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Chapter 21 The Wonderful Book of Magic

  • Whatever their fears might be, none of Prince Marvel's party hesitated t_ollow him along the path through the forest in search of the sorcerer, and b_nd by they came upon a large clearing. In the middle of this open space was _ig building in such bad repair that its walls were tumbling down in severa_laces, and all around it the ground was uncared for and littered wit_ubbish. A man was walking up and down in front of this building, with hi_ead bowed low; but when he heard the sound of approaching horses' hoofs h_ooked up and stared for a moment in amazement. Then, with a shout of rage, h_ushed toward them and caught Prince Marvel's horse by the bridle.
  • "How dare you!" he cried; "how dare you enter my forest?"
  • Marvel jerked his bridle from the man's grasp and said in return:
  • "Who are you?"
  • "Me! Who am I? Why, I am the great and powerful Kwytoffle! So beware! Bewar_y sorcery!"
  • They all looked at the man curiously. He was short and very fat, and had _ace like a puff-ball, with little red eyes and scarcely any nose at all. H_ore a black gown with scarlet grasshoppers and june-bugs embroidered upon th_loth; and his hat was high and peaked, with an imitation grasshopper o_xtraordinary size perched upon its point. In his right hand he carried _mall black wand, and around his neck hung a silver whistle on a silver cord.
  • Seeing that the strangers were gazing on him so earnestly, Kwytoffle though_hey were frightened; so he said again, in a big voice:
  • "Beware my vengeance!"
  • "Beware yourself!" retorted the prince. "For if you do not treat us mor_espectfully, I shall have you flogged."
  • "What! Flog me!" shouted Kwytoffle, furiously. "For this I will turn every on_f you into grasshoppers—unless you at once give me all the wealth yo_ossess!"
  • "Poor man!" exclaimed Nerle; "I can see you are longing for that flogging.
  • Will you have it now?" and he raised his riding-whip above his head.
  • Kwytoffle stumbled backward a few paces and blew shrilly upon his silve_histle. Instantly a number of soldiers came running from the building, other_ollowing quickly after them until fully a hundred rough-looking warriors, armed with swords and axes, had formed in battle array, facing the littl_arty of Prince Marvel.
  • "Arrest these strangers!" commanded Kwytoffle, in a voice like a roar.
  • "Capture them and bind them securely, and then I will change them all int_rasshoppers!"
  • "All right," answered the captain of the soldiers; and then he turned to hi_en and shouted:
  • "Forward—double-quick—march!"
  • They came on with drawn swords; at first running, and then gradually droppin_nto a walk, as they beheld Nerle, Wul-Takim, King Terribus and Marve_tanding quietly waiting to receive them, weapons in hand and ready fo_attle. A few paces off the soldiers hesitated and stopped altogether, an_wytoffle yelled at the captain:
  • "Why don't you go on? Why don't you capture them? Why don't you fight them?"
  • "Why, they have drawn their swords!" responded the captain, reproachfully.
  • "Who cares?" roared the sorcerer.
  • "We care," said the captain, giving a shudder, as he looked upon th_trangers. "Their swords are sharp, and some of us would get hurt."
  • "You're cowards!" shrieked the enraged Kwytoffle. "I'll turn you all int_une-bugs!"
  • At this threat the soldiers dropped their swords and axes, and all fell upo_heir knees, trembling visibly and imploring their cruel master not to chang_hem into june-bugs.
  • "Bah!" cried Nerle, scornfully; "why don't you fight? If we kill you, then yo_ill escape being June-bugs."
  • "The fact is," said the captain, woefully, "we simply can't fight. For ou_words are only tin, and our axes are made of wood, with silver-paper paste_ver them."
  • "But why is that?" asked Wul-Takim, while all the party showed their surprise.
  • "Why, until now we have never had any need to fight," said the captain, "fo_very one has quickly surrendered to us or run away the moment we came near.
  • But you people do not appear to be properly frightened, and now, alas! sinc_ou have drawn upon us the great sorcerer's anger, we shall all be transforme_nto June-bugs."
  • "Yes!" roared Kwytoffle, hopping up and down with anger, "you shall all b_une-bugs, and these strangers I will transform into grasshoppers!"
  • "Very well," said Prince Marvel, quietly; "you can do it now."
  • "I will! I will!" cried the sorcerer.
  • "Then why don't you begin?" inquired the prince.
  • "Why don't I begin? Why, I haven't got the enchantments with me, that's why.
  • Do you suppose we great magicians carry around enchantments in our pockets?"
  • returned the other, in a milder tone.
  • "Where do you keep your enchantments?" asked the prince.
  • "They're in my dwelling," snapped Kwytoffle, taking off his hat and fannin_is fat face with the brim.
  • "Then go and get them," said Marvel.
  • "Nonsense! If I went to get the enchantments you would all run away!" retorte_he sorcerer.
  • "Not so!" protested Nerle, who was beginning to be amused. "My greates_onging in life is to become a grasshopper."
  • "Oh, yes! PLEASE let us be grasshoppers!" exclaimed the High Ki maids in th_ame breath.
  • "We want to hop! We want to hop! Please—PLEASE let us hop!" implored the bald- headed Ki, winking their left eyes at Wul-Takim.
  • "By all means let us become grasshoppers," said King Terribus, smiling; an_ul-Takim added:
  • "I'm sure your soldiers would enjoy being June-bugs, for then they wouldn'_ave to work. Isn't that so, boys?"
  • The bewildered soldiers looked at one another in perplexity, and the stil_ore bewildered sorcerer gazed on the speakers with staring eyes and wide-ope_outh.
  • "I insist," said Prince Marvel, "upon your turning us into grasshoppers an_our soldiers into June-bugs, as you promised. If you do not, then I will flo_ou—as I promised."
  • "Very well," returned the sorcerer, with a desperate look upon his face; "I'l_o and find the enchantment."
  • "And we'll go with you," remarked the prince, pleasantly.
  • So the entire party accompanied Kwytoffle into the house, where they entered _arge room that was in a state of much disorder.
  • "Let me see," said the sorcerer, rubbing his ears, as if trying to think; "_onder if I put them in this cupboard. You see," he explained, "no one ha_ver before dared me to transform him into a June-bug or grasshopper, so _ave almost forgotten where I keep my book of enchantments. No, it's not i_he cupboard," he continued, looking there; "but it surely must be in thi_hest."
  • It was not in the chest, either, and so the sorcerer continued to look in al_orts of queer places for his book of enchantments, without finding it.
  • Whenever he paused in his search Prince Marvel would say, sternly:
  • "Go on! Find the book! Hunt it up. We are all anxious to become grasshoppers."
  • And then Kwytoffle would set to work again, although big drops of perspiratio_ere now streaming down his face.
  • Finally he pulled an old book from underneath the pillow of his bed, an_rying, "Here it is!" carried it to the window.
  • He turned a few leaves of the book and then said:
  • "How unfortunate! The compound I require to change you into grasshoppers mus_e mixed on the first day of September; and as this is now the eighth day o_eptember I must wait nearly a year before I can work the enchantment."
  • "How about the June-bugs?" asked Nerle.
  • "Oh! Ah!. The June-bug mixture can only be made at the dark o' the moon," sai_he sorcerer, pretending to read, "and that is three weeks from now."
  • "Let me read it," said Prince Marvel, suddenly snatching the book fro_wytoffle's hands. Then he turned to the title-page and read:
  • "'Lives of Famous Thieves and Impostors.' Why, this is not a book o_nchantments."
  • "That is what I suspected," said Terribus.
  • "No one but a sorcerer can read the enchantments in this book," declare_wytoffle; but he hung his head with a sheepish look, for he knew hi_eception had been well understood.
  • "Is your own history written in this volume?" inquired Marvel.
  • "No," answered the sorcerer.
  • "Then it ought to be," said the prince, "for you are no sorcerer at all, bu_erely a thief and an impostor!"