|Newspaper Title||Adelaide Observer (SA : 1843 - 1904)|
|Trove Title||The Captive Queen|
THE CAPTIVE QUEEN.
[Br Lord Brabodrne (E. H. Knatchbull
Author of "Pusa-Cat Mew" and other Fairy
[From Harper's Young People.]
The King and hiB friends at once pushed on, and alter some little time approached the dark masB which has already been men tioned, and which turned out to be the base of a huge rocky mountain reaching up into the eea. Nearer and nearer they oame to it, and presently a eight met the eyes of the King which idled him with the greatest astonishment. „ „ , , ....
.Above hiB head the water was so clear that he could see for a long distance, and there were objeots to gaze at which he had never seen beioi e. Be had already Been a quantity of fiBhes, some of them very ourious and quite unknown to him until his visit to those strange regions* but he now beheld something besides fishes. Women with beautiful hair, charming oi face and form down to the waist, and then tapering off into the scales and tail of a fish, were floating about in the water by the side of the rocky mountain. Women, I say, but of course this was only an idea which shot across the King's mind for one single instant, for he knew too much of natural history not to be aware that these were mermaids and nothing else.
Now although this learned King had wad in his books about mermaids, and therefore knew that they existed, it so happened that he had never seen one, and at ordinary times he would have been liiied with curiosity at the strange sight. But injustice to the good man lam bound to say that his thoughts immediately flew to his beloved wife, and that all that occurred to him was that if the bantam cock had spoken the truth when he said that the Queen was shut up in a cave where "the mermaids and elves had in all to themselves," the sight of these lady-fish seemed to betoken that she whom he sought was not far off. ,, ... ,
All the same, he could not help observing the beauty, as well as the graectul motions, of the mermaids above his head. Some were, aB 1 have said, meieiy floating, some were swimming, while several of them were u 11 v ine, but driving such horses as the Kmg had never Been before. One, lazily reclining in an enormous shell which had been converted into a carriage, was drawn by two large porpoises, cleverly harnessed with sea-weed, of which her whip also appeared to be made; another was driving a four-in-hand of turbots with singular Bkill; while a third had no less than twelve codfish* which, yoked lour abreast, drew her along in a chariot which appeared to be made entirely of dried cuttle fish. These all presented an extraordinary appearance to one who was unaccustomed to sea-life and the habits of mermaids, and at another tims the King could, and doubtless would, have remained gazing at them for at
least an hour.
The business upon which he had come was, however, of too important a character to brook delay, nor, had he wished to wait, would his three comnanions have been likely to approve. The kangaroo and cow came close up to the foot of the mountain, and the rabbit, leaping down* stood by their side. The King, following the rabbits example, dismounted also, and then perceived for the first time that the sides of the rocky moun tain were as slippery as ice, and that there seemed to be no way of ascending it, supposing that to be the intention of his friends. He could not imagine what they would do, or how they would get over the difficulty which stood in their way, but he was not long left in doubt. „ . „ .
Three taps on the drum from the kangaroo, a flourish on the fife from the rabbit, and. a single tinkle of the cow's bells produced a marvellous effect. A path suddenly ap peared upon the Bide of the icy rock* a broad path, and not only broad, but so closely Btrewed with sand that one could walk upon it without the slightest risk of slipping; and up tbiB path marched the three animals in single file, as quietly aB if they had been uBed to it all their lives, which, for anything the KiDg knew, might have been the case. Bis Majesty followed without difficulty, aod found that he could see from the gradual ascent of the [path all the marine sights at which he bad gazed from below.
But what seemed most singular to him was that although presently the party got upon a level with the sea, through which the moun tain seemed to rise, no inconvenience fol lowed, and they all kept perfectly dry. The path slanted first one way ana then another, always bringing them higher and higher* until at laBt they found themselves upon a large level space where the mountain broke away on either side, and thence towered up
EtflereSthe three animals stopped, partly per
haps because they were tired, partly because of the beauty of the place, and partly for another reason which I shall presently ex plain. The first reason doeB not require explanation, if we think for a moment of the long journey which the travellers had already taken. The second reason will be easily understood v hen I tell you that on tiie side of the place on which they stood—that is to say, on the right, and immediately before them, for behind them was the path and on their left side the sea—the rocks were cast I about in the most lovely and fantastic manner, just as if they had been carved out by tome mighty sculptor who had exhausted alibis skill in their construction.
So, indeed, they had, but by a sculptor more mighty than one of mortal mould, for ! nothing so grandly magnificent had ever been
formed by man. As they towered up grandly to the ekies beyond the blue sea, the Xing could perceive a large opening in the side of the rocks, the nature of which he understood better afterward, but which appeared at the time as if it bad been made by the constant beating of the waves against the mountain, though no waves then appeared to reach it at
But the third reason for the halting of the travellers was of a very different nature. I bave said that the mountain broke away on either side, and so indeed it did: but while on the right hand the path seemed to come to an end, and the rocks roBe, rough _ and ragged, straight from the ground on, either Bide of the open space at which they had arrived, it was not so immediately in front. There the path seemed to continue to a short distance, and led across a kind of
rocky bridge eome dozen yards wide, upon the other side of which there appeared to be a second open space, beyond which were some of those openings of which I have spoken, np to which the ground rose with a gentle slope. The way of the travellers lay across this bridge, but there was that in their path which might well cause them to
In the very middle of the bridge stood a figure, and one which seemed to be of no friendly character. It was the figure of a man, but, oh 1 of what a man! He was about 8 feet in height, so that he might have been called a giant, if any one pleased to call him so. His fat, however, took offsomething. from hiB height, for be was fat to a degree which made it unpleasant to look at him, just as one hates to gaze upon a prize Dnllock whose fat has destroyed the shape and symmetry which one might otherwise have admired. But hiB faoe is the worst part of him, after all. Cruelty, malice, and deceit were all visible in his eye (for he had hnt one); hiB noBe, much too large for his face, was red and inflamed: his month large, and his lips coarse, while the unshaven con dition of his chin and the dirtly little red cap upon his head completed the picture of as villanous-looking a rasoal as you will be likely to find in any oompany of such people from which you might try to select a speci
Nor was it only his general appearance from which his hostile feeling might be gathered. He had in his hand a short oinb, covered with knots whioh made it doubly formidable, and this he swung to and fro as - if longing to bring it down upon somebody's head, and you may be sure it would have been a bad day for somebody if he had done so. He stood, I say, in the middle of the bridge, and as the travellers came up toward it he gave forth a kind of sound between a shout and a roar which was neither har monious nor otherwise pleasant to their ears. Then, in a voice which was not muoh sweeter of sound than his first utterance, he said this:
" Wretches! who and what be ye
That feek the caverns of the sea ?
Here stands the wizard of the cave
To take your life and dig yonr grave."
Nothing daunted by these terrible "-ords, the kangaroo was the animal who, op -twing himself up to his full height, thus re peated—
" Wizard, we know thee well, I ween
No further news, indeed, we lacfc Thou from a King has stol'n a Queen;
Be good enough to give her back."
Then the wizard flew into a fearful passion; he raged, he tore off hiB cap, he sprang up in the air, he made the most awful faces. Then, brandishing his club, he began to per form a kind of frantic dance, to a tune of which the words ran as follows
" Ye animals three, whatever ye be,
A wizard is stronger far,
And soon shall ye find ye are foolish and blind
With wizards to go to war.
I'm wantiDg a treat, and my favourite meat
(I soon shall enjoy it, too)
Is a rabbit to bake, and a good beefsteak.
And a chop from a kangaroo,"
At these words the cow trembled all over,. the grey fur of the rabbit seemed to grow white with terror, and the kangaroo's teeth chattered as if from fright. But this did not last for above a minute; the tinkle of the bells, the squeak of the fife, and the soul stirring beat of the drum chased away the momentary fear of the three animalB, and the rabbit took his turn in the conversation, and in a shrill, Bqueaking, but clear voice re turned thiB reply to the threats which had just been made—
"Old wizard, full soon
You'Jl sing a new tune,
And follow a different cue, For the rabbit and cow Will show to you how.
And so will the kangaroo."
Without a moment's hesitation the wizard,
still singing to the same tune, thus answered . these bold words:—
" Cease, rabbit, to speak,
For you can but squeak,
And the cow can only moo. And I don't care a jot For one of the lot—
A fig for your kangaroo!"
Then the cow, justly excited by that which seemed to be a sneer at her usual pleasant manner of addressing her friends in par ticular and the worid in general, broke in with her deep voice with the following.
" You pestilent knave,
In vain do you rave
And make such a hullabaloo. For tbe cow can fight.
And the rabbit can bite,
And scratch can the kangaroo."
As the cow concluded her verse the wizard gave her a wild yell, and advanced upon the travellers as if he intended to make an end of them at once. Scarcely, however, had he made a step forward, when the three friends, instead of preparing to fight after the fashion which their words had seemed to imply, and which their enemy had probably expected, took quite a different course: each of them made the sign which they had been shown by the old man, and pronounced the magic word, " Barley-sugar."
The effect upon the wizard was instantly to be seen. Hie face grew pale as a sheet, his limbs trembled, his club dropped from his hands, and after a moment's hesitation he addressed the animals before him in quite a different manner from that which ho had previously employed. His tone was now as cringing as it had juBt been defiant, his sneering rhymes were changed into feeble proBe, and he looked for all the world like a whipped hound.
" 1 did not know that you had a right to come here," he said, " or of course I should have been glad to see you. I hope you will not be offended at what I said just now. We do not oiten have people here, and we always try to keep the place quiet; but of course if
I had known"
Here the kangaroo broke in, somewhat roughly, still speaking in rhyme, which is known to be the safest plan when you are conversing with any Buch strange creatures as the one before him—
" Come, give us the Queen without any more row—
Tbe work must be carried through;
The rabbit has sworn It, and so has the cow.
And so has tbe kangaroo."
Then he gave a rattle on the drum, and the rabbit and the cow eounded their instru ments also, and looked fiercely upon the wizard. A dark cloud of baffled malice passed over the face of the latter, as he replied to tbe kangaroo in a sullen tone, though still in humble accents.
" The Queen is over there," he said, point ing toward the mountain behind him by jerking his right thumb over his left shoulder. "She is aB jolly as needs be, and 1 don't see why you should take her away; but if you mast, you must. Follow
So saying, he turned round and retreated acroes the bridge, upon which the three animals immediately stepped, followed by the King, who was now filled with hope that the success of his journey was about to be
secured, and that his Amabiiia would soon . be with him again.
(To be continued.)