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Chapter 9 The Cunning of Queen Cor

  • You may be sure the Queen of Coregos was not well pleased to have King Gos an_ll his warriors living in her city after they had fled from their own. The_ere savage natured and quarrelsome men at all times, and their tempers ha_ot improved since their conquest by the Prince of Pingaree. Moreover, the_ere eating up Queen Cor's provisions and crowding the houses of her ow_eople, who grumbled and complained until their Queen was heartily tired.
  • "Shame on you!" she said to her husband, King Gos, "to be driven out of you_ity by a boy, a roly-poly King and a billy goat! Why do you not go back an_ight them?"
  • "No human can fight against the powers of magic," returned the King in a surl_oice. "That boy is either a fairy or under the protection of fairies. W_scaped with our lives only because we were quick to run away; but, should w_eturn to Regos, the same terrible power that burst open the city gates woul_rush us all to atoms."
  • "Bah! you are a coward," cried the Queen, tauntingly.
  • "I am not a coward," said the big King. "I have killed in battle scores of m_nemies; by the might of my sword and my good right arm I have conquered man_ations; all my life people have feared me. But no one would dare face th_remendous power of the Prince of Pingaree, boy though he is. It would not b_ourage, it would be folly, to attempt it."
  • "Then meet his power with cunning," suggested the Queen. "Take my advice, an_teal over to Regos at night, when it is dark, and capture or destroy the bo_hile he sleeps."
  • "No weapon can touch his body," was the answer. "He bears a charmed life an_annot be injured."
  • "Does the fat King possess magic powers, or the goat?" inquired Cor.
  • "I think not," said Gos. "We could not injure them, indeed, any more than w_ould the boy, but they did not seem to have any unusual strength, althoug_he goat's head is harder than a battering-ram."
  • "Well," mused the Queen, "there is surely some way to conquer that slight boy.
  • If you are afraid to undertake the job, I shall go myself. By some stratagem _hall manage to make him my prisoner. He will not dare to defy a Queen, and n_agic can stand against a woman's cunning."
  • "Go ahead, if you like," replied the King, with an evil grin, "and if you ar_ung up by the thumbs or cast into a dungeon, it will serve you right fo_hinking you can succeed where a skilled warrior dares not make the attempt."
  • "I'm not afraid," answered the Queen. "It is only soldiers and bullies who ar_owards."
  • In spite of this assertion, Queen Cor was not so brave as she was cunning. Fo_everal days she thought over this plan and that, and tried to decide whic_as most likely to succeed. She had never seen the boy Prince but had heard s_any tales of him from the defeated warriors, and especially from Captai_uzzub, that she had learned to respect his power.
  • Spurred on by the knowledge that she would never get rid of her unwelcom_uests until Prince Inga was overcome and Regos regained for King Gos, th_ueen of Coregos finally decided to trust to luck and her native wit to defea_ simple-minded boy, however powerful he might be. Inga could not suspect wha_he was going to do, because she did not know herself. She intended to ac_oldly and trust to chance to win.
  • It is evident that had the cunning Queen known that Inga had lost all hi_agic, she would not have devoted so much time to the simple matter o_apturing him, but like all others she was impressed by the marvelou_xhibition of power he had shown in capturing Regos, and had no reason t_elieve the boy was less powerful now.
  • One morning Queen Cor boldly entered a boat, and, taking four men with her a_n escort and bodyguard, was rowed across the narrow channel to Regos. Princ_nga was sitting in the palace playing checkers with King Rinkitink when _ervant came to him, saying that Queen Cor had arrived and desired an audienc_ith him.
  • With many misgivings lest the wicked Queen discover that he had now lost hi_agic powers, the boy ordered her to be admitted, and she soon entered th_oom and bowed low before him, in mock respect.
  • Cor was a big woman, almost as tall as King Gos. She had flashing black eye_nd the dark complexion you see on gypsies. Her temper, when irritated, wa_omething dreadful, and her face wore an evil expression which she tried t_over by smiling sweetly — often when she meant the most mischief.
  • "I have come," said she in a low voice, "to render homage to the noble Princ_f Pingaree. I am told that Your Highness is the strongest person in th_orld, and invincible in battle, and therefore I wish you to become my friend, rather than my enemy."
  • Now Inga did not know how to reply to this speech. He disliked the appearanc_f the woman and was afraid of her and he was unused to deception and did no_now how to mask his real feelings. So he took time to think over his answer, which he finally made in these words:
  • "I have no quarrel with Your Majesty, and my only reason for coming here is t_iberate my father and mother, and my people, whom you and your husband hav_ade your slaves, and to recover the goods King Gos has plundered from th_sland of Pingaree. This I hope soon to accomplish, and if you really wish t_e my friend, you can assist me greatly."
  • While he was speaking Queen Cor had been studying the boy's face stealthily, from the corners of her eyes, and she said to herself: "He is so small an_nnocent that I believe I can capture him alone, and with ease. He does no_eem very terrible and I suspect that King Gos and his warriors wer_rightened at nothing."
  • Then, aloud, she said to Inga:
  • "I wish to invite you, mighty Prince, and your friend, the great King o_ilgad, to visit my poor palace at Coregos, where all my people shall do yo_onor. Will you come?"
  • "At present," replied Inga, uneasily, "I must refuse your kind invitation."
  • "There will be feasting, and dancing girls, and games and fireworks," said th_ueen, speaking as if eager to entice him and at each word coming a ste_earer to where he stood.
  • "I could not enjoy them while my poor parents are slaves," said the boy, sadly.
  • "Are you sure of that?" asked Queen Cor, and by that time she was close besid_nga. Suddenly she leaned forward and threw both of her long arms aroun_nga's body, holding him in a grasp that was like a vise.
  • Now Rinkitink sprang forward to rescue his friend, but Cor kicked ou_iciously with her foot and struck the King squarely on his stomach — a ver_ender place to be kicked, especially if one is fat. Then, still hugging Ing_ightly, the Queen called aloud:
  • "I've got him! Bring in the ropes."
  • Instantly the four men she had brought with her sprang into the room and boun_he boy hand and foot. Next they seized Rinkitink, who was still rubbing hi_tomach, and bound him likewise.
  • With a laugh of wicked triumph, Queen Cor now led her captives down to th_oat and returned with them to Coregos.
  • Great was the astonishment of King Gos and his warriors when they saw that th_ighty Prince of Pingaree, who had put them all to flight, had been capture_y a woman. Cowards as they were, they now crowded around the boy and jeere_t him, and some of them would have struck him had not the Queen cried out:
  • "Hands off! He is my prisoner, remember not yours."
  • "Well, Cor, what are you going to do with him?" inquired King Gos.
  • "I shall make him my slave, that he may amuse my idle hours. For he is _retty boy, and gentle, although he did frighten all of you big warriors s_erribly."
  • The King scowled at this speech, not liking to be ridiculed, but he sai_othing more. He and his men returned that same day to Regos, after restorin_he bridge of boats. And they held a wild carnival of rejoicing, both in th_ing's palace and in the city, although the poor people of Regos who were no_arriors were all sorry that the kind young Prince had been captured by hi_nemies and could rule them no longer.
  • When her unwelcome guests had all gone back to Regos and the Queen was alon_n her palace, she ordered Inga and Rinkitink brought before her and thei_onds removed. They came sadly enough, knowing they were in serious strait_nd at the mercy of a cruel mistress. Inga had taken counsel of the Whit_earl, which had advised him to bear up bravely under his misfortune, promising a change for the better very soon. With this promise to comfort him, Inga faced the Queen with a dignified bearing that indicated both pride an_ourage.
  • "Well, youngster," said she, in a cheerful tone because she was pleased wit_er success, "you played a clever trick on my poor husband and frightened hi_adly, but for that prank I am inclined to forgive you. Hereafter I intend yo_o be my page, which means that you must fetch and carry for me at my will.
  • And let me advise you to obey my every whim without question or delay, fo_hen I am angry I become ugly, and when I am ugly someone is sure to feel th_ash. Do you understand me?"
  • Inga bowed, but made no answer. Then she turned to Rinkitink and said:
  • "As for you, I cannot decide how to make you useful to me, as you ar_ltogether too fat and awkward to work in the fields. It may be, however, tha_ can use you as a pincushion.
  • "What!" cried Rinkitink in horror, "would you stick pins into the King o_ilgad?"
  • "Why not?" returned Queen Cor. "You are as fat as a pincushion, as you mus_ourself admit, and whenever I needed a pin I could call you to me." Then sh_aughed at his frightened look and asked: "By the way, are you ticklish?"
  • This was the question Rinkitink had been dreading. He gave a moan of despai_nd shook his head.
  • "I should love to tickle the bottom of your feet with a feather," continue_he cruel woman. "Please take off your shoes."
  • "Oh, your Majesty!" pleaded poor Rinkitink, "I beg you to allow me to amus_ou in some other way. I can dance, or I can sing you a song."
  • "Well," she answered, shaking with laughter, "you may sing a song — if it be _erry one. But you do not seem in a merry mood."
  • "I feel merry — indeed, Your Majesty, I do!" protested Rinkitink, anxious t_scape the tickling. But even as he professed to "feel merry" his round, re_ace wore an expression of horror and anxiety that was realty comical.
  • "Sing, then!" commanded Queen Cor, who was greatly amused.
  • Rinkitink gave a sigh of relief and after clearing his throat and trying t_epress his sobs he began to sing this song-gently, at first, but finall_oaring it out at the top of his voice:
  • "Oh!
  • There was a Baby Tiger lived in a men-ag-er-ie —
  • Fizzy-fezzy-fuzzy — they wouldn't set him free;
  • And ev'rybody thought that he was gentle as could be —
  • Fizzy-fezzy-fuzzy — Ba-by Ti-ger!
  • "Oh!
  • They patted him upon his head and shook him by the paw —
  • Fizzy-fezzy-fuzzy — he had a bone to gnaw;
  • But soon he grew the biggest Tiger that you ever saw —
  • Fizzy-fezzy-fuzzy — what a Ti-ger!
  • "Oh!
  • One day they came to pet the brute and he began to fight —
  • Fizzy-fezzy-fuzzy-how he did scratch and bite!
  • He broke the cage and in a rage he darted out of sight —
  • Fizzy-fezzy-fuzzy was a Ti-ger!"
  • "And is there a moral to the song?" asked Queen Cor, when King Rinkitink ha_inished his song with great spirit.
  • "If there is," replied Rinkitink, "it is a warning not to fool with tigers."
  • The little Prince could not help smiling at this shrewd answer, but Queen Co_rowned and gave the King a sharp look.
  • "Oh," said she; "I think I know the difference between a tiger and a lapdog.
  • But I'll bear the warning in mind, just the same."
  • For, after all her success in capturing them, she was a little afraid of thes_eople who had once displayed such extraordinary powers.