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´╗┐Title: Prince Vance - The Story of a Prince with a Court in His Box
Author: Bates, Arlo, 1850-1918, Putnam, Eleanor, 1856-1886
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.

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PRINCE VANCE

[Illustration]


PRINCE VANCE

The Story of a Prince with a Court in his Box

BY

ELEANOR PUTNAM and ARLO BATES

_ILLUSTRATED BY FRANK MYRICK_


 BOSTON
 ROBERTS BROTHERS
 1888

 _Copyright, 1888_,
   BY ARLO BATES.

 University Press:
 JOHN WILSON AND SON, CAMBRIDGE, U.S.A.



_TO THE BOY ORIC_


    _Dear son, this twisted, tangled web of whims
      For you was woven while you scarcely knew
    The simplest speech men use; but infant limbs,
      That round and smooth in dimpled fairness grew,
    Waved for all word in a babe's perfect glee,
        So wondrous sweet to see._

    _It is not stranger than this world must seem
      To one who its vagaries first does scan;
    It is less weird than the enchanted dream
      Which life may change to ere you be a man.
    Such as it is, take it for this alone,--
        That it is all your own._

    _Those who together wrought its colors gay,
      And its fantastic warp and woof entwined,
    May not again for you in work or play
      Together labor. Yet the loving mind
    In which they then were one will still be one
        Till life and sense be done._



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS.


                                                                Page

 THE FAIRY COPETTA AND THE PRINCE                    _Frontispiece_

 INITIAL: Chapter I                                              15

 INITIAL: Chapter II                                             20

 "'Come,' he said to the Prince, in rather an injured tone"      21

 "He picked up the poor tutor, and putting him on the
      window-sill laughed at him"                                24

 TAILPIECE: "'It is in here,' the Blue Wizard said, holding
      out a pretty gold bonbon box"                              25

 INITIAL: Chapter III                                            26

 THE ROYAL TABLE, WITH THE COURT SHRINKING                       27

 "'Oh, as to that,' the Blue Wizard answered carelessly,
      giving the King in turn a bath in the finger-bowl"         31

 TAILPIECE: "He seated his royal mother on the top of the
      sugar-bowl"                                                33

 INITIAL: Chapter IV                                             34

 TAILPIECE: THE HISSING SWANS                                    40

 INITIAL: Chapter V                                              41

 "The Lord Chancellor, who seemed to be always in trouble,
      picked some sort of quarrel with a large green
      grasshopper"                                               44

 "He moved from a bunch of thistles which he had carefully
      stripped to the next"                                      46

 INITIAL: Chapter VI                                             50

 "'How do you know?' demanded the raven, fixing his
      glittering eye on the Prince"                              51

 "But presently a little window opened in the side of the
      tree trunk, from which a wrinkled old face looked out"     56

 INITIAL: Chapter VII                                            59

 "'But I want it in my mouth,' sighed the man on the ground"     61

 "A second man stood on an overturned bucket and blew into
      the mouth of the first with a pair of bellows"             63

 "'What's all this?' the Prince asked of one who seemed of
      some authority"                                            66

 INITIAL: Chapter VIII                                           68

 The Court on the Fisherman's Table                              71

 INITIAL: Chapter IX                                             76

 "He stopped in amazement, and no wonder"                        77

 TAILPIECE: THE GIANT'S CASTLE                                   81

 INITIAL: Chapter X                                              82

 PRINCE VANCE ON THE GIANT'S HAND                                83

 "'I should not wonder, now,' she said, 'if my husband would
      give these things to me; they are too small to be of
      any use except as seasoning'"                              90

 INITIAL: Chapter XI                                             93

 INITIAL: Chapter XII                                            97

 "'There!' she exclaimed, as she held it toward him, 'there
      it is; and good enough eating for a royal prince'"         99

 "'But,' asked the Prince, 'does nobody know anything? Has
      nobody any sense?'"                                       101

 TAILPIECE: "'Why don't you catch me?'"                         104

 INITIAL: Chapter XIII                                          105

 "Now that at last he was standing still, the Prince
      perceived his nose was of a most peculiar and curious
      fashion"                                                  107

 "'Simply a sort of slow-match; grows in the daytime as much
      as it burns away at night'"                               110

 INITIAL: Chapter XIV                                           112

 At the Funny Man's Table                                       113

 INITIAL: Chapter XV                                            118

 "The monkey, looking up, wiped its eyes upon a small lace
      handkerchief, which was already quite damp enough"        121

 TAILPIECE: "At this the monkey wept so violently"              125

 INITIAL: Chapter XVI                                           126

 "He was a good-natured-looking old man; but his head, body,
      arms, and legs, even his features, were twisted"          127

 INITIAL: Chapter XVII                                          130

 "The Prince took the spade and began to dig, though not
      very hopefully"                                           134

 THE WIZARD MAKING A CAT'S-CRADLE                               137

 INITIAL: Chapter XVIII                                         140

 "'Don't quibble!' retorted the cat, sharply"                   143

 INITIAL: Chapter XIX                                           146

 "As the last stroke of twelve ceased, out stepped the Fairy
      Copetta"                                                  148



PRINCE VANCE.



I.


It was certainly not strange that Prince Vance was so stupefied with
astonishment that he sat for a full half-hour foolishly staring before
him, without an effort to move a muscle or to stir from his seat.
Indeed, it is probable that any other prince in the same circumstances
would have been equally struck dumb with amazement,--as any one may see
who will attend while I go back to the beginning, and relate what had
happened.

By the beginning is meant the birth of Prince Vance, when the powerful
fairy Copetta had been chosen his godmother, since which time she
certainly had not devoted herself to being agreeable to the Prince. She
had insisted, for instance, that her godson should pay attention to his
lessons; that he should show respect to his tutors; and, what was most
outrageous of all, that he, Prince Vance, only son of his parents and
sole heir to the kingdom, should learn to obey. She had coolly informed
her godson, moreover, that if he did not obey her willingly, it would
certainly be the worse for him; since learn he must, by harsh means, if
no others would move him.

All this seemed to Vance a most unpleasant and unreasonable sort of
talk, and, as may be imagined, it did not increase his love for his
godmother. So things had gone on from bad to worse between them until
Vance was a fine, lusty lad beginning his teens, when one day the Blue
Wizard came to court.

Vance had been having a remarkably unpleasant scene with his godmother
that morning. She had come popping into the school-room, in a
disagreeable way she had of appearing when she was least expected; and,
of course, nothing would do but she must come at the exact moment when
the Prince was engaged in boxing his tutor's ears (without
boxing-gloves), because the poor old man wanted him to learn the
boundaries of what would some day be his own kingdom.

"You shall see the boundaries by travelling over them all on foot," the
fairy had said crossly. "You are growing up idle, selfish, and
disobedient; a shame to your godmother and a disgrace to your family.
You will be associating with the Blue Wizard next, I dare say!"

"Yes, so I will," the Prince answered stubbornly; for though he really
had never heard of the Blue Wizard before, he would have said anything
just then to vex his godmother,--"so I will. I should like to see him. I
really wish he would come this very day!"

"As for me, you evil boy!" Copetta said, more angrily yet, striking her
cane sharply upon the ground, "you shall want me badly enough before you
find me, I promise you; and sorrow shall have made you wiser before you
look upon my face again."

"Not that I shall miss you much, with your scoldings and
fault-findings!" replied the saucy Prince; and as she vanished before
his eyes, according to her startling custom, he began shying his books
at the head of his tutor, to the great discomfort of that unhappy man,
who thought that his lot in life was indeed a sad one, and wished
himself a wood-cutter in the royal forest, or indeed anything rather
than what he was.

When his pile of books was quite gone, and the blackboard erasers, the
bits of crayon, and the pointer had been thrown after them, the Prince
put his hands in his pockets and lounged to the window, whistling a tune
he had caught from a hand-organ. His twelve younger sisters were just
coming into the courtyard, two by two, returning from taking their
morning airing with their governesses. The Princesses were quite as good
as the Prince was bad, and there could certainly have been no prettier
sight than that of the twelve royal little girls walking along so
properly and primly. Each had a green velvet pelisse, a neat Leghorn
bonnet, and a green fringed parasol; each wore nice buff mitts and a
good-tempered smile, and each had a complexion like pink and white
ice-cream, and eyes like pretty blue beads. It was therefore very
naughty indeed of Prince Vance to shout "Boh!" so loudly that each
Princess started and hopped quite one foot from the ground, and even the
governesses put their hands to their hearts. This, however, gave much
joy to the Prince; and after his sisters had disappeared he stood by the
window still whistling, with his hands in his pockets and a wicked grin
on his face.

"Your Royal Highness," began the tutor, meekly, "your Highness really
must not put your Highness's hands in your Highness's trousers pockets,
and whistle that dreadful tune. If her Royal Highness the Queen should
hear you, she would certainly have me beheaded."

"Why should I care for that?" asked the Prince, carelessly; and just at
that moment he caught sight of the Blue Wizard himself coming into the
court below.



II


Whatever else might be said of the Blue Wizard, nobody would ever think
of calling him a beauty. His nose and his chin were long and pointed,
his eyebrows big and bushy, his teeth sharp and protruding from his
mouth; and everything about him--skin, hair, teeth, and dress--was as
blue as a sky on a June afternoon when not a cloud is to be seen. He
had, too, a way of perking his head about, which was most unsettling to
the nerves; twitching and twisting it constantly from side to side, like
a toy mandarin. He came boldly into the courtyard of the palace, quite
as if the whole place belonged to him; and catching sight of Prince
Vance at the window above, he raised one finger, long and skinny and
blue as a larkspur blossom, and beckoned for him to come down.

The Prince hesitated. Certainly the Blue Wizard was not so charming in
his looks as to make one wish to get any nearer to him, but Vance
happened to remember that his godmother had seemed to disapprove most
highly of this very wizard; so with an idea of displeasing Copetta, the
Prince obeyed the beckoning finger and went down.

[Illustration]

At a nearer view the Wizard looked even uglier than from a distance. His
very lips were blue, and when he opened his mouth his tongue was seen to
be blue also.

"Come," he said to the Prince, in rather an injured tone, "you keep me
waiting long enough, I hope, when I only came to teach you a droll
trick."

"That is good," answered Vance, growing interested at once. "I do like
droll tricks. What is it?"

"It is in here," the Blue Wizard said, holding out a pretty gold bonbon
box. "Just make anybody eat one of these, and then you shall see what
you shall see."

The Prince took the box in his hand and opened his lips to ask another
question; but before he could speak a single word the Blue Wizard had
vanished quite away, and he stood alone.

He went slowly and thoughtfully upstairs, wondering what the trick could
be.

"I'll try it on the tutor first," he concluded, "because I'm sure I
don't care what happens to him, and I really must know what the droll
trick is."

So he went smilingly up to his tutor and offered the open box; and the
simple old gentleman, suspecting nothing, bowed and simpered at the
great honor his Royal Highness did him, and quickly swallowed one of
the little bonbons.

And this is what happened. Pouf! The unfortunate tutor shut up like a
crush-hat, and shrunk together until he was as short as a pygmy and as
plump as a mushroom. Really one might just as well have no tutor at all
as to have one so tiny. How Prince Vance did laugh! Of all the wizards
he had ever known--and for one so young his Highness had known a great
many wizards; he almost always met more or less of them when he played
truant by climbing out of a back window and going into the woods
fishing--he thought the Blue Wizard was the most amusing and had
invented the very drollest trick.

"Dear me, your Highness!" said the poor tutor, in so tiny a voice that
it was quite all the Prince could do to hear him. "Dear me! what is the
matter? I certainly feel very queer; I do, indeed."

"You look even queerer than you feel, I fancy," replied the naughty
Prince, chuckling with glee.

[Illustration]

He picked up the poor tutor, and putting him on the window-sill laughed
at him till his sides were fairly sore. Then he began to consider how he
could get the most fun and make the most mischief out of his bonbons,
for there were not a great many of them; and, being a shrewd young
rascal, he at last contrived the plan of putting them into the ice-cream
which was then being frozen for the royal dinner. Then everybody would
be sure to get a taste at least of the magic potion; and slipping down
into the kitchen, the wicked young Prince succeeded in carrying out this
evil and dangerous plan.

[Illustration]



III


Everybody looked at the Prince when at dinner he declined ice-cream. It
was unheard of. Nobody had ever known him to do such a thing before. The
twelve young Princesses, though much too well bred to remark upon it,
stared at their brother with their twenty-four beady blue eyes, and made
their twelve little mouths as round as penny pieces in their surprise.

Now the King, being fond of ice-cream, happened to eat quite steadily
for some moments without stopping; so that when he did look up he beheld
his Queen already shrunk to the size of a teaspoon, and every moment
growing smaller.

"My dear," said he, gravely, "really I don't think you ought,--before
the children too; just consider what a bad example you are setting
them."

[Illustration]

"I'm sure, Sire," replied the Queen, rather crossly, for the sudden
shrinking had given her quite a giddy feeling,--"I'm sure I cannot
imagine what you are talking about. Bad example, indeed! You had better
be looking to your own behavior. What the children will think of you for
growing so very small, I'm sure I cannot imagine."

At this moment the royal pair looked about on their daughters. They were
about the size of lucifer matches! They ran their eyes down the long
table; every person there was a pygmy.

Horror and fear filled every mind save that of Prince Vance. He nearly
went wild with joy over the great success of his trick. He had, it is
true, run out of the dining-hall at first, from his old habit of
starting off whenever he had performed any of his abominable jokes; but
he soon ventured to come back again, and round and round the table he
went, laughing as if he would kill himself at the tiny people sprawling
helplessly in their big chairs.

The Prince helped himself to fruit and cakes and bonbons from the
table. He seated his royal mother on top of the sugar-bowl, and put the
poor old King in the salt-cellar. As for the Lord Chancellor, whom he
especially hated, Vance dumped the bewigged old fop into the pepper-box,
where he would really have sneezed himself to death in another minute,
had not the Blue Wizard fortunately appeared and given the unhappy man a
sudden bath in a finger-bowl.

"It worked well, didn't it?" the Blue Wizard observed with a grin, as he
put the Lord Chancellor, very white and limp, on the window-seat to dry
in the sun.

"Oh, awfully well!" Vance replied briskly, although secretly he was more
than a little afraid of this particular wizard, who seemed to be much
more sudden in his way of appearing and disappearing than the common
sort of wizards to which the Prince was accustomed.

"The worst of it is," remarked the Wizard, thoughtfully, pulling his
bushy eyebrows with his long blue fingers, "you can't change 'em back."

"What!" exclaimed the Prince, in his confusion dropping his father into
the pudding sauce and entirely ruining the royal robes. "Can't change
them back? But you must change them back if I tell you to."

[Illustration]

"Oh, as to that," the Blue Wizard answered carelessly, giving the king
in turn a bath in the finger-bowl, "what you say isn't of the least
consequence any way. In the first place, no wizard is bound to obey
anybody who does not himself know how to obey; and in the second place,
nobody can undo this particular charm but the Crushed Strawberry
Wizard."

"Very well, then," said Vance, imperiously, paying no attention whatever
to the first part of the Blue Wizard's remark; "go and get the Crushed
Strawberry Wizard."

"Get him yourself!" was the answer. "_I_ don't want him. It is nothing
to me, you know; this isn't my family."

"But where does the Crushed Strawberry Wizard live?" asked the Prince,
more humbly.

"I'm sure I've no idea," the Blue Wizard replied lightly; "and now I
think of it, I don't believe I care. I'm sure I don't see why I should."

"But it's all your fault," blubbered Vance, beginning to cry, and
sitting down upon his uncle, the Duke Ogee, without even noticing him
till the Duke wriggled so that Vance jumped up in a fright, thinking he
had sat down upon a frog. "I'm sure you got me into the scrape."

"Now you're getting tiresome," said the Wizard, yawning. "I never liked
tiresome people myself."

"But I don't know what to do-oo!" sobbed the Prince.

At this the Wizard only gave a terrible laugh and vanished quite away
again, leaving the naughty young Prince to get out of his trouble as
best he could.

[Illustration]



IV


For a few moments Prince Vance continued to cry rather noisily, though
it must be confessed that it was more because he was so vexed at the
Blue Wizard than because he was at all sorry for what he had done.
Indeed, he did not even now realize that the trick was likely to turn
out a very serious thing; and after a while he dried his eyes, and
having collected his wits proceeded to collect also all the little
people and put them together at one end of the royal dining-table.

They made such a pretty sight, with their little court robes and tiny
jewels, that Vance was charmed with them and declared them to be more
interesting than white mice or even guinea pigs. He could hear them,
too, if he listened very closely indeed, quarrelling and blaming one
another for what had befallen them; and this was so vastly funny to the
wicked Prince that he rubbed his hands and fairly danced again with
glee. It was only when the palace cat, pouncing upon the Lord Chancellor
as he lay upon the window-sill, snatched him and carried him off in her
mouth, that Vance began to be a little frightened, and to realize that,
having made the whole family unable to protect themselves, it had now
become his duty to care for them and see that they came to no harm. He
just managed to save the Lord Chancellor from the lantern jaws of the
royal cat, and then proceeded at once to set his small family in safe
places for the night. Some he put in the crystal lily-cups of the
chandeliers; others in the crannies of the golden mouldings on the wall;
while for the King and Queen and the twelve little Princesses, he found
a lovely chamber in a pink porcelain shell which hung from the ceiling
by silver chains, and was commonly used for the burning of perfumes and
spices to make the air of the dining-hall sweet and delightful. All this
being attended to, the Prince betook himself to bed; but the palace
seemed very lonely and silent, and the Prince was so dull and so
frightened that he might not have gone to sleep at all, save for the
cheering thought that at least there was no danger of lessons on the
morrow, as the tutor was too small to teach, and his father and mother
far too little to make him obey.

"I will go to the preserve closets," he murmured to himself as he was
dropping off to sleep. "There is now nobody to stop me. I shall begin
with the damsons and the honey in the morning, and I shall have all the
wedding cake and macaroons that I can possibly eat."

But, alas for the Prince! when morning came he found that affairs were
turning out differently indeed from the way in which he had planned.
When he came down to breakfast, with his foolish head full of visions of
ordering the cook to send up pigeon pot-pie, curry of larks, strong
coffee,--which was a forbidden delight to the Prince except upon his
birthdays,--and unlimited buttered toast and jam, what a downfall to all
his hopes was it to find, pacing the dining-hall, the fierce and cruel
General Bopi, who, luckily for himself, had been out hunting the day
before, and so missed the fatal dinner, and was still quite as large as
life if not larger. He had discovered the state of affairs at the
palace; and so far from making himself unhappy about this, he was
evidently in great good spirits, and, to say the least, was disposed to
make the best of matters instead of the worst. He had put on the King's
very best crown which was kept to be worn only on great occasions, and
with a cloak of royal ermine on his shoulders was strutting boldly up
and down, enjoying his new splendors and the feeling of power which they
brought.

How it happened Vance never was quite able to tell, but the first thing
he knew, his dreams of having his own way and ordering the servants
about to his heart's content were shattered, and he found himself
somehow pushed and hustled outside on the palace steps,--himself, the
Prince, and heir to the royal throne, turned away from his own door and
ordered to leave the kingdom on pain of death.

"But my family!" cried Vance; "I hid them from the cat, and now they
will starve. Nobody can find them but me!"

"As for their starving," the General replied indifferently, "I don't
know that I care for that; but I would rather the palace should be rid
of the whole vermin race of them, so you may come in and gather them up.
But be quick about it, or I'll set the royal bloodhounds on you!"

Thus roughly treated, the poor Prince made haste to collect his
scattered family from the nooks and crannies where he had hidden them.
He was cramming them into his pockets with very little thought for their
feelings, when he happened to remember his sister's baby-house, which
not only had parlors, bedrooms, and dining-rooms in plenty, but was well
furnished with everything which the heart of little people could desire.
This he begged very humbly of the new king, and having it granted him he
packed his family into it, making them as comfortable as their reduced
circumstances would allow. A grinning footman strapped the box on the
back of the Prince as an organ-grinder carries his organ; then he
helped him out of the palace with a sudden push which had nearly sent
him headlong down the steps. Laughing pages ran before him, and the
Prince recalled the many times he had tweaked their noses and stuck pins
in the calves of their legs. Everybody seemed heartily glad to see him
go.

"Good riddance to bad rubbish!" quoth the palace hound; "you will never
again put my meat up a tree where I cannot get it."

"Get out with you!" snapped the royal cat. "I'm glad you are turned out
of the house. Let us hope a body can take a nap in comfort now, without
having her tail stepped on or snuff sprinkled in her face."

"Don't trouble yourself ever to come back," screeched the peacock,
hoarsely. "For my part, I'm tired of having my handsomest tail-feathers
snatched out by the handful. I'm sure I trust I shall never set eyes on
you again."

So it was with all the animals in the royal gardens. The deer, the emus,
the gazelles, the swans, the flamingoes, the parrots, even his own
particular white mice and spotted guinea pigs, declared that they were
glad he was going, and hoped he might never come back any more. Not a
creature did anything but rejoice as the royal beggar was tumbled rudely
out from his own father's gardens and left standing alone in the
highway, already heartily sorry for his prank, and quite at his wits'
end as to what to do with the Court which he carried in his baggage.

[Illustration]



V


Considering that Prince Vance had never done anything at all for
himself, not even so much as to tie his own shoe-strings, it was a
pretty hard lot for him to be turned out into the world to get his own
living, and take care of the whole Court besides. At first he was almost
tempted to throw away the box and all his relatives with it; but
although of course he could not be expected to think so much of his
father and mother now that there was so very little of them to be fond
of, still under all his follies Vance had a good sort of heart, and so
he trudged away with the troublesome little Court strapped tightly to
his shoulders. I am not perfectly sure that he did not take some
pleasure in jolting it about, for I have more than once seen little folk
bang and jerk bundles they were made to carry against their wills. At
any rate, the King and the Queen and the Court came very near being
seasick upon dry land, from the jolting and rocking of this new manner
of travelling.

Prince Vance had not the least idea where he was going. He knew, of
course, that he wanted to find the Crushed Strawberry Wizard, but he did
not know where that individual lived, or how to go to work to find him;
so he only made his best pace to get away from the palace as fast as he
could, being afraid that the new king might repent of not having taken
his head from his shoulders, and send somebody after him.

It was about sunset when he came to a beautiful field which lay along
the banks of a wide dark river; and Vance, who by this time was half
starved, was delighted that wild strawberries grew here in great plenty,
making the ground quite red. He first looked about for somebody to pick
them for him, but naturally he found no one; so he set down his luggage
and fell to helping himself, eating very fast and paying very little
attention to the rules of good society.

It was not until he had stuffed himself to the throat that he happened
to think that his travelling companions might also be hungry. He opened
the box and let them out, and found much pleasure in watching their
funny antics as they stumbled over tiny pebbles or became entangled in
the grass and struggled helplessly as if caught in some horrible
thicket. Two or three would seat themselves around one ripe berry, and
dine from it where it was growing; others drank drops of the evening
dew, which already shone in the clover leaves and buttercups; while the
Lord Chancellor, who seemed to be always getting into trouble, picked
some sort of quarrel with a large green grasshopper,--and so terrible
did the battle become that there is no telling who would have come out
of it alive had not Vance gone to the poor Lord's help and frightened
the insect away.

Under all these trying circumstances the poor nobles kept something of
their court manners; and their smiles and stately movements, their
bowings and courtesies, seemed to Prince Vance so droll that he went
into violent fits of laughter and rolled about on the grass.

[Illustration]

As it grew dark he did indeed stop laughing and think longingly of his
soft bed with its silken pillows and down coverings, but in truth he was
so tired he could hardly keep his eyes open at all; and as soon as he
had picked his small relatives and friends out of the damp grass and put
them safely into their box, he lay down under a spreading beech-tree and
fell into a sound and delicious sleep.

The morning found the Prince somewhat refreshed and gave him a fresh
determination. He resolved to set out at once on the search for the
Crushed Strawberry Wizard, leaving no means untried until he discovered
him and prevailed upon him to change the transformed Court to its former
condition. He shouldered his box and started bravely on the road, not
knowing at all where he was going, and already beginning to regret that
he had not paid to his lessons at least sufficient attention to have
learned in which direction his own kingdom extended.

He had walked an hour or two when he saw by the roadside a man engaged
in gathering the down from the tall thistles that grew by the way.

"Hallo!" cried the Prince; "what do you expect to do with that?"

"Beds," answered the man, shortly, and without stopping his work.

"Oh!" Vance said, seating himself on a stone and putting down his box
beside him. "You make beds of it, do you? They must be very soft."

"Dandelion," replied the man.

"Dandelion?" repeated the Prince. "That doesn't mean anything."

[Illustration]

The man nodded his head in a knowing way, but said nothing. He was a
strange-looking individual, with clothing which was made of all sorts of
odds and ends pieced together; while so lean and wizened was he that it
made the Prince hungry only to look at him.

"Do you mean that dandelion down makes better beds?" asked Vance, whose
wits were being sharpened by his travels.

The other nodded.

"Then why in the world couldn't you say so? You are not dumb."

"Breath," returned the little thin man, briefly.

He moved from the bunch of thistles which he had stripped to the next,
turning as he did so and carefully picking up his footprints to use over
again and save himself the trouble of making new ones.

"You are certainly the most economical man I ever saw," declared the
Prince, irritably. "I wouldn't be so mean with my old footprints; nobody
else would bother to pick them up. And as for breath, you might spare a
little more of that; it doesn't cost anything."

The man paid no especial attention to these rather uncivil remarks, but
went on in his work with great diligence.

"Do talk a little!" Vance said, becoming more and more impatient every
moment. "At least you can tell me how to find the Crushed Strawberry
Wizard?"

"Why?" asked the man, with the first show of interest he had displayed.

"I'm going in search of him."

"Wouldn't," was the little man's reply.

"Why not?"

"Dreadfully wearing on shoes," the other answered.

Then he stopped and collected the breath which he had used in this
speech,--for him a very long one,--and went on steadily picking
thistledown.

"But I must find him," Vance persisted, vexed anew at this reply; "where
does he live?"

"Don't know," said the thistledown-gatherer, shortly.

Vance arose from the stone with an impatient flounce, and took up his
box so suddenly that the teeth of all the Court chattered.

"Well," he said snappishly, "you are certainly the stingiest man I ever
saw. You can't even give away a civil word."

"Oh, no!" returned the old man, with an expression of great
astonishment. "Never give anything away. What will you give for your
dolls?"

Now, this question might sound like pure idiocy to some people; but
funnily enough it came into the head of Vance that when he had been
teasing those twelve models of propriety, his sisters, a few days
before, and had made their blue bead-like eyes swim with tears by taking
away their playthings, he had used just those very same words to them.
He hung his head a little; but still, determined to put a bold face on
the matter, he said,--

"Don't talk nonsense! Tell me the way to the Crushed Strawberry Wizard's
this minute!"

But, to his surprise, where the queer old man had stood there was only a
seedy black raven, very battered and ragged, but with a remarkable pair
of glittering red eyes.



VI


"I must say," the raven remarked severely, "that, considering the fact
that nobody invited you to come to this concert at all, and that you
have no check for a reserved seat, it would look better in you to keep
quiet and not disturb the entertainment."

"Concert!" exclaimed Vance, in bewilderment. "There isn't any concert."

"But there is going to be," returned the bird, more severely than
before. "I'm going to sing myself. First, I shall sing a love-song. Be
quiet!"

And without further ado he began, in a terribly hoarse and cracked
voice,--

    "Snip-snap, frip-frap,
     Bungalee, tee hee lees;
     Jip-jap; nip-nap,
     Tungatee tinum gee me strap,
     Bring me a bottle of cheese."

"Oh, come," exclaimed the Prince, "you must really know that that is
nonsense! It certainly means nothing."

[Illustration]

"How do you know?" demanded the raven, fixing his glittering eye on the
Prince. "Do you understand the language of love?"

"No," said Vance, more humbly; "I must confess that I don't, though I've
always heard it was very silly."

"Speaking of the boundaries of a king--" the raven began easily; but the
Prince interrupted in great haste.

"Nobody _was_ speaking of boundaries," he said sharply; "you made that
up yourself."

"--dom," resumed the raven, calmly, paying no sort of attention to the
interruption of the Prince, but cocking his head on one side and looking
wickedly out of one eye, "they are very useful to know, and there are
various ways of learning them. Some people learn them in the school
room; that's one way: some travel; that's--"

But before he could get any farther Vance had caught up a stone and
flung it at him. With a terrible croaking the raven flew up into the air
in circles higher and higher until he vanished straight overhead.

"Ten to one that was Godmother herself," grumbled Vance, as he picked up
his box and started again along the dusty road.

All the rest of the day he travelled, growing more and more weary, until
at sunset he came to a very old woman sitting beside a great tree upon
the river's bank.

"Hallo!" cried Vance, not too politely.

The wrinkled old creature looked at the river, at the tree, at the
sky,--everywhere, in a word, except at the travel-stained Vance.

"Come!" he said more roughly yet, "why don't you speak when you are
spoken to? Do you know who I am?"

The aged crone wrinkled her forehead and lifted her grizzled eyebrows,
still without looking at him.

"No," she answered coolly, "I don't know that I do. You look like a
boot-black with that box on your shoulders, only that a boot-black would
be more civil-spoken."

An angry retort sprang to the lips of the Prince, but before he could
give vent to it a terrible little shrill sound from the box struck his
ears. In sudden dismay he unslung the baby-house, and opened it to
discover what was the matter with his family.

In the middle of the floor of the largest room of the baby-house were
all the Court, gathered about the old King, who had fallen in a faint
from hunger.

"He is starved!" cried the Queen, in a piercing wee voice of anguish.

"I am starving myself!" roared the Lord Chamberlain, in a keen though
tiny roar.

"We are all starving!" shrieked the whole Court, in voices more or less
audible.

"Well," Vance said, looking at the affliction of the little people, "I
must say this is extremely disagreeable of them all to be starving. They
always are starving."

"Very," the old woman echoed, with a sneering chuckle.

As she spoke, she took from beneath her faded cloak a basket in which
were delicate white cakes, fruits, and honey. These she began to eat
with great relish, apparently not at all interested in the Prince or his
family.

"Come, now," cried he, "give me some of that! My Court is half dead."

"Really?" she returned, coolly munching away.

"Yes," shouted Vance, vainly attempting to snatch something from the
well-filled basket, "and I must have a cake to feed them on."

The old lady made no resistance, but only flitted up like a bird, in
some unaccountable way, to a limb of a tree, where she sat eating as
placidly as ever.

"Goodness!" said poor Vance, startled half out of his wits, "are you
Godmother too? You shy about just like her."

"She is a friend of mine," answered the old woman. "I know all about
you, too, for that matter."

There was nothing left for Vance but to beg for pity, and at last the
strange creature threw him down half a small cake.

"There's plenty for your family."

Vance provided for his little people, and then began humbly to beg for a
few morsels for himself.

"Wait," said the woman on the bough overhead, "till I see what there is
in the pantry."

She disappeared with great suddenness; but presently a little window
opened in the side of the tree trunk, from which the wrinkled old face
looked out.

[Illustration]

"Here are a few dry crusts from the closet," she said. "You may have
them. With a little honey I think they will go very well."

She handed two or three mouldy scraps of bread out as she spoke, which
Vance took with as good grace as he could muster.

"Where is the honey?" he asked, eying his crusts ruefully.

"Oh, I'll eat the honey while you eat the crusts," was the answer. "That
is by far the best way to arrange it."

"You are mean enough, I hope," he exclaimed angrily.

But, alas! at the word the crusts left his grasp and appeared in the
hand of the old woman.

"Oh, very well," she said, "just as you please! You are not obliged to
have them, of course."

Poor Vance was ready to cry with vexation and hunger, and quite broke
down at this last misfortune. He begged so humbly for the crusts that at
last the queer old crone relented and gave them back; and never did
anything taste sweeter to him than these dry and mouldy morsels of
bread.

"You may sleep where you are," the woman said as he finished; and she
closed the window with a slam, leaving it impossible to say where it had
been.

"Oh, by the way," she cried, a moment later, sticking her head through
the bark of the tree, in a way that looked very uncomfortable indeed,
"about those boundaries, you know, and the Crushed Strawberry Wizard, I
was going to say--But, no; on the whole, it's no matter."

And once more she disappeared, not again to be seen.

"I must say," muttered Prince Vance, "strange things happen to me all
the time."

And curling himself up on the moss, he fell fast asleep from weariness.



VII


The morning sun shining into his eyes awakened him; and after looking
about carefully to assure himself that there was nothing to be had to
eat in that place, Vance shouldered his box and trudged along the
river's bank. It was a beautiful bright morning; the birds were singing,
the flowers were opening to the light, and had it not been for a
constantly growing hunger, the young traveller might have enjoyed his
walk greatly. As it was, he soon became so hungry that he could think of
nothing but eating. He went on, however, until about noon, before he
found any food; then to his great joy he came upon a fine tree hanging
full of ripe peaches, rosy and plump as a baby's cheek.

"Now for a feast!" he said eagerly to himself, as he put down his box
and prepared to gather a hatful of the delicious fruit.

Just then he stumbled over something, and looking down saw a man lying
on the grass with his eyes shut and his mouth open.

"Hallo!" exclaimed the Prince. "Who are you? Are you awake or asleep?"

"Awake," answered the man, without stirring.

"Why don't you get up then?" asked Vance. "Are you ill?"

"No," replied the man, briefly.

And indeed he was as stout a fellow as one would meet in a summer's day.

"Then what are you doing?" demanded the Prince, who had lost all
patience and who thought that the other might at least take the trouble
to open his eyes to see who was talking to him.

"Waiting," the man said, opening his eyes at last.

"Waiting for what?"

"For a peach to drop into my mouth."

"One has fallen beside your cheek," said Vance, "and another right in
your hand."

[Illustration]

"But I want it in my mouth," sighed the man on the ground. "I am so
dreadfully hungry."

"So dreadfully lazy, you mean," exclaimed Vance, quite out of patience;
and he began to eat the luscious fruit. "You must certainly be the
laziest man in the world."

"If you think that," was the drawling answer, "you ought to see my
cousin Loto, who lives down the river a mile as the crow flies."

"He'll have to be lazy, indeed, to beat you," the Prince said, as he
once more shouldered his box. "Do you know where the Crushed Strawberry
Wizard lives?"

"I know," returned the man, "but I'm too lazy to tell."

"It wouldn't take you any longer to tell than to say you can't tell,"
cried Vance, hotly.

"Perhaps not," was the cool retort; "but if I told it would be doing
something, and I never do anything."

The Prince started on his way without another word. He did not even stop
to put a peach into the lazy man's open mouth, as he at first had some
thought of doing. He kept along beside the river for some time, and had
nearly forgotten the words of the lazy man about his cousin, when
suddenly he came upon what to his horror he at first supposed to be the
body of some thief hanging from a tree. As he got closer, however, he
found that the man was alive and suspended by a belt which went under
his arms. The man did not seem in the least to mind being hung, but
looked quite calm and peaceful. A second man stood upon an overturned
bucket and blew into the mouth of the first with a pair of bellows.

[Illustration]

"What are you doing?" asked Vance curiously, as he stopped beside them.

"Why," replied the man with the bellows, "this fellow is too lazy to
stand, so we have to hang him up; and he is too lazy to breathe for
himself, so he pays me a groat a day to do it for him with the bellows."

"I saw a man up the river who was too lazy to eat," observed Vance. "I
thought he was bad enough, but this is surely the laziest man alive."

"If you think that," the blower answered, "you should see his cousin
Gobbo, who lives a mile farther down the river as the crow flies."

At this Vance was reminded that nightfall was not very far off, and once
more he started on his way. The man with the bellows jumped down from
his bucket and ran eagerly after him. He was a simple-looking man, with
a large and frog-like mouth.

"It creeps in the family," he whispered hoarsely to the Prince.

"What does?"

"Laziness. If it were anything else, you know, you'd say it _ran_ in the
family. But wait till you see Gobbo!"

Just then he noticed that Loto was growing quite limp and purple in the
face for want of breath; so he hastily scrambled back to his bucket, and
once more began to blow for dear life and a groat a day.

"By the way," asked Vance, halting, "do you know where the Crushed
Strawberry Wizard lives?"

"He knows," replied the blower, "but you can't get it out of him. He's
too lazy to speak; so it's no manner of use fretting about it."

With a sigh of weariness and disgust the royal wayfarer turned away and
went on his journey. Just at dusk he reached a small village, or rather
a group of poor little houses; and as he was about to knock at the door
of one to ask for shelter, he saw a procession coming over the fields.
There were a number of men with flaring torches, one or two with picks
and spades, while in the midst was carried a bier upon which lay a man
with his eyes wide open, staring straight ahead.

[Illustration]

"What's all this?" the Prince asked of one who seemed of some authority
in the company.

"We are going to bury Gobbo," replied the man.

"But he isn't dead yet," exclaimed Vance, quite horrified.

"True," the man returned, in a matter-of-fact tone, "but he does not
care about living. I know, for he's hired me to think for him these ten
years. Now I'm tired of it, and so I think it's best to bury him; and of
course it's all the same as if he thought so himself."

"Well," said Vance, who was beginning to grow badly confused by the odd
people he encountered, "if he doesn't mind I'm sure I don't know why I
should. But perhaps before he is buried he can tell me where to find the
Crushed Strawberry Wizard."

"He won't take the trouble to remember," answered the man, "and I'm sure
I'll do no more thinking for him."

"Well," was the thought with which the unlucky Vance consoled himself,
"it is something to have seen the laziest man on earth."



VIII


He found an empty hut, in which was some mouldy straw; and there he
passed the night, sleeping as soundly as if he had been on his own royal
bed of down in the palace at home. His breakfast was begged at the door
of one of the houses in the village; and all day he followed the river,
until near evening he came to the gray seashore and the huts of the
fisher folk.

"What is the name of the river I have been following?" he asked of a
wrinkled old fisherman who was mending his net in the sunset.

"It is called Laf," the old man answered. "It is the eastern border of
Jolliland, as the coast is the northern."

"Oh, bother boundaries!" Vance exclaimed, "I hate them. Can you give me
something to eat?"

"We are poor folk," said the old man, "but I suppose we can give ye a
bite if ye pays for it."

"Pay for it!" cried Vance, in astonishment. "Do you know who I am?"

"Not rightly," said the fisherman; "but from yer look and from yer box I
take ye for a travelling showman. What have ye got in yer box?"

"My family," answered the Prince, before he thought. "Do you know where
the Crushed Strawberry Wizard lives?"

"Not rightly," the other replied again; "but I think somewhere
alongshore. What sort of a family have ye got? A happy family?"

"I'm sure I hope they're happy," was Vance's response. "I know that I am
not. Perhaps they may like being carried better than I like carrying
them."

"What can they do?" the fisherman persisted. "Can they dance and eat
buns like a bear, or do they fight and knock each other about like Punch
and Judy?"

"They do nothing of the sort," began the Prince, angrily. "It is not a
show at all; it is--"

Then remembering that if he was rude to the fisherman he should
certainly lose all chance of getting a supper, he became more polite,
and ended by saying,--

"They are--I mean they act out a king and queen and their court."

"Truly," cried the fisherman; "that is a rare show indeed! I never saw
the like. Come in and get your supper, and afterward we will have out
the puppets."

Upon this he led the way into his hut, and bade the Prince follow him.
It was a very poor little hut indeed, with rude walls, in which the
cracks were stuffed with seaweed to keep out the wind, and with a small
fire burning on the heap of flat stones which served for a fireplace.
The fisherman's wife, who was old and quite crooked with rheumatism, was
hobbling about getting the supper, which she said was all but ready.
When it was all ready, without the but, they sat down, though the poor
Prince, hungry as he was, found it hard work to swallow the dry red
herring, the rasping oaten cakes, and the brackish water of which the
meal consisted. When he had finished the meal,--which, as you may
suppose, did not take long,--he set his box upon the table and opened
it.

[Illustration]

"First," he said, "let us give them some food, and you shall see how
prettily they can play at eating and drinking."

But if the food was coarse eating to Vance, you may well imagine that it
was quite beyond the power of the tiny teeth of the little people, who
were not able to eat a morsel. This made them wring their hands and weep
upon their tiny pocket-handkerchiefs; and the King even boxed the Lord
Chancellor's ears, so angry was he at being disappointed of his supper.

All this was vastly amusing to the fisherman and his wife, who thought
the whole thing was done as a show, and would not hear of Vance's
closing his box until the darkness quite hid the supposed puppets from
sight.

In the night, as Vance lay trying in vain to sleep upon the hard clay
floor of the cottage, he overheard the fisherman and his wife whispering
together.

"I tell ye, wife," the old man was saying, "I will do it, so there be's
an end to the matter. I tell ye I will have the show for my very own. I
could make more money with the puppets in one day at the fair, than I
make by a year's fishing hereabouts."

"But the boy," asked the old woman, eagerly,--"ye won't hurt the boy,
will ye, good man?"

"Hurt him? No," returned the fisherman, "I won't do him no harm. I'll
sell him for a sailor to the ship that lies in the offing, and then I'll
take his show and travel about the country with it, making money."

As Vance heard this, you may be sure he shivered with horror at the idea
that his family was to be stolen and he himself sold to go as a sailor.
He lay very still, however, till the loud snoring told him that the
fisherman and his wife were both asleep, when he rose softly, and
finding his precious box shouldered his burden, crept quietly from the
cottage, and made all the speed he could in the darkness to leave the
wicked fisherman and his hut far, far behind.

At daybreak he met a man just pushing his boat from the shore, and from
him he asked whither the road along the beach would lead him.

"That's a thing as nobody can't tell ye," said the man, fitting the oars
into his boat, "because nobody don't rightly know. Howsoever, I advise
ye to take it, for it's full as likely to lead somewheres as nowheres."

This advice was of no great value to the Prince, yet he felt obliged to
follow it, as he dared not go back; so he tramped on steadily, though
the sun was high, and the box was heavy, and the Court within buzzed
like a hive of angry bees at being forced to go so long without food.



IX


Near noon the Prince was joined by a jelly-fish, who seemed to be of a
cheerful and lively disposition, and who insisted upon attaching himself
to Vance and going along with him. The boy thought that he already had
quite as many people as he was able to look after, and he told the
creature so plainly.

"Besides," he finished quite crossly, for he was really out of patience,
"to say the truth, you flump so that you make me nervous."

"Boys shouldn't have nerves," said the jelly-fish, coolly. "Of course,
if I have no legs I can't walk, and if I can't walk I must flump. That's
plain, even to you, I suppose."

Prince Vance was too vexed to reply; so the pair kept on in silence,
save for the tired footsteps of the boy and the loud flumping of the
jelly-fish on the damp sand of the shore. Near sundown they reached a
broad field where ripe grain of some sort seemed to be growing, and
through it, shaded by trees, ran a brook, clear as crystal. Into this
field the weary Prince gladly turned, and first of all opened his box,
half fearing lest he should find the poor little Court quite dead from
cruel hunger. They were not indeed really lifeless, but they were lying
about limp and white, and looked as if there was very little strength
left in them. The Prince hastily filled them several acorn cups from
the clear, cold brook, and then, seizing one of the long heads, of which
the grain hung full, he broke it open as quickly as possible.

[Illustration]

"Raw wheat," he said, "is certainly not good, but at least it will keep
them from starva--"

He stopped in amazement, and no wonder; for instead of the grain he
expected to find, the pod was full of chocolate creams, large, and all
of the most delicious flavors, as the Prince found by trying one. He
opened another pod in astonishment; lemon drops fell from it. A third
was full of burnt almonds, while a fourth contained sugared dates. In
short, the whole wonderful field was full of sweetmeats: cocoanut cakes
and macaroons; cream figs, marsh mallows, and gum drops; almond paste,
candied nuts, sugared seeds, and crystallized fruits; in truth, you
could not even dream of any sort of luscious confectionery which was not
growing fresh and plentiful in that charming field.

Very quickly the Prince placed several fine bonbons upon the baby-house
table. The King, too near starving to care much for good manners,
carved with his sword, and ladies and gentlemen seized slices in their
hands and ate as if famished. A wine drop furnished them with delicious
cordial to drink, and thus the Court feasted so merrily that it would
have done one's heart good to see them.

Having thus provided for his family, you may be sure that Vance was not
a great while in providing for himself; and having shelled a fine lapful
of bonbons, he sat down to enjoy himself in peace, when to his vexation
he heard at his side the unwelcome voice of the jelly-fish.

"Feed me first!" cried the creature; "I have no hands to gather bonbons
for myself. Feed me first! I am hungry too."

Poor Prince Vance! He was indeed weary and warm and hungry, and his
patience was quite gone.

"Go and eat without hands, then!" he cried crossly; and seizing the
flabby creature he tossed it recklessly away from him among the vines.

He had, however, hardly drawn a breath of relief, and was just setting
his teeth in a delicious bit of nougat, when back came the jelly-fish
quite unhurt and fully as cheerful as ever.

"Now, why should you take the trouble to do a thing of that sort?"
demanded the fish. "It cannot amuse you, and it doesn't hurt me. I shall
certainly flump back again as often as you throw me away, so you see it
is of no use; and if it is of no use, why, it certainly is not useful. I
suppose even you can see that. Feed me!"

"I don't see any way of feeding you," replied the Prince, with his mouth
full of sugared apricot; "you certainly have no mouth."

"That is apparently true," returned the fish, amiably; "but just lay a
soft bonbon on top of me and see what will happen."

The Prince did as he was bid, and had the satisfaction of seeing a large
orange cream melt gradually away as the jelly-fish slowly drew it into
himself.

The Prince had eaten, for once in his life, all the sugar-plums he
wanted, and had just taken a drink of water from the cold, clear brook,
when he heard a voice like thunder rolling among the hills.

"Who is this," it cried, "in my lollipop field, stealing my lollipops?"

With his heart thumping loudly against his side, Vance looked up and
beheld a sight which might have made a king and his army shake in their
shoes; and how much more a poor little Prince with a Court to care for
and only a jelly-fish to help him!

[Illustration]



X


The sight which so terrified Prince Vance was indeed nothing more nor
less than a horrible giant, fully as tall as the tallest church-steeple
you ever saw, and having in his forehead three hideous great eyes--red,
white, and blue--and a mouth which looked like nothing so much as a dark
cave on a mountain side.

Before Vance really knew what had happened, he found himself snatched up
and standing upon the great hand of the giant, as if it were a table.

"Please," he said, speaking in a great hurry, he was so
frightened,--"please, we only took a few because we were nearly
starving. We did not know they belonged to you, and we meant no harm.
Please, oh, please let us go this once, and we'll promise never, never
to come back any more."

[Illustration]

"Oh, ho!" cried the giant, with a great laugh; "let you go, indeed! Not
so fast, Thumbkin! I am fond of little people like you."

Poor Vance danced helplessly about upon the giant's great palm, but
could do nothing to help himself and had to look on as the giant seized
the box in his other hand and shook it gently, making the little folk
fly about wildly and get many a bruise and bump from tables and chairs.

"These will amuse my wife vastly," said the giant, as he began to stride
toward home. "I should not wonder but she'd preserve ye in brown sugar.
I like such little relishes, and 'tis a long time since I've had any."

At this you can fancy that poor Vance became quite ill with fear; but as
there seemed just then to be no way of escaping, he held his tongue and
looked sharply about him until in time they came to the giant's castle.
It was a huge gray stone building, with iron-barred windows, and at the
gate three dogs so enormous in size and so hideous to see that merely to
hear of them would be enough to give one the shivers, so you shall be
told nothing at all about them. Horrible as they looked, they stood in
fear of the giant; and at his word they lay down meekly enough, and did
not even growl as he strode by them through the court and into the
castle hall.

"Wife," cried the giant to a woman who stood admiring herself in a big
mirror in the end of the room,--"wife, come ye here and see what I have
found."

"What have you found?" asked she, without turning away from the glass.
"Is it anything to wear?"

"Zounds!" shouted the giant. "Can you think of nothing but dress, Madam?
No, it is far better than something to wear; it is something to eat.
Come, put on the pot!"

At this all hope forsook poor Vance, and he thought that his end had
come indeed. But the giant's wife spoke up sharply, and declared that it
was quite too late to be cooking anything fresh for supper, and that the
giant might wait until morning.

"What is there for supper, anyhow?" asked the giant, discontentedly,
for he had quite counted upon the fresh stew he would have made from
Vance.

"Why," replied the giantess, "there's the sea-serpent pie I've warmed
up, and I've opened a can of elephant's heads by way of a relish."

"Be quick with it," growled the giant, "or I shall eat this boy up raw
in no time!"

At this the giant's wife, who was by no means a bad-hearted woman,
though rather fond of dress and vain of her beauty, (and being as high
as a steeple, one must confess that there was a good deal of her to be
vain of!) gave Vance a shove into a corner to get him out of her
husband's sight; and in the corner Vance was glad enough to stay hid
while the giant ate an enormous supper, and drank a whole cask of ale
which his wife drew for him from a huge butt in the corner of the hall.

After he had finished eating and drinking, the giant bade his wife look
to it that the boy was put in a safe place for the night; then, seizing
a candle as long as a bean-pole, he stumbled heavily away to bed. His
wife, who had been sitting by the fire, now rose and invited Vance to
come and share the remains of the supper.

"You are a pretty little boy," she said, "and that peach-colored velvet
jacket must have been handsome before it grew so soiled. Now come, eat a
bit of pie and drink a little ale; you want to be in good condition for
to-morrow. If you must be made into a stew, of course you'd rather be a
good stew than a bad one."

"I don't know about that," replied Vance, dismally; "if I must be cooked
whether I like it or not, I rather think I would like to taste
particularly nasty."

"Oh, fie now!" cried the giantess. "Good little boys do not talk so. I
am sure you must be a good little boy, by your looks. What is in your
box? Jewelry?"

"If I will show you," asked Vance, with some hope in his voice, "will
you let me go? My dear, kind lady, you do pity me, don't you? I am sure
you are kind and good. Only let me go, and I will send you beautiful
jewels. I will do anything for you if you will only let me go."

"No," said the giantess, "I can't do that. He would beat me to death if
I let you go; besides, you could not get by the dogs if I let you free
twenty times over. But I'll tell you what I will do; if you will unlock
your box I'll give you laughing-gas before I cook you to-morrow, and
then you won't know what has happened till you are fairly stewed and
eaten."

This was but cold comfort to Vance, as you may imagine; but he saw that
the giantess meant kindly, and he still hoped to escape in some way, so
he swallowed his sobs as best he could and proceeded to open his box. No
sooner were the tiny people free than they began to run eagerly about
the table, eating the crumbs of oaten bread and the grains of sugar
which the untidy giantess had scattered. Small as the little courtiers
were, their jewels and robes glistened and made a fine show; and the
giantess leaned upon her elbows and watched them with delight, declaring
them the prettiest little things she ever saw.

"I should not wonder, now," she said, "if my husband would give these
little things to me; they are too small to be of any use except as
seasoning. I wish I could make them useful in some way."

[Illustration]

The giantess, as has been said, was a vain woman, and she was always
thinking how everything could be put to use as something to wear.

"I have an idea," she said, suddenly jumping up and bringing a spool of
pink silk from her work-box, which was about the size of a Saratoga
trunk. "I have heard of ladies wearing live beetles fastened by tiny
gold chains to their breast-pins. I believe I can do something of the
sort with these little puppets."

"But, Madam," begged Vance, in dismay, "you do not seem to understand
that these are my own royal rela--"

"Now, you be still!" said the giant's wife, playfully, "or I'll pop you
into that steaming kettle over there without a single sniff of
laughing-gas; and you can't begin to fancy how unpleasant you would find
it,--you can't, really."

At this Prince Vance shivered, and said very feebly indeed,--

"Please don't hurt them, dear Mrs. Giant; they are very tender."

"I shall not hurt them," said the lady, "or at least only enough to make
them kick; they are so amusing when they kick."

As she talked, she tied bits of silk about the waists of the King and
the Queen, and hung them in her ears as children sometimes hang buttons
when they pretend to have eardrops. When she had fastened on her strange
ear-rings, she made a necklace of the Princesses and Courtiers, and
having put it on she began to admire herself in the glass as if she
would never be done. After a while, however, she got so sleepy that she
could no longer see, and was even too tired to toss her head and make
the King and the Queen swing about in her ears. She put her new jewelry
back in their box, and picking Vance up put him into a wooden bird-cage
on the wall.

"Pleasant dreams!" she said cheerfully.

And then she too went away to bed.



XI


Left alone in his high-hung cage, poor Vance was indeed in deep despair.
He saw no way out of his troubles, and could not help weeping as he
bemoaned his miserable lot.

"It is all the fault of that wretched Blue Wizard!" he exclaimed; for it
did not occur to him that it was his own bad behavior which brought the
Blue Wizard to the palace in the first place.

Just at this moment, in a pause between his sobs, the Prince heard a
familiar flumping sound on the stone floor below him; and looking down
beheld to his surprise his old companion the jelly-fish.

"How do you do?" asked the jelly-fish, politely. "I suppose you're not
very glad to see me."

"Oh, but I am, though!" cried the Prince, not very politely. "I should
be glad to see anybody now, no matter who. How did you get by the dogs?"

"I flew," replied the creature.

"Jelly-fish cannot fly," said the Prince; "so that cannot be true."

"Well, then," responded the jelly-fish, indifferently, "I swam; and if
that isn't true, why, I suppose it is false. Even you can see the wisdom
of that, can't you? However, now that I am here, I've something to tell
you. This castle is in the township of Bogarru, and Bogarru is situated
on the western boundary of Jolliland, which--"

"Who cares for boundaries?" the impatient Prince interrupted. "Have you
nothing pleasanter than that to talk about?"

"--brings me to my point," the unmoved jelly-fish continued. "Whenever I
visit a place for the first time I am able to have one wish come true.
This is my first visit to Bogarru. Now the question is, Shall I wish the
heathen of Gobbs Island to become converted, stop eating their
grandmothers and take to wearing clothes; or shall I wish you out of
this castle, you and your Court, in the time a cat winks?"

"The last, the last!" cried the Prince, too eager to speak correctly.
"Dear, kind, good jelly-fish, do wish us out of this horrible place, and
you shall go everywhere with me if you want to, and I'll never speak
rudely to you again as long as you live!"

"Ah!" replied the fish, "I was afraid you'd choose thus. You care more
for yourself than you do for the Gobbs Islanders. It is not truly noble,
but perhaps it is natural. Now, then, open your mouth and shut your
eyes!"

The Prince obeyed, and at once there was a taste of something
exceedingly bitter on his tongue; sparks danced before his closed eyes,
and directly he felt a whiff of cool fresh air blowing upon him.

"Open your eyes!" said the voice of the jelly-fish.

The Prince did so, and to his great joy found himself, with his box
beside him, out upon a country road, with the stars twinkling over his
head.

"Oh, dear, good jelly-fish!" he cried joyously, "how can I ever thank
you?"

"You seem to be fonder of me than you were a while ago," observed the
jelly-fish, dryly. "However, I forgive you. If you want to find the
Crushed Strawberry Wizard, keep straight on along this road till you
come to the house of the Funny Man. Flubaloo!"

The jelly-fish disappeared as he spoke this last mysterious word.

"What a pity!" said the Prince; "I can never tell him how sorry I am for
my rudeness. I have lost my only friend. I wonder what he meant by
'flubaloo,' now?"

This, however, was so hard a question to think out that at last the
Prince decided to give it up. So, shouldering his pack, he started
briskly off along the high-road, not daring to linger till daylight for
fear that the giant would wake up, and, finding his prisoner gone, would
come after him and carry him back to the terrible castle of Bogarru.



XII


All night Prince Vance trudged on in the starlight, and did not stop
even to take breath till he saw the sky begin to grow red with the
coming sunrise; then, clambering over a hedge, he laid himself down in
its shelter, and instantly fell into a deep and heavy sleep.

The sun was high above him when he woke, and at once he became aware of
a great ringing of bells, blowing of horns, and beating of drums, as if
he were in the midst of some holiday celebration. He started up, rubbing
his eyes, and found that he had fallen asleep in a field which was now
gay with hundreds of merry-makers. Flags were flying from tents and
booths; bands of musicians were playing; glass-blowers and jugglers were
performing their tricks; peasants in gay dresses were singing, dancing,
and feasting; and there were all manner of shows and swings and
merry-go-rounds, enough to have turned your head entirely, had you been
there to see. As to the Prince, he was so delighted as even to forget
for a while both hunger and weariness, and walked about from sight to
sight, crying "Hurrah!" as the jugglers and rope-dancers performed their
curious and daring tricks.

At length he came to a booth in which an old woman was preparing over
her fire a kettle of steaming stew, which to the hungry Prince seemed to
send forth the most delicious odor of any stew he ever had known in his
life.

"Ah," he exclaimed eagerly, "that smells exceedingly savory, good
mother!"

"Ay," replied the old woman; "and truly it ought, for it has in it blue
pigeons, a fine fat cock, three wild hares, and every vegetable and
savory herb known in all Jolliland. Will you have a bowl?"

"Ay," said the Prince, "that I will; and let the bowl be a large one!"
he added, as he watched the old woman filling a goodly wooden basin with
the stew.

"There!" she exclaimed as she held it toward him, "there it is; and good
enough eating for a royal prince, if I do say it who made it. One silver
bit and 'tis yours, my fine young fellow!"

[Illustration]

"But," stammered the Prince, his mouth watering as the fragrant steam
reached his nostrils,--"but I have no silver bit. If you will only trust
me for it, I will pay you as soon as ever I find the Crushed Straw--"

He stopped speaking suddenly, for he saw that the woman was laughing at
him. She had snatched the basin of stew as it were from his very mouth;
and as she laughed loudly and shrilly, she pointed at the Prince with
her fat forefinger.

Drawn by the noise she was making, all the peasants flocked around,
crying out,--

"What is it, Mother Michael? What is the joke? Tell us, that we may
laugh too; for you know we must laugh. It is our duty to laugh."

"He wants to be trusted for a basin of broth," tittered the old dame,
"and he says that he will pay me when he finds the Crushed Strawberry
Wizard!"

At this all the peasants laughed in chorus till the very hills echoed.

"I don't see what you are laughing at," cried the poor Prince, hotly; "I
think you are very silly indeed."

"Of course we are!" answered the laughing peasants. "It is our duty to
be silly. If we cannot laugh at something, we laugh at nothing, since
this is Sillyburg, the merriest town in Jolliland."

[Illustration]

"But," asked the Prince, in vexation, "does nobody here know anything?
Has nobody any sense?"

"Of course not!" said the peasants. "Who cares about knowing anything,
and what's the good of having sense? We have a good time in the world,
and that's enough for us."

The Prince would have reproved the peasants for talking so foolishly,
but that the words seemed to have a strangely familiar sound; and he
suddenly remembered that he had used them himself at one time when his
tutor was urging him to learn common fractions.

In the mean time the peasants, always eager for any new thing, had
become very anxious to know what was in the mysterious box which the
Prince carried.

"If it is a show," they cried, "open the box and set it out. We are
weary for something new to laugh at."

But the Prince hardly thought it would please the King and Queen to be
laughed at by a crowd of gaping rustics. To be sure, he had shown them
before, but that was in private and not as a real exhibition at a public
fair. Some days ago this would not have troubled the Prince at all; but
trial and hardship were fast making Vance into a very different sort of
boy from the Prince who was the despair of his poor tutor and the
torment of the entire palace.

However, the poor wayfarer reflected that as food was only to be had for
money, money must be earned in some way, or the Court and himself were
certain to starve. It also occurred to him that if his family still had
any feelings they must be such exceedingly small ones that they were not
of much importance; and accordingly he opened his box and proceeded to
show off his tiny relatives, the peasants screaming with laughter at the
airs and graces of the little Courtiers, and offering them all manner of
cakes, fruits, and bonbons for the sake of seeing them eat. The Court
Priest pleased the rustics particularly, as he seized the only sugared
almond and ran away with it into a corner, pursued by the entire Court,
all squabbling and quarrelling in the most undignified manner possible.
This sight so delighted the peasants that they gave Vance plenty of good
silver bits, and thus he was able at last to buy himself a breakfast,
though you may be quite sure he did not get it of the old woman who had
made sport of him before.

When he had finished his meal, which was eaten sitting on the grass
before a chicken-pasty booth, he rose and asked the peasants politely
the way to the Funny Man's house.

"The house is far away," they cried, "but the Funny Man is here at the
Fair if you can only find him. You can't always find him."

"This is the Funny Man," cried a jolly gay voice. "This is I! Here I be.
Why don't you catch me?"

[Illustration]



XIII


Vance looked, and saw, dodging and hopping about behind a neighboring
booth, a fat little man dressed in green and hung all over with
fluttering ribbons and jingling bells. He looked so lively and merry
that at first sight the Prince was quite charmed with him; but he soon
thought that his looks were far more agreeable than his behavior, for
the Funny Man would neither stop to speak nor to listen, but kept
running and dodging about and hiding behind booths or groups of
peasants, so that the Prince was in despair about ever finding out from
him where the Crushed Strawberry Wizard lived.

"I want to speak to you, if you please," cried the Prince. "I have
something which I must say to you; I really must."

"Catch me, then!" cried the Funny Man. "Chase me! Run after me! Whoop!
Now you see me, and now you don't! Hurrah for me and my legs!"

Away dashed the Funny Man, and away scampered the angry Prince in
pursuit of him. But Vance soon found it to be of no use in the world to
try to capture so swift a runner; so he stopped, hot and breathless and
weary, while all the peasants held their sides to prevent their
splitting with laughter, and cried,--

"Hurrah for the Funny Man!"

"Do you give it up?" asked the Funny Man, as Vance seated himself by his
box and wiped his heated forehead.

"Of course I do," answered the Prince, crossly. "I should think you'd be
ashamed of yourself. Why do you want to act so, anyway?"

"For the fun of it afterward," replied the Funny Man.

Now that at last he was standing still, the Prince perceived that his
nose was of a most peculiar and curious fashion. It was not only of
large size and green in color, but it ended in a long and slender pipe,
something like a stick of macaroni, which was twisted up for ornament or
convenience into a sort of figure eight.

[Illustration]

"For the fun of it afterward," repeated the Funny Man.

"Well," said the Prince, "I should say that it couldn't be any great
fun, in the first place, to be a grown-up man like you, and it certainly
can be no fun whatever afterward."

"Oh," rejoined the Funny Man, "that's only one of my queer sayings, you
know. It doesn't really mean anything. By the by, what did you want of
me?"

"A friend of mine who was a jelly-fish," began the Prince, "told me to
ask you how I should find the Crushed Strawberry Wizard."

"Pooh!" cried the Funny Man, turning rapidly on the ends of his pointed
toes. "I don't care about doing that. Why should I? There's no fun in
it. Stop a minute, though! Is that _all_ the jelly-fish said? You are
sure he said nothing more, not a word?"

"Nothing that meant anything," replied the Prince. "He said 'Flubaloo'
as he left me."

"No!" exclaimed the Funny Man, turning rather pale. "Did he really,
though? If he did, that puts matters in a very different light, a very
serious light. Come home with me, and in the morning I'll set you off on
the right road. Hurry! for we have a good distance to go, and 'tis a
roundabout way."

Following the lead of the Funny Man, the Prince found himself once more
upon the high-road, along which they journeyed until late in the
afternoon, when their path suddenly plunged deep into the forest.

"Wait a minute!" said the Funny Man; "I must light my nose."

"Do what?" asked the astonished Prince.

"Light my nose, Stupid!" replied his guide.

The Prince said no more, but looked on in silent amazement while the
Funny Man untwisted the figure eight at the point of his nose, and
removed a small copper cap which covered the end. He then struck a match
and applied it to the bottom of this macaroni-like tube. A light like a
large star at once appeared, and shed its yellow beams about so widely
as to make the gloomy forest-road as light as day.

"Excuse me for speaking of it," said the Prince, politely, "but that's a
strange sort of nose you have."

"Not at all," answered the Funny Man, carelessly; "very common in these
parts,--very common, indeed. Simply a sort of slow-match; grows in the
daytime as much as it burns away at night. Come on! I'm going to run,
and you must catch me. Hurrah! Now you see me and now you don't!"

[Illustration]

Alas for the poor Prince! it was mostly "don't." The light flickered and
danced ahead of him like a will-o'-the-wisp, and was often lost
entirely; while the tired boy, burdened with his cumbersome box,
hastened after as best he might, stumbling and tumbling over stones and
tough roots, splashing through miry places and running violently against
tree-trunks, till just as he was ready to sink down in despair and let
his unpleasant companion go where he would, he came suddenly upon the
Funny Man resting upon the gate of a curious little house, and laughing
with great glee at the race he had led the Prince.

"Here we are," said the Funny Man; "come in! My wife's at home, and I've
no doubt supper's all ready except the seasoning. I always season things
myself, because I'm something of an epicure."

As he spoke, he led the way into the house, having put out his light and
once more wound his nose up into its figure eight.



XIV


The room in which the Prince found himself was bright and cheery, and
the table was laid for supper. The wife of the Funny Man was rather a
mournful-looking woman, which the Prince privately thought was by no
means to be wondered at. She had a somewhat peculiar and startling
appearance, from the fact that her head was twisted completely round on
her body, so that she faced the wrong way.

"Curious effect, isn't it?" asked the Funny Man, as he observed that the
Prince was staring at his wife. "I did it one day for a joke, and the
best part of it all is that I have forgotten the charm to bring her
round right again."

"Does she think it is a joke?" asked the Prince.

[Illustration]

"As to that," replied the Funny Man, indifferently, "I don't know,
because I never asked her, and I certainly do not care one way or
another."

"?reppus ot nwod tis ot uoy esaelp ti lliW" said the woman, after the
Funny Man had busied himself a few moments with the dishes.

Vance stared in confusion, but the Funny Man seemed quite used to this
odd way of speaking.

"Her talk is all hind-side before," he explained, chuckling, "since I
turned her head about. Sit down! Supper is ready."

They all sat down. The unfortunate woman faced the wall behind her, and
therefore she was a little awkward in ladling the soup. However, that
was a slight affair, and Vance was far too famished to be particular.
The pottage gave forth a most appetizing odor, and the Prince hastily
plunged in his spoon and began to eat. He had not taken a fair taste
before he stopped eating with a terribly wry face. The soup was bitterer
than gall.

"Don't you like the seasoning?" snickered the Funny Man. "Now, come,
that's too bad, when I thought 'twould be just to your liking!"

Too angry to speak, the Prince snatched a glass of water and drank, only
to find it scalding hot and full of salt.

"Try a bit of venison pasty," urged his host, pleasantly. "No more
fooling, on my word!"

"?opiH, enola dlihc roop eht tel uoy t'nac yhW" asked the wife, who
seemed to be as kind-hearted as could be expected of one so twisted.

The Prince, however, had already tasted of the pasty, which proved
hotter than fire with red pepper. So it was with everything on the
table. Nothing was fit to eat. The ragout was full of pins and needles,
the wine was drugged with nauseous herbs, the cakes were stuffed with
cotton; and the Prince cracked his teeth instead of the almonds, which
were cleverly made out of stone.

All this nonsense was very bitter to the hungry Prince, as you may
suppose; but as for the Funny Man, he was quite wild with delight. He
rolled over and over on the floor, and the tears of joy streamed down
his cheeks at the success of his jokes.

"This is the best fun I've had for months," he cried. "This is joy! This
is true happiness!"

"A very poor sort of happiness," the Prince said ruefully. "I think I
will go to bed."

Alas! here things were just as bad. As the Prince entered his chamber a
bucket of ice-cold water, balanced above, fell down and drenched him to
the skin. His bed was full of eels and frogs; and when the poor boy
tried to get a nap in a chair a tame owl and a pair of pet bats flapped
their wings in his face and tweaked his nose and ears. At the earliest
peep of dawn the tortured Prince shouldered his box and left his
chamber.

Sitting on the balustrade, whittling, was the host.



XV


"Good-morning!" said the Funny Man, politely. "I hope you slept well."

"I did not sleep at all," replied the Prince, hotly; "and of course you
knew I wouldn't."

"That was the joke, you know," the Funny Man chuckled, pocketing his
knife and preparing to lead the way to the breakfast-table.

The Prince, however, had no mind for another feast like that of the
night before; so he resisted all urging and started forth.

"Don't miss the way!" said the Funny Man, who seemed to be much cast
down because the Prince would not stay to breakfast. "Cross the stream,
you know, than climb a red stile, and there you are on the straight
road. If ever I come your way I'll make you a visit. I've taken a fancy
to you."

"That's more than I've done to you," muttered Vance, as he trudged away.

He was very angry indeed with the Funny Man, and yet he had an
unpleasant remembrance of a time, not so very far away, when he himself
was the terror of the entire palace on account of his fondness for
playing cruel jokes upon others.

The road was rough, the sun was hot, and the Prince was so famished that
he was glad to devour a couple of apples which had fallen from the cart
of a peasant bound for market. Still Vance cheered himself with the
thought that his troubles were about to end. He was now near the home of
the Crushed Strawberry Wizard; so he pressed on till mid-afternoon, only
stopping once when he came upon some pears growing upon a stunted tree
by the roadside. They were small, crabbed, and stony; but the hungry
Prince was glad enough to gather a number and eat them seated in the
pear-tree's scanty shade. As to the Court, it was quite a relief to
Vance to remember that the peasants at the fair had provided the
baby-house with cakes and bonbons enough to last for many days.

"After all," the Prince said to himself, as he once more trudged
along,--"after all, they have a far easier time of it than I. I don't
think I should much mind being little myself if I could have as good a
time as they do."

Toward the middle of the afternoon the Prince reached a dark wood into
which his road seemed to lead him. He had not walked far before he heard
a sound as of somebody sobbing, and also a curious clashing noise as of
cymbals striking together. These sounds became more and more distinct as
the Prince kept on; and at last he came to a small monkey who was seated
in a low juniper-tree, weeping most bitterly and now and then smiting
its hands together in sorrow. The hands of the monkey, being of metal
(as indeed was the creature's entire body), produced, as they beat
together, the cymbal-like sounds which the Prince had heard.

"What is the matter?" asked the Prince, as the monkey continued to weep
without paying any attention whatever to him.

[Illustration]

The monkey, looking up, wiped its eyes upon a small lace handkerchief
which was already quite damp enough.

"I am so miserable," it sighed. "Did you never hear folk say it was cold
enough to freeze the tail off a brass monkey? I am the brass monkey.
They mean me; they mean my tail."

"But it never has been cold enough to freeze your tail off," said the
Prince, consolingly.

"No," replied the monkey, wretchedly; "but then I'm always afraid it
will be, and that's just as bad. Oh, what a world this is!"

The monkey upon this fell to weeping more bitterly than before, and the
Prince sneezed violently three times.

"There!" exclaimed the monkey, dismally; "now you're taking cold because
I'm so damp with crying."

"Oh, never mind that!" replied the Prince, politely. "It really doesn't
matter. A good sneeze is really quite refreshing."

"That reminds me," said the monkey, "that I was sent to tell you to go
back again; this isn't the road."

"Not the--" began the Prince, looking puzzled.

"Road," finished the monkey, beginning to cry once more. "To the Crushed
Strawberry Wizard's, you know. You have just come back by another way
nearly to the Castle of Bogarru, where the giant lives. The Funny Man
told you wrong."

"Told me wrong!" repeated the poor Prince, now thoroughly discouraged.

"Yes," said the monkey, "for a joke, you know. Oh, my beautiful brass
tail! What a world this is!"

"This is the very worst and meanest joke of the whole!" cried the
Prince.

He shivered at the idea of being once more near the castle of the
terrible giant; and then he remembered the weary miles he had travelled
that day under the burning sun, and thinking of these things he could
have wept with right good-will, had it not been that the brass monkey
had already made quite a pool of tears, and Vance was afraid of causing
a flood.

"You must go back the way you came," said the monkey, wringing the tears
from its handkerchief. "It will take you longer than it did to come,
because now it will be night. At daybreak you will see three silver
birches in a meadow; then climb the hedge and follow a row of large
white stones till you come to a green stile; after this the path is
straight to the Crushed Strawberry Wizard's door. You cannot miss it."

"If this is true," said the Prince, "I am a thousand times obliged to
you. But are you quite certain that this, too, is not a joke?"

"Oh, my jointed brass body!" cried the monkey, mournfully. "Now, do I
look like a joker? I never made a joke in my life, never."

"I should be only too glad," said the Prince, as he turned to go, "to do
something to cheer you up, if I might."

"Oh, no!" wailed the monkey; "nobody can do anything. Besides, I like to
be miserable; it is the only comfort I have. Go! it is getting darker
every minute. Oh, my brass toes and fingers, what a world this is!"

At this the monkey wept so violently that Vance had to give up all idea
of thanking him or even of saying good-by; so he contented himself by
turning and hastening back along the path by which he had come.

[Illustration]



XVI


Nearly all night the Prince kept on over the stony road. When the sky
grew gray, he took a short nap under a thorny hedge, and by sunrise he
was once more on his way. On his right, in a beautiful green field, he
saw to his great delight three silver birches, their branches rustling
lightly in the morning wind.

Vance climbed the hedge and walked on steadily, being guided, as the
monkey had promised, by a seemingly endless row of pure white stones. At
noon he came upon a green stile, but it was so crooked that the Prince
thought he could more easily climb the hedge than get over it. As he
drew nearer he perceived a curious little man, who appeared to be
hunting for something in the grass at the foot of the stile. He was a
good-natured-looking old man; but his head, body, arms, and legs, even
his features, were twisted so that nothing about him was fair or
straight. He greeted the Prince very kindly, however, and invited him to
sit down by the brook and share his luncheon of bread and cheese. This,
you may imagine, the famished Prince was only too glad to do.

[Illustration]

"You've heard, perhaps," said the stranger, "of the crooked man who
walked a crooked mile and found a crooked sixpence against a crooked
stile? I am the man. I haven't found the sixpence yet, but hope to do so
soon. I want to warn you, when you reach the Crushed Strawberry
Wizard's, not to speak until he has spoken, or you'll spoil the charm
for ten years."

"How good you are!" exclaimed the Prince, gratefully. "How terrible if,
after all my journeying, I had spoilt the charm! Can I do anything for
you? I will help hunt for the sixpence if you like, or I will beg the
Wizard to untwist you."

"Oh, never mind!" returned the Crooked Man, cheerfully. "As to the
sixpence, I must find that myself; and as to my crookedness, a whirlwind
did it and a whirlwind must undo it. I don't mind. You see, I do not
feel as badly as I look."

Thanking the kind little man once more for his luncheon and his good
advice, Vance started off merrily through the beech-wood, feeling that
his toilsome journey was truly drawing to an end at last. The birds
sang, the brook babbled cheerfully beside him, and the breeze brought
him sweet odors from a thousand flowers. Just at sunset the Prince left
the wood, and came into a small open glade where the grass was like cool
green velvet to his feet, and a crystal fountain splashed in the midst
of a bed of flowers. Here Vance beheld a curious pink house shaped like
an enormous strawberry; and before the door, busily making tatting, was
a strange-looking person, all of a pinkish magenta color even to his
hair, and wearing a gown and pointed hat of the same unpleasant hue.

Prince Vance had found the Crushed Strawberry Wizard at last.



XVII


It was well that Vance had been warned by the Crooked Man not to speak
first, as he certainly would have done so, for in truth the Crushed
Strawberry Wizard did not appear to be at all a talkative sort of man.
He did indeed look up as Vance came near and put down his box; but he
said nothing, and closing his eyes, went on making tatting in silence.

Vance stood on one foot awhile, and then on the other. He counted the
white doves upon the peaked roof, and watched a small old lady who was
gathering herbs in the tiny garden beside the house; but he was very
careful not to speak. At last his patience was rewarded. The Wizard
opened his eyes and spoke.

"The reason," he said very slowly, "that a sausage cannot walk is that
it has no legs. You can understand that, can't you?"

"Oh, certainly!" replied the Prince, politely.

He was extremely anxious not to say anything to make the Wizard angry.

"Well, then," returned the Wizard, "don't pretend that you can't, that's
all."

For some time longer the Wizard made tatting in silence; then once again
he spoke.

"The reason," he said gravely, "that a horse has no trunk is because it
is not an elephant. Can you see the philosophy of that?"

"Yes, your--" "Majesty," the Prince was about to say, in his eagerness
to be polite; but he changed his mind just in time, and said
courteously, "Yes, your Wizardship."

This appeared to please the Wizard, for he bent his head three times and
invited the Prince in to tea. The table was already spread; and seated
about it were the old lady Vance had seen herb-gathering, and nine
black cats with green eyes, peaked caps, and nice white napkins under
their chins. The Wizard placed a chair for the Prince.

"This is my wife," he said, waving his hand toward the tiny old lady.
"She is a professional witch. She eats nothing but grasshoppers gathered
when the moon is full."

The Wizard here lowered his voice mysteriously and bent toward Vance.

"Economical," he said, "very economical. She hardly costs me a groat a
year, except for her high-heeled shoes; those come dear, but she must
have them, being a professional witch, you know. Now, as to these cats,
how many lives should you guess they had among them, eh?"

"I have heard," replied the Prince, "that every cat has nine lives, so I
should think that there must be eighty-one lives here."

"You'd be wrong, then," said the Wizard, "for some of these cats have
only one or two lives left. I keep 'em, you understand, so that when
folks lose their lives, all they have to do is to come to me and I can
sell them new ones from the cats."

"Do the cats like it?" asked Vance.

"They don't mind," replied the Wizard. "Anyhow, they know they've all
got to come to it. When the last life is gone, a cat turns into a wind;
you've heard them of a March night, yowling about the castle turrets."

"The moon," said the witch, speaking for the first time, "being probably
if not otherwise added to this whose salt, magnifying."

"You are right, my dear," said the Wizard, "as you always are. The boy
_is_ better off in bed."

Upon this the Wizard left the table and led Vance to a neat little
bed-chamber, where he bade him good-night. The Prince, having opened his
box to give his family some air, lay down and enjoyed the first night of
slumber in a bed which he had known since leaving the palace.

The next morning, after breakfasting with the Wizard, the witch, and the
cats, the Prince was called into the garden and given a spade.

"Just dig awhile, as we talk," said the Wizard, seating himself, "and
see if you can find any Greek roots. My wife wants some for a philter
she is making."

[Illustration]

"Tintypes," observed the witch, "catnip promulgating canticles
concerning emoluments, producing."

Vance stared; but the Wizard, who was evidently accustomed to this odd
sort of talk, answered quietly:

"You are right, as usual, my dear. He must be very careful not to cut
them in two with his spade."

The Prince took the spade and began to dig, though not very hopefully.
The truth was, he had never been at all successful in finding Greek
roots himself; and besides he was longing to ask the Wizard for the
charm which should restore his family. However, he dug away bravely and
said nothing till the Wizard spoke to him.

"I suppose," said the Wizard, at length, "that, as to your family, you
know the rule for simple reduction, don't you?"

"Yes," said the Prince, doubtfully, "I do if that page wasn't torn out
of my book. However, I could learn it."

"Learn it, then," said the Wizard; "and when you have learned it, use
it."

"But, if you please," ventured the Prince, humbly, "they are already
reduced to the lowest terms. I don't wish to reduce them any more."

"All right, then," replied the Wizard, crossly; for the truth was,
that, having a variety of affairs on his mind that day, he had forgotten
that Vance's Court were pygmies, and was thinking they were giants, and
a wizard never likes to find himself mistaken. "All right, then; don't
reduce them. I'm sure I don't care what you do."

"Oh, don't say that!" begged the Prince, with tears in his eyes. "Please
don't act as if you didn't care! Oh, your Wizardship, I've come so far
to find you, and I've met such unpleasant people, and such horrible
things have happened to me on the way, pray do not refuse to help me now
that I have found you at last!"

"Well, then," returned the Wizard, "be polite, and do as I tell you. Do
you find any roots, by the by?"

"Not one," said the Prince, leaning on his spade in despair.

"That's bad," said the Wizard. "I would sell the charm to you for one
Greek root."

"Oh," cried the Prince, "my tutor has some, I know. His head used to be
full of them; and unless they have grown so small that he has lost them,
I'll be bound he has them still."

[Illustration]

Upon this the Prince hastened to open his box, and, to his great
delight, succeeded in obtaining from his tutor several Greek roots
which, though small, were of good shape and in fair condition. These
being given to the Wizard, and by him handed to the witch, the Prince
waited eagerly for the charm to be told him.

But the Wizard had apparently no mind to speak. He whistled a few
moments, and then, drawing a string from his pocket, began to make a
cat's-cradle over his long crushed-strawberry fingers.

"I've sent a message by telegraph to the court cat," he announced. "Go
through that white gateway, and you'll come to the high-road. It is the
southern boundary of Jolliland. Your way is straight. By sunset you will
be at the castle. The cat knows all."



XVIII


The Prince thanked the Wizard, though not very warmly: for, to tell the
truth, he did not much believe that the Wizard had sent a message to the
cat; and even if he had, Vance had in times past so hectored and
tormented that poor animal that he felt some delicacy in asking a favor
from her now. However, he kept on in the direction pointed out, passed
through the white gate, and started forth merrily enough along the
high-road. He was disturbed, indeed, by some fears of the wicked General
Bopi; but he had, in spite of himself, some faith in the Crushed
Strawberry Wizard, and he meant to be very cautious in approaching the
palace.

By sundown, as the Wizard had promised, the young Prince found his long
journey ended, and beheld at last the dear old home where he was born
and had always lived till his own misdoings sent him forth. How
beautiful it looked to the worn and footsore Prince, with its velvety
terraces, its clear blue lake, marble statues, and crystal fountains,
lovely flowers, waving ferns, and shady trees, and, above all, the great
golden palace itself, its turrets flashing and glittering in the rays of
the setting sun! The Prince could have wept for very joy.

Everything about the palace seemed wonderfully still. The white swans
slept upon the lake, and the peacocks stood like jewelled images upon
the terrace.

Peeping about cautiously for any signs of the wicked General, the Prince
made his way softly through the shrubbery till he was very near the
front entrance of the palace. Still no signs of the pretended king. The
court cat, sleeker than in the days when Vance made her life a burden,
sat alone on the upper step, placidly washing herself.

"You may as well come out from behind that almond-tree," she said, "for
I see you plainly enough."

At this the Prince came out, still cautiously looking about him, and set
his box down upon the steps.

"Dear cat," he said politely, "how do you do?"

"Humph!" replied Tabby, rather unpleasantly. "'Dear cat!' How touching!"

"I've been gone a long time," ventured the Prince.

"That may be," returned the cat; "the days have passed swiftly enough
with us here. We have not grown thin in your absence."

"That is true," the Prince assented rather shamefacedly, and he
hastened to change the subject. "Where is everybody?"

"Beheaded," replied the cat, briefly; "that is, all but the King."

"Do you mean General Bopi?" asked the Prince. "You know I have the real
King here in my box."

"Don't quibble!" retorted the cat, sharply. "A king is known by his
deeds. If you have seen the way he's been beheading people right and
left, I think you'd call him something more than a general. What few he
has left alive have fled from the palace and are hiding in the woods."

[Illustration]

"And where is the Gen--King himself?" asked Vance, uneasily.

"Oh!" replied the cat, carelessly, "he's 'round."

"'Round where?" asked Vance.

"'Round here," the cat replied.

"I don't see him," said the Prince, with a start, as he looked about him
on all sides.

"No?" said the cat. "That's because you can't see through me."

"How very strangely you talk, cat!" exclaimed Vance. "I don't know what
you mean."

"Well," returned the cat, "you know those funny bonbons?"

"Yes," murmured the Prince, hanging his head a bit and blushing.

"One rolled under the sofa," the cat observed thoughtfully.

"Yes," said Vance, "I remember that one was dropped and I couldn't find
it."

"After the telegram reached me from the Crushed Strawberry Wizard,"
remarked the cat, "I rolled the bonbon out into the middle of the
floor. It was a pretty pink bonbon, and the King, coming into the room,
saw it and gobbled it up."

"Well," exclaimed the Prince, breathlessly, "what then?"

The cat put out her tongue and licked her chops.

"He was very tender," she said.

"You ate him?" he asked breathlessly.

The cat placidly nodded her head, her whiskers twitching with the
remembrance of her feast.

"Then," cried Prince Vance, joyously, "my father is King again, or will
be when he is made big enough. You say you had a telegram from the
Crushed Strawberry Wizard. Tell me, do tell me, dear cat, what it said."

"I can't till midnight," said the cat, "or all will be spoiled, and the
charm won't work."



XIX


Before he left home the Prince would have stamped about and made a great
uproar at being obliged to wait even a minute for anything he wanted;
but of late he had learned, among other lessons, the lesson of patience;
so he neither stormed nor cried, but entering the palace seated himself
where he could see the great hall-clock and watch for midnight.

He was so weary, however, that he could not keep his eyes open, and
presently he was as sound asleep as a dormouse. At length the cat
touched him on the shoulder, her claws pricking him so that he sprang up
in a hurry.

"Wake up!" said the cat; "the clock will strike twelve in seven
minutes."

"Why, have I been asleep?" asked the Prince, rubbing his eyes.

"It looks like it," replied the cat. "Why did you leave the Court shut
up in the box?"

"To tell the truth," the Prince confessed, "I was afraid they might be
running about the floor in the dark and--something might eat them by
mistake."

"Well," the cat answered, with a look as near a blush as a cat can come
to such a thing, "you may be right. One never can tell what may happen.
It is now almost on the stroke of twelve, and we must make haste. Run
out to the terrace and see if the peahen has laid an egg. If she has,
bring it in here to me; and be very quick!"

Rubbing the sleep from his eyes, the Prince hastened to do as he was
bid. He found an egg, indeed, and rushing back to the palace reached the
hall just as the clock sounded the first stroke of twelve.

"Break it exactly across the middle, and do it with three blows," the
cat commanded.

The Prince obeyed, and from the shattered fragments of the shell, just
as the last stroke of twelve ceased, out stepped the Fairy Copetta, as
sharp, fresh, and brisk from top to toe as if she had just been made,
and not in the least as if she had found her quarters in the peahen's
egg either close or confining. She shook out her petticoat with a brisk
little flirt, hopped lightly down from the table, and hit the Prince a
tap on the head with her cane.

[Illustration]

"Well," she said sharply, "how about the Blue Wizard? Do you like him as
well as you thought you should?"

"I don't know," stammered the poor Prince, decidedly taken aback by his
godmother's sudden appearance. "Did I say I liked him? I had
forgotten--I mean I don't like him at all, if you please, Godmother."

"Oh!" exclaimed the old lady, mockingly, "don't you, really? Yet, if I
remember rightly, you quite longed for a visit from him a while ago.
Well, then, how about the giant of Bogarru and the Funny Man, both
intimate friends of mine--did you like them, eh? Did you find them witty
and agreeable? Did they treat you with great respect because you were a
real live prince, eh?"

"You know they did not," cried the Prince. "I must say, Godmother, that
you have strange taste in choosing friends."

"Each to his liking," responded Copetta, lightly. "I dare say, now, that
you found more pleasure in that stupid jelly-fish, or that dismal brass
monkey, or that crooked man,--and _he's_ a beauty, by the way!"

"I did like them," replied the Prince, stoutly; "they were so good to
me. Are they, too, friends of yours, Godmother?"

"Why, yes," said the fairy, her bright eyes twinkling elfishly, "I think
I may say that they're rather intimate with me."

"I didn't know," ventured Vance, rather timidly, "but they might all be
you, Godmother."

"Perhaps you think," she answered tartly, "that I am a sort of living
multiplication-table, or that I have as many lives as a cat. By the way,
can you bound the kingdom now?"

"I ought to be able to bound it," the Prince replied; "I have been quite
around it on foot."

"Well," returned his godmother, acidly, "I dare say it hasn't hurt you.
That reminds me; have you had enough of it?"

"Oh, please, Godmother," cried the Prince, "I have had enough of
everything but kindness; and oh, Godmother, if you only would tell me
how to turn my people back again, indeed, there is nothing I wouldn't
do. Believe me, dear Godmother, I'm a very different sort of boy from
the one who wouldn't learn the boundaries, and wanted to know the Blue
Wizard; I am, indeed."

"Humph!" sniffed the fairy, though secretly she was not ill pleased with
him, "you're a much dirtier one, at all events. Have you washed your
face since you've been gone?"

"I'm afraid I haven't washed it very often," confessed the humbled
Prince. "You see, I've had so much else on my mind, Godmother."

"Bah!" exclaimed the fairy. "Go take a bath!"

"But the Court, Godmother," pleaded the Prince, timidly; "they must be
very tired of being small."

"Tut, tut," cried the godmother, sharply, "how you do harp on one
string, to be sure! 'Tis very ill bred of you. However, as it's not for
yourself, I don't mind telling you that it's a very simple matter when
you once know how to do it. They were facing each other when they
shrank, were they not?"

"Yes," said the Prince, blushing.

"Turn them all back to back, then," said the fairy, snappishly. "I
should think any fool might have known enough to do that long ago."

Vance opened his box, and trembling with excitement arranged his
relatives and friends in two rows, back to back.

Pouf! The effect was magical! Quicker by far than they had grown small,
the little folk regained their former size. Then, indeed, confusion
reigned. Such gabbling and chattering and running about; such
hand-shakings, embracing, and congratulations; such beratings and
cuffings of Vance because he had made them small, and then such kissings
and caressings because he had made them large again! Never was there
known such a mighty confusion and uproar in any royal palace before or
since.

"But, Godmother," ventured Vance, timidly, when the excitement had died
away enough to allow a body to begin once more to think,--"But,
Godmother, if you please, may I ask you one question?"

"If it's a short one," replied the sharp old lady, "and not _too_
foolish."

"Well, then," asked Vance, "I would like very much to know, if you
please, what we should have done if the peahen had happened not to lay
an egg?"

"Pshaw!" said the godmother, crisply. "Stuff!"

[Illustration]


University Press: John Wilson & Son, Cambridge.





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