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´╗┐Title: Kisington Town
Author: Brown, Abbie Farwell, 1871-1927
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Kisington Town" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



By Abbie Farwell Brown
  Kisington Town. Illustrated.
  Songs of Sixpence. Illustrated.
  Their City Christmas.  Illustrated.
  John of the Woods. Illustrated.
  Fresh Posies.  Illustrated.
  Friends and Cousins. Illustrated.
  The Star Jewels and Other Wonders. Illustrated.
  The Flower Princess.  Illustrated.
  The Curious Book of Birds.  Illustrated.
  A Pocketful of Posies.  Illustrated.
  In the Days of Giants.  Illustrated.
  The Book of Saints and Friendly Beasts.  Illustrated.
  The Lonesomest Doll.  Illustrated.

  Houghton Mifflin Company
  Boston and New York

[Frontispiece:  THERE WERE WIDE WINDOW-SEATS AND CUSHIONS]

Kisington Town by Abbie Farwell Brown

"Blessed are the peacemakers."

With Illustrations

[Illustration: Le Lion Passant]

  To the Best of Readers,
  Whose Pleasant Voices taught me
  the Love of Books
  Dear Father : Dear Mother

  O for a book and a shadie nook
  Eyther in-a-door or out,
  With the greene leaves whisp'ring overhede,
  Or the street-cryes all about,
  Where I may Reade at my ease,
  Both of the Newe and Olde
  For a jollie goode Booke, whereon to looke,
  Is better to me than Golde! -- Old Song

CONTENTS

      I. HAROLD
     II. THE SIEGE OF KISINGTON
    III. RED REX
     IV. THE DRAGON OF HUSHBY, PART I
      V. THE DRAGON OF HUSHBY, PART II
     VI. THE DRAGON OF HUSHBY, PART III
    VII. THE BARGAIN
   VIII. THE WONDER-GARDEN
     IX. THE KING'S COAT OF ARMS
      X. THE LION PASSANT
     XI. HOPE
    XII. THE HERMIT GNOME
   XIII. HAROLD'S LUNCHEON XIV. THE ROBBER XV. THE BANDAGED HAND
    XVI. THE KING'S PIE
   XVII. THE MYSTERY OF THE PIE
  XVIII. LITTLE BEAR: AN OJIBWAY LEGEND
    XIX. THE RED KING'S VISIT
     XX. THE BEAR'S DAUGHTER
    XXI. RED REX AND KING VICTOR
   XXII. THE BOOKS CONQUER

Note: The tales of "The Wonder-Garden" and "The King's Pie" are here
reprinted by courteous permission of the publishers of _St. Nicholas_,
in which magazine they originally appeared.  The tales of "The Dragon of
Hushby," "The Lion Passant," and "Little Bear," are reprinted by kind
permission of the publishers of _The Churchman_.  The Icelandic legend
of "The Bear's Daughter" is sketched from notes of a talk by Vilhjalmir
Stef'ansson, the explorer, who is lamented as lost on the late
unfortunate voyage of the Karluk to Arctic waters.

ILLUSTRATIONS

  THERE WERE WIDE WINDOW-SEATS AND CUSHIONS--Colored frontispiece.
  HAROLD BEGAN TO READ FROM THE RED-AND-GOLD BOOK
  SHE LOOKED BAD-TEMPERED
  THE MAIDENS WOULD PAUSE TO LOOK AFTER THE GOLDEN COACH
  HE STOOD IN THE DOORWAY TALKING WITH THE STRANGER

From drawings by Ruby Winckler



I: HAROLD

Once upon a time there was a peaceful Kingdom which you will hardly find
upon the map. In one corner of the Kingdom by the sea was the pretty
little Town of Kisington, where a great many strange things had happened
in the past, the chronicles of which filled the town library.

On the High Street of Kisington lived a boy named Harold, who was chief
of all the boys in town. He could run faster, jump higher, solve a
problem more quickly, and throw a ball farther than any other lad of his
age. He was tall and straight and broad-shouldered. His hair was brown
and curly, and his eyes were sky-color,--sometimes blue, sometimes gray,
sometimes almost black. All the boys liked Harold, especially Richard
and Robert, his chums. And Harold liked all the boys and their doings;
especially these same two, Robert and Richard.

Harold was the son of a poor widow; one of the poorest in the Kingdom.
But though she was so poor, the mother of Harold was determined that her
son should be a scholar, because he liked books. And she worked early
and late to earn the money for his education.

When Harold was not in school or playing out of doors with the other
boys, he always had a book in his hand. Often this happened in the town
library, where Harold loved to go. But almost as often it happened at
home. For though Harold liked to read to himself, he liked quite as well
to read aloud to his mother, who ever since she was a tiny child had
always been so busy taking care of other people that she had never found
time to learn to read for herself. The greatest happiness of her life
came in the evening when her work was done. Then she could sit in a cozy
chair in their cottage and hear her boy read the exciting books which he
got from the library of Kisington. And the other boys--especially
Richard and Robert--liked also to hear Harold read; for his voice was
agreeable and he read simply and naturally, without any gestures or
tremulous tones,  without pulling queer faces such as make listeners
want to sink through the floor with embarrassment.

Every time Harold read a story aloud he liked it better than before;
every time he read aloud he read better than he had done the last time,
until there was nobody in Kisington, not even the Librarian himself, who
was so good a reader as Harold. But the other boys were not jealous,
Harold was so good-natured and always ready to read to them.

The Librarian was a very important personage indeed in Kisington. You
see, this was a peaceful Kingdom, where books were more thought of than
bullets, and libraries than battleships. The Librarian wore a splendid
velvet gown with fur upon the hood, and a gold chain around his neck
with a medal, and he was second in importance only to the Lord Mayor
himself.

One summer evening the windows of the cottage where Harold and his
mother lived were wide open, and Harold was reading aloud to her. For a
wonder, they were quite by themselves. The Librarian, who was a lonely
old fellow without chick or child of his own, happened to be passing
down the High Street when he heard the sound of a voice reading. It
read so well that he stopped to listen. Presently he tapped on the door
and begged to be invited within the better to hear the reading. The
widow was very proud and pleased, you may be sure. She bade the
Librarian welcome, and Harold continued to read until curfew sounded for
every one to go to bed. The Librarian patted him on the head and asked
if he might come again to hear such good reading. He came, in fact, the
very next night.

After that Harold usually had an audience of at least two on the long
evenings, even when the other boys were busy. The Librarian became his
fast friend. He liked to come to the little cottage better than anywhere
else in the world, except to his own library. But at the library he in
turn was host, and Harold became his guest. And he showed Harold many
wonderful things in that library of which no one but the Librarian knew
the existence,--strange histories, forgotten chronicles, wonder-tales.
Gradually Harold became almost as well acquainted with the books as was
the Librarian himself; though, of course, he did not at first understand
them all. Nothing happens all at once. The other fellows called Harold
the "Book-Wizard."

The library was a beautiful building on the main square, close by the
Lord Mayor's house and the belfry, where swung the great town bell. It
was open freely to every one, from morning until night, and any one
could always get any book he wanted, for there were many copies of each
book. The caretakers always knew just where to find the book one wished.
Or the reader might go in and choose for himself; which is a pleasanter
thing when you have forgotten the name of your book, or do not know just
which book you want most until you have looked about.

The shelves of the library were nice and low, so that, no matter how
little you were, you could reach the books without standing on tiptoe or
climbing a dangerous ladder. And everywhere in the library were
well-lighted tables to put books on, and cozy chairs, and crickets for
your feet, and cushions for your back. There were wide window-seats,
too, where between chapters one could curl up and look down into a
beautiful garden.

The air of the library was always sweet and clean. The books were always
bright and fresh. There was no noise, nor dust, nor torn pages, nor
cross looks to disturb one. The people who took care of the books were
civil and obliging. It was indeed a very rare and unusual library. No
wonder Harold and the Librarian and all the other citizens of Kisington
loved it and were proud of it and used it very often.



II: THE SIEGE OF KISINGTON

Now, when Harold was about twelve years old, a terrible thing befell his
city. Red Rex, ruler of the neighboring land across the border, decided
to make war on this peaceful Kingdom, just for fun. He was a fierce and
powerful King, and he had a fierce and powerful army, always ready,
night and day. One morning, without any warning whatever, they marched
right up to the walls of Kisington, which were never defended, and laid
siege to the city. They began to batter the gates and mine the walls and
fire into the city arrows and cannon-balls, or whatever were the
fashionable missiles of that long-past day. The peaceful city was in
danger of being utterly destroyed.

The people of Kisington were greatly distressed. Though they were brave,
they did not want to fight. They had no time for fighting, there were so
many more interesting things to attend to: agriculture and commerce,
science and art and music, study and play and happiness, all of which
come to an end when fighting begins. They did not want to fight; but
neither did they want their beautiful city destroyed, with all its
treasures.

There was no telephone, no telegraph in those days. Messages went by
horses. It would be days before help could come from their own King
Victor, who lived in the Capital City. In the mean time what could be
done to save Kisington? The Lord Mayor set the great bell to tolling in
the belfry, and this called together the Chief Citizens in the hall of
the library to consider the emergency.

"Alas!" quoth the Lord Mayor, trying to make himself heard in the horrid
din that was arising from the city gates, "our fair city is threatened,
and will be taken in a few hours unless we can devise some plan of
wisdom. Force we have not, as you all know. Force is the argument of
barbarians. Already a missile has knocked down the statue of Progress
from the portal of the library, and I fear that the whole building is
doomed. For it is at our library that the enemy seem to be directing
their malice."

A groan of anguish answered him. Then the Librarian spoke up. "Ah! the
misguided King! He does not love books. If only he knew the treasures he
is threatening to destroy! He cannot understand."

"No. He knows not what he does," said the Lord Mayor solemnly. "He is
war-mad and cannot understand anything else. If he had been brought up
to love peace and learning and progress better than war and blood, he
would be a different man. He would be seeking to know our books in love,
not to destroy them with hate. If he had but read our Chronicles, surely
he would not wish to put an end to this our unique treasure."

The Librarian started at his words and jumped to his feet. "You give me
an idea, my Lord Mayor!" he cried. "Can we not cause him to change his
mind? Can we not interest him in our books, enthrall him in the
Chronicles of Kisington, so that he will cease to make war? Can we not
at least gain time until our King Victor and his allies shall come to
our aid?"

_Boom!_ went the cannon, and _Crash!_ the statue of a great poet fell
from the portal of the library.

The Lord Mayor shuddered. "It is an idea," he agreed. "There is a faint
hope. Something must be done, and that quickly. How shall we begin, Sir
Librarian?"

The Librarian turned to the shelves behind him and took down at random a
book bound in red-and-gold. "Here, let us begin with this," he said. "It
may not be the best of all our Chronicles, but if the warlike King can
be induced to read it through, it may serve to hold his wrath for a
space."

"Who will go with the volume into the enemy's camp?" asked the Lord
Mayor dubiously.

"We must send our best reader," said the Librarian. "Red Rex must hear
the tale read aloud, the better to hold his unaccustomed attention."

"Surely, you are the best reader, Sir Librarian," urged the Lord Mayor
generously. "How we all admire your style and diction!"

_Crash!_ The rainbow window above their heads was shivered into a
thousand pieces.

The Lord Mayor turned pale. "We must make haste!" he urged, pushing the
Librarian gently by the elbow.

"Nay," said the Librarian coolly, releasing himself. "There is one who
reads far better than I. It is a young boy, the son of a poor widow
living on the High Street. Harold is his name, and he reads as sweetly
as a nightingale sings. Let us send for him at the same time when our
messenger goes to King Victor."

"Let it be done immediately!" commanded the Lord Mayor.

This happened on a Saturday, when the boys were not at school. But on
account of the bombardment of the city, the Lord Mayor had already given
orders that every child should remain in his own home that morning. So
Harold was with his mother when the messenger from the Lord Mayor
knocked on the door of the little cottage in the High Street, and Robert
and Richard did not know anything about it.

"Come with me!" said the messenger to Harold. "You are needed for
important service."

"Oh, where is he going?" cried the poor, trembling mother, holding back
her boy by the shoulders.

"He is to come directly to the library," said the messenger. "The
Librarian has a task for him."

"Ah! The Librarian!" The mother sighed with relief, and let her hands
fall from the shoulders of Harold. "To that good man of peace I can
trust my son, even amid this wicked bombardment."

When Harold came to the library with the messenger, they found the
beautiful portal of the building quite destroyed, and the windows lying
in pitiful shattered fragments. They entered under a rain of missiles,
and discovered the Leading Citizens gathered in a pale group in the
center of the hall, under a heavy oak table.

"My boy!" said the Librarian, with as much dignity as possible under the
circumstances. "We have sent for you, believing that you only can save
our beautiful library, our books, our city, our people, from immediate
destruction. Will you risk your life for all these, Harold?"

Harold looked at him bravely. "I do not know what you mean, sir," he
said, "but gladly would I risk my life to save the precious books
alone. Tell me what I am to do, and I will do it as well as a boy can."

"Well spoken, my brave lad!" cried the Librarian. "You are to do this";
and he thrust into the hand of Harold a red-and-gold volume. "Even as
the boy David of old conquered the Philistine with a child's toy, so you
may perhaps conquer this Philistine with a story-book. Go to the savage
King yonder, with a flag of truce; and if you can win his ear, beg to
read him this, which is of an importance. If you read as well as I have
heard you do ere now, I think he will pause in his work of destruction,
at least until the story's end."

Harold took the book, wondering. "I will try my best, sir," he promised
simply.



III. RED REX

A committee of the First Citizens led Harold to the city gate. He wished
to say good-bye to his mother, and to Richard and Robert; but there was
no time. Presently a watchman raised a white flag above the wall.
Thereafter the noise of the besiegers ceased.

"A truce, ho!"

"What message from the besieged?"

"One comes to parley with your King."

"Let him come forth, under the flag of truce. He will be safe."

Bearing the white flag in one hand and the gorgeous book in the other,
Harold stepped outside the gate. The foreign soldiers stared to see so
young a messenger, and some of them would have laughed. But Harold held
up his head proudly and showed them that he was not afraid, nor was he
to be laughed at.

"I am the messenger. Pray bring me to the King," he said with dignity.

A guard of fierce-looking soldiers took him in charge and marched him
across the trampled sward, between the ranks of the army, until they
came to a little hillock. And there Harold found himself standing in
front of a huge man with bristling red hair and beard, having a mighty
arm bound with iron. His eyes were wild and bloodshot. He sat upon the
hillock as if it were a throne, and held a wicked-looking sword across
his great knees, frowning terribly.

"Well, who are you, and what do you want with me?" growled the Red King.
"A queer envoy this! A mere boy!"

"The City Fathers have sent me to read you something, please Your
Majesty," said Harold, trying to look brave, though his knees were
quaking at the awful appearance of the War-Lord.

"Is it a war message?" asked Red Rex, eyeing the red-and-gold book
suspiciously.

"You must hear and judge," answered Harold.

"Very well," grumbled the Red King. "But waste no time. Begin and have
done as quickly as may be."

Harold began to read from the red-and-gold book; but he had not gone far
when Red Rex interrupted him.

"Why, it is a tale!" he roared. "Thunder and lightning! Do they think
this is a child's party? Go home with your story-book to your nursery
and leave me to deal with your city in warrior fashion."

"I come from no nursery!" protested Harold, squaring his shoulders. "I
am no molly-coddle. No boy can beat me at any game. I am instructed to
read you this, and I must do so, unless you break the truce and do me
harm."

"Who ever heard the like of this!" thundered Red Rex. "Here am I making
real war, and this boy interrupts me to read a tale! What a waste of
time! I read nothing, boy. War dispatches are all I have taste for. Does
this concern war?"

"It has everything to do with this war," said Harold truthfully. "It is
very important, and they say I read rather well."

"When did you learn to read rather well?" questioned the Red King
sulkily. "I never learned to read well, myself, and I am thrice your
age. I never have had time. At your years I was already a soldier.
Fighting was the only sport I cared for. Reading is girls' business."

"A lot of good things are girls' business, and boys' business, too,"
said Harold loyally. "But please hear me read about the fight, Your
Majesty."

"About a fight;--it is a long time since I heard a story about a fight,
written in ink," said the Red King musingly. "But I have myself seen
many fights, written in red blood."

"This is a story different from any you ever read," said Harold. "It is
a story no one ever heard read before, outside Kisington. Will Your
Majesty permit that I begin?"

Red Rex hummed and hawed, hesitated and frowned. But he was a curious
King, as well as a savage one, and his curiosity triumphed. "What ho!"
he shouted to his guard at last. "Let there be a truce until I give word
to resume the fighting. I have that which claims my attention. Boy, I
will hear the story. Plant the flag of truce upon this hillock and sit
down here at my feet. Now!" He unfastened his belt and sword, took off
his heavy helmet and made himself comfortable, while his men lolled
about in the grass near by. Harold seated himself at the feet of the Red
King, as he was bidden; and opening the red-and-gold book began to read
in his best manner the story of _The Dragon of Hushby_.



IV. THE DRAGON OF HUSHBY, PART I

Long, long ago, in the days when even stranger things befell than we see
nowadays, travelers brought news to the little town of
Kisington-by-the-Sea. They said that the terrible Dragon of Hushby had
wakened again from his fifty years' nap; had crept out of his cave in
the mountain, and was terrifying the country as he had done in the
grandfathers' times. Already he had destroyed ten horses; had eaten one
hundred head of cattle, six fair maidens, and twelve plump little
children. Besides which he had killed three brave men who had dared to
fight with him. But now no one ventured near the cave where the dreadful
creature lived, and the land was filled with horror for which there
seemed to be no hope of relief.

[Illustration: HAROLD BEGAN TO READ FROM THE RED-AND-GOLD BOOK]

Moreover, so the travelers said, the King proclaimed that whoever should
put an end to the terror of Hushby might ask of his sovereign whatever
reward he chose, even the hand of the King's daughter. Now when this
news came to Kisington there was great excitement. For Hushby Town was
not far distant from the market-place of Kisington. People gathered in
groups talking in whispers of the Dragon, and looking fearfully out of
the corners of their eyes as they spoke. Who could tell when the
creature might wander in their direction, as the Chronicles recorded
that he had done once, long ago, when he had destroyed the daughter of
him who was Lord Mayor at that time? Kisington had special reasons, you
see, for longing to hear that a hero had conquered the Dragon.

Of all the people in Kisington who heard the news, the one most excited
thereby was a lad named Arthur. He did not look like a hero, for he was
short, and small, and ugly. For this reason no one had ever thought him
especially brave. Most people expect heroes to be great, big men. Arthur
was held to be of little account in Kisington. But though he was a
little fellow, he had a great heart. All his life he had loved tales of
bravery and adventure, and he longed to be a. hero. Besides, he thought
it would be a. fine thing to marry the King's daughter, who, like all
princesses, must be very beautiful.

Arthur lived by himself in a castle which had once belonged to his
uncle. Now that uncle had been an Amateur Magician; that is, he was
always doing things with flaring fires and queer bottles, messes of
strange liquids and horrid smells,--hoping to learn how to turn old iron
into gold, or to discover some other useful secret. No one ever heard,
however, of his accomplishing anything; until one day, with a _Bang!_ he
blew himself up.` And every one heard of that. His will gave all his
Amateur-Magical stuff to Arthur--all his forges and bellows and bulbs
and bottles, the syrups and nasty smells. But Arthur cared nothing at
all about Amateur Magic, and scarcely ever went into the desolate tower
in one wing of the castle, where his uncle's laboratory was gathering
dust.

But after news came about the Dragon of Hushby, things were different.
An idea had come into Arthur's head. "Oh, dear!" he said to himself. "If
only I could find something which would make me big! Only a giant could
kill the Dragon of Hushby, he is so huge and terrible. Perhaps my uncle
may have discovered a secret which would turn me into a giant!"

Eagerly he hurried to the deserted room. Everything was draped in dusty
cobwebs, and when he opened the door the rats went scuttling in all
directions. All among the bottles and boxes and books and bundles he
sought and sought for some discovery which should help him. But though
he found many other curious things, he found not what he sought. Though
he poked in every dark corner and read carefully the labels on every
phial, and the recipes in every book, he found no Secret for Growing
Big. He could have learned, had he wished, "How to Make a Silk Purse Out
of a Sow's Ear"; "How to Make a Horse Drink"; "How to Make an Empty Sack
Stand Upright," and other very difficult things. But all these secrets
were of no use to Arthur, and he thought that his uncle had wasted much
valuable time in making these discoveries. Which, indeed, was true.

Arthur grew more and more discontented every day. But one morning, quite
by accident, he hit his elbow against a hidden spring in a certain
knot-hole of the wall in the dusty laboratory. Immediately a secret
panel opened, and there behind it was a secret cupboard. In the cupboard
was the secretest-looking package, wrapped in a velvet cloth. Arthur
unrolled it eagerly and found a little leather case. When the case was
opened, he saw inside a bit of glass set in gold, with a handle. It
looked quite like a modern reading-glass--only reading-glasses were not
invented until many, many years later. "What can this be?" said Arthur
to himself. And taking up the glass he looked through it. Wonderful!
Everything suddenly seemed to become small--just as it does nowadays
when we look through the wrong end of an opera-glass. But Arthur had
never seen an opera-glass, you know; this was so many hundreds of years
ago.

 Arthur looked around the room, and everything had suddenly become so
 tiny that it made him laugh. In the window a huge spider--as big as his
 hand--had been spinning her web. Now she was no larger than a dot. A
 rat scampered across the floor, and as Arthur looked it shrank to the
 size of a fly! A bird flew past the window, singing, and it grew
 smaller as it flew, while its voice became tinier and tinier till it
 sounded like the buzzing of an insect. Amazed, Arthur took down the
 glass from his eye. Instantly everything appeared again of its natural
 size--all except the spider and the rat and the bird. They remained
 tiny as they had seemed through the glass. Arthur had magicked them!

"Ho!" cried Arthur. "This is some of my uncle's Amateur Magic. He had,
indeed, discovered how to make living things grow small. Alas! That
helps me little. I am small enough now. But if only it worked the other
way I might become a giant. What a pity! what a pity! Stay--perhaps if I
reverse the glass something better may be done!"

He was about to turn the glass over and raise it to his eye again, when
he spied a bit of parchment in the box. On it were scribbled some words,
in faded ink.

"A Wondrous Device to Make the Living Small. Thrice More May It be Used
Before Its Virtue Fades."

"Ah!" said Arthur, laying down the glass. "Then, as I feared, the glass
can only make things smaller. But I have an idea! What if I should look
with this glass upon the Dragon of Hushby? Would he not shrink as the
spider and the rat and the bird have done? Yes; and then I should no
longer have need to be a giant, for I could tame him, even I myself in
my proper form! It is a good thought. I may yet be the hero of
Kisington. But I must be careful of the precious glass and not waste its
powers. 'Thrice more may it be used,' so says the scroll. Once, then,
for the Dragon, and two times more for accidents that may happen."

Without more ado Arthur made ready for his great adventure. For arms he
took but two things--the magic glass in his wallet, and a butterfly-net
over his shoulder. In truth, the little fellow looked more like a
schoolboy bound for a holiday in the woods, than a hero in quest of
honor.

Now, first, without saying aught of his intent to any in Kisington, he
journeyed to the Capital City, to gain the King's permission for the
trial.

With the handle of his butterfly-net he thumped upon the door of the
King's palace and said: "Open! I wish to speak with the King!"

The warders looked at him and laughed; he was such a strange little
figure. "What do you want of the King?" they asked.

"Tell him that I come to seek his favor before I go forth to conquer the
Dragon of Hushby."

"Ho, ho!" roared the warders. But they went and told the King what
Arthur said. "He is mad, Your Majesty," they added. "He is a little
fellow, armed with a butterfly-net. Ho, ho!"

The King laughed, too. But he was curious to see this champion. So he
had Arthur admitted. With his net over his shoulder, Arthur marched into
the long hall, between the rows of tittering courtiers, and knelt before
the King. "So you intend to slay the Dragon of Hushby?" said the King.
"It needs a giant for that deed. What will you do, forsooth, you little
fellow, with your butterfly-net?"

"Your Majesty," said Arthur, "do you not remember how David was a little
fellow, when with a stone he slew the giant Goliath? Well, I am another
little fellow; but I have a stone in my pocket with which I mean to tame
a foe more terrible than David's was. And as for this net--wait, and
you shall see!"

"Very well," said the King, laughing, "I will wait and see. But what
reward shall you ask if you are successful?"

"Your Majesty," said Arthur politely, "may I ask to see your daughter? I
have heard that the Dragon-Slayer may hope to win her hand."

At these words of Arthur's the King burst into a roar of laughter, and
clapped his knee, as though it were a mighty joke. And all the courtiers
held their sides and shook with mirth. But Arthur was angry, for he did
not see that he had said anything funny.

"Ho! ho!" roared the King. "Heralds, bid my daughter Agnes to come
hither. He! he! For there is one who wishes to see her. Ha! ha!"

While the room was still echoing with laughter, the heralds entered with
the King's daughter, and Arthur saw why every one had laughed. The
Princess was a giantess,--a head taller than any man present,--and
though she was very beautiful, her face was hard and cold, and she
looked bad-tempered. When she walked, the floor trembled, and when she
spoke, the glasses shivered.

"Who wishes to see me?" she said in a deep voice, crossly.

"Heavens!" said Arthur to himself, "this is a Princess, indeed! It will
be more of a task to tame her than any dragon. But she is very handsome,
and I have my magic glass. When we are married I will turn her into a
nice little girl, just the size for me. So all will be well."

The King pointed to Arthur with his scepter. "Behold our champion," he
said, chuckling. "My daughter, it is for you to hope that this brave
fellow may slay the Dragon of Hushby. For in that case I vow to make you
his wife."

"Huh!" said the Princess, looking down at Arthur and frowning. But
Arthur advanced and made a low bow to her. "For such a great prize, Your
Highness," he said, "a man would venture much."

At these words the Princess looked crosser than ever, and tossed her
head. "Take care that the Dragon does not swallow you at a mouthful,
Dwarf!" she said, very impolitely, and every one laughed.

Arthur turned red with anger. "I will take care," he said. "And I shall
win what I will and conquer where I choose. Farewell, my lady. We shall
have more words hereafter, when I come to claim you for my wife."

"You shall have her if you win her," said the King.

But, of course, no one thought there was any hope for the little fellow.
They believed him to be mad, and when he had gone they nearly died,
laughing at the huge joke. The Princess laughed loudest of all.

Proudly Arthur set forth upon the King's errand, with the magic glass in
his pocket, and the butterfly-net over his shoulder. A number of merry
fellows followed him from the court to see the issue of his mad
adventure. For they thought there would be a thing to laugh at ere the
end of the matter. They jested with Arthur and gibed pleasantly at him.
But he answered them gayly and kept his temper, for he knew that they
meant no harm.

[Illustration: SHE LOOKED BAD-TEMPERED]

But with them journeyed one of a different sort. And this was Oscar, a
burly ruffian, whose joy was in evil, and who followed Arthur hoping for
a chance to rob him, since he seemed a fool who had some precious
treasure in his wallet, which he was forever handling. Him Arthur did
not like, and he watched Oscar, but had no words with him.



V. THE DRAGON OF HUSHBY, PART II

After a time, Arthur and his band came to the town of Hushby, and were
received with wonder; for the people thought them all mad, especially
Arthur, with his butterfly-net and his boast to slay the Dragon. But
they treated him gratefully, as one who sought to be their deliverer,
albeit shaking their heads over his small stature and slender strength.

Arthur slept that night at the inn, intending to seek the Dragon on the
morrow. And about the inn, on benches, on the curbs of Hushby streets,
and under the trees, slept the merry jesters who had followed Arthur
from the King. And Oscar thought to rob Arthur while he slept; but he
was prevented.

In the night came the Dragon down from his cave in the mountain, and
rushing up the village street nearly caught Oscar as he was climbing in
at the window of the inn. Oscar fled barely in time. But the Dragon
caught and ate in one mouthful two of the merry band of jesters, so that
they jested no longer. Then there was a great outcry and panic. But
Arthur slept soundly through it all, dreaming of the Princess, and how
fair she would be when he had made her his wife and had magicked her
with the glass.

In the morning bright and early Arthur came down to table. He found the
landlord and all the people white and trembling.

"Oh, sir!" cried Mine Host in a whisper. "Behold, the Dragon has
descended from the mountain in the darkness and has eaten two of the
King's men this night. His appetite is whetted, and we hear him roaring
afar off. It is a sign that he will soon again make another descent upon
us. In the name of St. George, haste to save us!"

Arthur listened and heard the far-off thunder of the loathly worm. But
he did not tremble. He only drew himself up to his last inch and
frowned, fingering the magic glass in his wallet.

"First will I breakfast," he said. "And then will I go forth to rid you
of this pest. Bring on the morning meal."

When he had eaten heartily, even to the last crumb, Arthur arose and
took his butterfly-net in hand.

"Farewell, noble youth!" cried Mine Host, with tears in his eyes. For
Arthur had paid his score generously, and the landlord did not expect to
see the little fellow again. The landlord's fair daughter, Margot, stood
weeping, with the corner of her apron to her eyes. For she admired the
brave lad mightily. She was a very little maid, no taller than Arthur's
shoulder, and he looked at her kindly when he saw her weep.

"What a fair, sweet maid!" he said to himself. "If it were not for the
King's daughter, I would choose her for my Lady, and ask her to give me
the blue ribbon from her hair to wear in my cap. But that may not be. I
must win glory for the King's big daughter."

He patted Margot on the head and said debonairly: "Farewell! And have a
goodly dinner ready against my return. For I shall bring with me a
Dragon's appetite."

So he spoke, jesting upon the terrible subject. Margot wept harder than
ever, and his other hearers shuddered. Some of the people followed him
afar off. But when, nearer and nearer, they heard the Dragon's roars
shaking the hills, they turned about and fled back to the village,
leaving Arthur to go his way alone.

Arthur was not afraid. He strode on manfully until he came to the valley
which led up the mountain where the Dragon lived. And as he strode he
whistled. Presently there was a roar and a rumble and a rattle,   and
Arthur stopped whistling. Nearer and nearer it came, and at last, down
from the rocks writhed the terrible Dragon himself. And he was far worse
to look upon than Arthur had imagined.

He was as big as twenty elephants, and he was green, covered with
shining scales. His eyes glowed like the head-lights of two engines, and
revolved horribly in his head. Steam and fire belched from his huge
mouth, and he snapped his long, sharp teeth disgustingly. He was a
terrifying sight as he writhed toward Arthur. Dreadfully he roared,
lashing right and left with his tail, which uprooted the trees and
bushes and dislodged the rocks on either hand till they came tumbling
down in an avalanche. His hot breath scorched everything about him, and
Arthur began to feel faint by reason of the poison in it. But he stood
quite still, waiting for the Dragon, and fingering his magic glass. It
was to be a mighty experiment.

Arthur waited until the Dragon was only a few yards away. Then he put
the glass to his eye and stared hard at the beast; stared, and stared,
and stared.

Such rudeness made the Dragon very angry. He roared louder than ever and
came rushing toward Arthur at redoubled speed. But behold! As Arthur
gazed at him the creature began to grow smaller and smaller. First he
was no bigger than an elephant, though still terrible. Then he shrank to
the size of a crocodile; then of a lion; and finally, when he was only a
few feet away, he was no bigger than a cat, snarling and spitting
fiercely as ever.

By this time the Dragon began to see that something was wrong. He did
not know that he himself was changed, but it seemed to him that Arthur
had swelled. It seemed to him that Arthur was a terrible giant; and, for
the first time in his five thousand years of life, the Dragon was
afraid!

Suddenly he turned tail and began to run away, all the while growing
littler and littler in quite a ridiculous fashion. But Arthur was after
him valiantly. Now the Dragon was no bigger than a lizard, making a
funny squeak as he wriggled through the bushes. His eyes shone like tiny
lucifer matches, and his mouth smoked like a cigarette. But for this it
would have been hard to see him as he scuttled through the moss and
under the ferns, trying to escape from Arthur's terrible eye.

At last Arthur saw that it was high time to lay aside the magic glass,
unless he wished the Dragon to escape by "going out" altogether, which
would never do. For he must take the creature back to the King.

Now was seen the use of the butterfly-net which Arthur had brought all
the way from Kisington. With this in his right hand Arthur chased the
absurd little Dragon under a stone, and finally threw it over the
wriggling body, just as one would catch an insect. Hurrah! There was the
creature tangled in the net, hissing as loudly as a locust. The terrible
Dragon of Hushby was caught!

Arthur took from his wallet a reel of thread and tied the Dragon
securely, so that he might not escape. And then, chuckling to himself,
he strode back to Hushby pulling the Dragon behind him, just as a little
boy drags a toy horse by a string. It was a very funny sight!

When he drew near the inn, Margot ran out to meet him with tears of joy
in her eyes, for she had been watching for him all this time. Then all
the other people came running out, and they cheered lustily when they
saw that Arthur was quite unharmed.

"But what of the Dragon?" they said.

"This of the Dragon!" cried Arthur, drawing from behind him the
struggling creature. "Here is the famous Terror of Hushby. Behold what I
have done to him!"

Folk could scarce believe their eyes. This wriggling little lizard,
could he really be their famous Dragon? Then they saw his tiny, fiery
eyes, and the smoke coming from his funny little mouth; and they knew it
must be a really, truly Dragon. A great silence fell upon them, and
every one looked at Arthur in awe. They believed that he must be a
wizard who had magicked the Dragon of Hushby. But after that they fell
to rejoicing, because now no longer had they anything to fear. Arthur
had become the hero of Hushby.

They set him on a seat and carried him on their shoulders around the
village, with singing and shouting and huzzaing. And the Dragon went
with him, spitting and hissing and lashing his absurd little scaly tail
inside a cage made of fine wire. Arthur enjoyed all this greatly. But
especially he enjoyed the eyes of little Margot, which followed him,
full of admiration. And he said to himself, "It is a fine thing to be a
hero. But I wish I had not asked for the King's daughter as my reward. I
could choose better now!"

When night came Arthur slept once more at the inn, with the Dragon in
his little cage beside the bed. Arthur slept soundly, because he was
happy and his heart was honest. But the conquered Dragon did not sleep.
You see, his conscience was bad,--he had eaten so many poor and
deserving persons. And that gives the worst kind of indigestion.

There was another who did not sleep. And this was Oscar, the wicked. He
had seen the Dragon when Arthur showed him to the people, and he knew
that the strange little beast was a treasure worth far more than gold or
jewels. For there was not another like it in the whole world. He meant
to steal the miniature Dragon and carry it to a far land, where he could
exhibit it in a museum and gain much wealth and honor. Of course, Oscar
meant also to claim that this was a young Dragon which he had taken in a
brave struggle with its parents, whom Oscar had killed. In that way, he
would become a famous hero.

In the dead of night, when all the inn was quiet, Oscar softly climbed
up the trellis to the window of the room where Arthur slept. In the
darkness two tiny red spots showed him where the Dragon writhed and
wriggled restlessly. Stealthily Oscar reached out his hand to take the
Dragon. But when he did so the Dragon gave a hiss which he meant should
shake the house, but which really was no louder than the chirp of a
cricket. It was loud enough, however, to waken Arthur. The hero sprang
from the bed to guard his treasure.

Oscar drew his dagger and rushed upon Arthur. But Arthur had been
careful to sleep with his hand upon his trusty weapon. Swiftly he put
the magic glass to his eye and looked at Oscar. And lo! the wicked man
shared the Dragon's fate. Gradually he shrank and shrank, and though he
struck fiercely with his dagger it was of little moment; for Oscar was
soon but two inches high, and his dagger's prick was like that of a pin,
which made Arthur laugh.

Arthur was merciful, and did not put him out entirely, as he could
easily have done. Dropping the glass from his eye he picked up in his
thumb and finger the little fellow, struggling like a beetle, and put
him under an overturned pint-pot for safe keeping. There Oscar remained
until morning, a restless neighbor of the restless Dragon.

But Arthur said to himself, "I have used the magic glass twice. I must
be careful, for it can be used only once more before its virtue fades;
and that chance must be saved to make my Princess little, since, alas! I
must marry her and not dear Margot." Then Arthur went back to bed and
slept soundly until morning.

On the morrow Arthur said nothing about this night's event to Mine Host
nor to the admiring crowd who came to see him set forth on his
triumphant journey to the King. He tied Oscar with thread and put him
into his wallet, where the wicked fellow snarled and scolded in a chirp
that no one could hear. As for the Dragon, Arthur fastened a tiny gold
chain about his neck and secured it to his doublet, so that the creature
could crawl up and down his shoulder but could not get away. He looked
like one of the little chameleons which ladies sometimes wear; though
why they like such unhappy living ornaments I cannot tell.



VI. THE DRAGON OF HUSHBY, PART III

Amid hurrahs and blessings and a rain of flowers, Arthur said farewell
to Margot, who loved him, and to Hushby, which he had delivered from the
Terror; and once more he journeyed to the King. But this time he went as
a hero, whose fame had traveled before him.

The King sent heralds and soldiers to meet him, and a golden chariot to
bring him to the city. When Arthur reached the palace he found a great
banquet prepared, and the King himself came to welcome him and led him
to the place of honor. But the Princess Agnes was not there.

As for the Dragon, every one was mad with delight over the wonderful
little creature. When the King saw him he laughed so that his crown
nearly fell into the soup. He delighted to tickle the Dragon's tail and
hear him spit and hiss like a little tea-kettle. He liked the Dragon
much better in this small edition, for he was more conveniently handled.
They placed the Dragon's cage in the center of the table, where every
one could see him, and the Dragon glared fiercely with his little red
eyes, but no one was afraid. How times had changed since this was the
Terror of Hushby!

Then the King said: "Brave Arthur, this Dragonet is the choicest
treasure of my kingdom. I will keep him in a cage of gold beside my
throne, and strangers will come from the ends of the world to see him.
It will make my reign famous for all time, and I am very grateful to
you. You are a clever fellow, and perhaps, since you have tamed a
Dragon, you can tame my daughter as no one else has been able to do,--
not even the late Queen or myself. Now, then, to keep my promise. What
ho, heralds! Lead forth the maid."

The heralds blew a joyous blast on their trumpets and went to fetch the
Princess Agnes. Arthur found himself thinking of little Margot at the
inn, and how sadly she had looked after him when he went away. But he
knew that, being a hero, he must accept the responsibilities of that
position and marry the Princess. He felt nervously in his wallet for the
magic glass, for he said to himself:

"Since I must marry this giantess, between whom and me is little love,
let me be sure that I can make her small like myself; else there will be
no happiness in my family. As soon as we are wed I will stare at the big
girl until she shrinks into the proper size, as did Oscar and the
Dragon."

Arthur felt into the corners of his wallet for the magic glass--but it
was not there! Hurriedly he searched again. It was gone! What was to be
done? Must he, then, marry the giant girl and be a slave to her cruel
temper all his life? Horrible thought! What had become of the glass?
Suddenly he remembered Oscar, who had also been put into the wallet.
Oscar likewise was gone!

Arthur saw what had happened. With his little dagger Oscar had cut the
threads which bound him and had escaped, taking the magic glass with
him.

"What makes your face so pale, brave Arthur?" asked the King jokingly.
"Is it the thought of your dainty little bride?"

Even as Arthur opened his lips to answer, there came a shrill cry from
beneath his very nose. Looking down he saw Oscar standing on the table
and peering over his beaker of wine. In both arms he held the magic
glass, and he was turning its shining eye upon Arthur himself.

"Revenge!" cried the little fellow, fiercely. "Revenge! I have learned
his secret. I will gaze him smaller and smaller, until he goes out.
Nothing can save him!"

Before Arthur could move, Oscar pressed his face to the glass and began
to stare as through a window, his malicious eyes fixed upon Arthur's
face. With horror Arthur waited to feel himself shrink. He looked about
fearfully at the other guests, expecting to see them appear to swell
into giants as he himself grew tiny. He stared at Oscar again, who
should now seem larger than himself.

But what was this? Nothing happened. The guests were staring
open-mouthed with surprise, but they were of the usual size, Oscar was
still a tiny dwarf. Arthur rubbed his eyes and looked again. Still
nothing happened. The glass seemed to have lost its magic!

Suddenly, Arthur saw what it meant. The magic of the glass was to last
only for three trials. Once, before he knew its worth, he had wasted it
upon the spider, the rat, and the singing bird. Once the Dragon had felt
its power. Its third and last spell had turned Oscar into a midget. Now
its virtue was gone. It was but a piece of ordinary crystal, and Oscar's
wicked plan was foiled!

With a squeal of rage Oscar threw the glass crashing upon the floor, and
stamped his foot, which made everybody laugh. It was as if a tiny mouse
had stamped.

The King stretched out his hand and took up the little fellow curiously.
"What is this strange insect?" he asked. "Your Majesty," said Arthur,
"he is Oscar, a villain who seeks to mischief everybody. I have punished
him as I punished the Dragon, because he tried to rob me of my most
precious treasure. He can do no more harm, I think."

"Oscar!" said the King. "Indeed, I know him well. More than once has he
done evil in my city, and I have long meant to punish him. You are a
clever fellow to handle him so tactfully. And now, we will dub him
'Companion of the Dragon.' He, too, shall have a little cage of gold and
shall live with the Dragon for his neighbor. A quaint pair they, Arthur!
I thank you for them. But where is my daughter, and why does she delay?"

With horror Arthur heard these words. He had forgotten the Princess.
Alas! The glass had lost its power. How then was he to magic her and
make her small, as he had hoped to do? How was he to tame this terrible
big girl and make her a nice little wife? Arthur wished that he had
never set out to be a hero; he awaited the approach of his bride with
terror far greater than he had felt in the Dragon's glen.

Presently the heralds came back to the King, and their faces were very
grave. "Your Majesty," they said, "we cannot bring the Princess. She has
gone; she has fled from the Kingdom with the first royal coachman, who
was a handsome young giant after her own heart. Even now they must be
far beyond the border of the neighboring Kingdom. She was heard to say
that she would have no dwarf for a husband, however great a hero he
might be. And when she knew what had happened to the Dragon of Hushby,
she was afraid."

There was silence in the banquet hall. Then the King struck a blow on
the table with his fist that made the Dragon hop and hiss nervously,
while Oscar fell over and bumped his head on a salt cellar. "Well," said
the King, "so be it! She was an ill-tempered jade, and I could do
nothing with her. You are well rid of her, brave Arthur. But how can I
amend this insult to your dignity? Ask of me whatever you choose, and it
will not be enough."

Now, instead of looking sad, Arthur's face was shining with joy at his
narrow escape. "Your Majesty," he said, "I ask no amend. The lady had a
right to her choice, and I hope she may have a giant happiness. Since
this royal marriage may not be for me, I must look elsewhere. But I have
had enough of adventure and of magic, and I shall now retire into
private life."

"Some reward you must have, nevertheless," said the King. "You shall
retire nobly. Arise, Sir Arthur! I make you Knight of the Dragon, Lord
of the Hushby Marches, and Earl of Kisington. Moreover, whomsoever and
wheresoever you choose to wed, I myself will attend the nuptials and
will bestow upon the bride a countess's crown of diamonds. Long live the
hero of Hushby and Earl of Kisington!"

"Long live the hero of Hushby and Earl of Kisington!" echoed all the
guests. The Dragon hissed spitefully and lashed out with his tail, but
no one paid any attention to him. Oscar, sulking with elbows on knees,
groaned squeakily. But no one paid any attention to him either.

Everybody was thinking of Arthur, and how wonderfully he had become a
hero. But Arthur himself was thinking of little Margot at the inn, and
how sweet her face would look under the coronet of a countess. And
Arthur grinned happily.



VII. BARGAIN

You must not suppose that Harold read this whole story to the besieging
King without pause.  When he reached the end of the first part of the
tale, Harold closed the red-and-gold volume and looked up.

"Go on!" urged the Red King. "Why do you stop, boy?"

"It is the end of the volume," said Harold.

Red Rex frowned. "Surely, not the end of the tale!" he cried. "Why, you
have stopped short in the middle! That Oscar was up to some trick, I
know. I want to hear what happened next."

"I am sorry, Your Majesty," repeated Harold. "It is the end of the
volume. The rest of the tale is told in another book."

The Red King's eyes blazed with anger. "Why did you not bring the other
book with you?" he roared.

"I was not sure that Your Majesty would like the tale," said Harold.
"Besides, they will allow one to take from the library but one book at a
time from a set of volumes."

"Then you must return and get the next volume immediately," commanded
Red Rex. "I must know what happened to Arthur in his quest of the
Dragon. Take the flag of truce and go back to Kisington; and let it not
be long ere you return!"

"I am sorry, Your Majesty," said Harold, "but it is too late to take out
another book to-day. The rules of the library are very strict."

"Now, did any one ever hear anything so absurd as this!" thundered the
Red King, stamping like a bad-tempered child. "What is a mere library,
forsooth, to have rules which I may not break?"

"You have rules for your army, do you not?" suggested Harold.

"I should say, verily!" growled Red Rex; "strict, stern rules."

"Well, a library is an army of books," answered Harold; "a peaceful army
intended to help people and to make them happy; not to kill them. Our
noble Librarian, who is general of a mighty army of books, must have
rules as stern and strict to keep his army useful and efficient. If Your
Majesty desires the rest of the tale you must wait until to-morrow."

"I will destroy the whole town first!" roared the angry King.

"Then you will never learn the end of the tale," retorted Harold.

It looked as if Harold were in great danger, in spite of the flag of
truce. Red Rex stormed and ranted, and his soldiers stood ready with
their weapons to do whatever he should bid them. But after a while the
warrior's wrath somewhat calmed itself, and shortly he began to chuckle
noisily.

"True!" he said. "If I destroy the library I shall not know the end of
that tale. That would be a calamity! Well, it is now too late to resume
the siege to-day. I may as well continue the truce until to-morrow. But
see that you return early in the morning, with the rest of the tale."

Once more Harold shook his head. "I must go to Church to-morrow
morning," he replied. "It is Sunday, you know. Surely, you do not fight
on Sundays, Your Majesty?"

The Red King looked at him sideways. "I had forgotten Sunday," he said.
"I have mislaid my calendar. Now, you remind me,--no, I suppose not. No,
I do not fight on Sundays."

"I thought not!" said Harold, relieved. "It would not be quite knightly,
would it? I will return to-morrow afternoon, as soon as I have had my
dinner; and then we will go on with the story of the Dragon of Hushby.
Good day, Your Majesty!"

"Good day!" growled Red Rex, watching him march away between the files
of soldiers. "Youngster!" he called after the boy, "be sure you bring
back the right volume."

Harold waved his hand in assent.

Now, when Harold told the Librarian and the other Leading Citizens what
he had done, they were greatly pleased; for they saw that their city was
safe for at least eighteen hours, while their mounted messenger went
speeding to King Victor. Harold's chums Robert and Richard were so
excited they could not sleep that night. Harold's mother was as proud as
a peacock when he told the story to her; though it was with some dread
that she looked forward to his return on the morrow into the camp of the
fierce besieger. But Harold said:--

"I shall be quite safe, Mother. Never fear! Red Rex is too much
interested in my story to hurt me. When he forgets war he is a different
man. He is almost pleasant, Mother!"

"What a stupid King he must be to choose war for his pleasure!" said
the mother. "But suppose he cannot wait for to-morrow afternoon? Suppose
he should decide to take the city and win the library for himself, so
that he can read all the books at his leisure. What then?

"Mother," said Harold, "I believe Red Rex has no joy in reading for
himself; no more than you have,--though he may not have your excuse."

"La la!" cried the mother. "What a King is that who has no key to the
treasury of books! You are richer than he, my son. With all his armies,
you are more powerful than he, my dear son!"

On the Sunday, after dinner, Harold's friends escorted him to the gate;
and as before he went to the Red King under the flag of truce. In his
hand he bore the second volume of red-and-gold. Red Rex received him
sulkily, yet with a certain eagerness.

"Well, boy, have you brought the book?" he asked. "I have been thinking
of that tale all the night long, all this morning long. Come, let us
hear what happened next to Arthur and the Dragon." Then Harold began the
second part of the tale. Red Rex kept him at it, and would not let him
rest until he had quite finished both the second and the third parts of
the story; though Harold had meant to gain time by reading only the
former on that occasion.

But when he had quite finished, Red Rex sat up, rubbing his hands
together. "It is a good story!" he declared. "That Arthur was a brave
fellow. I am glad I did not destroy your library until I had heard about
him. But now I can return to the siege without delay. I give you
warning, my boy! Do not go back to that doomed town. Desert those
peace-lovers and come with me to be a fighter, like Arthur."

"Arthur fought wicked Dragons, not men," said Harold. "I would not
desert if I could. I, too, am a peace-lover, and there is too much in
Kisington from which I could not part. Besides, I must return this book
safe and sound to the library, even if it is to be destroyed soon after,
or I shall be fined. My poor mother can ill afford to pay fines for me!"

"But there will be no one left to fine you," retorted the Red King. "The
whole city will be destroyed,--the library, the Librarian, the Lord
Mayor, and all! What a ruination it will be!" He rubbed his hands
gleefully.

Harold shuddered, but he was firm. "What a pity!" he said. "You really
should know our Librarian. And there are still many fine books which
Your Majesty ought to hear. You will never know them if they be
destroyed now; their duplicates exist nowhere."

"There are none so good as the tale you have just finished, I warrant!"
cried Red Rex.

"Oh, many far better than that, Your Majesty!" said Harold. "Indeed,
that is one of the least important.--Did you ever hear of the
Wonder-Garden, Your Majesty?"

"The Wonder-Garden!" echoed the Red King; "no, that I never did. What
means a 'wonder-garden,' boy?"

"Ah, that you will never know, for it is another of the secret tales of
Kisington," said Harold. "It is all about a Mermaid, and a Lord Mayor's
son, and a fair stranger maiden, who--now I bethink me--might be from
your own land across the border. The Wonder-Garden was hers."

"A maid from my land, with a wonder-garden!" mused Red Rex. "I would
fain learn of her. I dare say there is good fighting in this tale also.
Come, boy; will you read me that tale to-morrow?"

"Yes, Your Majesty; if you will give your kingly word that the truce
shall last until the story be finished," replied Harold.

"Ho-hum!" the Red King hesitated. He mumbled and he grumbled; he winked
and he blinked. But at last he said grudgingly, "Well, I promise. No
soldier shall advance, no weapon shall be discharged until I have heard
the tale of your Wonder-Garden."

With this promise, Harold joyfully hastened back to the beleaguered
city. Kisington was safe for another day! The Lord Mayor and the
Librarian shook hands and went to congratulate Harold's mother.

As for Red Rex, he dreamed that Harold had bewitched him with a
red-and-gold book; as perhaps he had done. Were not Richard and Robert
at that moment clapping Harold on the shoulder and declaring that he was
indeed a "Book-Wizard"? This is the tale which Harold read to Red Rex on
the following day; the story of _The Wonder-Garden_.



VIII.  THE WONDER-GARDEN

There never were seen such beautiful gardens as bloomed in
Kisington-by-the-Sea. Not only every chateau and villa had its parterres
spread with blooming rugs of all colors; but each white-washed cottage,
every thatched hut, boasted its garden-plot of dainty posies. Each had
some quaint device or some special beauty which distinguished it from
the others. For there was great horticultural rivalry in
Kisington-by-the-Sea.

Now this was all because Hugh, the Lord Mayor, who was very fond of
flowers, had offered a prize for the prettiest garden in the town. The
Lord Mayor himself lived on a hill in the center of the town, in the
midst of the most beautiful garden of all. It flowed down the hillside
from the summit in ripples of radiant color,--roses and lilies, pinks
and daffodils, larkspur and snapdragon. All the flowers of the land were
there, and many foreigners beside.

Through the garden wound the yellow driveway by which the Lord Mayor
passed in his golden coach. He loved to drive slowly down this road,
sniffing the fragrance of his flowers; and then out through the streets
of the town, observing the beautiful gardens on every hand,--the result
of his own love for flowers.

When the Lord Mayor saw all the fair maidens down on their knees in the
flower-beds, watering the buds with their little green water-pots,
nipping off dead leaves, pulling up scrawny weeds, coaxing the delicate
creepers to climb, he would rub his hands and say:--

"Ah, this is good! This is very good indeed! We shall have the most
beautiful town in the world, blossoming with flowers, and the most
beautiful maids in the world, blossoming with health and sweetness like
the flowers they tend. It will be hard to tell which is the fairer, the
maidens or the flowers. Hey! Is it not so, my son?"

Then he would chuckle and poke in the ribs the young man who rode beside
him.

The Lord Mayor's son was very good to look upon; tall and fair, with
curly golden locks and eyes as brown as the heart of a yellow daisy.
When he drove through the town with the Lord Mayor, the maidens down on
their knees in their garden-plots would pause a moment from their chase
of a wriggling worm or a sluggish slug to look after the golden coach
and sigh gently. Then they would turn back to their Bowers more eagerly
than before. For there was the prize!

[Illustration:  THE MAIDENS WOULD PAUSE TO LOOK AFTER THE GOLDEN COACH]

You see, the Lord Mayor's son was himself part of the prize to be won.
The Lord Mayor had vowed that Cedric, his son, should marry the girl who
could show by late summer the most beautiful garden in
Kisington-by-the-Sea. Moreover, he promised to build a fine palace to
overlook this prize garden, and there the young couple should live happy
ever after, like any Prince and Princess. And this was why the maids
worked so hard in the gardens of Kisington-by-the-Sea, and why the
flowers blossomed there as no flowers ever blossomed before.

Now one day the Lord Mayor drove through the village in his golden coach
and came out upon the downs near the seashore. And there, quite by
itself, he found a little cottage which he had never before seen: a tiny
cottage which had no sign of a garden anywhere about it,--only a few
flowers growing in cracked pots on the window-sills, and on the bench
just outside the door.

"What!" cried the Lord Mayor, stopping the coach. "What does this mean?
There should be a garden here. I must look to the reason for this
contempt of my offer." And he jumped down from the coach and rapped
sharply upon the door.

Presently the door opened, and there stood a girl, all in rags, but so
beautiful that the Lord Mayor's son, who was sitting languidly in the
golden coach, shut his eyes as one does when a great light shines
suddenly in one's face.

"Hey!" cried the Lord Mayor, frowning. "Why have you no garden, girl?
Have you no pride? Do you not dream to win the prize which I offer?"

"I am a stranger," said the maiden timidly. "No one has told me of a
prize. What may it be, my Lord?"

"It is a prize worth trying for," said the Lord Mayor. "The hand of my
son there, and the finest palace in the land for the mistress of the
prize garden. Does that thought please you, girl? If not, you are
different from all the other maidens."

The girl lifted her eyes to the golden coach and met the gaze of Cedric
fixed upon her. "I love flowers," she said. "I had once a little garden
in my old home. But now I am too poor to buy plants and bulbs and
seedlings. How, then, shall I make a garden to please Your Lordship?"

"I will send you plants and bulbs and seedlings," said the Lord Mayor's
son, leaning forward eagerly. "You must make haste, for September will
soon be here, when the gardens will be judged."

"Thank you, fair sir," said the girl. "I shall love my garden dearly, if
you will help me."

Now when the Lord Mayor and his son had returned home, Cedric hastened
to keep his promise. For Gerda was the fairest maid in Kisington-by-the
Sea, and already he loved her so dearly that he hoped she would win the
prize and become his wife. He sent her the most beautiful flowers that
he could find, and transplanted from his father's garden its choicest
seedlings; he brought shrubs from the city market.

The meadow between Gerda's cottage and the sea was transformed as if by
magic, and became a mass of rare and lovely flowers. The choicest
foreign plants, the gayest native blooms, the shyest wild posies, all
were at home in Gerda's lovely garden over which the sea-breeze blew.
But Gerda herself was the fairest flower of them all. She watched and
cared for her garden tenderly, and like the garden she grew fairer every
day, she was so happy. She did not know how the other gardens grew, for
she did not go to see. But sometimes the Lord Mayor's son came,
disguised as a gardener, to see how the flowers fared. And he said that
she had the most beautiful garden in all Kisington-by-the-Sea, and he
hoped that she would win the prize; which was very encouraging.

No one else knew about Gerda's garden. It was far from town, and no one
dreamed that a stranger had come to live there. Besides, the neighbors
were so busy, each with her own affairs, that they had no time to go
about or ask questions, or gossip; which was a good thing.

No, I am wrong. One person had discovered the open secret. In a villa
not far from the Lord Mayor's house dwelt a Countess who was very rich
and proud. Until Gerda came she had boasted the finest garden in
Kisington, after the Lord Mayor's, made by a whole army of gardeners
whom she kept at her command. She was quite sure of winning the prize,
and it made her very gay, though she cared nothing at all about flowers.
She left all the care of her garden to her gardeners and scarcely ever
wandered down its lovely walks. But she longed to marry the Lord Mayor's
son and live in a palace. It was the palace that she coveted as a prize,
and the honor of being the Lord Mayor's daughter; to ride in the golden
coach!

She cared no more about Cedric himself than she did for her lovely
flowers.

One day this Countess, who had very sharp eyes, spied the Lord Mayor's
son, in his disguise, going past her villa with his arms full of curious
flowers such as were never before seen in Kisington-by-the-Sea. And
because she had unusually sharp eyes the Countess knew who he was.
"Aha!" she said to herself. "This is strange! Cedric is meddling with
some garden. I must look into this!" Secretly she followed Cedric
through the village and out to the seashore until he came to Gerda's
garden. And there she saw him walking with the fair stranger up and down
among the flowers. The secret was discovered.

The Countess was a very wicked woman. When she looked over the
transformed meadow and saw the beautiful garden which Gerda had made,
she nearly died of rage. She knew at once that against this one her own
garden had no chance of winning the prize. She stamped her feet in
jealous fury and cried:--

"She shall not have the palace! She shall not ride in the golden coach!
She shall not marry the Lord Mayor's son! I will see that she shall
not!"

The Countess stole home with wicked wishes in her heart and wicked plans
in her head. The next day but one was the day of the award, so she had
no time to lose. That night when every one was asleep she crept out of
her villa and along the road by which she had followed the Lord Mayor's
son, to Gerda's garden. Everything was quiet and peaceful. The flowers
looked very fair in the moonlight, breathing drowsy perfumes. But the
wicked woman cared nothing at all for them. Taking a great pair of
shears from her cloak she moved quickly in and out among the garden
beds, cutting and slashing the precious flowers and trampling them under
foot.

When she had finished her cruel work, not a single bud lifted its head
from the ruin.   The flower-beds looked as though a tempest had swept
over them. Poor Gerda's garden was quite destroyed! The Countess
chuckled as she hurried home through the night: "We shall see now who
wins the prize!"

The next day Cedric thought that he would visit the garden of sweet
Gerda in which he had taken such an interest. Dressed in his gardener's
green smock he went through the town, whistling happily as any yokel.
But when he reached the little cottage by the sea, he ceased to whistle.
Gerda was sitting upon the doorstone weeping bitterly.

"What is the matter, Gerda?" asked Cedric anxiously, and he sought to
comfort her. She could only sob:--

"Oh! My dear garden! Oh! My poor flowers!"

With a sinking heart Cedric ran to the garden close, and there he saw
all the ruin that the wicked Countess had wrought.

"Alas! Who has done this?" he cried. But Gerda could not tell.

Cedric's heart was nearly broken. For he loved Gerda so dearly that he
thought he could not live if another should win the prize. To-morrow
would be the day that would determine his fate. What could they do?
Suddenly he had an idea.

"Farewell, Gerda!" he cried, and without another word he strode away.

Then Gerda wept more bitterly than ever. She thought that the Lord
Mayor's son was angry with her because her garden was destroyed. This
was worse even than the loss of her flowers.

But Cedric was far from angry with her. He had gone away in order to
think and plan. He had one hope. He remembered that he had a friend who
had once promised to help him in his time of trouble. The time had come.

That very night when the moon rose over the water, Cedric went down to
the sea and stood upon a rock and recited this charm:--

  "Mermaid, Mermaid, rise from the sea!
   I am in trouble. Hasten to me!"

Hardly had he spoken the words when there was a little ripple in the
water at his feet, and a beautiful Mermaid appeared, clinging to the
rock over which the waves dashed prettily in the moonlight. And she
said:--

"Lord Mayor's son, you have spoken the charm which I taught you, and I
have come from the bottom of the sea. I have not forgotten how once a
cruel fisherman caught me in his net, and how you had pity on me and
took me to the ocean and set me free. Then I promised to help you, if
ever you should be in trouble. What is your grief, Lord Mayor's son?"

Then Cedric told her about Gerda's garden and its mishap. "Ah! She must
be the sweet, ragged maid who used to sit upon the rocks and gaze down
into my ocean," said the Mermaid. "She has a good heart and loves the
sea. Early this morning I heard her weeping bitterly for her lost
flowers and for you. She loves you dearly, Lord Mayor's son, and I love
you both. What shall I do to help you?"

"Dear Mermaid," said Cedric eagerly, "can you find out the cruel person
who has destroyed Gerda's garden? And can you restore the garden itself
before to-morrow? I ask these two things of you."

"It is easy to find the jealous woman," said the Mermaid. "Her you will
know at the right time. But the garden is another matter. However, I
will do my best for the two whom I love. And now, farewell!" With that
word she slid down the rocks, and in a little splash of spray vanished
into the sea.

*****

Now came the day when the Lord Mayor was to judge the gardens of
Kisington-by-the-Sea. In all the towers the bells were ringing merrily,
and on every side the flowers and the fair maidens were blooming their
brightest. Through the town rode the Lord Mayor in his golden coach
drawn by six prancing white steeds, their necks wreathed with flowers;
and behind followed a great rout of townsfolk, eager to see the gardens
judged. In the Lord Mayor's coach sat Cedric by his father's side. He
was dressed all in white, as became a bridegroom, and in his hands he
carried a huge bouquet of white roses. His cheeks were white, too, for
he was anxious to know what this day should bring, and what maiden was
to receive the bridal bouquet.

Through the town the merry procession moved, and stopped in turn before
each garden, at the gate of which a sweet maid waited, her little heart
going pit-a-pat beneath her prettiest gown. The Lord Mayor inspected
each garden carefully, making notes in a little white-and-gold book. And
each fair maiden gazed at the handsome Cedric and hoped that the Lord
Mayor was writing down her name to be his daughter-in-law!

But all the gardens were so beautiful that it seemed impossible to
choose between them. In each the Lord Mayor looked and looked, smiled
and nodded,--"Very good! Very good, indeed! Beautiful, beautiful,
beautiful! I am truly proud of the fair flowers and the fair maids of
Kisington-by-the-Sea. Surely, never such were seen before!"

Then he noted his little memorandum, made a low bow to the maiden, and
mounting into the golden coach, whirled away to the next garden. At
last, when they had gone quite around the village, they came to the
villa of the wicked Countess. The crowd murmured admiringly. There was
no doubt about it; hers was certainly the finest garden of all. When the
Lord Mayor saw the gay parterres and fountains, the shady alleys and
cool grottoes, the wonderful flowers and shrubs growing luxuriantly
everywhere, he clapped his hands with pleasure and said:--

"Ah! This is Paradise, indeed! Here surely we must look for our bride.
Countess, I congratulate you!"

The Countess was dressed in a most costly gown of white satin and
velvet, as though she were sure beforehand that she was to be the bride.
She arched her neck and smiled maliciously at the Lord Mayor's son, in
whose eyes was no love for her.

"I shall be proud, indeed, to ride in your golden coach!" she said.

Cedric had grown very white, and he looked at the Countess with disgust.
She was so much less fair than Gerda, and her eyes so wicked! Must he
marry her, after all? Yes, unless the Mermaid had wrought a miracle in
Gerda's ruined garden. To that hope he still clung. "Father," he said
earnestly, "before you judge that this lady has won the prize, remember
that there is one more garden to visit. Have you forgotten the stranger
maiden who lives beside the sea, and how you bade her make a garden as
the other maids were doing? Let us first go there, for she may be
waiting."

"Ho, ho!" laughed the Lord Mayor; "I had in truth forgotten the pretty
beggar. It is absurd to dream that she should have a garden worth
visiting after that of our Countess here. Yet we will go to see, and do
her justice."

The Countess laughed shrilly. "A beggar's garden!" she cried. "That
must, indeed, be a wondrous sight!"

"Do you come with us, my lady," said the Lord Mayor politely. "Sit here
by my son's side in the Lord Mayor's coach. For I trow that here will
soon be your rightful place as his bride."

Now it pleased the Countess to ride in the Lord Mayor's coach; and it
pleased her more that she was to see the shame of Gerda and the
disappointment of Cedric when Gerda's pitiful little garden should be
judged. So with a great rustle of satin and lace she gave her hand to
the Lord Mayor and mounted proudly into the golden coach. But Cedric sat
beside her pale and silent, little like a happy bridegroom. With a
snapping of whips and tooting of horns off they went, rattling through
the streets of the town, out over the downs toward the sea.

Behind them followed the townsfolk in a great crowd, wondering
exceedingly whither the Lord Mayor was leading them. For they knew of no
garden here. Presently, with another flourish and a cracking of whips,
amid the barking of dogs and the shouts of little boys, the Lord Mayor's
coach drew up in front of the tiny cottage by the sea. And the people
wondered more than ever. For there was no garden anywhere to be seen.

The Lord Mayor alighted, chuckling as if it were all a great joke, and
helped down the Countess, who was grinning maliciously. Last of all
Cedric descended and stood waiting while the Lord Mayor with his staff
knocked three times upon the door.

Presently the door opened, and there stood Gerda, dressed all in a gown
of sea-green silk, with a string of pearls about her neck and a pink
coral wreath in her hair. She was so beautiful that all the people in
the crowd cried "Oh!" with a sound like the wind in the top of a pine
tree, and the Lord Mayor himself fell back a step, staring in surprise.
The Countess turned saffron yellow and bit her lips with envy; but still
she smiled; for she knew what she had done to Gerda's garden.

As for Cedric, he stood and gazed as though his eyes were glued to fair
Gerda's face, until after a bashful silence of a moment she spoke.

"You have come to see my garden," she said. "It is not like other
gardens, but I think it is very beautiful. Will you come with me?"

She led them around the cottage to the meadow beside the sea where once
had been the beautiful little garden which the Countess had destroyed.
But what was this? Where were the lawns and hedges and beds of flowers?
Where was the green grass? Gone! Over the spot lay a sheet of rippling
water, reflecting the Summer sky.

"What does this mean?" said the Lord Mayor, turning sternly to Gerda. "I
ask to see a garden, and you show me a pool of water. Girl, do you jest
at the Lord Mayor?"

"Nevertheless, this is my garden, sir," answered Gerda gently, "and a
fair garden I think you will find it, if you deign to look closely."

"Nonsense!" said the Lord Mayor crossly, and "Nonsense!" sniffed the
Countess with her nose in the air. But Cedric stepped forward with his
eyes shining, for he wanted justice done.

"Father," he begged, "let us go nearer, as the maiden asks, and look at
this which she calls her garden. Mayhap we shall find something new to
Kisington-by-the-Sea."

For when Cedric saw how sweetly the maid was dressed in colors and
tokens of the ocean, his heart leaped with hope that the Mermaid had in
some mysterious way redeemed her promise.

"Very well," said the Lord Mayor, frowning. "Let us see what this
foolish whim betokens. Show us your garden, girl."

Down the slope they went, followed by the gaping crowd which cast
curious looks upon Gerda as she walked by the side of the Lord Mayor's
son. "Tell me, what has happened, Gerda?" he asked her, speaking low so
that no one else might hear.

"Last night," she whispered, "I went to bed weeping for my lost flowers
and my lost hope. But at midnight I was awakened by the roaring of the
sea. It grew louder and louder, and at last a great wave seemed to burst
over the sea-wall and come foaming up even to the cottage door. I was
frightened sorely. But in the midst of my terror I heard a soft voice
cry:--

'Fear not, gentle Gerda, and weep no more for your lost flowers. The
gardeners of the sea have come to restore your garden. And there will be
a fine gown for you. Look for it upon the doorstone in the morning.
Farewell!' That was all.

The sea ceased its roaring, and peacefully I fell asleep. In the morning
I found upon the doorstone this green gown. And when I looked upon the
plot where late my poor little garden bloomed, I saw this. Behold!"

As she spoke they came to the edge of the pool. A chorus of wonder arose
from the crowd. The Lord Mayor stood with hands raised gazing down into
the pool; and every one else was gazing too, with eyes of admiration.

The water was as clear as glass, and one could see to the very bottom of
the hollow which had once held Gerda's unlucky garden. Now the basin was
floored with polished mother-of-pearl, with beds and borders of colored
shells in lovely patterns. There were lawns of many-hued ocean moss,
bordered by shrubs of coral, blossoming in every form and size and
color,--spikes and clusters, daisy-stars and bell shapes, all the
variety of a flower-garden. Sea-anemones and other living plants opened
and shut their tender petals. Delicate sea-ferns like maiden-hair and
flowering grasses grew upon rockeries of coral. Hedges of sea-weed,
green and brown, yellow and pink, waved their fronds gently in the water
as leaves do in the air. And to and fro among the branches of sea-trees
moved glittering shapes of gold and silver, pink and pale blue. These
were the rainbow fishes,--birds and butterflies of ocean, their delicate
fins moving more gracefully even than wings can do.

Dear little sea-horses raced up and down the coral alleys, and luminous
forms moved among the sea-weed, lighting the garden with living
lanterns. Here and there were grottoes of coral and pretty arbors, and
the garden was thronged with a multitude of curious sea-creatures even
the names of which no man knows. For the gardeners of Cedric's friend
the Mermaid had scoured the ocean to find the rarest and most beautiful
wonders which grow in a deep-sea garden, such as no mortal eye ever
sees.

After a time the Lord Mayor recovered breath to speak. "Maiden," he
said, "however you came by this wondrous ocean-garden I do not care to
ask. It is enough that we have such a treasure in Kisington-by-the-Sea.
Among all our lovely gardens it is the fairest. Among all our curious
flowers these living ones are rarest. I therefore judge that to you
belongs the prize."

Then a great cheer arose from the border of the pool where the folk were
bending eagerly to study the wonders in the waters below. Even the
maidens whose gardens had not won the prize cheered,--all except the
Countess. She ground her teeth with rage, for she saw that her wicked
plot had been in vain.

The Lord Mayor stepped forward and took Gerda's hand. "Come hither, my
son," he said, "and take this fair stranger to be your bride. In this
spot where her little cottage stands, I will build for you a beautiful
villa."

With a happy face Cedric took Gerda's hand in one of his, and with his
other gave her the great bouquet of roses. "I obey my father's wish," he
said. He needed not to tell that it was his own wish, too.

Thereupon every one cheered again, waving caps and handkerchiefs, for no
one could help loving the beautiful pair and wishing them happiness.
Only the Countess stood silent and frowning, looking ugly as a goblin.

When the shouting had ceased, Gerda stepped forward and spoke sweetly to
the people. "Kind friends," she said, "I am a stranger to your town, yet
my garden has been judged worthy of the prize. But I am sorry for the
fair maidens who have so long and faithfully tended their lovely
flowers. To me it seems that they also should have a reward. In my
garden grows a hedge of plants bearing precious fruit,--the pearl
oysters, which you see gaping with the white pearls in their mouths. I
would have each maid come and take one for her own."

There was great rejoicing and murmuring of thanks as the maidens came
forward one by one and bent over the pool to choose each a precious
pearl. The Countess alone hung back. "Come hither, Countess," said the
Lord Mayor, when he saw that all others had been rewarded save her only.
"Come hither and choose your pearl. You should, indeed, have the finest,
for your garden would have won the prize but for these sea-wonders by
which it was outdone."

"Choose, fair lady," said Gerda, smiling kindly. But the Countess would
not come. "I have pearls enough of my own," she snapped. "I need no
charity from a beggar!"

"What!" cried the Lord Mayor, frowning. "Such words are not meetly
addressed to my daughter-in-law. Nay, they show an evil heart,
Countess!"

"Say that she shall do this, Father," cried Cedric, stepping forward
eagerly, for he seemed to hear a secret whisper from the Mermaid
prompting him; "else we shall think that she was the wicked one who
destroyed another's garden in the hope of winning the prize herself."

At this challenge the Countess came forward sullenly to the edge of the
pool. To take the nearest pearl she had to bend low, until her face drew
close to the water. Suddenly, the watching crowd saw a flash and a
splash and heard a shrill scream. The Countess rose, shrieking horribly.
A huge crab had fastened himself to her nose, and not easily could she
be freed from this unwelcome ornament! At last they tore away the crab,
but the tip of the Countess's nose was gone, and she wore a scar always,
even to the end of her unhappy days.

This was the Mermaid's punishment for her cruel harm to Gerda's garden.

But Gerda and Cedric lived happily ever after in the beautiful villa
which the Lord Mayor built for them on the edge of their wonder-garden
beside the sea. And sometimes the Mermaid herself came there to visit
them, and to bring them some new precious thing from the watery world
where she dwelt.



IX.  THE KING'S COAT OF ARMS

The Red King could not disguise his pleasure in the tale of the
Wonder-Garden, though he grumbled when he found there was to be no
fighting in it. When Harold had finished reading the story, Red Rex
patted him on the head and said gruffly,--

"Good, my boy! You do, indeed, read a tale as well as one would wish.
But tell me, now; in what part of Kisington is the place where this
Gerda had her Wonder-Garden? Is it far from here?"

"Nay, not far from here," said Harold. "About a mile from our library,
by the sea, stands the villa where Gerda and the Lord Mayor's son lived
happily ever after. I could show Your Majesty the place, if you were not
unfortunately at war with our city."

"I would fain see that place," said Red Rex thoughtfully. "I have a
fancy that Gerda, indeed, came from my land. I have heard a legend that
one of my great-great-grandfather's own sisters was stolen by the
gypsies, and carried away to a far country. It might well be that she
ran away from those gypsies, and escaped to this Kingdom, and that it
was she whom the Lord Mayor found living lonely by the sea."

"It might well be so!" said Harold. "Oh, Your Majesty! How exciting!
Then the Lady Anyse, who lives now at that villa, may be your own
far-off cousin."

"She may be, indeed," mused the Red King. "What like is she, Harold?"

"She is tall, and handsome, and has red hair like Your Majesty," said
Harold. "I have seen her often when I went to visit the Garden."

"The Garden?" exclaimed Red Rex. "Does the Wonder-Garden, then, still
exist?"

"Not quite the same as in the day of Gerda and Cedric," answered Harold,
"but yet a wonder-garden. It is called 'The Aquarium' now, and is one of
the public gardens of Kisington, given to the town by the will of Cedric
and Gerda. The Lady Anyse has it under her care."

"Verily, I should like to visit it and see both its wonders and my
long-lost cousin," muttered the Red King.

"What a pity that you are making war upon our city!" exclaimed Harold.
"There are so many fine things that cannot be while there is war."

"Yet war must be," answered Red Rex. "And I must be at it straightway."
He rose and flourished his sword with a determined air.

"But at least you will spare the east of Kisington, where the
Wonder-Garden lay, and not fire gums or arrows in that direction?"
suggested Harold, pointing eastward. The Red King followed the direction
of his finger.

"Yes, that I will promise," said Red Rex, after a moment's hesitation.
"I promise that; lest otherwise I might injure my own blood royal.
Because I am King I must not forget that!" He swelled his chest proudly.

"_Noblesse oblige_!" murmured Harold. "It was the motto of the Lion
Passant."

"I know that motto well; and what of a lion passant?" inquired Red Rex.
"A lion passant is one of the emblems in my own royal coat of arms!"

"Then, Your Majesty has not heard the tale of the Lion Passant?" asked
Harold, feigning surprise. "It is one of the best known in our land. You
will find your royal lion in the arms of our city of Derrydown; and
there is a tale to account for that."

Harold began to smile as if the memory of the tale pleased him.

Red Rex frowned. "It is too late to hear that tale to-night," he
murmured.

"Yes, Your Majesty," agreed Harold. "Besides, I cannot tell it by heart.
I should have to get the book from our generous library. I can read it
better; there is so much in the manner of the writing. It is a pity Your
Majesty is in such a hurry to fight, or I might bring that book hither
to-morrow and read you the pleasant tale."

The Red King fidgeted. "I am losing time at a terrible rate!" he
growled. "Think of what harm I might be doing! When have I wasted hours
like this, you wheedling boy?"

"I do not think these hours are wasted. It is war that wastes," said
Harold.

"Fudge!" retorted Red Rex; "we must have war. Was that lion a red lion,
Harold?"

"A red lion, Your Majesty," nodded Harold.

The Red King grew excited. "I must, then, hear about him!" he cried. "It
is my duty.--What ho, there!" he shouted to his men who were making
ready to continue the siege. "I have changed my mind. We will not fight
for another day. Take this boy back to the city, and proclaim continued
truce until he returns to us."

"Your Majesty is wise," said Harold with shining eyes. "I think you will
not be sorry to hear the tale of the Lion Passant."

So the crisis was delayed for another day; and Kisington blessed Harold.
They made a feast at the poor widow's cottage from presents sent by the
Leading Citizens. Richard and Robert sat at the head of the table, one
on each side of Harold, and all his other boy and girl friends sat down
the sides of the table, and he told them all about his adventure with
the besieging King. One and all begged him to let them go with him on
the following day. But this, of course, Harold could not promise. He was
the only one who could read well enough to charm the War-Lord. They all
wished that they had learned to read as well as Harold.

When on the morrow Harold returned to the Red King, this is the story
which he read from one of the peaceful books of Kisington--the story of
_The Lion Passant_.



X.  THE LION PASSANT

A long time ago, in one of the narrowest side-streets of Kisington,
stood an old curiosity shop, full of strange things. It was a dark
little den inside, so dark that the outer sunshine made the old shopman
blink as he stood in the doorway talking with the stranger. The stranger
was a Medicine Man, and he had just sold a bottle of his famous Elixir
of Life to the old shopkeeper.

"Yes, sir," said the Medicine Man, as he turned to go, "you will find my
Magic Elixir all that I claim it to be. It will bring back youth and
beauty to the aged. It will give sight to eyes that see not, hearing to
deaf ears, speech to the tongue-tied and motion to limbs that have never
moved before. It will also cure whooping-cough."

"I hope so," said the old man in an eager voice. He had heard only one
word in six of the stranger's talk. "I hope so, for I need it very much.
Shall I take it all at once, or--" But already the Medicine Man was
halfway down the road, with the gold coin which the old man had given
him safe in his deepest pocket. The old man returned into his shop,
blinking more than ever, and stumbling over the piled-up rubbish as he
went. It was an abominably crowded little room. Each corner, each shelf,
each hook in wall or ceiling was occupied. Everything was piled high or
filled up with something else.

In the midst of all kinds of curiosities, the Lion Passant stood
waiting. He had been waiting there so many years that the Old Curiosity
Shop man had quite given up hope that any one would ever come for him.
The Lion was very old; older than the shop, older than the old man who
kept it, older than anything else in the shop--and that was saying much.

The Lion was cobwebby and scarred; but, notwithstanding, he was a fine
figure of a beast. He had been finely carved out of oak and colored a
warm gules, though now somewhat faded. He was carved in the attitude of
marching along a parti-colored pole of gules and silver. His dexter paw
was raised in the air, his red tongue hung out and his tail was curved
gracefully over his back. There was something which I cannot exactly
describe of grand and dignified about the Lion Passant,--what the books
call a "decayed gentility."

[Illustration: HE STOOD IN THE DOORWAY TALKING WITH THE STRANGER]

The old man stumbled and blinked his way toward the door at the rear of
the shop. He was eager to try the Elixir of Life and become young again,
and he hurried faster than was wise in the shadowy labyrinth. Just as he
was opposite the Lion Passant, he caught his foot in a sprawling chair
and stumbled forward, with both arms stretched out to save himself. Away
flew the bottle of Elixir, _smash_! against the head of the Lion Passant.
The glass shivered into a thousand pieces, and the precious golden drops
went trickling down over the carved beast, over the table, onto the
floor, where it made a dusty pool about the feet of a cracked china cat.

"Oh, me! Oh, me!" groaned the old man. "All my precious youth wasted,
and no money left to buy more! Oh, me! What an unlucky day it is!" And
he stumbled out to tell his wife all about it. Now, as soon as he had
left the shop, strange things began to happen there.

"Marry, come up!" exclaimed the Lion, licking his red tongue. "I am
a-weary of this. My leg is asleep." And he set down the dexter paw,
which he had been holding in that position for four hundred years or
more.

"Wow!" cried the China Cat from the floor. "My cracks are growing
together again! I believe I am as good as new!" And she arched her back
and yawned.

The Lion lashed his tail once, to be sure that he could really do it,
and looked about the shop in disgust. "I must away!" he said.

"Oh!" cried the Cat, lazily, beginning to lick her paw, as if she had
always been doing so since the discovery of China. "You are so restless!
Where are you going?"

The Lion stepped gingerly down from his striped pole to the table, and
from there to the floor. As he did so, he seemed to increase in size, so
that by the time he had reached the shop door he was as large as an
ordinary lion. "I am going to seek _Them_," said the Lion, with dignity.
"I am, as you see, a Lion Passant, the crest of a noble house. Many
years I have been separated from my people. I have waited for Them to
come for me. Every time the shop-bell tinkled it has waked an echo of
hope in my heart. But They do not come; I must, then, go to Them." He
sighed deeply.

"How will you know where to find them?" asked the Cat, respectfully.

"I shall seek Them in the halls of the mighty," said the Lion proudly.
"They were of the noblest in the land, I remember."

"By what name shall you know them?" asked the Cat again, who was
inquisitive.

The Lion became thoughtful. "The name?" he repeated. "The name? I have
forgot the name. But I was the crest that They bore in battle, the
figure on their shields, the carving above their hearths."

"Yes, but times have changed, folk say," objected the Cat. "How shall
you know your people among the New Ones?"

"I shall recognize Them," said the Lion confidently. "I shall know Them,
the proudest, the mightiest, the bravest, and most fair. Besides, is
there not the family tradition? Once, in the far ages before even I was
carved, the first knight of our line had an adventure with a lion; hence
my figure upon Their crest. I know not the tale complete; but this I
know--that from that time on, no one of Them has been able to see a
lion, to speak or hear the name, without sneezing thrice. So it was in
that day, so it has been ever since."

"That, indeed, is something definite," yawned the Cat, as the Lion
stalked out into the sunshine. "Well, I'm glad I have no tradition but
one of comfort." And she curled herself up on a piece of ancient gold
brocade.

So the Lion went forth to seek his people. He had not gone far before he
overtook the Medicine Man, who had sold no Elixir since leaving the
Curiosity Shop. The Lion padded up behind him so silently that the man
did not hear him until he was quite close; then the Lion gave a gentle
roar.

"Abracadabra!" cried the man, turning pale and shaking till his teeth
rattled. He was so ignorant that he did not know a Heraldic Device when
he saw one. But he had seen pictures in books and knew that this
brilliant red beast was no ordinary lion.

"Kind youth," said the Lion grandly, lifting his paw and curving his
tail in the old way, "I owe you much. Your Magic Elixir has given me
life and motion. If there is aught I can do for you, I shall be glad."

The man's face was full of wonder. "You owe much to the Elixir?" he
cried. "Oh, pray explain!"

So the Lion explained. When he had finished the simple story, the
Medicine Man's face was illumined with a great idea. "It is
magnificent!" he cried. "It is beyond my wildest dreams. For, to tell
you the truth--but why tell the truth? This justifies me, certainly.
Now, if you would but go with me as a Living Testimonial?"

The Lion bowed. He did not like the idea, for it threatened notoriety;
but he felt a sense of duty. "_Noblesse oblige_," he murmured. "It is
Our motto. Nothing can hurt my pride, if it has a foundation upon truth.
I will go with you until I feel that my debt is paid."

"It is well!" said the man.  And they journeyed together. Naturally, the
appearance of a warm crimson lion caused considerable excitement in the
streets of Kisington. Folk crowded around him and the Medicine Man, and
when they heard his story, they bought eagerly of the Elixir. "He is the
crest of a noble house come to life!" they whispered among themselves.
"What noble house?" The Lion listened eagerly for the answer; but heads
were shaken in reply. No one recognized the device.

There was one thing which annoyed the Lion. This was the tendency of the
Medicine Man to exaggerate the powers of his Elixir. As time went on, he
began to add the oddest stories to the one he told about the Lion. Was
that not wonderful enough? The Lion was astonished, shocked, outraged.
He protested, but in vain. The habit of exaggeration, once contracted,
becomes a terrible master. The Medicine Man seemed unable longer to
speak the truth.

One morning when he was telling his wicked lies to a company of trusting
women and children, the Lion rose from the center of the eager circle
and stalked away from the Medicine Man. "_Noblesse oblige_," he said.
And they never saw each other again. I dare say the seller of the Elixir
and his descendants have been doing business in the same way ever since.

Now, the Lion journeyed for many months through the Kingdom without
finding a trace of his family. He scanned carefully the entrance to
every great palace and castle. He caused some confusion in traffic by
dashing out to examine the crests emblazoned upon the panels of the
chariots which passed him on the road. He even halted foot-passengers to
inquire, courteously, if he might look more closely at certain devices
upon chain or brooch or bangle which had caught his eye. Especially, he
surprised with his attentions several persons who had sneezed violently
in his presence. But in vain. He failed to find the clue he sought.

Folk would fain have helped him in his search; for his manners were
gentle and gracious, and his bearing unmistakably noble. Folk liked him.
Many would have been glad to prove themselves, through him, scions of
that great family which he undoubtedly represented. But all their
efforts to sneeze at the right time were fruitless. They went away
crestfallen before his reproachful gaze. Sometimes, the Lion would spy a
lovely face, or a manly figure, which appealed strangely to him.
"Surely," he would say to himself, "surely, this noble-looking person is
one of Them. Something seems to tell me so!" And he would assume his
heraldic pose, with dexter paw lifted and eloquent tail curved high,
waiting wistfully for the sneeze of recognition to follow. Sometimes,
alas! came, instead, a laugh of scorn, or an unkind word. He learned that
noble figures and lovely faces do not always adorn like natures.

Well, many months passed by. Footsore and weary, the Lion still traveled
upon his quest. He felt very old and lonesome, homesick for his marble
halls, hopeless of finding them. He came, one noon, to an  inn on the
outskirts of Derrydown Village. Over the door of the inn a signboard
creaked and flapped in the wind. The Lion looked up. He beheld upon the
sign the picture of a red lion! The traveler was greatly moved.
"Surely," he thought, "this must be the arms of some great family in the
neighborhood--perhaps my ancestral castle is hereabout!" But when he
explained things to the Landlord, that worthy dashed his hopes once
more. No family with such a device was known in those parts.

"However," said the Landlord, eyeing the Lion appraisingly, "I have an
idea! If you will remain with me for some hours, I will show you
something. The Prince and his train are to pass here on their way to the
Ancient Wood, where they will hunt. In the company will be all the
grandest nobles of the Kingdom. Surely, some of your family will be
among them. Here is a splendid viewpoint! Do you remain beside my door
in your grand attitude. You will see and be seen. If your folks are
there, you will be sneezed at; which is what you want. It will be,
beside, a grand advertisement for me--a real red lion guarding the Red
Lion Inn!"

The Lion agreed. That night, when the Prince's cavalcade passed through
Derrydown, huge and red, with lifted paw and curved tail, the beast
stood at the door of the Red Lion Inn. Many stared in wonder. Many
paused to inquire. Many entered and partook of the dainties which Mine
Host had prepared against this very happening. The Prince himself
paused, pointed, and asked a question. The Lion's heart leaped wildly!
There was a curious expression on the Prince's face; it seemed drawn and
twisted--was he about to sneeze? Alas! No. With a harsh laugh, the
Prince gave the Lion a cut with his whip and bounded past; after him,
the last of his followers. The Lion's skin smarted and his heart
writhed. He kept his temper with difficulty; but--it was the Prince.
_Noblesse oblige_.

When they were out of sight, his head drooped. There was no one in all
that gallant company who belonged to him. But the Landlord had reaped a
rich harvest from the Lion's presence. When once more the village was
empty of nobility, he came to the Lion, rubbing his hands, contentedly.
"Old fellow," he said, "I have had profit from you. Now, I will give you
supper and a bed in my stable for the night. And why should we not make
this arrangement permanent? You see, your folks are gone. The family has
run out and no one any longer bears or recognizes the crest. You are an
orphan; but you can still be of use to me. Why not become the supporter
of my inn?"

"Gramercy!" quoth the Lion, with dignity. "I will accept the supper, for
I am very hungry. But as for sleeping in the stable, that I cannot do! I
prefer a bed on one of the fragrant haycocks in your meadow."

"To that you are welcome, if you please," said the Landlord graciously.
"And, to-morrow, we will talk again of the other matter."

So the Lion had his supper, and then went wearily to sleep on a haycock
in the thymy meadow. He was sad and disillusioned, and the Landlord's
words had taken away his last hope. He began to wish that he had never
come alive. "To-morrow," he said, "I will go back to the Old Curiosity
Shop, and see if the old man can un-medicine me. For a crest without a
family is even a more forlorn thing than a family without a crest!"

The Lion wakened with a start. "_Ker-chew! Ker-chew! Ker-chew!_" sounded
in his ear. He sprang to his feet and looked around. Opposite him stood
a little girl in a ragged gown, with a basket on her arm, staring at him
with big, round eyes. She did not seem in the least afraid. The Lion was
annoyed. He had been dreaming of his noble family, and it was very
disappointing to be wakened by this beggar with her mocking "_Ker-chew_!"

"Away with you, child!" he said. "I am weary and peevish. Do you not
know better than to awaken a sleeping lion?"

"_Ker-chew! Ker-chew! Ker-chew!_"  The child sneezed again so violently
that she nearly fell into the haycock.

The Lion was agitated. "What can this mean?" he thought. "It must be an
accident which has caused her to sneeze at the word. I will try again."
He began firmly, "When a lion--" But again he was interrupted by the
violent sneezing of the little maid as soon as the word had passed his
teeth.

The Lion shivered. Could this really be? Was it possible that this
vagrant was an offshoot of the noble family which he had been seeking?
If so, he must be in no hurry to claim relationship! The child put her
hand into her basket, smiling.

"Good Lion," she said, "_Ker-chew! Ker-chew! Ker-chew!_ I like you. Will
you have a bit of bread?" And she held out to him a fragment of her
luncheon.

The Lion was touched. He did not like bread, but he could not refuse a
child, and he ate it painfully. "What is your name?" he asked at length.

"Claribel," she answered.

"Your other name?" he persisted.

"Claribel," she repeated. "Just Claribel--that is all."

"Where do you live?" asked the Lion.

The child pointed over her shoulder. "Near the Ancient Wood, yonder,"
she said. "I came to Derrydown to the market. I have sold my dolls; now
I am going home with the money."

"Dolls?" queried the Lion, interested in spite of himself. "You make
dolls?"

Claribel nodded. "Rag dolls," she said. "My mother made dresses for the
villagers. Now I make dolls out of the pieces in the old rag-bag. It
buys me bread."

The Lion's heart was softened. "You are so little, Claribel!" he
exclaimed. "Have you no one to take care of you?"

The child shook her head. "My mother is dead. I am alone in the world,"
she said.

"But have you no relatives--no one of noble kin in some palace, some
castle?" the Lion cried eagerly.

The child laughed. "I know of no castles," she said; "no kindred at all.
I never had any, I think."

The Lion gave a groan. "I will go back to the Curiosity Shop!" he said
whimsically. "Good-bye, child!" He started away. But, turning for a last
look, he saw Claribel, with her eyes full of tears.

"Do not go!" cried the child. "I like you so much, dear Lion--_Ker-chew!
Ker-chew! Ker-chew!_"

The Lion's heart melted. "You are so little!" he said, "too little to be
going on these roads alone. I will see you home." So they took the long
road together, the child skipping happily beside the Lion, with her hand
in his red mane. And the farther they walked together, the more the Lion
liked Claribel, who sneezed whenever she spoke his name, but looked at
him with kindly eyes.

They came at last to the hut where Claribel lived alone. It was a tiny
cottage on the edge of the wood. The Lion looked at it long and hard. It
was so different from the castle he had hoped to find! The child pulled
him by the mane, and he went in. The hut was very poor, but spotlessly
neat and clean.

Claribel led the Lion to the fireplace and began to blow meager sparks
with the bellows. "I will keep you warm and give you bread to eat. You
shall stay and live with me and be my dear big watch-dog!" she said.

The Lion sighed. But he could say nothing; he was so tender-hearted. "I
will run away in the night," he promised himself. And then, on the
mantel-stone above the tire, he spied a roughly-scratched shield. On the
shield was the small figure of a lion passant, with dexter paw raised
and curved tail. Below it was scrawled the motto, "_Noblesse oblige_."

Claribel saw him staring at it with big eyes, and began to laugh and
sneeze. "Yes, my mother loved it," she said, "and I love it, though it
always makes me sneeze just as you do. That was why I liked you from the
beginning. Some day I shall learn what the words mean; then I shall be
rich and happy."

The Lion did not run away that night. He slept with his nose on his paws
beside the fire and dreamed grand dreams of castles and fair ladies; of
gold-broidered banners on which _he_ was emblazoned in crimson glory,
and of the battle-cry, "_Noblesse oblige_!" echoing all about him.

But in the morning he was awakened, for the second time, by the sound of
three soft little sneezes. "Excuse me!" said Claribel's dear little
voice; "I tried not to, but I could not help it. I was so afraid you
would not be here when I woke up. It might all have been a dream. But as
soon as I saw you, I had to sneeze;--it is very odd!" She laughed and
laughed, and the Lion roared in sympathy.

"I shall not go away," he said. "I want to be a real Supporter, not a
heraldic one. I shall stay and try to help you learn the meaning of the
motto over the fireplace."

"Oh, I am so happy!" cried Claribel, clapping her hands. "Already, I
have thought of a way you can help me very much. I have always wanted to
make a lion doll--_Ker-chew! Ker-chew! Ker-chew!_ But I never before had
any lion--_Ker-chew! Ker-chew! Ker-chew!_--to copy, except that flat one
over the fireplace. Now I can shape them after you and sell them in the
market, and we shall grow rich, oh, so rich!"

And so it befell in the days that came thereafter. For Claribel's clever
fingers snipped and pieced and seamed together the bits of cloth, until
she had a lion so like her new friend that she almost sneezed her head
off when he was finished. And, lo! She had invented a new kind of toy,
which was speedily the rage over the whole kingdom.

In time, the making of lion-dolls became the great industry of
Derrydown, whereof the people had much profit, especially Claribel,
whose idea it was. And the folk of the town loved her dearly, because
she had brought prosperity to them all. And they were devoted to the
Lion, who went to and fro among them with gracious dignity, serving
Claribel and serving them, so busy that he had no time to worry about
escutcheons.

No family so poor but it had its little lion of carefully pieced rags,
which it fondly prized; not merely because it was a quaint toy and
indestructible, but because it was to them a token of their noble,
friendly beast and of the motto which he had taught them. (But they had
taught him many things, also.) And in latter days a crimson lion became
the seal of the Guild of Toy-Makers in that shire. And a new tradition
began to grow about the Lion Passant, concerned entirely with his
service to the people.

So, in seeking Them, the Lion found himself. And he lived happy ever
after.



XI.  HOPE

"Dear me!" said Red Rex, when Harold had finished this story. "I never
saw one of those lion-dolls which your tale mentions. I would that I had
one to present to my little girl."

"Have you a little girl?" exclaimed Harold in surprise. "Why, I had no
idea that you were the father of little children."

"Well, why not?" asked the Red King crossly. "I have a dear little girl
of seven, and her name is Hope."

"Oh, if you have a dear little girl of your own, how can you make war on
a city where other dear little girls live?" cried Harold. "I cannot
understand!"

"No, you cannot understand, because you are only a child yourself," said
the Red King. "When you are grown up you will feel differently."

"Your Majesty, I do not think so," declared Harold, shaking his head
decidedly. "When I have learned all the books in our library, and seen
all the countries there are to see, and done all the interesting things
there are to do, there may be time to think about war. But these other
matters will keep me busy all my life, I should think."

"Rubbish!--Can one purchase a lion-doll in your city?" asked Red Rex,
changing the subject uneasily.

"Yes," said Harold. "Every child in the city owns a lion-doll. Your
Majesty ought to visit the great factory at Derrydown, near where
Claribel lived,--where the dolls are still made. It is close by the
Ancient Wood, where there was such good hunting, and where David had his
adventure with the Old Gnome, you know."

"No, I do not know the Old Gnome," retorted the Red King peevishly. "How
do you expect me to know all the legends of your precious country? We
know nothing about this Kingdom in my own warlike land."

"Then why should you want to fight us?" asked Harold. "If you had taken
the trouble to know us better, you could then judge whether we deserve
to be fought. But I think you would like our people if you knew them."

Again Red Rex changed the subject. "What of the hunting in this Ancient
Wood?" he asked. "When I have taken your city, and after it the rest of
your Kingdom, I will go there to hunt."

"There was good hunting," said Harold, "once upon a time. In those days
one had to beware the wicked Gnomes of the Great Fear. That was why the
Old One fled."

"What about this 'Old One,' and this 'Great Fear'?" asked the Red King.
"I suppose that is another story which you want to read to me."

"Nay; I do not care to read the tale unless Your Majesty wishes it,"
said Harold with dignity. "But if Your Majesty desires a lion-doll for
your little Princess, I can get one for you and return with it and the
story at the same time. There is a dear little girl in the story. I
think your daughter must be very like her."

The Red King gnawed his red mustache and frowned forbiddingly at Harold.
At last he slapped his knee and gave a grunt of assent. "Well," said he,
"fetch me the doll and the book. I may as well give my soldiers another
day's holiday. But in sooth, this has gone on too long! To-morrow's tale
must positively be the last. I hope there will be much fighting in it.
Your tales are something too peaceful for my taste. Look, now! Your city
must be destroyed in short order, because I have set my heart on it."

"Will Your Majesty promise me one other thing, beside the truce, till my
return?" begged Harold, looking up in his face with a winning smile.

Red Rex frowned and tried to look very wicked and cruel.

"Well, what is it now?" he growled.

"Promise me, Your Majesty, for the sake of your little dear daughter,
whose name is Hope, that when you fight again you will spare that part
of the city where the schoolhouse stands. Robert and Richard and all my
friends are there."

"What part of the city is that?" asked Red Rex sullenly.

"It is the west part," answered Harold, pointing in the opposite
direction from that in which he had declared the Wonder-Garden to have
been.

"Very well; I promise," said the Red King. "_Noblesse oblige_."

Harold had no difficulty in getting a lion-doll for the Red King.
Indeed, when they knew for what purpose it was intended, and what Harold
had gained by his clever winning of the promise from Red Rex, every
child in town wanted to send his or her lion-doll to the little
princess, whose name was Hope.

They came to Harold's home from all parts of the city, bringing their
dolls, until the High Street was crowded. But the Librarian and the Lord
Mayor were unwilling to accept any of these, for none of them was quite
fresh and new. Most of them had an arm or a leg dislocated, or bald
spots on their yellow fur; which proved how fond the children were of
these noble pets, how much they hugged and fondled and frayed them.

The Lord Mayor himself went to the largest shop in Kisington and in the
name of the children of Kisington purchased a royal lion-doll, nearly as
big as a real baby lion, with a patent voice inside which made it cry
"_Gr-r! Gr-r!_" when you twisted its luxuriant tail. And this was to be
the toy of the little Princess Hope.

With this wonderful toy under one arm and a basket under the other,
which contained among other things a green-and-gold volume from the
library, Harold kissed his mother and went once more to the camp of Red
Rex. He found the monarch there alone, save for his bodyguard. His
soldiers had gone to enjoy themselves in the neighboring woods, glad
indeed of their continued holiday.

When Red Rex saw the great lion-doll he clapped his hands on his knees
and roared with laughter. And it was the first time Harold had heard the
War-Lord laugh,--a terrible sound! But when Harold showed how to make
the lion itself roar, by screwing its tail, the Red King fell over on
his back and nearly died of laughing.

"Oh! Oh!" he cried, wiping the tears from his bronze cheeks. "How the
little Princess will squeal when I twist that lion's tail! How she will
laugh when she hears the creature roar!" And he went off in another fit.

Harold stood by grinning and saying nothing.

The Red King took out a huge purse from his girdle. "And now, what shall
I pay you for this wonderful toy?" he asked. "I suppose it is worth many
golden crowns?"

"It is worth your promise to the children of Kisington, Your Majesty,"
said Harold. "It is a gift from them to your little Princess whose name
is Hope. The children hope you will remember your promise to them."

"I am a King. I do not forget," said Red Rex haughtily.

"Nevertheless, Kings do forget sometimes," murmured Harold. "But this
lion will remind you of your kingly crest, and of the Lion Passant whose
motto you know so well."

"True," said Red Rex, and he looked at the lion-doll earnestly.

"And now, shall I read to Your Majesty the story of which we spoke?"
asked Harold, opening his basket and taking out the
green-and-gold-volume.

"Begin," commanded the Red King, settling himself cozily on his back,
with his head lying on the soft fur of the new lion-doll. "But unless
there is a deal of fighting in it I shall go to sleep. I am very weary."

Thereupon Harold began to read in his best manner the gentle tale of
_The Hermit Gnome_.



XII: THE HERMIT GNOME

Long, long ago, in the farthest corner of the Kingdom, was a mountain
covered with a pathless forest. Human folk never came this way. The
shadows of the forest were gloomy, and the sounds of the forest were
strange, and the name of the forest was full of dread. Men called it the
Great Fear. For it was here that the Gnomes lived and did their wicked
dealings.

The Gnomes were ugly and deformed and black; no larger than the
Elf-People, but instead of Fairy kindness their minds plotted evil. They
lived in the hollows and cracks of the mountain. Some of them camped out
under the great, poisonous toadstools which they loved, as they loved
everything dangerous to man. And all day long they dreamed, all night
long they wrought mischief. They were at the bottom of many of the evil
happenings in Kisington and elsewhere. For they could wreak their evil
magic from a long distance.

Now, of the race of Gnomes there was one apart. He was a queer little
fellow, the oldest, the ugliest, and the crookedest of them all. His
face was wrinkled like a brown walnut; and his little misshapen body was
bent under a hump which was the biggest part of him. But his mind was
not evil. He was quite harmless and mild and lazy, and he hated the dire
doings of his fellows who would neither mind their own business nor
leave him to his.

For centuries things went on from bad to worse in the Great Fear. At
last the Old Gnome could bear it no longer.

"I am very old and tired," he said. "It is almost time for me to curl up
in the long sleep. But I cannot sleep here! I should have bad dreams. I
will leave the Great Fear, which owes none of its name to me. I will go
and become a Hermit, as men say."

So spoke the queer little Gnome. And one bright noon when all the other
Gnomes were dreaming with shut eyes,--for they hated the daylight,--he
stumbled away as fast as his crooked little legs could take him south
from the Great Fear. Now, beyond this was a meadow, which was the
borderland across which human folk dared not approach the haunt of the
Gnomes. And beyond the meadow again was an Ancient Wood, which, though
he did not know it, was on the outskirts of Derrydown. Thither the Old
Gnome betook himself, and found it very good indeed. Like the Great Fear
it was dense and shadowy and cool. In places it was very dark. But there
was scarcely a spot whence you could not, when the sun shone, catch
speckled gleams of gold upon the moss; or, when the moon beamed, spy a
wealth of filtered silver. For the Ancient Wood was intersected hither
and yon by paths of the woodchoppers. And sun and moon love to peer down
through the man-made windows in the green roof of trees and beautify the
ways which human feet have trod.

The Old Gnome peered and pried about the Ancient Wood, seeking a
hermitage. At last he came upon the hollow stump of a tree, hidden in a
clump of feathery fern. It was thatched with green lichens without, and
carpeted within in a mossy pattern of green and gray and scarlet. Little
hard mushrooms, growing shelf-wise one above another, made a winding
staircase up to the doorway. Portieres of finest spider-wrought tapestry
swayed before door and window and draped the dark-hued walls; while
across one corner hung a hammock of heavier web, the very thing for a
weary Gnome's resting-place.

As soon as the Old Gnome spied this stump he cried,--"Ha! This is the
spot for me! Here will I make my hermitage. And when the time comes for
my long sleep, here will I rest forever." For you must know that the
Gnomes do not die, being immortal like the Fays; but unlike them growing
older and dryer and drowsier until they are fit only for eternal sleep.

The Old Gnome was soon at home in his cell; and very peaceful and cozy
he found it. For several days he lay and swung in his hammock, growing
comfortably drowsier and drowsier, too lazy even to gather berries for
his food. He would soon sleep without waking; and by and by the moss and
lichens would grow over him, too, and he would become a silent part of
the Ancient Wood,--a little green mound such as you yourself may have
seen many a time.

But one day while he was snoring, with his wrinkled hands folded
peacefully on his little chest, he heard a sound which made him open his
eyes with a snap. It was the noise of an axe chopping. The Old Gnome sat
up nervously and peered through his knot-hole window. A woodcutter was
at work at the very next tree.

"Hello!" said the Old Gnome, staring open-eyed; "That must be a _man_!"
For this was the first mortal he had ever seen.

Forgetting his drowsiness, he climbed up his staircase and peered
closely at the creature from behind a curtain of fern.

It was a strong young man, who wielded the axe heartily against the
giant oak. The Old Gnome watched him curiously, admiring the lithe sweep
of his arm and the rhythmic bend of his body.

"They are goodly folk, these men!" he sighed, looking down on his own
misshapen frame. "How can those evil brothers of mine care so much to
vex and trouble them?" And he turned over and tried to go to sleep; but
the sound of the axe kept knocking at something within him.

Suddenly, the man made a mis-stroke. The axe slipped and came down upon
his sandaled foot. With a cry he dropped the axe and fell to the ground,
lying very still and white.

"Ha!" frowned the Old Gnome, "the work of my brothers! Some one of them
must have charmed that axe. But how strange he looks! Doubtless it is
pain, which I do not know. Ah, pain must be something very sore!" And he
felt a throb of pity.

He hobbled to the spot where the woodman lay. Across his leg was a deep
gash and on the moss were drops of crimson. The Old Gnome looked at them
wonderingly, for the Gnomes are bloodless. "How beautiful the color!" he
cried, and he touched his finger to one of the drops. Immediately a
thrill went through his cold body, and he seemed to feel a fresh draught
of life. New impulses came to him.

"These men!" cried he, "how weak they are, after all! How greatly they
need aid. I can help him now,--even I!" And his ugly little face
wrinkled into the first grin it had known for centuries.

He called to mind his long-forgotten skill in herbs, and hunted in the
Ancient Wood for certain plants of healing. One he crushed and laid upon
the wound to stanch the blood. Others he set out in the ground close
under the young man's nose, so that they seemed to be growing naturally
there.

Presently the woodman opened his eyes and stared about him dazedly, but
the Old Gnome had hidden himself. As he gained strength, the woodman
tore a strip of linen and bound it upon his leg. Then, sniffing the
aromatic herbs which grew conveniently at hand, he plucked a bunch with
which to make a lotion, and with it limped painfully from the wood.

The Old Gnome watched him go with curious eyes. "I wonder if he will
return," he said to himself. And he decided not to sleep until he should
know how it fared with the young man.

It was not many days thereafter before the woodman returned to the
forest. The lotion had been wondrous helpful, and had healed him more
quickly than he had dared to hope; for he was eager to be at work again.
Limping slightly, for the wound had been a sore one, David began work
anew.

Day by day the Old Gnome watched him, half jealously at first. But the
more he watched the more he liked the ways of the intruder. The woodman
sang at his work; his eyes sparkled and his lips smiled as if with
pleasant thoughts.

The Old Gnome found himself smiling too, unseen behind the fern. "I will
not sleep yet awhile," he said, "for there is work to do."

In the night when the Ancient Wood was silent he toiled long and
heartily at the crafts wherein he was wise. And the woodman tasted the
result. For the Old Gnome made the berries to ripen more quickly in that
glade. He caused delicious mushrooms to spring up all about. He coaxed a
spring of fair water from the bed where it slumbered underground and
made it gush into a little basin where David came upon it gladly. He
caused medicinal herbs to grow, and certain fragrant plants that drove
away the mischievous insects sent by his brother Gnomes. All this the
Old One did while David was away; and the young man did not know. But he
was very happy and busy. Now, one day the young man finished his
woodcutting, and lo! he had made a clearing in the Ancient Wood large
enough for a tiny house; but the Gnome did not know this. David looked
about him at the spring and the flowers and the berries of the pleasant
place which the Old Gnome had prepared, and said, "It is good!"
Forthwith of the logs which he had felled he began to build the house
itself.

When the Old Gnome saw what David was about to do, indeed he was angry!
For he said,--

"Oho! I did not bargain for this. This is my wood! I want no
neighbor,--though a merry visitor was not unwelcome. What is to become
of my solitude, of my hermitage? And how am I to sleep, with another
restless creature living close by forever and ever?"

For several days he sulked in his cell and would not work. But finally
the merry sound of the young man's whistle keeping time to the wheeze of
saw and the knock of hammer made the Old Gnome smile again, and he said
to himself,--

"Well, what of it? True, I shall have a neighbor for good and all. But
he will be alone and speechless, since there is no one with whom to
chatter; and he will never trouble me. Let him build here if he will."

David builded his house; and a pretty little place it was, for he was a
careful workman and his heart was in it. When all was done he laid the
axe aside, hid the hammer and saw, put on fine new clothes and went away
across the meadow, whistling happily as a bird. It was the Gnome's first
chance to see the inside of a man's dwelling, and he lost no time in
going there, you may be sure. He found many things to wonder at, for
naturally it was very different from a Gnome's hermitage. But nothing
surprised him more than the wreaths of flowers which David had hung over
door and window and fireplace, over bed and chairs and table, so that
the place was like a fragrant bower prepared for a beloved guest.

The Old Gnome shook his head. "Strange folk, these men!" said he. "Why,
and why, and why?" But he brushed up the sawdust, which David had
forgotten in a corner; and he re-piled the kindlings on the hearth,
which David had hastily put together for a fire. He neatly spread the
bed, which David had clumsily prepared; and he made tidy the kitchen
which, in his eagerness to don his new clothes, David had quite
overlooked. Then the Old One went back to his cell and lay down in his
hammock, chuckling. "How surprised the fellow will be!" he said.

At night the Old Gnome heard voices in the wood, and sprang up from his
hammock angrily. "More of them?" he cried. "Am I to hear human prattle
around me, after all?" And he peered from the balcony of his cell with
eyes almost as fierce as those of his brother Gnomes in the Great Fear.
He stared and stared at what he saw. For the young woodcutter was
returning in his fine clothes, and with him was a fair maiden, also in
holiday gear. Both looked very happy and smiling.

They entered the open door, and the Old Gnome watched to see David's
surprise when he should discover how matters had improved in his
absence. But the woodman was thinking so much about his pretty new wife
that he had eyes for nothing else. However, she looked about her with
surprise and pleasure, and the Old Gnome heard her say to her husband,--

"Ah, David! What a tidy housekeeper you are! Or is it some Fairy who has
made the house so neat and ready for me? Surely, no one but a beautiful,
kind Fairy would sweep the floor so spotless and make so smooth the bed.
Oh, I am glad we have a Fairy friend!"

What David replied the Old Gnome did not hear. He was filled with
wondering delight. A Fairy! The sweet little thing had thought it must
be a beautiful Fairy who had done this work! The Old Gnome looked
whimsically down at his bandy legs and ugly body, and sighed and smiled.

"Ah, if I were but a Fairy!" he said. "Fairies are beautiful and good;
they live forever young and gay, and there is no end to the kindness
they may do. But I!"--he sighed again,--"a Fairy, indeed!" And he
hobbled away to his cell, thinking kindly of the little wife who of all
the world had spoken the first word of praise for him; and of the strong
young man who loved her.

Now happy days followed in the little house in the Ancient Wood; happy
days, too, for the Old Gnome in his hermit's cell. For he was busy all
the time doing kind deeds for his new neighbors; without their knowing
it. Sometimes he set the table for the morning meal. Sometimes he helped
in the churning and made the butter come quickly. Sometimes he blew the
fire like a little bellows; a hundred and one things he found to do
about the cottage. And it was his reward to hear the young wife
say,--"Oh! David, the good Fairy has been here again. What a dear, good,
beautiful Fairy it must be!"

The Old Gnome was very careful to keep his ugly face out of sight, you
may be sure.

Days went by, and the Old Gnome was ever more and more busy in the hut
of the young people, so that really I do not know how they would have
done without him. He was scarcely ever in the hermitage nowadays, except
for a few hours' sleep by daylight; and he scarcely found time to look
after his own affairs, such as they were, so little of a hermit was he
become! But every night the young wife set out a bowl of curds and cream
for the beautiful Fairy who helped her; and sometimes David left half
his luncheon of bread and cheese in the woods, for his unknown friend.
The Old Gnome was growing fat and merry because of this good fare; but
he seemed as little like a Fairy as ever.

The months went by; and one day a surprising thing happened. The Old
Gnome, sleeping in his hammock, was wakened by a strange, shrill little
cry. He sat up and listened wonderingly. It was broad daylight, but at
the risk of being seen he ran as fast as he could, and climbing up the
vine of eglantine peered in at the chamber window whence came the cry.
And there lying on the young wife's bed was a wee pink baby! The Old
Gnome looked at it long and earnestly; and the more he peered the more
he liked the look of this newest little neighbor.

"It is as beautiful as a Fairy!" he thought. "I must be good to it, and
perhaps it will grow to love me."

From that time the Old Gnome had no rest at all. Unseen--wrapped in a
cloak of shadows--he sat for hours while the baby was asleep, fanning
the flies away from its little face. When it was restless, he kept the
clothes over its tiny feet, drawing them up as fast as the baby kicked
them away. And when the young wife came, she would say,

"See, David! Our Fairy has been watching over our baby, just as it
watched over us. Oh, now I feel quite safe from those wicked Gnomes who
live in the Great Fear!" At this the Old Gnome would chuckle from the
corner where he lurked, and where only the baby's bright eyes could
pierce the cloak of shadows. It was a great day for the Old Gnome when
first the baby smiled at him. It was a still greater day when she held
out her little arms to him, and the Old One knew that they were friends.
Soon she was lisping words in her shrill voice; and one of the first
things she tried to say was "Fairy friend." She looked straight at the
Old Gnome when she did it, and a thrill went through him at the words.
She saw him; yet she thought he was a Fairy! Poor little mite! He
dreaded the day when she should know the difference. But the baby seemed
to love him more and more every day, and the Old Gnome's cell became her
favorite playhouse.

When she grew old enough to talk, she and her mother spoke often of the
Fairy friend; and the little girl told strange tales of his doings when
no one but herself was about, for still he shyly crept into his cloak of
shadows when the grown-up folk were near. When the mother asked what
like the Fairy was, she shook her head. "I cannot tell!" she would
answer. "Not like you, Mother dear; but beautiful also, and good and
merry."

Now, the woodcutter's wife was a very good woman, but she was curious.
The more she heard about the friendly, mysterious Fairy whom her child
alone had seen, the more she longed to see him for herself. This was not
kind; for she knew he did not wish to be seen. But she was sorely
tempted. One day she heard the little one out in the Ancient Wood
laughing and talking merrily with some one. "It is the Fairy!" said the
mother, and she picked up her toes and crept noiselessly to spy upon
them.

There was the baby sitting on a bed of moss; and there, plainly seen
without his shadow-cloak, was the Old Gnome, turning somersaults for her
and dancing on his crooked legs to make her laugh.

But the mother did not laugh at what she saw! She burst out of the
bushes with a cry and seized the baby in her arms. "My child!" she
screamed. "Oh, the wicked Gnome! Help, David, help!"

Her cry summoned the woodcutter, who came running up, very pale, with
his axe in his hand. "What is this?" he asked. "Who is injuring my
child?"

Sobbing, his wife pointed to where the Old Gnome cowered, blinking,
caught at last in the sunlight outside his cell.

"A Gnome!" cried David in horror. "One of the pests from the Great Fear!
What are you doing here, Monster? How shall we pay you to go away and
leave us in peace?"

"I will go away," said the Old Gnome humbly, "though I belong not to the
Great Fear, and I came here before you. My wish is not evil you-ward. It
is I who am a friend. But I will go." With a kind look at the baby he
turned away.

But the baby struggled down from her mother's arms and ran after him
crying,--"No, no! Do not go away, dear, beautiful Fairy! Mother! Father!
It is the friend whom we all love. I have heard you praise him. Do not
send him away."

"The Fairy!" cried the father, running to capture her.

"It is no Fairy, child!" said the mother. "It is one of the ugly, wicked
Gnomes who do only evil. Let him go!"

But the child struggled and shrieked. "He shall not go! It is the
beautiful Fairy who helps us. I have watched him doing all the kind
things you say the Fairy does, and I love him dearly. He shall not go!"
The father and mother looked at each other, then at the shrinking Gnome.
"Is this true?" they demanded, "or is this some wicked Gnome-trick which
has bewitched our child?"

The Old Gnome bowed meekly. "Alas! I am no Fairy, as I fain would be,"
he confessed. "But I loved to hear you call me so. I am a Gnome; but I
have done no evil, only good, so far as my skill went. The happy days
are over now. The child knows the truth. No one will ever again think me
beautiful or good. I had forgotten how old I was; I had almost grown to
feel young again in the merry, busy days of service. But now the time
has come indeed for me to lie down in the long sleep. I will go away and
find a new cell, and curl me up in a happy dream which will last
forever."

Once more he turned to go. The father and mother were silent.

But the baby burst into violent weeping. "Oh, he is beautiful,
beautiful, the kind, dear Fairy! Do you not see how beautiful he is,
Mother, Father?" she cried.

The Old Gnome turned and looked at her, smiling sadly and shaking his
head with a tender light in his eyes. "No, no!" he said, "not beautiful;
only loving!"

"But yes!" cried the mother, staring amazedly. "Think, David, of all he
has done for us. He does, he does look beautiful to me!"

David stared also. "From the day my foot was wounded," he said, "only
good has befallen me here. And if he has done it, the kind little
fellow!--Yes, yes! He does, indeed, look beautiful to me!"

"Ah!" cried the child, laughing and clapping her hands. "I was right! I
knew he was our kind Fairy, all the time. If he is good, he is no Gnome.
It is only a name. If he seems beautiful to us, then he is beautiful,
indeed. He is a Fairy! He shall live here with us and we will love him
forever."

And lo, as she spoke, the Old Gnome looked wonderingly down at his body.
He seemed to have changed. He was no longer crooked and old, but light
and airy and beautiful. Over his head arched gauzy wings and his dress
sparkled like dew. Also he felt young and full of power to do things he
had never done before.

"I believe I am a Fairy!" he cried joyously. "And I may live and love
and serve forever, and never be tired or sleepy!"

So it fell out as they all wished. And the hermit's cell became a Fairy
palace.



XIII: HAROLD'S LUNCHEON

When Harold finished reading the story of the Hermit Gnome to the Red
King, he looked up to see how his listener had enjoyed the tale. And lo
and behold! Red Rex was fast asleep! He lay on his back in the afternoon
sunshine, and a noise came from his half-open mouth rather like the
_Gr-r!_ of the lion-doll, when its tail was screwed.

"Well!" said Harold to himself; "I cannot return to the city until His
Majesty wakes up; for that would not be polite, and his bodyguard would
not allow it. I may as well make myself comfortable and be patient. The
longer he sleeps the longer time we shall have in safety to wait for
help from our King."

Harold opened the little covered basket to replace the green-and-gold
volume from which he had just been reading, and in doing so caught sight
of the luncheon which his thoughtful mother had packed, in the fear that
he might be hungry ere his return. He took out the folded napkin and
peered eagerly below. There was a huge wedge of apple pie! Harold licked
his lips and his eyes sparkled, for there was nothing of which he was so
fond as apple pie. "I must have at least a bite this minute!" he said to
himself, and opening his mouth very wide he prepared to bite into the
juicy wedge.

Just at this moment Red Rex opened his eyes.

"Pitikins!" he cried, "what is going on? Is this part of the story?" For
at first he did not know that he had been asleep.

"No, Your Majesty," said Harold; "it is a piece of one of my mother's
famous pies. Will you share it with me?"

"That I will!" said Red Rex, sitting upright and stretching out his hand
eagerly. "It looks like apple pie. There is nothing in the world I like
so well as apple pie."

"Your taste is the same as mine," said Harold merrily, carving the wedge
with his knife into two equal triangles. "I believe Your Majesty never
tasted better pie than that. It is made by a famous rule."

Red Rex munched his share greedily, sitting opposite the munching
Harold. And as they ate they eyed one another, not unfriendly. When he
had finished, the Red King said,--"By my sword! That is the best piece
of apple pie that ever I tasted, or hope to taste! Your mother must be a
wondrous cook, Harold."

"That she is!" cried the proud boy. "And she is the best mother who ever
lived. She made six of these wonderful pies for me, because she knows
that I like them so much. I saw them this morning on a shelf in the
pantry."

"Six juicy apple pies!" murmured Red Rex, smacking his lips at the
thought. "Where do you live, boy?"

"I live on the High Street, which leads from the market-place, in a
little house next the butcher's shop," said Harold, wondering why the
King asked.

"I will remember that," said Red Rex, nodding his head solemnly. "I owe
your mother a happy memory for that piece of delicious pie."

"It is made from the recipe for the King's Pie," said Harold. "No wonder
you approve it, being like His Hungry Majesty of old."

"The King's Pie!" exclaimed the surprised monarch. "Pray, what do you
mean by that?"

"It is another story, Your Majesty," said Harold, grinning. "I think it
is the best story of all. But I suppose you would not care to hear it
to-morrow."

"Oh, go along with you and your stories, you young beguiler!" cried Red
Rex with a great roar, at the same time poking Harold playfully with the
point of his sword. "I see that you would keep me here forever at the
walls of your city, listening to your tales."

"Not forever," said Harold, with an air of candor. "I do not think that
even the library of Kisington could furnish new books for as long a time
as that,--though, to be sure, you might hear some of the same ones over
again. But, indeed, you have no idea what treasures still remain in that
casket! This tale of the King's Pie is one of the rarest, I think."

Red Rex seemed to be thinking very earnestly about something. "The
King's Pie," he murmured, more than once. "H'm! H'm! It is of a
deliciousness! Ha! Ho!" And he smacked his lips again, thinking of the
tantalizing wedge which was now no more. Suddenly he spoke: "I have
decided to wait yet another day," he announced. "I will hear that tale
to-morrow. And if it contains a recipe for the famous pie, I shall want
you to copy it off for me. Bring pen and paper, my lad."

"That I will!" said Harold joyously. For this meant still another day's
delay; and the time was now near at hand when they might expect to see
help coming from the Capital City where their good King Victor lived.
This was Wednesday, when he took leave of the Red King.



XIV: THE ROBBER

Harold was very weary when he returned to the cottage that evening; and
he was still more weary before he tumbled into bed. For in the mean time
he had to learn his school lessons for the following day, and tell the
other boys all about his adventures. He slept like a top; quite like a
top,--for sometimes during the night there came from his little room
beyond the kitchen a sound like a humming top.

It was about midnight when Harold was awakened by a peculiar noise. It
was a queer, clicking, tapping noise that seemed to come from the
kitchen close by. Harold sat up in bed and listened. Some one was
certainly moving about in the kitchen. It was probably his mother, he
thought. And yet, what could his mother be doing there at that time of
night? Stealthy steps crossed the kitchen; just then Harold sneezed,--he
could not help it. There was silence.

Presently he heard a noise in the pantry, which was next his own little
room. Harold rose and crept noiselessly out of his chamber. Yes, there
was someone in the pantry. The door was open,--something not allowed in
his mother's kitchen rule. An uncertain light flickered behind the
pantry door. Harold could not see plainly, but there certainly was some
one meddling with the dishes on the shelves. Suddenly a silhouette came
between Harold and the light, and he saw the shape of the intruder. It
seemed to be a very tall old woman in bonnet and shawl, and her great
hand was carrying something from the pantry shelf to the mouth within
the bonnet.

Harold felt himself growing very angry. Who was this stranger who dared
to force a way into their cottage and eat up the hard-earned victuals
which his mother had painfully prepared? Such doings were rare indeed in
Kisington. It was a wicked thief, a robber, a house-breaker! Even though
it was a woman, she must be punished.

There was a key in the lock outside the pantry door. Quick as a flash
Harold made a leap for it, and turned it in the lock. At the same time
he shouted to his mother who slept in the room upstairs,--"Quick! Quick,
Mother! There is an old woman in the pantry eating up the food! I have
caught her at it!"

In a few minutes his mother's feet came pattering down the stairs. But
in the mean time what a hubbub was going on in the pantry! Evidently the
thief had no mind to be discovered and taken in her criminal act. There
was the sound of overturned boxes and barrels, the crash of crockery and
glass. The thief was smashing the pantry window!

"Open the door, Harold!" screamed his mother. "She is climbing out the
window!"

It did not seem possible that the thief could do this, it was such a
tiny window. But, sure enough! when the door was opened, and Harold and
his mother crowded into the pantry, they were but just in time to seize
the hem of the old woman's shawl, as her last leg squeezed through the
casement. Harold held on to the shawl tightly, however, and off it came
in his hands. It was a very nice shawl.

"Who ever heard of a thief in Kisington!" exclaimed the mother. "Who
could it be? I never saw a shawl like this. Let us examine what she has
taken, the wicked old creature!"

Harold got a candle, and presently returned to the pantry, where his
mother was groping among the smashed crockery for some other clue to the
thief. When the light flickered on the pantry shelves the mother gave a
scream of surprise and anger. "My six beautiful pies!" she exclaimed.
"The thief has stolen my six beautiful apple pies! Oh, what a wicked old
soul!"

"Those lovely pies!" groaned Harold. "See, Mother, she has gobbled one
and left the empty plate. The others she has taken away with her."

"I wish they may choke her!" cried the mother angrily. "Now you will
have none to take to your Red King to-morrow. I was going to save the
finest of all for him, in the hope that it would soften his hard heart."

"It will never soften his heart nor please his stomach now, Mother,"
said Harold ruefully. "And still more I regret the other five pies which
I know you meant for me. When shall we ever see such pies again?"

"They were made from the last of the flour and apples and sugar sent you
in gratitude by the Leading Citizens," said Harold's mother sadly. "I am
sorry your reward is thus wasted, my poor boy! What spiteful neighbor
could have spied them through the pantry window and planned this
midnight raid at our expense?"

Harold shook his head mournfully. "I do not know any one in Kisington
whom I could suspect," he said. "Come, Mother, let us go back to bed.
To-morrow we will look further into the matter. We have at least this
handsome shawl as one clue, which if it does not find us the thief will
be very nice for you to wear."

They went to bed again, and slept until morning.

Now in the morning before school Harold took the shawl and went to his
friend the Librarian and told him what had happened during the night.
The Librarian was greatly shocked to hear of a theft in town and went
with Harold straight to the Lord Mayor.

The Mayor examined the shawl carefully and shook his head. "This is very
strange!" he said. "This is no shawl made in Kisington, or in our
Kingdom. It is a strange foreign shawl, and very valuable. I am glad to
believe that the thief must have been a foreigner, or a gypsy, or a
vagrant of some sort. But how did she find her way into our guarded
city? I must look into this! Meanwhile, my lad, since you have suffered
loss and damage to your pantry and to your feelings the Leading Citizens
will see that you are made whole at their expense; I will answer for
their gratitude to you."

"My Lord," said the Librarian, patting Harold affectionately on the
head, "our boy has done so well already in handling this savage King,
may we not expect still more from him now that the time is so critical?
King Victor should soon be coming to our aid. If we can but postpone the
siege for at least another day! Suppose Harold should invite Red Rex,
under a flag of truce, to visit and inspect our Library?"

"Good!" cried the Mayor. "When you go to Red Rex this afternoon, Harold,
my boy, see what you can do further in the matter."

"I will try, my Lord Mayor," said Harold. "But Red Rex is growing very
impatient. I fear that I cannot much longer keep him amused with our
tales."

"Clever lad! You have already done right well," said the Librarian,
embracing Harold proudly. "And I dare say you will be able to do yet
more. Now, run along to school; for we must not forget our everyday
duties, even in these times of excitement and danger."

So Harold went to school, and you can imagine how many questions he had
to answer at recess time. The Librarian went to his books and the Lord
Mayor to his desk. And Harold's mother went down on her knees, cleaning
up the wrecked pantry.

But where was the strange old woman all this time?



XV: THE BANDAGED HAND

As soon as school was over on Thursday afternoon, Harold started once
more on his errand to the War-Lord. As usual, he was accompanied to the
city gate by a crowd of schoolboys and girls who envied him his luck and
wished that they could go all the way with him. But this, naturally, the
City Fathers would not permit. One boy carried Harold's coat, and
another his strap of schoolbooks. A third brought the basket with
Harold's luncheon, while Robert carried the flag of truce,--proud boy!
But Richard, Harold's special chum, was the proudest of all. For he was
trusted with the precious volume from the library containing the story
of the King's Pie, which Harold was to read to the War-Lord on that day.
All gave a great cheer when the gate was unbarred; and all the little
girls waved their handkerchiefs when with a gay shake of his hand Harold
stepped out into the danger zone.

Red Rex received him as usual, sitting upon the green hillock. Harold
noticed straightway that the War-Lord's hand was bound up with a
bandage, and that he had a cut over his left eye, which made him look
fiercer than ever.

"But I thought there was a truce!" exclaimed Harold, gazing at these
tokens of trouble. "How came you to be thus hurt, Your Majesty?"

"Nay; it was an accident," said the Red King gruffly. "Say no more about
it, pray. Well! I have no time to waste to-day. Things are coming to an
issue. Let me hear your story as quickly as possible,--if you have
brought one, as I think."

"Yes, Your Majesty," replied Harold. "I have brought you the spicy story
of the King's Pie, which I think you will like. I had meant, in order to
illustrate the story, to bring you also one of the veritable pies. But
that, alas! I am now unable to do. My mother made a pie especially for
this purpose; but it is gone with others which were to be mine, and for
which I grieve on my own account. A wicked thief stole them all during
last night. So I fear you will not appreciate the story so well as
otherwise you might have done."

"Perhaps I shall," said the War-Lord whimsically. "Perhaps I shall
appreciate it all the more."

"Now, what means Your Majesty by that?" cried Harold, wondering very
much at these strange words. "It was such a fine pie! A large, fat,
juicy, rich, crisp, crusty pie,--just such a one as the King enjoyed in
the story."

"Yes, I know!" said Red Rex. "Go on with the story, right speedily, with
no more details of that tantalizing, vanished pie!" And he licked his
lips and shifted his seat as he sat upon his hillock.

Obediently Harold opened the book which his chum Richard had handed to
him just inside the city gate, and began to read the toothsome tale of
_The King's Pie_.



XVI: THE KING'S PIE

There was great excitement in Kisington; for the King was coming with
his new young bride, and the town was preparing to give them a famous
welcome.

Hugh, the Lord Mayor, was at his wits' end with all that must be done.
As he sat in the Town Hall holding his aching head, while a mob of
decorators and artists and musicians, costumers, jewelers, and florists
clamored about him, there came to him a messenger from Cedric, his son.
Cedric was one of the King's favorite friends, and he knew His Majesty's
taste well. So he had sent to the Lord Mayor a hint as to how the King
might best be pleased. Being a man of few words, this is how his message
ran:--

"His Majesty is exceedingly fond of pie."

Long pondered the Lord Mayor over this mysterious message, reading it
backward and forward, upside down and crisscross, and mixed up like an
anagram. But he could make nothing of it except what it
straightforwardly said: that the King was exceedingly fond of pie.

Now, in those days pie meant but one thing--a pasty; that is, meat of
some sort baked in a dish covered with dough. At that time there was no
such thing known as a pie made of fruit or mincemeat. Pie was not even a
dainty. Pie was vulgar, ordinary victuals, and the Lord Mayor was
shocked at his son's even mentioning pie in connection with the King.

"Pie, indeed!" he shuddered. "A pretty dish to set before a King on his
wedding journey! How can pie be introduced into my grand pageant? The
King can get pie anywhere, in any hut or hovel along his way. What has
Kisington to do with pie?"

The Lord Mayor snorted scornfully, and was about to dismiss his son's
hint from his mind, when he had an idea! A Pie! A great, glorified,
poetic, symbolic Pie such as could be carried in procession decorated
with flowers! That was a happy thought. The Lord Mayor dismissed every
one else and sent for all the master cooks of the city.

It was decided to accept Cedric's hint for what it was worth, and make
Pie the feature of the day. There should be a grand pageant of soldiers
and maskers and music. And, following the other guilds, last of all
should come the cooks, with their ideas of Pie presented as attractively
as might be, for the edification of the King. Moreover, the Lord Mayor
said, in dismissing the white-capped company:--

"To whichever of you best pleases His Majesty with the pie, I will give
this reward: a team of white oxen, a hundred sacks of white flour, and a
hundred pieces of white silver."

"Hurrah!" shouted the cooks, waving their white caps. Then away they
hurried to put on their thinking-caps instead and plan for the building
of the King's Pie.

Now, among the cooks of Kisington there were two brothers, Roger and
Rafe. Roger, the elder, had one of the hugest kitchens and shops in
Kisington. But Rafe, the younger, had only a little old house on an acre
of land under a little red-apple tree, with a little red cow who gave a
little rich cream every day. Rafe was very poor, and no richer for
having a brother well-to-do like Roger. For the thrifty cook had little
to do with Rafe, whose ways were not his ways.

Rafe cooked in his little kitchen for the poor folk of the town,
charging small prices such as they could pay. Indeed, often as not he
gave away what he had cooked for himself to some one who seemed
hungrier. This is a poor way to make profit of gold, but an excellent
way to make profit of affection. And Rafe was rich in the love of the
whole town.

Roger was among the cooks whom the Lord Mayor summoned to consult about
the King's Pie. But Rafe knew nothing at all of it, until one afternoon
he was surprised by a visit from his brother, who had not darkened his
door for many a day.

"Well, Brother," said Roger, briefly, "I suppose you are not busy, as I
am. Will you work for me for a day or two? In fact, I need you."

"You need me!" said Rafe, in surprise. "How can that be, Brother?"

"I have a great task at hand," said the master-cook; "a task that needs
extra help. You must come. Your own work can wait well enough, I judge."

Rafe hesitated. "I must cook for my poor people first," he said.

Roger sneered. "Your poor people, indeed! I am cooking for the King!
Will you hesitate now?"

"Cooking for the King!" cried Rafe. "Ah, but he is not so hungry as my
neighbors will be to-morrow without their rabbit-pies."

"Rabbit-pies! It is a pie for the King that I am making!" shouted Roger,
in high dudgeon,--"such a pie as you and your louts never dreamed of.
Now what say you? Will you come?"

"I must do my own small cooking first," said Rafe firmly.

"Very well then," growled Roger. "Cook for your beggars first; but come
to me to-morrow. Every cook in town but you is engaged. I must have your
help."

"I will come," said Rafe simply, and Roger bade him a surly good-bye
without thanks or promises.

The next morning, when his own simple tasks were done, Rafe hied him to
his brother's kitchen, and there he found great doings. Roger was
superintending the preparations for baking an enormous pie. A group of
masons had just finished building the huge oven out of doors, and about
a score of smiths were struggling with the pie-dish, which they had
forged of iron. It was a circular dish six feet across and three feet
deep; and it looked more like a swimming-tank than anything else.

Rafe stared in amazement. "Is that to hold your pie, Brother?" he asked.

"Yes!" growled Roger. "Now get to work with the other men, for the crust
must be baked this morning."

Three assistant cooks in caps and aprons were busy sifting buckets of
flour, measuring out handfuls of salt and butter. Others were practicing
with long rolling-pins made for the occasion, so big that a man had to
roll at each end. On the ground lay a great round piece of tin, six feet
across, pierced full of holes.

"What is that?" whispered Rafe to one of his fellow cooks.

"That is to be the lid of the pie," answered the cook. "See, they are
lifting it onto the dish now. It will have a strong hinge, and it will
be covered with crust."

"And what is to fill this marvelous pie?" asked Rafe, wondering still
more. "Tender capon? Rabbits? Venison? Peacocks? What is suitable for a
King? I do not know."

"Ah, there you show your lack of imagination!" cried the cook. "Master
is a great man. This is a poetic pie. It is to be filled with flowers,
and on the flowers will be sitting ten beautiful little children, pink
and sweet as cherubs, dressed all in wreaths of flowers. And when the
pie reaches the King, the top will be opened, and they will all begin to
sing a song in honor of Their Majesties. Is it not a pretty thought?"

"Well, if the King be not too hungry," said the practical Rafe,
doubtfully.

"Nonsense!" cried the cook testily. "Would you make out our King to be a
cannibal?"

"Nay," said Rafe; "that is why I doubt. However, I am here but to assist
in this colossal plan. Hand me yon bag of salt."

All day long at Roger's kitchen the cooks worked over the King's Pie. At
noon came a band of ten mothers, each with a rosy, smiling baby. They
placed the children in the great shell to see how they would look. Every
one cried: "Charming! Superb! But ah! we must not tell any one, for
Roger has paid us well, and the other cooks must not know how he is to
win the prize to-morrow!"

Weary and unthanked, with his meager day's wage,--a little bag of flour
and a pat of butter, sugar, and a handful of salt,--Rafe went home,
musing sadly. "A team of white oxen; a hundred sacks of white flour; a
hundred pieces of white silver,--what a prize! If only I could earn
these, I should be rich, indeed, and able to help my poor neighbors. But
Roger will win the prize," he thought.

He spread on the table his frugal supper. He had emptied his larder that
morning for a sick woman. He had but a few apples and a bowl of cream.
It was the first food he had eaten that day, for his brother had
forgotten to bid him to his table.

As he was taking a bite from one of the rosy-checked apples, there came
a tap at the door.

"Enter!" cried Rafe hospitably. The hinges creaked, and there tottered
in a little, bent, old woman in a long black cloak, leaning on a staff.

"Good evening, Son," she said, in a cracked voice. "Are you a man of
charity, or will you turn away a poor old soul who has had nothing to
eat for many hours?"

Rafe rose and led her to the table. "Sit down, Mother," he said kindly.
"Sit and share my poor supper: a few apples from my little tree, a sup
of the cream which my good little red cow gives me,--that is all; but
you are welcome."

"Thanks, Son," said the old woman, and without further words she began
to eat. When she had finished she sat for a few moments looking into the
empty bowl. Then she said:--

"Son, why do you not bake a pie for the King?"

"I!" cried Rafe, astonished. "How can I make a pie? You see all I have
in my cupboard. There is nothing but a little bag of flour, a pat of
butter, a handful of sugar and salt."

"It is enough," said the stranger. "Son, I will show you a secret. You
have been kind to me. Now I will tell you that which until this day no
man has known. You shall make the King a pie, indeed!"

"But, Mother," interrupted Rafe, smiling, "you do not know what manner
of pies are being made. There will be many, though I have seen but
one--a giant pie, a glorious pie, all golden crust and flowers and pink
little babies who sing!"

"Humph!" grunted the old woman. "A pie for a pasteboard King. Why not
cook a pie to tempt a hungry man?"

"The King is, indeed, a man," mused Rafe. "But how shall I make a pie
without viands of any sort?" (As I have said, to speak of a pie in those
days meant always a dish of meat or game or poultry.)

"I will tell you," said the old woman. "Have you not a tree of red
apples? Yes, luscious apples of a goodly flavor, for I have tasted
them." She leaned forward, whispering earnestly: "Make your pie of them,
my Son!"

"Apples! A pie of apples!" cried Rafe. "Who ever heard of such a thing!"
(And at this time, indeed, no one had.)

"Nay, you need not laugh so scornfully," said the old crone. "You shall
see! I will help you."

At her command Rafe fetched out the bag of flour, and the butter, salt,
and sugar. Then he went to gather a basket of apples, while the old
woman mended the fire and mixed the dough. Wonderingly he watched her
pare the apples, core and slice them, and cover all with a blanket of
crust laid softly over, but not tucked in at the edges as for an
ordinary pasty. Soon the pie was baked, all flaky and brown. When it
came smoking hot from the oven, the old woman slipped a knife under the
blanket of crust and lifted it aside.

"See," she said, "the apples are steamed and soft. Now I will mash them
with a knife and mix the butter and sugar generously therein. This one
must ever do, Son, last of all. This is the crown of my secret, the only
recipe for a perfect pie."

Rafe watched her curiously, by no means convinced. Then, from a pouch
somewhere concealed in her robe, she drew out a strange round nut, such
as Rafe had never seen before.

"This is the final blessing," she said. "See, I will grate a little of
this magic nut into the pie." Forthwith it was done, and a whiff of
spicy fragrance reached Rafe's nose, and, more than anything, gave him
confidence in this strange new pie.

"It smells worthy," said Rafe hungrily.

Without a word the stranger drew from under a cover a little pie baked
in a tiny tin, an exact copy of the other. "Eat," she said: "eat and
judge if my secret be worth keeping."

Rafe sunk his teeth into the warm, crisp crust and ate eagerly. His eyes
sparkled, but he spoke no word till the last crumb was gone.

"Oh!" he said, "it is a magic pie! Never such have I met before! Never,
in all my life!"

The old woman nodded. "A magic pie," she said. "And still better when
you serve it with the yellow cream of your little red cow."

"It is a pie for a King!" said Rafe. "But shall I be allowed in the
procession, Mother?"

"All the cooks in Kisington who choose may march with that guild," said
the old woman. "Bear your pie proudly in your own hands, wearing your
cap and apron. I will send some one to walk beside you and carry the jug
of cream. She shall be here to-morrow when you milk the little red cow.
Treat her kindly for my sake."

"Mother, how can I ever thank you--" began Rafe. But, with a quickness
which seemed impossible to her years, the old woman had slipped out of
the door and was gone.

The next morning bright and early Rafe went out to milk his cow. And
there beside the cow stood a young maid, the fairest he had ever seen.

"Good morning, Rafe," said the maid, dropping a curtsy. "I am Meg, and I
have come to help you carry the King's Pie." She smiled so sweetly that
Rafe's heart danced a jig. She was dressed in a neat little gown of blue
with a white apron, and had set a dainty cook's cap on her flaxen curls.
And she wore red stockings and shoes, with silver buckles. From under
her apron she drew a little blue jug. "See, I have brought this to hold
the cream," she said, "and it is full of red strawberries for your
breakfast. Milk the little red cow, Rafe, and then we can eat and be
gone as soon as I have skimmed the cream of yesterday."

In a happy daze Rafe did as she bade. Merrily they breakfasted together
on a wheaten loaf and milk and berries which the maid had brought, as if
she knew how hungry Rafe would be. Then Meg skimmed the cream for the
blue jug, and they were ready to start. Rafe, in his white cap and
apron, bore the precious pie, while Meg walked along at his side. A
merry, handsome couple they were.

When they came to the market-place they found a great crowd assembled.
"Ho, Rafe! Rafe!" people shouted to him, for every one knew and loved
him. "Come here! Come with us!"

But Rafe answered: "Nay. I am going to walk in the procession with the
other cooks. I have a pie for the King."

"A pie! A pie!" they cried good-naturedly. "Look at Rafe's pasty! Of
what is it made, Rafe? Grasshoppers or mice?" For they knew how poor he
was. But Rafe only smiled and pushed his way to where the cooks were
gathered. They, too, greeted him with jests. But he insisted that he
must march with them. So they gave him place at the very end of the
line, with the little maid at his side. But when he saw the wonderful
pies all around him, he sighed and shook his head, looking ruefully at
his own simple offering. The little maid, seeing him so look, said:--

"Never mind, Rafe. You are giving your best to the King. No one can do
more than that."

The people waited. The hands of the great clock in the market-place
crept slowly around until they marked noon. Every one began to feel
uneasy, for it was close upon the dinner-hour, and the long procession
had not moved. The King and Queen were late.

At last there sounded the blast of a trumpet, which told that the King
and his bride had arrived, and that the Lord Mayor had led them to their
seats on the balcony in front of the Town Hall. Every one gave a sigh of
relief. But then there was another long wait, while the hands of the
clock crept on--on, and the people watched and craned their necks
eagerly. The Lord Mayor was making his speech, and it was very long.
Finally arose more shouts and huzzas,--not because the speech was good,
but because it was ended. And presently another trumpet gave signal for
the procession to start.

Off they went, through the streets full of cheering, hungry people.
Soldiers and bands of music led the way; then came the maskers and the
flower-maidens, the city guilds and all the arts and crafts. Finally
passed along the yoke of snowy oxen, with ribbons in their ears, drawing
a white wain in which were the bags of flour and silver, the prize to be
given the best pie-maker of Kisington. When the company of white-capped
cooks came within sight of the King, he laughed merrily, rubbing his
hands, and said:--

"Cooks! Now we shall have something worth while, for I am growing
hungry, indeed!"

And the young Queen whispered: "So am I!"

Then came the pies. And such pies! Carried on the shoulders of sturdy
boys, drawn on floats by teams of ponies, wreathed in flowers and stuck
over with banners and mottoes, the pies passed along before the hungry
King. And not one of the pies was real! Gradually the King's smile
faded.

There was a wonderful big pie fashioned like a ship,--rigged with masts
and sails and manned by sailor-dolls. There was a fine brown pasty like
a bird's nest, and when it passed the King, off came the cover, and out
flew four-and-twenty blackbirds croaking lustily.

"Good-bye, dinner!" sighed the King, looking after them wistfully.

The Queen nudged him and said: "'Sh! Behave, Your Majesty!" But she also
began to look hungrier and hungrier.

There passed a pie in a carriage drawn by six mules. It seemed piping
hot, for steam came out of it. But when it reached the King it blew up
with a _bang!_ scattering showers of blossoms over the royal party.

"My faith!" cried the King; "methought this was the end of all things.
But it seems not. Here come more and more empty pies!"

The Queen smelled of her salts and grew paler every moment.

One pie had a musical box inside and played a sweet tune as it passed
the King. In one was hidden a tiny dwarf, who popped out like a
jack-in-the-box when the Queen pulled a golden cord.

Still the procession moved on, and so did the hands of the clock; and
the King's hands moved to his ample girdle, which he tightened sharply.
But both he and the pale young Queen were too polite to ask the Lord
Mayor for buns or something to sustain them.

The pie which caused the greatest excitement as it passed along, drawn
by four white horses, was that of Roger, the master cook, who walked
proudly beside it. When it came opposite the King the carriage stopped,
the cover was lifted, and ten beautiful babies on a bed of roses waved
their little hands and began to sing.

The Queen leaned forward eagerly, forgetting to be hungry. "How sweet!
The darlings!" she murmured. "Oh, this is the best of all!"

Roger the cook heard her and flushed with triumph.

But the King grumbled: "Humph! They look good enough to eat, but--my
faith! I hope that this is the end, for soon I must eat something, or I
shall become a cannibal!"

"Your Majesty!" protested the Queen, faintly.

But the King interrupted her.

"What comes here?" he cried. "This looks sensible!" It was Rafe and the
pretty maid bringing up the rear of the procession. Side by side they
walked in cap and apron, he bearing the small, delicately browned pie,
she with a jug of yellow cream. No one paid any attention to them, but
closed in around them, following Roger's chariot.

When Rafe and Meg came opposite the King and Queen, they turned and Rafe
bowed low, holding up the pie as high as he could. The pretty maid
curtsied gracefully, and offered the cream-jug with a winsome smile. The
crowd was fain to hustle them on; but the King struck the floor with his
staff and pointed eagerly at the pie.

"Hold!" he cried. "What have you there?" Every one stopped and began to
stare. Rafe bowed again.

"'T is a pie, Your Majesty," said Rafe simply,--"an apple pie."

"With cream for the top," lisped the little maid, curtsying again.

"Apple pie!" cried the King. "Who ever heard of an apple pie! A pie
should be of savory meat. But of apples!" Words failed to express his
astonishment.

"Butter and sugar, Sire, go to the making of it, and the dust of a
wondrous nut. Will you taste it, Sire?" Rafe held out the pie
temptingly.

"With thick cream to pour on the top--yellow, sweet, rich, thick cream!"
said Meg, lingering over each word as if it melted on her lips.

"Give hither that pie!" almost shouted the hungry King. "I will look
into this matter." And, drawing a dagger from his girdle, he seized and
stabbed the pie to the heart. Sniffing at it eagerly, his eyes grew
round, and he smacked his lips. "It is good, I wager my scepter!" he
cried. "Hand me the cream, fair maid."

The little maid stepped up and daintily poured cream upon the shattered
pie, and without more ado the King began to eat with his dagger. (This
was not considered bad manners in those days.) After the first mouthful
he stopped only to say: "Food of the Fairies! Pie of the Pixies! Cook,
you are a magician!" He went on at a rate which threatened not to leave
a mouthful.

But the Queen pulled at his sleeve. "A bite for me, Your Majesty," she
begged.

And, with an apology, the King handed her what was left, watching her
wistfully till she ate the last crumb.

"Delicious! I never tasted anything finer!" she cried. "I must have the
recipe."

"I must have the cook!" cried the King, turning to Rafe, with a broad
grin on his merry, fat face. "You must come with me and cook such pies
for every meal. Yes, I will have them for breakfast, too," he insisted,
in response to a protest from the Queen.

Just then up stepped Hugh, the Lord Mayor.

"Sire," said he, bowing low, "will Your Majesty deign to point out to me
the pie which has best pleased you, that I may have it set in the place
of honor, and give the prize to the maker?"

"That I cannot do," said the King, "for the pie no longer exists. I have
eaten it!" And he slapped his generous waistband. "But give whatever
prize there may be to this worthy fellow, whom I now dub Baron Applepy.
Baron, wear this ring in token of my pleasure in your pie." He drew a
fine ruby from his finger and gave it to Rafe.

"And this is for the little maid," said the Queen, taking a beautiful
pearl necklace and tossing it over Meg's curls.

But Roger, the master cook, stood by and tore his hair when he saw what
was happening.

Then up came the yoke of white oxen drawing the cart bearing the prize.
And the Lord Mayor gave a goad into Rafe's hands, with words of
congratulation.

"Now, mount and come with me," said the King.

But Rafe hesitated.

"Your Majesty," he replied, "I see no way to make another pie like this
which has pleased you. For I have no more of the magic nuts wherewith to
flavor a second."

The King frowned. "What! No more pie! Is this to be the first and the
last? Sirrah, I am not pleased!"

Then little Meg stepped forth. "The magic nut is the nutmeg," said she.
"My name is Meg, and Granny called the magic nuts after me. I know where
is hidden a store of them. These are my dower."

She emptied her pockets of the nuts which they held, and they were a
precious handful.

"Ha!" cried the King eagerly, "you must marry Baron Applepy, that he may
use your dower in our behalf."

Rafe and the maid looked sidewise at one another.

"You are willing, my dear?" said the Queen, smiling upon Meg.

"Yes," whispered she, with red-apple cheeks.

"Yes, indeed!" cried Rafe when the Queen looked at him.

But again he seemed troubled.

"Your Majesty," he said, "I cannot leave my poor neighbors. There will
be no one to cook for them at my prices."

"You shall have your own price from me," said the King.

Rafe bowed low. "You do me great honor," he said humbly. "But I cannot
leave my poor people, my house and my cow and my apple tree; indeed, I
cannot."

The King looked very angry and raised his staff with a gesture of wrath.
But the Queen laid her hand upon his arm.

"Why may he not live where he will and yet cook the pies for us?" she
said. "A messenger on a fleet horse can bring them to us every day. We
shall then have pies like that first delicious one, made of fresh apples
from that very same red-apple tree of his. They would be best of all."

"True," said the King, reflecting for a moment.

"Please, Your Majesty!" said Meg, in her most winsome tones. "I do so
long to help Rafe pick the red apples for your pies and skim the yellow
cream of the little red cow. And please, I do so long to help him cook
for his poor neighbors, who will miss him sadly if he goes. Now that we
have the prize, we can do much for them. Please, Your Majesty!"

"Please, Your Majesty!" echoed Rafe.

"Please, Your Majesty!" begged the Queen.

So the King hemmed and hawed and yielded. "But see, Baron Applepy," he
said, "that you make me three fine pies every day, for which my swiftest
messenger shall call. Now, farewell to you--and to all! We must be off.
It is past dinner-time."

"Heaven bless Your Majesties," said Rafe and Meg, bowing and curtsying
low.

Then Rafe lifted the little maid into the white cart beside the hundred
sacks of flour and the bag of silver, and amid shouts and cheers away
they drove the white oxen toward the little house on the acre of land
under the red-apple tree, where the little red cow was waiting for them.

And there they lived happily ever after, making three pies a day for the
King at an enormous price, and feeding the beloved poor people, their
neighbors, for no price at all.



XVII: THE MYSTERY OF THE PIE

Red Rex greeted the close of this story with an enormous sigh. "Three of
those delicious pies every day!" said he. "Would I had a messenger to
bring such to me!"

"It might be arranged, Your Majesty," suggested Harold, "if our two
countries were at peace. I know that my mother would be glad to make
such pies for you, even as Rafe and his Margot did for the King of old.
The distance from Kisington to your Capitol is not so very great, I
think; and doubtless Your Majesty has messengers fleeter than the one of
long ago."

"And your mother's pies are quite as good!" exclaimed Red Rex. "I have
never tasted better. So fat, so juicy, so generous! The tops fine,
rounded hills; the crust so crisp, which your knife crunches daintily;
the sight and smell of them is tempting!" The Red King's eyes rolled in
his head and he swayed ecstatically, like a poet composing a rhyme.

"And yet you have seen but a wee wedge of one pie!" exclaimed Harold.
"It must have pleased Your Majesty, indeed, to make your impression so
true."

Red Rex eyed him strangely. "H'm, yes," he said. "I have a vivid
imagination in such matters. I can almost fancy I have eaten a whole
pie--two--three--four whole pies! What a feast!"

Harold's eyes had been straying toward something white concealed in the
grass not far from the Red King's seat. He took a step forward now,
bending low. Then he uttered an exclamation.

"Five pies, Your Majesty!" he cried, looking straight at the King.
"There were six, which the old woman stole. Here are five empty
pie-plates!"

"What a strange coincidence!" cried the Red King, flushing and twiddling
at his sword-hilt uneasily. "These coincidences do happen quite
startlingly sometimes. Ha-hum!" He coughed and frowned forbiddingly.

"Surely, none of your men could have stolen my mother's pies (and,
indeed, one of them was yours), Your Majesty. They would not have been
so mean!"

"They would not have been so reckless," corrected Red Rex. "No, no! it
took courage to make such an attempt; great courage, my boy!"

"Courage!" cried Harold. "I call it something else,--to steal the pies
of a poor widow and deprive her son of his desserts. I call it mean and
disgraceful!"

"Tut, tut, boy! You do not know what you are saying!" blustered the
War-Lord, growing very red.

"Often it takes courage to do what others call an ill deed. And an ill
deed is ill, only as you look at it; so I say! Everything depends upon
the point of view; remember that. Suppose the man who stole those pies
was starving and needed them for his comfort?"

"Suppose, indeed!" retorted Harold. "Suppose he came to our front door
and asked my mother for them, like a gentleman? She would not have
refused to sell, if he had money. She would have given, if he had none.
She is like that, is my good mother!"

The Red King shook his head. "Suppose the man was an enemy, and too
proud to ask a favor? All's fair in war, my boy. Everybody knows that."

"Then war is all wrong, as we always said," Harold replied. "Right is
right, and wrong is wrong. Stealing is stealing, and meanness is
meanness,--war or no war. If war makes men think differently from the
rule of every day, there is nothing to be said for it. Hello!" Harold
interrupted himself, for something else had suddenly caught his eye.

He had been making his way toward the pile of pie-plates, and now he
stooped and picked up something lying on the grass beside them. It was a
queer, old-fashioned bonnet. As he touched it out fell a rolled-up
calico apron. One of the strings was gone. Harold's eyes leaped from it
to the Red King's bundled-up wrist. The other apron-string was doing
duty as a bandage there.

"Ho! Ho!" cried Harold, staring at the Red King's purpling face. "This
is the old woman's bonnet, and her apron. A disguise! I begin to see!
You, Your Majesty,--you were the old woman yourself!"

"You are very sharp, youngster!" said Red Rex sulkily. "Begone to your
home and leave me to finish my work."

"If I go," said Harold slowly, "I shall tell the whole town what I have
discovered. The news will travel through the Five Kingdoms--how a King
disguised as an old woman stole six pies--"

"Hold!" cried Red Rex sternly. "Enough of this impertinence! Remember to
whom you speak, boy! I am a King."

"Yes, you are that King. But I thought always it was the '_Knave_ of
Hearts who stole the tarts,' not the King. How did Your Majesty manage
to do it?" asked Harold curiously.

"Aha!" The Red King tried to appear easy and unconscious. "It is my turn
now to tell a story, is it? Oho! You want to hear how the old woman got
into your careless town, do you? And how she went along your unguarded
streets, do you? And how she crept into your unbolted cottage, do you?
And how she found the goodly row of pies sitting on the pantry shelf?
Ah! I shall never look upon their like again!"

"Nor I," said Harold promptly. "And one was yours, Your Majesty."

Red Rex cast down his eyes. "That is the thing that chiefly troubles
me," he said. "I am sorry I did not know the fact. Your mother was very
thoughtful, Harold."

"Please tell me all about it, Your Majesty?" begged Harold, settling
himself comfortably on the grass before the War-Lord. "I want to hear
the story. It is your turn now. You owe me that, at least."

"Well," said Red Rex choosing his words slowly. "You see, I had to have
those pies. Kings may take what they choose, because,--well, because
they are Kings. That is reason enough,--say I! After that first bite you
gave me, I felt that I needed more to make me happy. A King has a right
to be happy, whatever happens to another,--say I. I had brought
disguises with me; for we have ever found them useful in making war.
Last night I dressed up as an old woman, in petticoat and apron, bonnet
and shawl. None of my men knew. As soon as it was dark I went to the
gate of your town, pretending to be a countrywoman returning to
Kisington from a visit beyond the frontier, who had not heard of the
siege, and begged the guard to let me in quickly out of danger's way.
Oh! You are such stupid, trusting folk in your Kingdom! The men believed
me, and let me in because I seemed old and it was late, and they pitied
me. The fools! Pity is out of place in war-time. A city so ill-defended
deserves to be taken and harassed,--say I!"

"We are trustful in our town because our own hearts are truthful and
kind," said Harold.

"When the warders had let me in," went on Red Rex, "I passed along the
main street toward the market-place, with my basket on my arm; and no
one noticed me, for it was dark. I knew my way; you told me yesterday
how the streets lay. Presently I came to a great, handsome building with
a ruined porch,--upon my word, huge as my summer palace by the sea!--out
of which people passed in a constant stream, with books under their
arms."

"It was our library," said Harold proudly.

"So I judged," went on the Red King. "I concealed myself in an angle of
the building until it should be darker, and watched. Little children
came out of that library, who in my country would be playing at war with
guns and toy cannon. Old men and women, whom I should expect to see
caring only to smoke and mumble and gossip about past wars, brought out
books which they hugged lovingly. Young maids, such as in my land care
only to look at the soldiers and dance and prink; and young men who
should be drilling or dueling or talking war,--all these came out
looking happy and content with the books which they had in hand. I never
saw such a sight!"

"Yes," said Harold; "It is always so in Kisington. We have no time to
think about war or soldiers or killing."

"Strange!" muttered Red Rex. "I was tempted to go myself into that great
building and see if any book might be found with a message in it for me.
But I did not take the risk."

"I know such a Book!" interrupted Harold; "a Book of Peace."

"I guess what you mean," said the Red King hastily. "We have that Book
in my kingdom, too, of course. We honor it highly,--do not think
otherwise! We have it in the churches, and bind it in gold, and keep it
as something curious and old. But we do not often read it--why should
we? A peace book has no message for our brave and warlike people. To
think so is absurd!"

"Oh!" said Harold.

"Well," continued Red Rex; "after a long, long time the streets were
quite empty. Presently I heard the chimes of midnight. Then I crept out
of my hiding-place and stole along the High Street, of which you had
told me, till I came to the butcher's shop. Beside it, sure enough, was
a little cottage with a thatched roof which I knew must be yours. The
window was open, and I looked in; no one about. The door was unlocked,
and in I went. What carelessness!"

"We never lock our doors in Kisington," said Harold. "We think it would
be rude not to trust our good neighbors, who trust us."

"Huh!" grunted the Red King. "In my Kingdom every door is double-barred,
locked and bolted beside. He who trusts nobody is never
disappointed,--so I say."

"I should hate to live in that kind of Kingdom," murmured Harold. "But I
know what happened next," he went on, continuing the Red King's story.
"You fumbled along the wall with a noise like a mouse. You stepped on a
creaky board."

"I crossed the kitchen on tiptoe," said Red Rex. "I challenge any man of
my size to go more softly. Not a sound in the little house; no trace of
you. My dark lantern showed me two doors. I knew one must lead to the
pantry,--but which? Do you know what I did? Ah, I am clever! I put my
ear to each door in turn. At one I heard no sound. At the other,
presently, I caught the noise of gentle snoring. Just then,--some one
sneezed."

"Yes," said Harold; "I tried to smother it, but I could not do so."

"By that sneeze I knew certainly that this was your bedroom, and that
the other must be the pantry. I kept very quiet, and there was no more
sound from you. I hoped you were asleep. I opened the pantry door very
gently, and crept in. I flashed my lantern upon the shelves. Ah! There
they were,--six beautiful, brown, luscious apple pies, as you had said.
Um! Um! I could hardly wait to begin. I pulled out my dagger and
attacked one of them. It melted in the mouth like magic! Just then I
heard a hullabaloo from your bedroom. What lungs you have, you rascal!"

"I yelled as loudly as I could," said Harold modestly. "But Robert can
make more noise."

"I hope I may never hear him, then!" cried Red Rex. "Well; I heard the
key turn in the lock, and knew you had trapped me, you dog! I heard
steps on the stair, and knew I had no time to waste. Hastily I put the
five remaining pies in my basket and made for the window. I knew it
would never do for me to be caught in Kisington! To be sure, there was a
truce. But I did not know how your Magistrates might regard the right of
a King to take his own way with a truce. What triumph for your city to
capture me, the besieging War-Lord! It might not be. But your pantry
window is of a smallness! I nearly perished in my attempt to squeeze
through. The glass cut my hand and my forehead. I thought once I was
stuck for good. Some one clutched at my shawl. I let it go. It is
priceless, woven tissue of the East; but I let it go."

"We have it safe," said Harold.

"I shall never claim it," asserted Red Rex. "Well, soon I was safe
outside. I found myself in your back garden, on the city wall. You folk
are so careless,--to build houses on a city wall! From there one can
drop into safety without any trouble. I did so. It is your own fault if
fugitives escape from your city,--say I. Whatever happens to you, it is
your own fault,--say I!"

"Then it will be your own fault if I tell this tale of you to our City
Fathers to-morrow,--say I." Harold looked at Red Rex mischievously.

"Nay," said the Red King hastily. "You must not betray me. This tale
must not become common history. No one will understand my point of view.
I begin to think that no one will see my bravery in making this attempt.
So few persons are open-minded and generous! You will not tell your City
Fathers, Harold? _Noblesse oblige_, remember. You are my guest, and I
have told you a tale in return for yours. I could detain you by force,
breaking the truce yet once more. But I will not do so. I suppose I am a
fool!"

Harold had been thinking hard. "No; I will not tell the story,--but on
two conditions."

"What are they?" asked Red Rex.

"The first is this," said Harold. "For the sake of the pies you stole
(one of which was your own), during the siege of Kisington you shall
spare from force or damage that part of the city in which stands my
mother's little house."

"Gladly will I promise that," agreed the Red King.

"Spare the _north_, then," said Harold, pointing. "You must not aim any
weapons against the north."

"The north is safe," repeated Red Rex. "I agree not to point weapon or
aim force against the north section of your city."

"Then all Kisington is saved!" cried Harold. "Already, before now, Your
Majesty has promised to spare the _east_,--for the sake of Gerda's
garden; the _west_,--for the children's school, in the name of your
Hope. Now you promise to spare the _north_. The south only remains,--and
that is _here_, Your Majesty, outside the walls!"

Red Rex grinned sheepishly. "Harold," he said. "You have outwitted me,
and outplayed me. Kisington is indeed safe from me. I have no choice now
but to raise the siege and go my way home. And to tell you the truth, I
shall not be sorry to spare the town. Since visiting, even so briefly,
within your walls, seeing the kind-faced people, the goodly buildings,
and especially the noble library, I have conceived an affection for the
place. I am glad of an excuse not to destroy it. If it were possible,
indeed, I would that I might see the interior of that house of books. I
would fain know more of the Chronicles of Kisington."

"Why may it not be, Your Majesty?" said Harold. "We will say nothing of
this night's adventure. Come to-morrow with a flag of truce and be our
guest, even as I have been yours. I will show you our library. Maybe you
will hear another tale, even in that noble home of books.--But first you
must hear to my second condition."

"True; I forgot that," said Red Rex gravely. "What is your second
demand, Harold?"

"It is this," said Harold with a twinkle in his eye. "Your Majesty tells
a tale so well, I fain would hear another. To-morrow you shall tell me a
tale. I make that my second condition."

Red Rex hesitated, hummed and hawed. "Needs must," he said at last.
"Though I am no story-teller, I will think up some yarn from the tales I
have heard in my travels, and that you shall hear, my boy. But surely, I
need tell it to no others than yourself?"

The Red King looked so miserable at the idea of talking to an audience
that Harold laughed and said,--"Nay, Your Majesty. Let me have the treat
to myself. I will come here as before, after school, hear the story, and
then bring you back with me. The town will receive you as an honored
guest, and we will make high carnival."

"Agreed," said Red Rex.

"Agreed," said Harold, and they shook hands formally.

The Red King had one last word. "Harold," he said shamefacedly, "I am
sorry about the pies. I am ashamed. I would give them back, if I could.
I will pay for them roundly."

"Your Majesty," said Harold graciously, "do not mention it!"

Here follows the tale which the Red King told to Harold on the next day;
a tale which he had heard in his wanderings in a New World far across
the ocean to the west; a tale of the Red People--_Little Bear_.



XVIII: LITTLE BEAR: AN OJIBWAY LEGEND

Once upon a time there was an old Indian couple who had three daughters,
but no son. The two older girls were very beautiful; but the youngest
was plain and unlovely. Yet she was the wisest of the three. Her name
was Little Bear.

Now, there came a time when the father and mother grew too old to work
as they had done all their lives. It became necessary that the two older
daughters, who were strapping big girls, should go away to find work in
order to take care of the family.

"Take me with you," begged Little Bear.

But the older sisters shook their heads.

"No," they answered; "you would be of no use to us. You are too little.
You must stay at home."

The two sisters started upon their journey alone. But they had not gone
far when they heard the patter of feet behind them. They looked around,
and there was Little Bear running after them as fast as she could go.
The sisters were very angry. They took Little Bear and tied her to the
posts of the wigwam, so that she should not follow them again. Then once
more they started upon their journey.

They had traveled but a short distance when again they heard a noise
behind them. And there was Little Bear running toward them with the
poles of the wigwam upon her back.

The sisters were astonished and very angry indeed. They undid Little
Bear from the posts and tied her instead to a huge pine tree which grew
close by. And they said: "Now will you stay where we leave you, bad
Little Bear?"

Once more they went upon their way. But a third time they had not gone
far when they heard a great noise behind them. _Bumpety-bump!
Bumpety-bump!_ Along came Little Bear with the pine tree upon her
shoulders!

The sisters were now very, very angry. They untied Little Bear crossly,
with many jerks, and fastened her to a great rock on the side of the
hill. And they said: "Now we shall see whether you are anchored or not,
you obstinate Little Bear!" So they went upon their way.

Presently they came to a wide river, and they had no boat in which to
cross. They sat down upon the shore and moped, seeing no way to continue
their journey.

But suddenly they heard a terrible noise behind them, and there once
more was Little Bear, running toward them with the great rock on her
back.

This time the sisters were glad enough to see her. They unfastened the
rock and threw it into the middle of the river. Then they laid the pine
tree upon the rock, and so they had a bridge upon which to cross.
Merrily they passed over, all three. For this time Little Bear went with
the other two. And they did not send her away, because she was so strong
and useful. Presently, on the other side of the river, they came to a
wigwam, where lived an old witch-woman with her two daughters.

"Where are you going?" asked the old woman.

"Our parents are very old," said the three girls, "and we are going to
seek our fortune."

"Come in," said the old woman kindly. "Come in and have supper with us,
and sleep to-night in the wigwam with my daughters."

The travelers were glad to go in, for it was growing late. They had a
nice supper in the tent, and when it was night the daughters of the old
woman and Little Bear's two sisters went to sleep in a huge bed. The
sisters of Little Bear were on the outside, with the two others between
them.

Little Bear did not go to bed. She sat up with the old woman beside the
camp-fire, telling stories, until it was very late and the old woman
fell sound asleep. She snored loudly; but to make sure, Little Bear
reached out and pinched her gently.

When she found that it was not shamming, she crept softly to the bed
where the four girls slept and changed their places. After this Little
Bear's sisters were in the middle, and the old woman's daughters on the
outside. When Little Bear had done this, she crept back to the fire and
lay down, pretending to be asleep.

In a little while the old woman awoke and pinched Little Bear to see
whether or not she was really asleep; and although it hurt dreadfully,
Little Bear did not stir, or make a sound, but seemed to be dreaming
fast. Then the wicked old woman sharpened her long, bright knife and
stole to the bed where the girls were sleeping, and before they knew
what was happening she had cut off the heads of the two girls on the
outer sides of the bed. But it was her own two daughters whom the cruel
creature had killed, though she did not know it, in the dark! The wicked
old woman lay down to sleep, chuckling to herself. But when all was
quiet, Little Bear awoke her two sisters and they all three crept away
from that cruel wigwam, hurrying on their journey.

Now, in the morning when the old woman awoke and found what a dreadful
thing she had done, she was annoyed. She screamed and cried and tore her
hair, and then she jumped up into the sky and pulled down the sun from
its place, hiding it away in her wigwam, so that Little Bear and her
sisters might be lost in the dark.

In the pitchy blackness, worse than night, because there were no stars,
the three stumbled on and on, groping their way; and it was very
uncomfortable indeed. At any moment they might run into some terrible
danger.

At last they saw the flicker of a little light, and made their way
toward it. They found that it was a man carrying a torch and looking
about for something.

"What are you looking for?" they asked.

"I am looking for the sun," answered the man. "The sun is lost, and we
are in great trouble because of it. Tell me, have you seen the sun?"

They said "No," and asked him to lead them to his village, which he did.
And when they came near they saw the twinkle of many lights. All the men
of the town were looking for the sun, and there was great distress among
them because their Chief was ill, and he could not get well until the
sun should be put back into his place in the sky, and the days be bright
again.

Little Bear asked to see the Chief, and they took her to where he lay
dying.

"Great Chief," said she, "I think that I can help you."

"Can you bring back the sun, Maiden?" asked the Chief feebly. "That is
the only thing that will help me."

"Yes, I can do so if you will give me two handsful of maple sugar and
your oldest son," said Little Bear.

The Chief agreed. Little Bear took the maple sugar and went back to the
wigwam of the wicked old woman. She climbed up on the outside and threw
the sugar down through the chimney-hole into the kettle of rice which
the old crone was cooking. Presently the hag tasted it and made a wry
face.

"Bah!" she cried; "it is too sweet. I must go and get some more water to
put in the kettle."

As soon as the old woman left the wigwam to get the water, Little Bear
jumped down from the tent-roof, ran inside, and found the sun where the
witch had hidden it away. Up she tossed it into the sky; and lo! the
world was bright and beautiful once more.

Then she returned to the village, where the old Chief received her
gratefully. As he had promised, he bestowed upon her his oldest son. But
Little Bear did not want him. So she gave the young Chief to her eldest
sister for a husband; and they were very happy.

Now, when the old woman saw the sun shining once more in his usual
place, she was very angry. She screamed and she cried and she tore her
hair. Once more she jumped up into the sky, and this time she tore down
the moon, hiding it away in her wigwam, just as she had hidden the sun.

Then again the good old Chief fell sick, because now the nights were
pitch dark; and he asked Little Bear if she could help him.

Little Bear said: "Yes, I will bring back the moon, if you will give me
two handsful of salt and your next oldest son."

The Chief agreed. Little Bear took the salt and went again to the old
woman's wigwam, doing as she had done before. She tossed the salt into
the kettle of soup, and when the old woman tasted it she made a face and
said: "Ugh! This soup is too salt. I must get some more water to put in
the kettle."

As soon as the old woman was out of the way, Little Bear ran in and
seized the moon, which was hidden in a corner. She tossed it up into the
night sky, where it hung like a lovely lantern, and every one grew happy
again.

Immediately the old Chief became well, and was glad enough to keep his
promise and to give Little Bear his second son. But she did not want him
for herself. She married the young man to her younger sister; and they
were very happy.

This time the old woman was very angry indeed. She came by night to the
village and stole the Chief's beautiful horse, all covered with little
tinkly bells. At this misfortune the old Chief fell ill once more; for
he was very sensitive.

Once more Little Bear offered to help him if he would give her two
handsful of maple sugar and two handsful of salt, and his youngest,
handsomest son. Of course, the old Chief agreed.

A third time Little Bear went to the old woman's wigwam and found her
making soup. She did just as she had done twice before; only this time
the sugar and the salt together made a horrid mess! When the old woman
went out to get more water for a quite new soup, Little Bear slipped
into the tent and found the horse. As a precaution she first took off
his little bells, so that he should not make a noise to bring back the
hag. She removed all the little bells but one, and that one she missed,
it being hidden under a lock of his mane.

Gently she led the horse away. But alas! The one little bell which she
had overlooked began to tinkle as they fled. _Tink! Tink! Tink!_ Through
the wood the old woman heard it and pricked up her ears. _Hop, hop,
hop!_ Along she came, hobbling after them faster than any horse could
gallop, and she caught Little Bear before she could escape.

"Now I will be even with you for all that you have done!" cried the old
woman.

She put Little Bear into a great bag and tied the bag to the limb of a
tree. Then she went away to get a big stick with which to beat her
victim to death.

But Little Bear did not wait for this to happen. While the old woman was
looking for the stick, Little Bear bit a hole in the bag and crept out.
She took the good horse, this time without any bells to give the alarm,
and hid him in the bushes ready for flight. Then she put into the bag
all the old woman's choicest things--her dishes and food, and the
breakable furnishings of her wigwam--until the bag was round and bulgy
as if Little Bear herself were inside.

Chuckling to herself, Little Bear hid in the bushes where she could see
what happened upon the old woman's return; and merry enough the sight
was! Little Bear nearly died of laughing, and had to stuff a corner of
her blanket into her mouth lest she should betray herself.

For the old woman came hurrying up with her huge club, and began to beat
the bag fiercely. _Crack! Smash!_ went the pots and pans. _Smash!
Crack!_ went the dishes and the other things. But the wicked old woman
went on beating harder than ever, thinking that she was breaking the
bones of poor Little Bear.

Presently Little Bear grew tired of the smashing and crashing, and
thought it was time to be off. She mounted the Chief's good horse and
galloped swiftly away to the village, where her sisters were awaiting
her anxiously, because she had been gone a long time.

When the Chief saw his good horse once more, he was greatly delighted
and grew well immediately; he was so sensitive. As he had promised, he
gave to Little Bear his youngest son, who was the handsomest of the
three, though not wise. Little Bear loved him dearly; so she married him
herself and they went to live in a fine wigwam which the Chief gave
them, near the other two brothers and sisters.

But the Little Bear's husband did not love her. He was sulky and said:
"I wish my wife were beautiful like the other maidens! Why must I marry
an ugly Little Bear? I wish I might have had one of her pretty sisters
instead!" And he was cruel to Little Bear and made her weep.

But after a while she dried her tears, and was angry to think how
foolish she had been in choosing this youngest son for herself, just
because he was so handsome. She thought about it for a long time.

One day she said to her husband: "You do not love me, because I am an
ugly Little Bear. Take me and throw me into the fire."

"I do not love you," said her husband, "but I cannot kill you, for then
the Chief would punish me."

"Do as I tell you!" said Little Bear, and she stamped her foot.

The young man was afraid, for he knew that Little Bear was very wise and
powerful. So he did as she bade him, and threw Little Bear into the
fire. This made a great noise in the wigwam, and presently up came
running Little Bear's two sisters.

"Wicked man! What have you done to our dear Little Bear?" they cried.

"I have done only as she told me," said the young man sulkily. "Little
Bear is not beautiful, but she is wise. So I did what she told me to do.
I threw her into the fire."

"Oh, wicked man!" cried the sisters again, bursting into tears.

Just then they heard a strange sound in the fire, and turning, they
beheld a most beautiful maiden with dark eyes and raven locks coming out
of the flames. She smiled at the two sisters, and turning to the young
man said:--

"Husband, do you know me? I am Little Bear, who was wise but not
beautiful. Now I have become beautiful, but I am still wiser than
before."

"O my wife!" cried the husband eagerly. "I do not care whether you are
wise or not--that matters little to me. But I love you with all my
heart, you are so beautiful!"

Little Bear laughed and said: "You were unkind to the ugly Little Bear,
though she loved you. You are like most men; you care more for beauty
than for wisdom. But I have grown wiser than I was when I married you
and I do not care what you think."

And Little Bear, now the most beautiful young woman in the village and
the pride of the tribe for wisdom, lived happy ever after.



XIX: THE RED KING'S VISIT

"That is a fine story!" cried Harold, clapping his hands after the Red
King had finished telling the tale of the Little Bear. "I wish I could
remember all the tales that I read, and tell them as well as you do,
Your Majesty!"

Red Rex looked pleased. "It is a tale that, when I am not at war, I tell
often to my little daughter," he said. "She likes all kinds of stories,
but especially those of countries different from our own."

"Then she ought to hear the Tales of Kisington!" cried Harold.

"So I think," mused Red Rex. "I would that you could read them to her,
even as you have read them to me, Harold."

"Perhaps some day that may be," answered Harold. "But meantime Your
Majesty may hear our tales and tell them to your little Princess when
you return. She will like your way of telling them better than reading
from a book, I know."

"Yes, I must read those tales again, at your library," said the Red
King. "I must study them well, so that I can tell them without losing
the point of each, as I am prone to do. My little Hope will be glad.
Heretofore, I have never had time enough to read her as much as she
craved."

"The library will welcome you," said Harold. "I can answer for that. It
would rather have you inside its doors reading than outside battering
down the statues and the glass! Will Your Majesty come with me now and
visit the Town of Kisington under the flag of truce?"

"That will I," answered Red Rex.

Forth then went Harold and the Red King to the gates of Kisington. Side
by side they went, with the flag of truce between them, borne by a big
man-at-arms. After them followed a guard of the Red King's men; but
these remained behind when the great gate swung open to admit Harold and
his royal guest.

There were no soldiers to be seen anywhere in the streets of Kisington.
It seemed a town wholly at peace. The Lord Mayor and the Librarian were
waiting to receive them, and crowds of people thronged the street to
catch a glimpse of the War-Lord, who for nearly a week had been
besieging their city without firing a shot since that first day. Harold
recognized among the crowd the faces of many of his school-mates, and
presently, when he found the opportunity he beckoned to his chums,
Robert and Richard, who were in the front ranks.

"Keep close to me," Harold whispered to them. "By and by I dare say you
will have a chance to speak with Red Rex himself."

Robert and Richard needed no second hint to keep close at Harold's
heels. Proudly they stepped along, one on either side of their friend,
behind the Red King and the Lord Mayor who followed the Librarian and
the bearer of the flag of truce. To the marketplace they went, the other
school children trotting along in the rear of the little procession, and
gazing with almost as much pride and awe at their lucky comrades as at
the dreaded enemy, Red Rex. Indeed, the whole Town of Kisington seemed
moving in the wake of these six most important personages.

What conversation took place between Red Rex and the Lord Mayor was
never recorded. But it seemed to grow gradually pleasanter and
pleasanter. By the time they had reached the steps of the library, their
faces were wreathed in smiles and they beamed at each other like old
friends.

At the door of the library the Librarian turned and, with a wave of his
hand, said to Red Rex,--"Welcome, Your Majesty, to the treasure-house of
Kisington."

"Glad am I to enter these doors," replied the Red King courteously. "For
here, I believe, live the wonderful books which during these past days
have been giving me much pleasure." He laid his hand on the shoulder of
Harold and smiled. One would hardly have recognized the face of the grim
War-Lord who had begun the siege so savagely. "I would fain see those
friendly books in their own home," he went on.

"That you shall do, Your Majesty," said the Librarian; "for Kisington is
so proud of her treasures that she is ever glad to welcome a stranger to
the enjoyment of them. Is it not fortunate, Your Majesty, that the
library is still standing to entertain you? Recently it was in great
danger of being destroyed, as you may have heard." (The Librarian was an
exceedingly polite gentlemen.)

At these words the Red King turned redder and bowed gravely. "The Books
themselves rose up for the protection of books," he said. "They have
proved in this case to be the best weapons of defense. I am beginning to
think that they are better than any soldiers."

By this time they had entered the main hall, where a delegation of
Leading Citizens awaited them,--in holiday robes and with expectant
faces. They greeted Red Rex with profound bows, which he acknowledged
graciously.

The Librarian then turned to the rows of patient, peaceful books which
lined the walls, ready to be made useful. "Yes, Your Majesty. These are
our bulwarks and batteries and bayonets," he said simply.

The air of the room was still and quiet, full of peace and kindliness.
Beautiful pictures looked down from the walls. Noble statues stood in
the niches. Soft lights came in at the windows and fell on the tables
and desks, and on rows upon rows of fair volumes, well-dusted and
cheerful. The shattered windows had been screened; the broken marbles
removed; so that there was nothing to reproach Red Rex or to speak of
discord.

The War-Lord looked up and down and around and along, and spoke no word.
All the books seemed listening, waiting for him to speak. They were
indeed like soldiers, shoulder to shoulder, standing at "attention."

"It is a noble army!" exclaimed Red Rex at last, and his voice was low
and gentle. "It is the best kind of army for the world, I see, as I have
never seen before. I would it were mine!"

"It is yours, Your Majesty," said the Librarian. "You have but to make
free use of it. These soldiers are free-lances, at the service not of
one master, but of any one who employs them intelligently. Read them,
Your Majesty, and so make them yours, if you will." The Librarian spread
out his hands in a generous gesture.

"By my Hope, you are hospitable and magnanimous!" cried Red Rex. "I am
tempted to take you at your word. Come, let there be no more war between
us. Let us make no brief truce, but agree, instead, upon a true, lasting
peace. Already I have promised this Harold of yours to spare the city,
east, west, and north,--which is the whole of it. But come; promise me
now to spare me the scorn and hatred which you owe for my
unfriendliness. Let us spare each other and be friends. For I would know
more of your books and of your people."

"Good, Your Majesty!" cried the Lord Mayor, stepping forward. "By all
means let there be peace. We have no wish for anything else. Our hastily
gathered soldiers are eager to return again to private life. Send away
your army, and let peace be proclaimed with no more formality than our
true words given each to other in this library, with the witness of the
books."

"Done!" shouted Red Rex. "Here is my hand on it!" And he shook hands
first with the Lord Mayor, then with the Librarian, then with the other
Leading Citizens. Harold and his chums were standing modestly a little
way apart. He called the boy to his side and laid an arm affectionately
about his shoulder. "Here is your true peacemaker," said Red Rex. "If
Harold had not been so good a reader, I should never have been here in
peace with you at this moment. To Harold and his books I owe the vision
of what a library really is."

"Your Majesty," said Harold promptly, "will you also shake hands with
Richard and Robert? It will make them very proud."

"That will I!" cried Red Rex. And he not only shook hands, but clapped
the boys on the shoulder, calling each by name; which was a thing for
them to remember all their lives.

"Now!" announced the Red King, taking a large seal ring from his finger
and handing it to his soldier who bore the flag of truce. "Take this
ring, and go back to my army; bid the generals lead their men home, and
busy themselves in some useful work until my return. For as for me, I
shall remain for a space in this peaceful city, in this peaceful
Kingdom, to learn something further of its ways and wonders, which
interest me hugely."

The soldier saluted and retired. And shortly after was heard beyond the
walls the _tramp, tramp_ of a retreating army. The Red King was alone in
Kisington, among the books.

Little cared he for what went on outside. He was carried away by the
fascination of a world new to him. The Librarian led him from room to
room, from stack to stack, from shelf to shelf of tempting books. The
Red King was fairly bewildered by the opportunities offered. He wanted
to read all the volumes at once.

"I never dreamed there were so many books in the world!" he cried. "How
can a man live long enough to read them all, if he does nothing else all
his days?"

"Do you wonder we have no time for war, Your Majesty?" asked the
Librarian.

"No more war for me!" declared Red Rex. They had reached a division of
the books labeled in huge letters OUTLAND TALES. The Red King laid his
hand upon a volume bound in green-and-silver, like ice. "This has a
tempting look," said Red Rex. "Are these also Chronicles of Kisington?"

"Yes, in a sense," answered the Librarian. "The deeds here recorded
happened not in our Kingdom; yet, being tales gathered by our forbears
in their travels around the world, to and from Kisington, they had a
part in our history. They helped our fathers the better to understand
and sympathize with the stranger, and so made for the peace which they
loved."

"This is a story for me," declared Red Rex, who had been peeping into
the ice-bound volume. "I would fain hear another tale interpreted by my
little friend. Harold, will you read me this story, as you have read so
many ere now? I long to hear your pleasant voice again."

"I will read whatever Your Majesty wishes," replied Harold. "Shall we go
into this alcove where we shall be quite undisturbed and undisturbing?"

"By all means," said Red Rex. And here, in a cozy comer under one of the
great windows, with Richard and Robert on either side of him, Harold
read to the delighted King the Icelandic tale of _The Bear's Daughter_.



XX: THE BEAR'S DAUGHTER

Once upon a time, on an island far to the north of Kisington, whither
only the bravest sailors dared to venture, lived a boy named Hans. They
called him Hans the Hunter, because he loved so much to hunt and fish.
He was a tall, brave, and sturdy lad, and he loved his life and was
proud of his nickname. He had a hard spot in his heart, or he would not
have been a hunter.

One day Hans went out with two other lads to hunt. It was in the early
spring, the season when the ice breaks up in the rivers and begins to
move seaward, like the hearts of men. The three wandered for many miles
over the ice and snow until they came to the frozen bed of a river; but
they did not know it was a river, the water of it flowed so far below
the cakes of ice which concealed it, while over all was a thick crust of
snow.

At this spot Hans the Hunter, who was after big game, left the others
and started toward the south. Presently in the snow his sharp eyes spied
the tracks of a huge bear. He was greatly delighted, and began to follow
the slot so eagerly that he hardly marked where he was going. But all on
a sudden he felt an unsteady motion under his feet. The ground seemed
slipping beneath him. The snow parted and the ice cracked, and he spied
blue water in the gaps between. Then he realized that he was upon a
river, afloat upon a cake of ice!

Hans was greatly terrified, and made haste to leap upon a larger floe,
for the former was too small to hold his weight, and threatened to turn
upside down. Still he was in great danger; for before he knew it the
river had carried him out into a bay of floating ice, far from the
steady land. To and fro he leaped on his long legs, over the moving
mass, hoping to find a way of escaping back to the shore. But presently
he saw to his horror that he was rapidly floating out to the ocean upon
a huge ice-floe, which was fast separating from the others. He was
adrift upon a barren island of ice!

Scarcely had he had time to realize this, when Hans had another shock.
As he came around a huge pillar of ice, he almost stumbled upon a huge
white bear lying asleep upon her side. It must have been the very same
bear whose tracks had led Hans into danger, and which he had quite
forgotten. With a hunter's instinct Hans raised his gun to shoot her.
But at the moment, before he pulled the trigger, the bear opened her
eyes and spoke to him; and it did not seem so very strange to hear her
speak his own language.

"Why do you seek to kill me?" she said piteously. "I have done no harm
to you, Hans the Hunter. Moreover, if you kill me you will yourself die
of cold within a few hours. If you lie down upon the ice to sleep you
will freeze to death. But if you rest against my thick fur I will keep
you warm. O man! Why must we be enemies? We are bound on a dangerous sea
voyage together. Be my friend! Catch fish for me, so that we shall not
starve. So, helping one another, we shall live comfortably on this
floating home until we are able to go ashore."

"Gladly will I do what you say," agreed Hans the Hunter, for he saw that
her words were wise.

After that Hans and the bear became partners. By day, with the tackle
which he always carried in his wallet, Hans fished for their dinner;
and, indeed, the bear's huge appetite kept him busy! By night he
snuggled against the warm fur of his neighbor and slept soundly, not
feeling the cold. So they kept their bargain.

Many days went by, and the bear came to love Hans dearly. Indeed, he
liked her, too. But Hans loved himself better, for he was a selfish lad.

One morning Hans awoke with a start, conscious of an unusual movement
near him. The bear was stirring uneasily in her sleep. But something
else close beside him writhed and wriggled. He rubbed his eyes and
looked again. Nestled against the bear's white fur was a tiny newborn
child, a beautiful baby girl. Hans sat up and stared at the prodigy.
What did it mean? Where did the baby come from? At last an idea came to
him.

"Oho!" he said to himself. "Now I know what it all means! This is the
Enchanted Bear of whom I have heard so much,--the great White Bear of
the North. That is why she could talk to me, and why I could understand.
That is why her newborn cub is a human child, _until she looks at it_.
Mistress Bear has not yet seen her little one. Ho! What a prize for a
hunter to take home! This enchanted bear-baby will remain human, if I
can steal her away where her mother will never set eyes on her. That
will be something to show the other fellows, I should say!"

On the preceding night Hans had noted that the ice-floe was approaching
nearer to the land. This morning they were very close to shore. Many
ice-cakes floated about, and by jumping from one to another long-legged
Hans knew that he could make the land. Very gently he took the little
white baby, so soft and warm, in his great hands and wrapped it under
his coat, so that the old bear should not see it. Then silently and
stealthily he prepared to depart. But when he moved away from her side
the old bear wakened suddenly and called after him,--

"Where are you going, friend Hans? What are you doing with my little cub
that I have never seen?" Hans did not stop to explain, but clasping the
baby tightly, darted off over the ice-field toward the land. Surprised
and fearful, the old bear rose and looked after him with wide eyes of
reproach. Then when she realized what he meant to do, she shook herself
with a mighty roar, and her eyes grew bright and fierce. She started in
pursuit.

It was a terrible chase! Hans was swift-footed; but after all the ice
was not his natural ground. The bear who had seemed so clumsy traveled
over the ice with miraculous speed, as polar bears do. Hans heard her
panting behind him, drawing nearer and nearer, and his heart sank low.
He knew how sharp her claws were, and how strong her teeth. She was
gaining upon him; but he would not give up the baby. The hard spot in
his heart grew harder. Burdened as he was, he turned about and raising
his gun fired it at the bear. His aim was good,--for was he not Hans the
Hunter? With a moan the great bear fell, and he saw a stream of blood
dye the ice-floe which he had so long shared with her as a home.

Hans did not pause to mourn over the faithful friend who had kept him
alive and warm for so many nights; but leaving her on the ice to die,
sped shoreward with his burden, jumping lightly from cake to cake of ice
until he reached the land.

After wandering about for some time Hans found a deserted fisherman's
hut, where he built a fire and cherished the baby which he had stolen.
The little thing seemed to thrive under his clumsy care. He tarried in
the hut for some days, managing to get food for the baby and himself.
Then he took the child and made his way inland until he came to a little
village. He found that it was miles and miles from his former home; but
the people were kind and urged him to stay. So Hans decided to settle
down and live here, practicing his trade as a hunter, and earning enough
to keep himself and the child in comfort. And every day the stolen baby
grew dearer and dearer to Hans the Hunter.

Years went by. Hans became a big man, the mightiest, most famous hunter
in all the countryside. Presently the little girl was grown up, too. And
she had become the most beautiful tiny maiden in the land. Her name was
Ursula, which means "Little Bear-Girl," though no one knew why Hans had
given her this name. Folk supposed that she was called after the holy
Saint Ursula. Hans, as you may guess, never told the lass about her
bear-mother whom he had so cruelly wronged.

Hans loved Ursula so dearly that he hoped some day she would become his
little wife. For a long time Ursula laughed and put him off; but at last
she consented.

One fine day they drove to Church and were married. After the wedding
all the village folk crowded around the sleigh in which Hans was to
carry his young bride home, and wished the couple joy and good luck. For
everybody liked big Hans, who was cruel only to animals; and they adored
his little Ursula, who was cruel to nobody. She looked very pretty as
she sat beside Hans, all pink and white and smiling, wrapped from head
to foot in snowy furs which Hans had given her for a wedding present.
Merrily they waved good-bye to the crowd as they drove away. And every
one said, "Was there ever seen a handsomer, finer couple?"

It was a gay, long ride home through the forest, and the pair were very
happy. The sun shone dazzlingly on the jeweled snow, and the evergreens
sparkled with icicles. The little brook, hidden under the ice, peeped at
them through sundry chinks here and there, chuckling merrily as he ran.
The sleigh-bells jingled heartily and the horse pranced as if he, too,
shared the joy of that happy wedding day.

Suddenly, as they came out into an open space, the horse stopped short
with a frightened snort, and stood gazing with wild eyes, trembling in
every limb. Something huge and terrible blocked the road. In the middle
of the way stood a great white bear, upright upon her hind legs.

Hans recognized her at once; it was his old friend whom he had betrayed!
After all, she was not dead, as he had hoped, but after twenty years had
come back to confront him. She was staring fixedly at Hans,--she had not
yet seen little Ursula muffled in her furs. With a cry Hans threw
himself between his young bride and this terrible sight.

"Come to me, my Daughter, my Cub!" cried the mother-bear in a deep
voice. "Come to me!"

Ursula gave a strange, wild cry and struggled in the arms of Hans. "What
is it?" she said. "Oh, what is it? I must see!"

At the same moment her voice died away into a low whine, then rose into
a howl such as an animal gives in pain. Struggling from her husband's
arms she leaped from the sleigh.

Instantly Hans followed, holding out his arms piteously and calling,
"Ursula! Ursula!"

But the white, furry figure did not hear. It was hurrying forward toward
the great bear.

"Come to me, my Child!" said the bear again. "Leave the wicked man who
betrayed his friend and sought to kill her. Come, let us punish him!"

Her words ended in a fierce growl, which was echoed by the other white
figure, as she turned about and looked at Hans. And oh, what was this!
With horror he saw that his little bride had, indeed, turned into a
furry white bear. Her eyes burned red and angry as she looked at him,
and she showed her teeth as if her mother's words had turned all her
love of Hans into hatred, for the old bear's sake.

She seemed about to spring upon Hans and tear him to pieces. But
suddenly her look changed. She folded her paws upon her furry breast,
and Hans saw tears, human tears, come into the little bear's eyes. It
was the last token of her human life, the last gleam of her fondness for
him. She could not punish him as her mother bade. She would not let evil
happen to him, even though he had done such a cruel wrong, because she
had once been his little Ursula.

Dropping upon all fours she ran toward her mother, and they laid noses
together for their first caress. She seemed to say something to the old
bear in a silent language, which was answered by a deep, sullen growl.
After this, without a further glance at Hans, the two bears turned about
and trotted away together into the forest. Hans the Hunter never saw
them again.

But after that the gun of Hans hung rusty on the wall of his lonely hut.
The hard spot in his heart had melted.


XXI

RED REX AND KING VICTOR

Hardly had Harold finished speaking these last words in the tragic story
of the Bear's Daughter, when there arose from the market-place such a
hubbub and commotion that the Red King's comments on the tale were quite
lost. Voices were shouting and cheering; trumpets were blowing and drums
beating; over the clang of weapons and neighing of horses one caught the
_tramp, tramp_ of marching feet.

Red Rex sprang to his feet, drawing his sword and growing very red in
the face. Once again he was the fierce and terrible War-Lord. But Harold
did not notice. He was too much excited at the tumult going on outside.
He ran hastily to the window and looked out. The square was full of
soldiers and banners and gayly decked horses. Men-at-arms crowded the
side streets, pouring continuously into the square. The ruined porch of
the library was crowded. A guard stood at the portal.

In the center of the square, bestriding a white horse, sat a stately
figure, dressed all in white armor. His snowy head was uncovered and he
spoke to the cheering people smilingly.

A great shout arose as he finished his speech. "Long live our good King
Victor!"

Harold joined in the shout. "Hurrah! Hurrah!"

And Robert and Richard, scrambling up beside him, echoed the
cheer,--"Hurrah! Hurrah! Long live King Victor!"

"Our good King has come to Kisington at last!" cried Harold, turning
back into the library.

He had quite forgotten his warlike guest and why King Victor had come to
Kisington. Indeed, for the moment every one seemed to have forgotten Red
Rex. The Librarian, the Lord Mayor, and the other Leading Citizens had
disappeared, and the library seemed quite empty. But in one corner of
the alcove where the last story had been read, Red Rex was standing at
bay. He had drawn up before him a heavy table, behind which he stood,
sword in hand, one foot advanced, his red beard bristling.

"Yes, I am trapped!" snarled Red Rex. "You have caught me, boy. But you
shall pay for this!"

Harold and the Red King stood staring at one another. The _tramp, tramp_
of feet sounded on the staircase, coming nearer. Along the hall came the
tread. The door of the hall opened, and a martial group crossed the
threshold. Foremost came their King, King Victor himself, the splendid,
white-haired peace hero. The three boys dropped each on one knee before
him.

For a moment the King stood gazing about him mildly, without speaking.
He was tall and stately, but his eyes were kind, even merry, and with
all his dignity there was nothing to strike fear even into the heart of
a child. Presently his eyes caught the figure of the trapped War-Lord,
barricaded and at bay in the corner.

He stepped forward with a friendly air and held out his hand. "Welcome,
Cousin!" he said in a hearty voice.

Red Rex glared at him, fairly bristling with rage. "Do not mock me!" he
blustered. "I know well enough that I have been trapped and that the
word of the Lord Mayor of this town, given to me, will not count now.
But you shall not take me alive. I will slay the first who lays hand on
me!" He waved his sword furiously. Harold had never seen him look so
terrible.

"Nay, nay!" cried King Victor mildly. "You mistake, indeed, Cousin!"

But the enraged Red King would not listen, and went on with his wild
accusations.

"I have been trapped by children!" he raged. "Delayed by tales! Deceived
by promises! I trusted all these and disbanded my army, fool that I was!
But take me if you can!" Again he flourished his sword and ground his
teeth.

King Victor stood looking at the War-Lord without speaking. At last he
raised his hand with a grand gesture and said with emphasis and
sincerity, "You are making a great mistake, Cousin! You are not trapped.
The promise of the Lord Mayor is sacred. In my land a word is as good as
a treaty. You are quite free to go, if you list. But, indeed, we hope
you will deign to stay, as our honored guest. It is the first time you
have graced our Kingdom with your presence, Cousin. We long to be
friends with you; to see lasting peace between our neighboring lands."

"You come with an army," retorted Red Rex sullenly. "You came in
response to summons. You came to combat me."

"That is true," assented King Victor. "When we heard that Kisington was
besieged, we gathered together our peaceful army and hastened hither in
the interests of peace. But we arrive to find, instead of a bloody
siege, a peaceful King enjoying this library. We hasten to add our own
welcome to that of Kisington's Leading Citizens. We invite you to
remain, Cousin, and enjoy not only these but other treasures of our
Kingdom which it may be to your advantage to know better."

"If my army had not disbanded," blustered the War-Lord, "you would not
be speaking to me so debonairly."

"Maybe not, maybe not!" agreed King Victor.

"Yet, our volunteer police force embraces every citizen of our Kingdom.
We should have surrounded you without trouble or bloodshed, Cousin. We
could have persuaded your army by sheer force of numbers and opinion,
without doubt. But let us not think of that. Let us rather consider the
pleasanter things which surround us. Shall we not be friends, Cousin? We
know your Kingdom well. We have read and studied about it thoroughly in
our books. We have, indeed, traveled all over it in peaceful disguise.
Come, you ought to become as well acquainted with ours; then I am sure
we should never misunderstand one another again. Say, Cousin Rex, shall
it be?"

He advanced a step nearer the other, holding out his hand and smiling
genially. His sincerity was plain.

The War-Lord dropped his sword. "I believe you!" he cried, stepping
forward and grasping the proffered hand. "Cousin, Neighbor, let there be
peace between our whole kingdoms; even as we promised between myself and
Kisington."

"So be it!"

The two monarchs embraced in kingly fashion, and sat down in a retired
alcove for a pleasant chat.

It was not long before Harold was summoned to the pair. King Victor
received him kindly, and Red Rex grinned. "We have heard the tale of
your service to the State and to our Royal Friend, Harold," said King
Victor graciously. "We would fain give you a suitable reward, my brave
Bookworm. What shall it be? Tell me your wish."

Harold flushed and stammered. "I do not wish a reward for the little I
did, Sire," he said. "I had no thought of that. Indeed, it was a
pleasure to read for His Majesty."

"Yea, so we believe!" smiled the King. "Yet some reward we owe for your
true office. What shall it be?"

Harold hesitated, thinking. "Truly, for myself I ask nothing," he said.
"Yet, perhaps, Sire, you would help my mother, my dear mother, so that
she need not work so hard while I am learning to be a scholar."

"It shall be so!" cried the King. "She shall have a little maid to help
her; money to pay the rent, buy food and clothes and modest pleasures.
These shall she have. But for yourself, Harold? We must show you some
special favor, for our own comfort."

"Well," said Harold, "one thing I scarcely dare to ask. But I should
like more time to read in the library while His Majesty is here. Maybe I
could serve him better if I had not to go to school these days. May the
school children have a vacation of a week, Sire?"

"A fortnight!" cried King Victor, beaming. "It is the very pith of our
talk, my boy. For a week the King our Cousin is fain to tarry in
Kisington, and he asks no better than yourself to be his guide,
philosopher, and friend. Then for a week he will be my guest, traveling
with me over the Kingdom, visiting certain places whereabout you have
made him curious by your stories. He asks that you may go as his page.
Both these things are possible if we grant the school a fortnight's
recess. It shall be done. But still, this is little reward for your wise
doings, my boy. Ask something more."

"Then, Sire, I beg this," said Harold, with shining eyes. "Let Robert
and Richard go with me as assistant pages. That will be a merry vacation
for us all; no better boon could I ask!"

The King laughed merrily. "A boy's wish!" he said, "but it shall be
granted. Now, come hither, Harold." With these words King Victor threw
over the boy's shoulders a heavy gold chain with a cross hanging from
it. "'Blessed are the peacemakers,'" quoted King Victor. "Wear this,
Harold, a token from your grateful country. And with it goes the gift of
a hundred books, which you shall choose for yourself, to be the
beginning of a library of your own,--Book Wizard, as they call you!"

The bells of Kisington began to peal gayly and continuously, a triple
rejoicing. The beloved King being in town was sufficient reason for
festival. Therefore,--_Ding dong!_ Peace was declared forever between
the two neighboring nations. Therefore, _Ding dong! Ding dong!_ A
holiday for the school children of Kisington, Harold's friends.
Therefore,--_Ding dong! Ding dong! Ding dong!_

Harold went home to his mother with the glad news. And proud enough she
was of her lad when she heard why all the bells were ringing, and saw
his golden cross.


XXII: THE BOOKS CONQUER

Thus began the wonderful fortnight of vacation that Harold and Robert
and Richard never forgot in all their lives.

For a happy week the War-Lord tarried in Kisington. He spent much of his
time studying at the library, reading many books, but especially such
tales as Harold thought the little Princess Hope would enjoy. Many of
these he heard Harold read aloud; sometimes in the cozy alcoves of the
library, where they could disturb no one; sometimes in the sumptuous
apartments of the palace which King Victor had put at the disposal of
Red Rex; oftenest and best of all in the little thatched cottage of
Harold's mother, where the Red King came to feel perfectly at home. For
one of the first things Harold did in his vacation time was to invite
the War-Lord to dinner.

"We shall have for dessert one of my mother's famous apple pies,"
promised Harold with a twinkle. The Red King blushed; but he accepted
the invitation in a truly kingly spirit.

There was now plenty to eat and drink in Harold's home, and a nice
little maid to help his mother and make the days pleasanter. It was a
very merry party that gathered around the table in the kitchen that
night. Richard and Robert were there; for the Red King had taken a fancy
to them, and they all talked together like old friends. The Red King had
many thrilling adventures to tell them of his roving life. And Red Rex
was learning many new and novel things of them all the while. For this
was the first time he had ever eaten in a thatched cottage, or in the
company of simple strangers.

When the great pie was brought in, all steaming and spicy, Harold and
the War-Lord exchanged a peculiar glance.

"Your Majesty has tasted my pie before," said Harold's mother
innocently. "I sent a piece with Harold's luncheon one day, and he tells
me you approved of it. That is why we have it to-day for dessert."

"Ah! I approve of it, indeed! I shall never forget your pie, dear little
Mother!" cried the Red King with a laugh. "It is worth adventuring much
to obtain even a bite of pies like yours."

"They taste best of all at midnight," said Harold mischievously.

"That I cannot believe," said Red Rex, frowning at him. "I never ate pie
so delicious before this day!"

"Do you think one piece of pie hot is worth five pies cold, Your
Majesty?" asked Harold.

"Yes, indeed!" cried the Red King, turning still redder. "Especially if
eaten in such pleasant company."

"So thought not the wicked old woman who stole my pies," said Harold's
mother. "I wonder if she will ever dare to claim that beautiful shawl
which she left behind her?"

"I dare say not," frowned the Red King. "And inasmuch as the Lord Mayor
declares that she must have been a native of my Kingdom, intruding
within your walls, I hereby make over to you that shawl which she has
forfeited by her wicked deed. Wear it henceforth without a qualm,
Mother."

She wore it to church the very next Sunday, and all the ladies envied
her this last piece of good luck which seemed to follow the coming of
the Red King.

Red Rex was eager to visit every corner of Kisington about which he had
heard in the Chronicles. Since this was vacation time, Harold and Robert
and Richard were overjoyed to be his guides. They visited the Old
Curiosity Shop where the Lion Passant had lived dumbly for years before
the coming of the Patent Medicine Man. The store was still kept by a
wheezy old fellow with a cough; though he was not the same who had
spilled the Elixir over the Lion Passant. Of him the War-Lord bought so
many curiosities that he and his little old wife became quite rich, and
never had to worry about the future any more.

They visited the ruined old castle, a little way out of Kisington on the
road to Hushby, where Arthur had found the magic glass, made by his
uncle the Amateur Magician. It was now all in ruins, inhabited only by
bats and owls and rats. But the Red King prowled about the crumbling
chambers with the greatest delight, and took home a paper of pebbles as
a souvenir for the little Princess Hope, who made "collections."

They visited the famous bakehouse of the Rafe-Margot Company, where a
kind of pastry called "Kingspies" was still made after the old recipe,
which had first been used in the oven of the premises. For this was the
site of the little red house that had stood on the acre of land under
the red-apple tree. All these had disappeared; and the Kingspies, which
the Red King tasted eagerly, were not as good as the home-made variety
of which Harold's mother had inherited the secret. For there is
something magic about the pies that a mother makes in her own kitchen
which no factory can imitate.

At this factory Red Rex left a large sum of money to pay for Kingspies
which should be given to any hungry man who asked; particularly if he
asked at midnight,--which seemed, indeed, a strange condition! But
Harold understood why the Red King did this thing. And Harold never told
any one,--not even Robert and Richard.

One day they all went to visit what had been Gerda's Wonder-Garden, by
the sea. It was now called the Aquarium, and was a public park, free to
all the people of Kisington. It was quite as wonderful as ever, for it
was full of all the strange and beautiful creatures of the sea, and Red
Rex marveled greatly to see them there.

In charge of the Aquarium was the Lady Anyse, who was a descendant of
Cedric and Gerda. She came to greet them when she heard of their
arrival, and as soon as their eyes met she and the Red King gazed at
each other long and earnestly. She was tall and stately, and very
beautiful. She had red hair like the King's, and bright blue eyes; and
she was afraid of nothing. She and Red Rex stared at each other long and
earnestly, without speaking.

At last Red Rex said:--

"In sooth, I believe you are, indeed, of my kin! Something tells me so.
I am sure that Gerda, your great-great-grandmother came from my Kingdom,
and was sister of my great-great-grandfather."

"I think so too," said the Lady Anyse.

"Cousin," declared Red Rex, "you have been too long away from the land
of your fathers. Will you go back with me, to my little daughter? She
has no mother, and she needs one badly; some one from a peaceful
Kingdom. I think she needs you. I am going, moreover, to make for her a
splendid Aquarium, like this of Kisington. This also will need your
care."

"I think so too," said the Lady Anyse.

"Then you will come back with me?" begged Red Rex, more eagerly than he
had ever begged for anything in his life. "It will make a new bond
between our Kingdoms, so that we shall never be at war again."

"I think so too!" said the Lady Anyse, who was a woman of few words.

So that matter was happily settled, to the Red King's great content. And
a happy thing, indeed, it proved for the little Princess Hope and for
the two Kingdoms.

When the second week began, Red Rex left Kisington to visit King Victor
at the Capital City. Harold and Robert and Richard accompanied him as
pages, each wearing a beautiful suit of velvet and gold, and each riding
on a fine little white pony, the gift of Red Rex.

What a glorious trip that was! For first they made a detour to the Town
of Hushby. There still stood the inn where Arthur had met pretty Margot
who afterwards became his Countess, and where he had his first adventure
with the wicked Oscar. From there the party went up into the mountains
where the Dragon used to live. Harold and the other two boys scrambled
about among the rocks, and after a while they found the very place which
had been the Dragon's den. It was a cave fifty feet long and twelve feet
high, very black and gloomy. And in it were a great many skulls and
bones of persons whom the Dragon had killed and eaten in those dreadful
years, long, long ago. But now it was empty and forgotten.

From Hushby they rode to the Capital City, which was all decked with
banners and flowers to receive Red Rex, the ex-War-Lord. Then began a
season of royal merrymaking to celebrate the peace between the two
Kingdoms. There were banquets and dancing and games and pageants,
processions and concerts and fireworks, all of which the Red King and
his three pages enjoyed hugely. King Victor was very kind to them, and
made them happy in every way he could devise.

He invited them to the Royal Museum, where they were privileged to view
some of the most precious treasures of the Kingdom. They saw in a glass
case on a velvet mat the tiny stuffed Dragon himself; he who had once
been the Terror of Hushby. They saw, too, the now un-magical glass with
which Arthur had vanquished his enemy. It looked like any other mere
reading-glass with an ivory handle, and it was hard to believe what
wonders it had done. In this same collection was the first pie-plate
brought by Rafe's messenger to the King, after that clever cook became
pie-maker-in-ordinary to the throne.

Here, too, was the glove of that royal giantess, the Princess Agnes, who
had refused to marry Arthur because he was too little. It was as broad
as a palm-leaf fan, and much thicker. Close by the monster glove lay a
tiny white moccasin, which had once been worn by Ursula, the bear's
daughter, and which had been brought back from the far land of that sad
story by one of the sea-rovers of Kisington, who had first told the
tale.

Here also was one of the partly-grated nuts with which Meg had flavored
the first King's Pie; and a precious pearl from Gerda's Wonder-Garden,
the gift of the grateful Mermaid. There, worn to rags, by the passage of
many years, was the original lion-doll made by Claribel, from the model
of the Lion Passant. And this the Red King liked best of all. But there
were many interesting things in the Museum of King Victor which recalled
to Red Rex the stories that Harold had read to him.

One day King Victor and a merry party rode to the town of Derrydown in
the north. Here was the great lion-doll factory, started by Claribel and
the Lion Passant, which had made their fortune and that of Derrydown.
The party stopped at the old Red Lion Inn where the sign still swung
over the door as in the days when the Lion Passant had first been struck
by its resemblance to his family crest. And because it was his family
crest also, Red Rex made the landlord a handsome present. In these days
the Red King was generosity itself.

Hard by the Inn was the very same tiny hut in which Claribel had lived;
and over the fireplace still showed dimly the carved coat of arms and
the motto, _Noblesse oblige_.

When Red Rex saw this, he stood and stared at it a long time, saying
nothing. "I used to think that meant 'A King can do no wrong,'" said he
at last in a low voice to King Victor. "Now I believe it means, 'A King
must do no wrong.'"

"So I too believe," agreed King Victor. "But I would make the motto say
still more. Every one can be noble, and a noble must do no wrong."

"It shall be the motto of my people!" declared Red Rex. And so it
became.

But there were other tales of this neighborhood which Red Rex
remembered. "May we not go hunting in the Ancient Wood, of which I have
heard?" asked Red Rex while they tarried in Derrydown. "I understand
that it is not far, and that there is great game to be had in those
still coverts."

"Nay; in these days we do not hunt in my Kingdom," replied King Victor.
"Since hearing the tale of the Bear's Daughter it has been no pleasure
for any of us to kill or hurt any dumb creature."

"Ah!" cried Red Rex. "I had forgot that story! Hans wounded a poor
friendly bear who had done him no harm. That was cowardly, indeed! True,
Cousin. Neither do I wish to hunt any more. It was that tale which you
punctuated by your noisy arrival in Kisington, do you remember? I picked
out that story for myself; and it has done a service to the wild
creatures of my Kingdom, who will henceforth be safe from me and mine.
But, indeed, though we do not hunt, I would fain see this Ancient Wood,
where the Old Gnome lived in his hollow tree."

"We will go this very day," answered King Victor. And go they did. Sure
enough, in a clearing they found the house which David had built for his
little wife, snug and clean and empty. Close by in the thick woods the
three boys discovered a giant tree-stump, papered with moss and hung
with cobweb hammocks, which they felt sure had been the house of the
Hermit Gnome in the days before he became a Fairy.

"I must bring my little daughter Hope to see this place," declared the
Red King. "She would love it best of all. What good times she would have
with me here in the forest! I would tell her the story of David, and
learn myself to be a woodsman."

"It is more amusing than war," declared King Victor. "With books in the
city and woodcraft in the wild, who would be a soldier? Look, now! I
will give to your little Princess Hope as a gift this tiny cottage,
where David and his wife and little daughter lived so happily. When she
comes to visit our Kingdom,--often, as I hope,--you can play at being a
woodsman; which is a good game. But you must promise to let me be your
guest for at least one night of each visit. For I, too, love these woods
and this little house which has been my secret retreat for many years.
Will you accept my gift for your little daughter, Cousin?"

"Gladly do I accept!" cried Red Rex. And they shook hands gayly.

Still further they penetrated across the meadow to the woods once called
the Great Fear. Red Rex was anxious to know more of that once dangerous
neighborhood. But since peace had become the fashion in the Kingdom, the
wicked Gnomes, who had tried as long as possible to prick war-poison
into the hearts of men, found their occupation gone. When the good
King's peace plans reached their ears the Gnomes groaned in despair.
They held a council, and decided unanimously to curl up forthwith in the
long sleep and let the world alone.

There was now no sign of them, save where here and there a gnarled arm
or burly bended knee seemed to push up from the ground. But these were
so covered with mould and moss that it was impossible to tell them from
the fallen tree-trunks or mounds of earth. Harold and Robert and Richard
did not disturb these mossy mysteries. In times of peace it is better to
let sleeping Gnomes lie. Only the makers of ammunition and warships and
newspaper scareheads (of whom there were none in King Victor's land)
would be eager to see those busy-bodies awake and at their malicious
work again, causing peaceful places to become a Great Fear.

When the happy fortnight ended, the Red King went back to his Kingdom
and his little Princess Hope, taking with him the beautiful Lady Anyse.

Then began a time of peace in that hitherto restless land; a time of
peace and prosperity and happiness, of neighborliness and the exchange
of friendly doings. King Victor went to visit the erstwhile War-Lord,
and in that time taught the Red King many useful arts of peace. And who,
think you, went with King Victor on that visit? Who but the good
Librarian and Harold, his adopted son. The Librarian had his pockets
full of plans for a grand new library to be established in the Capital
of Red Rex. And Harold had his pockets full of stories for the little
Princess, and his bag full of sweetmeats for that same wee lady, made by
his kind mother who was now pie-maker-general to the Red King, according
as they had planned.

Harold and the Princess Hope, who was the dearest of little girls in
pink-and-gold, became the best of friends. And when the following summer
she came with Red Rex and the Queen Anyse to live in the hut in the
Ancient Wood and play at being wood-folk, Harold and Richard and Robert
came also. The three boys encamped (like Boy Scouts) in the woods close
by the hollow tree which had once been the cell of the Hermit Gnome. And
they used his house for their cooling cellar!

*****

So ended the Siege of Kisington, where the books conquered. And the days
of peace continued until the time when Harold, having become a famous
scholar, was chosen Librarian and Governor of Kisington.

In those days there were no more forts or walls or jealous boundaries
between the Kingdoms; for the lands were one in peace and good-will.
There were no armies or weapons or disputes; for the nations understood
and loved and trusted one another, and their rulers were wise men and
women.

In those days the Princess Hope had become the most beautiful
book-loving maiden in the world, and the wise Governor of her father's
fairest city, adjoining Kisington.

Of course you can guess what happened next?

And they lived happy ever after.



THE END



The Riverside Press

Cambridge, Massachusetts

U.S.A





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