Once upon a time, in a kingdom known as Baltimore, lived the Princess Sheila, known not so much far and wide but among those near and dear for her generosity.
Although the king, a lad named Martin, ruled the land, she watched out for her closest subjects - her sister Janice, personal exchequer Dale and the dashing Ronald of Doracon, who always came bearing gifts and liked to build big things hither and yon.
The princess made sure they wanted for nothing: She took care of Mildred of Utech, who employed Janice; she found work in the castle for Dale; and she made Ronald her vassal, helping him to partake of the royal coffers to build on his fiefdoms.
As for herself, the princess was patient. One day, Sheila knew, Martin would grow restless. He would take his merry band of Irishmen and travel to a faraway land called Annapolis.
And then she would be queen.
But as in every kingdom, there was a dark cloud. In Baltimore, it came in the form of the town crier, a rude and nosy creature. The Baltimore Sun, it was called, although it tended toward dark mutterings that all was not well.
It said the princess had misbehaved. That she had not told what gifts the vassal Ronald gave her or what relationship she enjoyed with those who benefited from the castle's largess, or that she bypassed the rules of the council of the kingdom to reward her most loyal subjects.
Lies, she cried, all lies. Except, that is, for the time the princess would say mistakes were made - by whom, she would not say. And then the princess simply stopped talking about it.
She survived, even thrived, and she indeed became queen.
Yet the dark cloud grew until finally from the state of Maryland came the esquire Robert, to make many inquiries about the queen. Sometimes he would send his raiders, in their matching vestments with STATE PROSECUTOR'S OFFICE on the back, to the places of the queen's friends. They would take things, papers and writing machines and sundry belongings.
And one day, after the sun had barely risen over the land, they even arrived at the doorstep of the queen's palace!
But the months went on, and Robert kept secret all he had learned - although sometimes he would gather a group of the subjects of the kingdom and share with them his knowledge. Then they would quietly disband and go back home without a peep to their fellow subjects.
The town crier managed to learn some secrets, so they were no longer secret. Soon the kingdom was abuzz about the queen's dalliance with the vassal Ronald and their wondrous trips to exotic lands. They went to Chicago, with its bazaars on the Avenue of Michigan that sold ointments for the face and adornments for the feet, and to New York, where castles are named after a comical lord called The Donald.
But back in Baltimore, the queen and most of her subjects went on to other things, such as the making of a cleaner and greener kingdom, and the local sport of following the paths of the birds known as the Orioles and the Ravens.
Until that winter day that Robert finally emerged, waving a sheaf of papers accusing the vassal Ronald of a crime. Not unto the queen, but together with a lesser lady, one Helen, known mainly for her abundant locks of hair. Said Robert: Ronald had borne a gift to Lady Helen, and Lady Helen had persuaded the council of the kingdom to look kindly on Ronald, and send him off a richer man.
But what of the queen, the subjects wondered, which matter Robert soon addressed, in an even bigger sheaf of papers, and they said the queen was bad!
She too had taken gifts from Ronald and another of his ilk, one Patrick of Westport, and because they were gentlemen doing business with the castle, she should have made note of their presents for the kingdom's guardians of matters ethical. But, said the queen's protector, the legendary Arnold of Wiener, those guardians never made a list of those who can and cannot bear gifts to the castle, so how was the queen to know to decline their offerings?
Robert continued: She stole gift cards given by Ronald and Patrick. To which Arnold countered: If they be gifts, how could their taking be theft?
A wise man, one Dennis, arrived to settle the dispute. He listened. He thought. He decided: Robert was wrong about Helen, who may speechify and debate and vote any way she wants because that is her role as a member of the kingdom's council. Whether Ronald purchased her speechifying and vote-ifying with his gift-ifying does not by itself matter, said Dennis.
And so it goes as well for the queen, at least for Robert's accusations that she fibbed and misbehaved, behavior which must now be forgotten by all, like the un-ringing of a bell.