satin and gold crown of the princess, her eyes wide and brown with concern, and the Prince turned back to her with a cough, and smiled. "It is nothing," he said, "I am glad to see you enjoying yourself." He kissed her, and she smiled at him, and they both turned back to the minister in mustard, and the Carnival continued all around them.

But the Prince knew. He had to manage his princedom, neglected for far too long. He had to stay with this Princess and these ministers and rule and bear heirs and wage wars. The people never knew, though perhaps those same who had clapped so hesitantly at his appearance guessed something of it. His ministers, certainly, never suspected a thing. But deep inside him, the Prince's heart broke that day, and all he did from then on seemed to him a lie, because the Princess, his Princess, the Princess of his heart—her eyes were blue.