The Bee-Man of Orn and Other Fanciful Tales by Frank R. Stockton - HTML preview
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Christmas Before LastFull title: CHRISTMAS BEFORE LAST, OR, THE FRUIT OF THE FRAGILE PALM.
The "Horn o' Plenty" was a fine, big, old-fashioned ship, very high in the bow, very high in the stern, with a quarter-deck always carpeted in fine weather, because her captain could not see why one should not make himself comfortable at sea as well as on land. Covajos Maroots was her captain, and a fine, jolly, old-fashioned, elderly sailor he was. The "Horn o' Plenty" always sailed upon one sea, and always between two ports, one on the west side of the sea, and one on the east. The port on the west was quite a large city, in which Captain Covajos had a married son, and the port on the east was another city in which he had a married daughter. In each family he had several grandchildren; and, consequently, it was a great joy to the jolly old sailor to arrive at either port. The Captain was very particular about his cargo, and the "Horn o' Plenty" was generally laden with good things to eat, or sweet things to smell, or fine things to wear, or beautiful things to look at. Once a merchant brought to him some boxes of bitter aloes, and mustard plasters, but Captain Covajos refused to take them into his ship.
"I know," said he, "that such things are very useful and necessary at times, but you would better send them over in some other vessel. The 'Horn o' Plenty' has never carried any thing that to look at, to taste, or to smell, did not delight the souls of old and young. I am sure you cannot say that of these commodities. If I were to put such things on board my ship, it would break the spell which more than fifty savory voyages have thrown around it."
There were sailors who sailed upon that sea who used to say that sometimes, when the weather was hazy and they could not see far, they would know they were about to meet the "Horn o' Plenty" before she came in sight; her planks and timbers, and even her sails and masts, had gradually become so filled with the odor of good things that the winds that blew over her were filled with an agreeable fragrance.
There was another thing about which Captain Covajos was very particular; he always liked to arrive at one of his ports a few days before Christmas. Never, in the course of his long life, had the old sailor spent a Christmas at sea; and now that he had his fine grandchildren to help make the holidays merry, it would have grieved him very much if he had been unable to reach one or the other of his ports in good season. His jolly old vessel was generally heavily laden, and very slow, and there were many days of calms on that sea when she did not sail at all, so that her voyages were usually very, very long. But the Captain fixed the days of sailing so as to give himself plenty of time to get to the other end of his course before Christmas came around.
One spring, however, he started too late, and when he was about the middle of his voyage, he called to him Baragat Bean, his old boatswain. This venerable sailor had been with the Captain ever since he had commanded the "Horn o' Plenty," and on important occasions he was always consulted in preference to the other officers, none of whom had served under Captain Covajos more then fifteen or twenty years.
"That makes it plain," said the Captain, "that we are not yet half-way across, and I am very much afraid that I shall not be able to reach my dear daughter's house before Christmas."
"That would be doleful, indeed," said Baragat; "but I've feared something of the kind, for we've had calms nearly every other day, and sometimes, when the wind did blow, it came from the wrong direction, and it's my belief that the ship sailed backward."
"That was very bad management," said the Captain. "The chief mate should have seen to it that the sails were turned in such a manner that the ship could not go backward. If that sort of thing happened often, it would become quite a serious affair.""But what is done can't be helped," said the boatswain, "and I don't see how you are going to get into port before Christmas." "Nor do I," said the Captain, gazing out over the sea.
"It would give me a sad turn, sir," said Baragat, "to see you spend Christmas at sea; a thing you never did before, nor ever shall do, if I can help it. If you'll take my advice, sir, you'll turn around, and go back. It's a shorter distance to the port we started from than to the one we are going to, and if we turn back now, I am sure we all shall be on shore before the holidays.""Go back to my son's house!" exclaimed Captain Covajos, "where I was last winter! Why, that would be like spending last Christmas over again!" "But that would be better than having none at all, sir," said the boatswain, "and a Christmas at sea would be about equal to none."
"Good!" exclaimed the Captain. "I will give up the coming Christmas with my daughter and her children, and go back and spend last Christmas over again with my son and his dear boys and girls. Have the ship turned around immediately, Baragat, and tell the chief mate I do not wish to sail backward if it can possibly be avoided."
For a week or more the "Horn o' Plenty" sailed back upon her track towards the city where dwelt the Captain's son. The weather was fine, the carpet was never taken up from the quarter-deck, and every thing was going on very well, when a man, who happened to have an errand at one of the topmasts, came down, and reported that, far away to the north, he had seen a little open boat with some people in it.
"Ah me!" said Captain Covajos, "it must be some poor fellows who are shipwrecked. It will take us out of our course, but we must not leave them to their fate. Have the ship turned about, so that it will sail northward."It was not very long before they came up with the boat; and, much to the Captain's surprise, he saw that it was filled with boys. "Who are you?" he cried as soon as he was near enough. "And where do you come from?" "We are the First Class in Long Division," said the oldest boy, "and we are cast away. Have you any thing to eat that you can spare us? We are almost famished." "We have plenty of every thing," said the Captain. "Come on board instantly, and all your wants shall be supplied." "How long have you been without food?" he asked, when the boys were on the deck of the vessel. "We have had nothing to eat since breakfast," said one of them; "and it is now late in the afternoon. Some of us are nearly dead from starvation." "It is very hard for boys to go so long without eating," said the good Captain. And leading them below, he soon set them to work upon a bountiful meal. Not until their hunger was fully satisfied did he ask them how they came to be cast away.
"You see, sir," said the oldest boy, "that we and the Multiplication Class had a holiday today, and each class took a boat and determined to have a race, so as to settle, once for all, which was the highest branch of arithmetic, multiplication or long division. Our class rowed so hard that we entirely lost sight of the Multiplicationers, and found indeed that we were out of sight of every thing; so that, at last, we did not know which was the way back, and thus we became castaways.""Where is your school?" asked the Captain.
"It is on Apple Island," said the boy; "and, although it is a long way off for a small boat with only four oars for nine boys, it can't be very far for a ship."
"That is quite likely," said the Captain, "and we shall take you home. Baragat, tell the chief mate to have the vessel turned toward Apple Island, that we may restore these boys to their parents and guardians."
Now, the chief mate had not the least idea in the world where Apple Island was, but he did not like to ask, because that would be confessing his ignorance; so he steered his vessel toward a point where he believed he had once seen an island, which, probably, was the one in question. The "Horn o' Plenty" sailed in this direction all night, and when day broke, and there was no island in sight, she took another course; and so sailed this way and that for six or seven days, without ever seeing a sign of land. All this time, the First Class in Long Division was as happy as it could be, for it was having a perfect holiday; fishing off the sides of the vessel, climbing up the ladders and ropes, and helping the sailors whistle for wind. But the Captain now began to grow a little impatient, for he felt he was losing time; so he sent for the chief mate, and said to him mildly but firmly:
"I know it is out of the line of your duty to search for island schools, but, if you really think that you do not know where Apple Island lies, I wish you to say so, frankly and openly.""Frankly and openly," answered the mate, "I don't think I do."
"Very well," said the Captain. "Now, that is a basis to work upon, and we know where we stand. You can take a little rest, and let the second mate find the island. But I can only give him three days in which to do it. We really have no time to spare."The second mate was very proud of the responsibility placed upon him, and immediately ordered the vessel to be steered due south.
"One is just as likely," he said, "to find a totally unknown place by going straight ahead in a certain direction, as by sailing here, there, and everywhere. In this way, you really get over more water, and there is less wear and tear of the ship and rigging."
So he sailed due south for two days, and at the end of that time they came in sight of land. This was quite a large island, and when they approached near enough, they saw upon its shores a very handsome city."Is this Apple Island?" said Captain Covajos to the oldest boy.
"Well, sir," answered the youth, "I am not sure I can say with certainty that I truly believe that it is; but, I think, if we were to go on shore, the people there would be able to tell us how to go to Apple Island."
"Very likely," said the good Captain; "and we will go on shore and make inquiries.—And it has struck me, Baragat," he said, "that perhaps the merchants in the city where my son lives may be somewhat annoyed when the 'Horn o' Plenty' comes back with all their goods on board, and not disposed of. Not understanding my motives, they may be disposed to think ill of me. Consequently the idea has come into my head, that it might be a good thing to stop here for a time, and try to dispose of some of our merchandise. The city seems to be quite prosperous, and I have no doubt there are a number of merchants here."
So the "Horn o' Plenty" was soon anchored in the harbor, and as many of the officers and crew as could be spared went on shore to make inquiries. Of course the First Class in Long Division was not left behind; and, indeed, they were ashore as soon as anybody. The Captain and his companions were cordially welcomed by some of the dignitaries of the city who had come down to the harbor to see the strange vessel; but no one could give any information in regard to Apple Island, the name of which had never been heard on those shores. The Captain was naturally desirous of knowing at what place he had landed, and was informed that this was the Island of the Fragile Palm."That is rather an odd name," said the old Captain. "Why is it so called?"
"The reason is this," said his informant. "Near the centre of the island stands a tall and very slender palm-tree, which has been growing there for hundreds of years. It bears large and handsome fruit which is something like the cocoanut; and, in its perfection, is said to be a transcendently delicious fruit.""Said to be!" exclaimed the Captain; "are you not positive about it?"
"No," said the other; "no one living has ever tasted the fruit in its perfection. When it becomes overripe, it drops to the ground, and, even then, it is considered royal property, and is taken to the palace for the King's table. But on fête-days and grand occasions small bits of it are distributed to the populace.""Why don't you pick the fruit," asked Captain Covajos, "when it is in its best condition to eat?"
"It would be impossible," said the citizen, "for any one to climb up that tree, the trunk of which is so extremely delicate and fragile that the weight of a man would probably snap it; and, of course, a ladder placed against it would produce the same result. Many attempts have been made to secure this fruit at the proper season, but all of them have failed. Another palm-tree of a more robust sort was once planted near this one in the hope that when it grew high enough, men could climb up the stronger tree and get the fruit from the other. But, although we waited many years the second tree never attained sufficient height, and it was cut down."
"It is a great pity," said the Captain; "but I suppose it cannot be helped." And then he began to make inquiries about the merchants in the place, and what probability there was of his doing a little trade here. The Captain soon discovered that the cargo of his ship was made up of goods which were greatly desired by the citizens of this place; and for several days he was very busy in selling the good things to eat, the sweet things to smell, the fine things to wear, and the beautiful things to look at, with which the hold of the "Horn o' Plenty" was crowded.
During this time the First Class in Long Division roamed, in delight, over the city. The busy streets, the shops, the handsome buildings, and the queer sights which they occasionally met, interested and amused them greatly. But still the boys were not satisfied. They had heard of the Fragile Palm, and they made up their minds to go and have a look at it. Therefore, taking a guide, they tramped out into the country, and in about an hour they came in sight of the beautiful tree standing in the centre of the plain. The trunk was, indeed, exceedingly slender, and, as the guide informed them, the wood was of so very brittle a nature that if the tree had not been protected from the winds by the high hills which encircled it, it would have been snapped off ages ago. Under the broad tuft of leaves that formed its top, the boys saw hanging large clusters of the precious fruit; great nuts as big as their heads."At what time of the year," asked the oldest boy, "is that fruit just ripe enough to eat?"
"Now," answered the guide. "This is the season when it is in the most perfect condition. In about a month it will become entirely too ripe and soft, and will drop. But, even then, the King and all the rest of us are glad enough to get a taste of it.""I should think the King would be exceedingly eager to get some of it, just as it is," said the boy.
"Indeed he is!" replied the guide. "He and his father, and I don't know how many grandfathers back, have offered large rewards to any one who would procure them this fruit in its best condition. But nobody has ever been able to get any yet.""The reward still holds good, I suppose," said the head boy. "Oh, yes," answered the guide; "there never was a King who so much desired to taste the fruit as our present monarch."
The oldest boy looked up at the top of the tree, shut one eye, and gave his head a little wag. Whereupon every boy in the class looked up, shut one eye, and slightly wagged his head. After which the oldest boy said that he thought it was about time for them to go back to the ship.
As soon as they reached the vessel, and could talk together freely, the boys had an animated discussion. It was unanimously agreed that they would make an attempt to get some of the precious fruit from the Fragile Palm, and the only difference of opinion among them was as to how it should be done. Most of them were in favor of some method of climbing the tree and trusting to its not breaking. But this the oldest boy would not listen to; the trunk might snap, and then somebody would be hurt, and he felt, in a measure, responsible for the rest of the class. At length a good plan was proposed by a boy who had studied mechanics.
"What we ought to do with that tree," said he, "is to put a hinge into her. Then we could let her down gently, pick off the fruit, and set her up again.
"This is the way," said the boy who had studied mechanics. "You take a saw, and then, about two feet from the ground, you begin and saw down diagonally, for a foot and a half, to the centre of the trunk. Then you go on the other side, and saw down in the same way, the two outs meeting each other. Now you have the upper part of the trunk ending in a wedge, which fits into a cleft in the lower part of the trunk. Then, about nine inches below the place where you first began to saw, you bore a hole straight through both sides of the cleft and the wedge between them. Then you put an iron bolt through this hole, and you have your tree on a hinge, only she wont be apt to move because she fits in so snug and tight. Then you get a long rope, and put one end in a slipknot loosely around the trunk. Then you get a lot of poles, and tie them end to end, and push this slip-knot up until it is somewhere near the top, when you pull it tight. Then you take another rope with a slip-knot, and push this a little more than half-way up the trunk. By having two ropes, that way, you prevent too much strain coming on any one part of the trunk. Then, after that, you take a mallet and chisel and round off the lower corners of the wedge, so that it will turn easily in the cleft. Then we take hold of the ropes, let her down gently, pick off the fruit, and haul her up again. That will all be easy enough."
This plan delighted the boys, and they all pronounced in its favor; but the oldest one suggested that it would be better to fasten the ropes to the trunk before they began to saw upon it, and another boy asked how they were going to keep the tree standing when they hauled her up again.
"Oh, that is easy," said the one who had studied mechanics; "you just bore another hole about six inches above the first one, and put in another bolt. Then, of course, she can't move."
This settled all the difficulties, and it was agreed to start out early the next morning, gather the fruit, and claim the reward the King had offered. They accordingly went to the Captain and asked him for a sharp saw, a mallet and chisel, an auger, two iron bolts, and two very long ropes. These, having been cheerfully given to them, were put away in readiness for the work to be attempted.
Very early on the next morning, the First Class in Long Division set out for the Fragile Palm, carrying their tools and ropes. Few people were awake as they passed through the city, and, without being observed, they reached the little plain on which the tree stood. The ropes were attached at the proper places, the tree was sawn, diagonally, according to the plan; the bolt was put in, and the corners of the wedge were rounded off. Then the eldest boy produced a pound of butter, whereupon his comrades, who had seized the ropes, paused in surprise and asked him why he had brought the butter.
"I thought it well," was the reply, "to bring along some butter, because, when the tree is down, we can grease the hinge, and then it will not be so hard to pull it up again."
When all was ready, eight of the boys took hold of the long ropes, while another one with a pole pushed against the trunk of the Fragile Palm. When it began to lean over a little, he dropped his pole and ran to help the others with the ropes. Slowly the tree moved on its hinge, descending at first very gradually; but it soon began to move with greater rapidity, although the boys held it back with all their strength; and, in spite of their most desperate efforts, the top came to the ground at last with a great thump. And then they all dropped their ropes, and ran for the fruit. Fortunately the great nuts incased in their strong husks were not in the least injured, and the boys soon pulled them off, about forty in all. Some of the boys were in favor of cracking open a few of the nuts and eating them, but this the eldest boy positively forbade.
"This fruit," he said, "is looked upon as almost sacred, and if we were to eat any of it, it is probable that we should be put to death, which would be extremely awkward for fellows who have gone to all the trouble we have had. We must set up the tree and carry the fruit to the King."
According to this advice, they thoroughly greased the hinge in the tree with the butter, and then set themselves to work to haul up the trunk. This, however, was much more difficult than letting it down; and they had to lift up the head of it, and prop it up on poles, before they could pull upon it with advantage. The tree, although tall, was indeed a very slender one, with a small top, and, if it had been as fragile as it was supposed to be, the boys' efforts would surely have broken it. At last, after much tugging and warm work, they pulled it into an upright position, and put in the second bolt. They left the ropes on the tree because, as some of them had suggested, the people might want to let the tree down again the next year. It would have been difficult for the boys to carry in their arms the great pile of fruit they had gathered; but, having noticed a basket-maker's cottage on their way to the tree, two of them were sent to buy one of his largest baskets or hampers. This was attached to two long poles, and, having been filled with the nuts, the boys took the poles on their shoulders, and marched into the city.
On their way to the palace they attracted a great crowd, and when they were ushered into the presence of the King, his surprise and delight knew no bounds. At first he could scarcely believe his eyes; but he had seen the fruit so often that there could be no mistake about it.
"I shall not ask you," he said to the boys, "how you procured this fruit, and thus accomplished a deed which has been the object of the ambition of myself and my forefathers. All I ask is, did you leave the tree standing?"
"We did," said the boys. "Then all that remains to be done," said His Majesty, "is to give you the reward you have so nobly earned. Treasurer, measure out to each of them a quart of gold coin. And pray be quick about it, for I am wild with desire to have a table spread, and one of these nuts cracked, that I may taste of its luscious contents."The boys, however, appeared a little dissatisfied. Huddling together, they consulted in a low tone, and then the eldest boy addressed the King. "May it please your Majesty," he said; "we should very much prefer to have you give each of us one of those nuts instead of a quart of gold."
The King looked grave. "This is a much greater reward," he said, "than I had ever expected to pay; but, since you ask it, you must have it. You have done something which none of my subjects has ever been able to accomplish, and it is right, therefore, that you should be fully satisfied."So he gave them each a nut, with which they departed in triumph to the ship.
By the afternoon of the next day, the Captain had sold all his cargo at very good prices; and when the money was safely stored away in the "Horn o' Plenty," he made ready to sail, for he declared he had really no time to spare. "I must now make all possible haste," he said to old Baragat, "to find Apple Island, put these boys ashore, and then speed away to the city where lives my son. We must not fail to get there in time to spend last Christmas over again."
On the second day, after the "Horn o' Plenty" had left the Island of the Fragile Palm, one of the sailors who happened to be aloft noticed a low, black, and exceedingly unpleasantlooking vessel rapidly approaching. This soon proved to be the ship of a band of corsairs, who, having heard of the large amount of money on the "Horn o' Plenty," had determined to pursue her and capture the rich prize. All sails were set upon the "Horn o' Plenty," but it soon became plain that she could never outsail the corsair vessel."What our ship can do better than any thing else," said Baragat to the Captain, "is to stop short. Stop her short, and let the other one go by."
This manoeuvre was executed, but, although the corsair passed rapidly by, not being able to stop so suddenly, it soon turned around and came back, its decks swarming with savage men armed to the teeth."They are going to board us," cried Baragat. "They are getting out their grappling-irons, and they will fasten the two ships together."
"Let all assemble on the quarter-deck," said the Captain. "It is higher there, and we shall not be so much exposed to accidents."
The corsair ship soon ran alongside the "Horn o' Plenty," and in a moment the two vessels were fastened together; and then the corsairs, every man of them, each with cutlass in hand and a belt full of dirks and knives, swarmed up the side of the "Horn o' Plenty," and sprang upon its central deck. Some of the ferocious fellows, seeing the officers and crew all huddled together upon the quarter-deck, made a movement in that direction. This so frightened the chief mate that he sprang down upon the deck of the corsair ship. A panic now arose, and he was immediately followed by the officers and crew. The boys, of course, were not to be left behind; and the Captain and Baragat felt themselves bound not to desert the crew, and so they jumped also. None of the corsairs interfered with this proceeding, for each one of them was anxious to find the money at once. When the passengers and crew of the "Horn o' Plenty" were all on board the corsair ship, Baragat came to the Captain, and said:
"If I were you, sir, I'd cast off those grapnels, and separate the vessels. If we don't do that those rascals, when they have finished robbing our money-chests, will come back here and murder us all.""That is a good idea," said Captain Covajos; and he told the chief mate to give orders to cast off the grapnels, push the two vessels apart, and set some of the sails.
When this had been done, the corsair vessel began to move away from the other, and was soon many lengths distant from her. When the corsairs came on deck and perceived what had happened, they were infuriated, and immediately began to pursue their own vessel with the one they had captured. But the "Horn o' Plenty" could not, by any possibility, sail as fast as the corsair ship, and the latter easily kept away from her.
"Now, then," said Baragat to the Captain, "what you have to do is easy enough. Sail straight for our port and those sea-robbers will follow you; for, of course, they will wish to get their own vessel back again, and will hope, by some carelessness on our part, to overtake us. In the mean time the money will be safe enough, for they will have no opportunity of spending it; and when we come to port, we can take some soldiers on board, and go back and capture those fellows. They can never sail away from us on the 'Horn o' Plenty.'"
"That is an admirable plan," said the Captain, "and I shall carry it out; but I cannot sail to port immediately. I must first find Apple Island and land these boys, whose parents and guardians are probably growing very uneasy. I suppose the corsairs will continue to follow us wherever we go.""I hope so," said Baragat; "at any rate we shall see."
The First Class in Long Division was very much delighted with the change of vessels, and the boys rambled everywhere, and examined with great interest all that belonged to the corsairs. They felt quite easy about the only treasures they possessed, because, when they had first seen the piratical vessel approaching, they had taken the precious nuts which had been given to them by the King, and had hidden them at the bottom of some large boxes, in which the Captain kept the sailors' winter clothes."In this warm climate," said the eldest boy, "the robbers will never meddle with those winter clothes, and our precious fruit will be perfectly safe." "If you had taken my advice," said one of the other boys, "we should have eaten some of the nuts. Those, at least, we should have been sure of." "And we should have had that many less to show to the other classes," said the eldest boy. "Nuts like these, I am told, if picked at the proper season, will keep for a long time."
For some days the corsairs on board the "Horn o' Plenty" followed their own vessel, but then they seemed to despair of ever being able to overtake it, and steered in another direction. This threatened to ruin all the plans of Captain Covajos, and his mind became troubled. Then the boy who had studied mechanics came forward and said to the Captain:
"I'll tell you what I'd do, sir, if I were you; I'd follow your old ship, and when night came on I'd sail up quite near to her, and let some of your sailors swim quietly over, and fasten a cable to her, and then you could tow her after you wherever you wished to go.""But they might unfasten the cable, or cut it," said Baragat, who was standing by.
"That could easily be prevented," said the boy. "At their end of the cable must be a stout chain which they cannot cut, and it must be fastened so far beneath the surface of the water that they will not be able to reach it to unfasten it.""A most excellent plan," said Captain Covajos; "let it be carried out."
As soon as it became quite dark, the corsair vessel quietly approached the other, and two stout sailors from Finland, who swam very well, were ordered to swim over and attach the chain-end of a long cable to the "Horn o' Plenty." It was a very difficult operation, for the chain was heavy, but the men succeeded at last, and returned to report."We put the chain on, fast and strong sir," they said to the Captain; "and six feet under water. But the only place we could find to make it fast to was the bottom of the rudder." "That will do very well," remarked Baragat; "for the 'Horn o' Plenty' sails better backward than forward, and will not be so hard to tow."
For week after week, and month after month, Captain Covajos, in the corsair vessel, sailed here and there in search of Apple Island, always towing after him the "Horn o' Plenty," with the corsairs on board, but never an island with a school on it could they find; and one day old Baragat came to the Captain and said:
"If I were you, sir, I'd sail no more in these warm regions. I am quite sure that apples grow in colder latitudes, and are never found so far south as this."
And so, for days and weeks, the two vessels slowly moved on to the north. One day the Captain made some observations and calculations, and then he hastily summoned Baragat.
"Do you know," said he, "that I find it is now near the end of November, and I am quite certain that we shall not get to the port where my son lives in time to celebrate last Christmas again. It is dreadfully slow work, towing after us the 'Horn o' Plenty,' full of corsairs, wherever we go. But we cannot cast her off and sail straight for our port, for I should lose my good ship, the merchants would lose all their money, and the corsairs would go unpunished; and, besides all that, think of the misery of the parents and guardians of those poor boys. No; I must endeavor to find Apple Island. And if I cannot reach port in time to spend last Christmas with my son, I shall certainly get there in season for Christmas before last. It is true that I spent that Christmas with my daughter, but I cannot go on to her now. I am much nearer the city where my son lives; and, besides, it is necessary to go back, and give the merchants their money. So now we shall have plenty of time, and need not feel hurried.""No," said Baragat, heaving a vast sigh, "we need not feel hurried."
The mind of the eldest boy now became very much troubled, and he called his companions about him. "I don't like at all," said he, "this sailing to the north. It is now November, and, although it is warm enough at this season in the southern part of the sea, it will become colder and colder as we go on. The consequence of this will be that those corsairs will want winter clothes, they will take them out of the Captain's chests, and they will find our fruit."The boys groaned. "That is true," said one of them; "but still we wish to go back to our island."
"Of course," said the eldest boy, "it is quite proper that we should return to Long Division. But think of the hard work we did to get that fruit, and think of the quarts of gold we gave up for it! It would be too bad to lose it now!"
It was unanimously agreed that it would be too bad to lose the fruit, and it was also unanimously agreed that they wished to go back to Apple Island. But what to do about it, they did not know.
Day by day the weather grew colder and colder, and the boys became more and more excited and distressed for fear they should lose their precious fruit. The eldest boy lay awake for several nights, and then a plan came into his head. He went to Captain Covajos and proposed that he should send a flag of truce over to the corsairs, offering to exchange winter clothing. He would send over to them the heavy garments they had left on their own vessel, and in return would take the boxes of clothes intended for the winter wear of his sailors. In this way, they would get their fruit back without the corsairs knowing any thing about it. The Captain considered this an excellent plan, and ordered the chief mate to take a boat and a flag of truce, and go over to the "Horn o' Plenty," and make the proposition. The eldest boy and two of the others insisted on going also, in order that there might be no mistake about the boxes. But when the flag-of-truce party reached the "Horn o' Plenty" they found not a corsair there! Every man of them had gone. They had taken with them all the money-chests, but to the great delight of the boys, the boxes of winter clothes had not been disturbed; and in them still nestled, safe and sound, the precious nuts of the Fragile Palm.
When the matter had been thoroughly looked into, it became quite evident what the corsairs had done. There had been only one boat on board the "Horn o' Plenty," and that was the one on which the First Class in Long Division had arrived. The night before, the two vessels had passed within a mile or so of a large island, which the Captain had approached in the hope it was the one they were looking for, and they passed it so slowly that the corsairs had time to ferry themselves over, a few at a time, in the little boat, taking with them the money,—and all without discovery.Captain Covajos was greatly depressed when he heard of the loss of all the money.
"I shall have a sad tale to tell my merchants," he said, "and Christmas before last will not be celebrated so joyously as it was the first time. But we cannot help what has happened, and we all must endeavor to bear our losses with patience. We shall continue our search for Apple Island, but I shall go on board my own ship, for I have greatly missed my carpeted quarter-deck and my other comforts. The chief mate, however, and a majority of the crew shall remain on board the corsair vessel, and continue to tow us. The 'Horn o' Plenty' sails better stern foremost, and we shall go faster that way."
The boys were overjoyed at recovering their fruit, and most of them were in favor of cracking two or three of the great nuts, and eating their contents in honor of the occasion, but the eldest boy dissuaded them.
"The good Captain," he said, "has been very kind in endeavoring to take us back to our school, and still intends to keep up the search for dear old Apple Island. The least we can do for him is to give him this fruit, which is all we have, and let him do what he pleases with it. This is the only way in which we can show our gratitude to him."
The boys turned their backs on one another, and each of them gave his eyes a little rub, but they all agreed to give the fruit to the Captain.
When the good old man received his present, he was much affected. "I will accept what you offer me," he said; "for if I did not, I know your feelings would be wounded. But you must keep one of the nuts for yourselves. And, more than that, if we do not find Apple Island in the course of the coming year, I invite you all to spend Christmas before last over again, with me at my son's house."
All that winter, the two ships sailed up and down, and here and there, but never could they find Apple Island. When Christmas-time came, old Baragat went around among the boys and the crew, and told them it would be well not to say a word on the subject to the Captain, for his feelings were very tender in regard to spending Christmas away from his families, and the thing had never happened before. So nobody made any allusion to the holidays, and they passed over as if they had been ordinary days.
During the spring, and all through the summer, the two ships kept up the unavailing search, but when the autumn began, Captain Covajos said to old Baragat: "I am very sorry, but I feel that I can no longer look for Apple Island. I must go back and spend Christmas before last over again, with my dearest son; and if these poor boys never return to their homes, I am sure they cannot say it was any fault of mine.""No, sir," said Baragat, "I think you have done all that could be expected of you."
So the ships sailed to the city on the west side of the sea; and the Captain was received with great joy by his son, and his grandchildren. He went to the merchants, and told them how he had lost all their money. He hoped they would be able to bear their misfortune with fortitude, and begged, as he could do nothing else for them, that they would accept the eight great nuts from the Fragile Palm that the boys had given him. To his surprise the merchants became wild with delight when they received the nuts. The money they had lost was as nothing, they said, compared to the value of this incomparable and precious fruit, picked in its prime, and still in a perfect condition.
It had been many, many generations since this rare fruit, the value of which was like unto that of diamonds and pearls, had been for sale in any market in the world; and kings and queens in many countries were ready to give for it almost any price that might be asked. When the good old Captain heard this he was greatly rejoiced, and, as the holidays were now near, he insisted that the boys should spend Christmas before last over again, at his son's house. He found that a good many people here knew where Apple Island was, and he made arrangements for the First Class in Long Division to return to that island in a vessel which was to sail about the first of the year.
The boys still possessed the great nut which the Captain had insisted they should keep for themselves, and he now told them that if they chose to sell it, they would each have a nice little fortune to take back with them. The eldest boy consulted the others, and then he said to the Captain:
"Our class has gone through a good many hardships, and has had a lot of trouble with that palm-tree and other things, and we think we ought to be rewarded. So, if it is all the same to you, I think we will crack the nut on Christmas Day and we all will eat it."
"I never imagined," cried Captain Covajos, as he sat, on that Christmas Day, surrounded by his son's family and the First Class in Long Division, the eyes of the whole party sparkling with ecstasy as they tasted the peerless fruit of the Fragile Palm, "that Christmas before last could be so joyfully celebrated over again."
Prince Hassak's MarchIn the spring of a certain year, long since passed away, Prince Hassak, of Itoby, determined to visit his uncle, the King of Yan.
"Whenever my uncle visited us," said the Prince, "or when my late father went to see him, the journey was always made by sea; and, in order to do this, it was necessary to go in a very roundabout way between Itoby and Yan. Now, I shall do nothing of this kind. It is beneath the dignity of a prince to go out of his way on account of capes, peninsulas, and promontories. I shall march from my palace to that of my uncle in a straight line. I shall go across the country, and no obstacle shall cause me to deviate from my course. Mountains and hills shall be tunnelled, rivers shall be bridged, houses shall be levelled; a road shall be cut through forests; and, when I have finished my march, the course over which I have passed shall be a mathematically straight line. Thus will I show to the world that, when a prince desires to travel, it is not necessary for him to go out of his way on account of obstacles."
As soon as possible after the Prince had determined upon this march, he made his preparations, and set out. He took with him a few courtiers, and a large body of miners, rock-splitters, bridge-builders, and workmen of that class, whose services would, very probably, be needed. Besides these, he had an officer whose duty it was to point out the direct course to be taken, and another who was to draw a map of the march, showing the towns, mountains, and the various places it passed through. There were no compasses in those days, but the course-marker had an instrument which he would set in a proper direction by means of the stars, and then he could march by it all day. Besides these persons, Prince Hassak selected from the schools of his city five boys and five girls, and took them with him. He wished to show them how, when a thing was to be done, the best way was to go straight ahead and do it, turning aside for nothing."When they grow up they will teach these things to their children," said he; "and thus I shall instil good principles into my people."
The first day Prince Hassak and his party marched over a level country, with no further trouble than that occasioned by the tearing down of fences and walls, and the destruction of a few cottages and barns. After encamping for the night, they set out the next morning, but had not marched many miles before they came to a rocky hill, on the top of which was a handsome house, inhabited by a Jolly-cum-pop.
"Your Highness," said the course-marker, "in order to go in a direct line we must make a tunnel through this hill, immediately under the house. This may cause the building to fall in, but the rubbish can be easily removed."
"Let the men go to work," said the Prince. "I will dismount from my horse, and watch the proceedings."
When the Jolly-cum-pop saw the party halt before his house, he hurried out to pay his respects to the Prince. When he was informed of what was to be done, the Jolly-cum-pop could not refrain from laughing aloud.
"It will take your men some time," he said, "to cut this tunnel, and it is a pity your Highness should not be amused in the meanwhile. It is a fine day: suppose we go into the forest and hunt."
This suited the Prince very well, for he did not care about sitting under a tree and watching his workmen, and the Jolly-cum-pop having sent for his horse and some bows and arrows, the whole party, with the exception of the laborers, rode toward the forest, a short distance away."What shall we find to hunt?" asked the Prince of the Jolly-cum-pop.
"I really do not know," exclaimed the latter, "but we'll hunt whatever we happen to see— deer, small birds, rabbits, griffins, rhinoceroses, any thing that comes along. I feel as gay as a skipping grasshopper. My spirits rise like a soaring bird. What a joyful thing it is to have such a hunt on such a glorious day!"
The gay and happy spirits of the Jolly-cum-pop affected the whole party, and they rode merrily through the forest; but they found no game; and, after an hour or two, they emerged into the open country again. At a distance, on a slight elevation, stood a large and massive building."I am hungry and thirsty," said the Prince, "and perhaps we can get some refreshments at yonder house. So far, this has not been a very fine hunt." "No," cried the Jolly-cum-pop, "not yet. But what a joyful thing to see a hospitable mansion just at the moment when we begin to feel a little tired and hungry!"
The building they were approaching belonged to a Potentate, who lived at a great distance. In some of his travels he had seen this massive house, and thought it would make a good prison. He accordingly bought it, fitted it up as a jail, and appointed a jailer and three myrmidons to take charge of it. This had occurred years before, but no prisoners had ever been sent to this jail. A few days preceding the Jolly-cum-pop's hunt, the Potentate had journeyed this way and had stopped at his jail. After inquiring into its condition, he had said to the jailer:
"It is now fourteen years since I appointed you to this place, and in all that time there have been no prisoners, and you and your men have been drawing your wages without doing any thing. I shall return this way in a few days, and if I still find you idle I shall discharge you all and close the jail."
This filled the jailer with great dismay, for he did not wish to lose his good situation. When he saw the Prince and his party approaching, the thought struck him that perhaps he might make prisoners of them, and so not be found idle when the Potentate returned. He came out to meet the hunters, and when they asked if they could here find refreshment, he gave them a most cordial welcome. His men took their horses, and, inviting them to enter, he showed each member of the party into a small bedroom, of which there seemed to be a great many.
"Here are water and towels," he said to each one, "and when you have washed your face and hands, your refreshments will be ready." Then, going out, he locked the door on the outside.
The party numbered seventeen: the Prince, three courtiers, five boys, five girls, the course-marker, the map-maker, and the Jolly-cum-pop. The heart of the jailer was joyful; seventeen inmates was something to be proud of. He ordered his myrmidons to give the prisoners a meal of bread and water through the holes in their cell-doors, and then he sat down to make out his report to the Potentate."They must all be guilty of crimes," he said to himself, "which are punished by long imprisonment. I don't want any of them executed."
So he numbered his prisoners from one to seventeen, according to the cell each happened to be in, and he wrote a crime opposite each number. The first was highway robbery, the next forgery, and after that followed treason, smuggling, barn-burning, bribery, poaching, usury, piracy, witchcraft, assault and battery, using false weights and measures, burglary, counterfeiting, robbing hen-roosts, conspiracy, and poisoning his grandmother by proxy.
This report was scarcely finished when the Potentate returned. He was very much surprised to find that seventeen prisoners had come in since his previous visit, and he read the report with interest.
"Here is one who ought to be executed," he said, referring to Number Seventeen. "And how did he poison his grandmother by proxy? Did he get another woman to be poisoned in her stead? Or did he employ some one to act in his place as the poisoner?"
"I have not yet been fully informed, my lord," said the jailer, fearful that he should lose a prisoner; "but this is his first offence, and his grandmother, who did not die, has testified to his general good character."
"Very well," said the Potentate; "but if he ever does it again, let him be executed; and, by the way, I should like to see the prisoners."
Thereupon the jailer conducted the Potentate along the corridors, and let him look through the holes in the doors at the prisoners within.
"He must have done a good deal of it to afford to dress so well," said the Potentate, passing on, and looking into other cells. "It seems to me that many of your prisoners are very young.""It is best to take them young, my lord," said the jailer. "They are very hard to catch when they grow up." The Potentate then looked in at the Jolly-cum-pop, and asked what was his offence. "Conspiracy," was the answer. "And where are the other conspirators?" "There was only one," said the jailer. Number Seventeen was the oldest of the courtiers. "He appears to be an elderly man to have a grandmother," said the Potentate. "She must be very aged, and that makes it all the worse for him. I think he should be executed." "Oh, no, my lord," cried the jailor. "I am assured that his crime was quite unintentional." "Then he should be set free," said the Potentate.
"I mean to say," said the jailer, "that it was just enough intentional to cause him to be imprisoned here for a long time, but not enough to deserve execution."
"Very well," said the Potentate, turning to leave; "take good care of your prisoners, and send me a report every month."
The Prince and his party had been very much surprised and incensed when they found that they could not get out of their rooms, and they had kicked and banged and shouted until they were tired, but the jailer had informed them that they were to be confined there for years; and when the Potentate arrived they had resigned themselves to despair. The Jolly-cum-pop, however, was affected in a different way. It seemed to him the most amusing joke in the world that a person should deliberately walk into a prison-cell and be locked up for several years; and he lay down on his little bed and laughed himself to sleep.
That night one of the boys sat at his iron-barred window, wide awake. He was a Truant, and had never yet been in any place from which he could not run away. He felt that his school-fellows depended upon him to run away and bring them assistance, and he knew that his reputation as a Truant was at stake. His responsibility was so heavy that he could not sleep, and he sat at the window, trying to think of a way to get out. After some hours the moon arose, and by its light he saw upon the grass, not far from his window, a number of little creatures, which at first he took for birds or small squirrels; but on looking more attentively he perceived that they were pigwidgeons. They were standing around a flat stone, and seemed to be making calculations on it with a piece of chalk. At this sight, the heart of the Truant jumped for joy. "Pigwidgeons can do any thing," he said to himself, "and these certainly can get us out." He now tried in various ways to attract the attention of the pigwidgeons; but as he was afraid to call or whistle very loud, for fear of arousing the jailor, he did not succeed. Happily, he thought of a pea-shooter which he had in his pocket, and taking this out he blew a pea into the midst of the little group with such force that it knocked the chalk from the hand of the pigwidgeon who was using it. The little fellows looked up in astonishment, and perceived the Truant beckoning to them from his window. At first they stood angrily regarding him; but on his urging them in a loud whisper to come to his relief, they approached the prison and, clambering up a vine, soon reached his window-sill. The Truant now told his mournful tale, to which the pigwidgeons listened very attentively; and then, after a little consultation among themselves, one of them said: "We will get you out if you will tell us how to divide fivesevenths by six."
The poor Truant was silent for an instant, and then he said: "That is not the kind of thing I am good at, but I expect some of the other fellows could tell you easily enough. Our windows must be all in a row, and you can climb up and ask some of them; and if any one tells you, will you get us all out?"
"Yes," said the pigwidgeon who had spoken before. "We will do that, for we are very anxious to know how to divide five-sevenths by six. We have been working at it for four or five days, and there won't be any thing worth dividing if we wait much longer." The pigwidgeons now began to descend the vine; but one of them lingering a little, the Truant, who had a great deal of curiosity, asked him what it was they had to divide.
"There were eight of us," the pigwidgeon answered, "who helped a farmer's wife, and she gave us a pound of butter. She did not count us properly, and divided the butter into seven parts. We did not notice this at first, and two of the party, who were obliged to go away to a distance, took their portions and departed, and now we can not divide among six the five-sevenths that remain.""That is a pretty hard thing," said the Truant, "but I am sure some of the boys can tell you how to do it."
The pigwidgeons visited the next four cells, which were occupied by four boys, but not one of them could tell how to divide five-sevenths by six. The Prince was questioned, but he did not know; and neither did the course-marker, nor the map-maker. It was not until they came to the cell of the oldest girl that they received an answer. She was good at mental arithmetic; and, after a minute's thought, she said, "It would be five fortyseconds.""Good!" cried the pigwidgeons. "We will divide the butter into forty-two parts, and each take five. And now let us go to work and cut these bars."
Three of the six pigwidgeons were workers in iron, and they had their little files and saws in pouches by their sides. They went to work manfully, and the others helped them, and before morning one bar was cut in each of the seventeen windows. The cells were all on the ground floor, and it was quite easy for the prisoners to clamber out. That is, it was easy for all but the Jolly-cum-pop. He had laughed so much in his life that he had grown quite fat, and he found it impossible to squeeze himself through the opening made by the removal of one iron bar. The sixteen other prisoners had all departed; the pigwidgeons had hurried away to divide their butter into forty-two parts, and the Jolly-cum-pop still remained in his cell, convulsed with laughter at the idea of being caught in such a curious predicament."It is the most ridiculous thing in the world," he said. "I suppose I must stay here and cry until I get thin." And the idea so tickled him, that he laughed himself to sleep.
The Prince and his party kept together, and hurried from the prison as fast as they could. When the day broke they had gone several miles, and then they stopped to rest. "Where is that Jolly-cum-pop?" said the Prince. "I suppose he has gone home. He is a pretty fellow to lead us into this trouble and then desert us! How are we to find the way back to his house? Course-marker, can you tell us the direction in which we should go?"
"Not until to-night, your Highness," answered the course-marker, "when I can set my instrument by the stars."
The Prince's party was now in a doleful plight. Every one was very hungry; they were in an open plain, no house was visible, and they knew not which way to go. They wandered about for some time, looking for a brook or a spring where they might quench their thirst; and then a rabbit sprang out from some bushes. The whole party immediately started off in pursuit of the rabbit. They chased it here, there, backward and forward, through hollows and over hills, until it ran quite away and disappeared. Then they were more tired, thirsty, and hungry than before; and, to add to their miseries, when night came on the sky was cloudy, and the course-marker could not set his instrument by the stars. It would be difficult to find sixteen more miserable people than the Prince and his companions when they awoke the next morning from their troubled sleep on the hard ground. Nearly starved, they gazed at one another with feelings of despair.
About an hour after this, as they were all sitting disconsolately upon the ground, they saw, slowly approaching, a large cart drawn by a pair of oxen. On the front of the cart, which seemed to be heavily loaded, sat a man, with a red beard, reading a book. The boys, when they saw the cart, set up a feeble shout, and the man, lifting his eyes from his book, drove directly toward the group on the ground. Dismounting, he approached Prince Hassak, who immediately told him his troubles and implored relief. "We will do any thing," said the Prince, "to obtain food."Standing for a minute in a reflective mood, the man with the red beard addressed the Prince in a slow, meditative manner: "How would you like," he said, "to form a nucleus?" "Can we get any thing to eat by it?" eagerly asked the Prince. "Yes," replied the man, "you can." "We'll do it!" immediately cried the whole sixteen, without waiting for further information. "Which will you do first," said the man, "listen to my explanations, or eat?" "Eat!" cried the entire sixteen in chorus.
The man now produced from his cart a quantity of bread, meat, wine, and other provisions, which he distributed generously, but judiciously, to the hungry Prince and his followers. Every one had enough, but no one too much. And soon, revived and strengthened, they felt like new beings.
"Now," said the Prince, "we are ready to form a nucleus, as we promised. How is it done?"
"I will explain the matter to you in a few words," said the man with the red beard. "For a long time I have been desirous to found a city. In order to do this one must begin by forming a nucleus. Every great city is started from a nucleus. A few persons settle down in some particular spot, and live there. Then they are a nucleus. Then other people come there, and gather around this nucleus, and then more people come and more, until in course of time there is a great city. I have loaded this cart with provisions, tools, and other things that are necessary for my purpose, and have set out to find some people who would be willing to form a nucleus. I am very glad to have found you and that you are willing to enter into my plan; and this seems a good spot for us to settle upon."
"We must all go to work," said the man with the red beard, "to build dwellings, and also a school-house for these young people. Then we must till some ground in the suburbs, and lay the foundations, at least, of a few public buildings.""All this will take a good while, will it not?" said the Prince. "Yes," said the man, "it will take a good while; and the sooner we set about it, the better." Thereupon tools were distributed among the party, and Prince, courtiers, boys, girls, and all went to work to build houses and form the nucleus of a city.
When the jailer looked into his cells in the morning, and found that all but one of his prisoners had escaped, he was utterly astounded, and his face, when the Jolly-cum-pop saw him, made that individual roar with laughter. The jailer, however, was a man accustomed to deal with emergencies. "You need not laugh," he said, "every thing shall go on as before, and I shall take no notice of the absence of your companions. You are now numbered One to Seventeen inclusive, and you stand charged with highway robbery, forgery, treason, smuggling, barn-burning, bribery, poaching, usury, piracy, witchcraft, assault and battery, using false weights and measures, burglary, counterfeiting, robbing hen-roosts, conspiracy, and poisoning your grandmother by proxy. I intended to-day to dress the convicts in prison garb, and you shall immediately be so clothed.""I shall require seventeen suits," said the Jolly-cum-pop. "Yes," said the jailer, "they shall be furnished." "And seventeen rations a day," said the Jolly-cum-pop. "Certainly," replied the jailer.
"This is luxury," roared the Jolly-cum-pop. "I shall spend my whole time in eating and putting on clean clothes."
Seventeen large prison suits were now brought to the Jolly-cum-pop. He put one on, and hung up the rest in his cell. These suits were half bright yellow and half bright green, with spots of bright red, as big as saucers.
The jailer now had doors cut from one cell to another. "If the Potentate comes here and wants to look at the prisoners," he said to the Jolly-cum-pop, "you must appear in cell number One, so that he can look through the hole in the door, and see you; then, as he walks along the corridor, you must walk through the cells, and whenever he looks into a cell, you must be there.""He will think," merrily replied the Jolly-cum-pop, "that all your prisoners are very fat, and that the little girls have grown up into big men." "I will endeavor to explain that," said the jailer.
For several days the Jolly-cum-pop was highly amused at the idea of his being seventeen criminals, and he would sit first in one cell and then in another, trying to look like a ferocious pirate, a hard-hearted usurer, or a mean-spirited chicken thief, and laughing heartily at his failures. But, after a time, he began to tire of this, and to have a strong desire to see what sort of a tunnel the Prince's miners and rock-splitters were making under his house. "I had hoped," he said to himself, "that I should pine away in confinement, and so be able to get through the window-bars; but with nothing to do, and seventeen rations a day, I see no chance of that. But I must get out of this jail, and, as there seems no other way, I will revolt." Thereupon he shouted to the jailer through the hole in the door of his cell: "We have revolted! We have risen in a body, and have determined to resist your authority, and break jail!"When the jailer heard this, he was greatly troubled. "Do not proceed to violence," he said; "let us parley." "Very well," replied the Jolly-cum-pop, "but you must open the cell door. We cannot parley through a hole."
The jailer thereupon opened the cell door, and the Jolly-cum-pop, having wrapped sixteen suits of clothes around his left arm as a shield, and holding in his right hand the iron bar which had been cut from his window, stepped boldly into the corridor, and confronted the jailer and his myrmidons.
"It will be useless for you to resist," he said. "You are but four, and we are seventeen. If you had been wise you would have made us all cheating shop-keepers, chicken thieves, or usurers. Then you might have been able to control us; but when you see before you a desperate highwayman, a daring smuggler, a blood-thirsty pirate, a wily poacher, a powerful ruffian, a reckless burglar, a bold conspirator, and a murderer by proxy, you well may tremble!"
The jailer and his myrmidons looked at each other in dismay. "We sigh for no blood," continued the Jolly-cum-pop, "and will readily agree to terms. We will give you your choice: Will you allow us to honorably surrender, and peacefully disperse to our homes, or shall we rush upon you in a body, and, after overpowering you by numbers, set fire to the jail, and escape through the crackling timbers of the burning pile?"The jailer reflected for a minute. "It would be better, perhaps," he said, "that you should surrender and disperse to your homes."
The Jolly-cum-pop agreed to these terms, and the great gate being opened, he marched out in good order. "Now," said he to himself, "the thing for me to do is to get home as fast as I can, or that jailer may change his mind." But, being in a great hurry, he turned the wrong way, and walked rapidly into a country unknown to him. His walk was a very merry one. "By this time," he said to himself, "the Prince and his followers have returned to my house, and are tired of watching the rock-splitters and miners. How amused they will be when they see me come back in this gay suit of green and yellow, with red spots, and with sixteen similar suits upon my arm! How my own dogs will bark at me! And how my own servants will not know me! It is the funniest thing I ever knew of!" And his gay laugh echoed far and wide. But when he had gone several miles without seeing any signs of his habitation, his gayety abated. "It would have been much better," he said, as he sat down to rest under the shade of a tree, "if I had brought with me sixteen rations instead of these sixteen suits of clothes."
The Jolly-cum-pop soon set out again, but he walked a long distance without seeing any person or any house. Toward the close of the afternoon he stopped, and, looking back, he saw coming toward him a large party of foot travellers. In a few moments, he perceived that the person in advance was the jailer. At this the Jolly-cum-pop could not restrain his merriment. "How comically it has all turned out!" he exclaimed. "Here I've taken all this trouble, and tired myself out, and have nearly starved myself, and the jailer comes now, with a crowd of people, and takes me back. I might as well have staid where I was. Ha! ha!"The jailer now left his party and came running toward the Jolly-cum-pop. "I pray you, sir," he said, bowing very low, "do not cast us off." "Who are you all?" asked the Jolly-cum-pop, looking with much surprise at the jailer's companions, who were now quite near.
"We are myself, my three myrmidons, and our wives and children. Our situations were such good ones that we married long ago, and our families lived in the upper stories of the prison. But when all the convicts had left we were afraid to remain, for, should the Potentate again visit the prison, he would be disappointed and enraged at finding no prisoners, and would, probably, punish us grievously. So we determined to follow you, and to ask you to let us go with you, wherever you are going. I wrote a report, which I fastened to the great gate, and in it I stated that sixteen of the convicts escaped by the aid of outside confederates, and that seventeen of them mutinied in a body and broke jail." "That report," laughed the Jolly-cum-pop, "your Potentate will not readily understand.""If I were there," said the jailer, "I could explain it to him; but, as it is, he must work it out for himself." "Have you any thing to eat with you?" asked the Jolly-cum-pop. "Oh, yes," said the jailer, "we brought provisions."
"Well, then, I gladly take you under my protection. Let us have supper. I have had nothing to eat since morning, and the weight of sixteen extra suits of clothes does not help to refresh one."
The Jolly-cum-pop and his companions slept that night under some trees, and started off early the next morning. "If I could only get myself turned in the proper direction," said he, "I believe we should soon reach my house."
The Prince, his courtiers, the boys and girls, the course-marker, and the map-maker worked industriously for several days at the foundation of their city. They dug the ground, they carried stones, they cut down trees. This work was very hard for all of them, for they were not used to it. After a few days' labor, the Prince said to the man with the red beard, who was reading his book: "I think we have now formed a nucleus. Any one can see that this is intended to be a city."
"No," said the man with the red beard, "nothing is truly a nucleus until something is gathered around it. Proceed with your work, while I continue my studies upon civil government."
Toward the close of that day the red-bearded man raised his eyes from his book and beheld the Jolly-cum-pop and his party approaching. "Hurrah!" he cried, "we are already attracting settlers!" And he went forth to meet them.
When the prince and the courtiers saw the Jolly-cum-pop in his bright and variegated dress, they did not know him; but the boys and girls soon recognized his jovial face, and, tired as they were, they set up a hearty laugh, in which they were loudly joined by their merry friend. While the Jolly-cum-pop was listening to the adventures of the Prince and his companions, and telling what had happened to himself, the man with the red beard was talking to the jailer and his party, and urging them to gather around the nucleus which had been here formed, and help to build a city.
"Nothing will suit us better," exclaimed the jailer, "and the sooner we build a town wall so as to keep off the Potentate, if he should come this way, the better shall we be satisfied."
The next morning, the Prince said to the red-bearded man: "Others have gathered around us. We have formed a nucleus, and thus have done all that we promised to do. We shall now depart."
The man objected strongly to this, but the Prince paid no attention to his words. "What troubles me most," he said to the Jolly-cum-pop, "is the disgraceful condition of our clothes. They have been so torn and soiled during our unaccustomed work that they are not fit to be seen.""As for that," said the Jolly-cum-pop, "I have sixteen suits with me, in which you can all dress, if you like. They are of unusual patterns, but they are new and clean." "It is better," said the Prince, "for persons in my station to appear inordinately gay than to be seen in rags and dirt. We will accept your clothes."
Thereupon, the Prince and each of the others put on a prison dress of bright green and yellow, with large red spots. There were some garments left over, for each boy wore only a pair of trousers with the waistband tied around his neck, and holes cut for his arms; while the large jackets, with the sleeves tucked, made very good dresses for the girls. The Prince and his party, accompanied by the Jolly-cum-pop, now left the red-bearded man and his new settlers to continue the building of the city, and set off on their journey. The course-marker had not been informed the night before that they were to go away that morning, and consequently did not set his instrument by the stars."As we do not know in which way we should go," said the Prince, "one way will be as good as another, and if we can find a road let us take it; it will be easier walking."
In an hour or two they found a road and they took it. After journeying the greater part of the day, they reached the top of a low hill, over which the road ran, and saw before them a glittering sea and the spires and houses of a city."It is the city of Yan," said the course-marker. "That is true," said the Prince; "and as we are so near, we may as well go there."
The astonishment of the people of Yan, when this party, dressed in bright green and yellow, with red spots, passed through their streets, was so great that the Jolly-cum-pop roared with laughter. This set the boys and girls and all the people laughing, and the sounds of merriment became so uproarious that when they reached the palace the King came out to see what was the matter. What he thought when he saw his nephew in his fantastic guise, accompanied by a party apparently composed of sixteen other lunatics, cannot now be known; but, after hearing the Prince's story, he took him into an inner apartment, and thus addressed him: "My dear Hassak: The next time you pay me a visit, I beg for your sake and my own, that you will come in the ordinary way. You have sufficiently shown to the world that, when a Prince desires to travel, it is often necessary for him to go out of his way on account of obstacles."
"My dear uncle," replied Hassak, "your words shall not be forgotten."
After a pleasant visit of a few weeks, the Prince and his party (in new clothes) returned (by sea) to Itoby, whence the Jolly-cum-pop soon repaired to his home. There he found the miners and rock-splitters still at work at the tunnel, which had now penetrated halfway through the hill on which stood his house. "You may go home," he said, "for the Prince has changed his plans. I will put a door to this tunnel, and it will make an excellent cellar in which to keep my wine and provisions."
The day after the Prince's return his map-maker said to him: "Your Highness, according to your commands I made, each day, a map of your progress to the city of Yan. Here it is."The Prince glanced at it and then he cast his eyes upon the floor. "Leave me," he said. "I would be alone."
The Battle Of The Third Cousins
There were never many persons who could correctly bound the Autocracy of Mutjado. The reason for this was that the boundary line was not stationary. Whenever the Autocrat felt the need of money, he sent his tax-gatherers far and wide, and people who up to that time had no idea of such a thing found that they lived in the territory of Mutjado. But when times were ordinarily prosperous with him, and people in the outlying districts needed protection or public works, the dominion of the Autocrat became very much contracted.
In the course of time, the Autocrat of Mutjado fell into bad health and sent for his doctor. That learned man prescribed some medicine for him; and as this did him no good, he ordered another kind. He continued this method of treatment until the Autocrat had swallowed the contents of fifteen phials and flasks, some large and some small. As none of these were of the slightest benefit, the learned doctor produced another kind of medicine which he highly extolled."Take a dose of this twice a day," said he, "and you will soon find—"
"A new medicine?" interrupted the Autocrat, in disgust. "I will have none of it! These others were bad enough, and rather than start with a new physic, I prefer to die. Take away your bottles, little and big, and send me my secretary."When that officer arrived, the Autocrat informed him that he had determined to write his will, and that he should set about it at once.
The Autocrat of Mutjado had no son, and his nearest male relatives were a third cousin on his father's side, and another third cousin on his mother's side. Of course these persons were in nowise related to each other; and as they lived in distant countries, he had never seen either of them. He had made up his mind to leave his throne and dominions to one of these persons, but he could not determine which of them should be his heir.
"One has as good a right as the other," he said to himself, "and I can't bother my brains settling the matter for them. Let them fight it out, and whoever conquers shall be Autocrat of Mutjado."Having arranged the affair in this manner in his will, he signed it, and soon after died.
The Autocrat's third cousin on his father's side was a young man of about twenty-five, named Alberdin. He was a good horseman, and trained in the arts of warfare, and when he was informed of the terms of his distinguished relative's will, he declared himself perfectly willing to undertake the combat for the throne. He set out for Mutjado, where he arrived in a reasonable time.
The third cousin on the mother's side was a very different person. He was a boy of about twelve years of age; and as his father and mother had died when he was very young, he had been for nearly all his life under the charge of an elderly and prudent man, who acted as his guardian and tutor. These two, also, soon arrived in Mutjado,—the boy, Phedo, being mounted on a little donkey, which was his almost constant companion. As soon as they reached the territory of the late Autocrat, old Salim, the tutor, left the boy at an inn, and went forward by himself to take a look at the other third cousin. When he saw Alberdin mounted on his fine horse, and looking so strong and valiant, his heart was much disturbed.
"I had hoped," he said to himself, "that the other one was a small boy, but such does not appear to be the case. There is but one way to have a fair fight between these two. They must not now be allowed to see each other. If they can be kept apart until my boy grows up, he will then be able, with the military education which I intend he shall have, to engage in combat with any man. They must not meet for at least thirteen years. Phedo will then be twenty-five, and able to do worthy combat. To be sure, I am somewhat old myself to undertake to superintend so long a delay, but I must do my best to keep well and strong, and to attain the greatest possible longevity."
Salim had always been in the habit of giving thirty-two chews to every mouthful of meat, and a proportionate number of chews to other articles of food; and had, so far, been very healthy. But he now determined to increase the number of chews to thirty-six, for it would be highly necessary for him to live until it was time for the battle between the third cousins to take place.Having made up his mind on these points, the old tutor introduced himself to Alberdin, and told him that he had come to arrange the terms of combat. "In the first place," said Alberdin, "I should like to know what sort of a person my opponent is." "He is not a cavalryman like you," answered Salim; "he belongs to the heavy infantry."
At this, Alberdin looked grave. He knew very well that a stout and resolute man on foot had often the advantage of one who is mounted. He would have preferred meeting a horseman, and fighting on equal terms."Has he had much experience in war?" asked the young man. "It is not long," answered the tutor, "since he was almost constantly in arms, winter and summer."
"He must be a practised warrior," thought Alberdin. "I must put myself in good fightingtrim before I meet him."
After some further conversation on the subject, the old man advised Alberdin to go into camp on a beautiful plain not far from the base of a low line of mountains.
"Your opponent," said he, "will intrench himself in the valley on the other side. With the mountains between you, neither of you need fear a surprise; and when both are ready, a place of meeting can be appointed."Now, then," said Salim to himself when this had been settled; "if I can keep them apart for thirteen years, all may be well."
As soon as possible, Alberdin pitched a tent upon the appointed spot, and began to take daily warlike exercise in the plain, endeavoring in every way to put himself and his horse into proper condition for the combat.
On the other side of the mountain, old Salim intrenched himself and the boy, Phedo. He carefully studied several books on military engineering, and caused a fortified camp to be constructed on the most approved principles. It was surrounded by high ramparts, and outside of these was a moat filled with water. In the centre of the camp was a neat little house which was well provided with books, provisions, and every thing necessary for a prolonged stay. When the drawbridge was up, it would be impossible for Alberdin to get inside of the camp; and, moreover, the ramparts were so high that he could not look over them to see what sort of antagonist he was to have. Old Salim did not tell the boy why he brought him here to live. It would be better to wait until he was older before informing him of the battle which had been decreed. He told Phedo that it was necessary for him to have a military education, which could very well be obtained in a place like this; and he was also very careful to let him know that there was a terrible soldier in that part of the country who might at any time, if it were not for the intrenchments, pounce down upon him, and cut him to pieces. Every fine day, Phedo was allowed to take a ride on his donkey outside of the fortifications, but during this time, the old tutor kept a strict watch on the mountain; and if a horseman had made his appearance, little Phedo would have been whisked inside, and the drawbridge would have been up in a twinkling.
After about two weeks of this life Phedo found it dreadfully stupid to see no one but his old tutor, and never to go outside of these great ramparts except for donkey-rides, which were generally very short. He therefore determined, late one moonlight night, to go out and take a ramble by himself. He was not afraid of the dreadful soldier of whom the old man had told him, because at that time of night this personage would, of course, be in bed and asleep. Considering these things, he quietly dressed himself, took down a great key from over his sleeping tutor's head, opened the heavy gate, let down the drawbridge, mounted upon his donkey, and rode forth upon the moonlit plain.
That night-ride was a very delightful one, and for a long time the boy and the donkey rambled and ran; first going this way and then that, they gradually climbed the mountain; and, reaching the brow, they trotted about for a while, and then went down the other side. The boy had been so twisted and turned in his course that he did not notice that he was not descending toward his camp, and the donkey, whose instinct told it that it was not going the right way, was also told by its instinct that it did not wish to go the right way, and that the intrenchments offered it no temptations to return. When the morning dawned, Phedo perceived that he was really lost, and he began to be afraid that he might meet the terrible soldier. But, after a time, he saw riding toward him a very pleasant-looking young man on a handsome horse, and he immediately took courage."Now," said he to himself, "I am no longer in danger. If that horrible cut-throat should appear, this good gentleman will protect me."
Alberdin had not seen any one for a long time, and he was very glad to meet with so nice a little boy. When Phedo told him that he was lost, he invited him to come to his tent, near by, and have breakfast. While they were eating their meal, Alberdin asked the boy if in the course of his rambles he had met with a heavy infantry soldier, probably armed to the teeth, and very large and strong."Oh, I've heard of that dreadful man!" cried Phedo, "and I am very glad that I did not meet him. If he comes, I hope you'll protect me from him."
"I will do that," said Alberdin; "but I am afraid I shall not be able to help you find your way home, for in doing so I should throw myself off my guard, and might be set upon unexpectedly by this fellow, with whom I have a regular engagement to fight. There is to be a time fixed for the combat, for which I feel myself nearly ready, but I have no doubt that my enemy will be very glad to take me at a disadvantage if I give him a chance."
Phedo looked about him with an air of content. The tent was large and well furnished; there seemed to be plenty of good things to eat; the handsome horseman was certainly a very good-humored and agreeable gentleman; and, moreover, the tent was not shut in by high and gloomy ramparts.
"I do not think you need trouble yourself," said he to his host, "to help me to find my way home. I live with my tutor, and I am sure that when he knows I am gone he will begin to search for me, and after awhile he will find me. Until then, I can be very comfortable here."For several days the two third cousins of the Autocrat lived together in the tent, and enjoyed each other's society very much. Then Alberdin began to grow a little impatient.
"If I am to fight this heavy infantry man," he said; "I should like to do it at once. I am now quite ready, and I think he ought to be. I expected to hear from him before this time, and I shall start out and see if I can get any news of his intentions. I don't care about going over the mountain without giving him notice, but the capital city of Mutjado is only a day's ride to the west, and there I can cause inquiries to be made when he would like to meet me, and where."
"I will go with you," said Phedo, greatly delighted at the idea of visiting the city. "Yes, I will take you," said Alberdin. "Your tutor don't seem inclined to come for you, and, of course, I can't leave you here."
The next day, Alberdin on his horse, and Phedo on his donkey, set out for the city, where they arrived late in the afternoon. After finding a comfortable lodging, Alberdin sent messengers to the other side of the mountain, where his opponent was supposed to be encamped, and gave them power to arrange with him for a meeting. He particularly urged them to try to see the old man who had come to him at first, and who had seemed to be a very fair-minded and sensible person. In two days, however, the messengers returned, stating that they had found what they supposed to be the intrenched camp of the heavy infantry man they had been sent in search of, but that it was entirely deserted, and nobody could be seen anywhere near it.
"It is very likely," said Alberdin, "that he has watched my manoeuvres and exercises from the top of the mountain, and has concluded to run away. I shall give him a reasonable time to show himself, and then, if he does not come forward, I will consider him beaten, and claim the Autocracy.""That is a good idea," said Phedo, "but I think, if you can, you ought to find him and kill him, or drive him out of the country. That's what I should do, if I were you." "Of course I shall do that, if I can," said Alberdin; "but I could not be expected to wait for him forever."
When his intention had been proclaimed, Alberdin was informed of something which he did not know before, and that was that the late Autocrat had left an only daughter, a Princess about twenty years old. But although she was his daughter, she could not inherit his crown, for the laws of the country forbade that any woman should become Autocrat. A happy idea now struck Alberdin."I will marry the Princess," he said, "and then every one will think that it is the most suitable thing for me to become Autocrat."
So Alberdin sent to the Princess to ask permission to speak with her, and was granted an audience. With much courtesy and politeness he made known his plans to the lady, and hoped that she would consider it advisable to marry him.
"I am sorry to interfere with any of your arrangements," said the Princess, "but as soon as I heard the terms of my father's will, I made up my mind to marry the victor in the contest. As I cannot inherit the throne myself, the next best thing is to be the wife of the man who does. Go forth, then, and find your antagonist, and when you have conquered him, I will marry you.""And if he conquers me, you will marry him?" said Alberdin.
"Yes, sir," answered the Princess, with a smile, and dismissed him. It was plain enough that there was nothing for Alberdin to do but to go and look for the heavy infantry man. Phedo was very anxious to accompany him, and the two, mounted as before, set out from the city on their quest.
When old Salim, the tutor of Phedo, awoke in the morning and found the boy gone, he immediately imagined that the youngster had ran away to his old home; so he set forth with all possible speed, hoping to overtake him. But when he reached the distant town where Phedo had lived, he found that the boy had not been there; and after taking some needful rest, he retraced his steps, crossed the mountains, and made his way toward the capital city, hoping to find news of him there. It was necessary for him to be very careful in his inquiries, for he wished no one to find out that the little boy he was looking for was the third cousin of the late Autocrat on the mother's side. He therefore disguised himself as a migratory medical man, and determined to use all possible caution. When he reached the camp of the young horseman, Alberdin, and found that personage gone, his suspicions became excited.
"If these two have run off together," he said to himself, "my task is indeed difficult. If the man discovers it is the boy he has to fight, my poor Phedo will be cut to pieces in a twinkling. I do not believe there has been any trouble yet, for the boy does not know that he is to be one of the combatants, and the man would not be likely to suspect it. Come what may, the fight must not take place for thirteen years. And in order that I may still better preserve my health and strength to avert the calamity during that period, I will increase my number of chews to forty-two to each mouthful of meat."When old Salim reached the city, he soon found that Alberdin and the boy had been there, and that they had gone away together.
"Nothing has happened so far," said the old man, with a sigh of relief; "and things may turn out all right yet. I'll follow them, but I must first find out what that cavalryman had to say to the Princess." For he had been told of the interview at the palace.
It was not long before the migratory medical man was brought to the Princess. There was nothing the matter with her, but she liked to meet with persons of skill and learning to hear what they had to say."Have you any specialty?" she asked of the old man. "Yes," said he, "I am a germ-doctor." "What is that?" asked the Princess. "All diseases," replied the old man, "come from germs; generally very little ones. My business is to discover these, and find out all about them."
"Then I suppose," said the Princess, "you know how to cure the diseases?" "You must not expect too much," answered the old man. "It ought to be a great satisfaction to us to know what sort of germ is at the bottom of our woes."
"I am very well, myself," said the Princess, "and, so far as I know, none of my household are troubled by germs. But there is something the matter with my mind which I wish you could relieve." She then told the old man how she had determined to marry the victor in the contest for her father's throne, and how she had seen one for the claimants whom she considered to be a very agreeable and deserving young man; while the other, she had heard, was a great, strong foot soldier, who was probably very disagreeable, and even horrid. If this one should prove the conqueror, she did not know what she should do. "You see, I am in a great deal of trouble," said she. "Can you do any thing to help me?"The pretending migratory medical man looked at her attentively for a few moments, and then he said:
"The reason why you intend to marry the victor in the coming contest, is that you wish to remain here in your father's palace, and to continue to enjoy the comforts and advantages to which you have been accustomed.""Yes," said the Princess; "that is it." "Well, having discovered the germ of your disorder," said the old man, "the great point is gained. I will see what I can do." And with a respectful bow he left her presence.
"Well," said old Salim to himself, as he went away, "she can never marry my boy, for that is certainly out of the question; but now that I have found out her motive, I think I can arrange matters satisfactorily, so far as she is concerned. But to settle the affair between that young man and Phedo is immensely more difficult. The first thing is to find them."
Having learned the way they had gone, the old tutor travelled diligently, and in two days came up with Alberdin and Phedo. When he first caught sight of them, he was very much surprised to see that they were resting upon the ground quite a long distance apart, with a little stream between them. Noticing that Alberdin's back was toward him, he threw off his disguise and hastened to Phedo. The boy received him with the greatest delight, and, after many embraces, they sat down to talk. Phedo told the old man all that had happened, and finished by relating that, as they had that day stopped by this stream to rest, Alberdin had taken it into his head to inquire into the parentage of his young companion; and after many questions about his family, it had been made clear to both of them that they were the two third cousins who were to fight for the Autocracy of Mutjado.
"He is very angry," said the boy, "at the tricks that have been played upon him, and went off and left me. Is it true that I am to fight him? I don't want to do it, for I like him very much."
"It will be a long time before you are old enough to fight," said Salim; "so we need not consider that. You stay here, and I'll go over and talk to him."
Salim then crossed the stream, and approached Alberdin. When the young man saw him, and recognized him as the person who had arranged the two encampments, he turned upon him with fury.
"Wretched old man, who came to me as the emissary of my antagonist, you are but the tutor of that boy! If I had known the truth at first, I would have met him instantly; would have conquered him without hurting a hair on his head; and carrying him bound to the capital city, would have claimed the Autocracy, and would now have been sitting upon the throne. Instead of that, look at the delay and annoyance to which I have been subjected. I have also taken such a fancy to the boy that rather than hurt him or injure his prospects, I would willingly resign my pretensions to the throne, and go back contentedly to my own city. But this cannot now be done. I have fallen in love with the daughter of the late Autocrat, and she will marry none but the victorious claimant. Behold to what a condition you have brought me!"The old man regarded him with attention. "I wish very much," said he, "to defer the settlement of this matter for thirteen years. Are you willing to wait so long?" "No, I am not," said Alberdin. "Very well, then," said the old man, "each third cousin must retire to his camp, and as soon as matters can be arranged the battle must take place." "There is nothing else to be done," said Alberdin in a troubled voice; "but I shall take care that the boy receives no injury if it can possibly be avoided."
The three now retraced their steps, and in a few days were settled down, Alberdin in his tent in the plain, and Salim and Phedo in their intrenchments on the other side of the low mountain. The old man now gave himself up to deep thought. He had discovered the germ of Alberdin's trouble; and in a few days he had arranged his plans, and went over to see the young man."It has been determined," said he, "that a syndicate is to be formed to attend to this business for Phedo." "A syndicate!" cried Alberdin. "What is that?"
"A syndic," answered Salim, "is a person who attends to business for others; and a syndicate is a body of men who are able to conduct certain affairs better than any individual can do it. In a week from to-day, Phedo's syndicate will meet you in the large plain outside of the capital city. There the contest will take place. Shall you be ready?" "I don't exactly understand it," said Alberdin, "but I shall be there."
General notice was given of the coming battle of the contestants for the throne, and thousands of the inhabitants of the Autocracy assembled on the plain on the appointed day. The Princess with her ladies was there; and as everybody was interested, everybody was anxious to see what would happen.
Alberdin rode into the open space in the centre of the plain, and demanded that his antagonist should appear. Thereupon old Salim came forward, leading Phedo by the hand.
"This is the opposing heir," he said; "but as every one can see that he is too young to fight a battle, a syndicate has been appointed to attend to the matter for him; and there is nothing in the will of the late Autocrat which forbids this arrangement. The syndicate will now appear."
At this command there came into the arena a horseman heavily armed, a tall foot soldier completely equipped for action, an artilleryman with a small cannon on wheels, a sailor with a boarding-pike and a drawn cutlass, and a soldier with a revolving gun which discharged one hundred and twenty balls a minute."All being ready," exclaimed Salim, "the combat for the Autocracy will begin!" Alberdin took a good long look at the syndicate ranged before him. Then he dismounted from his horse, drew his sword, and stuck it, point downward, into the sand. "I surrender!" he said. "So do I!" cried the Princess, running toward him, and throwing herself into his arms. The eyes of Alberdin sparkled with joy. "Let the Autocracy go!" he cried. "Now that I have my Princess, the throne and the crown are nothing to me." "So long as I have you," returned the Princess, "I am content to resign all the comforts and advantages to which I have been accustomed." Phedo, who had been earnestly talking with his tutor, now looked up.
"You shall not resign any thing!" he cried. "We are all of the same blood, and we will join together and form a royal family, and we will all live at the palace. Alberdin and my tutor shall manage the government for me until I am grown up; and if I have to go to school for a few years, I suppose I must. And that is all there is about it!" The syndicate was now ordered to retire and disband; the heralds proclaimed Phedo the conquering heir, and the people cheered and shouted with delight. All the virtues of the late Autocrat had come to him from his mother, and the citizens of Mutjado much preferred to have a new ruler from the mother's family.
"I hope you bear no grudge against me," said Salim to Alberdin; "but if you had been willing to wait for thirteen years, you and Phedo might have fought on equal terms. As it is now, it would have been as hard for him to conquer you, as for you to conquer the syndicate. The odds would have been quite as great."
"Don't mention it," said Alberdin. "I prefer things as they are. I should have hated to drive the boy away, and deprive him of a position which the people wish him to have. Now we are all satisfied."
Phedo soon began to show signs that he would probably make a very good Autocrat. He declared that if he was to be assisted by ministers and cabinet officers when he came to the throne, he would like them to be persons who had been educated for their positions, just as he was to be educated for his own. Consequently he chose for the head of his cabinet a bright and sensible boy, and had him educated as a Minister of State. For Minister of Finance, he chose another boy with a very honest countenance, and for the other members of his cabinet, suitable youths were selected. He also said, that he thought there ought to be another officer, one who would be a sort of Minister of General Comfort, who would keep an eye on the health and happiness of the subjects, and would also see that every thing went all right in the palace, not only in regard to meals, but lots of other things. For this office he chose a bright young girl, and had her educated for the position of Queen.
The Banished King
There was once a kingdom in which every thing seemed to go wrong. Everybody knew this, and everybody talked about it, especially the King. The bad state of affairs troubled him more than it did any one else, but he could think of no way to make them better."I cannot bear to see things going on so badly," he said to the Queen and his chief councillors. "I wish I knew how other kingdoms were governed." One of his councillors offered to go to some other countries, and see how they were governed, and come back and tell him all about it, but this did not suit his majesty. "You would simply return," he said, "and give me your ideas about things. I want my own ideas." The Queen then suggested that he should take a vacation, and visit other kingdoms, and see for himself how things were managed in them.
This did not suit the king. "A vacation would not answer," he said. "I should not be gone a week before something would happen here which would make it necessary for me to come back."
The Queen then suggested that he be banished for a certain time, say a year. In that case he could not come back, and would be at full liberty to visit foreign kingdoms, and find out how they were governed.
This plan pleased the King. "If it were made impossible for me to come back," he said, "of course I could not do it. The scheme is a good one. Let me be banished." And he gave orders that his council should pass a law banishing him for one year.
Preparations were immediately begun to carry out this plan, and in day or two the King bade farewell to the Queen, and left his kingdom, a banished man. He went away on foot, entirely unattended. But, as he did not wish to cut off all communication between himself and his kingdom, he made an arrangement which he thought a very good one. At easy shouting distance behind him walked one of the officers of the court, and at shouting distance behind him walked another, and so on at distances of about a hundred yards from each other. In this way there would always be a line of men extending from the King to his palace. Whenever the King had walked a hundred yards the line moved on after him, and another officer was put in the gap between the last man and the palace door. Thus, as the King walked on, his line of followers lengthened, and was never broken. Whenever he had any message to send to the Queen, or any other person in the palace, he shouted it to the officer next him, who shouted it to the one next to him, and it was so passed on until it reached the palace. If he needed food, clothes, or any other necessary thing, the order for it was shouted along the line, and the article was passed to him from man to man, each one carrying it forward to his neighbor, and then retiring to his proper place.
In this way the King walked on day by day until he had passed entirely out of his own kingdom. At night he stopped at some convenient house on the road, and if any of his followers did not find himself near a house or cottage when the King shouted back the order to halt, he laid himself down to sleep wherever he might be. By this time the increasing line of followers had used up all the officers of the court, and it became necessary to draw upon some of the under government officers in order to keep the line perfect.
The King had not gone very far outside the limits of his dominions when he met a Sphinx. He had often heard of these creatures, although he had never seen one before. But when he saw the winged body of a lion with a woman's head, he knew instantly what it was. He knew, also, that the chief business of a Sphinx was that of asking people questions, and then getting them into trouble if the right answers were not given. He therefore determined that he would not be caught by any such tricks as these, and that he would be on his guard if the Sphinx spoke to him. The creature was lying down when the King first saw it, but when he approached nearer it rose to its feet. There was nothing savage about its look, and the King was not at all afraid."Where are you going?" said the Sphinx to him, in a pleasant voice. "Give it up," replied the King. "What do you mean by that?" said the other, with an air of surprise. "I give that up, too," said the King. The Sphinx then looked at him quite astonished.
"I don't mind telling you," said the King, "of my own free will, and not in answer to any questions, that I do not know where I am going. I am a King, as you may have noticed, and I have been banished from my kingdom for a year. I am now going to look into the government of other countries in order that I may find out what it is that is wrong in my own kingdom. Every thing goes badly, and there is something very faulty at the bottom of it all. What this is I want to discover.""I am much interested in puzzles and matters of that kind," said the Sphinx, "and if you like I will go with you and help to find out what is wrong in your kingdom." "All right," said the King. "I shall be glad of your company." "What is the meaning of this long line of people following you at regular distances?" asked the Sphinx. "Give it up," said the King. The Sphinx laughed.
"I don't mind telling you," said the King, "of my own free will, and not in answer to any question, that these men form a line of communication between me and my kingdom, where matters, I fear, must be going on worse than ever, in my absence."The two now travelled on together until they came to a high hill, from which they could see, not very far away, a large city.
"That city," said the Sphinx, "is the capital of an extensive country. It is governed by a king of mingled sentiments. Suppose we go there. I think you will find a government that is rather peculiar."The King consented, and they walked down the hill toward the city. "How did the King get his sentiments mingled?" asked the King.
"I really don't know how it began," said the Sphinx, "but the King, when a young man, had so many sentiments of different kinds, and he mingled them up so much, that no one could ever tell exactly what he thought on any particular subject. Of course, his people gradually got into the same frame of mind, and you never can know in this kingdom exactly what people think or what they are going to do. You will find all sorts of people here: giants, dwarfs, fairies, gnomes, and personages of that kind, who have been drawn here by the mingled sentiments of the people. I, myself, came into these parts because the people every now and then take a great fancy to puzzles and riddles."
On entering the city, the King was cordially welcomed by his brother sovereign, to whom he told his story; and he was lodged in a room in the palace. Such of his followers as came within the limits of the city were entertained by the persons near to whose houses they found themselves when the line halted.
Every day the Sphinx went with him to see the sights of this strange city. They took long walks through the streets, and sometimes into the surrounding country—always going one way and returning another, the Sphinx being very careful never to bring the King back by the same road or street by which they went. In this way the King's line of followers, which, of course, lengthened out every time he took a walk, came to be arranged in long loops through many parts of the city and suburbs.
Many of the things the King saw showed plainly the mingled sentiments of the people. For instance, he would one day visit a great smith's shop, where heavy masses of iron were being forged, the whole place resounding with tremendous blows from heavy hammers, and the clank and din of iron on the anvils; while the next day he would find the place transformed into a studio, where the former blacksmith was painting dainty little pictures on the delicate surface of egg-shells. The king of the country, in his treatment of his visitor, showed his peculiar nature very plainly. Sometimes he would receive him with enthusiastic delight, while at others he would upbraid him with having left his dominions to go wandering around the earth in this senseless way. One day his host invited him to attend a royal dinner, but, when he went to the grand dining-hall, pleased with anticipations of a splendid feast, he found that the sentiments of his majesty had become mingled, and that he had determined, instead of having a dinner, to conduct the funeral services of one of his servants who had died the day before. All the guests were obliged by politeness to remain during the ceremonies, which our King, not having been acquainted with the deceased servant, had not found at all interesting.
"Now," said the King to the Sphinx, "I am in favor of moving on. I am tired of this place, where every sentiment is so mingled with others that you can never tell what anybody really thinks or feels. I don't believe any one in this country was ever truly glad or sorry. They mix one sentiment so quickly with another that they never can discover the actual ingredients of any of their impulses."
"When this King first began to mingle his sentiments," said the Sphinx, "it was because he always desired to think and feel exactly right. He did not wish his feelings to run too much one way or the other.""And so he is never either right or wrong," said the King. "I don't like that, at all. I want to be one thing or the other."
"I have wasted a good deal of time at this place," remarked the King, as they walked on, "and I have seen and heard nothing which I wish to teach my people. But I must find out some way to prevent every thing going wrong in my kingdom. I have tried plan after plan, and sometimes two or three together, and have kept this up year after year, and yet nothing seems to do my kingdom any good.""Have you heard how things are going on there now?" asked the Sphinx.
"Give it up," said the King. "But I don't mind saying of my own accord, and not as answer to any question, that I have sent a good many communications to my Queen, but have never received any from her. So I do not know how things are going on in my kingdom."
They then travelled on, the long line of followers coming after, keeping their relative positions a hundred yards apart, and passing over all the ground the King had traversed in his circuitous walks about the city. Thus the line crept along like an enormous snake in straight lines, loops, and coils; and every time the King walked a hundred yards a fresh man from his capital city was obliged to take his place at the tail of the procession.
"By the way," said the Sphinx, after they had walked an hour or more, "if you want to see a kingdom where there really is something to learn, you ought to go to the country of the Gaumers, which we are now approaching."
"All right," said the King. "Let us go there."
In the course of the afternoon they reached the edge of a high bluff. "On the level ground, beneath this precipice," said the Sphinx, "is the country of the dwarfs called Gaumers. You can sit on the edge of the bluff and look down upon it."
The King and the Sphinx then sat down, and looked out from the edge over the country of the little people. The officer of the court who had formed the head of the line wished very much to see what they were looking at, but, when the line halted, he was not near enough."You will notice," said the Sphinx, "that the little houses and huts are gathered together in clusters. Each one of these clusters is under a separate king." "Why don't they all live under one ruler?" asked the King. "That is the proper way."
"They do not think so," said the Sphinx. "In each of these clusters live the Gaumers who are best suited to each other; and, if any Gaumer finds he cannot get along in one cluster, he goes to another. The kings are chosen from among the very best of them, and each one is always very anxious to please his subjects. He knows that every thing that he, and his queen, and his children eat, or drink, or wear, or have must be given to him by his subjects, and if it were not for them he could not be their ruler. And so he does every thing that he can to make them happy and contented, for he knows if he does not please them and govern them well, they will gradually drop off from him and go to other clusters, and he will be left without any people or any kingdom.""That is a very queer way of ruling," said the King. "I think the people ought to try to please their sovereign."
"He is only one, and they are a great many," said the Sphinx. "Consequently they are much more important. No subject is ever allowed to look down upon a king, simply because he helps to feed and clothe him, and send his children to school. If any one does a thing of this kind, he is banished until he learns better."
"All that may be very well for Gaumers," said the King, "but I can learn nothing from a government like that, where every thing seems to be working in an opposite direction from what everybody knows is right and proper. A king anxious to deserve the good opinion of his subjects! What nonsense! It ought to be just the other way. The ideas of this people are as dwarfish as their bodies."
The King now arose and took up the line of march, turning away from the country of the Gaumers. But he had not gone more than two or three hundred yards before he received a message from the Queen. It came to him very rapidly, every man in the line seeming anxious to shout it to the man ahead of him as quickly as possible. The message was to the effect that he must either stop where he was or come home: his constantly lengthening line of communication had used up all the chief officers of the government, all the clerks in the departments, and all the officials of every grade, excepting the few who were actually needed to carry on the government, and if any more men went into the line it would be necessary to call upon the laborers and other persons who could not be spared."I think," said the Sphinx, "that you have made your line long enough." "And I think," said the King. "that you made it a great deal longer than it need to have been, by taking me about in such winding ways." "It may be so," said the Sphinx, with its mystic smile.
"Well, I am not going to stop here," said the King, "and so I might as well go back as soon as I can." And he shouted to the head man of the line to pass on the order that his edict of banishment be revoked.
In a very short time the news came that the edict was revoked. The King then commanded that the procession return home, tail-end foremost. The march was at once begun, each man, as he reached the city, going immediately to his home and family.
The King and the greater part of the line had a long and weary journey, as they followed each other through the country and over the devious ways in which the Sphinx had led them in the City of Mingled Sentiments. The King was obliged to pursue all these complicated turnings, or be separated from his officers, and so break up his communication with his palace. The Sphinx accompanied him.When at last, he reached his palace, his line of former followers having apparently melted entirely away, he hurried up-stairs to the Queen, leaving the Sphinx in the court-yard.
The King found, when he had time to look into the affairs of his dominions, that every thing was in the most admirable condition. The Queen had retained a few of the best officials to carry on the government, and had ordered the rest to fall, one by one, into the line of communication. The King set himself to work to think about the matter. It was not long before he came to the conclusion that the main thing which had been wrong in his kingdom was himself. He was so greatly impressed with this idea that he went down to the court-yard to speak to the Sphinx about it.
"I dare say you are right," said the Sphinx, "and I don't wonder that what you learned when you were away, and what you have seen since you came back, have made you feel certain that you were the cause of every thing going wrong in this kingdom. And now, what do you intend to do about your government?""Give it up," promptly replied the King.
"That is exactly what I should advise," said the Sphinx. The King did give up his kingdom. He was convinced that being a King was exactly the thing he was not suited for, and that he would get on much better in some other business or profession. He determined to be a traveller and explorer, and to go abroad into other countries to find out things that might be useful to his own nation. His Queen had shown that she could govern the country most excellently, and it was not at all necessary for him to stay at home. She had ordered all the men who had made up his line to follow the King's example and to go into some good business; in order that not being bothered with so many officers, she would be able to get along quite easily.
The King was very successful in his new pursuit, and although he did not this time have a line of followers connecting him with the palace, he frequently sent home messages which were of use and value to his nation.
"I may as well retire," said the Sphinx to itself. "As the King has found his vocation and every thing is going all right it is not necessary I should remain where I may be looked upon as a questionable personage."
There were once a Prince and a Princess who, when quite young, ate a philopena together. They agreed that the one who, at any hour after sunrise the next day, should accept any thing from the other —the giver at the same time saying "Philopena!"— should be the loser, and that the loser should marry the other.
They did not meet as soon as they had expected the next day; and at the time our story begins, many years had elapsed since they had seen each other, and the Prince and the Princess were nearly grown up. They often thought of the philopena they had eaten together, and wondered if they should know each other when they met. He remembered her as a pretty little girl dressed in green silk and playing with a snow-white cat; while she remembered him as a handsome boy, wearing a little sword, the handle of which was covered with jewels. But they knew that each must have changed a great deal in all this time.Neither of these young people had any parents; the Prince lived with guardians and the Princess with uncles.
The guardians of the Prince were very enterprising and energetic men, and were allowed to govern the country until the Prince came of age. The capital city was a very fine city when the old king died; but the guardians thought it might be much finer, so they set to work with all their might and main to improve it. They tore down old houses and made a great many new streets; they built grand and splendid bridges over the river on which the city stood; they constructed aqueducts to bring water from streams many miles away; and they were at work all the time upon some extensive building enterprise.
The Prince did not take much interest in the works which were going on under direction of his guardians; and when he rode out, he preferred to go into the country or to ride through some of the quaint old streets, where nothing had been changed for hundreds of years.
The uncles of the Princess were very different people from the guardians of the Prince. There were three of them, and they were very quiet and cosey old men, who disliked any kind of bustle or disturbance, and wished that every thing might remain as they had always known it. It even worried them a little to find that the Princess was growing up. They would have much preferred that she should remain exactly as she was when they first took charge of her. Then they never would have been obliged to trouble their minds about any changes in the manner of taking care of her. But they did not worry their minds very much, after all. They wished to make her guardianship as little laborious or exhausting as possible, and so, divided the work; one of them took charge of her education, another of her food and lodging, and the third of her dress. The first sent for teachers, and told them to teach her; the second had handsome apartments prepared for her use, and gave orders that she should have every thing she needed to eat and drink; while the third commanded that she should have a complete outfit of new clothes four times a year. Thus every thing went on very quietly and smoothly; and the three uncles were not obliged to exhaust themselves by hard work. There were never any new houses built in that city, and if any thing had to be repaired, it was done with as little noise and dirt as possible. The city and the whole kingdom were quiet and serene, and the three uncles dozed away most of the day in three great comfortable thrones.
Everybody seemed satisfied with this state of things except the Princess. She often thought to herself that nothing would be more delightful than a little noise and motion, and she wondered if the whole world were as quiet as the city in which she lived. At last, she became unable to bear the dreadful stillness of the place any longer; but she could think of nothing to do but to go and try to find the Prince with whom she had eaten a philopena. If she should win, he must marry her; and then, perhaps, they could settle down in some place where things would be bright and lively. So, early one morning, she put on her white dress, and mounting her prancing black horse, she rode away from the city. Only one person saw her go, for nearly all the people were asleep.
About this time, the Prince made up his mind that he could no longer stand the din and confusion, the everlasting up-setting and setting-up in his native city. He would go away, and see if he could find the Princess with whom he had eaten a philopena. If he should win, she would be obliged to marry him; and then, perhaps, they could settle down in some place where it was quiet and peaceful. So, on the same morning in which the Princess rode away, he put on a handsome suit of black clothes, and mounting a gentle white horse, he rode out of the city. Only one person saw him go; for, even at that early hour, the people were so busy that little attention was paid to his movements.
About half way between these two cities, in a tall tower which stood upon a hill, there lived an Inquisitive Dwarf, whose whole object in life was to find out what people were doing and why they did it. From the top of this tower he generally managed to see all that was going on in the surrounding country; and in each of the two cities that have been mentioned he had an agent, whose duty it was to send him word, by means of carrier pigeons, whenever a new thing happened. Before breakfast, on the morning when the Prince and Princess rode away, a pigeon from the city of the Prince came flying to the tower of the Inquisitive Dwarf.
"Some new building started, I suppose," said the Dwarf, as he took the little roll of paper from under the pigeon's wing. "But no; it is very different! 'The Prince has ridden away from the city alone, and is travelling to the north.'"But before he could begin to puzzle his brains about the meaning of this departure, another pigeon came flying in from the city of the Princess.
"Well!" cried the Dwarf, "this is amazing! It is a long time since I have had a message from that city, and my agent has been drawing his salary without doing any work. What possibly can have happened there?"
When he read that the Princess had ridden alone from the city that morning, and was travelling to the south, he was truly amazed.
"What on earth can it mean?" he exclaimed. "If the city of the Prince were to the south of that of the Princess, then I might understand it; for they would be going to see each other, and that would be natural enough. But as his city is to the north of her city, they are travelling in opposite directions. And what is the meaning of this? I most certainly must find out."
The Inquisitive Dwarf had three servants whom he employed to attend to his most important business. These were a Gryphoness, a Water Sprite, and an Absolute Fool. This last one was very valuable; for there were some things he would do which no one else would think of attempting. The Dwarf called to him the Gryphoness, the oldest and most discreet of the three, and told her of the departure of the Princess.
"Hasten southward," he said, "as fast as you can, and follow her, and do not return to me until you have found out why she left her city, where she is going, and what she expects to do when she gets there. Your appearance may frighten her; and, therefore, you must take with you the Absolute Fool, to whom she will probably be willing to talk; but you must see that every thing is managed properly."
Having despatched these two, the Inquisitive Dwarf then called the Water Sprite, who was singing to herself at the edge of a fountain, and telling her of the departure of the Prince, ordered her to follow him, and not to return until she had found out why he left his city, where he was going, and what he intended to do when he got there."The road to the north," he said, "lies along the river bank; therefore, you can easily keep him company."
The Water Sprite bowed, and dancing over the dewy grass to the river, threw herself into it. Sometimes she swam beneath the clear water; sometimes she rose partly in the air, where she seemed like a little cloud of sparkling mist borne onward by the wind; and sometimes she floated upon the surface, her pale blue robes undulating with the gentle waves, while her white hands and feet shone in the sun like tiny crests of foam. Thus, singing to herself, she went joyously and rapidly on, aided by a full, strong wind from the south. She did not forget to glance every now and then upon the road which ran along the river bank; and, in the course of the morning, she perceived the Prince. He was sitting in the shade of a tree near the water's edge, while his white horse was grazing near by.
The Water Sprite came very gently out of the river, and seating herself upon the edge of the grassy bank, she spoke to him. The Prince looked up in astonishment, but there was nothing in her appearance to frighten him.
"I came," said the Water Sprite, "at the command of my master, to ask you why you left your city, where you are going, and what you intend to do when you get there." The Prince then told her why he had left his city, and what he intended to do when he had found the Princess."But where I am going," he said, "I do not know, myself. I must travel and travel until I succeed in the object of my search." The Water Sprite reflected for a moment, and then she said:
"If I were you, I would not travel to the north. It is cold and dreary there, and your Princess would not dwell in such a region. A little above us, on the other side of this river, there is a stream which runs sometimes to the east and sometimes to the south, and which leads to the Land of the Lovely Lakes. This is the most beautiful country in the world, and you will be much more likely to find your Princess there than among the desolate mountains of the north.""I dare say you are right," said the Prince; "and I will go there, if you will show me the way." "The road runs along the bank of the river," said the Water Sprite; "and we shall soon reach the Land of the Lovely Lakes." The Prince then mounted his horse, forded the river, and was soon riding along the bank of the stream, while the Water Sprite gayly floated upon its dancing ripples.
When the Gryphoness started southward, in pursuit of the Princess, she kept out of sight among the bushes by the roadside; but sped swiftly along. The Absolute Fool, however, mounted upon a fine horse, rode boldly along upon the open road. He was a good-looking youth, with rosy cheeks, bright eyes, and a handsome figure. As he cantered gayly along, he felt himself capable of every noble action which the human mind has ever conceived. The Gryphoness kept near him, and in the course of the morning they overtook the Princess, who was allowing her horse to walk in the shade by the roadside. The Absolute Fool dashed up to her, and, taking off his hat, asked her why she had left her city, where she was going, and what she intended to do when she got there.The Princess looked at him in surprise. "I left my city because I wanted to," she said. "I am going about my business, and when I get to the proper place, I shall attend to it."
"Oh," said the Absolute Fool, "you refuse me your confidence, do you? But allow me to remark that I have a Gryphoness with me who is very frightful to look at, and whom it was my intention to keep in the bushes; but if you will not give fair answers to my questions, she must come out and talk to you, and that is all there is about it." "If there is a Gryphoness in the bushes," said the Princess, "let her come out. No matter how frightful she is, I would rather she should come where I can see her, than to have her hiding near me."
The Gryphoness, who had heard these words, now came out into the road. The horse of the Princess reared in affright, but his young rider patted him on the neck, and quieted his fears."What do you and this young man want?" said the Princess to the Gryphoness, "and why do you question me?"
"It is not of our own will that we do it," said the Gryphoness, very respectfully; "but our master, the Inquisitive Dwarf, has sent us to obtain information about the points on which the young man questioned you; and until we have found out these things, it is impossible for us to return."
"I am opposed to answering impertinent questions," replied the Princess; "but in order to rid myself of you, I will tell you the reason of my journey." And she then stated briefly the facts of the case.
"Ah, me!" said the Gryphoness. "I am very sorry; but you cannot tell us where you are going, and we cannot return until we know that. But you need not desire to be rid of us, for it may be that we can assist you in the object of your journey. This young man is sometimes very useful, and I shall be glad to do any thing that I can to help you. If you should think that I would injure you, or willingly annoy you by my presence, it would grieve me to the heart." And as she spoke, a tear bedimmed her eye.The Princess was touched by the emotion of the Gryphoness. "You may accompany me," she said, "and I will trust you both. You must know this country better than I do. Have you any advice to give me in regard to my journey?"
"One thing I would strongly advise," said the Gryphoness, "and that is, that you do not travel any farther until we know in what direction it will be best to go. There is an inn close by, kept by a worthy woman. If you will stop there until to-morrow, this young man and I will scour the country round about, and try to find some news of your Prince. The young man will return and report to you to-morrow morning. And if you should need help, or escort, he will aid and obey you as your servant. As for me, unless we have found the Prince, I shall continue searching for him. There is a prince in the city to the north of my master's tower, and it is not unlikely that it is he whom you seek.""You can find out if it is he," answered the Princess, "by asking about the philopena."
"That will I do," said the Gryphoness, "and I will return hither as speedily as possible." And, with a respectful salutation, the Gryphoness and the Absolute Fool departed by different ways.
The Princess then repaired to the inn, where she took lodgings.
The next morning, the Absolute Fool came back to the inn, and seeing the Princess, said: "I rode until after night-fall, searching for the Prince, before it occurred to me that, even if I should find him, I would not know him in the dark. As soon as I thought of that, I rode straight to the nearest house, and slept until daybreak, when I remembered that I was to report to you this morning. But as I have heard no news of the Prince, and as this is a beautiful, clear day, I think it would be extremely foolish to remain idly here, where there is nothing of interest going on, and when a single hour's delay may cause you to miss the object of your search. The Prince may be in one place this morning, and there is no knowing where he will be in the afternoon. While the Gryphoness is searching, we should search also. We can return before sunset, and we will leave word here as to the direction we have taken, so that when she returns, she can quickly overtake us. It is my opinion that not a moment should be lost. I will be your guide. I know this country well."
The Princess thought this sounded like good reasoning, and consented to set out. There were some beautiful mountains to the south-east; and among these, the Absolute Fool declared, a prince of good taste would be very apt to dwell. They, therefore, took this direction. But when they had travelled an hour or more, the mountains began to look bare and bleak, and the Absolute Fool declared that he did not believe any prince would live there. He therefore advised that they turn into a road that led to the north-east. It was a good road; and therefore he thought it led to a good place, where a person of good sense would be likely to reside. Along this road they therefore travelled. They had ridden but a few miles when they met three men, well armed and mounted. These men drew up their horses, and respectfully saluted the Princess.
"High-born Lady," they said, "for by your aspect we know you to be such, we would inform you that we are the soldiers of the King, the outskirts of whose dominions you have reached. It is our duty to question all travellers, and, if their object in coming to our country is a good one, to give them whatever assistance and information they may require. Will you tell us why you are come?"
"Impertinent vassals!" cried the Absolute Fool, riding up in a great passion. "How dare you interfere with a princess who has left her city because it was so dull and stupid, and is endeavoring to find a prince, with whom she has eaten a philopena, in order that she may marry him. Out of my way, or I will draw my sword and cleave you to the earth, and thus punish your unwarrantable curiosity!"The soldiers could not repress a smile. "In order to prevent mischief," they said to the Absolute Fool, "we shall be obliged to take you into custody."
This they immediately did, and then requested the Princess to accompany them to the palace of their King, where she would receive hospitality and aid.
The King welcomed the Princess with great cordiality. He had no son, and he much wished he had one; for in that case it might be his Prince for whom the young lady was looking. But there was a prince, he said, who lived in a city to the north, who was probably the very man; and he would send and make inquiries. In the mean time, the Princess would be entertained by himself and his Queen; and, if her servant would make a suitable apology, his violent language would be pardoned. But the Absolute Fool positively refused to do this.
"To be sure, there's the old lion, Sardon," they said; "but he is so dreadfully cross and has had so much experience in these fights, that for a long time it has not been considered fair to allow any one to enter the ring with him."
"It is a pity," said the King, "to make the young man fight a tame beast; but, under the circumstances, the best thing to do will be to represent the case to him, just as it is. Tell him we are sorry we have not an ordinary wild beast; but that he can take his choice between a tame one and the lion Sardon, whose disposition and experience you will explain to him."When the matter was stated to the Absolute Fool, he refused with great scorn to fight a tame beast. "I will not be degraded in the eyes of the public," he said; "I will take the old lion."
The next day, the court and the public assembled to see the fight; but the Queen and our Princess took a ride into the country, not wishing to witness a combat of this kind, especially one which was so unequal. The King ordered that every advantage should be given to the young man, in order that he might have every possible chance of success in fighting an animal which had been a victor on so many similar occasions. A large iron cage, furnished with a turnstile, into which the Absolute Fool could retire for rest and refreshment, but where the lion could not follow him, was placed in the middle of the arena, and the youth was supplied with all the weapons he desired. When every thing was ready, the Absolute Fool took his stand in the centre of the arena, and the door of the lion's den was opened. The great beast came out, he looked about for an instant, and then, with majestic step, advanced toward the young man. When he was within a few paces of him, he crouched for a spring.
The Absolute Fool had never seen so magnificent a creature, and he could not restrain his admiration. With folded arms and sparkling eyes, he gazed with delight upon the lion's massive head, his long and flowing mane, his magnificent muscles, and his powerful feet and legs. There was an air of grandeur and strength about him which completely enraptured the youth. Approaching the lion, he knelt before him, and gazed with wondering ecstasy into his great, glowing eyes. "What glorious orbs!" he inwardly exclaimed. "What unfathomable expression! What possibilities! What reminiscences! And everywhere, what majesty of curve!"
The lion was a good deal astonished at the conduct of the young man; and he soon began to suppose that this was not the person he was to fight, but probably a keeper, who was examining into his condition. After submitting to this scrutiny a few minutes, he gave a mighty yawn, which startled the spectators, but which delighted the Absolute Fool; for never before had he beheld such a depth of potentiality. He knelt in silent delight at this exhibition of the beauty of strength.Old Sardon soon became tired of all this, however, and he turned and walked back to his den. "When their man is ready," he thought to himself, "I will come out and fight him."
One tremendous shout now arose from the multitude. "The youth has conquered!" they cried. "He has actually frightened the lion back into his den!" Rushing into the arena, they raised the Absolute Fool upon their shoulders and carried him in triumph to the open square in front of the palace, that he might be rewarded for his bravery. Here the King, followed by his court, quickly appeared; for he was as much delighted as any one at the victory of the young man.
"Noble youth," he exclaimed, "you are the bravest of the brave. You are the only man I know who is worthy of our royal daughter, and you shall marry her forthwith. Long since, I vowed that only with the bravest should she wed."
At this moment, the Queen and the Princess, returning from their ride, heard with joy the result of the combat; and riding up to the victor, the Queen declared that she would gladly join with her royal husband in giving their daughter to so brave a man.The Absolute Fool stood for a moment in silent thought; then, addressing the King, he said: "Was Your Majesty's father a king?" "He was," was the answer. "Was his father of royal blood?"
"No; he was not," replied the King. "My grandfather was a man of the people; but his pre-eminent virtue, his great ability as a statesman, and the dignity and nobility of his character made him the unanimous choice of the nation as its sovereign." "I am sorry to hear that," said the Absolute Fool; "for it makes it necessary for me to decline the kind offer of your daughter in marriage. If I marry a princess at all, she must be one who can trace back her lineage through a long line of royal ancestors." And as he spoke, his breast swelled with manly pride.For a moment, the King was dumb with rage. Then loudly he shouted: "Ho, guards! Annihilate him! Avenge this insult!"
At these words, the sword of every by-stander leaped from its scabbard; but, before any one could take a step forward, the Princess seized the Absolute Fool by his long and flowing locks, and put spurs to her horse. The young man yelled with pain, and shouted to her to let go; but she held firmly to his hair, and as he was extraordinarily active and fleet of foot, he kept pace with the galloping horse. A great crowd of people started in pursuit, but as none of them were mounted, they were soon left behind."Let go my hair! Let go my hair!" shouted the Absolute Fool, as he bounded along. "You don't know how it hurts. Let go! Let go!" But the Princess never relinquished her hold until they were out of the King's domain. "A little more," cried the indignant youth, when she let him go, "and you would have pulled out a handful of my hair."
"A little less," said the Princess, contemptuously, "and you would have been cut to pieces; for you have not sense enough to take care of yourself. I am sorry I listened to you, and left the inn to which the Gryphoness took me. It would have been far better to wait there for her as she told me to do.""Yes," said the Absolute Fool; "it would have been much better." "Now," said the Princess, "we will go back there, and see if she has returned." "If we can find it," said the other, "which I very much doubt."
There were several roads at this point and, of course, they took the wrong one. As they went on, the Absolute Fool complained bitterly that he had left his horse behind him, and was obliged to walk. Sometimes he stopped, and said he would go back after it; but this the Princess sternly forbade.
When the Gryphoness reached the city of the Prince, it was night; but she was not sorry for this. She did not like to show herself much in the daytime, because so many people were frightened by her. After a good deal of trouble, she discovered that the Prince had certainly left the city, although his guardians did not seem to be aware of it. They were so busy with a new palace, in part of which they were living, that they could not be expected to keep a constant eye upon him. In the morning, she met an old man who knew her, and was not afraid of her, and who told her that the day before, when he was up the river, he had seen the Prince on his white horse, riding on the bank of the stream; and that near him, in the water, was something which now looked like a woman, and again like a puff of mist. The Gryphoness reflected.
"If this Prince has gone off in that way," she said to herself, "I believe that he is the very one whom the Princess is looking for, and that he has set out in search of her; and that creature in the water must be our Water Sprite, whom our master has probably sent out to discover where the Prince is going. If he had told me about this, it would have saved much trouble. From the direction in which they were going, I feel sure that the Water Sprite was taking the Prince to the Land of the Lovely Lakes. She never fails to go there, if she can possibly get an excuse. I will follow them. I suppose the Princess will be tired, waiting at the inn; but I must know where the Prince is, and if he is really her Prince, before I go back to her."When the Gryphoness reached the Land of the Lovely Lakes, she wandered all that day and the next night; but she saw nothing of those for whom she was looking.
The Princess and the Absolute Fool journeyed on until near the close of the afternoon, when the sky began to be overcast, and it looked like rain. They were then not far from a large piece of water; and at a little distance, they saw a ship moored near the shore."I shall seek shelter on board that ship," said the Princess. "It is going to storm," remarked the Absolute Fool. "I should prefer to be on dry land." "As the land is not likely to be very dry when it rains," said the Princess, "I prefer a shelter, even if it is upon wet water." "Women will always have their own way," muttered the Absolute Fool. The ship belonged to a crew of Amazon sailors, who gave the Princess a hearty welcome. "You may go on board if you choose," said the Absolute Fool to the Princess, "but I shall not risk my life in a ship manned by women."
"It is well that you are of that opinion," said the Captain of the Amazons, who had heard this remark; "for you would not be allowed to come on board if you wished to. But we will give you a tent to protect you and the horse in case it should rain, and will send you something to eat.""While the Princess was taking tea with the Amazon Captain, she told her about the
Prince, and how she was trying to find him.
"Good!" cried the Captain. "I will join in the search, and take you in my ship. Some of my crew told me that yesterday they saw a young man, who looked like a prince, riding along the shore of a lake which adjoins the one we are on. In the morning we will sail after him. We shall keep near the shore, and your servant can mount your horse and ride along the edge of the lake. From what I know of the speed of this vessel, I think he can easily keep up with us."
Early in the morning, the Amazon Captain called her crew together. "Hurrah, my brave girls!" she said. "We have an object. I never sail without an object, and it lights me to get one. The purpose of our present cruise is to find the Prince of whom this Princess is in search; and we must spare no pains to bring him to her, dead or alive."
Luckily for her peace of mind, the Princess did not hear this speech. The day was a fine one, and before long the sun became very hot. The ship was sailing quite near the land, when the Absolute Fool rode down to the water's edge, and called out that he had something very important to communicate to the Princess. As he was not allowed to come on board, she was obliged to go on shore, to which she was rowed in a small boat.
"I have been thinking," said the Absolute Fool, "that it is perfectly ridiculous, and very uncomfortable, to continue this search any longer. I would go back, but my master would not suffer me to return without knowing where you are going. I have, therefore, a plan to propose. Give up your useless search for this Prince, who is probably not nearly so handsome and intellectual as I am, and marry me. We will then return, and I will assume the reins of government in your domain.""Follow the vessel," said the Princess, "as you have been doing; for I wish some one to take care of my horse." And without another word, she returned to the ship. "I should like to sail as far as possible from shore during the rest of the trip," said she to the Captain. "Put the helm bias!" shouted the Amazon Captain to the steers-woman; "and keep him well out from land."
When they had sailed through a small stream into the lake adjoining, the out-look, who was swinging in a hammock hung between the tops of the two masts, sang out, "Prince ahead!" Instantly all was activity on board the vessel. Story books were tucked under coils of rope, hem-stitching and embroidery were laid aside, and every woman was at her post.
"The Princess is taking a nap," said the Captain, "and we will not awaken her. It will be so nice to surprise her by bringing the Prince to her. We will run our vessel ashore, and then steal quietly upon him. But do not let him get away. Cut him down, if he resists!"
The Prince, who was plainly visible only a short distance ahead, was so pleasantly employed that he had not noticed the approach of the ship. He was sitting upon a low, moss-covered rock, close to the water's edge; and with a small hand-net, which he had found on the shore, he was scooping the most beautiful fishes from the lake, holding them up in the sunlight to admire their brilliant colors and graceful forms, and then returning them uninjured to the water. The Water Sprite was swimming near him, and calling to the fish to come up and be caught; for the gentle Prince would not hurt them. It was very delightful and rare sport, and it is not surprising that it entirely engrossed the attention of the Prince. The Amazons silently landed, and softly stole along the shore, a little back from the water. Then, at their Captain's command, they rushed upon the Prince.
It was just about this time that the Gryphoness, who had been searching for the Prince, caught her first sight of him. Perceiving that he was about to be attacked, she rushed to his aid. The Amazon sailors reached him before she did, and seizing upon him they began to pull him away. The Prince resisted stoutly; but seeing that his assailants were women, he would not draw his sword. The Amazon Captain and mate, who were armed with broad knives, now raised their weapons, and called upon the Prince to surrender or die. But at this moment, the Gryphoness reached the spot, and catching the Captain and mate, each by an arm, she dragged them back from the Prince. The other Amazons, however, continued the combat; and the Prince defended himself by pushing them into the shallow water, where the Water Sprite nearly stifled them by throwing over them showers of spray. And now came riding up the Absolute Fool. Seeing a youth engaged in combat with the Amazon sailors, his blood boiled with indignation."A man fighting women!" he exclaimed. "What a coward! My arm shall ever assist the weaker sex."
Jumping from the horse, he drew his sword, and rushed upon the Prince. The Gryphoness saw the danger of the latter, and she would have gone to his assistance, but she was afraid to loosen her hold of the Amazon Captain and mate.
Spreading her wings she flew to the top of a tree where she deposited the two warlike women upon a lofty branch, from which she knew it would take them a long time to get down to the ground. When she descended she found that the Absolute Fool had reached the Prince. The latter, being a brave fellow, although of so gentle a disposition, had been glad to find a man among his assailants, and had drawn his sword to defend himself. The two had just begun to fight when the Gryphoness seized the Absolute Fool by the waist and hurled him backward into some bushes.
"You must not fight him!" she cried to the Prince. "He is beneath your rank! And as you will not draw your sword against these Amazons you must fly from them. If you run fast they cannot overtake you."
The Prince followed her advice, and sheathing his sword he rapidly ran along the bank, followed by some of the Amazons who had succeeded in getting the water out of their eyes and mouths.
"Run from women!" contemptuously remarked the Absolute Fool. "If you had not interfered with me," he said to the Gryphoness, "I should soon have put an end to such a coward."
The Prince had nearly reached the place opposite to which the ship was moored, when the Princess, who had been awakened by the noise of the combat, appeared upon the deck of the vessel. The moment she saw the Prince, she felt convinced that he was certainly the one for whom she was looking. Fearing that the pursuing Amazons might kill him, she sprang from the vessel to his assistance; but her foot caught in a rope, and instead of reaching the shore, she fell into the water, which was here quite deep, and immediately sank out of sight. The Prince, who had noticed her just as she sprang, and who felt equally convinced that she was the one for whom he was searching, stopped his flight and rushed to the edge of the bank. Just as the Princess rose to the surface, he reached out his hand to her, and she took it."Philopena!" cried the Prince. "You have won," said the Princess, gayly shaking the water from her curls, as he drew her ashore. At the request of the Princess, the pursuing Amazons forbore to assail the Prince, and when the Captain and the Mate had descended from the tree, every thing was explained.
Within an hour, the Prince and Princess, after taking kind leave of the Gryphoness, and Water Sprite, and of the Amazon sailors, who cheered them loudly, rode away to the city of the Princess; while the three servants of the Inquisitive Dwarf returned to their master to report what had happened.
The Absolute Fool was in a very bad humor; for he was obliged to go back on foot, having left his horse in the kingdom where he had so narrowly escaped being killed; and, besides this, he had had his hair pulled; and had not been treated with proper respect by either the Princess or the Gryphoness. He felt himself deeply injured. When he reached home, he determined that he would not remain in a position where his great abilities were so little appreciated. "I will do something," he said, "which shall prove to the world that I deserve to stand among the truly great. I will reform my fellow beings, and I will begin by reforming the Inquisitive Dwarf." Thereupon he went to his master, and said:
"Sir, it is foolish and absurd for you to be meddling thus with the affairs of your neighbors. Give up your inquisitive habits, and learn some useful business. While you are doing this, I will consent to manage your affairs."The Inquisitive Dwarf turned to him, and said: "I have a great desire to know the exact appearance of the North Pole. Go and discover it for me."
The Absolute Fool departed on this mission, and has not yet returned. When the Princess, with her Prince, reached her city, her uncles were very much amazed; for they had not known she had gone away. "If you are going to get married," they said, "we are very glad; for then you will not need our care, and we shall be free from the great responsibility which is bearing us down."In a short time the wedding took place, and then the question arose in which city should the young couple dwell. The Princess decided it.
"In the winter," she said to the Prince, "We will live in your city, where all is life and activity; and where the houses are so well built with all the latest improvements. In the summer, we will come to my city, where everything is old, and shady, and serene." This they did, and were very happy.The Gryphoness would have been glad to go and live with the Princess, for she had taken a great fancy to her; but she did not think it worth her while to ask permission to do this. "My impulses, I know, are good," she said; "but my appearance is against me."
As for the Water Sprite, she was in a truly disconsolate mood, because she had left so soon the Land of the Lovely Lakes, where she had been so happy. The more she thought about it, the more she grieved; and one morning, unable to bear her sorrow longer, she sprang into the great jet of the fountain. High into the bright air the fountain threw her, scattering her into a thousand drops of glittering water; but not one drop fell back into the basin. The great, warm sun drew them up; and, in a little white cloud, they floated away across the bright blue sky.