The wicked Queen of Coregos was in a very bad humor this morning, for one o_er slave drivers had come from the fields to say that a number of slaves ha_ebelled and would not work.
"Bring them here to me!" she cried savagely. "A good whipping may make the_hange their minds."
So the slave driver went to fetch the rebellious ones and Queen Cor sat dow_o eat her breakfast, an ugly look on her face.
Prince Inga had been ordered to stand behind his new mistress with a big fa_f peacock's feathers, but he was so unused to such service that he awkwardl_rushed her ear with the fan. At once she flew into a terrible rage an_lapped the Prince twice with her hand-blows that tingled, too, for her han_as big and hard and she was not inclined to be gentle. Inga took the blow_ithout shrinking or uttering a cry, although they stung his pride far mor_han his body. But King Rinkitink, who was acting as the queen's butler an_ad just brought in her coffee, was so startled at seeing the young Princ_unished that he tipped over the urn and the hot coffee streamed across th_ap of the Queen's best morning gown.
Cor sprang from her seat with a scream of anger and poor Rinkitink woul_oubtless have been given a terrible beating had not the slave driver returne_t this moment and attracted the woman's attention. The overseer had brough_ith him all of the women slaves from Pingaree, who had been loaded down wit_hains and were so weak and ill they could scarcely walk, much less work i_he fields.
Prince Inga's eyes were dimmed with sorrowful tears when he discovered how hi_oor people had been abused, but his own plight was so helpless that he wa_nable to aid them. Fortunately the boy's mother, Queen Garee, was not amon_hese slaves, for Queen Cor had placed her in the royal dairy to make butter.
"Why do you refuse to work?" demanded Cor in a harsh voice, as the slaves fro_ingaree stood before her, trembling and with downcast eyes.
"Because we lack strength to perform the tasks your overseers demand,"
answered one of the women.
"Then you shall be whipped until your strength returns!" exclaimed the Queen, and turning to Inga, she commanded: "Get me the whip with the seven lashes."
As the boy left the room, wondering how he might manage to save the unhapp_omen from their undeserved punishment, he met a girl entering by the bac_ay, who asked:
"Can you tell me where to find Her Majesty, Queen Cor?"
"She is in the chamber with the red dome, where green dragons are painted upo_he walls," replied Inga; "but she is in an angry and ungracious mood to-day.
Why do you wish to see her?"
"I have honey to sell," answered the girl, who was Zella, just come from th_orest. "The Queen is very fond of my honey."
"You may go to her, if you so desire," said the boy, "but take care not t_nger the cruel Queen, or she may do you a mischief."
"Why should she harm me, who brings her the honey she so dearly loves?"
inquired the child innocently. "But I thank you for your warning; and I wil_ry not to anger the Queen."
As Zella started to go, Inga's eyes suddenly fell upon her shoes and instantl_e recognized them as his own. For only in Pingaree were shoes shaped in thi_anner: high at the heel and pointed at the toes.
"Stop!" he cried in an excited voice, and the girl obeyed, wonderingly. "Tel_e," he continued, more gently, "where did you get those shoes?"
"My father brought them to me from Regos," she answered.
"Yes. Are they not pretty?" asked Zella, looking down at her feet to admir_hem. "One of them my father found by the palace wall, and the other on a_sh-heap. So he brought them to me and they fit me perfectly."
By this time Inga was trembling with eager joy, which of course the girl coul_ot understand.
"What is your name, little maid?" he asked.
"I am called Zella, and my father is Nikobob, the charcoal-burner."
"Zella is a pretty name. I am Inga, Prince of Pingaree," said he, "and th_hoes you are now wearing, Zella, belong to me. They were not cast away, a_our father supposed, but were lost. Will you let me have them again?"
Zella's eyes filled with tears.
"Must I give up my pretty shoes, then?" she asked. "They are the only ones _ave ever owned."
Inga was sorry for the poor child, but he knew how important it was that h_egain possession of the Magic Pearls. So he said, pleadingly:
"Please let me have them, Zella. See! I will exchange for them the shoes I no_ave on, which are newer and prettier than the others."
The girl hesitated. She wanted to please the boy Prince, yet she hated t_xchange the shoes which her father had brought her as a present.
"If you will give me the shoes," continued the boy, anxiously, "I will promis_o make you and your father and mother rich and prosperous. Indeed, I wil_romise to grant any favors you may ask of me," and he sat down upon the floo_nd drew off the shoes he was wearing and held them toward the girl.
"I'll see if they will fit me," said Zella, taking off her left shoe — the on_hat contained the Pink Pearl — and beginning to put on one of Inga's.
Just then Queen Cor, angry at being made to wait for her whip with the seve_ashes, rushed into the room to find Inga. Seeing the boy sitting upon th_loor beside Zella, the woman sprang toward him to beat him with her clenche_ists; but Inga had now slipped on the shoe and the Queen's blows could no_each his body.
Then Cor espied the whip lying beside Inga and snatching it up she tried t_ash him with it — all to no avail.
While Zella sat horrified by this scene, the Prince, who realized he had n_ime to waste, reached out and pulled the right shoe from the girl's foot, quickly placing it upon his own. Then he stood up and, facing the furious bu_stonished Queen, said to her in a quiet voice:
"Madam, please give me that whip."
"I won't!" answered Cor. "I'm going to lash those Pingaree women with it."
The boy seized hold of the whip and with irresistible strength drew it fro_he Queen's hand. But she drew from her bosom a sharp dagger and with th_wiftness of lightning aimed a blow at Inga's heart. He merely stood still an_miled, for the blade rebounded and fell clattering to the floor.
Then, at last, Queen Cor understood the magic power that had terrified he_usband but which she had ridiculed in her ignorance, not believing in it. Sh_id not know that Inga's power had been lost, and found again, but sh_ealized the boy was no common foe and that unless she could still manage t_utwit him her reign in the Island of Coregos was ended. To gain time, sh_ent back to the red-domed chamber and seated herself in her throne, befor_hich were grouped the weeping slaves from Pingaree.
Inga had taken Zella's hand and assisted her to put on the shoes he had give_er in exchange for his own. She found them quite comfortable and did not kno_he had lost anything by the transfer.
"Come with me," then said the boy Prince, and led her into the presence o_ueen Cor, who was giving Rinkitink a scolding. To the overseer Inga said.
"Give me the keys which unlock these chains, that I may set these poor wome_t liberty."
"Don't you do it!" screamed Queen Cor.
"If you interfere, madam," said the boy, "I will put you into a dungeon."
By this Rinkitink knew that Inga had recovered his Magic Pearls and the littl_at King was so overjoyed that he danced and capered all around the room. Bu_he Queen was alarmed at the threat and the slave driver, fearing th_onqueror of Regos, tremblingly gave up the keys.
Inga quickly removed all the shackles from the women of his country an_omforted them, telling them they should work no more but would soon b_estored to their homes in Pingaree. Then he commanded the slave driver to g_nd get all the children who had been made slaves, and to bring them to thei_others. The man obeyed and left at once to perform his errand, while Quee_or, growing more and more uneasy, suddenly sprang from her throne and befor_nga could stop her had rushed through the room and out into the courtyard o_he palace, meaning to make her escape. Rinkitink followed her, running a_ast as he could go.
It was at this moment that Bilbil, in his mad dash from Regos, turned in a_he gates of the courtyard, and as he was coming one way and Queen Cor wa_oing the other they bumped into each other with great force. The woman saile_hrough the air, over Bilbil's head, and landed on the ground outside th_ates, where her crown rolled into a ditch and she picked herself up, hal_azed, and continued her flight. Bilbil was also somewhat dazed by th_nexpected encounter, but he continued his rush rather blindly and so struc_oor Rinkitink, who was chasing after Queen Cor. They rolled over one anothe_ few times and then Rinkitink sat up and Bilbil sat up and they looked a_ach other in amazement.
"Bilbil," said the King, "I'm astonished at you!"
"Your Majesty," said Bilbil, "I expected kinder treatment at your hands."
"You interrupted me," said Rinkitink.
"There was plenty of room without your taking my path," declared the goat.
And then Inga came running out and said. "Where is the Queen?"
"Gone," replied Rinkitink, "but she cannot go far, as this is an island.
However, I have found Bilbil, and our party is again reunited. You hav_ecovered your magic powers, and again we are masters of the situation. So le_s be thankful."
Saying this, the good little King got upon his feet and limped back into th_hrone room to help comfort the women.
Presently the children of Pingaree, who had been gathered together by th_verseer, were brought in and restored to their mothers, and there was grea_ejoicing among them, you may be sure.
"But where is Queen Garee, my dear mother?" questioned Inga; but the women di_ot know and it was some time before the overseer remembered that one of th_laves from Pingaree had been placed in the royal dairy. Perhaps this was th_oman the boy was seeking.
Inga at once commanded him to lead the way to the butter house, but when the_rrived there Queen Garee was nowhere in the place, although the boy found _ilk scarf which he recognized as one that his mother used to wear. Then the_egan a search throughout the island of Coregos, but could not find Inga'_other anywhere.
When they returned to the palace of Queen Cor, Rinkitink discovered that th_ridge of boats had again been removed, separating them from Regos, and fro_his they suspected that Queen Cor had fled to her husband's island and ha_aken Queen Garee with her. Inga was much perplexed what to do and returne_ith his friends to the palace to talk the matter over.
Zella was now crying because she had not sold her honey and was unable t_eturn to her parents on the island of Regos, but the boy prince comforted he_nd promised she should be protected until she could be restored to her home.
Rinkitink found Queen Cor's purse, which she had had no time to take with her, and gave Zella several gold pieces for the honey. Then Inga ordered the palac_ervants to prepare a feast for all the women and children of Pingaree and t_repare for them beds in the great palace, which was large enough t_ccommodate them all.
Then the boy and the goat and Rinkitink and Zella went into a private room t_onsider what should be done next.