HotFreeBooks.com
The Enchanted Island
by Fannie Louise Apjohn
Previous Part     1  2
Home - Random Browse

"'But the Wonderful Plant, where is it? May I see it?' I asked, 'or am I to meet with some misfortune for having dared to enter upon this oasis?'

"The old gentleman laughed.

"'You are not to meet with anything here but good fortune, my dear Prince,' said he, 'for the last time the fairy paid us a visit she told us you were looking for a seed of the Wonderful Plant for your father, and that if you succeeded in reaching this spot alone I was to give you one. To tell you the truth we did not think much more about it, as we did not believe anyone would ever reach here. Now you shall see the plant itself.'

"He and the little old lady led the way into the great front hall and through a long passage. Stopping at a heavily carved door he took a small key from his pocket and unlocked it. The door swung open and we stepped out."



CHAPTER XV

"We stood in a spacious court, the blue sky overhead, velvety grass underfoot and the windows of the house all around us. Most of these were open and in some of them were caged birds singing gloriously, and against all the sills were window-boxes full of flowers. Flowering ivy and climbing roses trailed here and there up the sides of the building, and there were so many rose bushes about in the gardens that the scent of them was quite heavy in the air. A small fountain stood at either end of the enclosure, in which curious small silver fish jumped and splashed about in the late afternoon sun.

"In the exact center of the court stood a large shrub about eight feet tall. It was beautifully trimmed and perfectly conical in form. The thick foliage was a dark, bright green, and the whole bush was covered with pure yellow flowers. They looked very much like velvety yellow pansies. I walked over and touched one. It was stiff and hard and shone with a metallic luster. It had evidently been on the bush for some time, as the buds and new blossoms were as soft as any flower.

"'If my father could but see it,' I murmured. 'If he had even a tiny plant I am sure it would prolong his life.'

"'You shall have a seed, dear Prince,' said the old gentleman, 'and it will grow very quickly, you shall see. Perhaps I did not tell you that only one seed is formed every seven years and that from the blossoms which comes out first on the seventh day of the seventh month, the day when the plant begins its yearly period of bloom. The seed which I have saved for you ripened only a few days ago, so you are very fortunate.'

"He went back into the house and returned with a small golden box from which he took a gold ring set with a valuable black diamond. He pressed a spring and the stone lifted, disclosing a small seed lying in the cavity. He shut the spring down again.

"'Put this on your finger,' he said, 'and do not open it until you are safely at home and in your father's conservatory. Plant it in an unpretentious pot at night, and do not tell anyone what it is, but watch it every day yourself. The fairy too will watch it and pick the blossoms for you, as no mortal can do that. She will pick the seed flower as soon as it blooms, so that the Evil Magician may not secure the seed.'

"I thanked him with tears in my eyes and hoped that I might see the good fairy when I reached home.

"The old gentleman then took me over the house, which was indeed as magnificent as he had said, and after that we went to see the grounds and the immense wall.

"'We will have to ride,' said he, and led the way to the stables where stood his two horses, fine sleek animals. A colored boy, who of course like the other servants, was a fairy, harnessed them, and after riding through the park and past the lovely gardens we came to a great gateway in the high wall.

"The old gentleman reached down and touched a button at the side and the gates swung slowly open, closing again as soon as we had passed out.

"Out there were more trees set well apart and at some distance from the wall, and beyond that the yellow desert sands stretched away in the distance. We rode along beside the wall, which on this side faced the west. I was surprised to see that the whole wall was set with mirrors of magnifying glass, now reflecting the gorgeous colors of the sunset as it glowed in between the trees. It would have been beautiful had it not been for the frightful reflections of ourselves and the horses. They loomed large and distorted before us, and the old gentleman explained to me that he never had blinders on the horses excepting when they were riding beside the wall. He had tried riding without the blinders one day, but his horse had bolted in fright, and he had great difficulty in getting him inside again.

"'Now I can understand,' I said, 'why I thought I saw a lake when I was traveling towards this oasis. And now too I know what kind of giants chase all those who attempt to cross the desert.'

"'Yes,' answered the old gentleman smiling, 'it is a wise precaution of the fairy's, and very harmless, but I should like to hear what the travelers tell.'

"The mirrors stretched right across the oasis, which was of a very irregular shape, and by the time we arrived again at the main gate and entered the grounds it was nearly dark.

"Dinner was ready, and after it was over the old gentleman told me I had better leave about midnight so as to be back in the village before it was light enough for anyone to see me.

"'But how am I to get back so quickly?' I asked.

"'The way you came,' replied the old gentleman.

"'But what if Bowser will not carry the basket?' I cried. 'He has eaten all the peaches now, and I have no more.'

"'Yes,' he replied, 'but this time you will be on Bowser's back, and I can promise you he will take you over in very quick time, for he has been shut up in his cage without any supper and by midnight will be so hungry that he will not lose any time in reaching the nearest peach orchard. I am sorry to think that some poor farmer will suffer, but it is the only way you can get safely back.'

"I thanked him for this further evidence of his kindness and the evening passed very quickly in conversation. I had to do most of the talking, as the two old people had heard no news of the world since the fairy's last visit, and listened intently to all I could tell them."



CHAPTER XVI

"It was nearly midnight when I finally arose and prepared to depart. The old gentleman led the way to Bowser's cage. It was a room at the end of the kitchen, and Bowser was evidently expecting his supper, as he uttered odd noises and came towards us with his neck stretched out. I marveled that he was not asleep on his perch in the corner.

"'He never goes to sleep until he has eaten a great deal of supper,' said the old gentleman, 'and as he is growing very impatient you had better mount him at once while I open the door.'

"'But how am I to ride him?' I cried.

"'Get up on that stepladder,' said the old gentleman, indicating one that stood against the wall, 'and when he comes near enough let yourself down on his back and throw your arms around his neck. I will open the door the instant you are seated and he will dart out.'

"It seemed rather a risky way to ride, but after all, I reflected, much safer than the way I had come, for he could not drop me unless I let go my hold, so I obediently got upon the stepladder.

"Bowser came towards me, thinking I might have something for him, and as he turned his head at the creaking of the door I threw myself on his back and grasped him firmly around the neck. The big door swung open, Bowser ran forward, and as soon as he was outside rose into the air. We soared away, straight towards the village which lay nearest the sea.

"Bowser's flight proved how hungry he was, for the village lights drew nearer very rapidly, and we were going so fast over the sands that I did not dare look down for fear of getting dizzy.

"In what seemed but a few minutes Bowser began to descend and glancing down I saw that we were directly over a peach orchard. He alighted, and at the same moment I slid off his back and ran as fast as I could for some distance. When I reached the fence which enclosed the place I looked back, and could see him gobbling all around a tree, so he had already shaken the peaches off one at least. He had not bothered about me at all, as I was afraid he would.

"I walked to the inn and went to bed in a very thankful state of mind, determined to start for home next day.

"But the next day I found it was not as easy as I thought. The only boat leaving port was a peach boat, bound for a port only a few miles away. However, I went by that, and on reaching the port had to wait two days to get a passage on a boat loaded with iron which was bound for the Island of Laurels.

"The weather was fine when we set out, and the wind good, so in spite of the heavy cargo we were making fair progress. On the fourth night we ran into a dense fog. After running carefully for some hours the Captain thought it advisable to lie to until morning, as we were within a few miles of the Island of Despair and some very dangerous reefs.

"I went to my cabin and lay down to read. I fell asleep and slept for some time, when I was awakened by a tremendous blow under the ship which jerked me out on the floor. Running to the deck I found the whole crew assembled getting ready to drop the life-boats. In place of the dead calm which had prevailed earlier in the evening a terrible storm now raged, and the gale had driven the ship on the dreaded reefs.

"To add to the danger the iron loaded in the hold had become loose and we could hear it pounding around in the hold as the ship lurched about on the rocks. It was only a matter of a few moments before the ship would go to pieces.

"I stood ready to help the Captain and some of his men to lower his gig, and we waited to see the others off. There were six boats, and five of them were launched successfully. The other swamped in the heavy sea. I do not know whether any of them reached the shore or not, as I never saw them again.

"We launched our boat successfully, and pulled in the direction in which the Captain indicated the Island lay. When we had got within fifty feet of the land our boat seemed to strike a whirlpool. It went around very rapidly five or six times, and finally dived bow first, throwing all the occupants but myself into the water. I had taken a long breath, expecting the dive, and was crouched on my seat holding tightly with both hands, so that when the boat shot to the surface again I had just strength enough to clamber over the side as it turned bottom up. I lay there half drowned while the boat floated in to shore. I do not know how long it was before I heard voices close at hand. One was a man's and one an old woman's. The woman's voice said:

"'Are you sure he had it on his finger when he left port?'

"'Of course,' answered the man gruffly. 'Don't I tell you I flew over the ship yesterday and saw it on his hand?'

"'Well, he must be here somewhere,' said the old woman, 'and we'll soon have it.'

"Although I was half dazed I knew it must be my ring with the precious seed that they were talking about. I tried to rise, but had not sufficient strength, so with an effort I pulled it from my finger and dropped it into the water beside the boat, rather than let them take it.

"The voices came nearer.

"'Ah,' said the man, 'here he is; now let us see if I am not right.'

"I must have fainted then, as I do not remember anything until I awoke to find myself imprisoned in the laurel tree.

"Late in the morning when the sun was high the Evil Magician, for of course it was he, and an old crone came past me on their way to the shore, but they did not find the ring, for the Evil Magician came back after a long time in a terrible rage and threatened me with instant death if I did not tell him where I had hidden it.

"I declared I had not hidden it. After promising me my freedom if I would tell him where it was, and trying every argument in his power to either coax or threaten me into letting him have it, he became furious, declared I should remain enchanted forever until I slowly drowned, and went off. I did not see him again.

"You may imagine my despair, and my boundless gratitude to Prince Daimur for releasing me from my enchantment."

"Rather," said Prince Daimur, "let us be thankful to the kind old fairy who gave me this wonderful cap and spectacles, for without them I should doubtless have been as helpless as yourself."

"But what do you suppose became of the ring?" asked Prince Redmond. "Do you think he could have found it after all?"

"I do not know, I am sure," answered his brother. "I do not see how it could have been hidden, for the water was shallow where I dropped it and it must have shown clearly in the sunlight. I heard them say they had searched under every stone for it."

Here the little white dove, Princess Maya, left her mother's side and came over to where Prince Tasmir sat.

"Prince Tasmir," she said, "I believe I have your ring. Early one morning my mother and I were flying from tree to tree and feeling rather brighter than usual, as we had not eaten any fruit since the day before.

"After a while we found ourselves very near the shore, and alighted on a low branch directly overhanging the water. A life-boat lay bottom up on the sands of the small beach, and while we were deploring the fact that some ship must have been wrecked on the reefs very lately I noticed just beside the boat's side, on a flat stone hardly covered with water, a fine gold ring. I let myself down on the stone and picked the ring up and we carried it off to show my father. He said it was very valuable, and that the Evil Magician must not have it, so we hid it, and we have kept it ever since. We have never left it long in one place, and if somebody will come with me I will get it now."

Prince Redmond and half a dozen other doves eagerly followed the Princess, while exclamations of wonder and surprise filled the cave.

In five minutes the Princess was back carrying a ring in her mouth. Prince Tasmir gave a cry of joy as he opened it and found his precious seed safe inside.

"I was afraid that perhaps the water had leaked in and sprouted it," he said, as they all crowded around to see, "but thank goodness it is perfectly sound," and he slipped it on his finger.

After congratulating the little Princess on finding the ring and keeping it out of the Evil Magician's possession, and hoping they might have the best of luck on the morrow they all went to sleep, very confident indeed that all would yet come right.



CHAPTER XVII

The next day was spent in flying thoroughly over the island to see that no dove had been overlooked, as they did not want to leave anyone behind.

Only one old grey one was found sleeping in a tree, which Prince Redmond identified as an old sailor who had been one of his crew. He seemed willing to go to the cave at once, and towards night he began to revive.

Immediately after dark they heard a great wind sighing about the island, which Daimur, who had on his cap and spectacles said was the Magician leaving his castle for the Island of Sunne, where he was going to search for the very treasures that Daimur then wore.

Soon Daimur announced that he could see the witch going out to find her cat, and when he knew she was well away they all fluttered out of the cave and led by Daimur, Prince Redmond and King Cyril, made their way to where the Magician's wall crossed the sea sand. Here Daimur again dug a hole under the wall and all passed through safely, Tasmir remaining behind for a moment to fill up the gap again with sand.

They went forward very quietly until they came to the steps of the Magician's castle.

"Wait here," said Daimur, "while the Princess and I go inside and find the tablets."

The door was not locked, and Daimur pushed it open softly, and led by Princess Maya walked through the kitchen to the room where the glass box was kept.

This he picked up carefully and carried outside, taking care to shut the door behind him.

By the dim light of the moon half hidden behind clouds he drew forth his little key and tried it in the lock. The doves were grouped in front of him, and every eye was fixed on the key as he turned it carefully. Would it really fit? Around it went. Up sprang the lid, and there behold! were the wonderful big pellets which might break the enchantment.



Daimur passed the box, first to the Queen, Princess Maya, and the Duchess, and the other royal personages, and then around to everybody.

In a moment a strange assemblage of people stood where but a few seconds before had been only a flock of doves.

What a murmur of delight arose! King Cyril embraced his wife and daughter, the Duchess clung to Daimur in a spasm of joy, Prince Redmond and his brother wept in each other's arms, while Prince Redmond's fifty sailors all crowded around them, swearing they would follow their prince through fire and water.

Prince Daimur fearing that they might alarm the witch, ascended the steps, and holding up his hand begged them to remember that their safe deliverance lay in making no noise, but getting away as quickly as they could.

Then he instructed them to follow the Princess Maya, who led them all around to the end of the Magician's house, where in the little bay lay Prince Redmond's ship, safely moored.

Immediately, at a word from Prince Redmond, the sailors jumped to their places, hoisted the sails and made ready to leave the dock, while Daimur and Prince Tasmir helped the ladies aboard.

There was a good breeze, and in five minutes the sails had filled and they were drawing away from the island, when they heard a loud hissing sound. Looking towards the castle they saw coiled on the dock they had just left a monstrous rattlesnake.

"It is the witch's daughter," cried Princess Maya, "we have awakened her and she has come out through the window."

At that moment the snake shook its rattles. They made an extremely loud, shrill sound, and in a flash, from nowhere apparently, the old witch appeared on the dock with her cat on her shoulder.

When she saw them she screamed and ran into the house.

"For mercy's sake, have you any guns?" cried Daimur to Prince Redmond. "We shall surely need them now, for she is going to call back the Magician."

"Yes," said Redmond, "unless they have been taken away, or have rusted," and hastily giving a few orders to some of the sailors he commanded the others to follow him and ran to the cabin. On looking into the armory he found that the guns were all there, as bright and shining as when he saw them last, and calling upon everyone to help him he began to distribute them about.

When they again reached the deck they found that Daimur had been right about the witch, for she had climbed to the roof of the Magician's house and was standing on the tallest chimneypot.

As they looked she waved her arms, and at once a blue flame sprang from her, waving and dancing in the air, sometimes shooting to a great height, and again breaking out in all directions over the sea.

The wind had in the meantime been steadily blowing them on, and by this time the ship was some distance from the shore and heading for the Island of Sunne.

"The Magician will be here in a moment," cried Daimur. "Stand close together here and obey me, for I can see him the moment he arrives."

Hardly had the men collected about him than a sudden squall struck the ship. It quivered with the shock, and the sails were nearly torn away as the ship heeled over on its side, while great waves dashed right over the deck.

"Do not be afraid," cried Daimur. "I see him, we shall yet be saved if you will obey me."

In front of them rose a wave higher than all the rest. It seemed as tall as a mountain, and it would certainly swamp the ship the moment it struck it. On the top of the wave was a great white crest, in which Daimur knew was the Magician.



"Now," he shouted above the roar of the wind, "aim at the highest crest of the wave." They all did so.

"Fire."

Off went the guns.

There were so many of them that they made a deafening roar, and immediately the ship stood still. As soon as the smoke cleared away they saw why.

The big wave had burst, and the sea was completely calm again, and there floating towards them was the Evil Magician himself, quite dead.

As they looked at him they could see that he seemed to be surrounded by a myriad of queer greenish lights. These grew and spread over the surface of the water, until as he floated closer they could see that he was melting like a piece of soap and washing away in green bubbles. They watched him, quite fascinated, until the last bubble had floated away and he had completely disappeared.

"Oh," said the Queen, with a shudder, while the Duchess wept with fright, "how horrible! I do wish the wind would come up again and blow us away from this dreadful place, We are safe now from the Magician, but perhaps the witch will pursue us."

"No fear of that; she is afraid of us," said Daimur, who had been watching the castle through his spectacles. He had seen the witch dance with rage when they killed the Magician, and a few moments afterwards he could see that she was closing the shutters and darkening the house.

The breeze came gradually up again, and in half an hour's time they were sailing quickly toward the Island of Sunne.

"If this wind continues," said Daimur, "we will reach land early in the morning, and I think we had better leave the ship armed in case we meet with any resistance. I am, however, not much afraid of my uncle, for he is quite powerless without the Evil Magician."



CHAPTER XVIII

Just after the sun had risen the ship touched the wharf at Daimur's native city, and Daimur, who was the first ashore, stood by to assist the ladies to land and to welcome them to his kingdom.

There was not a soul in sight as they formed a double line, with Prince Redmond's sailors as guards, and marched towards the palace, which was only a few blocks distant.

As they neared the gates they saw that nobody was astir but a few of the Royal bodyguard, who as soon as they caught sight of Prince Daimur at the head of this strange procession rushed towards him and threw themselves at his feet with exclamations of astonishment and joy that he was still alive.

They told Daimur that his wicked uncle had already been crowned king, having proved by the aid of false witnesses that Daimur had fallen from a precipice while out riding and been instantly killed, and that his body was washed away in the swift-flowing river at the bottom.

At the conclusion of the tale Daimur called out all the guards and ordered them to arrest his uncle and his followers immediately, and convey them to a strong prison in the interior of the kingdom.

Before they could move to obey him, however, Daimur's uncle himself appeared with a few of his friends. They had been aroused from their sleep by the sound of voices and had dressed hastily.

"What is the meaning of this commotion?" roared the false King, addressing the guards. "Back to your posts immediately."

He turned as he spoke and his eye fell on Daimur and his little company, whose guns were all pointed directly at him, as, strange to say, were those of the Palace guard. He glanced in every direction, but everywhere he saw hard unsympathetic faces, and the round muzzles of guns.

He grew pale and his knees knocked together as he looked about in vain for a means of escape. Then suddenly his face cleared, and he drew a whistle from a cord at his neck and blew three loud blasts upon it.

Daimur, who still wore his cap and spectacles, turned to his company.

"That is to summon the Magician," he explained. They all laughed, and Daimur announced to his uncle that it was of no use calling or help from the Evil Magician, as he was dead and gone.

This of course his uncle declared quite impossible, and it was not until King Cyril, the Princess, and indeed the whole party had assured him it was the truth, added to the fact that the Magician did not seem to be coming to his aid, that he believed it.

After that he was very humble. He cringed before Daimur and hoped he would spare his old uncle's life. This Daimur said he was willing to do, but that he would have to go with his fine friends to the state prison farm as a laborer for the rest of his days. His uncle seemed so relieved that he was not to lose his head that he went away with the guards quietly enough.

Now that he was rid of his uncle Daimur proceeded into the Palace, where he was welcomed with the greatest enthusiasm and loyalty by the servants, and his guests were soon enjoying a splendid breakfast.

Prince Daimur begged them to remain with him until he had been crowned king and had made arrangements to accompany them to their respective homes.

This they consented to do, and soon great preparations were under way for the coronation.

Daimur told his story throughout the kingdom, and his people flocked about him wherever he went, declaring their allegiance, and rejoicing greatly that he had delivered them all from the Evil Magician's influence.

At last the day of the coronation came, and all who were rich enough to travel were present.

Never before had so many distinguished guests graced a coronation ceremony in the Kingdom of Sunne. Daimur's subjects felt highly honored as they gazed upon the noble King Cyril, Queen Emily, and the young Princess of Shells, the distinguished Duchess of Rose Petals, and the two splendid Princes of Laurels. All the other kingdoms were here represented.

They made a very magnificent appearance, for Daimur had insisted upon the Court dressmakers and tailors making each of them a proper wardrobe, as, of course, they had no clothes with them for the occasion.

After the coronation ceremony there was a great feast and when all the company were assembled Daimur told them of his plans for accompanying his guests to their respective kingdoms. His subjects were willing that he should go and promised to defend the kingdom against any possible enemies while he was away, and they agreed upon a very old and wise friend of Daimur's to act as Regent until his return.

In a few days the preparations for his going were complete, and King Daimur's largest warship lay at anchor in the harbor in readiness to sail.

The bands played and a great crowd stood on the wharf as Daimur and his royal guests drove down and boarded the ship, and they sailed out of the harbor amid many cheers and wishes for a safe and speedy voyage.



CHAPTER XIX

Their course was set for the Island of Shells, where King Cyril's brother was ruling in his stead.

The wind was good, and they expected to reach port sometime the next day. Morning dawned bright and sunny, and after some hours of fast sailing Daimur was surprised to have a message brought to him that the Captain had sighted something from the bridge that he wished King Daimur to see.

Daimur went up at once, accompanied by King Cyril, to whom he had been talking.

On reaching the Captain's side they saw at once what the trouble was.

In front of them, about six miles distant, lay the Island of Shells, and between them and it the only entrance to the harbor, a narrow winding passage between very dangerous reefs, which in places stood high out of the water.

It was, however, not the reefs that drew their attention.

Directly in front of them, and completely surrounding the passage through the reefs, lay a dark streak upon the water. It seemed to be at least half a mile in width and stretched away on either side as far as one could see.

Although the water all around it was quite rough and choppy this streak lay perfectly calm, glistening in the sun with peculiar purple and gold colors.

The Captain had ordered some of the sails reefed, but even so the ship was going at a good rate of speed and in a few seconds they had run into it.

It was as though they had struck a bank of soft mud, and so indeed they thought it at first, though they could not understand how it could have got there, as the sea was known to be very deep outside the reefs.

The sails, well filled, tried to carry the ship forward, but only succeeded in getting them a little further into the dark mass.

"What can it be?" cried King Cyril, as everybody rushed to the ship's sides to see what had stopped their progress.

"It looks and smells like tar," said the Captain, "and now how in the world are we to get out of it? I've never seen anything like it in my life, and I've been sailing for forty-seven years."

By this time Daimur had adjusted his magic cap and spectacles and was surveying the dark sticky streak. He gave way to an exclamation of dismay.

"What is it?" gasped King Cyril, thoroughly alarmed at seeing Daimur so affected.

"This stuff is tar," said Daimur, "mixed with various gums and a terrible acid that is eating into the hull of our ship and will destroy it within two hours if we cannot succeed in getting it out.

"This is the work of your sister-in-law," he continued, addressing King Cyril, "assisted by the witch of Despair. They do not intend to let us in if they can help it. Now let us think what we must do."

Not a word was spoken as Daimur stood consulting his magic cap and gazing out over the sea.

In a few moments he turned to the Captain.

"Have you any coal-oil?" he asked.

"A little, your majesty, about nine barrels, I think," answered the Captain, as he sent a sailor to see how many there were. The man came back to say that there were ten.

"Good," said Daimur. "Now have all the barrels brought up to the deck, for we must pour the oil over the bow; it is the only thing that will cut this vile mixture."

The barrels were brought up as quickly as possible, and Daimur himself stood in the bow and directed the sailors. Four men held a barrel of oil on each side of the bow, and at the instant they commenced to pour it down the Captain ordered the remaining sails let out to the wind.

As the oil struck the tar mixture it first spread over the surface, and then foamed up like soda water, and as the foam subsided the water could be seen underneath.

With every sail filled the ship slowly made its way through the sticky foaming mass, and when at the end of half an hour they were clear of it, and the ship began to cut ahead through the water again, a big cheer of relief went up.

All was not over, however, as they were now within the narrow passage, and the Captain was very nervous. He had never been through it before without a pilot, and although he had the wheel himself he was not sure that he knew the course.

King Cyril now stepped forward and offered to take the wheel, as he had often steered his own yacht through the channel, and knew it perfectly, so in case some other trap had been laid for them Daimur gave him his magic cap and glasses to wear until they should be safely in the harbor.

In and out among the black reefs they wound, and shortly after two o'clock in the afternoon cast anchor in the harbor, and were soon ashore.

As the usurping Prince and his witch of a wife had felt very safe behind their ring of magic tar they had set no guards about, and consequently Daimur and his friends, with his marines as guards, were marching up the city street towards the palace before you could say "Jack Robinson," with nobody to stop them.

There were a good many people out in the streets, as it was market day, and in a few moments a crowd had gathered to see the procession. Of course they at once recognized their rightful King and Queen, and with shouts of "Long live our noble King Cyril, he has been restored to us," "Long live Queen Emily," "Long live Princess Maya," they joined in the procession which was winding along to the palace.

For you must know that the wicked Princess could not possibly throw rose-colored powder into the eyes of all King Cyril's subjects, and did not care at all about them as long as she could reach everyone in authority; so that all the common people of his kingdom still loved their rightful king as much as ever, and hated his brother Arnolde and his wife, who they knew quite well cared nothing for them excepting when they wanted more taxes.

The visitors looked about them curiously as they advanced. None of them had ever visited the Island of Shells before and they greatly admired the beautiful houses which were built entirely of pink, white or blue shells, with pale pink or amber-colored shells for windows, and the shell fences to match which enclosed the grounds.

The streets were paved with huge clam shells, and the sidewalks were of periwinkle shells cemented together.

It was a beautiful city, they all agreed.

Soon as they turned a corner the high shell turrets of the Palace and Parliament buildings came in sight, glittering pink and silver in the sunshine.

Now Arnolde was just then holding Parliament, and hearing the shouting he rose to his feet and looked out of the window. When he saw the procession headed by his brother Cyril he started violently and his eyes almost popped out of his head.

Turning to the nobles assembled about he cried, "To arms. An enemy advances upon us."

In a moment every man's sword was drawn, and following Arnolde they all dashed out of the building into the street to oppose the progress of King Cyril.

On they rushed towards Daimur's army, but were soon stopped and overpowered by the marines, who were in command of Prince Redmond.

Daimur, who in this perilous land was again wearing his cap and spectacles, approached the prisoners and examined the eyes of several of them.

Through his glasses he could see that the rose-colored powder had spread out and made a thin covering over each eye, and his magic cap told him that nothing could remove it but the tears of the victims themselves.

He told this to King Cyril.

"Can't you think of anything that would induce them to weep?" asked Daimur.

"Indeed I cannot," answered King Cyril, as he looked at their scowling, unfriendly faces.

Just then Prince Tasmir came forward.

"Why not make each man peel a peck of good strong onions?" he said with a smile.

At this they all laughed, but the idea seemed a good one, and quickly explaining what they wanted to his crowds of subjects King Cyril soon had people running from all directions with onions in pails, pans, bags and baskets, until the street looked like an onion market.

The prisoners in the meanwhile eyed the proceedings impatiently, talking among themselves, and were utterly disgusted and horrified when a knife and a great heap of onions were placed on the ground beside each of them.

Prince Redmond, at a sign from Daimur, stepped forward and ordered them to peel the onions. This of course they flatly refused to do, and it was only after threatening them with instant death that they sat down on the ground and unwillingly commenced.

Such a sniffing then began! Such tears poured forth! Not one of them was allowed to stop until he had finished his share, and by that time the tears were running in streams down their faces.

It was a very odd sight, and the people crowded around laughing quietly to themselves, and wondering what it was for.

"Rise," commanded Prince Redmond, "and wipe your eyes."

They all obeyed.

"Now," said Daimur stepping forward. "Three cheers for your rightful ruler, King Cyril, who has, with the Queen and your Princess, been restored to you."

For a moment there was a dead silence while Prince Arnolde and his followers gazed at King Cyril with eyes that were clear for the first time in four years. Then, raising their swords, they cheered lustily, while Prince Arnolde rushed forward and fell on his brother's neck, begging forgiveness, and declaring that he must have been crazy to act so wickedly.

Together the whole procession wended its way to the palace gates, which King Cyril once more entered as the rightful ruler of his kingdom.

The false Queen was sitting on the lawn under the trees doing crochet work in a new shell pattern that she had just invented and talking with some of the Court ladies, and she did not notice the procession approaching until the tramp of many feet made her turn her head.

She arose and came forward in some alarm, but at the sight of King Cyril, Queen Emily and Princess Maya, with her husband walking beside them talking in the most unfriendly manner, she flew into a terrible rage.

She danced up and down and round and round, faster and faster, growing smaller every second, until at last she was nothing but her real self, an ugly shriveled witch running round and round on a broomstick. With a loud shrill scream she mounted into the air and was away out of sight in an instant, leaving everybody staring open mouthed at the sky.

"She has gone to the Island of Despair to join the old witch and her daughter," said Daimur who had a creepy feeling down his back.

The people all shuddered and looked at one another in awe, and poor Prince Arnolde was trembling in every limb.

They were all very glad when King Cyril ordered refreshments served at once in the great dining hall.

Daimur remained for a week in the Island of Shells to see that all went well. He was afraid of the witches returning, as of course now they had so many of the Evil Magician's secrets that they might cause a great deal of trouble.

Prince Tasmir was very glad to be a few days more in the company of Princess Maya, with whom he had fallen desperately in love, and took this opportunity of asking King Cyril's consent to their marriage as soon as he had regained his kingdom, which King Cyril readily gave.

The witches did not return, and as the King, assisted by his now devoted brother, was rapidly getting everything into good order, Daimur announced his intention of leaving, and he, the Duchess of Rose Petals, and the two Princes departed from the Island of Shells after a great ceremony, at which Daimur was presented with a gold sword in token of the gratitude of King Cyril's subjects for the restoration of their King.



CHAPTER XX

Daimur directed the Captain to steer to the Island of Laurels, which lay nearest to them, and after two uneventful days of good weather the island came into view. Late in the afternoon, when they were within a couple of miles of the harbor they passed a very large warship, very new and shining, which was flying the flag of Laurels.

"That must be a new ship that Sadna has built," said Prince Redmond. "He was always talking about a better navy."

The large vessel paid no attention to them, but as they did not know whether it was coming back or not they drew off and did not enter the harbor until after dark. They cast anchor and decided not to leave the ship until morning.

They breakfasted at sunrise and went up on deck to view the city while the boats were being lowered.

It appeared to be a busy place. On the long wharves a great number of men were working loading and unloading vessels. Three big warships, all new, the prince declared, rode at anchor in the bay, but nobody seemed to pay any attention to the sudden appearance of a strange warship in their harbor.

To the princes this seemed very queer, and thinking there might be some plan to attack them unexpectedly they took every man that could be spared from the ship, only leaving behind enough to man the guns and to guard the Duchess of Rose Petals, who preferred staying on board.

Forming in fours they marched up the street under great laurel trees, of such a size as Daimur had never seen anywhere before. Although the sun was already very hot every street was cool and shady. On they went, but nobody even turned around to look at them. No crowd collected, no faces appeared in the windows or doors, and what people they met looked stupid and sleepy.

"Why, this is most uncanny," exclaimed Daimur, who was marching beside Prince Tasmir at the head of the marines. "What's the matter with everybody?"

"I cannot imagine," answered Prince Redmond. "It is a shocking surprise to me; why they act as if they were all half asleep and do not seem to recognize us at all."

They passed through a beautiful park, and on the other side the palace, surrounded by laurel hedges and backed by a very high wooded hill, appeared to their view.

Two guards were stationed at the palace gates. They drew their swords in a dazed kind of way and refused to let anyone pass.

"I am your Crown Prince," said Tasmir, "and here is my brother Redmond. You must let us pass instantly."

The guards looked at them stupidly and shook their heads.

"We have no princes," said one, "our King is not married."

"Where is he?" asked Redmond.

"Don't know," answered the guard sleepily, as his head nodded forward a couple of times. "Went away on the new ship."

"But when will he return?" asked Tasmir, shaking the man to wake him up, for he was certainly going to sleep.

"Don' know, don' know," returned the guard, shaking his head slowly. He kept on shaking it, and although they asked him several other questions he did not seem to hear them at all.

The other guard was even worse, for all he could say was, "Who goes there?" whenever they addressed him.

"Don't bother with them," said Prince Redmond impatiently, "let us go into the palace and see if father is still alive."

Daimur ordered the marines to advance, and as the two guards did nothing but blink at them, and no other defenders appeared it only took them a few seconds to reach the palace door.

Prince Tasmir bounded up the steps, turned the big handle and dashed into the hall with Prince Redmond and Daimur close at his heels. They met with no opposition from the servants, who appeared to be as sleepy as the guards, and immediately began a search for the poor old King. Upstairs and down they went and even into the dungeons, but could find no trace of him.

Prince Redmond at length stopped and began to weep, for they all felt that he was dead, and had perhaps been murdered.

Daimur tried to comfort the princes by telling them that they must search the kingdom through before thinking the worst and suggested that they go out into the city again and see if his cap would not tell him something about it.

They left the palace and walked over the lawn and past the Royal gardens, and finally crossed a rustic bridge over a pretty stream which wound in and out through the grounds.

"Where does that river flow?" asked Daimur, stopping suddenly. He had on his cap.

"Oh, that," said Tasmir, "is the Laurel River. It flows right through the kingdom, down to the sea on the other side of the island."

"Does anybody drink its waters?" asked Daimur, taking out his spectacles and putting them on.

"Why of course," said Prince Redmond proudly. "It is the source of water supply for nearly the whole of the kingdom. There isn't purer water anywhere in the world."

"Purer," said Daimur, who was stooping to examine the waters through his spectacles, "why, it's poisoned!"

"Poisoned!" exclaimed both the princes, looking at each other incredulously. "Impossible!"

"I tell you it is," said Daimur, "the poison is an oily substance which covers the surface of the water. It may not be deadly; I cannot tell."

"Then that's what ails our subjects," cried Tasmir. "They must be drinking this poison every day."

"Where is the source of this river?" asked Daimur.

Prince Redmond turned and pointed to the highest hill behind them. "In Mirror Lake, on that hilltop," he said.

"Let us go there at once then," said Daimur, and leaving his marines on guard duty around the palace he followed the two princes, who had taken a path that led along the stream. This grew rough and stony as they came to higher ground, and they soon were clinging to rocks and bushes as they climbed up the steep hillside.

At length after a great deal of scrambling and some tearing of their clothes on the thorns and brambles, they managed to reach the top, and followed a narrow winding path which led to the lake. After half an hour of quick walking they came upon it very suddenly. It was quite small, and completely surrounded by trees. The water was as blue as the sky and reflected every little cloudlet perfectly. Daimur, however, at once noticed vast quantities of laurel leaves floating about, coming apparently from a little cove at the far end of the lake.

"It is those leaves that are poisoning the water," he cried excitedly, "I can see the poisonous oil oozing from them."

"But, Daimur," said Redmond, "how can that be, they are only ordinary laurel leaves?"

But Daimur was already making his way along the shore towards the cove from which the leaves seemed to come, and the princes followed him.

At the end of the cove and hidden among the other trees they came upon a tall willowy laurel tree which, overhanging the water, continually dropped leaves and shook and moaned as if in a great wind, although all the other trees were still.

The princes looked at it in awe, which deepened when Daimur, after surveying it intently for some moments, announced that it must be cut down as it contained some enchanted creature, which, he said, as his cap and spectacles could tell him no more, he hoped might not prove to be another witch or an evil Magician.

They had no axe, but Prince Redmond volunteered to go back to a woodman's hut which they had passed on their way, and borrow one. He soon returned with a large sharp axe, and set to work to cut down the tree. He struck with all his might, but the axe made no impression on it, beyond a mere scratch on the bark.

Prince Tasmir then tried, but with no better success.

At last Daimur, who through his spectacles, had been examining the trunk of the tree close to the ground, asked for the axe, and after scraping the earth away he began to chop at the roots.

He managed with hard work to cut some of them through, and then gave the axe to Redmond. Thus they all three persevered until the last root was severed, and the tree fell to the earth with a loud moaning sound.

Immediately a grey mist rose before their eyes, and when it had cleared away a beautiful fairy clothed in white stood before them in place of the tree.

"Do not be alarmed," she said, smiling at their startled faces. "You have nothing to fear. I am the fairy Peaceful and was enchanted by the Evil Magician because I had rescued your father from his hands, and was working against him in other ways in this kingdom.

"The leaves you saw upon the waters were my sorrows, and as my unhappiness increased I was compelled to drop more and more leaves. These poisoned the water and kept Prince Sadna's people in a kind of stupor.

"But," she continued, stepping towards the lake, "I can now restore the water to its natural purity."

She waved her wand over it as she spoke, and Daimur could see that the oily substance seemed to evaporate immediately.

"Oh, tell us, good fairy, is our father still alive?" cried Prince Redmond.

"He is," answered the fairy, "though very feeble. He will not live much longer. Thank goodness I had him safely hidden away before the Evil Magician pounced upon me on this lonely hilltop. If you will follow me you may see him."

She led the way to what appeared to be a wall of solid rock a short distance from the lake shore. Reaching up she tapped the wall with her wand, and instantly a passage appeared. They followed her through it, and on the other side found themselves in a long green valley, completely surrounded on all sides by overhanging cliffs and tree tops. In the center of the valley stood a long low white thatched cottage, almost covered with honeysuckle and climbing roses, while about it were gardens, and plenty of trees where birds sang sweetly.

"This is my own secret bower," the fairy explained with a smile. "It is hidden from mortal eyes, and on account of my Wonderful Plant the Evil Magician could not disturb it."

They walked along a pretty path, and turning around a hedge came upon the aged King, seated in an easy chair under a peach tree. Directly in front of him stood a Wonderful Plant, fully as large as that which Tasmir had seen on the oasis, and quite full of golden flowers.

The King was in the act of sipping a glass of milk and eating some fruit which a maid had just brought him, and looked very bright and comfortable.

He turned his head at the sound of voices, and at the sight of his sons arose with a cry of joy, and came slowly forward leaning on his cane. Tasmir and Redmond wept with happiness as they kissed him, and turning to the fairy asked what they might do to show their gratitude.

"Only allow me to live in your palace," she said, "coming and going as I please, and I can help you to keep evil from your kingdom."

This they gladly agreed to.

Then, as the day was growing late, and they had had nothing to eat since morning, Daimur said that they had better go back at once.

"How shall we carry the King down the hillside," asked Prince Tasmir of Daimur. But the words were no sooner spoken than the fairy reached out and touched each of them with her wand. In the twinkling of an eye they were all in the King's private sitting-room in the palace, with the King in his own armchair. The fairy smiled at them at they thanked her.

"I shall now remove the spell from your people," she said, and vanished.

Tasmir and Redmond immediately sent out messengers all over the kingdom, and it was not long before people began to pour in at the palace gates, not stupid now, but rejoicing at the restoration of their good old King and their favorite princess.

None of the nobles seemed to know anything about Prince Sadna, excepting that he had sailed away a few days before in his latest and largest warship.

The following day began with a great public reception, and after a formal luncheon to the nobles and members of Government, there were several cabinet meetings, at which Daimur was asked as a matter of courtesy to attend. In the evening the princes were to address the populace from the palace balcony.

Early in the evening the streets were adorned with colored lights and huge torches, and people already crowded around the palace doors, hoping to get a glimpse of the King. Everywhere there was the wildest excitement.

Daimur walked out into the gardens, through the lawns, and over the little bridge which spanned the Laurel River, now clear as crystal and quite pure again. He stopped to watch it rippling in the moonlight.

Suddenly the fairy Peaceful stood beside him.

"King Daimur," said she, "I know you are good and kind. I have known you ever since you were born, although you did not know me. The fairy who gave you your magic cap and spectacles was my uncle. I am deeply indebted to you for killing the Evil Magician and also for breaking the enchantment which made me a force for evil in the world instead of good.

"You are going to be exposed to grave danger while the Old Witch of Despair is alive, as she knows you have the two great treasures which the Evil Magician sought. In order to help you to escape all harm I am going to give you this little bugle."

She drew from her pocket as she spoke a tiny silver bugle which was attached to a long chain, fine and strong.

"Wear this around your neck constantly," she said, "and if ever you are in need of assistance blow three times upon it and three servants of mine will come immediately to you. Command them and they will obey."

Daimur thanked her warmly and clasped the chain about his neck, and the good fairy disappeared.

Daimur went back to the palace and joined in the festivities, but as a great storm was coming up he sent a carriage to fetch the Duchess of Rose Petals, who was still on the warship, as he feared she would be afraid if she stayed on board.

She was very glad indeed to be brought to the palace, and she and the old King enjoyed each other's company very much, and found it very consoling to relate their troubles together.

Very late that night, after all the people had gone home, the storm broke and lasted for hours. It was most terrific, and the fury of the wind broke many trees on the hill behind the palace, and did considerable damage throughout the city.



CHAPTER XXI

It was not until late the next day that the sea began to be calm again, though the sun had been shining since morning.

Daimur lost no time in getting ready for his departure to the Island of Roses, and after bidding good-bye to the Old King and Prince Tasmir, who made him promise to come to his wedding with the Princess Maya, which was to take place shortly, he embarked again with his marines, accompanied by the Duchess of Rose Petals and the faithful Prince Redmond, who declared that he would not leave Daimur until he had finished his task.

They soon found that the storm of the night before had been much worse on sea than on land, as the sea was covered with parts of wrecked ships, pieces of wood, boxes, articles of furniture and great timbers.

Towards noon they sighted a large vessel half sunk on a dangerous reef, but they could not get near enough to it to read the name. Apparently there was no one left aboard. A mile further on they passed a half broken life-boat nearly full of water, on the bow of which was painted H. M. S. "Sadna." There was nothing in it.

Then Prince Redmond felt certain that it was his brother's ship which they had passed caught on the reef, and that he had perished in the storm with all hands.

They proceeded on their course, and in a few hours more reached the chief city of the Kingdom of Roses.

Nobody made any attempt to stop their landing, so they all marched up the street, this time the Duchess leading the procession with Daimur. She was overjoyed to be at home again, and people began at once to recognize her and came running after them with shouts of welcome until a crowd had collected. It was noticeable that they were all very poor and fagged looking.

The strangers exclaimed with wonder at the beauty of the roses which bloomed everywhere. They climbed over the houses, over fences and up great stone buildings to the very roofs. Rose trees stood in all the parks. Rose bushes made all the hedges. Roses of all colors met the eye at every turn, and the air was quite heavy with their perfume. It was truly a magnificent sight.

No doubt they would have been still more impressed had they known that in prosperous times people had fresh rose petals to sleep on every night instead of feather beds or Ostermoor mattresses; that the pigs were fed on roses until their skins grew to be so fine and transparent that they were as clear as wax and the pigs themselves were red, white or yellow or pink, according to the color of the roses they ate; that housewives made rose petals into pies, cakes and candy, and even bread, and stewed them with sugar and lemons for jam. Of course this was only done with the surplus, as the real business of the kingdom was making perfume from them.

On went our friends, the Duchess leading the way, until at last they came in sight of the palace. As they entered the grounds they were surprised to see that all the blinds were down and nobody seemed to be guarding the gates, or the door of the palace. In fact, the gates hung ajar, and one of them was off its hinges. The grass on the lawn was tall and rank. The gardens, or as little of them as they could see, were full of tall weeds, and everything was going to decay.

The poor Duchess stood and wept at the sight, but Daimur cried, "Cheer up, cheer up, my dear Duchess, everything may be quite all right yet," and ordering the marines to keep everyone out he and Redmond led the weeping Duchess up to the great entrance and loudly rang the door bell.

They could hear it echoing far inside, but no one came. They looked through the windows, but inside all was empty and dusty.

The Duchess was by this time in a perfect sea of tears and Daimur had given up trying to comfort her.

"Well, we'll try the back," he said, and taking the Duchess again by the arm he led the way around the wide drive towards the rear of the palace. As it was an immense building and very rambling it took them some time to reach a high gate in a wall, which, the Duchess moaned out, led to the kitchen.

Inside was a courtyard all paved with red bricks, very neat-looking, no doubt, when kept in proper order, but now the weeds were growing up through the crevices in the bricks and the placed looked very neglected.

They walked across the courtyard to the kitchen door, and after knocking several times and getting no response Daimur tried it, and to his surprise found that it was not locked.

He pushed it open and they entered the great kitchen. There was not a soul in sight.

They walked on through the rooms and found them almost bare. Carpets had been taken up, furniture removed, all of the best silver was missing, and the Royal Rose china was completely gone,—so the Duchess said.

What could it mean? And where was Queen Amy, her court and her servants?

It was the same throughout the whole palace. Everything that had any value had been removed, even the embroidered satin bedspreads.

They descended to the cellar and went towards the little room where the Duchess declared had stood the steel treasure chest. The door of the little room stood open and to tell the truth they expected to find the place empty, but what was their surprise to see the chest standing there perfectly solid looking.

"Of course it is empty," said the Duchess with a sniff, as she stooped and fitted the little key into the lock.

Daimur and Redmond lifted the lid, and behold! IT WAS FULL OF GOLD TO THE VERY BRIM!

It was all packed carefully in glass boxes bound with steel and each box was labeled with the owner's name.

The largest box bore Queen Amy's name, and the royal coat of arms.

They were so astonished that they did not say a word but stood staring at the gold as if fascinated.

Suddenly they were startled by a slight noise behind them, and both Daimur and Prince Redmond involuntarily drew their swords as they turned quickly around.

What they beheld was a frightened looking little creature who gazed at them from behind a large empty packing case in a corner.

"Come here," said Daimur rather sternly. "Who are you and what are you doing here? Are there any other people about?"

The little thing advanced trembling, and then they saw that she was a fair-haired young girl of about eighteen or twenty, but so thin and pale that at first glance she appeared to be a child. She was dreadfully dirty too, and clad in various garments that seemed to have belonged to someone else much larger.

"Don't frighten her, Daimur," said Prince Redmond as he stepped over beside the poor little thing.

"Tell us who you are, and what you are doing here," he said, addressing her kindly. "We will do you no harm."

"I am Princess Helda of Oaklands," she said in a very timid voice.

"And where may that be?" asked Daimur, thinking she was probably out of her head, as so far as he knew no such place existed.

"Alas," said the Princess. "Oaklands is now the Island of Despair," and she wrung her hands with a hopeless gesture.

At this answer Daimur was so amazed that he could not say a word, and it was Prince Redmond who asked the Princess to tell them her story, and whether she knew anything of Queen Amy. The Duchess had dried her eyes and stood waiting in silence for every word.

The Princess began in her quiet voice.

"When I was only fourteen years old, my parents, who were King and Queen of Oaklands and very much beloved by their subjects, one day quite by accident, offended the Evil Magician, who had been traveling through the kingdom disguised as a juggler, and entertaining crowds in the streets with his skilful tricks.

"In revenge the Evil Magician enchanted the whole kingdom, tearing our island up from the eastern sea and setting it down in this western one. He turned my father and mother and their subjects into stones and built a house and wall of them, and changed our beautiful cities into a dense forest.

"Me he could not change, as I wear upon my arm a bracelet placed there by a good fairy at my birth, which guards me from enchantment and harm.

"I lived then in the Magician's house, and his old witch of a housekeeper and her ugly daughter made me do all manner of rough work, and many a time would have beaten me had it not been for my magic bracelet. At any rate they half starved me. I lived in the cellar when I was not working in the kitchen."

"My dear," said the Duchess, "how can you expect us to believe such a story? You say you were fourteen when all this happened. You cannot be more than twenty now, and yet the Island of Despair has been where it is for over seventy years."

"Yes," said the Princess, "that is true, but the Evil Magician does not measure years as you do. On his kitchen wall hangs the year clock. It has only one hand, and the figures on its face run from one to fifteen. Each figure represents one of your years, but the hand of the clock has to go completely around the dial and reach the figure fifteen before the Magician counts a year. In therefore what has been five years to us in the Magician's house has been seventy-five years to you. That is the reason why the Magician and the witch seem so old to you, who know that they have been living for hundreds of years. They are really not very old after all."

"But how did you get here?" asked Prince Redmond, who was becoming very much interested in the small Princess.

"One day," answered the Princess, "I overhead the Evil Magician telling the old witch to prepare a bed in the cellar for a Queen."

"Good mercy," cried the Duchess. "My dear niece in that dreadful place. Oh, what shall I do?" And she began to weep afresh, but Daimur was so interested in the story that he hardly heard her.

"What happened next?" he asked breathlessly.

"The next day the Queen arrived, so beautiful and so sad. I loved her at once, and was happy to be with her when I might. She told me that she had a chest full of gold in her palace, but that her aunt had the key to it, and that she had mysteriously disappeared. She was afraid she had been murdered. A foreign king, a kind of pirate, had been threatening to invade her kingdom for more than a year, and she had been able to keep him off for a time, but at last she had no more soldiers to oppose against him and he would have taken the kingdom had not the Evil Magician, in the form of a young and handsome knight, offered to lend her as much gold as was in the treasure chest until such time as she could get another key, for she had found that the chest was a magic one and could neither be broken into nor moved from where it stood.

"The pirate king took the money and went away, but in a few months the Evil Magician came back and demanded payment for his gold or that the Queen would marry him at once.

"The Queen refused to marry him and could not pay him, so he took her prisoner to the Island of Despair, as you call it, where he said he would keep her until she consented to marry him and would sign over to him all right to her throne. There she still is if she is alive.

"As for me, the Evil Magician soon found that I was Queen Amy's friend, and fearing that I might help her to escape he had me brought here, where I have been ever since.

"As soon as Queen Amy was captured her cousin Bethel took the throne, and it was to her that I was sent as a servant. How she treated me you can see for yourselves. I have had to do the meanest work, live in this cellar, wear what clothes she threw to me, and eat what I could get from the cook, who on days when she was very cross would give me nothing at all."

"Poor child, poor child," said Prince Redmond.

"And where is Princess Bethel now?" asked Daimur.

"And what has happened to the furniture, and all the plate and china, my dear?" asked the Duchess in a teary voice.

"I am just coming to that part, if you please, madam," answered the Princess.

"At night, when the servants were talking in the kitchen I used to sit behind the cellar door and then I heard all that was said. One night they whispered to each other that the pirate king had come back and that he threatened instant invasion if he did not get more money. Princess Bethel had sent him all she had in the palace and he went away.

"That kept him off for a time, but before long he came again and then kept on coming more and more frequently until there was scarcely an article of value in the palace that had not been sent to him, or sold to get money to keep him quiet. Princess Bethel was very miserable indeed, and taxed her subjects until they were all reduced to beggary in order to get the money to give him.

"I could not help feeling rather sorry for her, it was such a dreadful existence. The servants had to be dismissed one after another until there was no one to wait upon her but me, and my! How she did scold!

"At last the pirate came just a few nights ago and marching up to the palace gates demanded the chest of gold, which he had evidently just heard about.

"Bethel would gladly have given it to him if she could have moved it, and told him so, at which he and a great many rough sailors tramped into the palace and down these stairs and tried their best to pry it up with crowbars, but with no success of course. When he found he really could not take it, he was so angry that he kidnapped Princess Bethel, saying he would keep her in a dungeon until she found the key for him.

"I was in the darkest corner when the pirates came and kept hidden until they went away. Since then I have not dared to go any further than to the kitchen for some bread and water."

"Dear me, that is very poor fare," said Prince Redmond, "it is no wonder you are so thin. We will have to try and make up for all this bad treatment," and to anyone with two eyes it was quite evident that he had fallen in love with her.

The Duchess too was very sympathetic, though greatly worried about her niece, Queen Amy, and Daimur told the new Princess that the Evil Magician was now dead and that they would try and deliver her parents and Queen Amy from enchantment.

At this moment the roar of many voices from outside caused them all to hurry upstairs as fast as they could and they ran out of the palace to see what was going on. They were just in time to see a great crowd pouring down the street towards the water, all shouting and gesticulating.

"What is the meaning of this commotion?" asked Daimur of those of his men who were guarding the palace gates.

"They say," answered one, "that the pirates who have been raiding this shore for so long are drowned and some of them have been washed ashore."

Hastily sending the Duchess and Princess Helda back to the palace, Daimur followed Prince Redmond, who was already making his way through the crowd towards the shore.

They reached the beach, and there stretched lifeless on the sand beside his overturned life-boat lay Prince Sadna, and beside him a young officer, whom Redmond recognized as a distant cousin.

It may well be imagined how very sad Prince Redmond felt over his brother's disgraceful life, and now at the sight of him lying there dead, a dreaded pirate to the people crowding around, instead of a friendly king as he should have been, the Prince burst into tears.

Daimur stood beside him feeling very sorry for his friend, and remembering that after all Sadna had been a royal prince, he decided to have him buried at sea with all honors befitting his rank, and motioning to a few of his men who had come to the shore with him, he had Prince Sadna's body removed to his ship.

Redmond was very grateful indeed to Daimur for his kindness, and after the funeral was over they came back to the city and called together the elders. They explained why they had come and took them to see the Duchess of Rose Petals at the palace, who by this time had had some tea and was feeling much refreshed.

The elders were all delighted to see her, but when she told them that she still had the key of the magic chest and that they could now have their savings as they needed them, they wept for joy, and falling on their knees vowed undying allegiance to her, and begged her to be their queen, as they were sure Queen Amy was dead.

The Duchess refused this honor, as she told them her niece was still alive, and Daimur then came forward and related what Princess Helda had told them of Queen Amy's capture and that he was going to rescue her and bring her back, and in the meantime that the Duchess would act as Queen Regent.



CHAPTER XXII

Only waiting to see the Duchess settled in the palace with a few servants and enough furniture to make her comfortable, Daimur prepared for his voyage to the Island of Despair. Prince Redmond insisted upon accompanying him, and little Princess Helda begged to be allowed to go too, as she was sure she could help them, and she wished so much to see her parents even if they were stones.

The Duchess at last consented to her going, and sent an old friend, Lady Clara Rosered, to look after her. By this time the Princess looked like a real Princess, for the Duchess had bought her the most beautiful new clothes, and since she was getting enough to eat for the first time in years she was beginning to look very pretty.

Prince Redmond was head over heels in love with her and would have asked her to marry him at once if he had had a kingdom to offer her, or any prospects at all.

Early one bright morning they set sail, and after sailing all day came within a few miles of the Island of Despair, when Daimur donned his cap and spectacles in order to steer the ship into the harbor in safety. They lay in the lee of a high cliff until dark, and then when the wind was strong enough ran the ship up into the small sheltered cove beside the Magician's house, and made it fast to the wharf with as little noise as possible.

There was nobody in sight as they cautiously crept up the path, and Redmond remarked that the witch must be away on some errand of mischief.

After waiting for an hour and seeing no one, the three adventurers went up the steps to the door of the house. They tried the handle, but it was locked.

Only then did Daimur remember that he had left his magic key in the box of magic tablets on the window sill the night they made their escape. So much had happened he had not once thought of it since, and it gave him a great shock to realize how careless he had been, for now he needed it again.

The Princess Helda, who of course knew nothing of the magic key, was already fumbling at the lock with a hairpin, and after poking at it for several minutes it flew back with a snap.

"It's a good thing I knew that lock's defects," she whispered, "or we should never have got in this way," and she turned the handle and walked into the kitchen.

With their hands on their swords Redmond and Daimur followed her.

It was quite dark in the kitchen, the only light coming from a solitary candle on a high shelf, which threw long shadows everywhere. The fire in the fireplace was out and there was no sign of life.

Motioning to the others to follow Princess Helda led the way across the kitchen to a door, which she opened and began to descend a flight of stone stairs.

The stairs led down to a wide stone flagged hall with rooms opening from it, and narrow passages running in all directions into the distance.

Here and there high up near the roof a smoky lantern burned dimly.

Across the wide hall went Helda and down one of the long narrow passages until she reached a door at the very end.

She knocked softly upon it three times. There was no answer. She knocked again, and then opened the door. There was no lock on it on the inside, only a big bolt on the outside. She glanced in. The room was completely bare.

"She is not here," she whispered to Daimur and Redmond, who followed her into the room. Lighting some matches they looked into all the rooms adjoining, but found them deserted too.

They went back up the narrow passage.

"What shall we do?" asked Prince Redmond. "Where shall we look now?"

"We must look in all of the rooms," said Helda. "They have moved her, but she is here somewhere. If we separate we shall perhaps get along better. There is no danger of getting lost as all the passages open into the wide hall."

So they separated, Prince Redmond following Princess Helda and Daimur going alone in the opposite direction, as he thought perhaps his magic cap and spectacles might help him in his quest.

Up and down the narrow passages they went, opening all the doors and looking into all the rooms, until they grew a long way apart, for these underground passages extended away into the hill and covered a much longer area than the house above.

At last Daimur opened a little door in a dark corner. It was so low that he had to stoop to get in, but once inside the ceiling was high enough.

"Oh," he said to himself, "she is not in here, I am sure."

But to his surprise his cap, which up to that time had not been able to tell him anything, suddenly told him that she was in there.

He stepped forward into the room cautiously and tried to look about, but it was so dark that he could only dimly see some articles of furniture that were very close to him.

On the further side, however, on the floor he saw a streak of light, and making his way over to it found that it came under a door. This door was not locked either, and he opened it far enough to see that the light was shining down a long hallway from a door at the other end of it. Seeing and hearing nothing, he crept down the hall until he came to the other door, which was even lower than the first. The door was open, but was hung with heavy curtains. He peered in, but could not see anyone. The room was very comfortable looking, with easy chairs, books and a piano, and on a small table lay some needlework in a basket.

While he stood considering whether he dare venture into the lighted room he heard the sound of voices, and then advancing through the room he beheld the Old Witch herself, accompanied by the witch who had been Queen of Shells.

Instantly he turned and fled down the long hall and back into the little dark room, where he felt his way into the furtherest corner and lay still hardly daring to breathe.

In a minute or two he heard them coming down the hall. They were talking in a language he could not understand.

"What if they should have a light," thought Daimur. "All would be lost, for in this place they could easily make me a prisoner."

They entered the room. As they did so the Old Witch hesitated, and Daimur noticed her voice change, but all she did was to close the door leading into the hall. Then still talking the two made their way in the dark across the room and out of the other door.

When their footsteps had ceased to echo down the corridor, for they walked noisily, Daimur came out of his corner and tried the door leading into the long passage. It was locked. Then he tried the door which led to the main hall, but that too was locked.

He was trapped.

Just at that moment a faint spicy smell came to his nostrils. He stood still, wondering what it could be. It grew stronger and stronger and sweeter and sweeter, until he could feel himself growing sleepy. Alas, he knew now that the witches had seen him.

In vain he looked around for some means of escape. There was none. His cap could tell him nothing. He beat upon the doors, but his strength soon failed him, and he fell down in a stupor.

How long he lay there he did not know, but when he awoke at length a faint light was shining into the room from a small iron grating close up to the ceiling, and the spicy smell was gone.

The first thing he did was to feel for his cap and spectacles which he had had on when he fell asleep.

THEY WERE GONE.

Poor Daimur. For the first time since the beginning of his adventure he felt completely helpless, and with a very dejected countenance indeed he sat down to await the next happening.

He had not been sitting there for more than half an hour when a light step sounded in the inner hall and stopped at the door.

A key was turned in the lock and a voice said: "Oh, bother this lock." The key rattled again, the door opened rather suddenly, and there entered—not a witch as Daimur expected—but the loveliest lady he had ever seen.

She had big blue eyes, a lovely complexion, though it was a trifle pale as if from being indoors a long time, and golden hair that hung over her shoulders in long ringlets. Her gown was of a deep blue silk that almost matched her eyes. At sight of Daimur she stood still in astonishment, then came quickly towards him.

"Oh, poor young man," she cried. "Surely you are not a prisoner too."

"I am afraid I am," answered Daimur sadly, as he gazed at the beautiful lady, "but tell me, do you know whether Queen Amy is here? I must find her."

"I am that unhappy Queen," answered the lady. "Can it be that my faithful subjects have sent you to seek me, sir?"

"Rather I have come because I wished to undo in a small measure the mischief that the Evil Magician did," and Daimur hurriedly told her something of his adventure, and finished by wishing he had his cap and spectacles back, as he was afraid without them they would have great difficulty in escaping.

Daimur at first had hopes that Princess Helda and Redmond might find them and perhaps be able to open the door, as it was only bolted on the outside, but then he remembered that the day was now well advanced and that they must either have been trapped themselves long before this or had crept back to the ship while it was still dark.

"Is there no other way of escape but by this door?" he asked Queen Amy, after some reflection.

"No," said she. "No other way excepting through the door in my sitting-room which leads into the witches' sitting-room, and that opens into the main hall. There is generally one witch stationed in their sitting-room to keep watch over me. They still hope to get my chest of gold, you see, and that is why I am kept a prisoner here."

Daimur drew his sword and announced his intention of trying to get out to the main hall if Queen Amy was willing to go with him, to which she replied that she would indeed take any risk to get out of that dungeon and back to her dear people.

She turned at once and led the way bade through her apartment to the door which was to decide their fortunes. It was a swinging door, and Daimur pushed it open and looked in. What he saw was a great bare room with cupboards all around it, and a few plain old kitchen rockers here and there. A number of the cupboard doors were open and there could be seen on the shelves dozens of bottles, boxes, tins and pots, while over the fire in a large black pot some vile-smelling mixture was cooking.

Beside the fire on a mat, lay the old witch's black cat, apparently asleep. There was no one in the room.

"Now is your chance," whispered Daimur, and sword in hand he went softly across the floor, closely followed by Queen Amy.

As they passed the cat he opened one of his green eyes and looked at them, but they did not notice him. As soon as they were out of the room and into the hall he sat up on the mat and began to yowl in a most blood-curdling manner.

"We are lost," said the Queen, wringing her hands. "Listen to that cat. We must have awakened him. He is calling the Old Witch I am sure."

"Run," said Daimur, and seizing Queen Amy by the hand he almost dragged her along the wide hall towards the staircase. But they were too late.

Down the stairs came the Old Witch, followed by her daughter and the other witch from Shells.

At the sight of Daimur with his sword drawn and the terrified Queen Amy shrinking at his side the Old Witch gave a howl of rage and said something quickly to the others.

Instantly three great tigers were bounding towards them, their teeth showing in a dreadful manner, and their deep growls filling the whole hall.

Thrusting Queen Amy behind him Daimur clutched his sword in despair and set his teeth with a determination to kill them all if possible—when suddenly he thought of the tiny silver bugle which he had had around his neck all the time.

Raising it quickly to his lips he blew three times upon it. The faint sound it made was not heard amid the terrible roaring of the tigers, but before he had finished the last blast there stood in front of him three giants, so tall that their heads almost touched the high ceiling, and that was more than ten feet. They were dressed like Roman soldiers and each carried a huge flat sword.

"The tigers. Kill the tigers!" cried Daimur.

It all happened so suddenly that the tigers did not have time to stop their rush, and in a second the giants were upon them and you may be sure soon cut their heads off. Then before Daimur could even say "Thank you," they had disappeared again.

The three witches lay dead at their feet and they were free.

Daimur turned towards Queen Amy and found her leaning against the wall in a half-fainting condition, and while he was trying to induce her to make an effort to pass the dead tigers and get away upstairs there suddenly rang out a loud cry of "Fire! Fire!"



Daimur recognized Prince Redmond's voice. Doors banged overhead and footsteps scurried across the floor. Daimur waited for no more. Picking up the Queen in his arms he almost flew towards the staircase and up the stairs. As he reached the top a puff of smoke came from an inner room and half blinded him. He rushed across the kitchen and at the door almost ran into Prince Redmond and Princess Helda, who were coming in again shouting his name at the top of their voices.

"Here I am," said Daimur breathlessly. "Help me to carry the Queen out."

"To the ship instantly," shouted Prince Redmond, as he seized Queen Amy from Daimur's arms and ran towards the shore. Daimur snatched Helda's hand and they hurried after him.

Shouting orders to the sailors Prince Redmond boarded the ship. Up went the sails, and as there was a good breeze the boat began to move out. It was not a moment too soon.

They were not more than a hundred feet away when a long flame burst through the roof of the Evil Magician's castle and in a moment the whole building was burning.

"What happened?" cried Daimur.

"We accidentally set the place on fire," said Prince Redmond.

"Last night," he continued, "after wandering about those long passages without finding the Queen, and seeing no sign of you, we crawled through a small window in the coal cellar and Came back to the ship. Then as you did not come we grew very much alarmed, and at daybreak went back the way we had come, intending to search for you.

"Anxious not to miss finding you we even mounted a stair which led up to a long half-dark room, quite off by itself. It was full of mysterious-looking bottles and pots, many of them marked 'poison,' but the queerest thing of all was a tiny well in one corner, on the cover of which was printed in large black letters 'Enchanting Oil.'

"We lifted the cover and peered in. It was so dark in there that we could see nothing, so I lit a match and by the light of it we looked down a terrible depth and could see the oil shining dimly at the bottom.

"Just then Princess Helda accidentally touched the handle of the little brass bucket which was drawn up to the top, knocking the match out of my fingers. It fell into the bucket, which contained a few drops of the oil. Immediately a flame leaped into our very faces and shot up nearly to the ceiling. We turned and ran down the stairs again, and up another flight near it which Helda knew would take us to one of the living-rooms. There we ran about like mad shouting 'Fire,' and thinking that you and the Queen would surely perish. We knew that some of the fire must soon drop into the oil well, and when that happens I am sure it will explode."

He had hardly said the words when a terrific roar shook the earth. The flaming house suddenly scattered into a million burning pieces which dropped into the sea, and some of which fell on the ship and had to be thrown overboard.

A column of black smoke rose into the air and hid the island entirely from view.

They lay to all morning, waiting for the smoke to clear away, but it was not until mid afternoon that it began to disappear.

They sailed slowly nearer to the island, wondering what damage had been done besides the burning of the house. As they came closer they seemed to see houses by the waterside through the haze of smoke, which was steadily growing thinner, and then what appeared to be streets.

Their wonder grew when they carefully steered back to the cove and found that they were in a harbor that was lined with stone docks. Some ships lay at anchor, packages of goods were piled up on the wharves, workmen went back and forth loading and unloading the vessels, piling goods into long warehouses, and the scene was a busy one.

The first thought that sprang to Daimur's mind was that they had made a mistake and in some manner got to one of the other islands again.

It was Princess Helda who first spoke as she stepped out on the quay.

"The enchantment is broken," she cried, holding out her hands. "Welcome to Oaklands."

Nobody would have recognized in the beautiful kingdom of Oaklands the Island of Despair of rank undergrowth and poisoned fruit trees.

The afternoon sun shone down upon wide streets, clean and well kept, faced by rows of fine houses and lined with tall oak trees. The smoke had apparently drifted upwards until it was now only a small black cloud in the western sky. On the hill where had been the Magician's house there now stood a tall and stately castle built of shining white marble. There could be no doubt it was the palace.

They walked towards it and were surprised to find that they were expected, as a guard of honor stood waiting at the entrance to the grounds to conduct them to the presence of the King and Queen.

They were taken to the drawing room, and at sight of her father and mother Princess Helda burst into tears and rushed towards them. It was a touching scene.

Words could not express the gratitude of their majesties to King Daimur and Prince Redmond for their deliverance, both of whom they remembered, for having then been the stones that formed the window sill and the door sill respectively they had heard every word that was said, and had witnessed the escape from the island.

Helda's father was very anxious to have them stay and pay him a visit, even if only for a few days, but Daimur, who wanted to restore Queen Amy to her throne at once, declined, saying, however, that he had a proposal to make before leaving.

He then asked the King of Oaklands to bestow on Prince Redmond the hand of his daughter Helda, declaring that it was to Prince Redmond that they owed the breaking of the enchantment, and not to himself.

THE END

Previous Part     1  2
Home - Random Browse