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:
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!
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!
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.