|Newspaper Title||Adelaide Observer (SA : 1843 - 1904)|
|Trove Title||The Captive Queen|
THE CAPTIVE QUEEN.
(Br Lord Braboorne (B. H. Kkatchbcll
Author of "Puse-Cat Mew" sad other Fairy
[From Harpers Young People.}
When the King and his compini-mq hid entered the rock they perceived mat tuj pasB≥ immediately before them eloped downward, at first by means of a number of
etepB, which the eow found ft rather difficult to pass over without stumbling, and then by a gradual descent for a long distance.
I have already remarked that by some magical means or other the passage, though within the bowels oi the earth, was perfectly light, so that the party, once down the steps, bad no difficulty in making their way, whloh they did slowly and silently, without any particular occurrence for some time. Then all of a sudden they came to two massive bus of iron, which were stretched right across the passage so as to effectually prevent their going any farther.
The King's heart sank within him for a moment when he saw this new obstacle thrown in his way, but it rose again when the kangaroo gave three taps on the dram, as if he knew perfectly well what he was about.. So he apparently did, for no sooner had the drum sounded than a curious grey vaponr appeared on the other side of the bar, in the midst of which there appeared a head with out a body—or at least u there was a body which belonged to the head, it was so shrouded by the vapour that no one on the King's side of the bar could see it. I think there must have been a body too, from what presently happened, but all that the King bbw at first was a head, and the most curious thing about it was that it seemed to be the very image of the old man who had appeared to him in his dream of the previous night. There was the farrowed face, there was the beard (as far as he oould Bee for the vapour), and there, above all. were the pieroing eyes which had impressed themselveB so muoh on his memory. He could not be sure that the voioe was the same, but that did not matter much. There was a voice, and it spoke at ouce in words which did still more to inspire the King with confidence.
This is what the voice said—
" Mighty King and creatures three
Who seek a Queen beneath the sea, Hither eyes and ears Incline,
Hear the word and learn the sign."
As the voice finished speaking a hand which no doubt belonged to the head was slowly raised up and laid flat upon the left cheek ; upoD which the kangaroo and rabbit im mediately raised their paws in the same manner, and the cow followed their example, very nearly tumbling upon her dobb in the attempt. As they did so one of the great bars disappeared from before them, as if it had been drawn into the earth by invisible hands, which was very likely the case. Then came from the same voice another sound, and. in deep tones the word " Barleysugar 1" rang through the air.
£ach of the three animalB directly uttered the same word, and hardly had they done so
when the other bar vanished in the same manner, the head, hand, and vapour entirely disappeared, and the travellers saw the descending passage open before them. They at once advanced, and continued their descent for some way without further adventure. Down, down, down they went until the King began to think the journey would never end, and then all of a sudden they came to an enormous gate of granite, with the biggest padlock upon it which you ever saw. The padlock was composed of one diamond, pro
bably the largest in the world (if, indeed, it > could fairly be said to be in the world), and - as there was no key in it, nobody seemed to bsve much chance of getting through.
But the kangaroo winked in a knowing manner at bis two friends, and then, laying one paw on the door, raised the other to the left side of his head—an example which the cow and the rabbit promptly followed, whilst
all three at the same time uttered in their different voices the word "Barleysugar." Without the delay of an instant the granite door flew open, and closed again of itself sls soon cm the travellers had passed through it.
Where in the name of all that is wonderful had they got to ? A large expanse of hard, glittering sand lay before them, studded with
and sizes. Above their headB was' no sky,. but a vast and apparently endless body of water, and the King, who was pretty well
informed in matters relating to general infor mation and natural history, felt tolerably certain that it was the sea at which he was looking up. It was a wonderful sight to see
the fishes darting about abr ve his head, and - he could not imagine how it was that he and.
bis companions were so perfectly dry when there appeared to be nothing between them and this great body of water. He remem
bered, however, tnat sometimes, when he . had been standing on the sea ehore, he had. been Btruck by the same kind of thought, and wondered why the sea should never come further than a certain point upon the land, and, after all, some similar cause might keep it from washing over people who were under neath it just as well as those who were on a level with it on the earth.
However this might be, his three friends : and he felt no inconvenience from the waters above, and the kangaroo led the way across the tract of sand upon which they had entered as happily as if he had been born. and bred there. Onward and onward they marched, and all the King could see was a dark mass at some distance before them, which seemed to him to be a mountain.
They were, however, still some way from it when suddenly, as if he had dropped from - the sea above (as, indeed, was probably the caBe), a figure appeared before them, standing right in their way. It was the figure of a man—and an old man—but of a very different
sort to the venerable person who had ap
peared to the King in nis dream. The old man whom they now saw bad a head which very much resembled that of a codfish, his eyes especially being large and glassy like those of that creatnre when boiled. His body was of the hue of cooked salmon, his hands ended like the claw of a lobster, a crab shell served him for a cap, while a large eel was carelessly thrown round his neck by way of a handkerchief, and in his right nand he carried a huge stick made of seaweed, with which he carelessly tapped his sharkekin boots aa he stood in the way of the travellers, and regarded them with no friendly eyes.
" Now, ragamuffinB," were his first words, uttered in a noarse voice, "who are you, and where do you come from?"
It was the rabbit who raised his feeble voice in answer to this rude greeting, and lifting his head up from the King's knee, on which it had been quietly reposing, he said—
" We be travellers—one, two. three;
Prithee make way far my comrades and me."
But the Btrange old man who had accosted' them was by no means satisfied with these words.
"Make way for you!" he exclaimed, in the same rough manner. "A likely story, in deed 1 In the first place you tell a direct falsehood, since there are four of you, and not three, as you say; and in the second place, you have no business down here. I am the old man of the sea, and I don't allow tramps."
To these words the rabbit simply returned the same answer as before, cocking his head on one side at the eame time in a somewhat comical manner—
" We be travellers—one, two, three;
Prithee make way lor my comrades and me.
This seemed to put the old man of the sea into a great rage.
"Yon Impudent rascal of a rabbit!" he shouted. "I wish a weasel had you 1 But neither yon nor your friends can pass here without my leave; so just go back!"
As he spoke he brandished his seaweed stick, and looked as if be meant to dispute the way with the travellers. Then at onoe the kangaroo struck his drum three times, and thereupon the three animals made the sign whioh had proved so useful with the granite door, and nttered the word whioh they had been taught. The face of the old man of the eea changed at once.
" Then you've got leave to come 1" he cried. "Why didn't you say so before? Of course any one who knows what you know can come down here, though I don't know how you
found it out."
With theBe words he turned on his heel, sprang np into the sea above, and quiokly disappeared.
(To be continued.)