The Bee-Man of Orn and Other Fanciful Tales HTML version

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
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.