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THE BROWN OWL
THE CHILDREN'S LIBRARY.
THE BROWN OWL.
STORIES FROM FAIRYLAND.
THE CHINA CUP, AND OTHER STORIES.
TALES FROM THE MABINOGION.
1 1. AN)
FORD H. MADOX HUEFFER
TWO ILLUSTRATIONS BY
F. MADOX BROWN
T. FISHER UNWIN
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NCE upon a time, a long
while ago-in fact long
before Egypt had risen to
power and before Rome or Greece
had ever been heard of-and that was
some time before you were born, you
know-there was a king who reigned
over a very large and powerful king-
Now this king was rather old, he
had founded his kingdom himself, and
he had reigned over it nine hundred
and ninety-nine and a half years
already. As I have said before, it was
a very large kingdom, for it contained,
among other things, the whole of the
western half of the world. The rest of
2 THE BROWN OWL
the world was divided into smaller
kingdoms, and each kingdom was ruled
over by separate princes, who, however,
were none of them so old as Inta-
fernes, as he was called.
Now King Intafernes was an ex-
ceedingly powerful magician that
was why he had remained so long
on the throne; for you must know that
in this country the people were divided
into two classes-those who were magi-
cians, and those who weren't. The
magicians called themselves Aristocrats,
and the others called themselves what
they liked; also in this country, as in
all other countries, the rich magicians
had the upper hand over the rest, but
still the others did not grumble, for
they were not badly treated on the
whole. Now of all the magicians in
the country the King was the greatest,
and no one approached him in magic
power but the Chancellor, who was
called Merrymineral, and he even was
no match for the King.
THE BROWN OWL 3
Among other things King Inta-
fernes had a daughter, who was ex-
ceedingly beautiful-as indeed all prin-
cesses are or ought to be. She had a
very fair face, and a wealth of golden
hair that fell over her shoulders, like a
shining waterfall falling in ripples to
Now in the thousandth year of her
father's reign the Princess was eighteen,
and in that country she was already of
age. Three days before her nineteenth
birthday, however, her father fell sick
and gradually weakened, until at last
he had only strength left to lie in his
royal bed. Still, however, he retained
his faculties, and on the Princess's
birthday he made all the magicians
file before his bed and swear to be
faithful for ever to the Princess. Last
of all came the Chancellor, the pious
Merrymineral, and as he took the oath
the King looked at him with a loving
glance and said:
'Ah! my dear Merrymineral, in
4 THE BROWN OWL
truth there was no need for thee to
have taken the oath, for it is thy
nature to be faithful; and it being thy
nature, thou couldst not but be faith-
To which the pious Merrymineral
'To such a master and to such a
mistress how could I but be faithful?'
and to this noble sentiment the three
hundred and forty-seven magicians
could not help according unanimous
When they were quiet again the
So be it, good Merrymineral, do thou
always act up to thy words. But now
leave, good men all, for I am near my
end, and would fain spend my last
moments with my daughter here.'
Sorrowfully, one by one, the courtiers
left, wishing him their last adieux.
He had been a good king to all, all
through his long reign, and they were
sorry that he had to leave them at last.
THE BROWN OWL 5
Soon they were all gone except the
good Merrymineral, and at last he too
went, his whole frame shaking with
suppressed sobs; his body seemed
powerless with grief, and his limbs
seemed to refuse their functions. The
King looked after him, carefully noticing
whether the door was shut. Then he
'My dear daughter,' he said, 'when
I am gone be kind to every one, and,
above all, cherish the Owl-do cherish
the Owl-promise me to cherish the
But how can I cherish the Owl?'
cried the poor Princess; 'how can I,
unless I know who he is?'
But the King only answered:
Dear Ismara, do promise to cherish
And he said nothing else for a long
time, until at last the Princess saw that
the only way to let him rest in peace
was to promise, and she said:
'I promise, dear father, but still I
6 THE BROWN OWL
do wish I knew who or what the Owl
is that I am to cherish.'
'You will see that in good time,'
answered the King. 'Now, my dear
Ismara, I shall die happy, and you
will be safe. If you had not pro-
mised-however, we will let that rest
unsaid. Now wheel the bed to where
I can see out of the window.'
The Princess did as she was told.
Now from this you must not imagine
that she was a very strong princess-
for she was no stronger than most
princesses of her age; but the old
King, who was a very powerful magi-
cian, as I have told you already, made
the bed easy for her to move. He
might have made it move of its own
accord, but he knew that it would
please his daughter to be of service to
him, and so he let her move it.
The view from the window was very
fine. A dark wood grew in the fore-
ground, and far away over the tree-tops
were the blue hills, behind which the
THE BROWN OWL 7
sun was just preparing to retire. And
it seemed angry, the sun, for its face
was dark and clouded, and its beams
smote fiercely on everything, and gilded
the tops of the autumn trees with a
purer gold than their natural tint.
But overhead the clouds spread darkly,
and they reached in a black pall to
the verge of the horizon, forming a black
frame to the red-gold sunset; for only
the extreme west was bright with the
The Princess sat on the bed beside
the King, and the dying sun lit them
both and fell with a ruddy glare on
the King's hard countenance, as if it
knew that his work on earth for the
day, and for ever, was done.
'Is it not grand?' cried the old
King, as if the'glorious sight warmed
his blood again and made him once
more young. And is it not grand to
think of the power that thou hast, my
daughter? If thou but raise thy little
finger armies will move from world's
8 THE BROWN OWL
end to world's end. Fleets come
daily from every land for thee alone;
all that thou seest is thine, and utterly
within thy power. Think of the power,
the grand power, of swaying the world.'
But long before he had got thus
far, the Princess was weeping bitterly-
partly at the overwhelming prospect,
and partly from her great grief. She
seized her father's hand and kissed it
'My father, my father,' she cried,
'say not so; they are all thine, not mine,
for thou livest still, and all is yet well.'
But the old King cut her short:
'Dost thou see the sun? Look,
its lower rim is already cut by the
mountains. When its disc is hidden
I too shall have joined the majority,
and my soul will have left my body,
and the power will be thine. But
above all cherish the Owl. Never go
out of its sight, for if thou do, some
harm will happen.'
As he stopped speaking a flash of
THE BROWN OWL 9
lightning lit up the sky, and the sullen
roar of distant thunder followed.
From every church in the land the
passing bell tolled forth and the solemn
sounds came swelling on the breeze.
Again came the flash of lightning, and
again the thunder, and now the splash
of falling rain accompanied and almost
drowned the thunder. The sun's rim
was now almost down.
For the last time the old King kissed
his daughter, as she hung weeping on
his neck. Again the lightning came,
but this time the thunder was drowned
in a more fearful sound. Never before
had the sound been heard, except at
the death of the Princess's mother.
It was the passing bell of the cathedral
of the town. And as its sound went
forth throughout the whole land men
shook their heads in sorrow, for they
knew that the soul of the good King
had left his body. Through the whole
land the news was known-to every
one except to the Princess.
Io THE BROWN OWL
For she lay on the bed passionately
kissing the dead face-not yet cold in
death-and calling on his name in
vain; for the ears of the dead are
closed 'to the voice of the charmer,
charm he never so wisely.'
Gradually the voice of the Princess
died away into low sobs and her breath-
ing came more regularly, and in spite
of the tolling of the death-bell she
slept, worn out by her grief. No one
came near her, for at the Court no
one was allowed to enter the royal
presence without a command, what-
ever happened. So for a time the
Princess slept on, clasping the still
face to her warm cheek. But at last
the death-cold of the face wakened
her once more to the death-cold of
the world. For a time her wakening
dreams refused to let her believe the
worst, but the stern reality forced
itself on her. She raised herself on
her two arms and gazed through the
darkness at the white face that made
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her shudder when her longing eyes
at last traced out its lines as a flash
of lightning lit it up. She sprang off
the bed with a wild impulse of calling
But no sooner had she got to the
door and had given the call than she
once more fainted and seemed for a
When she came to herself again she
was in bed in her own room. It was
still night, and at the side of her bed
a night-light was burning in a glass
shade. She could not understand
what it all meant; but her head did
ache so, and she could not tell why
they were making such a noise at the
far end of the room. For you see she
was lying on her back low down in the
pillows, and so she could not see
beyond the foot of the bed. How-
ever, she raised herself on her elbow
and looked. For a short time she
could see nothing, for the room was
somewhat dark, as the night-light gave
22 THE BROWN OWL
but little light. But at the other end
of the room a large fire was burning,
and by its light the Princess saw a
For in the middle of the floor she
could make out a group of three ladies-
in-waiting, who were struggling with a
large black object-what it was the
Princess could not see, but it seemed
to be attempting to attack the Court
doctor, who was huddled up in a
corner with his umbrella spread out
before him, and he was gradually
sinking down behind it, giving vent
to the most horrible groans and
shrieks for mercy, and calling to the
ladies to keep it off. However, in
spite of their efforts, the 'thing' was
gradually drawing them nearer and
nearer to the poor doctor.
But the strangest thing of all was
that the doctor's face was lit up by
two distinct rounds of light. It was
just as if some one had turned the
light of a bull's-eye lantern on him,
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and this the Princess could not under-
stand at all. However, she lay still
The doctor got farther and farther
behind the umbrella until only his
head appeared over the top of it. At
last he shrieked:
Send for a regiment of Lifeguards-
let them shoot the Owl-it is necessary
for the health of the Princess. Owls
are very bad things to have in bed-
rooms-they bring scarlatina, and they
always carry the influenza epidemic.
Lifeguards, I tell you, send for them.'
But still the 'thing' came nearer, and
with an agonised shriek of The Owl !'
he sank altogether under the rim.
This loud cry of The Owl' roused
the Princess, and she remembered her
promise to cherish the Owl. So she
called to the ladies-in-waiting, and they,
astonished, let go the thing, and the
Owl immediately flew at the umbrella,
underneath which the doctor was
coiled up, and perched on the top.
14 THE BROWN OWL
The Princess, however, thought it was
rather rash to have promised to cherish
the Owl if it was going to eat up her
physicians in that reckless manner.
However, the Owl did not seem
aggressive, and only seemed as if it
were waiting for further orders. The
Princess determined to see if it would
come when it was called, like a dog.
So she called in a sweet, persuasive
'Come here, good Owl.'
Immediately the dark shape of the
Owl flitted noiselessly to her side as
she sat on the bed. The wind of its
flight blew out the flickering night-light
in spite of the glass shade. But the
glittering eyes of the Owl lit up the
whole room, so that there was no need
of light. As it alighted on the bed it
turned its eyes on the Princess as
much as to say, 'What shall I do
But the fierce light of the eyes was
softened as it turned to her, as if the
THE BROWN OWL 15
Owl feared to hurt her with the blind-
'Cherished Owl,' said the Princess,
'why didst thou hurt the physician ?'
The Owl shook his head; but the
Princess could not understand whether
he meant that he did not know why
he had hurt him, or if he meant he
had not hurt him. So the Princess
told one of the ladies-in-waiting to
remove the umbrella from over the
doctor. But this was not so easy as
it sounded, for the doctor held firmly
on to the handle, and in spite of the
united efforts of the three ladies-in-
waiting he managed to hold on. At
last the Princess lost patience.
'Go and help them, good Owl,' she
said; and the Owl, overjoyed, flew to
the doctor, and seizing the top of the
umbrella flew with it up to the ceiling,
and as the doctor still held on, he
flew round and round, until the doctor,
hitting the top of a cupboard, let go,
and fell in a heap in the middle of
16 THE BROWN OWL
the floor, where he lay half unconscious,
repeating as he sat:
Orange juice for influenza; try a
seidlitz powder and a blue pill, and
keep the owls out of the room and
take a warm bath, and-send for the
But the Princess did not seem
inclined to send for them; and in
truth it would have been rather
awkward for the horses to get in, as
the room was on the second floor.
So the Princess told the ladies-in-
waiting to drag him out of the room,
and they obeyed; but as he went
he said: 'Sleeping in unaired sheets
causes rheumatism, sciatica, pleurisy,
pneumonia and-owls;' and as the
door closed they heard him say,
'Gregory powder and Epsom salts.'
The poor Princess, however, began
to weep again, and the Owl sat
perched on the bed-post at her feet,
watching her with his bright eyes.
However, after she had cried thus
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for a long time, she thought it would
be better to stop her tears, for they
were all in vain, as she knew but too
So she rose from her bed; for you
must know she had only been laid on
her bed when she had fainted, and so
she still had all her clothes on.
Through the -window- blinds the
light of dawn was already beginning to
show itself. So the Princess went to
the window and drew back the curtains,
and let the bright sunlight shine into
the room. A beautiful day was dawn-
ing after the last night's rain, and the
sun was rising brightly over the edge
of the blue sea. For a moment, as
she looked out, everything was quiet
except the shrill chirp of a solitary
sparrow that seemed to have awakened
too early. From the chimneys of the
red-roofed town below her no smoke
was rising, for all in the town were
Suddenly, with a rush, the morning
s1 THE BROWN OWL
breeze came from over the land behind
her, and with the rustle of the wind
everything seemed to wake and come
to life once more. The solitary chirp
of the sparrow was drowned in the
flood of song that poured forth from
the trees in the palace garden, and
with the birds the rest of the living
animals awoke, and from far inland
the lowing, of the cows was borne on
the breeze, and now and again came
the joyful bark of the shepherd's dog
as it recognized its master's whistle as
he called it to work again among the
sheep, whose plaintive bleating came
softly, as if from a distance, to the
Everything seemed joyful at the
sight of the beautiful morning except
the Princess, and she felt oh so lonely,
for it seemed as if- her only friend had
gone from her for ever. And at the
thought her tears began to flow afresh,
for she felt very lonely, while every-
thing else seemed to rejoice. But as
THE BROWN OWL 19
she leant thus against the window-sill,
with a great lump in her throat and
the hot tears in her eyes, she suddenly
felt a weight on her shoulder and a
rushing wind waved her hair, and as
she turned her head to see what it
was, her face was covered in the soft
brown feathers of the Owl, who had
perched on her shoulder.
The touch of the Owl seemed to
have driven away her grief, and she
felt quite light and joyful in the
beautiful sunshine. For it seemed as
if the Owl had become a companion
to her that would take the place of
her father; so she leaned her head
against the Owl, and her golden hair
mixed with the dusky brown feathers,
till each streak of golden hair shone
again in the bright sunlight. And the
Owl-too seemed very happy. So for a
time the Princess stood looking over
the deep-blue sea.
Suddenly, however, a footstep
sounded in the courtyard below, and
20 THE BROWN O WL
the Princess drew back from the
window, for a thought suddenly came
into her head:
Oh dear,' she said, I have been
crying such a lot that my eyes must
be quite red, and my hair is all ruffled.
This will never do.' And as she
looked in the glass she said, 'Ah, just
as I thought. Come, my cherished
Owl, sit there on the crown on the top
of the looking-glass frame and wait
while I wash my hands and face and
make myself tidy.'
The Owl did as he was told, and the
Princess began to wash in cold water-
a thing she had never done before-
but she did not like to call to her
ladies-in-waiting, lest they should see
how red her eyes were. So she had
to put up with the cold water, and very
pleasant she found it, for it cleared the
tear-mist out of her eyes and made
her feel quite happy and cheerful
again: 'And I have heard,' she
thought to herself, 'that washing in
THE BROWN OWL
cold water is matchless for the com-
When she had finished washing she
went and combed her hair before the
glass. For she was a very artistic
Princess, and liked looking at beautiful
things, and so she liked sometimes to
look at herself in the glass. Not that
she was in the least conceited.
So she combed her hair with a gold
comb, and when she had finished
combing it, she put on her gold circlet
as a sign of her rank, and then she
said to the Owl, who had been sitting
patiently on the looking-glass blinking
at her as if he.quite enjoyed himself:
'Now, cherished Owl, you may sit
on my shoulder again.'
When the Owl was again in his
place he blinked in the glass at his
own reflection as if the light were too
strong for him, and he shut his eyes
and drew in his neck and lifted up one
foot into his feathers, as if he felt quite
happy and comfortable, and the Prin-
22 THE BROWN OWL
cess smiled at his happy look, for she
seemed quite to have forgotten her
sorrow in the company of the Owl.
So she, with the Owl on her shoulder,
went to the window. Here in the
courtyard already a large crowd had
collected to catch a glimpse of the
Princess if possible, so that it fell
about that when they saw her they
raised a mighty shout of joy and pity :
'The King is dead,' they cried.
'Long live the Queen!' And through-
out the city far and wide echoed and
re-echoed the cry:
'Long live the Queen'; and it
seemed as if the waves of the sea
murmured the sound.
The Princess, however, held out her
little hand to still the tumult, and as if
by magic the cries stopped.
Good people all,' she said in lear
ringing tones, 'I thank you for your
good wishes, and I will try always to
be worthy of them as my father was.
For to-day, however, rejoice not;
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remember that the great King Inta-
fernes, the founder of the kingdom to
which we all belong, has but just left
the earth-sorrow for him but a short
time; joy will come soon enough for
So the crowd, silent and pensive for
a time, dispersed in groups. More
than one of them asked what had been
perched on the Princess's shoulder,
and those who had been near enough,
said that it was an owl-though what
it meant they knew not.
To me it seemed as if the head of
the old King were looking over his
daughter's shoulder,' said one of the
listeners who stood on the outskirts of
But she was only a little hunchback,
and the rich citizens laughed at her,
saying: Tush, child-thy fancy is not
sound Or else before looking at the
Princess thou didst look at the fierce
sun, and the sun-spots in thy eyes
caused thee to see it thus. It was
24 THE BROWN OWL
but an owl.' But the little hunchback
held to her own opinion.
But while the Princess stood watch-
ing them depart, a tapping came at
the door, and the Princess cried Come
in.' A page entered and said that the
Chancellor, Merrymineral, was below
and requested audience of the Princess.
Let him be shown into the audience
chamber to await me there.'
The page bowed and departed on
his errand, and the Princess went to
another door in the room and down
the staircase that led from it to the
audience chamber, and the Owl re-
mained seated on her shoulder until
they reached the room. When they
got there the Chancellor had not yet
entered, for the .staircase from the
Princess's bedroom to the audience
chamber was much shorter than
that from the entrance hall, and then
you see the Princess was much more
nimble than Merrymineral, who was an
old man, and she ran quickly down-
THE BROWN OWL 25
stairs whilst he walked slowly up.
However at last he entered. As he
came in the Princess said:
Good morning, dear Merrymineral.
How is it you are so late? I shall
have to fine you if you keep me
waiting like this again. And now
what do you want with me ?'
The good Chancellor received her
laughing reproach with his head bowed
down. He heaved a deep sigh, and
drew his pocket-handkerchief from his
pocket and applied it to his eyes. As
he drew it away the tears could be
seen flowing fast down his withered
'I came,' he moaned, 'to console
you for your great loss. I too,' he
continued in a voice choked with sobs,
'I too am an orphan.'
It seemed funny to the Princess to
see him weeping thus, and she could
hardly help laughing at him, but her
grief soon came back.
'Poor Merrymineral,' she sighed,
26 THE BROWN OWL
'to you also it must be a sad blow,
for you were always faithful and
attached. But it was fated to happen
thus, and you must really try and be
comforted, for crying will not mend
The Chancellor began again :
The beloved King your father'; but
his sobs choked him, and he hid his
'The beloved King your father,'
echoed a loud voice, exactly mimicking
the tones of the Chancellor, but where
the voice came from no one could tell.
The Chancellor started.
'Did you say that?' said the
'Not the second time,' answered
'Who could it be?' said the
Princess; for there is no one in the
room except the cherished Owl; and
you can't speak, can you, Owl dear ?'
The Owl shook his head dismally.
But the change that came over Merry-
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mineral was most astonishing as his
eye suddenly lit upon the Owl-for
since his entrance he had not raised
his eyes from the floor. He jumped
backwards over three rows of seats, for
you see the seats in the audience
chamber were arranged in rows, and he
alighted in a sitting posture on the
other side. As he sat on the floor he
looked up at the Owl in a terrified
manner, then threw up his arms and
fainted. The poor Princess did not
know what to do, so she rang a bell
that stood on the table in front of the
throne. Several pages at once came in.
'Just bring that man to,' said the
The pages bowed low, and went and
shook the Chancellor violently. He
showed no signs of recovering, so one
of the pages turned to the Princess
'May it please your Majesty, but the
Chancellor refuses to come to, and we
can't bring him.'
28 THE BROWN OWL
'So he refuses to obey my orders,'
said the Princess. 'He must be
punished for this. However, now go
and get a bucketful of water and
pour it on him. Perhaps that will
bring him to.'
Now when she said he was to be
punished, she was only joking,- but she
said it very gravely, so that many
people might have thought it was quite
in earnest. Meanwhile the pages de-
parted to fetch the water. They soon
came back and brought a large pail-
'You had. better not throw it all
over him,' said the Princess 'just let
it trickle over his face gently.'
So one of the pages began to do as
he was told, but somehow-either he
had a sudden push, or, as he said after-
wards, the Owl looked at him, and
startled him-he let the pail go, and all
the water and the pail too fell over the
unlucky Chancellor. This really did
bringhim verymuchto-much too much
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to, in fact-for he sprang up in such a
rage that the Princess really wished
herself out of the room.
'You jackanapes,' he screamed at
the unfortunate page;. 'you ape, you
boar, you cow, you clumsy monkey,
I'll be revenged on you.'
But the Princess, who had gained
courage while he was screaming, said:
'You will not be revenged on
'But I shall,' he said.
'Indeed you will not,' said the
Princess, 'for he did it by my orders.'
'Oh he did it by your orders,' said
the Chancellor; then I'll be revenged
on you too,' and he began to move
uncomfortably near to the Princess.
But the three pages threw themselves
on him and tried to drag him back,
but he turned suddenly on them.
'What,' he said scornfully, 'you try
to stop me-ye frogs! Ah! a good
idea-by virtue of my magic power I
command you to turn into water-rats;
30 THE BROWN OWL
then perhaps the Owl there will eat
No sooner said than done, and the
three pages instantly became water-rats,
squattering in the water that was still
in a pool on the floor.
Somehow the Princess did not seem
to be at all frightened at this; she was
only very angry.
I thought I told you not to hurt
'Who cares what you say?'
'Dear me,' thought the Princess,
'he is getting excessively insolent-I
shall have to be severe with him in a
moment.' So she said:
'Turn those pages back again.'
I shall not.'
'Then leave the room.'
'I shall not.'
The Princess did not know what to
do; he was really very rude, and he
was walking towards her evidently
intending to attack her. When he
was within ten feet of her he stopped
THE BROWN OWL 31
and though he tried to get nearer he
Ha ha !' he cried; you think to
keep me off by magic, but it is not so
easy, I can tell you. By virtue of my
magic power I command you to turn
into a mouse.'
But the Princess, leaning her head
against the soft feathers of the Owl,
only smiled, and did not turn into a
mouse at all.
The Chancellor seemed perplexed.
Is that not enough for you?' he
said; 'I thought I told you to turn
into a mouse.'
But the Princess smiled calmly and
'Do you suppose I am going to
do anything of the sort-you have
forgotten your manners to speak to
your Queen thus. I believe there is
a fine of five shillings for any one who
speaks to the King or Queen without
saying Your Majesty." You had better
pay it, Sir Chancellor, and turn those
32 THE BROWN OWL
pages back again, or I shall have you
turned out of the kingdom.'
But the Chancellor laughed. 'You
can't send me out if you wanted to.
Meanwhile I shall not turn those rats
back, for if I am not much mistaken
your Owl there will carry them off.'
It really seemed as if the Owl were
going to obey him, for greatly to the
Princess's surprise it sprang off her
shoulder and seized the three rats, one
in each claw, and one in its beak-
but it returned at once to her and laid
them squeaking on the table in front
of her-but no sooner did they touch
the table than they turned into men
again just as quickly as they had
become rats. When Merrymineral
saw this he became perfectly frantic,
and tried in vain to get at the Princess
-he even went back a little and tried
to run at her-but it was no use, for
no sooner did he reach a certain spot
than he was suddenly stopped, just as
if he had run against a wall. At last he
THE BROWN OWL 33
became so frantic that the Princess
could stand it no longer. So she
Will you be quiet, you naughty old
man ?-leave the room or I will send
But Merrymineral answered:
'Oh, send for the police and the
soldiers and sailors and candlestick-
So the Princess rang the bell that
stood on the table: a page at once
appeared at the door.
Send for a policeman and ask him
to step this way.'
The page looked astonished, but he
saluted and left the room. Almost
immediately a policeman came in-for
you see there was one always on the
palace steps. He entered the room
with a low bow.
'Take the Chancellor out of the
room,' said the Princess, 'and put him
in prison for three days.'
But the policeman shook his head.
34 THE BROWN OWL
'Excuse me, mum-I mean your
most gracious Majesty--but it is
against the law to imprison a member
of Parliament, much less a chancellor.'
The Chancellor laughed sarcastic-
Oh, is it ?' said the Princess; never
mind, take him into custody; I depose
him-he is no longer Chancellor.'
Merrymineral looked astonished,
but the policeman cleared his throat
Come, I say, young fellow; will you
go quietly, or shall I make you?'
'Oh, make me, by all means,'
So the policeman advanced and
held out his hand to take him by the
collar, but had no sooner touched
Merrymineral than he fell to the
ground as if he had been thunder-
The Chancellor smiled. 'I told
you so,' he said.
The Princess was now thoroughly
THE BROWN OWL 35
nonplussed. However, she rang the
bell again. Again the page appeared.
Summon the Lords of the Council;
let them come here at once.'
Almost immediately afterwards the
lords appeared. As they came in each
one bowed profoundly to the Princess.
But in spite of their grave appearance
they could not help looking astonished
at the policeman, who was lying on
the floor, and at the three pages who
were still sitting on the table-for as
they had not yet been told to go they
could not depart.
But each one took his seat without
questioning. Last of all came the
Court doctor, who looked in an alarmed
manner at the Owl-nevertheless he
took his seat.
When all was quiet the Princess
began to speak.
'My lords,' she said, 'I have been
obliged to assemble you on the first
day of my reign; but the matter is a
very grave one. I have found it
36 THE BROWN OWL
necessary to dismiss the Chancellor,
for these reasons: first, he attacked
these three pages who were executing
my bidding; next, he attacked me and
lastly, he attacked the law, in the
person of the policeman there, whom
he knocked down. Now I ask your
advice as to how I am to get rid of
him, for he refuses to leave the room
at my command.'
So spoke the Princess, but before any
one could answer Merrymineral spoke:
'My lords,' he said, 'are we, we,
the lords of the kingdom, to be governed
by this schoolgirl, who is not even a
magician as we are? What good has
she ever done us ? What power is to
keep us from deposing her and electing
as a ruler one of ourselves ?'- but
before he could finish a perfect uproar
of shouts of rage interrupted him.
The Princess put her fingers in her
ears to keep out the sound, and when
the lords saw that the noise was
annoying her they stopped at once.
THE BROWN OWL 37
When they were quiet the Princess
What he has just said is right,' she
said; I have no right to reign over
you, for I am but a girl. Do ye there-
fore elect a ruler.'
For a moment all was silence in the
Council, but all eyes were turned on a
lord who stood next to Merrymineral
in rank. He was a portly man, and a
great magician too, though his power
was not quite so great as Merry-
mineral's. When therefore he saw
that all eyes were turned on him,
Lord Licec, for so he was called,
'Your most gracious Majesty,' he
began, 'although you had no need to
command us to elect a ruler, we are
of course bound to obey your com-
mands, whatever they are. I therefore
speak, giving my vote, and I believe the
vote of all the rest of the assembly, that
you shall be our ruler according to the
oath which we sware to your father.'
38 THE BROWN OWL
And then turning to the rest of the
assembly he said:
'Am I not right, my lords?' and
with one voice they answered:
We will die for our Queen Ismara.'
Only one voice objected, but as
that was Merrymineral, no one noticed
So the Princess rose and thanked
them for their confidence in her,
though, to tell the truth, she had
known all along what they would say.
That done she said:
And now what are we to do about
turning this man out ? for he refuses to
go of his own accord.'
No one could suggest anything
better than to send for the Lifeguards
and let them carry him off. But
before this was done they decided to
try to persuade him to go. But it was
of no use, for he stood on the spot
where he had stopped, with his arms
folded and his hat on, looking down
at the ground in a brown study, and he
THE BROWN OWL 39
took no notice of anything they could
do, even though they rang the bell close
to his ear. Now he did no particular
harm as he stood there, but you see
no one could tell whom he might
attack next. So they determined to
send for the Lifeguards as a last
So they were sent for, and in a short
time they came, although they left
their horses outside in the courtyard.
Fifty of them were then marched into
the hall and they were ordered to
move the man out. So they divided
into two parties of twenty-five each,
and they put a rope round him, and
each body of twenty-five took an end
of the rope and pulled, but it was no
good, for he took no more notice of
the pulling than if he had been Samson
or any other strong man. So the
fifty gave up the attempt in despair;
the only thing to do seemed to be
to cut him to pieces. So they drew
their swords and hacked at him,
40 THE BROWN OWL
but it was no use: the swords bent or
broke just as if they had been bul-
rushes or paper, and still Merrymineral
took no notice in particular. So they
gave up the attempt in despair when
they had broken up all their swords.
However, they did not give in, for they
called in the best horseman in the
regiment and told him to charge on
horseback with his lance in rest. So
the soldier rode in on his horse; this
was not so difficult as it may seem, for
the council chamber was on a level
with the ground, and a lane was opened
in between the chairs to where Merry-
mineral still stood with his arms folded.
At the word of command the soldier
rode at full speed towards Merry-
mineral, aiming his lance at the centre
of his face-that is his nose. His
aim was true, and the lance hit fair,
but it might just as well have been
made of macaroni, for it crumbled
just as a stick of that delightful eatable
would do if you ran it against a wall.
THE BROWN OWL 41
The horse, however, swerved just in
time, although it pushed against him
in going by; but even this made no
difference to Merrymineral. As a last
resource they suggested putting a
lighted match under his nose. Whether
this would have succeeded or not I
can't say. But just at this moment
Merrymineral seemed to wake up
'Ah,' he said, I see you have not
yet managed to get me out of the
room. However, as your soldiers
have been practising on me for some
time past, I think it only right that I
should try my hand on them a little.
I used to be thought rather strong in
the arms at one time, and I have cut
down a good many trees in my time.
Just see how you like that,' he said to
the man on the horse as he swung his
umbrella round his head and brought
it down with a tremendous thwack on
the horse's side. In fact he hit so
hard that the horse and man were
42 THE BROWN OWL
knocked right through the window into
the courtyard below. With three more
blows he knocked twenty more of the
men through the same window, and the
rest made their escape as fast as they
could by the door.
'I see I have not quite forgotten
how to clear a room yet,' he said,
as he once more folded his arms in
the same attitude and relapsed into
'What am I to do?' said the poor
Princess, wringing her hands and
almost crying with vexation.
A voice came from the far end of
the room, and every one turned to
see who it might be. And all saw it
was the Court. physician who spoke.
'If I might be allowed to make a
suggestion,' he said, 'I would say that
the best thing your Majesty could do
would be to request that gentleman
who is sitting on your shoulder to turn
him out. From my own experience I
should say he was very competent to
THE BROWN OWL 43
perform such a task. And if I might
be allowed to add yet another sugges-
tion it would be, "to be well shaken
before taken," as they say in prescrip-
As he said this an extraordinary
change came over Merrymineral. He
pressed his hat on his head, put his
umbrella under his arm, and began to
put on his gloves in such a hurry that
he mistook the left for the right hand.
As he did so he said:
'Do you know, I can't stop any
longer; so sorry, but I have an engage-
ment and I am rather in a hurry.
Good-day.' And he began to walk
quickly towards the door. But the
Princess had already, whispered to
the Owl, Catch him, dear Owl.'
And however fast he went the Owl
caught him up, and taking him by the
middle of his coat-tails-and I am
bound to say some of his skin too-he
shook him violently, and flew round
and round the room banging him
44 THE BROWN OWL
violently against any high piece of
furniture that was convenient.
'O-o-o-h,' shrieked the wretched
man, 'I say, do you know you're
tearing my best coat, and your beak
is awfully sharp? O-o-ouch,' and he
filled the room with his shrieks. After
they had continued like that for some
minutes the Princess said:
'I think he has been punished enough
now, cherished Owl, so let him down.'
The Owl did as he was told, not,
however, without giving him a sly
tweak with his bill that must have hurt
him a good deal.
'I'll be revenged on you,' roared
Merrymineral; 'you've spoilt my Sun-
day coat, and I shan't be able to afford
another for I don't know how long.
I'll be revenged on you.' And he
took out a red pocket-handkerchief
and began to suage the blood that was
coming from the bite, all the while
abusing the Owl and the Princess and
threatening to be revenged.
THE BROWN OWL 45
'You had better be quiet and go,'
'I shall not.'
'Oh, very well,' she answered,
'perhaps you would like to try the
At the same time the Owl gave him
such a look [from its gleaming eyes
that he turned first red and then white
with fright. He made a dash for the
window, and he was in such a hurry
that he left his umbrella and one of
his gloves behind him.
He jumped right through the win-
dow high into the air, and as soon as
he got outside, strange to say, he began
to burn furiously, and he went gradually
up into the sky like a fire-balloon-just
as when a piece of tissue paper is put
on the fire, if you are not careful, it
will fly blazing up the chimney.
They watched him out of sight, and
then the Princess said with a little sigh
'That's an end of him at last.'
46 THE BROWN OWL
But the Owl shook his head-he
When he was thus at last got rid off
the Princess said to the physician:
'How can we ever thank thee
enough, good doctor, for thy timely
Oh, your Majesty,' said the blushing
doctor, 'experience does it; and I
had plenty of that this morning. Do
you know, I think I shall never be free
again from pain-although I have
bathed in opodeldoc and arnica, and
I am clothed from head to foot in
The Princess smiled and said:
'I am afraid the Owl is a little over-
vigorous in such matters; however, I
will give orders to the Court apothe-
cary to supply you with remedies at
my expense until you shall be cured.'
She then said to the three pages who
still sat on the table :
'I must ask you to depart now as
Parliament cannot carry on business
THE BROWN OWL
with strangers in the house. How-
ever, ye are, I believe, pages; I will
turn over a new leaf and will advance
you each a step in rank. Now, how-
Thanking her profusely they went.
When they had gone the Princess
turned to the Councillors and said:
'As there seems no further need to
keep you, I will detain you no longer.'
Having her permission the Coun-
cillors left the hall. Last of all was
Lord Licec, and he remained as it
hesitating whether to go, or to stay and
speak to the Princess. She, noticing
his hesitation, said:
'Ah, Lord Licec, hast thou some-
thing to ask me?'
The old lord made answer:
'I would ask your Majesty's per-
mission to enter the room of the late
King, your Majesty's father, for, as you
are aware, it is against the law to enter
the royal presence without the royal
48 THE BROWN OWL
You have my permission of course;
but ought not some preparations to be
made for the funeral ?'
Lord Licec answered:
'They are already made. For as
the late King had announced his
intention of dying yesterday at half-
past six P.M., there was ample time.'
' Let us then go together to the
room, my lord,' said the Princess.
So they went together, the Princess
leaning on Licec's arm, and the Owl
sitting on her shoulder.
The guards of the room saluted as
they passed in, but what was their
astonishment on entering to find that
the King had disappeared. When they
asked the guards who had come into
the room during the day, they replied
that no one had been near the room
during their watch, and the guards of
the watch before said exactly the same
thing. All over the palace inquiries
were made, but to no purpose, and the
rumour gradually spread to the town,
THE BROWN OWL 49
and throngs of anxious citizens flocked
about the palace gates to ask, but
neither they nor any one else ever
heard what had become of him, and it
is my opinion that the King himself is
the only person who knew anything
about it. It came out in the course
of inquiries that when the attendants
had.rushed in on hearing the Princess's
call for assistance the night before,
they had not seen the King on the bed,
but in his place had sat an enormous
owl, and this owl had insisted on
accompanying the Princess wherever
This was the first time that the
Princess had heard of how the Owl
had come to her, but still she had
known all along that the Owl was the
one her father had made her promise
to cherish. But there were ill-natured
people who said that it was not so
very unlikely that the Owl had eaten
the King up, but the Princess only
laughed and said:
50 THE BROWN OWL
'How could the Owl eat a king up
when the poor thing has so little
appetite that it only eats very small
pieces of meat off my golden fork at
And so the Owl remained with the
Princess: during the day it always
sat on her shoulder, or took short
flights round her head, and at night it
slept on the foot of her bed.
So six weeks glided peacefully away,
and everything prospered; but one
day a terrified messenger rode into the
city at full speed, and the message that
he brought was this.
Merrymineral, who, as the Owl had
said, was by no means done with, had
been inciting the people of far-off
lands such as Mesopotamia and Padan-
Aram and Ireland to rebel, and he
was now marching against the Princess
at the head of an immense army,
laying waste the country for miles
around. At the rate he was coming,
however, it would take him a fortnight
THE BROWN OWL 51
to get near the country round. So
you see there was no immediate
danger; still an enemy's army could
not be allowed to remain in the
country unopposed. So the Princess
gave Lord Licec the order to assemble
the army, and, as you may imagine,
it was an immense one when it did
assemble. I can't say how large it
was, but if you could have stood on a
hill in the centre of the town you
would have seen nothing for miles
around but shining silk banners and
glistening helmets and lances. Never
before had the world held such an
army, and it never will again. Yet this
army even was hardly as large as that
of the enemy. The command of the
army was given to Lord Licec, for he
was well known to be the most prudent
man in the kingdom.
Three days passed till the last of
the army had started, and all the while
the Princess stood at the window and
watched them march along the wind-
52 THE BROWN OWL
ing street below, and the knights and
men-at-arms were inspired with fresh
courage at the sight of such a princess
as they had to defend, and they
cheered so loud and long that it
seemed like the continual roar of the
sea beating on a rocky shore, some-
times rising, sometimes falling, but
The Princess indeed felt quite
lonely when they had all gone, even
though their shouts did make her
head ache. However, she consoled
herself by riding all day towards the
army, and returning at night to the
lonely town. So she occupied three
days; and the Owl always flew over
her head, protecting her from the sun
when it was too hot, or else sitting on
her shoulder, or on the horse's head,
although the horse did not like it at all.
For three days no news came, but
on the fourth as the Princess was
riding out with her ladies-in-waiting
she saw at a great distance in front of
THE BROWN OWL 53
her along the straight white road a
cloud of dust that was coming swiftly
towards her. As it came nearer she
could see the glint of armour, and
soon she could plainly see the form
of an armed knight galloping at full
speed towards them. He came so fast
that they had to rein their horses to
one side that they might not be run
down. At first he did not seem to
know who the Princess was, or perhaps
he was going so furiously that he
could not see; at any rate he had
almost got past them before he re-
cognised her. As soon as he did,
however, he drew up, but so sudden
was the action that the horse first
sank back on his haunches, and then
bounded so high into the air that
the marks that his hoofs made when
he alighted on the ground again, were
a foot deep in the hard road. As
soon as the plunging of the horse
stopped and the Princess could make
herself heard she said:
54 THE BROWN OWL
'What news, Sir Knight, from the
front, that thou ridest in such haste ?
But bad news, I fear,' answered the
What say you ?' said the Princess;
'bad news, and with such an army as
ye had? has some fresh rebellion
broken out among the men?'
No rebellion, but plain fighting has
beaten us-but what can we do
against such foes ? This Merrymineral,
alone, rides on a green dragon, and
with one stroke of his sword he kills a
hundred men. Myself I charged him
with my lance, but as it struck his
shield it broke in pieces as if it had
been made of glass and it was
fortunate for me that my horse carried
me past him before he could strike me,
for I saw him myself cut the Knight of
Pendred in half, as you would cut a
radish. And if we slay a thousand
men during the day he restores them
in the night. So we have gradually
been driven back, till after three days'
THE BROWN OWL
fighting the army remains at Arecarp.
Thence I started at eight this morn-
ing to hurry the reinforcements from
Britain and Gaul.'
'Alas! they are still at three days'
march from here, though they are
marching night and day. But thou
saidst the army was at Arecarp, and
that thou didst start to-day at eight in
the morning. That is impossible.
Arecarp is twenty-four hours' journey
for a fast horse, and it is now but
twelve o'clock. Not even the horse
that I ride could go faster than that,
though he is said to be the fastest horse
in the world, except Selim, the horse of
the Prince of India. However, no
time is to be lost. Sir Knight, will you
escort these ladies back to the town,
and rest for a while ?'
'But what will you do, your
'I must ride forward to Are-
'To Arecarp Your Majesty, what
56 THE BROWN OWL
will you do there? The battlefield is
no place for a girl.'
'Nevertheless I must go, for my
place is with the army.'
'But if you are killed what will
happen to your people without their
'What do they do now without
their Queen? Besides once before
the cherished Owl has defeated this
man and he may do it again. If he
does not, no power on earth could
save me from death, for the army is
being gradually defeated.'
'But your Majesty could send the
Owl in a cage against the enemy.'
'I promised my father never to go
out of its sight-no, I must go.'
I beseech you then, your Majesty,
to allow me to accompany you, for
the road to the camp is full of
'But your horse is tired, and even if
he were not he could never keep up
THE BROWN OWL 57
'But if you will excuse the con-
tradiction, I think I shall.'
'Well then, have your own way, but
mark me, if you lag behind I shall not
stop. However, we are losing time.
Let us go.'
And they set off-the Princess
ignoring the entreaties of the ladies
that she should not go.
The Princess immediately started at
the full speed of her horse, expecting
that the knight would soon fall behind;
but no, he galloped at her side as if
the speed were not more than usual,
and his great black charger seemed to
enjoy the exercise as though he had not
already galloped over a hundred miles
The Princess could not understand
how it was, but she thought he would
soon get tired and fall behind, but
an hour passed and he showed no
signs of being fatigued. So she
leant over her horse and whispered
softly in his ear. Instantly the horse
58 THE BROWN OWL
bounded forward more swiftly than
ever-so fast, indeed, that she could
hardly keep her eyes open against the
wind, and her golden crown was
suddenly whisked away, and her
beautiful golden hair streamed far out
behind. Still the knight kept up, and
seemed not the least distressed at the
speed. The Owl meanwhile was fly-
ing far overhead, but she was not at all
surprised at his keeping up, for no-
thing seemed impossible to him. After
they had been riding thus for nearly
two hours they came to a place where
the path was crossed by a river, and
here the Princess thought it advisable
to stop and rest a moment and to let
the horses drink. So she called to
the knight to stop, as she was going
to get off for a moment, and he at
once sprang off his horse, and coming
to her saddle-bow held her stirrup for
her to dismount. When she was off
she leaned against a tree looking at
the horses as they drank eagerly from
THE BROWN OWL 59
the river, and then came out to browse
for a moment on the bank. Then she
went to where the knight's horse stood,
and patted him on the neck, for you see
he was not a very fierce-looking animal,
and she was not at all afraid of him.
He's a wonderfully swift horse, Sir
Knight,' she said suddenly, 'and I
believe there is no other horse in the
world as swift-not even Selim-the
horse I spoke about-that belongs to
the Prince of India.'
The knight nodded.
'He is a good horse, but he is no
better than Selim, your Majesty, for I
know Selim very well.'
All this while he had kept his vizor
down, and the Princess had been too
polite to ask him to raise it, even
though it was rather rude of him to
keep it down. So she could not tell
who he was. She knew all the knights
of her own kingdom by sight, as well as
most of her allies, for you must know
that a great many foreign princes had
60 THE BROWN OWL
sent her troops to assist her against the
rebel. She looked at the device on
his shield; it was a crowned tiger, but
that did not help her, for she did not
know whose crest it was. So at last
when she could bear her curiosity no
longer, she determined to ask him.
So she said:
Sir Knight, should you think me very
rude if I were to ask you whether you
are under a vow of hiding your face?'
'I am bound by no such vow; but
why do you ask, your Majesty ?'
'Because ever since I have seen you
you have kept your vizor down, and I
thought perhaps it was on account of
some such vow.'
Oh, I beg your pardon a thousand
times, your Majesty,' said the knight.
But I did not remember that I had
let it down, for you see I look through
its bars without noticing the difference.
But I hope your Majesty will pardon
the absent-mindedness,' and he raised
the vizor, at the same time bowing low
THE BROWN OWL
to her. But it was now the Princess's
turn to be confused, for she saw before
her Sir Alured the Emperor of India,
a prince nearly as powerful as herself.
She blushed with shame and then said:
Oh, Sir Knight, I mean your Royal
Highness, it is I who should crave
your pardon, for all the while I have
addressed you as Sir Knight," instead
of as "your Majesty." But I am very
But Sir Alured said:
'Nay, your Majesty, you have the
right to call me what you will, for I
am always your humble vassal.'
'My ally, you should say, your
'I am always your servant, not your
ally, your Majesty.'
'Then I fear you will soon be the
vassal of a queen without a kingdom;
and if this Merrymineral prevail over
me, I fear he will punish you for
having aided me.'
But the Prince said:
62 THE BROWN OWL
'All is not yet lost, your Majesty,
and whatever happens your Majesty
will always have a protector while I
The Princess smiled.
Ah you mean the cherished Owl.
You will always protect me, won't you,
Owl ?' she said, looking up at the Owl
who was seated again on her shoulder.
And the Owl nodded his head.
She looked at her watch just then.
'Why,' she said, 'we have been here
just ten minutes, and it is time to start
again, if you are rested sufficiently.'
So he helped her to mount, and
they crossed the river. It was not
very deep, but still she got the skirts
of her dress quite wet, for the water
was high enough for that.
However, the gallop in the hot sun
on the other side soon dried them.
In an hour and a half they were on
the top of a hill from which they could
see the town of Arecarp in the valley
THE BROWN OWL 63
The sun was shining brightly on the
tents of the army as it lay round the
town, and at some distance the camp
of the enemy appeared. But still all
The Prince gazed carefully at the
armies. After a moment he said:
'There has been no fighting since I
left the city this morning, nor has the
position altered at all. I fancy Merry-
mineral has sent ambassadors to de-
mand surrender from Lord Licec.'
The Princess smiled.
'He will never surrender,' she said.
'Nor will any of us, your Majesty,'
added the Prince. 'However, let us
descend the hill.'
Down the hill the road lay through
a deep gorge, so deep that the sun did
not penetrate it, and it lay in delicious
shade. The sides of the valley were
lined with the silver-barked birch,
below which grew nodding foxgloves,
and as they went slowly down the steep
path, ever and -anon a rabbit would
64 THE BROWN OWL
scuttle out of the grassy track to a safe
distance in front of them, where it sat
on its haunches with its little ears
pricked up, smelling at them anxiously
as they came near again, and then it
would scutter along into the thick rank
grass to its home.
So they went slowly down the path
until they came once more to the level
ground, and they were again able to
Soon they reached the town, and
clattered through the cobbled streets
to the market-place, where Lord Licec
had his head quarters. But the
market-place was crowded with soldiers
and knights who were bargaining for
food, so that it was by no means easy
to get through the crowd. How-
ever, as soon as they got near the
place, the soldiers recognized the
Princess and began to cheer, and
immediately an avenue was formed
up to the door of the council-house,
and the Princess rode smiling through
THE BROWN OWL 65
the throng, followed by the
The news of her arrival ran through
the whole camp, and immediately such
a shout went up from the men that
the enemy thought they were preparing
for battle, and they made ready to resist
the attack. At the door of the council-
hall Lord Licec was waiting with the
rest of the captains of renown, and they
followed the Princess upstairs to the
As soon as they were seated the
Princess asked for the latest news.
She was told all that had happened,
and when she had heard it she
dismissed the Lords of the Council,
all except Lord Licec and the Prince
of India, who were to stay and dine
with her, and she gave orders that the
dinner should be brought as soon as
possible, for to tell the truth she felt
-rather hungry, as she had had nothing
to eat since breakfast-time.
Now when the Princess had finished
66 THE BROWN OWL
giving her orders about the dinner,
Licec could not refrain from asking her
why she had come.
'Was it not rather foolish,' he said,
'to hazard your life for nothing ? for of
a truth you are--
But the Princess put her finger on
'I will not be bullied by you, my
lord, even though you are old enough
to be my father. I know what you
were going to say-that the battlefield
is no place for girls. Now I won't be
called a girl, for I'm nineteen, you
know. His Majesty the Emperor of
India there insulted me by calling me
a girl, and I have not forgiven him yet.
Besides you'll spoil my appetite for
dinner if you lecture me. It always
does; so do be quiet now, at any rate
till after dinner.'
So Licec had to be quiet, and they
talked about something else till dinner-
Just as they had finished, a frightful
THE BROWN OWL 67
shouting outside made them drop their
dessert knives and run to the window,
but as the window did not face on to
the street they could not tell what was
the matter. So the Princess rang the
bell, and when the servant appeared
she asked him what was the cause of
'May it please your Majesty, am-
bassadors have arrived from the enemy
and would speak to you.'
'Show them this way and send at
the same time for the Lords of the
So the servant went, and in a short
time a heavy stumping was heard on
the stairs. Suddenly the door burst
open and the ambassadors entered.
They were a rather remarkable pair
of ambassadors, although they could
hardly be said to pair well. For the
one was an enormous giant with a
long beard, dressed in leaves mostly,
and so tall that he could not stand up-
right in the room; in his hand he
68 THE BROWN OWL
carried an enormous pole, from the
end of which a spiked ball dangled.
The other, however, was very nearly
his opposite in everything. For he
was very small, a dwarf in fact, and he
was dressed in very tight yellow armour,
and from the top of his helmet a crest
of red roses hung down to his saddle-
for you must know he had insisted on
not getting off his horse, or rather pony,
for that too was very small-in fact it
just fitted the dwarf.
As soon as the Princess had re-
covered from her astonishment, she
rose from her seat and said :
Are you the ambassadors from the
The dwarf replied:
'I don't know anything about the
rebel part of the business, but we are
the ambassadors from Merrymineral,
whom we are bound to serve for a
certain time. But who are you, I
should like to know, and what right
have you to speak to me in this in-
THE BROWN OWL 69
suiting manner? D'you think I'm
here to be insulted by you? If you
think so, I'll tell you point-blank I'm
not-so there.' And in the rage he
had worked himself into he began to
spur his steed till it jumped off the
floor so high that it knocked his
head against the ceiling.
The Princess was not used to being
treated like that. However she was not
at all angry at it-she only laughed at
his misfortune, which made him all the
'How dare you laugh at me ?' he
screamed; 'who are you, you minx,
you minx, you lynx-you--
But the Princess did not listen to
him. She turned to the giant, who at
any rate was quiet, and said:
'Will you not take a chair until the
Lords of the Council arrive?'
The giant looked at her in stupid
'What shall I do with the chair
when I've taken it?' he mumbled.
70 THE BROWN OWL
'I mean you to sit down on it, of
course,' said the Princess.
The giant growled out in reply:
'Well, I never sat on a chair before,
but to please you I will.'
So he sat down, but as he was not
used to sitting on chairs he sat down
on its back; but it was only a small
cane-bottomed chair, and as he was
very big, and the chair was very small,
the result is easily foreseen, for the
chair collapsed under him as if he
had sat on a top-hat, and he reclined
comfortably on the floor, where he
remained for the rest of the time.
'I think I'll stop where I am,' he
said, when they offered him a wooden
stool to sit on, 'for you see I'm not
used to chairs.' So they let him stop
where he was.
One by one the Lords of the Council
began to arrive; they looked curiously
at the ambassadors but said nothing.
When they were all arrived the Princess
said to the dwarf:
THE BROWN OWL 71
'Now if you will state your message
we will listen.'
So the dwarf snarled in a bad-
'I shan't tell you-you aren't the
commander-in-chief of the army, are
'No, but I am the Queen of the
'Oh! you're the Queen of the
Western World, are you? Well, you
won't be Queen of the Western World
long, if you don't mind your P's and
Q's. The king Merrymineral sent me
to say that if you don't marry him and
make him king, he'll kill the lot of
you and make himself king in spite of
you-so there; and I'm to wait for an
After consulting the Council for a
moment the Princess said:
'Of course I shan't marry him-
how could he be so ridiculous as to
The dwarf laughed.
72 THE BROWN OWL
'That's your answer, is it ?' he said.
'I thought so. I say, Gog, have you
written it down ?'
But Gog had gone to sleep. So
the dwarf pricked him with the end of
I say, Gog,' he said,' she's given
her answer and you haven't written
it down, and I've forgotten it
already. Just say it over again,
Queen, will you? and not too fast,
or Gog here will never get it down.'
The giant now drew from his pocket
a very soiled and crumpled half-sheet
of a copy-book and began to write
from the Princess's dictation.
Of course I should not do anything
so--' Here he stopped.
How do you spell ridiculous ?'
'With two "k's," of course,' said
the dwarf; even I know that, though I
When he had finished he handed it
to the Princess:
THE BROWN OWL 73
'Just sign your name, will you?'
The Princess signed her name, but
she could not help seeing that the
writing was very bad and the spelling
'Why didn't they send some one
who could write better? Why! that
"r" is more like a "k" than an "r".'
But the giant shook his head mourn-
They hadn't got any one else in the
army who could write except Merry-
mineral, and he was afraid to come.'
'But weren't you afraid to come?'
The giant shook his mace round so
violently that it grazed the helmet of
the dwarf, and cut his crest of roses
'Whom am I to be afraid of?' he
growled. 'I could kill your whole
army single-handed'; and he laughed
loud and long.
But just at this moment the Owl,
that had been siting on the floor
74 THE BROWN OWL
behind the Princess's chair, flew up on
to her shoulder, and no sooner did the
giant see the Owl than he jumped up
from the floor, where you remember
he was sitting, and he was in such
a hurry that he knocked a hole in
the plaster of the ceiling with his
Come, I say, you know,' he said, I
can fight anything in reason-but I'm
not going to tackle that, you know;
besides, we're ambassadors, and you
can't hurt us. I'm going'; and he
rushed out of the room as fast as he
could, and the dwarf followed him as
fast as he could make his horse gallop,
and they never stopped till they reached
the camp of Merrymineral. For they
were very frightened, you see.
After they had gone the Princess
again dismissed the Councillors, and
when they had gone, she said to Lord
Licec and the Prince, who by the bye
'Now let us finish our dessert'- for
THE BROWN OWL 75
the ambassadors had come in right in
the middle of it.
After a moment the Princess said:
'How absurd of him to think I
would marry him -why, he's old
enough to be my great-grandfather.'
But suddenly she became grave:
'But perhaps I ought to have
thought before I gave the answer.
Would it not have been better for my
people if I had consented ? for then he
would kill no more of them.'
But the Prince became quite angry
at such an idea. 'It's absurd,' he
said. Why, as soon as he had married
you and become king he would murder
you and then kill just as many of your
people as he will now; besides, who
knows that we may not still conquer
The Princess turned to Lord Licec:
'What do you say, my lord?' she said.
'I think just as the Prince of India
-for even if he did not murder you
he would oppress the people without
76 THE BROWN OWL
mercy, and besides, your people would
never allow you to marry him, so that
is out of the question.'
The Princess gave a sigh of relief.
'Since you say so, Lord Licec, it
must be right; besides, I don't think
I could ever marry him-he is such
a very unpleasant sort of man.'
And the Prince answered:
You are quite right there'; and he
seemed quite happy again.
Soon after it became evening, and
Lord Licec had to go out to look after
his army, and the Prince too went to
see that his men were all prepared for
any night attack-for his men were right
in the very front of all, and so they
were quite close to the enemy, who
might at any time begin an attack.
So the Princess was left all alorie
with the Owl, but she did not feel
lonely with him, for he was very
sociable, and would do anything that
he was told to do. So they played
hide-and-seek till it was too dark to
THE BROWN OWL 77
see any more, and then she went to
bed and slept soundly till the rays of
the sun falling on her face the next
morning woke her up. She was soon
dressed, and when she had finished
she went into the next room, where
she found Lord Licec already awaiting
'What does your Majesty intend to
do this morning? for I shall not be
with'you, as I am going to order the
army to advance to the attack, and
so your Majesty had better stay within
the town for the rest of the day.'
'Indeed, I shall do nothing of the
sort,' she answered. 'I am going to
lead the army to-day to see if we
cannot regain some ground, for I had
rather die fighting than be driven back
like this, so please don't say I mustn't
go; besides, the Owl will protect me;
he promised to; didn't you, Owl?'
and the Owl nodded.
'But they may shoot the Owl with
their arrows, and then- '.
78 THE BROWN OWL
'But the Owl before now has
conquered Merrymineral himself, and
he may still do it. Oh, please don't
tell me not to go. If you'll only let
me go I'll promise to keep near the
Prince of India, and he'll protect me,
even if the Owl can't.'
'But the Prince of India is always
in the thickest of the fight, and you
will be in much greater danger if you
keep near him.'
Oh, never mind the danger; do let
And she begged so hard that Lord
Licec had to give in. She put on
a breastplate and a sword, but she
would not put on a helmet, for she
said that it made her head ache, and
that no one would know who she was if
she covered her face up. So she only
wore a gold circlet on her head, as
she usually did, and besides this she
carried a silver shield with the royal
crest on it, and a small lance just like
a knight's spear, only not so heavy, and
THE BROWN OWL 79
thus mounted on her white horse she
rode to the very front of the line of
battle, and there she found the Prince
of India at the head of his men.
They had already furled their tents
and were quite ready to begin the
battle as soon as the others were ready.
The Prince was very much astonished
when he saw her, for it was the last
place in the world he had expected to
see her in.
'Do you really mean to say,' he
exclaimed, 'that Lord Licec allowed
you to come out to the field of battle ?
Why, he must be mad.'
'Oh no, he's not,' answered the
Princess; 'but you see if I only beg
hard enough he'll let me do whatever
I like, and then I promised to keep
near you, for I thought you would
protect me. However, you don't
seem very glad to see me-perhaps
you think I shall hinder you-so I'll
go and ask some one else to take care
of me, as you don't seem to relish the
80 THE BROWN OWL
task. Good-morning'; and she began
to move off; but she knew very well
that he would not let her go like that,
and to tell the truth she rather hoped
he wouldn't, for she thought she would
like him to take care of her better
than any one else in the army. Of
course he did stop her and said.
If you really insist on stopping on
the field no one is more fit to take
care of you than I. So do stop.'
And she allowed herself to be
persuaded to stop with him.
Just as they had managed to arrange
it so, a trumpet blew in the direction of
the town, and immediately troops of
knights and men-at-arms began to
pour out of the gates, and to form the
line of battle, and as each band of
men came along they cheered long
and loud at the sight of the Princess,
and the Princess felt very happy, for
she liked to know that her people
loved her. Gradually the immense
army came into one long line of
THE BROWN OWL 81
glistening steel, and again the trumpets
sounded, and the line began to move
forward like a wave of the sea as it
runs up the smooth sand sweeping all
before it. The smooth plain which
was to form the battlefield was dotted
here and there with troops of cattle
which had come down in the night
from the hills to feed on the long sweet
grass, and they raised their heads in
astonishment at the line of knights
and bowmen that marched slowly
down on them; so they shook their
heads and galloped off straight in
front of the line, with their tails high
in the air, and they were in such
blind haste that they charged right
through the lines of the enemy who
were now approaching, and not only
through them they went, but also
through their camp, tossing the tents
into the air with their horns as they
went by. However, at last they
reached the hills, and did not disturb
the combatants any more.
82 THE BROWN OWL
Meanwhile the armies had got quite
close together-so close indeed that
they could see each other's faces quite
plainly-but they did not seem par-
ticularly eager to fight. So when
they had got thus far they halted, and
looked at one another.
As yet Merrymineral had not arrived,
for to tell the truth he was never a
very early riser, and he did not see why
he should hurry himself-for you see he
was quite sure of winning the battle
without much trouble.
Just opposite the Princess was the
flower of the enemy, and she recognized
many of the great men of the countries
that had rebelled with Merrymineral.
They did not seem particularly happy
where they were, and especially when
the Princess looked at them they
looked very red and uncomfortable, as
if they did not like it at all.
I do believe they're ashamed ot
themselves,' she said to the Prince;
and he answered:
THE BROWN OWL 83
'They certainly look like it.'
'Do you think,' she asked, 'if I
were to go over to them and offer to
pardon them that they would leave
Merrymineral and come on my side?'
The Prince thought a moment.
I believe they would,' he said; only
if I were you I would not go, I should
send an ambassador or a herald.'
But the Princess shook her head.
'That would never do,' she said.
' I'm sure they'd be offended at that.
Why, it would look as if I thought they
were not to be trusted, and besides
they would not hurt me. No, I'll go
to them quite alone.'
But the Prince said:
'You had better let me go with you,
for if they did attack you it would
be awkward; besides, you know you
promised to keep near me all the
morning, and if you go without me you
will not be keeping your promise, don't
you see ?'
So the Princess said:
84 THE BROWN OWL
'Well, I suppose you're right, only
you must come alone.'
And as he agreed to this they went
forward. Her own army evidently
did not understand what she meant
to do, nor, for the matter of that, did
the enemy, but as they had neither of
them received the order to commence
fighting they neither of them advanced.
So the Prince and Princess advanced
at a gentle trot until they were quite
close to the others, and the Owl sat on
When they were quite close the
knights tried to get one behind the
other just as if they had done some-
thing they ought not to have done,
and were each afraid of being punished
In particular the Princess noted the
giant and dwarf, the ambassadors of
the evening before; they tried to
hide themselves behind the others
altogether. For the dwarf this was
easy enough, but for the poor giant, he
THE BROWN OWL 85
could not manage it at all, he was so
However, she did not look at all
angry, and she only said:
Good-morning, my lords.'
And they replied in chorus:
'Good-morning, your Majesty.'
So she went on:
'I have come to ask you why you
have assisted my rebellious subject,
and what grievance you have? If
there is any I will try to redress it.'
One of the nobles replied:
We have no grievances.'
'Then why have you fought against
'Because we could not help it, your
'But I should have thought you
could have helped fighting.'
'I mean, your Majesty, that Merry-
mineral threatened to kill us all if we
did not fight.'
'Then you were not very brave.
But that has nothing to do with it.
86 THE BROWN OWL
What I wish to know is, whether you
will now submit to me again ?'
'We would most willingly; only
perhaps your Majesty might inflict
some punishment on us for our mis-
But the Princess shook her head.
'No; I will give you all a free
pardon if you return to your allegiance.'
So the nobles gave a shout of joy,
and they seemed quite happy again.
.And the Princess too was overjoyed;
however, she ordered them to go each
knight to his own men and to tell
them what had happened, and to
conduct them to her own army.
So they all went and did as they
were told, and soon the whole army of
Merrymineral melted away, with the
exception of a very few, and these
were mostly the servants of Merry-
mineral himself, and of the giant and
the dwarf, who still remained faithful
to him, However they seemed quite
unhappy about it.
THE BROWN OWL 87
So the Princess turned to them and
'And you, sirs, will you not also
join me ?'
But the giant shook his head, and
the dwarf said snappishly:
Don't you know we can't ?'
But the Princess answered:
No; I do not know why you can't.'
So the dwarf snarled :
'We're bound to serve him for a
certain time, whether we like it or not.
I'm the King of the Underground
Gnomes-we live in tunnels under the
earth, and never come up unless we're
And the giant said:
'I'm the Spirit of the Woods-
that's why I'm dressed in leaves like
this; and I'm the King of the Foresters,
and we live in trees.'
But just at this moment a frightful
roar came from the camp:
Why don't you begin ?' it came.
It was so sudden that it quite
88 THE BROWN OWL
startled the Princess, but the giant
shook his head mournfully:
He always roars like that when he's
in a temper. He'll be coming out in
a moment, and won't there be a row ?'
Just then the voice came again.
'Bring Popfelwuski to the door.'
'Popfelwuski's his- dragon that he
rides on,' said the giant.
And then some servants led the
dragon to the door of one of the
It was a most marvellous-looking
creature, for it had eyes as large as
tea-trays, and they twinkled awfully;
and it was golden-coloured all over,
and it shone so brightly in the sun
that it made the Princess's eyes quite
ache to look at it. And it was
growling and prancing and kicking up
the dust, and making more fuss than
fifty horses could have done. Just
then the tent opened and Merrymineral
came out. He looked just as usual,
and had not any armour or weapons
THE BROWN OWL 89
except a huge battle-axe, which must
have weighed nearly a ton, but he
carried it with the greatest ease,
although he was an old man-for he
was over eight hundred years old. He
vaulted on to his dragon's back with
very great ease, and putting his spurs
to its golden sides made it gallop at a
great rate. As yet he had not seen
what had happened to his army, for he
was rather short-sighted, but when he
had got within a few yards of where
it ought to have been, he suddenly
stopped as if he were bewildered, but
then his eye fell on the Princess and
he roared out:
'Oh, it's you, is it? I'll soon do
for you,' and he made his dragon fly
towards the Princess at a very great
rate. But precisely the same thing
happened now as had happened once
before, for the dragon came to a
sudden stop as if it had hit against a
wall. The Prince of India did not
understand it at all.
90 THE BROWN OWL
'Had we not better retreat and
join the rest of the army ?' he said.
But the Princess answered:
'Oh no, we're quite safe here. He
won't be able to get at us. Only
you'd better come a little closer to me,
because he might be able to hit you.'
So the Prince came a g6od deal
closer, and they sat watching the frantic
efforts of Merrymineral to get at them,
but it was no use. Suddenly, however,
he changed his mode of attack. He
made his dragon fly high into the air-
so high indeed that it would have been
invisible if its golden coat had not
shone brightly in the sun. It was quite
unpleasant to look at him, for he was
so high up that it made them feel
dizzy as it shone out against the sky,
miles high. Suddenly, however, just
as it was directly over them, it seemed
to be growing larger.
'I do believe he's going to drop on
us from above'; and so he was. The
Prince put up his lance that the dragon