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Title: Prince Prigio - From "His Own Fairy Book"
Author: Lang, Andrew, 1844-1912
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Prince Prigio - From "His Own Fairy Book"" ***

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PRINCE PRIGIO

From "His Own Fairy Book"

By Andrew Lang



TO CHILDREN.

The Author of this book is also the Editor of the Blue, Red, Greenland
Yellow Fairy Books. He has always felt rather an impostor, because so
many children seem to think that he made up these books out of his
own head. Now he only picked up a great many old fairy tales, told
in French, German, Greek, Chinese, Red Indian, Russian, and other
languages, and had them translated and printed, with pictures. He is
glad that children like them, but he must confess that they should be
grateful to old forgotten people, long ago, who first invented these
tales, and who knew more about fairies than we can hope to do.

_My Own Fairy Book_, which you now have in your hands, was made up
altogether out of his own head by the Author, of course with the help of
the Historical Papers in the kingdom of Pantouflia. About that ancient
kingdom very little is known. The natives speak German; but the Royal
Family, as usual, was of foreign origin. Just as England has had Norman,
Scottish, and, at present, a line of German monarchs, so the kings of
Pantouflia are descended from an old Greek family, the Hypnotidæ, who
came to Pantouflia during the Crusades. They wanted, they explained, not
to be troubled with the Crusades, which they thought very injudicious
and tiresome. The Crest of the regal house is a Dormouse, dormant,
proper, on a field vert, and the Motto, when translated out of the
original Greek, means, _Anything for a Quiet Life_.

It may surprise the young reader that princes like Prigio and Ricardo,
whose feet were ever in the stirrup, and whose lances were always in
rest, should have descended from the family of the Hypnotidæ, who were
remarkably lazy and peaceful. But these heroes doubtless inherited the
spirit of their great ancestress, whose story is necessary to be known.
On leaving his native realm during the Crusades, in search of some
secure asylum, the founder of the Pantouflian monarchy landed in the
island of Cyprus, where, during the noon-tide heat, he lay down to
sleep in a cave. Now in this cave dwelt a dragon of enormous size and
unamiable character. What was the horror of the exiled prince when he
was aroused from slumber by the fiery breath of the dragon, and felt its
scaly coils about him!

"Oh, hang your practical jokes!" exclaimed the prince, imagining that
some of his courtiers were playing a prank on him.

"Do you call _this_ a joke?" asked the dragon, twisting its forked tail
into a line with his royal highness's eye.

"Do take that thing away," said the prince, "and let a man have his nap
peacefully.''

"Kiss me!" cried the dragon, which had already devoured many gallant
knights for declining to kiss it.

"Give you a kiss," murmured the prince; "oh, certainly, if that's all!
_Anything for a quiet life._"

So saying, he kissed the dragon, which instantly became a most beautiful
princess; for she had lain enchanted as a dragon, by a wicked magician,
till somebody should be bold enough to kiss her.

"My love! my hero! my lord! how long I have waited for thee; and now I
am eternally thine own!"

So murmured, in the most affectionate accents, the Lady Dragonissa, as
she was now called.

Though wedded to a bachelor life, the prince was much too well-bred to
make any remonstrance.

The Lady Dragonissa, a female of extraordinary spirit, energy, and
ambition, took command of him and of his followers, conducted them up
the Danube, seized a principality whose lord had gone crusading, set
her husband on the throne, and became in course of time the mother of a
little prince, who, again, was great, great, great, great-grandfather of
our Prince Prigio.

From this adventurous Lady Dragonissa, Prince Prigio derived his
character for gallantry. But her husband, it is said, was often heard to
remark, by a slight change of his family motto:

"_Anything for a Quiet Wife!_"

You now know as much as the Author does of the early history of
Pantouflia.

As to the story called _The Gold of Fairnilee_, such adventures were
extremely common in Scotland long ago, as may be read in many of
the works of Sir Walter Scott and of the learned in general. Indeed,
Fairnilee is the very place where the fairy queen appointed to meet her
lover, Thomas the Rhymer.

With these explanations, the Author leaves to the judgment of young
readers his _Own Fairy Book_.



PRINCE PRIGIO

By Andrew Lang

Adorned by Gordon Browne, T. Scott, and E. A. Lemann.

IS

Dedicated

TO

ALMA, THYRA, EDITH, ROSALIND, NORNA, CECILY, AND VIOLET



PREFACE.

In compiling the following History from the Archives of Pantouflia, the
Editor has incurred several obligations to the Learned. The Return of
Benson (chapter xii.) is the fruit of the research of the late Mr. Allen
Quatermain, while the final _wish_ of Prince Prigio was suggested by the
invention or erudition of a Lady.

A study of the _Firedrake_ in South Africa, where he is called the
_Nanaboulélé_, a difficult word-has been published in French (translated
from the Basuto language) by M. Paul Sébillot, in the _Revue des
Traditione Populaires_. For the _Rémora_, the Editor is indebted to the
_Voyage à la Lune_ of M. Cyrano de Bergérac.

[Illustration: Chapter One]



CHAPTER I.--_How the Fairies were not Invited to Court_

ONCE upon a time there reigned in Pantouflia a king and a queen. With
almost everything else to make them happy, they wanted one thing: they
had no children. This vexed the king even more than the queen, who was
very clever and learned, and who had hated dolls when she was a child.
However, she too, in spite of all the books she read and all the
pictures she painted, would have been glad enough to be the mother of
a little prince. The king was anxious to consult the fairies, but the
queen would not hear of such a thing. She did not believe in fairies:
she said that they had never existed; and that she maintained, though
_The History of the Royal Family_ was full of chapters about nothing
else.

Well, at long and at last they had a little boy, who was generally
regarded as the finest baby that had ever been seen. Even her majesty
herself remarked that, though she could never believe all the courtiers
told her, yet he certainly was a fine child--a very fine child.

Now, the time drew near for the christening party, and the king and
queen were sitting at breakfast in their summer parlour talking over
it. It was a splendid room, hung with portraits of the royal ancestors.
There was Cinderella, the grandmother of the reigning monarch, with her
little foot in her glass slipper thrust out before her. There was the
Marquis de Carabas, who, as everyone knows, was raised to the throne as
prince consort after his marriage with the daughter of the king of the
period. On the arm of the throne was seated his celebrated cat, wearing
boots. There, too, was a portrait of a beautiful lady, sound asleep:
this was Madame La Belle au Bois-dormant, also an ancestress of the
royal family. Many other pictures of celebrated persons were hanging on
the walls.

"You have asked all the right people, my dear?" said the king.

"Everyone who should be asked," answered the queen.

"People are so touchy on these occasions," said his majesty. "You have
not forgotten any of our aunts?"

"No; the old cats!" replied the queen; for the king's aunts were
old-fashioned, and did not approve of her, and she knew it. "They are
very kind old ladies in their way," said the king; "and were nice to me
when I was a boy."

Then he waited a little, and remarked:

"The fairies, of course, you have invited? It has always been usual, in
our family, on an occasion like this; and I think we have neglected them
a little of late."

"How _can_ you be so _absurd?_" cried the queen. "How often must I tell
you that there are _no_ fairies? And even if there were--but, no matter;
pray let us drop the subject."

"They are very old friends of our family, my dear, that's all," said the
king timidly. "Often and often they have been godmothers to us. One, in
particular, was most kind and most serviceable to Cinderella I., my own
grandmother."

"Your grandmother!" interrupted her majesty. "Fiddle-de-dee! If anyone
puts such nonsense into the head of my little Prigio----"

But here the baby was brought in by the nurse, and the queen almost
devoured it with kisses. And so the fairies were not invited! It was
an extraordinary thing, but none of the nobles could come to the
christening party when they learned that the fairies had not been asked.
Some were abroad; several were ill; a few were in prison among the
Saracens; others were captives in the dens of ogres. The end of it was
that the king and queen had to sit down alone, one at each end of a very
long table, arrayed with plates and glasses for a hundred guests--for a
hundred guests who never came!

"Any soup, my dear?" shouted the king, through a speaking-trumpet; when,
suddenly, the air was filled with a sound like the rustling of the wings
of birds.

_Flitter, flitter, flutter_, went the noise; and when the queen looked
up, lo and behold! on every seat was a lovely fairy, dressed in green,
each with a _most interesting-looking parcel_ in her hand. Don't you
like opening parcels? The king did, and he was most friendly and polite
to the fairies. But the queen, though she saw them distinctly, took no
notice of them. You see, she did not believe in fairies, nor in her own
eyes, when she saw them. So she talked across the fairies to the king,
just as if they had not been there; but the king behaved as politely as
if they were _real_--which, of course, they were.

When dinner was over, and when the nurse had brought in the baby, all
the fairies gave him the most magnificent presents. One offered a purse
which could never be empty; and one a pair of seven-leagued boots; and
another a cap of darkness, that nobody might see the prince when he put
it on; and another a wishing-cap; and another a carpet, on which, when
he sat, he was carried wherever he wished to find himself. Another made
him beautiful for ever; and another, brave; and another, lucky: but the
last fairy of all, a cross old thing, crept up and said, "My child, you
shall be _too_ clever!"

This fairy's gift would have pleased the queen, if she had believed in
it, more than anything else, because she was so clever herself. But she
took no notice at all; and the fairies went each to her own country, and
none of them stayed there at the palace, where nobody believed in them,
except the king, a little. But the queen tossed all their nice boots and
caps, carpets, purses, swords, and all, away into a dark lumber-room;
for, of course, she thought that they were _all nonsense_, and merely
old rubbish out of books, or pantomime "properties."

[Illustration: Chapter Two]



CHAPTER II.--_Prince Prigio and his family_

WELL, the little prince grew up. I think I've told you that his name was
Prigio--did I not? Well, that _was_ his name.

You cannot think how clever he was. He argued with his nurse as soon as
he could speak, which was very soon. He argued that he did not like to
be washed, because the soap got into his eyes. However, when he was told
all about the _pores of the skin_, and how they could not be healthy
if he was not washed, he at once ceased to resist, for he was very
reasonable. He argued with his father that he did not see why there
should be kings who were rich, while beggars were poor; and why the
king--who was a little greedy--should have poached eggs and plum-cake
at afternoon tea, while many other persons went without dinner. The king
was so surprised and hurt at these remarks that he boxed the prince's
ears, saying, "I 'll teach you to be too clever, my lad." Then he
remembered the awful curse of the oldest fairy, and was sorry for the
rudeness of the queen. And when the prince, after having his ears boxed,
said that "force was no argument," the king went away in a rage.

Indeed, I cannot tell you how the prince was hated by all! He would
go down into the kitchen, and show the cook how to make soup. He would
visit the poor people's cottage, and teach them how to make the beds,
and how to make plum pudding out of turnip-tops, and venison cutlets
out of rusty bacon. He showed the fencing-master how to fence, and the
professional cricketer how to bowl, and instructed the rat-catcher in
breeding terriers. He set sums to the Chancellor of the Exchequer,
and assured the Astronomer Royal that the sun does not go round the
earth--which, for my part, I believe it does. The young ladies of the
court disliked dancing with him, in spite of his good looks, because he
was always asking, "Have you read this?" and "Have you read that?"--and
when they said they hadn't, he sneered; and when they said they _had_,
he found them out.

He found out all his tutors and masters in the same horrid way;
correcting the accent of his French teacher, and trying to get his
German tutor not to eat peas with his knife. He also endeavoured to
teach the queen-dowager, his grandmother, an art with which she had long
been perfectly familiar! In fact, he knew everything better than anybody
else; and the worst of it was that he _did_: and he never was in the
wrong, and he always said, "Didn't I tell you so?" And, what was more,
he _had!_

[Illustration: page 12]

As time went on, Prince Prigio had two younger brothers, whom everybody
liked: They were not a bit clever, but jolly. Prince Alphonso, the
third son, was round, fat, good-humoured, and as brave as a lion. Prince
Enrico, the second, was tall, thin, and a "little sad, but _never_
too clever." Both were in love with two of their own cousins (with the
approval of their dear parents); and all the world said, "What nice,
unaffected princes they are!" But Prigio nearly got the country into
several wars by being too clever for the foreign ambassadors. Now, as
Pantouflia was a rich, lazy country, which hated fighting, this was very
unpleasant, and did not make people love Prince Prigio any better.

[Illustration: Chapter Three]



CHAPTER III.--_About the Firedrake._

OF all the people who did not like Prigio, his own dear papa, King
Grognio, disliked him most. For the king knew he was not clever himself.
When he was in the counting-house, counting out his money, and when he
happened to say, "Sixteen shillings and fourteen and twopence are three
pounds, fifteen," it made him wild to hear Prigio whisper, "One pound,
ten and twopence,"--which, of course, it _is_. And the king was afraid
that Prigio would conspire, and get made king himself--which was the
last thing Prigio really wanted. He much preferred to idle about, and
know everything without seeming to take any trouble.

Well, the king thought and thought. How was he to get Prigio out of the
way, and make Enrico or Alphonso his successor? He read in books about
it; and all the books showed that, if a king sent his three sons to do
anything, it was always the youngest who did it, and got the crown. And
he wished he had the chance. Well, it arrived at last.

[Illustration: Page 15]

There was a very hot summer! It began to be hot in March.' All the
rivers were dried up. The grass did not grow. The corn did not grow. The
thermometers exploded with heat. The barometers stood at Set Fair. The
people were much distressed, and came and broke the palace win-dows--as
they usually do when things go wrong in Pantouflia.

The king consulted the learned men about the Court, who told him that
probably a FIREDRAKE was in the neighbourhood.

Now, the Firedrake is a beast, or bird, about the bigness of an
elephant. Its body is made of iron, and it is always red-hot. A more
terrible and cruel beast cannot be imagined; for, if you go near it, you
are at once broiled by the Firedrake.

But the king was not ill-pleased: "for," thought he, "of course my three
sons must go after the brute, the eldest first; and, as usual, it will
kill the first two, and be beaten by the youngest. It is a little hard
on Enrico, poor boy; but _anything_ to get rid of that Prigio!"

Then the king went to Prigio, and said that his country was in danger,
and that he was determined to leave the crown to whichever of them would
bring him the horns (for it has horns) and tail of the Firedrake.

"It is an awkward brute to tackle," the king said, "but you are the
oldest, my lad; go where glory waits you! Put on your armour, and be off
with you!"

[Illustration: Page 17]

This the king said, hoping that either the Firedrake would roast Prince
Prigio alive (which he could easily do, as I have said; for he is all
over as hot as a red-hot poker), or that, if the prince succeeded, at
least his country would be freed from the monster.

But the prince, who was lying on the sofa doing sums in compound
division, for fun, said in the politest way:

"Thanks to the education your majesty has given me, I have learned that
the Firedrake, like the siren, the fairy, and so forth, is a fabulous
animal which does not exist. But even granting, for the sake of
argument, that there is a Firedrake, your majesty is well aware that
there is no kind of use in sending _me_. It is always the eldest son who
goes out first, and comes to grief on these occasions, and it is always
the third son that succeeds. Send Alphonso" (this was the youngest
brother), "and _he_ will do the trick at once. At least, if he fails, it
will be most unusual, and Enrico can try his luck."

Then he went back to his arithmetic and his slate, and the king had to
send for Prince Alphonso and Prince Enrico. They both came in very warm;
for they had been whipping tops, and the day was unusually hot.

"Look here," said the king, "just you two younger ones look at Prigio!
You see how hot it is, and how coolly he takes it, and the country
suffering; and all on account of a Firedrake, you know, which has
apparently built his nest not far off. Well, I have asked that lout of a
brother of yours to kill it, and he says--"

"That he does not believe in Firedrakes," interrupted Prigio, "The
weather's warm enough without going out hunting!"

"Not believe in Firedrakes!" cried Alphonso. "I wonder what you _do_
believe in! Just let me get at the creature!" for he was as brave as
a lion. "Hi! Page, my chain-armour, helmet, lance, and buckler! _A
Molinda! A Molinda!_" which was his _war-cry_.

The page ran to get the armour; but it was_ so uncommonly hot_ that he
dropped it, and put his fingers in his mouth, crying!

"You had better put on flannels, Alphonso, for this kind of work," said
Prigio. "And if I were you, I'd take a light garden-engine, full of
water, to squirt at the enemy."

"Happy thought!" said Alphonso. "I will!" And off he went, kissed his
dear Molinda, bade her keep a lot of dances for him (there was to be
a dance when he had killed the Firedrake), and then he rushed to the
field!

But he never came back any more!

Everyone wept bitterly--everyone but Prince Prigio; for he thought it
was a practical joke, and said that Alphonso had taken the opportunity
to start off on his travels and see the world.

"There is some dreadful mistake, sir," said Prigio to the king. "You
know as well as I do that the youngest son has always succeeded, up to
now. But I entertain great hopes of Enrico!"

And he grinned; for he fancied it was all _nonsense_, and that there
were no Firedrakes.

Enrico was present when Prigio was consoling the king in this unfeeling
way.

"Enrico, my boy," said his majesty, "the task awaits you, and the
honour. When _you_ come back with the horns and tail of the Fire-drake,
you shall be crown prince; and Prigio shall be made an usher at the
Grammar School--it is all he is fit for."

Enrico was not quite so confident as Alphonso had been. He insisted on
making his will; and he wrote a poem about the pleasures and advantages
of dying young. This is part of it:

     The violet is a blossom sweet,
       That droops before the day is done--
     Slain by thine overpowering heat, O Sun!
       And I, like that sweet purple flower,
     May roast, or boil, or broil, or bake,
       If burned by thy terrific power, Firedrake!

This poem comforted Enrico more or less, and he showed it to Prigio. But
the prince only laughed, and said that the second line of the last verse
was not very good; for violets do not "roast, or boil, or broil, or
bake."

Enrico tried to improve it, but could not. So he read it to his cousin,
Lady Kathleena, just as it was; and she cried over it (though I don't
think she understood it); and Enrico cried a little, too.

However, next day he started, with a spear, a patent refrigerator, and a
lot of the bottles people throw at fires to put them out.

But _he_ never came back again!

After shedding torrents of tears, the king summoned Prince Prigio to his
presence.

"Dastard!" he said. "Poltroon! _Your_ turn, which should have come
first, has arrived at last. _You_ must fetch me the horns and the tail
of the Fired rake. Probably you will be grilled, thank goodness; but who
will give me back Enrico and Alphonso?"

"Indeed, your majesty," said Prigio, "you must permit me to correct your
policy. Your only reason for dispatching your sons in pursuit of this
dangerous but I believe _fabulous_ animal, was to ascertain which of us
would most worthily succeed to your throne, at the date--long may it
be deferred!--of your lamented decease. Now, there can be no further
question about the matter. I, unworthy as I am, represent the sole hope
of the royal family. Therefore to send me after the Firedrake were* both
dangerous and unnecessary. Dangerous, because, if he treats me as you
say he did my brothers--my unhappy brothers,--the throne of Pantouflia
will want an heir. But, if I do come back alive--why, I cannot be more
the true heir than I am at present; now _can_ I? Ask the Lord Chief
Justice, if you don't believe _me_."

     * Subjunctive mood!   He was a great grammarian!

These arguments were so clearly and undeniably correct that the king,
unable to answer them, withdrew into a solitary place where he could
express himself with freedom, and give rein to his passions.

[Illustration: Chapter Four]



CHAPTER IV.--_How Prince Prigio was deserted by Everybody_

MEANWHILE, Prince Prigio had to suffer many unpleasant things. Though
he was the crown prince (and though his arguments were unanswerable),
everybody shunned him for a coward. The queen, who did not believe in
Firedrakes, alone took his side. He was not only avoided by all, but he
had most disagreeable scenes with his own cousins, Lady Molinda and Lady
Kathleena. In the garden Lady Molinda met him walking alone, and did not
bow to him.

"Dear Molly," said the prince, who liked her, "how have I been so
unfortunate as to offend you?"

"My name, sir, is Lady Molinda," she said, very proudly; "and you have
sent your own brother to his grave!"

[Illustration: Page 24]

"Oh, excuse me," said the prince, "I am certain he has merely gone
off on his travels. He'll come back when he's tired: there _are_ no
Firedrakes; a French writer says they are 'purement fabuleux, purely
fabulous, you know."

"Prince Alphonso has gone on his travels, and will come back when he is
tired! And was he then--tired--of _me_?" cried poor Molinda, bursting
into tears, and forgetting her dignity.

"Oh! I beg your pardon, I never noticed; I'm sure I am very sorry,"
cried the prince, who, never having been in love himself, never thought
of other people. And he tried to take Molinda's hand, but she snatched
it from him and ran away through the garden to the palace, leaving
Prince Prigio to feel foolish, for once, and ashamed.

As for Lady Kathleena, she swept past him like a queen, without a word.
So the prince, for all his cleverness, was not happy.

After several days had gone by, the king returned from the solitary
place where he had been speaking his mind. He now felt calmer and
better; and so at last he came back to the palace. But on seeing Prince
Prigio, who was lolling in a hammock, translating Egyptian hieroglyphs
into French poetry for his mother, the king broke out afresh, and made
use of the most cruel and impolite expressions.

At last, he gave orders that all the Court should pack up and move to a
distant city; and that Prince Prigio should be left alone in the palace
by himself. For he was quite unendurable, the king said, and he could
not trust his own temper when he thought of him. And he grew so fierce,
that even the queen was afraid of him now.

The poor queen cried a good deal; Prigio being her favourite son, on
account of his acknowledged ability and talent. But the rest of the
courtiers were delighted at leaving Prince Prigio behind. For his part,
he, very good-naturedly, showed them the best and shortest road to
Falkenstein, the city where they were going; and easily proved that
neither the chief secretary for geography, nor the general of the army,
knew anything about the matter--which, indeed, they did not.

The ungrateful courtiers left Prigio with hoots and yells, for they
disliked him so much that they forgot he would be king one day. He
therefore reminded them of this little fact in future history, which
made them feel uncomfortable enough, and then lay down in his hammock
and went to sleep.

When he wakened, the air was cold and the day was beginning to grow
dark. Prince Prigio thought he would go down and dine at a tavern in the
town, for no servants had been left with him. But what was his annoyance
when he found that his boots, his sword, his cap, his cloak--all his
clothes, in fact, except those he wore,--had been taken away by the
courtiers, merely to spite him! His wardrobe had been ransacked, and
everything that had not been carried off had been cut up, burned, and
destroyed. Never was such a spectacle of wicked mischief. It was as if
hay had been made of everything he possessed. What was worse, he had not
a penny in his pocket to buy new things; and his father had stopped his
allowance of fifty thousand pounds a month.

Can you imagine anything more cruel and _unjust_ than this conduct? for
it was not the prince's fault that he was so clever. The cruel fairy had
made him so. But, even if the prince had been born clever (as may have
happened to you), was he to be blamed for that? The other people were
just as much in fault for being born so stupid; but the world, my dear
children, can never be induced to remember this. If you are clever, you
will find it best not to let people know it--if you want them to like
you.

Well, here was the prince in a pretty plight. Not a pound in his pocket,
not a pair of boots to wear, not even a cap to cover his head from the
rain; nothing but cold meat to eat, and never a servant to answer the
bell.

[Illustration: Chapter Five]



CHAPTER V.--_What Prince Prigio found in the garret._

THE prince walked from room to room of the palace; but, unless he
wrapped himself up in a curtain, there was nothing for him to wear when
he went out in the rain. At last he climbed up a turret-stair in the
very oldest part of the castle, where he had never been before; and
at the very top was a little round room, a kind of garret. The prince
pushed in the door with some difficulty--not that it was locked, but the
handle was rusty, and the wood had swollen with the damp. The room was
very dark; only the last grey light of the rainy evening came through
a slit of a window, one of those narrow windows that they used to fire
arrows out of in old times.

But in the dusk the prince saw a heap of all sorts of things lying on
the floor and on the table. There were two caps; he put one on--an old,
grey, ugly cap it was, made of felt. There was a pair of boots; and
he kicked off his slippers, and got into _them_. They were a good deal
worn, but fitted as if they had been made for him. On the table was a
purse with just three gold coins--old ones, too--in it; and this, as
you may fancy, the prince was very well pleased to put in his pocket.
A sword, with a sword-belt, he buckled about his waist; and the rest of
the articles, a regular collection of odds and ends, he left just where
they were lying. Then he ran downstairs, and walked out of the hall
door.

[Illustration: Chapter Six]



CHAPTER VI.--_What Happened to Prince Prigio in Town_

BY this time the prince was very hungry. The town was just three miles
off; but he had such a royal appetite, that he did not like to waste it
on bad cookery, and the people of the royal town were bad cooks. "I
wish I were in 'The Bear,' at Gluck-stein," said he to himself; for he
remembered that there was a very good cook there. But, then, the town
was twenty-one leagues away--sixty-three long miles!

No sooner had the prince said this, and taken just three steps, than he
found himself at the door of the "Bear Inn" at Gluckstein!

"This is the most extraordinary dream," said he to himself; for he was
far too clever, of course, to believe in seven-league boots. Yet he had
a pair on at that very moment, and it was they which had carried him in
three strides from the palace to Gluckstein!

The truth is, that the prince, in looking about the palace for clothes,
had found his way into that very old lumber-room where the magical gifts
of the fairies had been thrown by his clever mother, who did not believe
in them. But this, of course, the prince did not know.

Now you should be told that seven-league boots only take those
prodigious steps when you say you _want_ to go a long distance.
Otherwise they would be very inconvenient--when you only want to cross
the room, for example. Perhaps this has not been explained to you by
your governess?

Well, the prince walked into "The Bear," and it seemed odd to him that
nobody took any notice of him. And yet his face was as well known as
that of any man in Pantouflia; for everybody had seen it, at least in
pictures. He was so puzzled by not being attended to as usual, that _he
quite forgot to take off his cap_.

[Illustration: Page 31]

He sat down at a table, however, and shouted "_Kellner!_" at which all
the waiters jumped, and looked round in every direction, but nobody came
to him. At first he thought they were too busy, but presently another
explanation occurred to him.

"The king," said he to himself, "has threatened to execute anybody who
speaks to me, or helps me in any way. Well, I don't mean to starve in
the midst of plenty, anyhow; here goes!"

The prince rose, and went to the table in the midst of the room, where
a huge roast turkey had just been placed. He helped himself to half the
breast, some sausages, chestnut stuffing, bread sauce, potatoes, and a
bottle of red wine--Burgundy. He then went back to a table in a corner,
where he dined very well, nobody taking any notice of him. When he
had finished, he sat watching the other people dining, and smoking his
cigarette. As he was sitting thus, a very tall man, an officer in the
uniform of the Guards, came in, and, walking straight to the prince's
table, said: "Kellner, clean this table, and bring in the bill of fare."

With these words, the officer sat down suddenly in the prince's lap,
as if he did not see him at all. He was a heavy man, and the prince,
enraged at the insult, pushed him away and jumped to his feet. As he
did so, _his cap dropped off_. The officer fell on his knees at once,
crying:

"Pardon, my prince, pardon! I never saw you!"

This was more than the prince could be expected to believe.

"Nonsense! Count Frederick von Matterhorn," he said; "you must be
intoxicated. Sir! you have insulted your prince and your superior
officer. Consider yourself under arrest! You shall be sent to a prison
to-morrow."

On this, the poor officer appealed piteously to everybody in the tavern.
They all declared that they had not seen the prince, nor ever had an
idea that he was doing them the honour of being in the neighbourhood of
their town.

More and more offended, and convinced that there was a conspiracy to
annoy and insult him, the prince shouted for the landlord, called for
his bill, threw down his three pieces of gold without asking for change,
and went into the street.

"It is a disgraceful conspiracy," he said. "The king shall answer for
this! I shall write to the newspapers at once!"

He was not put in a better temper by the way in which people hustled him
in the street. They ran against him exactly as if they did not see
him, and then staggered back in the greatest surprise, looking in every
direction for the person they had jostled. In one of these encounters,
the prince pushed so hard against a poor old beggar woman that she fell
down. As he was usually most kind and polite, he pulled off his cap to
beg her pardon, when, behold, the beggar woman gave one dreadful scream,
and fainted! A crowd was collecting, and the prince, forgetting that he
had thrown down all his money in the tavern, pulled out his purse. Then
he remembered what he had done, and expected to find it empty; but, lo,
there were three pieces of gold in it! Overcome with surprise, he thrust
the money into the woman's hand, and put on his cap again. In a
moment the crowd, which had been staring at him, rushed away in every
direction, with cries of terror, declaring that there was a magician in
the town, and a fellow who could appear and disappear at pleasure!

[Illustration: Page 35]

By this time, you or I, or anyone who was not so extremely clever as
Prince Prigio, would have understood what was the matter. He had put
on, without knowing it, not only the seven-league boots, but the cap of
darkness, and had taken Fortunatus's purse, which could never be empty,
however often you took all the money out. All those and many other
delightful wares the fairies had given him at his christening, and
the prince had found them in the dark garret. But the prince was so
extremely wise, and learned, and scientific, that he did not believe in
fairies, nor in fairy gifts.

"It is indigestion," he said to himself: "those sausages were not of
the best; and that Burgundy was extremely strong. Things are not as they
appear."

Here, as he was arguing with himself, he was nearly run over by a
splendid carriage and six, the driver of which never took the slightest
notice of him. Annoyed at this, the prince leaped up behind, threw down
the two footmen, who made no resistance, and so was carried to the door
of a magnificent palace. He was determined to challenge the gentleman
who was in the carriage; but, noticing that he had a very beautiful
young lady with him, whom he had never seen before, he followed them
into the house, not wishing to alarm the girl, and meaning to speak to
the gentleman when he found him alone.

A great ball was going on; but, as usual, nobody took any notice of the
prince. He walked among the guests, being careful not to jostle them,
and listening to their conversation.

It was all about himself! Everyone had heard of his disgrace, and
almost everyone cried "Serve him right!" They said that the airs he gave
himself were quite unendurable--that nothing was more rude than to be
always in the right--that cleverness might be carried far too far--that
it was better even to be born stupid ("Like the rest of you," thought
the prince); and, in fact, nobody had a good word for him.

Yes, one had! It was the pretty lady of the carriage. I never could
tell you how pretty she was. She was tall, with cheeks like white roses
blushing: she had dark hair, and very large dark-grey eyes, and her face
was the kindest in the world! The prince first thought how nice and good
she looked, even before he thought how pretty she looked. _She_ stood up
for Prince Prigio when her partner would speak ill of him. She had
never seen the prince, for she was but newly come to Pantouflia; but she
declared that it was his _misfortune_, not his fault, to be so clever.
"And, then, think how hard they made him work at school! Besides," said
this kind young lady, "I hear he is extremely handsome, and very brave;
and he has a good heart, for he was kind, I have heard, to a poor boy,
and did all his examination papers for him, so that the boy passed first
in _everything_. And now he is Minister for Education, though he can't
do a line of Greek prose!"

The prince blushed at this, for he knew his conduct had not been
honourable. But he at once fell over head and ears in love with the
young lady, a thing he had never done in his life before, because--he
said--"women were so stupid!" You see he was so clever!

Now, at this very moment--when the prince, all of a sudden, was as
deep in love as if he had been the stupidest officer in the room--an
extraordinary thing happened! Something seemed to give a whirr! in his
brain, and in one instant _he knew all about it!_ He believed in fairies
and fairy gifts, and understood that his cap was the cap of darkness,
and his shoes the seven-league boots, and his purse the purse of
Fortunatus! He had read about those things in historical books: but now
he believed in them.

[Illustration: Chapter Seven]



CHAPTER VII.--_The Prince Falls in Love_

HE understood all this, and burst out laughing, which nearly frightened
an old lady near him out of her wits. Ah! how he wished he was only in
evening dress, that he might dance with the charming young lady. But
there he was, dressed just as if he were going out to hunt, if anyone
could have seen him. So, even if he took off his cap of darkness, and
became visible, he was no figure for a ball. Once he would not have
cared, but now he cared very much indeed.

But the prince was not clever for nothing. He thought for a moment, then
went out of the room, and, in three steps of the seven-league boots, was
at his empty, dark, cold palace again. He struck a light with a flint
and steel, lit a torch, and ran upstairs to the garret. The flaring
light of the torch fell on the pile of "rubbish," as the queen would
have called it, which he turned over with eager hands. Was there--yes,
there _was_ another cap! There it lay, a handsome green one with a red
feather.

The prince pulled off the cap of darkness, put on the other, and said:

"_I wish I were dressed in my best suit of white and gold, with the
royal Pantouflia diamonds!_"

In one moment there he was in white and gold, the greatest and most
magnificent dandy in the whole world, and the handsomest man!

"How about my boots, I wonder," said the prince; for his seven-league
boots were stout riding-boots, not good to dance in, whereas _now_ he
was in elegant shoes of silk and gold.

He threw down the wishing cap, put on the other--the cap of
darkness--and made three strides in the direction of Gluckstein. But he
was only three steps nearer it than he had been, and the seven-league
boots were standing beside him on the floor!

"No," said the prince; "no man can be in two different pairs of boots at
one and the same time! That's mathematics!"

He then hunted about in the lumber-room again till he found a small,
shabby, old Persian carpet, the size of a hearthrug. He went to his own
room, took a portmanteau in his hand, sat down on the carpet, and said:

"I wish I were in Gluckstein."

In a moment there he found himself; for this was that famous carpet
which Prince Hussein bought long ago, in the market at Bisnagar,
and which the fairies had brought, with the other presents, to the
christening of Prince Prigio.

[Illustration: Page 40]

When he arrived at the house where the ball was going on, he put
the magical carpet in the portmanteau, and left it in the cloakroom,
receiving a numbered ticket in exchange. Then he marched in all his
glory (and, of course, without the cap of darkness) into the room where
they were dancing. Everybody made place for him, bowing down to the
ground, and the loyal band struck up _The Prince's March_:

Heaven bless our Prince Prigio! What is there he doesn't know? Greek,
Swiss, German (High and Low), And the names of the mountains in Mexico,
Heaven bless the prince!

He used to be very fond of this march, and the words--some people even
said he had made them himself. But now, somehow, he didn't much like
it. He went straight to the Duke of Stumpfelbahn, the Hereditary Master
of the Ceremonies, and asked to be introduced to the beautiful young
lady. She was the daughter of the new English Ambassador, and her name
was Lady Rosalind. But she nearly fainted when she heard who it was that
wished to dance with her, for she was not at all particularly clever;
and the prince had such a bad character for snubbing girls, and asking
them difficult questions. However, it was impossible to refuse, and so
she danced with the prince, and he danced very well. Then they sat out
in the conservatory, among the flowers, where nobody came near them; and
then they danced again, and then the Prince took her down to supper. And
all the time he never once said, "Have you read _this?_" or "Have you
read _that?_" or, "What! you never heard of Alexander the Great?"
or Julius Caesar, or Michael Angelo, or whoever it might be--horrid,
difficult questions he used to ask. That was the way he _used_ to go on:
but now he only talked to the young lady about _herself_; and she
quite left off being shy or frightened, and asked him all about his own
country, and about the Firedrake shooting, and said how fond she was of
hunting herself. And the prince said:

"Oh, if _you_ wish it, you shall have the horns and tail of a Firedrake
to hang up in your hall, to-morrow evening!"

Then she asked if it was not very dangerous work, Firedrake hunting; and
he said it was nothing, when you knew the trick of it: and he asked her
if she would but give him a rose out of her bouquet; and, in short, he
made himself so agreeable and _unaffected_, that she thought him very
nice indeed.

For, even a clever person can be nice when he likes--above all, when
he is not thinking about himself. And now the prince was thinking of
nothing in the world but the daughter of the English Ambassador, and
how to please her-He got introduced to her father too, and quite won his
heart; and, at last, he was invited to dine next day at the Embassy.

In Pantouflia, it is the custom that a ball must not end while one of
the royal family goes on dancing. _This_ ball lasted till the light came
in, and the birds were singing out of doors, and all the mothers present
were sound asleep.

[Illustration: Page 42]

Then nothing would satisfy the prince, but that they all should go home
singing through the streets; in fact, there never had been so merry a
dance in all Pantouflia. The prince had made a point of dancing with
almost every girl there: and he had suddenly become the most beloved
of the royal family. But everything must end at last; and the prince,
putting on the cap of darkness and sitting on the famous carpet, flew
back to his lonely castle.

[Illustration: Chapter Eight]



CHAPTER VIII.--_The Prince is Puzzled_

PRINCE PRIGIO did not go to bed. It was bright daylight, and he had
promised to bring the horns and tail of a Firedrake as a present to a
pretty lady. He had said it was easy to do this; but now, as he sat and
thought over it, he did not feel so victorious.

"First," he said, "where is the Firedrake?"

He reflected for a little, and then ran upstairs to the garret.

"It _should_ be here!" he cried, tossing the fairies' gifts about; "and,
by George, here it is!"

Indeed, he had found the spyglass of carved ivory which Prince Ali, in
the _Arabian Nights_, bought in the bazaar in Schiraz. Now, this glass
was made so that, by looking through it, you could see anybody or
anything you wished, however far away. Prigio's first idea was to look
at his lady. "But she does not expect to be looked at," he thought; "and
I _won't!_" On the other hand, he determined to look at the Firedrake;
for, of course, he had no delicacy about spying on _him_, the brute.

The prince clapped the glass to his eye, stared out of window, and
there, sure enough, he saw the Firedrake. He was floating about in a
sea of molten lava, on the top of a volcano. There he was, swimming and
diving for pleasure, tossing up the flaming waves, and blowing fountains
of fire out of his nostrils, like a whale spouting!

[Illustration: Page 44]

The prince did not like the looks of him.

"With all my cap of darkness, and my shoes of swiftness, and my sword of
sharpness, I never could get near that beast," he said; "and if I _did_
stalk him, I could not hurt him. Poor little Alphonso! poor Enrico! what
plucky fellows they were! I fancied that there was no such thing as a
Firedrake: he's not in the Natural History books; and I thought the boys
were only making fun, and would be back soon, safe and sound. How horrid
being too clever makes one! And now, what _am_ I to do?"

What was he to do, indeed? And what would you have done? Bring the horns
and tail he must, or perish in the adventure. Otherwise, how could he
meet his lady?--why, she would think him a mere braggart.

The prince sat down, and thought and thought; and the day went on, and
it was now high noon.

At last he jumped up and rushed into the library, a room where nobody
ever went except himself and the queen. There he turned the books upside
down, in his haste, till he found an old one, by a French gentleman,
Monsieur Cyrano de Bergerac. It was an account of a voyage to the
moon, in which there is a great deal of information about matters not
generally known; for few travellers have been to the moon. In that book,
Prince Prigio fancied he would find something he half remembered, and
that would be of use to him. And he _did!_ So you see that cleverness,
and minding your book, have some advantages, after all. For here the
prince learned that there is a very rare beast called a Remora, which is
at least as cold as the Firedrake is hot!

"Now," thought he, "_if I can only make these two fight_, why the Remora
may kill the Firedrake, or take the heat out of him, at least, so that I
may have a chance."

Then he seized the ivory glass, clapped it to his eye, and looked for
the Remora. Just the tip of his nose, as white as snow and as smooth as
ice, was sticking out of a chink in a frozen mountain, not far from the
burning mountain of the Firedrake.

[Illustration: Page 46]

"Hooray!" said the prince softly to himself; and he jumped like mad into
the winged shoes of swiftness, stuck on the cap of darkness, girdled
himself with the sword of sharpness, and put a good slice of bread, with
some cold tongue, in a wallet, which he slung on his back. Never you
fight, if you can help it, except with plenty of food to keep you going
and in good heart. Then off he flew, and soon he reached the volcano of
the Firedrake.

[Illustration: Chapter Nine]



CHAPTER IX.--_The Prince and the Firedrake_

IT was dreadfully hot, even high up in the air, where the prince hung
invisible. Great burning stones were tossed up by the volcano, and
nearly hit him several times. Moreover, the steam and smoke, and the
flames which the Firedrake spouted like foam from his nostrils, would
have daunted even the bravest man. The sides of the hill, too, were
covered with the blackened ashes of his victims, whom he had roasted
when they came out to kill him. The garden-engine of poor little
Alphonso was lying in the valley, all broken and useless. But the
Firedrake, as happy as a wild duck on a lonely lock, was rolling and
diving in the liquid flame, all red-hot and full of frolic. "Hi!"
shouted the prince. The Firedrake rose to the surface, his horns as red
as a red crescent-moon, only bigger, and lashing the fire with his hoofs
and his blazing tail.

"Who's there?" he said in a hoarse, angry voice. "Just let me get at
you!"

"It's me," answered the prince. It was the first time he had forgotten
his grammar, but he was terribly excited.

"What do you want?" grunted the beast. "I wish I could see you"; and,
horrible to relate, he rose on a pair of wide, flaming wings, and came
right at the prince, guided by the sound of his voice.

Now, the prince had never heard that Fire-drakes could fly; indeed, he
had never believed in them at all, till the night before. For a moment
he was numb with terror; then he flew down like a stone to the very
bottom of the hill and shouted:

"Hi!"

"Well," grunted the Firedrake, "what's the matter? Why can't you give a
civil answer to a civil question?"

"Will you go back to your hole and swear, on your honour as a Firedrake,
to listen quietly?"

"On my sacred word of honour," said the beast, casually scorching an
eagle that flew by into ashes. The cinders fell, jingling and crackling,
round the prince in a little shower.

Then the Firedrake dived back, with an awful splash of flame, and the
mountain roared round him.

The prince now flew high above him, and cried:

"A message from the Remora. He says you are afraid to fight him."

"Don't know him," grunted the Firedrake.

"He sends you his glove," said Prince Prigio, "as a challenge to mortal
combat, till death do you part."

Then he dropped his own glove into the fiery lake.

"Does he?" yelled the Firedrake. "Just let me get at him!" and he
scrambled out, all red-hot as he was.

"I'll go and tell him you're coming," said the prince; and with two
strides he was over the frozen mountain of the Remora.

[Illustration: Chapter Ten]



CHAPTER X.--_The Prince and the Remora_

If he had been too warm before, the prince was too cold now. The hill of
the Remora was one solid mass of frozen steel, and the cold rushed out
of it like the breath of some icy beast, which indeed it _was_. All
around were things like marble statues of men in armour: they were the
dead bodies of the knights, horses and all, who had gone out of old to
fight the Remora, and who had been frosted up by him. The prince felt
his blood stand still, and he grew faint; but he took heart, for there
was no time to waste. Yet he could nowhere see the Remora. "Hi!" shouted
the prince. Then, from a narrow chink at the bottom of the smooth, black
hill,--a chink no deeper than that under a door, but a mile wide,--stole
out a hideous head!

It was as fiat as the head of a skate-fish, it was deathly pale, and two
chill-blue eyes, dead-coloured like stones, looked out of it.

Then there came a whisper, like the breath of the bitter east wind on a
wintry day:

"Where are you, and how can I come to you?"

"Here I am!" said the prince from the top of the hill.

Then the flat, white head set itself against the edge of the chink from
which it had peeped, and slowly, like the movement of a sheet of ice, it
slipped upwards and curled upwards, and up, and up! There seemed no end
to it at all; and it moved horribly, without feet, holding on by its own
frost to the slippery side of the frozen hill. Now all the lower part of
the black hill was covered with the horrid white thing coiled about
it in smooth, flat shiny coils; and still the head was higher than the
rest; and still the icy cold came nearer and nearer, like Death.

The prince almost fainted: everything seemed to swim; and in one moment
more he would have fallen stiff on the mountain-top, and the white head
would have crawled over him, and the cold coils would have slipped over
him and turned him to stone. And still the thing slipped up, from the
chink under the mountain.

But the prince made a great effort; he moved, and in two steps he was
far away, down in the valley where it was not so very cold.

"Hi!" he shouted, as soon as his tongue could move within his chattering
teeth.

There came a clear, hissing answer, like frozen words dropping round
him:

"Wait till I come down. What do you want?"

Then the white folds began to slide, like melting ice, from the black
hill.

Prince Prigio felt the air getting warmer behind him, and colder in
front of him.

He looked round, and there were the trees beginning to blacken in the
heat, and the grass looking like a sea of fire along the plains; for the
Firedrake was coming!

The prince just took time to shout, "The Firedrake is going to pay you a
visit!" and then he soared to the top of a neighbouring hill, and looked
on at what followed.

[Illustration: Chapter Eleven]



CHAPTER XI.--_The Battle_

IT was an awful sight to behold! When the Remora heard the name of the
Firedrake, his hated enemy, he slipped with wonderful speed from the
cleft of the mountain into the valley. On and on and on he poured over
rock and tree, as if a frozen river could slide downhill; on and on,
till there were miles of him stretching along the valley--miles of the
smooth-ribbed, icy creature, crawling and slipping forwards. The green
trees dropped their leaves as he advanced; the birds fell down dead
from the sky, slain by his frosty breath! But, fast as the Remora stole
forward, the Firedrake came quicker yet, flying and clashing his fiery
wings. At last they were within striking distance; and the Firedrake,
stooping from the air, dashed with his burning horns and flaming feet
slap into the body of the Remora.

Then there rose a steam so dreadful, such a white yet fiery vapour of
heat, that no one who had not the prince's magic glass could have seen
what happened. With horrible grunts and roars the Firedrake tried to
burn his way right through the flat body of the Remora, and to chase him
to his cleft in the rock. But the Remora, hissing terribly, and visibly
melting away in places, yet held his ground; and the prince could see
his cold white folds climbing slowly up the hoofs of the Firedrake--up
and up, till they reached his knees, and the great burning beast roared
like a hundred bulls with the pain. Then up the Firedrake leaped, and
hovering on his fiery wings, he lighted in the midst of the Remora's
back, and dashed into it with his horns. But the flat, cruel head
writhed backwards, and, slowly bending over on itself, the wounded
Remora slid greedily to fasten again on the limbs of the Firedrake.

Meanwhile, the prince, safe on his hill, was lunching on the loaf and
the cold tongue he had brought with him.

"Go it, Remora! Go it, Firedrake! you're gaining. Give it him, Remora!"
he shouted in the wildest excitement.

Nobody had ever seen such a battle; he had it all to himself, and he
never enjoyed anything more. He hated the Remora so much, that he almost
wished the Firedrake could beat it; for the Firedrake was the more
natural beast of the pair. Still, he was alarmed when he saw that
the vast flat body of the Remora was now slowly coiling backwards,
backwards, into the cleft below the hill; while a thick wet mist showed
how cruelly it had suffered. But the Firedrake, too, was in an unhappy
way; for his legs were now cold and black, his horns were black also,
though his body, especially near the heart, glowed still like red-hot
iron.

"Go it, Remora!" cried the prince: "his legs are giving way; he's groggy
on his pins! One more effort, and he won't be able to move!"

Encouraged by this advice, the white, slippery Remora streamed out of
his cavern again, more and more of him uncoiling, as if the mountain
were quite full of him. He had lost strength, no doubt: for the steam
and mist went up from him in clouds, and the hissing of his angry voice
grew fainter; but so did the roars of the Firedrake. Presently they
sounded more like groans; and at last the Remora slipped up his legs
above the knees, and fastened on his very heart of fire. Then the
Firedrake stood groaning like a black bull, knee-deep in snow; and still
the Remora climbed and climbed.

"Go it now, Firedrake!" shouted the prince; for he knew that if the
Remora won, it would be too cold for him to draw near the place, and cut
off the Firedrake's head and tail.

"Go it, Drake! he's slackening!" cried the prince again; and the brave
Firedrake made one last furious effort, and rising on his wings, dropped
just on the spine of his enemy.

The wounded Remora curled back his head again on himself, and again
crawled, steaming terribly, towards his enemy. But the struggle was
too much for the gallant Remora. The flat, cruel head moved slower; the
steam from his thousand wounds grew fiercer; and he gently breathed his
last just as the Firedrake, too, fell over and lay exhausted. With
one final roar, like the breath of a thousand furnaces, the Firedrake
expired.

[Illustration: Page 58]

The prince, watching from the hill-top, could scarcely believe that
these two _awful scourges of Nature_, which had so long devastated his
country, were actually dead. But when he had looked on for half-an-hour,
and only a river ran where the Remora had been, while the body of the
Firedrake lay stark and cold, he hurried to the spot.

Drawing the sword of sharpness, he hacked off, at two blows, the iron
head and the tail of the Firedrake. They were a weary weight to carry;
but in a few strides of the shoes of swiftness he was at his castle,
where he threw down his burden, and nearly fainted with excitement and
fatigue.

But the castle clock struck half-past seven; dinner was at eight, and
the poor prince crawled on hands and knees to the garret. Here he put
on the wishing-cap; wished for a pint of champagne, a hot bath, and his
best black velvet and diamond suit. In a moment these were provided; he
bathed, dressed, drank a glass of wine, packed up the head and tail of
the Firedrake; sat down on the flying carpet, and knocked at the door of
the English Ambassador as the clocks were striking eight' in Gluckstein.

_Punctuality is the politeness of princes_; and a prince _is_ polite
when he is in love!

The prince was received at the door by a stout porter and led into the
hall, where _several_ butlers met him, and he laid the mortal remains of
the Firedrake under the cover of the flying carpet.

Then he was led upstairs, and he made his bow to the pretty lady, who,
of course, made him a magnificent courtesy. She seemed prettier and
kinder than ever. The prince was so happy, that he never noticed how
something went wrong about the dinner. The ambassador looked about, and
seemed to miss someone, and spoke in a low voice to one of the servants,
who answered also in a low voice, and what he said seemed to displease
the ambassador. But the prince was so busy in talking to his lady, and
in eating his dinner too, that he never observed anything unusual. He
had _never_ been at such a pleasant dinner!

[Illustration: Chapter Twelve]



CHAPTER XII.--_A Terrible Misfortune_

WHEN the ladies left, and the prince and the other gentlemen were alone,
the ambassador appeared more gloomy than ever. At last he took the
prince into a corner, on pretence of showing him a rare statue. "Does
your royal highness not know," he asked, "that you are in considerable
danger?" "Still?" said the prince, thinking of the Firedrake.

The ambassador did not know what he meant, for _he_ had never heard
of the fight, but he answered gravely: "Never more than now." Then he
showed the prince two proclamations, which had been posted all about
the town. Here is the first:

     TO  ALL  LOYAL  SUBJECTS.

     Whereas,

     Our eldest son, Prince Prigio, hath of late been guilty of
     several high crimes and misdemeanours.

     First: By abandoning the post of danger against the
     Firedrake, whereby our beloved sons, Prince Alphonso and
     Prince Enrico, have perished, and been overdone by that
     monster.

     Secondly: By attending an unseemly revel in the town of
     Gluckstein, where he brawled in the streets.

     Thirdly: By trying to seduce away the hearts of our loyal
     subjects in that city, and to blow up a party against our
     crown and our peace.

     [Illustration: Page 61]

     This is to give warning,

     That whoever consorts with, comforts, aids, or abets the
     said Prince Prigio, is thereby a partner in his treason; and
     That a reward of Five Thousand Purses will be given to
     whomsoever brings the said prince, alive, to our Castle of
     Falkenstein.

     Grognio R.


And here is the second proclamation:

     Reward. The firedrake. _Whereas_,

     Our dominions have lately been devastated by a Firedrake
     (the _Salamander Furiosus_ of Buffon);

     _This is to advise all_,

     That whosoever brings the horns and tail of the said
     Firedrake to our Castle of Falkenstein, shall receive Five
     Thousand Purses, the position of Crown Prince, with the
     usual perquisites, and the hand of the king's niece, the
     Lady Molinda.

     Grognio R.


"H'm," said the prince; "I did not think his majesty wrote so well;"
and he would have _liked_ to say, "Don't you think we might join the
ladies?"

"But, sir," said the ambassador, "the streets are lined with soldiers;
and I know not how you have escaped them. _Here_, under my roof, you
are safe for the moment; but a prolonged stay--excuse my
inhospitality--could not but strain the harmonious relations which
prevail between the Government of Pantouflia and that which I have the
honour to represent."

"We don't want to fight; and no more, I think, do you," said the prince,
smiling.

"Then how does your royal highness mean to treat the proclamations?"

"Why, by winning these ten thousand purses. I can tell you £1,000,000
is worth having," said the prince. "I 'll deliver up the said prince,
alive, at Falkenstein this very night; also the horns and tail of the
said Firedrake. But I don't want to marry my Cousin Molly."

"May I remind your royal highness that Falkenstein is three hundred
miles away? Moreover, my head butler, Benson, disappeared from the house
before dinner, and I fear he went to warn Captain Kopzoffski that you
are _here!_"

"That is nothing," said the prince; "but, my dear Lord Kelso, may I
not have the pleasure of presenting Lady Rosalind with a little gift, a
Philippine which I lost to her last night, merely the head and tail of a
Firedrake which I stalked this morning?"

The ambassador was so astonished that he ran straight upstairs,
forgetting his manners, and crying:

"Linda! Linda! come down at once; here's a surprise for you!"

Lady Rosalind came sweeping down, with a smile on her kind face. _She_
guessed what it was, though the prince had said nothing about it at
dinner.

"Lead the way, your royal highness!" cried the ambassador; and the
prince offering Lady Rosalind his arm, went out into the hall, where he
saw neither his carpet nor the horns and tail of the Firedrake!

He turned quite pale, and said:

"Will you kindly ask the servants where the little Persian prayer-rug
and the parcel which I brought with me have been placed?"

Lord Kelso rang the bell, and in came all the servants, with William,
the under-butler, at their head.

"William," said his lordship, "where have you put his royal highness's
parcel and his carpet?"

"Please, your lordship," said William, "we think Benson have took them
away with him."

"And where is Benson?"

"We don't know, your lordship. We think he have been come for!"

"Come for--by whom?"

William stammered, and seemed at a loss for a reply.

"Quick! answer! what do you know about it?"

William said at last, rather as if he were making a speech:

"Your royaliness, and my lords and ladies, it was like this. His
royaliness comed in with a rug over his arm, and summat under it. And
he lays it down on that there seat, and Thomas shows him into the
droring-room. Then Benson says: 'Dinner'll be ready in five minutes; how
tired I do feel! 'Then he takes the libbuty of sitting hisself down
on his royaliness's rug, and he says, asking your pardon, 'I 've
had about enough of service here. I 'm about tired, and I thinks of
bettering myself. I wish I was at the king's court, and butler.'

[Illustration: Page 65]

But before the words was out of his mouth, off he flies like a shot
through the open door, and his royaliness's parcel with him. I run to
the door, and there he was, flying right hover the town, in a northerly
direction. And that's all I know; for I would not tell a lie, not if it
was hever so. And me, and Thomas--as didn't see it,--and cook, we thinks
as how Benson was come for. And cook says as she don't wonder at it,
neither; for a grumblinger, more ill-conditioneder--"

"Thank you, William," said Lord Kelso; "that will do; you can go, for
the present."

[Illustration: Chapter Thirteen]



CHAPTER XIII.--_Surprises_

THE prince said nothing, the ambassador said nothing, Lady Rosalind said
never a word till they were in the drawing-room. It was a lovely warm
evening, and the French windows were wide open on the balcony, which
looked over the town and away north to the hills. Below them flowed the
clear, green water of the Gluckthal And still nobody said a word. At
last the prince spoke: "This is a very strange story, Lord Kelso!"

"Very, sir!" said the ambassador. "But true," added the prince; "at
least, there is no reason in the nature of things why it shouldn't be
true."

"I can hardly believe, sir, that the conduct of Benson, whom I always
found a most respectable man, deserved--"

"That he should be 'come for,'" said the prince. "Oh, no; it was a mere
accident, and might have happened to any of us who chanced to sit down
on my carpet."

And then the prince told them, shortly, all about it: how the carpet
was one of a number of fairy properties, which had been given him at
his christening; and how so long a time had gone by before he discovered
them; and how, probably, the carpet had carried the butler where he had
said he wanted to go--namely, to the king's Court at Falkenstein.

"It would not matter so much," added the prince, "only I had relied on
making my peace with his majesty, my father, by aid of those horns and
that tail. He was set on getting them; and if the Lady Rosalind had
not expressed a wish for them, they would to-day have been in his
possession."

"Oh, sir, you honour us too highly," murmured Lady Rosalind; and the
prince blushed and said:

"Not at all! Impossible!"

Then, of course, the ambassador became quite certain that his daughter
was admired by the crown prince, who was on bad terms with the king
of the country; and a more uncomfortable position for an
ambassador--however, they are used to them.

"What on earth am I to do with the young man?" he thought. "He can't
stay here for ever; and without his carpet he can't get away, for the
soldiers have orders to seize him as soon as he appears in the street.
And in the meantime Benson will be pretending that _he_ killed the
Firedrake--for he must have got to Falkenstein by now,--and they will be
for marrying him to the king's niece, and making my butler crown prince
to the kingdom of Pantouflia! It is dreadful!"

Now all this time the prince was on the balcony, telling Lady Rosalind
all about how he got the Firedrake done for, in the most modest way;
for, as he said: "I didn't kill him: and it is really the Remora, poor
fellow, who should marry Molly; but he 's dead."

At this very moment there was a _whizz_ in the air; something shot past
them, and, through the open window, the king, the queen, Benson, and the
mortal remains of the Firedrake were shot into the ambassador's drawing
room!

[Illustration: Page 69]

[Illustration: Chapter Fourteen]



CHAPTER XIV.--_The King Explains._

THE first who recovered his voice and presence of mind was Benson.

"Did your lordship ring for coffee?" he asked, quietly; and when he was
told "Yes," he bowed and withdrew, with majestic composure. When he had
gone, the prince threw himself at the king's feet, crying:

"Pardon, pardon, my liege!" "Don't speak to me, sir!" answered the
king, very angrily; and the poor prince threw himself at the feet of the
queen.

But she took no notice of him whatever, no more than if he had been a
fairy; and the prince heard her murmur, as she pinched her royal arms:

"I shall waken presently; this is nothing out of the way for a dream.
Dr. Rumpfino ascribes it to imperfect nutrition."

All this time, the Lady Rosalind, as pale as a marble statue, was
leaning against the side of the open window. The prince thought he could
do nothing wiser than go and comfort her, so he induced her to sit down
on a chair in the balcony,--for he felt that he was not wanted in the
drawing-room;--and soon they were talking happily about the stars, which
had begun to appear in the summer night.

Meanwhile, the ambassador had induced the king to take a seat; but there
was no use in talking to the queen.

"It would be a miracle," she said to herself, "and miracles do not
happen; therefore this has not happened. Presently, I shall wake up in
my own bed at Falkenstein."

Now, Benson, William, and Thomas brought in the coffee, but the queen
took no notice. When they went away, the rest of the company slipped off
quietly, and the king was left alone with the ambassador; for the queen
could hardly be said to count.

"You want to know all about it, I suppose?" said his majesty in a sulky
voice. "Well, you have a right to it, and I shall tell you. We were just
sitting down to dinner at Falkenstein, rather late,--hours get later
every year, I think--when I heard a row in the premises, and the captain
of the guard, Colonel McDougal, came and told us that a man had arrived
with the horns and tail of the Firedrake, and was claiming the reward.
Her majesty and I rose and went into the outer court, where we
found, sitting on that carpet with a glass of beer in his hand, a
respectable-looking upper servant, whom I recognised as your butler. He
informed us that he had just killed the beast, and showed us the horns
and tail, sure enough; there they are! The tail is like the iron
handle of a pump, but the horns are genuine. A pair were thrown up by
a volcano, in my great-grandfather's time Giglio I.* Excellent coffee
this, of yours!"

     * The History of this Prince may be read in a treatise
     called _The Rose and the Ring_, by M. A. Titmarsh.
     London, 1855.

[Illustration: Page 72]

The ambassador bowed.

"Well, we asked him _where_ he killed the Firedrake, and he said in a
garden near Gluckstein. Then he began to speak about the reward, and the
'perkisits,' as he called them, which it seems he had read about in my
proclamation. Rather a neat thing; drew it up myself," added his
majesty.

"Very much to the point," said the ambassador, wondering what the king
was coming to.

"Glad you like it," said the king, much pleased. "Well, where was I? Oh,
yes; your man said he had killed the creature in a garden, quite near
Gluckstein. I didn't much like the whole affair: he is an alien, you
see; and then there was my niece, Molinda--poor girl, _she_ was certain
to give trouble. Her heart is buried, if I may say so, with poor
Alphonso. But the queen is a very remarkable woman--very remarkable--"

"Very!" said the ambassador, with perfect truth.

"'Caitiff!' she cries to your butler," his majesty went on; "'perjured
knave, thou liest in thy throat! Gluckstein is a hundred leagues from
here, and how say est thou that thou slewest the molester, and earnest
hither in a few hours' space?' This had not occurred to me,--I am a
plain king, but I at once saw the force of her majesty's argument.
Yes,' said I; 'how did you manage it?' But he--your man, I mean--was
not a bit put out. 'Why, your majesty,' says he, 'I just sat down on
that there bit of carpet, wished I was here, and here _I ham_. And I 'd
be glad, having had the trouble,--and my time not being my own,--to see
the colour of them perkisits, according to the proclamation.' On this
her majesty grew more indignant, if possible. 'Nonsense!' she cried; 'a
story out of the 'Arabian Nights' is not suited for a modern public, and
fails to win æsthetic credence.' These were her very words."

"Her majesty's expressions are ever choice and appropriate," said the
ambassador.

"'Sit down there, on the carpet, knave,' she went on; 'ourself and
consort'--meaning _me_--'will take our places by thy side, and I shall
wish us in Gluckstein, at thy master's! When the experiment has failed,
thy head shall from thy shoulders be shorn!' So your man merely said,
'Very well, mum,--your majesty, I mean,' and sat down. The queen took her
place at the edge of the carpet; I sat between her and the butler, and
she said, 'I wish I were in Gluckstein!' Then we rose, flew through the
air at an astonishing pace, and here we are! So I suppose the rest of
the butler's tale is true, which I regret; but a king's word is sacred,
and he shall take the place of that sneak, Prigio. But as we left home
before dinner, and _yours_ is over, may I request your lordship to
believe that I should be delighted to take something cold?"

The ambassador at once ordered a sumptuous collation, to which the king
did full justice; and his majesty was shown to the royal chamber, as he
complained of fatigue. The queen accompanied him, remarking that she
was sound asleep, but would waken presently. Neither of them said
"Good-night" to the prince. Indeed, they did not see him again, for he
was on the balcony with Lady Rosalind. They found a great deal to say
to each other, and at last the prince asked her to be his wife; and she
said that if the king and her father gave their permission--why, then
she would! After this she went to bed; and the prince, who had not slept
at all the night before, felt very sleepy also. But he knew that first
he had something that must be done. So he went into the drawing-room,
took his carpet, and wished to be--now where do you suppose? Beside the
dead body of the Firedrake! There he was in a moment; and dreadful
the body looked, lying stark and cold in the white moonshine. Then the
prince cut off its four hoofs, put them in his wallet, and with these
he flew back in a second, and met the ambassador just as he came from
ushering the king to bed. Then the prince was shown his own room, where
he locked up the hoofs, the carpet, the cap of darkness, and his other
things in an iron box; and so he went to bed and dreamed of his Lady
Rosalind.

[Illustration: Chapter Fifteen]



CHAPTER XV.--_The King's Cheque_

WHEN they all awakened next morning, their first ideas were confused.
It is often confusing to wake in a strange bed, much more so when you
have flown through the air, like the king, the queen, and Benson the
butler. For her part, the queen was the most perplexed of all; for she
did undeniably wake, and yet she was not at home, where she had expected
to be. However, she was a determined woman, and stood to it that nothing
unusual was occurring. The butler made up his mind to claim the crown
princeship and the hand of the Lady Molinda; because, as he justly
remarked to William, here was such a chance to better himself as might
not soon come in his way again. As for the king, he was only anxious
to get back to Falkenstein, and have the whole business settled in a
constitutional manner. The ambassador was not sorry to get rid of the
royal party; and it was proposed that they should all sit down on the
flying carpet, and wish themselves at home again. But the queen would
not hear of it: she said it was childish and impossible; so the carriage
was got ready for her, and she started without saying a word of good-bye
to anyone. The king, Benson, and the prince were not so particular, and
they simply flew back to Falkenstein in the usual way, arriving there at
11.35--a week before her majesty.

The king at once held a Court; the horns and tail of the monster were
exhibited amidst general interest, and Benson and the prince were
invited to state their claims.

Benson's evidence was taken first. He declined to say exactly where
or how he killed the Firedrake. There might be more of them left, he
remarked,--young ones, that would take a lot of killing,--and he refused
to part with his secret. Only he claimed the reward, which was offered,
if you remember, _not_ to the man who killed the beast, but to him wha
brought its horns and tail. This was allowed by the lawyers present
to be very sound law; and Benson was cheered by the courtiers, who
decidedly preferred him to Prigio, and who, besides, thought he was
going to be crown prince. As for Lady Molinda, she was torn by the most
painful feelings; for, much as she hated Prigio, she could not bear the
idea of marrying Benson. Yet one or the other choice seemed certain.

Unhappy lady! Perhaps no girl was ever more strangely beset by
misfortune!

Prince Prigio was now called on to speak.

He admitted that the reward was offered for bringing the horns and tail,
not for killing the monster. But were the king's _intentions_ to go for
nothing? When a subject only _meant_ well, of course he had to suffer;
but when a king said one thing, was he not to be supposed to have meant
another? Any fellow with a waggon could _bring_ the horns and tail; the
difficult thing was to kill the monster. If Benson's claim was allowed,
the royal prerogative of saying one thing and meaning something else was
in danger.

On hearing this argument, the king so far forgot himself as to cry,
"Bravo, well said!" and to clap his hands, whereon all the courtiers
shouted and threw up their hats.

The prince then said that whoever had killed the monster could, of
course, tell where to find him, and could bring his hoofs. He was
ready to do this himself. Was Mr. Benson equally ready? On this being
interpreted to him--for he did not speak Pantouflian--Benson grew pale
with horror, but fell back on the proclamation. He had brought the horns
and tail, and so he must have the perquisites, and the Lady Molinda!

The king's mind was so much confused by this time, that he determined to
leave it to the Lady Molinda herself.

"Which of them will you have, my dear?" he asked, in a kind voice.

But poor Molinda merely cried. Then his majesty was almost _driven_ to
say that he would give the reward to whoever produced the hoofs by that
day week. But no sooner had he said this than the prince brought them
out of his wallet, and displayed them in open Court. This ended the
case; and Benson, after being entertained with sherry and sandwiches
in the steward's room, was sent back to his master, And I regret to
say that his temper was not at all improved by his failure to better
himself. On the contrary, he was unusually cross and disagreeable
for several days; but we must, perhaps, make some allowance for his
disappointment.

But if Benson was irritated, and suffered from the remarks of his
fellow-servants, I do not think we can envy Prince Prigio. Here he was,
restored to his position indeed, but by no means to _the royal favour_.
For the king disliked him as much as ever, and was as angry as ever
about the deaths of Enrico and Alphonso. Nay, he was even _more_ angry;
and, perhaps, not without reason. He called up Prigio before the whole
Court, and thereon the courtiers cheered like anything, but the king
cried:

"Silence! McDougal, drag the first man that shouts to the serpent-house
in the zoological gardens, and lock him up with the rattlesnakes!"

After that the courtiers were very quiet.

"Prince," said the king, as Prigio bowed before the throne, "you are
restored to your position, because I cannot break my promise. But your
base and malevolent nature is even more conspicuously manifest in your
selfish success than in your previous dastardly contempt of duty. Why,
confound you!" cried the king, dropping the high style in which he had
been speaking, and becoming the _father_, not the monarch,--"why, if you
_could_ kill the Firedrake, did you let your poor little brothers go and
be b--b--b--broiled? Eh! what do you say, you sneak? 'You didn't believe
there _were_ any Firedrakes?' That just comes of your eternal conceit
and arrogance! If you were clever enough to kill the creature--and I
admit that--you were clever enough to know that what everybody said must
be true. 'You have not generally found it so?' Well, you _have_ this
time, and let it be a lesson to you; not that there is much comfort
in that, for it is not likely you will ever have such another
chance"--exactly the idea that had occurred to Benson.

Here the king wept, among the tears of the lord chief justice, the
poet laureate (who had been awfully frightened when he heard of the
rattlesnakes), the maids of honour, the chaplain royal, and everyone
but Colonel McDougal, a Scottish soldier of fortune, who maintained a
military reserve.

When his majesty had recovered, he said to Prigio (who had not been
crying, he was too much absorbed):

"A king's word is his bond. Bring me a pen, somebody, and my
cheque-book."

The royal cheque-book, bound in red morocco, was brought in by eight
pages, with ink and a pen. His majesty then filled up and signed the
following satisfactory document--(Ah! my children, how I wish Mr.
Arrowsmith would do as much for _me_!):

[Illustration: The King's Cheque]

"There!" said his majesty, crossing his cheque and throwing sand over
it, for blotting-paper had not yet been invented; "there, take _that_,
and be off with you!"

Prince Prigio was respectfully but rapidly obeying his royal command,
for he thought he had better cash the royal cheque as soon as possible,
when his majesty yelled:

"Hi! here! come back! I forgot something; you've got to marry Molinda!"

[Illustration: Chapter Sixteen]



CHAPTER XVI.--_A Melancholy Chapter_

THE prince had gone some way, when the king called after him. How he
wished he had the seven-league boots on, or that he had the cap of
darkness in his pocket! If he had been so lucky, he would now have got
back to Gluckstein, and crossed the border with Lady Rosalind. A million
of money may not seem much, but a pair of young people who really love
each other could live happily on less than the cheque he had in his
pocket. However, the king shouted very loud, as he always did when he
meant to be obeyed, and the prince sauntered slowly back again.

"Prigio!" said his majesty, "where were you off to? Don't you remember
that this is your wedding-day? My proclamation offered, not only the
money (which you have), but the hand of the Lady Molinda, which the
Court chaplain will presently make your own. I congratulate you, sir;
Molinda is a dear girl."

"I have the highest affection and esteem for my cousin, sir," said the
prince, "but:--"

"I'll never marry him!" cried poor Molinda, kneeling at the throne,
where her streaming eyes and hair made a pretty and touching picture.
"Never! I despise him!"

[Illustration: Page 84]

"I was about to say, sir," the prince went on, "that I cannot possibly
have the pleasure of wedding my cousin."

"The family gibbet, I presume, is in good working order?" asked the king
of the family executioner, a tall gaunt man in black and scarlet, who
was only employed in the case of members of the blood royal.

"Never better, sire," said the man, bowing with more courtliness than
his profession indicated.

"Very well," said the king; "Prince Prigio, you have your choice.
_There_ is the gallows, _here_ is Lady Molinda. My duty is painful, but
clear. A king's word cannot be broken. Molly, or the gibbet!"

The prince bowed respectfully to Lady Molinda:

"Madam, my cousin," said he, "your clemency will excuse my answer, and
you will not misinterpret the apparent discourtesy of my conduct. I am
compelled, most unwillingly, to slight your charms, and to select the
Extreme Rigour of the Law. Executioner, lead on! Do your duty; for
me, _Prigio est prêt_;"--for this was his motto, and meant that he was
ready.

[Illustration: Page 85]

Poor Lady Molinda could not but be hurt by the prince's preference for
death over marriage to her, little as she liked him.

"Is life, then, so worthless? and is Molinda so terrible a person
that you prefer _those_ arms," and she pointed to the gibbet, "to
_these?_"--here she held out her own, which were very white, round and
pretty; for Molinda was a good-hearted girl, she could not bear to see
Prigio put to death; and then, perhaps, she reflected that there are
worse positions than the queenship of Pantouflia. For Alphonso was
gone--crying would not bring him back.

"Ah, Madam!" said the prince, "you are forgiving--"

"For _you_ are brave!" said Molinda, feeling: quite a respect for him.

"But neither your heart nor mine is ours to give. Since mine was
another's, I understand too well the feeling of _yours!_ Do not let us
buy life at the price of happiness and honour."

Then, turning to the king the prince said:

"Sir, is there no way but by death or marriage? You say you cannot keep
half only of your promise; and that, if I accept the reward, I must also
unite myself with my unwilling cousin. Cannot the whole proclamation
be annulled, and will you consider the bargain void if I tear up this
flimsy scroll?"

And here the prince fluttered the cheque for £1,000,000 in the air.

For a moment the king was tempted; but then he said to himself:

"Never mind, it's only an extra penny on the income-tax." Then, "Keep
your dross," he shouted, meaning the million; "but let _me_ keep my
promise. To chapel at once, or--" and he pointed to the executioner.
"The word of a king of Pantouflia is sacred."

"And so is that of a crown prince," answered Prigio; "and _mine_ is
pledged to a lady."

"She shall be a mourning bride," cried the king savagely, "unless"--here
he paused for a moment--"unless you bring me back Alphohso and Enrico,
safe and well!"

The prince thought for the space of a flash of lightning.

"I accept the alternative," he said, "if your majesty will grant me my
conditions."

"Name them!" said the king.

"Let me be transported to Gluckstein, left there unguarded, and if, in
three days, I do not return with my brothers safe and well, your majesty
shall be spared a cruel duty. Prigio of Pantouflia will perish by his
own hand."

The king, whose mind did not work very quickly, took some minutes to
think over it. Then he saw that by granting the prince's conditions,
he would either recover his dear sons, or, at least, get rid of Prigio,
without the unpleasantness of having him executed. For, though some
kings have put their eldest sons to death, and most have wished to do
so, they have never been better loved by the people for their Roman
virtue.

"Honour bright?" said the king at last.

"Honour bright!" answered the prince, and for the first time in many
months, the royal father and son shook hands.

"For you, madam," said Prigio in a stately way to Lady Molinda, "in less
than a week I trust we shall be taking our vows at the same altar, and
that the close of the ceremony which finds us cousins will leave us
brother and sister."

Poor Molinda merely stared; for she could not imagine what he meant. In
a moment he was gone; and having taken, by the king's permission, the
flying carpet, he was back at the ambassador's house in Gluckstein.

[Illustration: Chapter Seventeen]



CHAPTER XVII.--_The Black Cat and the brethren_

WHO was glad to see the prince, if it was not Lady Rosalind? The white
roses of her cheeks turned to red roses in a moment, and then back to
white again, they were so alarmed at the change. So the two went into
the gardens together, and talked about a number of things; but at last
the prince told her that, before three days were over, all would be
well, or all would be over with him. For either he would have brought
his brothers back, sound and well, to Falkenstein, or he would not
survive his dishonour.

"It is no more than right," he said; "for had I gone first, neither of
them would have been sent to meet the monster after I had fallen. And I
_should_ have fallen, dear Rosalind, if I had faced the Firedrake before
I knew _you._"

Then when she asked him why, and what good she had done him, he told
her all the story; and how, before he fell in love with her, he didn't
believe in fairies, or Firedrakes, or caps of darkness, or anything nice
and impossible, but only in horrid useless facts, and chemistry, and
geology, and arithmetic, and mathematics, and even political economy.
And the Firedrake would have made a mouthful of him, then.

So she was delighted when she heard this, almost as much delighted as
she was afraid that he might fail in the most difficult adventure.
For it was one thing to egg on a Remora to kill a Firedrake, and quite
another to find the princes if they were alive, and restore them if they
were dead!

But the prince said he had his plan, and he stayed that night at the
ambassador's. Next morning he rose very early, before anyone else was
up, that he might not have to say "Good-bye" to Lady Rosalind. Then he
flew in a moment to the old lonely castle, where nobody went for fear of
ghosts, ever since the Court retired to Falkenstein.

How still it was, how deserted; not a sign of life, and yet the prince
was looking everywhere _for some living thing_. He hunted the castle
through in vain, and then went out to the stable-yard; but all the dogs,
of course, had been taken away, and the farmers had offered homes to the
poultry. At last, stretched at full length in a sunny place, the prince
found a very old, half-blind, miserable cat. The poor creature was lean,
and its fur had fallen off in patches; it could no longer catch birds,
nor even mice, and there was nobody to give it milk. But cats do
not look far into the future; and this old black cat--Frank was his
name--had got a breakfast somehow, and was happy in the sun. The prince
stood and looked at him pityingly, and he thought that even a sick old
cat was, in some ways, happier than most men.

[Illustration: Page 91]

"Well," said the prince at last, "he could not live long anyway, and it
must be done. He will feel nothing."

Then he drew the sword of sharpness, and with one turn of his wrist cut
the cat's head clean off.

It did not at once change into a beautiful young lady, as perhaps you
expect; no, that was improbable, and, as the prince was in love already,
would have been vastly inconvenient. The dead cat lay there, like any
common cat.

Then the prince built up a heap of straw, with wood on it; and there he
laid poor puss, and set fire to the pile. Very soon there was nothing of
old black Frank left but ashes!

Then the prince ran upstairs to the fairy cupboard, his heart beating
loudly with excitement, The sun was shining through the arrow-shot
window; all the yellow motes were dancing in its rays. The light fell
on the strange heaps of fairy things--talismans and spells. The prince
hunted about here and there, and at last he discovered six ancient
water-vessels of black leather, each with a silver plate on it, and on
the plate letters engraved. This was what was written on the plates:

_AQVA. DE. FONTE. LEONVM._*

     * Water from the Fountain of Lions.

"Thank heaven!" said the prince. "I thought they were sure to have
brought it!"

Then he took one of the old black-leather bottles, and ran downstairs
again to the place where he had burned the body of the poor old sick
cat.

[Illustration: Page 93]

He opened the bottle, and poured a few drops of the water on the ashes
and the dying embers.

Up there sprang a tall, white flame of fire, waving like a tongue of
light; and forth from the heap jumped the most beautiful, strong, funny,
black cat that ever was seen!

It was Frank as he had been in the vigour of his youth; and he knew the
prince at once, and rubbed himself against him and purred.

The prince lifted up Frank and kissed his nose for joy; and a bright
tear rolled down on Frank's face, and made him rub his nose with his paw
in the most comical manner.

Then the prince set him down, and he ran round and round after his tail;
and, lastly, cocked his tail up, and marched proudly after the prince
into the castle.

"Oh, Frank!" said Prince Prigio, "no cat since the time of Puss in Boots
was ever so well taken care of as you shall be. For if the fairy water
from the Fountain of Lions can bring _you_ back to life--why, there is a
chance for Alphonso and Enrico!"

Then Prigio bustled about, got ready some cold luncheon from the
store-room, took all his fairy things that he was likely to need, sat
down with them on the flying carpet, and wished himself at the mountain
of the Firedrake.

"I have the king now," he said; "for if I can't find the ashes of my
brothers, by Jove! I'll!--"

Do you know what he meant to do, if he could not find his brothers? Let
every child-guess.

Off he flew; and there he was in a second, just beside poor Alphonso's
garden-engine. Then Prigio, seeing a little heap of grey ashes beside
the engine, watered them with the fairy water; and up jumped Alphonso,
as jolly as ever, his sword in his hand.

"Hullo, Prigio!" cried he; "are you come after the monster too? I've
been asleep, and I had a kind of dream that he beat me. But the pair of
us will tackle him. How is Molinda?"

"Prettier than ever," said Prigio; "but anxious about you. However,
the Firedrake's dead and done for; so never mind him. But I left Enrico
somewhere about. Just you sit down and wait a minute, till I fetch him."

The prince said this, because he did not wish Alphonso to know that
he and Enrico had not had quite the best of it in the affair with the
monster.

"All right, old fellow," says Alphonso; "but have you any luncheon with
you? Never was so hungry in my life!"

Prince Prigio had thought of this, and he brought out some cold sausage
(to which Alphonso was partial) and some bread, with which the younger
prince expressed himself satisfied. Then Prigio went up the hill some
way, first warning Alphonso _not_ to sit on his carpet for fear of
_accidents_ like that which happened to Benson. In a hollow of the hill,
sure enough there was the sword of Enrico, the diamonds of the hilt
gleaming in the sun. And there was a little heap of grey ashes.

The prince poured a few drops of the water from the Fountain of Lions on
them, and up, of course, jumped Enrico, just as Alphonso had done.

"Sleepy old chap you are, Enrico," said the prince; "but come on,
Alphonso will have finished the grub unless we look smart."

So back they came, in time to get their share of what was going; and
they drank the Remora's very good health, when Prigio told them about
the fight. But neither of them ever knew that they had been dead
and done for; because Prigio invented a story that the mountain was
enchanted, and that, as long as the Firedrake lived, everyone who came
there fell asleep. He did tell them about the flying carpet, however,
which of course did not much surprise them, because they had read all
about it in the _Arabian Nights_ and other historical works.

"And now I 'll show you fun!" said Prigio; and he asked them both to
take their seats on the carpet, and wished to be in the valley of the
Remora.

There they were in a moment, among the old knights whom, if you
remember, the Remora had frozen into stone. There was quite a troop of
them, in all sorts of armour--Greek and Roman, and Knight Templars like
Front' de Bouf and Brian du Bois Gilbert--all the brave warriors that
had tried to fight the Remora since the world began.

Then Prigio gave each of his brothers some of the water in their caps,
and told them to go round pouring a drop or two on each frozen knight.
And as they did it, lo and behold! each knight came alive, with his
horse, and lifted his sword and shoute:

"Long live Prince Prigio!" in Greek, Latin, Egyptian, French, German,
and Spanish,--all of which the prince perfectly understood, and spoke
like a native.

So he marshalled them in order, and sent them off to ride to Falkenstein
and cry:

"Prince Prigio is coming!"

[Illustration: Page 97]

Off they went, the horses' hoofs clattering, banners flying, sunshine
glittering on the spear-points. Off they rode to Falkenstein; and when
the king saw them come galloping in, I can tell you he had no more
notion of hanging Prigio.

[Illustration: Chapter Eighteen]



CHAPTER XVIII.--_The Very Last_

THE princes returned to Gluckstein on the carpet, and went to the best
inn, where they dined together and slept. Next morning they, and the
ambassador, who had been told all the story, and Lady Rosalind, floated
comfortably on the carpet, back to Falkenstein, where the king wept like
anything on the shoulders of Alphonso and Enrico. They could not make
out why he cried so, nor why Lady Molinda and Lady Kathleena cried; but
soon they were all laughing and happy again. But then--would you believe
he could be so mean?--he refused to keep his royal promise, and restore
Prigio to his crown-princeship! Kings are like that.

But Prigio, very quietly asking for the head of the Firedrake, said he'd
pour the magic water on _that_, and bring the Firedrake back to
life again, unless his majesty behaved rightly. This threat properly
frightened King Grognio, and he apologised. Then the king shook hands
with Prigio in public, and thanked him, and said he was proud of him. As
to Lady Rosalind, the old gentleman quite fell in love with her, and he
sent at once to the Chaplain Royal to get into his surplice, and marry
all the young people off at once, without waiting for wedding-cakes, and
milliners, and all the rest of it.

[Illustration: Page 100]

Now, just as they were forming a procession to march into church, who
should appear but the queen! Her majesty had been travelling by post all
the time, and, luckily, had heard of none of the doings since Prigio,
Benson, and the king left Gluckstein. I say _luckily_ because if she had
heard of them, she would not have believed a word of them. But when she
saw Alphonso and Enrico, she was much pleased, and said:

"Naughty boys! Where have you been hiding? The king had some absurd
story about your having been killed by a fabulous monster. Bah! don't
tell _me_. I always said you would come back after a little trip--didn't
I, Prigio?"

"Certainly, madam," said Prigio; "and I said so, too. Didn't I say
so?" And all the courtiers cried: "Yes, you did;" but some added, to
themselves, "He _always_ says, 'Didn't I say so?'"

Then the queen was introduced to Lady Rosalind, and she said it was
"rather a short engagement, but she supposed young people understood
their own affairs best." And they do! So the three pairs were married,
with the utmost rejoicings; and her majesty never, her whole life long,
could be got to believe that anything unusual had occurred.

The honeymoon of Prince Prigio and the Crown Princess Rosalind was
passed at the castle, where the prince had been deserted by the Court.
But now it was delightfully fitted up; and Master Frank marched about
the house with his tail in the air, as if the place belonged to him.

Now, on the second day of their honeymoon, the prince and princess were
sitting in the garden together, and the prince said, "Are you _quite_
happy, my dear?" and Rosalind said, "Yes; _quite_."

But the prince did not like the tone of her voice, and he said:

"No, there's something; do tell me what it is."

"Well," said Rosalind, putting her head on his shoulder, and speaking
very low, "I want everybody to love you as much as I do. No, not quite
so very much,--but I want them to like you. Now they _can't_, because
they are afraid of you; for you are so awfully clever. Now, couldn't you
take the wishing cap, and wish to be no cleverer than other people? Then
everybody would like you!"

The prince thought a minute, then he said:

"Your will is law, my dear; anything to please you. Just wait a minute!"

Then he ran upstairs, for the last time, to the fairy garret, and he put
on the wishing cap.

"No," thought he to himself, "I won't wish _that_. Every man has one
secret from his wife, and this shall be mine."

Then he said aloud: "I wish to SEEM no CLEVERER THAN OTHER PEOPLE."

Then he ran downstairs again, and the princess noticed a great
difference in him (though, of course, there was really none at all), and
so did everyone. For the prince remained as clever as ever he had been;
but, as nobody observed it, he became the most popular prince, and
finally the best-beloved king who had ever sat on the throne of
Pantouflia.

But occasionally Rosalind would say, "I do believe, my dear, that you
are really as clever as ever!"

And he _was!_

[Illustration: Page 103]





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