BUT THE EAGLE HAD THE BEST OF IT
FORD H. MADOX HUEFFER
AUTHOR OF THE BROWN OWL'
WITH FRONTISPIECE BY
F. MADOX BROWN
CASSELL PUBLISHING COMPANY
104 & io6 FOURTH AVENUE
I True, I talk of dreams,
Which are the children of an idle brain,
Begot of nothing but vain fantasy,
Which is as thin of substance as the air.
NCE upon a time there
was a King who reigned
over a country as yet,
for a reason you may
learn later on, undiscovered-a most
lovely country, full of green dales and
groves of oak, a land of dappled
meadows and sweet rivers, a green
cup in a circlet of mountains, in
whose shadow the grass was greenest;
and the only road to enter the country
lay up steep, boiling waterfalls, and
thereafter through rugged passes, the
channels that the rivers had cut for
themselves. Therefore, as you may
imagine, the dwellers in the land were
2 THE FEATHER
little troubled by inroads of hostile
nations; and they lived peaceful lives,
managing their own affairs, and troub-
ling little about the rest of the world.
Now this King, like many kings
before and after him, had a daughter
who, while very young, had, I am
sorry to say, been very self-willed;
and the King, on the death of his
wife, finding himself utterly unable to
manage the Princess, handed her over
to the care of an aged nurse, who, how-
ever, was not much more successful
-but that is neither here nor there.
For years everything went on
smoothly, and it seemed as if every-
thing intended to go on smoothly
until doomsday, in which case this
history would probably never have
been written. But one evening in
summer the Princess and her nurse,
who had by this time become less
able than ever to manage her charge,
sat on a terrace facing the west. The
Princess had been amusing herself by
THE FEATHER 3
pelting the swans swimming in the
river with rose-leaves, which the in-
dignant swans snapped up as they
fluttered down on the air or floated
by on the river.
But after a time she began to tire
of this pastime, and sitting down,
looked at the sun that was just set-
ting, a blinding glare of orange flame
behind the black hills. Suddenly she
turned to the nurse and said :
'What's on the other side of the
'Lawk-a-mussy-me, miss !' answered
the nurse, 'I'm sure I don't know.
What a question to ask !'
'Then why don't you ask some
one who.has been there?'
'Because no one ever has, miss.'
'But why not?'
'Because there's a fiery serpent
that eats every one who comes near
the hills; and if you're not eaten
up, you're bound to tumble down a
precipice that's nearly three miles
deep, before you can get over the
Oh, what fun Let's go,' said the
Princess, by no means awed. But
the nurse shook her head.
'No, miss, I won't go; and I'm
sure your pa won't let you go.'
Oh yes, he will; let's go and ask
But at that moment a black shadow
came across the sun, and the swans,
with a terrified 'honk, honk,' darted
across the water to hide -themselves
in the reeds on the other side of the
river, churning dark tracks in the
purple of the sunlit water's glassy
'Oh dear! oh dear! it's a boggles,
and it's coming this way,' cried the
'But what is a boggles, nurse ?'
'Oh dear, it's coming! Come into
the house and I'll tell you-come.'
'Not until you tell me what a
THE FEATHER 5
The nurse perforce gave in.
A boggles is a thing with a hooked
beak and a squeaky voice, with hair
like snakes in corkscrews; and it
haunts houses and carries off things;
and when it once gets in it never
leaves again-oh dear, it's on us !
Her cries only made the thing see
them sooner. It was only an eagle,
not a boggles; but it was on the
look-out for food, and the sun shining
on the Princess's hair had caught its
eyes, and in spite of the cries of the
nurse it swooped down, and, seizing
the Princess in its claws, began to
carry her off. The nurse, however,
held on to her valiantly, screaming
all the while for help; but the eagle
had the best of it after all, for it
carried up, not only the Princess, but
the nurse also.
The nurse held on to her charge
for some seconds, but finding the
attempt' useless she let go her hold;
6 THE FEATHER
and since it happened that at the
moment they were over the river, she
fell into it with a great splash, and
was drifted on shore by the current.
Thus the Princess was carried off;
and although the land far and wide
was searched, no traces of her were
discoverable. You may imagine for
yourself what sorrow and rage the
King indulged in. He turned the
nurse off without warning, and even,
in a paroxysm. of rage, kicked one
of his pages downstairs; neverthe-
less that did not bring back the
As a last resource he consulted
a wise woman (ill- natured people
called her a witch) who lived near
the palace. But the witch could only
say that the Princess would return
some day, but she couldn't or wouldn't
say when, even though the King
threatened to burn her. So it was
all of no use, and the King was,
and remained, in despair. But,
since his Majesty is not the important
personage in the story, we may as
well leave him and return to the
She, as you can think, was not
particularly happy or comfortable, for
the claws of the eagle pinched her,
and besides, she was very frightened;
for, you see, she didn't know that it
wasn't a boggles, as the nurse had
called it, and a boggles is a great
deal worse than the worst eagle ever
Meanwhile the eagle continued
flying straight towards the sun, which
was getting lower and lower, so that
by the time they reached the moun-
tains it was dark altogether. But the
eagle didn't seem at all afraid of the
darkness, and just went on flying as
if nothing had happened, until sud-
denly it let the Princess down on a
rock-at least, that was what it seemed
to her to be. Not knowing what else
to do, she sat where the eagle had let
8 THE FEATHER
her fall, for she remembered something
about the precipice three miles deep,
and she did not at all wish to tumble
She expected that the eagle would
set to and make a meal off her at
once. But somehow or other, either
it had had enough to eat during the
day, or else did not like to begin to
have supper so late for fear of night-
mare; at any rate, it abstained, and
that was the most interesting matter
to her. Everything was so quiet
around that at last, in spite of her-
self, she fell asleep. She slept quite
easily until daylight, although the
hardness of the rock was certainly
somewhat unpleasant. When she
opened her eyes it was already light,
and the sun at her back was darting
black shadows of the jagged mountains
on to the shimmering gray sea of mist
that veiled the land below. Her first
thought was naturally of the eagle,
and she did not need to look very
THE FEATHER 9
far for him, since he was washing
himself in a little pool close by, keep-
ing an eye on her the while.
As soon as. he saw her move he
gave himself a final shake, so that
the water flew all around, sparkling
in the sunlight; after which he came
towards her by hops until he was
quite close--rather too close, she
thought. Nevertheless she did not
move, having heard somewhere that,
under the circumstances, that is the
worst thing to do; she also remem-
bered animals cannot stand being
looked at steadily by the human eye,
therefore she looked very steadfastly
at the eyes of the eagle. But the
remedy did not seem to work well
in this case, for the glassy yellow
eyes of the bird looked bad-tempered,
and it winked angrily, seeming to say,
'Whom are you staring at?' And
then it began to stretch out its bill
towards her until it was within a
few inches of her face. This was
more than she could stand, and she
said sharply, 'Take your head away.'
The eagle, however, took no notice
whatever of this; and seeing nothing
better to do, she lifted up her hand
and gave it a smart box on the ear,
or rather on the place where its ear
should have been. The eagle drew
back its beak in a hurry and scratched
its head with one claw as if it were
puzzled. After a moment's reflection
it put out its head again, and once
more the Princess lifted up her hand;
but when the eagle saw that it jumped
backwards in a hurry, as if it did not
care to receive a second box on the
ear, and began to stride sulkily away
as if it thought it better to wait a
while. When it reached the edge of
the rock-for I have forgotten to tell
you that they were on a flat rock at
the top of a mountain-it sat preen-
ing its feathers in a sulky manner,
as if it imagined itself a very ill-used
bird; moreover, although it seemed
THE FEATHER II
inclined to remain there a long time,
I need not tell you that the Princess
had no objections. However, after
a time even the waiting began to
grow unpleasant; but suddenly a
peculiar sound, as of something shoot-
ing through the air, came from below,
and the eagle gave a leap and fell
down a mass of tumbled feathers
with an arrow quivering in their
centre, and, with hardly a shudder,
it was dead.
The Princess, as you may imagine,
was a good deal startled by this sudden
occurrence, but I cannot say she was
very sorry for the eagle; on the con-
trary, she was rather glad to be rid
of him, and it suddenly came into
her head that the man who had shot
the arrow might possibly be some-
where below, and in that case might
come up and save her if she called
to him. So she tried to get up, but
she was so stiff that she could hardly
move, and when she did stand up
12 THE FEATHER
she had pins and needles in one of
her feet, and had to stamp hard on
the ground before it would go away.
So that it was some time before she
got to the edge and looked over.
Now it happened that, just as she
bent carefully forward to look down
the side, the head of a man appeared
over the edge, and his hands were
so near her that he almost caught
hold of her foot as he put them up
to help himself. As she drew back
a little to let him have room, he
suddenly noticed her, and almost let
go his hold in astonishment.
'Hullo, little girl,' he said; 'how
'did you come here ? It's rather early
in the morning for you to be up. But
who are you when you're at home?'
'I'm the daughter of King Caret.'
'King how much?'
'King Caret, I said; and I should
be glad if you would help me down
from this height, and show me the
THE FEATHER 13
'How on earth can I show you
the way back when I don't know who
King Caret is?'
'But surely you must know who
'Never heard of him. What's he
like, and what's he king of?'
He's the King of Aoland.'
'And where's Aoland ?'
'I don't know-it's somewhere over
those mountains-the eagle brought
me here, you know.'
Ah! the eagle brought you here,
did he? It's a little habit he's got;
he's carried off no end of my kids
and young sheep, so I suppose he
thought he'd try a change and carry
off one of King Turnip I mean
Caret's. But if he brought you
from over the mountains you won't
get back in a hurry, I can tell
you; you'd have to jump up a
precipice three miles high, and then
you'd be eaten by old Kinchof the
'Oh dear! then I shall never get
'No, I'm afraid you won't. But
don't begin to cry now-there, there
-and I'll take you to King Mumkie;
he's the king of this country, you
'What an awful name-Mumkie !'
'Yes, it is rather unpleasant, isn't it ?
And then, he's a usurper-he drove
the last king out and made himself
king instead. He used to be a
cat's-meat man, but he got up an
army and drove the other off the
throne, and now he's turned into a
gardener-his name's Abbonamento.'
'Oh, never mind what his name
is, only get me down-I'm awfully
hungry; for you see I've been up
here all night.'
'Oh! all right. But I say, how
are you going to get down-you can't
climb, can you ?'
I don't know,' she answered; 'I've
THE FEATHER 15
'Then you can be sure you can't.
The only thing seems to be for me
to carry you down.'
But the Princess did not seem to
relish the idea at all.
'You might let me drop, you know;
it's rather steep.' And it was pretty
steep, too-about as steep as the wall
of a house, and a good deal higher
than a very high house. However,
it seemed to be the only thing to do,
so she let herself be carried down.
The man took her on one arm, and
yet seemed to climb down about as
easily as if he were going downstairs.
However, the Princess did not notice
that, since she kept her eyes shut
hard, for, to tell the truth, she was
But at last they were at the bottom,
and he let her down on to the ground.
'Now, what are you going to do ?'
'I don't know at all. What can
16 THE FEATHER ,
'You'd better go and see King
Mumkie and ask him what to do.'
'But he has got such a dreadful
name, it sounds as if he was awfully
ugly,' she said.
'But he's not at all; he's just
like me, and I'm sure I'm handsome
enough for any one.'
The Princess looked at him now
for the first time; for you see, she
had not noticed him very much
while she was on the mountain. But
now she could hardly repress a
shudder; for he was awfully ugly.
To begin with, he was big enough
for any giant, and then his hair was
of a purple hue, and his eyes of a
delicate sea-green that flashed in the
shade like a cat's; and then his nose
was awfully red, and shaped like a
mangel-wurzel; and his teeth, which
were long and bright green, shone in
the sun like danger-signals. Altogether
he was not prepossessing; and the
Princess could hardly help smiling
THE FEATHER 17
when he said that the King was as
handsome as himself. However, he
'My name's Wopole; I'm King
Mumkie's falconer, and so I can tell
you all about him. Come, let's go
towards the town.'
And. as there seemed nothing else to
do, she set out with him; but he walked
so fast that she could hardly keep up.
'How slowly you do walk!' he
grumbled in a bad-tempered manner;
'can't you keep up? Come along,
I can't wait all day.' And he went
on faster than ever, so that she had
to run to keep up with him. Suddenly
he stopped as if he had been shot.
Confound it, I've forgotten to bring
the eagle, and I- shall have to go all
the way back and get it. Oh-ouch !'
And he began to howl in such a
dreadful manner that the Princess
felt quite relieved when he turned
and ran towards the hill at the top
of his speed, howling all the way.
'What on earth shall I do now?'
thought the Princess. 'If I wait for
this dreadful giant, goodness knows
what may happen, and then his king
has such an unpleasant name; at any
rate, I should like some breakfast, for
I'm awfully hungry. I think I'll go
on towards the town, and see if I can't
find some one who'll show me the way
So she went on down the lane for
some way, until, coming to a place
where a stream went across the path,
she knelt down and scooped up a little
water in the palm of her hand and
drank it; for, you see, the sun was
very hot now, and the heat made her
throat feel quite dry and parched.
When she had finished she went and
lay down in the long grass that bor-
dered the road, for she was rather
tired. She intended to wait till some
one came along, only she was quite
resolved not to go with the giant at
any rate. So she lay quietly in the
THE FEATHER 19
shade listening to the loud humming
of the bees and the chirp of a linnet
that was pluming itself, swinging on
a bough above her head.
She had not been waiting long
before she heard a dreadful noise
behind her coming down the road,
and in a few minutes she recognized
the voice of the giant, who seemed
to be in a terrible temper. Gradually
the sound of his voice and his foot-
steps came nearer. The Princess did
not kfow what to do, for if she tried
to run away he would only catch her
up; so she lay perfectly still, hoping
he would pass her without seeing her.
And that is just what did happen;
for, in a few moments, he came rush-
ing round the corner shouting out,-
'Stop stop will you?' And as his
eyes were fixed on the road far in
advance, of course he did not notice
her, and was soon round another
bend in the road. The Princess
noticed that he had the eagle hanging
20 THE FEATHER
with its claws round his neck, and
the jolting, as he went by, had shaken
one of its large tail feathers out, and
as soon as she had got over her fright,
she went and picked it up out of the
Just as she picked it up, the clatter
of feet running along the road came
to her ears, and for a moment she
feared that the giant had returned;
but soon a cow trotted round the
bend and stopped at the stream to
drink, presently another, and then a
third. Each of them took a long
look at the Princess, and then bent
down its head to take a draught out
of the stream. Just then an old man
came round the corner, and when he
saw the cows had stopped he called
'Gee on, Lightfoot; now, Daisy;
come up, Cherry,' and the cows gave
their heads a toss, and walked slowly
through the stream.
The Princess hurried to one side
THE FEATHER 21
of the road, for, like many people,
she had an instinctive dread of any-
thing like a cow or a bull.
The old man noticed it and smiled.
'Oh, you needn't be afraid, miss,
they 'won't hurt you,' he said; but
all the same, she didn't care to go
too near them. 'They've just been
frightened by Wopole, King Mumkie's
falconer,' he went on. 'Wopole came
running round the corner suddenly,
and almost knocked Lightfoot-that's
the dun cow-over. He was roaring
out "Where is she?" awfully loud.
I pity her when he gets her, whoever
'But who is she?' asked the Prin-
'I don't know-how should I?'
'Oh, I only thought you might
know. But what will he do with her
when he gets her ?'
I don't know; fry her in lard or
something-that's what they generally
do to strangers in the town now.'
22 THE FEATHER
Oh dear !' said the Princess; how
am I to get away from him?'
The old man looked at her curiously.
'Oh! you're her,' he said.
'I rather think I am. But how am
I to get away ?' she answered.
'If you'll come with me I'll take
you to my cottage over there, and
they'll never think of looking for you
But the Princess did not exactly
like the idea.
'Aren't you one of these people ?'
she asked; 'because I don't relish being
fried in lard, or oil, or anything else.'
But the old man shook his head.
'Good gracious me, no!' he said.
'I wouldn't let them roast the last
stranger that came to the town, and
so they turned me out.'
'Oh,' said the Princess, 'then you
must be King Abominable.'
I am Abbonamento.'
'Then I suppose I shall be safe
THE FEATHER 23
'Quite safe, if you like to come;
only just help me to drive the cows.'
And the old man called to his animals
who were browsing in the grass at the
wayside, and they trudged quietly on
till they came to a gate in the hedge.
This they waited for the old man
to open for them, and then went
through the meadow until they came
to a little farmhouse half hidden by
This is my house,' the King said.
'Just wait a moment till I have put
the cows in the byre, and then I'll
come back and let you in; for you
see my wife's away at the market, and
there's no one else at home.'
So the Princess stopped where she
was, and the old man went whistling
round to the back of the house driving
his cows before him.
It was a very small house, with the
thatched roof coming so low down
that you could touch it almost with
your hand, and the windows were
24 THE FEATHER
quite overshadowed by it. Over a
little arbour of trellis-work before the
door ran a rose-tree of deep red
flowers, and the roses were full of
bees that came from the hives arranged
on benches under the eaves, and a
few chickens were asleep on one leg
under the porch.
In two or three minutes the door
opened, and the old man appeared,
and the chickens walked lazily away.
'I entered by a back door,' he
explained. 'Come in and make your-
self at home.'
The inside of the house was just as
small and homely as the outside, and
the rooms were refreshingly shady and
cool after the hot sunlight without.
'Sit down,' said the old man, point-
ing to an arm-chair; and the Princess
did as she was told.
'Now,' said he, 'if you will tell me
where you come from, I will try to find
out how to take you back.'
So she told him all her story, and
he listened very attentively. When she
had finished he said:
It's lucky for you that Wopole for-
got the eagle, or goodness knows what
would have happened to you; but how
you're to get back I don't know. It's
my opinion you never will, for no one
was ever known to pass those moun-
tains safely yet.'
I don't know what else he would
have gone on to say, but by this
time the Princess had begun to cry
'Oh dear me!' said the old man,
'what a fool I was to go and tell her
all that. Now goodness knows what'll
happen. Oh dear, oh dear, Princess,
don't go on weeping like that, or you'll
melt altogether; do leave off.'
But the Princess did not seem at all
inclined to leave off, and she might
have melted altogether, only just then
the door opened, and an old woman
with a market-basket on her arm and
S a big umbrella in her hand came into
26 THE FEATHER
the room, but stood transfixed with
her eyes and mouth wide open when
she saw the Princess.
'My! Abbonamento, what's the little
girl crying for? and where does she
come from? and what does it all
And she picked up her umbrella,
which she had dropped, and leaned it
against the table, and put her market-
basket on a chair. This she did very
slowly, and all the while the old king
was telling her what had happened, so
that by the time she had finished her
preparations she knew nearly as much
about it as he did. When he had
finished she shook her head.
'Poor girl! poor girl! So you
come from the land on the other side
of the mountains. I know it.'
The Princess had by this time left
off crying, and when she heard the old
lady say 'I know it' she said:
"Kennst du das Land
Wo die Citronen bliihen ?" '
But the old lady shook her head.
'That's Greek,. and I never could
understand Greek. If it had been
German or French now-but just
translate it for me, will you?'
So the Princess translated it for
'"Knowest thou the land where blooms'the
lemon-flower ? '
But the old lady shook her head.
'I don't know so much about the
lemon-flower; but my grand-aunt
Thompson had a sister whose daughter
had a servant who'd seen the dragon
eat up the last man that ever tried to
cross the mountains.'
'But I don't see how that is to help
me to get back-do you?'
'No, I don't exactly; but perhaps
something will turn up to help you.
Won't it, Abbonamento ?'
'But what shall I do in the mean-
while ?' said the Princess; 'for, you see,
28 THE FEATHER
I don't want to be fried in lard, as you
say the townsmen are in the habit of
'You'd better stop with us,' said
Abbonamento. 'Eh, wife, what do you
And his wife said:
'Oh yes, certainly; it's the only
thing to do. Do stop.'
'Well, I suppose I must,' said the
Princess. 'Only, shan't I be rather in
But the King answered:
'Oh, not at all, quite the other way.
You'll be very useful. You can milk
the cows, and pluck the fowls, and feed
the pigs, and all sorts of things.'
'But what will the people of the
town say if they see me ?' asked the
The people of the town-oh, they
never come near me, although they are
glad to buy butter and milk and eggs
of me in the market. They think it
seems grand to say they buy their
THE FEATHER 29
things of a king; but they never
trouble about me at all except for
Just at this moment the old lady,
thinking it her turn to say something,
'By the bye, you have not told us
your name yet.'
'Would you like it in full, or only
what I'm generally called?' asked the
'Oh, say it in full, unless you've
'Well, you see, it's rather long; it
generally takes about a quarter of an
hour to say, only if you want it par-.
ticularly I'll tell you.'
But the Queen answered:
Ah! well, perhaps we'll wait for a
time, until we've got leisure to listen
to it. Meanwhile you might tell us
what the short of it is.'
They generally call me the Princess
Ernalie. Now you might tell me your
name, if you don't mind.'
30 THE FEATHER
'They generally call me Queen
Araminta. If you like, and are not
too tired, I'11 show you the farm, and
then we'll have dinner.'
So the Princess went through the
yard to the cows' byre, and from the
stalls to the pig-sties, and from the
sties to the poultry-run, and thence
to the orchard, and from the orchard
to the flower-garden, and after that home
So it was arranged that the Princess
Ernalie was to stop with the King and
Queen until something should turn up.
But nothing ever did turn up, and
the days lengthened into months, and
the months into years, and still she
stayed with the old couple; and as
time went on she seemed to do almost
all the work of the farm, for the
old King and Queen were beginning
to get too old and weak for hard
work. And gradually she began to
forget about her native land, and it
seemed as if the farm were to be her
THE FEATHER 31
home for ever. And every year she
grew taller and more beautiful; but
that's a habit that princesses have
pretty often. So five years passed
quietly away, and nothing seemed likely
to disturb the peace of the household.
Every morning regularly she got up
at five o'clock to drive the cows to
the pasture, and then she fed the
poultry, and, if it happened to be a
Thursday or Saturday, she went with
the Queen to take the butter and eggs
to market; besides which she had to
milk the cows and cook the dinner,
and all sorts of things, so that she
was gradually turning into a simple
During all the five years no one
from the town ever came near the
house, and so you may imagine how
surprised she was one morning when
she got up and opened her bedroom
window to see a man coming across
the clover-field towards the house.
She watched him come right up to
the door, and then, when she heard
him knock, ran down to tell the
King and Queen that a man was
knocking at the door.
'Who on earth can it be?' asked
'It's not the tax-collector, is it?'
'Oh no, it's not him; he's an old
man, and this one is quite young,'
answered the Princess.
Nor the water-man ?'
'No, it's not him either. There
he is knocking again.'
Indeed, the knocking was becoming
'He's a very impatient young man,
whoever he is,' said Abbonamento.
'You'd better go and tell him not
to make such a noise. Let him in-
be quick, or he'll knock the door
And it seemed so likely, that Er-
nalie ran down as fast as she could
and opened the door.
THE FEATHER 33
'Why can't you open the door
faster?' said an angry voice and
then Ernalie saw a young man looking
at her in a state of great surprise.
'Why, who are you?' he asked.
'Is this not the house of their Majes-
ties King Abbonamento and Queen
Araminta ? '
'They used to be King and Queen
at one time,' answered Ernalie.
'They ought to be now,' said the
young man with a frown.
'That's quite another thing,' retorted
'Oh, is it?' said he, with a smile
this time. 'But who on earth are
you, if I may ask?'
I am Her Royal Highness Princess
Ernalie of Aoland; and who on earth
are you, if I may ask ?'
I am Prince Treblo of this country,'
I suppose you are the son of King
Mumkie, then?' said she.
'Good gracious, no!' said the Prince.
34 THE FEA THEIR
The Princess was just about to say,
'Then whose son are you ?' when the
old King burst into the room. He
had evidently got up in a hurry, and
he was only attired in his flowered
'My long-lost chee-yld !' he ex-
claimed, as he threw himself into the
stranger's arms. 'Araminta! Araminta!
come along, it's Treblo.'
And the Queen came rushing down
in haste, as you may imagine. Over
the rest of this affecting scene we
will draw a curtain-that's what they
generally do with affecting scenes-in
books, at least.
The Princess Ernalie easily per-
ceived that she was a little-as the
French say-de trof; that is, finding
that 'three was company and four
none.' So she left the room and
went upstairs to comb her hair and
wash her face and hands, and make
herself look smart generally; for she
thought that would be only right on
THE WEATHER 35
the day on which the eldest son of
the house came home-especially as
he was very handsome.
Now it happened that as she was
bending down to pick up her best
shoes from under her toilet-table, one
of them had gone a little far back,
and as she drew it out she noticed
that something lay behind the shoe,
and she drew that out too. You
may perhaps remember that she had
picked up out of the road an eagle's
feather which Wopole had let fall as
he hurried by with the eagle on
his back. Well, then, it was this
feather that she now drew out from
under the toilet-table. It had lain
there since she had first entered the
room five years ago. Now this
doesn't say much for the cleanliness
of the floors, but in those unsophisti-
cated days they never thought of
sweeping any hidden spot in the
floor. This habit, curiously enough,
survives even now among some people.
However, to return to the Princess
When she picked up the feather
she stood upright again and examined
Why, how nice,' she said. It's
the old eagle's feather. Now that'll
come in handy; my hat rather wanted
a new feather, and it'll just suit the
colour of my hair and eyes.'
So she went to the looking-glass
and held the feather close against her
hair. But to her astonishment nothing
was to be seen in the glass-not a
vestige of herself; it seemed as if
she had vanished altogether.
'Why, what's the matter with the
glass ?' she said. 'Something seems
to have gone wrong with it.' So she
put the feather on the table and went
to rub the glass, but when she looked
at it she was there all right again.
That's queer,' she thought; I can't
have been right in front of the glass.'
So she took up the feather and went
in front of the glass. This time she
saw herself very well, but as soon
as the feather touched her hair she
vanished just as before.
'Good gracious !' she said; 'what
is the matter with the glass?' So
she tried again, and the result was
always the same-whenever the feather
touched her hair she vanished. 'It
must be something the matter with
the feather.' So she examined it
quite closely, and she found rolled
round the quill end of it a small piece
of paper on which was written:
'Guard well the feather, for whoso
toucheth his hair therewith-though he
be but feather-brained-shall be in-
visible, yet shall he see all.'
Ernalie read it over once or twice
from beginning to end.
'The writing says "his" hair; but
it seems to act just as well with "her "
hair-that is, my hair. What fun I
shall have now. I think I'll try it on
at once on the King. But then, it
38 THE FEATHER
might frighten him. No, I'll wait, and
try it on Treblo; and that reminds me
I think that they've had enough of it
all to themselves now. I'll go and see
if I can do anything for them.' So
she locked the feather up in one of
the drawers, and then, putting on her
shoes, went downstairs.
Now it happened that just as she
had almost reached the bottom step
her heel came out of her shoe, and as
she stopped to put it firmly on again
she heard the voice of the stranger
'By the bye, mother, who was that
girl who opened the door to me?'
'Oh! that's Ernalie,' answered the
(It seemed as if the shoe took some
time to get on again.)
'So she told me; but who is
Ernalie ?' he asked again.
'Oh! you'd better get her to tell
you that too when she comes down.
Well, what do you think of her?'
'Oh, she's-she's just lovely,' an-
(' Listeners never hear any good of
themselves,' thought the Princess.
However, the shoe had come on just
at that moment, and she entered the
'Speak of the-ahem!' the King
was just saying, when the Prince in-
'"Speak of angels, and you hear
the rustling vf their wings," you mean,'
Thank you for the compliment, if it
was meant for me,' said the Princess.
Oh don't mention it-it's nothing
when you're used to it,'said Treblo, who,
to tell the truth, seemed rather confused.
And are you used to calling young
ladies angels ?' said his father sharply.
'I suppose it's some of the foreign
manners you've learnt.'
'Suppose we change the subject,'
retorted his son, and the subject was
40 THE 1EA THEIR
Ernalie retired' again. She wanted
to look after the dinner, so that it
might not be late, and so nothing else
in particular happened, for Treblo
went round the farm with his father,
and Araminta went into the kitchen
to help Ernalie with the dinner. When
the goose was turning on the spit, and
the apple-tart had been put into the
oven, the Princess had time to ask
some questions about Treblo, and the
Queen told her that he had been sent
out of the way by Mumkie, in order
that he might not attempt to put his
father on the throne again; but after
seven years he had come back safe,
having had all sorts of adventures, and
he now felt quite confident that he
would be able to restore his father,
for he was very popular with the army
that had just returned from the war,
and as to the people of the town, they
cared very little who was king-in
fact, they rather preferred Abbonamento
to Mumkie. So Araminta was quite
THE FEATHER 41
cheerful over it, for she much pre-
ferred living in a palace to living in a
Things went merrily through the
day, and at dinner-time they drank
the health of the King and Queen of
the country, and altogether they seemed
very happy. After dinner the King
composed himself for his afternoon
nap, and the Queen took down a
volume of sermons and began to read.
Ernalie went out to milk the cows and
take the eggs from the hens' nests.
As to the Prince, he said he was going
out to take a walk.
Before going out the Princess slipped
up to her room, and took the eagle's
feather from the drawer where she had
locked it up. She intended to try if
she were invisible to the cows and
poultry. So she put it in her sun-
bonnet and went out. It really seemed
as if it was quite correct about the
feather, for as soon as she got out of
the door a bee ran right against her,
and then a sparrow that was chirping
on a rail allowed her to catch hold
of it before it took any notice of her
approach. However, she let it go,
and it flew away, looking very aston-
ished indeed, as you may imagine.
She reached the pasture, and opened
the gate, calling to the cows :
'Daisy, Daisy; come, Lightfoot;
The cows looked up from the
ground, and came towards the gate,
looking very astonished indeed; but
when they got quite close and saw no
one they stopped, and however much
she called them they refused to move.
'This will never do,' she said; 'I
must really let them see me, or they
So she took the feather from her
bonnet, and called again. This time
the cows seemed quite ready to come,
and they trotted along to the gate and
crowded round her to be stroked. So
she shut the gate again and told the
THE FEATHER 43
cows to go on-for they understood
her quite well-and then she went on
after them. When they got to the
dairy she milked them one after
the other as they came in their
regular order to the stool. She was
milking the last one-Cherry, the best
of them all-and she leaned her face
against its side, and listened to the
' thud, thud,' of the milk as it streamed
into the pail with a foam like the sea
in a rage. She was in fact almost
lulled to sleep by it, when she was
startled by a voice behind her. It
was so sudden that she almost upset
the milk-pail in her fright.
It seems to be easy work milking,'
said the voice, and she looked round
and saw it was the Prince, who had
come quietly up behind, and was lean-
ing over the fence at her back, looking
on lazily at her.
Oh how you startled me, Prince,'
'Did I ?' he answered. 'I am very
44 THE FEATHER
sorry for that; but you needn't call me
Prince yet. I'm not a Prince, you see,
and then you're the adopted daughter
of my parents, so you ought to call me
'Oh, really!' said she. However,
you soon will be a Prince, and then I
shan't be able to call you brother,
'Because you will be a Prince, and
I am' only a dairymaid.'
'But you're a Princess, aren't you?'
'I was a Princess once,' she said,
with a sigh; 'but--
'You shall be again,' he said.
'But how do you know?' she
'I know-oh, well, let's change the
subject. As I said before, it seems to
be easy work milking. You might let
But she said:
It wouldn't be any good. Cherry
THE FEATHER 45
wouldn't let any one but me touch
her. Besides, I've just done, and
I'm going to carry the pails to the
'Let me carry them for you?' he
'Oh, thanks; if you'll take two, I'll
take the other two, and thus we shall
do it all in one journey,' she answered.
So he did as he was told, and the
pails were put safely in the house.
Now I must go and get the eggs,'
Can I be of any use ?' asked the
But she answered:
Oh no, there's nothing for you to
But he went with her all the same.
I suppose he thought he might be of
some use. So she let him hold the
basket for her, and the eggs were also
put safely in the house. Just, how-
ever, as he had put them down,
a shrill whistle sounded twice from
46 THE FEATHER
behind the garden hedge, and the
'Oh, that's a friend of mine.
You must excuse me for a few
moments,' and he went towards the
'I wonder who his friend is,' she
said to herself. 'I think I'll put
the feather on again and go after
them. It would be a good way of
trying my feather on men.'
So she took the feather out of her
pocket again, and put it in her bonnet,
and then ran after him. He had got
over the fence some time before she
reached it, but he was still in sight on
the other side, and with him his friend
was walking. He seemed to be a
soldier, so far as she knew. They
were talking very earnestly; but, from
where she was, she was not able to
hear what they said. So she too got
over the fence, and went towards
them; but she reached them rather
too late to hear anything much that
THE FEATHER 47
they did say. What she did hear was
this, from the soldier:
'Then you will come to-night at
half-past twelve ?'
'Yes,' answered the Prince.
'We'll have everything ready, and
it will be easily done. If I were you
I wouldn't tell the King or Queen,
it would only make them nervous, and
we're sure to succeed.'
'Very well,' said Treblo; 'at half-
(' Half-past twelve,' thought the Prin-
cess ; 'what on earth is he going to
do at that time of night? It sounds
funny. I think I'll go with him to
look after him.' For, you see, Ernalie
was rather inquisitive, as you may
have found out by this time.)
So the soldier went one way, and
Treblo went back to the house whist-
ling 'When the king shall enjoy his
But the Princess ran on in front
of him and reached the house first,
48 THE FEATHER
so that by the time he was there she
had taken the feather out of her
bonnet and was quite visible again.
He came in quite naturally, as if
nothing had happened, and the rest
of the day went off quietly enough.
They went very early to bed .at
the farm, and the house was quiet
by half-past eight.
Just before they went to bed Ernalie
asked the Prince:
'Do you like walking at night
'It depends upon the night very
much,' he answered.
Such a night as this, for instance,'
'Oh yes-" a moonlight night for a
ramble," don't you know?' he said,
About half-past twelve, I suppose.'
The Prince looked astonished and
Half-past twelve !' he said, with his
eyes wide open; 'why, I'm never out
THE FEATHER 49
after eight. My mother says the night
air's not good for me.'
Oh, is that it?' said the Princess.
'However, I'm tired; good night.'
And she went to her room and lay
down on her bed with all her clothes
on. It was rather hard work keeping
awake for such a time, but at last she
heard the kitchen clock strike twelve,
and she knew it was twenty past. So
she got up as quietly as possible and
put on the feather, for, you see, she
didn't want any one to see her. It
seemed very ghostly getting up so late
at night, "and although she stepped
very lightly, the stairs creaked loudly.
She went into the sitting-room and sat
on a chair waiting for the Prince to
come down. She had to wait close on
half an hour; for, you see, the Prince
had heard the clock strike too, but
didn't know it was twenty minutes
slow. However, at last he came down-
stairs holding the candle in his hand.
He hadn't put his boots on for fear
of waking any one, and so he, too,
sat down on a chair to put them on.
This was rather unpleasant for the
Princess, for of course she had to keep
as quiet as a mouse for fear of making
him suspicious; for, you see, it was
so quiet that the least breath she took
could be heard. At last the putting
on of his boots was finished, and he
stood up, saying to himself out loud,
'Now, where's my hat?' and then he
looked straight at the Princess and
said, 'Ah, there it is,' and he began
to walk towards her.
'What can he want?' thought the
Princess; and then she looked down
at the chair-for, you see, she could
see right through herself-and she
discovered she was sitting on his hat.
By this time he was quite close to
her and bending down to pick his
hat up, so she jumped sideways off
the chair as fast as she could; but
even then, as he put his hand out,
he caught hold of hers, which had
THE FEATHER 51
not time to get out of the way. As
soon as his hand closed on it, how-
ever, he let go as if it had stung him.
'Good gracious what is that ?' he
said in astonishment. And he did
look so funny that she had hard work
to keep from laughing at him. How-
ever, he calmed down in a minute,
and again tried to take up his hat.
This time you may be sure that the
Princess's hand was no longer there,
for she had taken herself and it over
to the other side of the table. So
he took up the hat and looked
'Looks as if it had been sat on,'
he muttered. 'Just like 'em; people
always do sit on my hat if they can.'
However, he pushed it out straight
again and looked at his boots to see
if the laces were quite tight; and then
he blew the light out, seeming, by the
noise he was making, to be trying to
get out of the door. When she heard
him in the passage she thought it was
52 THE FEATHER
about time to follow him. So she
tried to do it, making as little noise
as possible; but although she did try
very hard she did not succeed very
well, for she fell right over a chair
and made noise enough to be heard
all over the house.
'What on earth's that ?' she heard the
Prince ask, and then he lit a match to
look. But he didn't see anything, and
the light allowed the Princess to get
quite close to him without upsetting any-
thing more, and he opened the door,
letting the moonlight shine in clear and
white. While he was standing at the
door she managed to slip past him into
the open air, and there she waited
for him. He wasn't very long coming,
Sand then she followed him down the
garden, keeping to the grassy, edge,
and not walking on the path for fear
of the noise that her feet would make
on the gravel. They reached the field
and then the road, and the Prince was
joined by the other man whom the
THE FEATHER 53
Princess had seen before. This man
-whom, by the bye, the Prince called
Ablot was dressed in complete
armour, and he carried another suit,
which the Prince proceeded to put
(' This begins to look exciting,'
thought Ernalie. 'Perhaps he's a
highwayman, or a footpad-anyhow,
I mean to keep up with them.')
So she walked on faster, for she had
fallen a little behind. When she got
up with them she heard the Prince
'Well, we'll surround the Palace,
take Mumkie prisoner, and turn him
into the market-gardener; and then
we'll proclaim it to the rest of the
citizens that my father and mother are
King .and Queen once more, and if
they won't give in-so much the worse
for them. The soldiers are all on my
The other answered:
'Oh, but they'll give in without the
soldiers. They're not at all fond of
Mumkie. He has made himself very
unpopular of late. You see, he put
a farthing on the income tax, and he's
raised the price of everything that
begins with "S," like "sausages" and
"sealing-wax" and "soap" and "sewing-
machines." Now your father only raised
the price of things that begin with Z,"
and there aren't many "Z's," you know;
there's zebras" and "zeal," and you
can't make much out of selling zeal.'
('Ah, that's what you're up to I'
thought the Princess. 'We ought to
have some fun then.')
However, they were walking too fast
for her to think much. All she could
do was to keep up, and that she did
to the best of her power, until at last
they reached the middle of the town,
where the' King's Palace stood. Here
they halted to take counsel.
You wait here while I go and fetch
the men,' said Ablot, and as the Prince
made no objection, he went and left him
standing in the moonlit square. As
Ablot seemed gone rather a long time,
the Princess thought she would have a
little fun, and going close to the Prince
she whispered in his ear:
'Does your mother know you're
The Prince turned round once or
twice, as if to assure himself that there
was no one hiding behind his back;
but as he could see no one, he simply
I beg your pardon.'
'That's very good of you; but I
thought you were never allowed out
after half-past eight o'clock. I heard
you tell Ernalie so this evening. I'm
afraid you told a fib.'
The Prince looked very astonished.
'Who or what are you ?' he asked.
'Never you mind. I've a good
mind not to let you succeed this
evening, because you deceive not only
your old mother who is asleep at
home, but you have also told a fib
56 THE FEATHER
to that innocent girl, of whom I'm
very fond.' (' That's quite true,' thought
the Princess. 'I'm very fond of myself.'
And so she was.)
The Prince looked astonished.
'How on earth could you know
that ? he said.
'I heard it, I tell you.'
'But there was no one in the room
except the Princess and myself.'
'All the same, I heard every word
you said, and, what's more, I shall
hear every word you ever say to
her,' answered the Princess.
'Well, then, you'll be a great nuis-
ance,' said the Prince angrily.
'Very well, I'll tell the Princess all
that you say, and I've a good mind
not to let you succeed, as I've said
Then you'll do the Princess a great
deal of harm if you do.'
'Because she's-she's--'he began.
'She's what ?' asked the voice.
THE FEATHER 57
'Oh, well, never mind.'
'But I do mind,' said the voice.
"She's all that fancy painted!" if
you want to know so much,' said the
'But I don't see how that'll make
any difference to her in case you
should succeed,' said the voice.
'You're uncommonly dull if you
don't see it,' said the Prince, who was
beginning to feel bad-tempered over
being cross-questioned thus.
'Don't be rude, or you shan't
succeed,' said the voice.
'If I don't succeed the Princess
will never become Queen of the
'How can she become Queen of
the kingdom ?-it would have to be
a gueendom. And I don't see, if
you do succeed, how she is to become
As I've said before,' said the Prince,
'you're excessively dull if you don't see.'
I shall tell her what you said.'
58 THE FEATHER
'Oh, do anything you like, only
leave me alone, do,' said the Prince,
who by this time was quite in a
So she let him alone, and made no
answer when he wanted her to talk
again. However, in a few minutes
Ablot came into the square, followed
by a large number of men, whom she
heard him command to surround the
Palace, which they accordingly did;
and then, choosing five men, he and
the'Prince entered the Palace, Ernalie
following them, for she didn't know
exactly what else to do. The first of
the Palace guards they came to was
fast asleep, and they did not molest
him; but the second one was awake,
and so was the third one. These two
made some resistance, but they were
soon knocked down and bound; but
that was not much good, for they
made such a noise that they would
soon have brought the household
about their ears, only it happened to
THE FEA THEIR 59
be Saturday and all the servants were
having a half holiday, and the only
effect of the shouting was to bring
King Mumkie out on to the landing.
He had been sitting up to let the
servants in when they came home, and
he was in rather a bad temper.
'What the deuce are you making
such a noise for?' he shouted to the
But as the guards had been gagged
by this time, they could only gurgle
'Why don't you answer?' roared-
the King. But the guards made no
reply, and the King came running
down to see what was the matter.
He was holding a candlestick above
his head, and the light that fell on his
face showed that he was in a very
great rage indeed. When he saw the
Prince in the hall he stopped, and
'What do you want making this
unearthly row at this time of night?
60 THE FEATHER
Every one's in bed, and I shall catch
my death of cold coming down in my
dressing gown into this cold hall.
Now, just go off-do, and leave me
'I shall not,' answered the Prince.
'Why not? What do you want at
this time of night ?'
'I want the throne!'
'Then you can't have it; it's a
reserved seat, and I've taken it
'But what right have you to it ?'
'I'm the .sovereign,' said Mumkie.
'You're a false coin then-you're
not half a sovereign !'
'I'm quite as good as the last
sovereign. He's lost the crown, so
he's only worth fifteen shillings.'
'Well, fifteen shillings is three
crowns, and you haven't got one.'
'Yes, I have.'
'Well, then, you won't have it long.'
S'I shall have it to the end of my
THE FEATHER 61
'Not if I can help it,' retorted the
'But you can't help it.'
Why not, pray ?'
'Well, you can't, unless you scalp
me,-it's the crown of my head I
'Well, then, I'll have your head cut
'I shall die then, so I shall keep
the crown until I die. Besides, I
shall have your head cut off instead,
for I'll call out the soldiers.'
That's no good. They're all on my
side,' answered the Prince.
'Then it's all up with me. As
Julius Casar says-let's see, what did
he say, now?-ah yes!' and he
began to roar 'A horse! a horse!
my kingdom for a horse !''
You'll make yourself hoarse if you
go on roaring like that. Besides, your
share of the kingdom isn't worth a
horse-it's not even worth a horse-
62 THE FEATHER
'That's rather old,' said the King.
'However, what are you going to do
'I'm going to turn you into what
you wanted to turn my father into.
You shall have his cottage and all the
live stock and implements thereto
What does that mean?' asked the
Oh, find out,' said the Prince. And
he found out eventually.
The Prince now gave orders that
he should be taken to the coal-cellar
and locked in there for fear of escape.
And so the poor old man was led off,
muttering to himself, 'Uneasy lies the
head that wears a crown.'
But the Prince answered:
'Well, you needn't talk ; your head
doesn't wear a crown.' And from that
time forth it didn't.
While this was being done, the
Princess had noticed that a man had
been stealing round the corner. He
THE FEATHER 63
was standing close beside her now,
and he seemed quite unconscious of
her presence. The Princess looked
He must be one of the five they
brought in with them,' she said to her-
self. So she counted; but to her
astonishment she found there were six
of them-with him.
'He must be some one belonging
to the Palace,' she thought, 'and he
may be up to some mischief.' So
she watched him closely. It was
evident that the rest thought he was
one of themselves, for they took no
notice of him in particular.
The man, however, seemed quite
innocent; but the Princess noticed
that he was fingering a pistol that he
had in his belt in a most suspicious
way. So she kept quite close to him
while they descended the stairs to the
cellars. And she was right; for, in
the twinkling of a bed-post, he drew
the pistol from his belt and aimed
64 THE FEATHER
straight towards the Prince. But be-
fore he could draw the trigger, she
lifted up her hand and gave him
such a box on the ear that, in his
astonishment and pain, he dropped
the pistol altogether, and it exploded
harmlessly. As for the man, he was
so astonished that he sat down on the
floor with his mouth and eyes wide
open, looking like an expiring frog.
At the report of his pistol every
one turned, and Ablot noticed him
for the first time.
'Why, who are you ? he said.
But the man only gasped.
Who is he?' asked the Prince of
'We thought he was one of us,'
they all answered in astonishment.
Who are you ?' asked the Prince.
But he only gasped on in silence.
'Stick a pin into him, and see if
that will bring him to.' And a man
was just going to do it when he said,
in a gruff voice :
'Don't; I'm Wopole.'
'Oh, you're Wopole. And who's
he?' asked the Prince.
'I used to be the falconer of the
late tyrant, now sojourning in the coal-
'Oh! and so you tried to shoot
'Not at all, your Majesty. I was
only firing a royal salute, to show my
joy at your ascent to the throne.'
That's not true,' said the voice of
the Princess, so suddenly that every
one started and the falconer collapsed
'I've a good mind to have your
head cut off,' said the Prince, who
by this time had grown used to the
voice. 'However, I'll just put you
in the coal-hole along with your late
Wopole having been accordingly put
into the hole, everything seemed quiet;
and as it was getting late, the Princess
thought she would leave them. She
66 THE FEATHER
therefore returned as fast as she could,
and getting into bed slept soundly till
She did not awake until long after
her usual hour, for you see she was
not used to being out so late, and
she was only roused in the morn-
ing by the Queen knocking at the
Ernalie! Ernalie!' -she called;
'get up. It's half-past seven. You
ought to have been up this two
She got up as fast as she could;
and when she had laid, the table, the
King and Queen came down.
I wish you'd knock at Treblo's
door and tell him we're waiting break-
fast for him,' the Queen said to Ernalie,
and she accordingly went; but she
couldn't get any answer, and she went
downstairs once more and told them
he seemed to be out.
'Where can he be?' asked the
THE FEATHER 67
'I rather think he's gone out for a
walk,' suggested the Princess.
'It's funny; he usedn't to be fond
of getting up so early. Just go to
the door and see if he is coming
across the fields.'
Ernalie obediently went to the door,
and shading her eyes from the glare
of the sun, looked over the fields
towards the road.
She came back quickly.
'I can't see him,' she said; 'but
there's a whole lot of people coming
across the field.'
The King looked vexedly astonished.
What on earth do they want ?' he
saWi. 'It must be some fresh trick
otMumkie for bothering me.'
However, by this time the people
had reached the garden gate, and they
could hear a man's step on the gravel-
walk. It stopped at the door, and a
knock was heard.
'Come in,' cried the King; and the
man entered, bowing profoundly.
68 THE FEATHER
When the King saw who it was he
looked surprised, and said:
'Why, Lord Corax, what do you
want with me?'
'I have come to receive your
Majesty's orders,' said the man in a
singularly hoarse voice.
The King looked still more aston-
'My orders I What do you mean?'
'I mean your Majesty's orders for
the management of affairs,' said the
man, with a still deeper obeisance.
A light broke on the King's face.
'Oh! that's what you mean, is it?'
It is, your Majesty,' answered the
courtier, bowing once more.
'It strikes me you're rather late in
the day coming here, aren't you?'
asked his Majesty.
The courtier pulled out a large
'It is, I believe, at the present
moment thirty-five and a half minutes
THE FEATHER 69
after eight A.M., your Majesty. At
eight precisely I received orders from
your Majesty's son to come hither,
bringing with me your Majesty's coach
and guard of honour. Likewise a
person, by name Mumkie, who is for
the future to inhabit this cottage, and
to. enjoy the privilege of using for
his own purposes all the live stock-
sheep, oxen, kine, sows, pigs, cocks,
Here the King interrupted him.
That is enough. Tell them to get
the carriage ready for three, and send
Mumkie to me.'
'Just so, your Majesty,' said the
courtier, and departed on his errand.
When he had gone the King said
to the Queen and Ernalie:
'Now, my dears, run up and put
on your best things, and, Araminta,
just see if our crowns are very tar-
nished.- We ought to make our
triumphal entry in state, for we are
reinstated. And, -by the bye, see if
70 THE FEATHER
you've got an old coronet of Treblo's
that will fit Ernalie.'
'What for, your Majesty?' asked
Ernalie in surprise.
'For you to wear, of course,' said
'But what do I want with a crown?
I have to stop here with Mumkie-I'm
part of the live stock.'
'Good gracious! what do you
mean?' said the King and Queen
'Well, you see, the agreement be-
tween your son and Mumkie was that
Mumkie should have all the live stock
of the farm, and as I'm alive I sup-
pose I'm part of the live stock.'
I suppose you are,' said the King.
Just at that moment a voice was
heard outside, saying:
'May I come in ?'
'Oh yes, come in,' said the King.
And Mumkie entered, looking very
dirty and black with coal-dust, for,
you see, he had spent the night in
THE FEATHER 71
the coal-cellar. They were all very
much surprised, and naturally too, and
the King remarked:
'Good-morning! Have you washed?'
Mumkie shook his head.
'I've been watched-only it's not
quite the same thing, your Majesty.'
'Well, never mind. So there's been
a revolt, has there ?'
'A revolution, sire,' answered Mum-
'Ah, well, it's all the same. They
manage these things quickly here. By
the bye, what was the arrangement
that my son made about this house ?'
He said I was to have the house
and all the live stock.'
'All the live stock?' said the
'All, your Majesty.'
'Then I'm afraid it's all up with
I'm afraid it is, your Majesty, un-
less your Majesty would buy me from
72 THE FEATHER
Good idea What'll you take for
Mumkie looked at her critically.
'What's your weight?' he said to
I don't exactly see what that has to
do with it.'
'Well, I suppose you're good, aren't
'Oh, very good,' said the Princess.
'She's as good as gold,' said the
'Just so,' said Mumkie. 'That's
why I wanted to know her weight.
You see, I'll sell her to you for her
weight in gold.'
The King put his hand in his
pocket, and drew out his purse and
looked into it.
'Will you take threepence-farthing
on account?' he said.
But Mumkie shook his head.
'We only take ready money here, -or
pay on delivery.'
'Then I suppose the only thing to
THE FEATHER 73
do is to go to the Palace and fetch
the money. Good- bye till then,
So Ernalie kissed the King and
Queen, and watched them go down
the garden walk to the carriage, and
saw them get in. The guard of honour
fired a royal salute, and they drove off
at a gallop. But Ernalie turned back
into the house where Mumkie was
'I've got a friend coming here to-
day, shortly, and I don't want to have
our conversation overheard, so when
he comes you cut your stick. Go and
perform some wholesome menial func-
tion-clean the plates. Understand?
And don't you listen at the door,
'I am not in the habit of listen-
ing at doors, and you'd better call
me "your Royal Highness," if you
'And why, your Royal Highness ?'
'Because I'm a Princess.'
74 THE PEA THEIR
'Oh, you are! Then, I suppose,
you're a foreigner? And they have
a custom here with foreigners of
boiling them alive. How would you
like that, your Royal Highness ?'
'You aren't do it,' said the
Princess; but all the same she felt
rather frightened. Just then a knock
came at the door.
That's Wopole,' said Mumkie, 'so
your Royal Highness may take yourself
off, and if I catch you listening at the
door I'll skin you alive.'
'I never listen at doors,' said the
Princess. But she thought tor herself:
'I listen inside the room sometimes,
though.' And she ran upstairs to fetch
her feather. She got it very quickly,
and ran downstairs as lightly as pos-
sible. They had shut the door of the
room, but she opened it boldly, and
stepped in as quietly as she could.
Mumkie looked up, as if he expected
to see some one come in; but of course
he did not.
THE FATHER 75
'It's the wind, I suppose,' said
Wopole. 'Anyhow, you'd better shut
it. Some one might be listening.'
So Mumkie got up and shut it, and
then went back to his seat again.
'You say you can't try to murder
this Prince again ?' he said.
Wopole shook his head.
'It's no good. I tried last night,
and I got such a box on my ear that
I was half killed.'
'But who gave it to you?'
'How on earth should I know ? I
could see nobody. Just as I was rais-
ing the pistol to shoot-bang! it came.
I wouldn't try it again for anything.'
'What a nuisance it is that you let
that feather fall out of the eagle's tail.
You could have done it easily then.
As it is, I don't know what to do.
You won't try again, and I'm too old,
and no one else in the country would
hurt him for love or money. There's
only one other thing to do, and it's not
an easy task, anyway.'
76 THE FEATHER
'Oh, never mind the ease or diffi-
culty. If it's possible to be done, I'll
'Then I'll tell you. You'll have to
cut his thread of life.'
Really, and what with ?'
Oh, anything you like. The trouble
is to get to the place where they're
'Oh I and where is that ?'
'They're kept by three old women
who live in the moon. They're called
'And how am I to get to the
That's just it. You'll have to take
a boat one evening at six, and if you
sail straight towards the moon while
she is visible, and anchor when she is
out of sight, in three weeks and two
days you will reach the end of the sea,
where the moon touches at night, and
then you can get out of the boat; and
take care to haul it up out of reach
of the sea, or else it'll be carried off,
THE FEATHER 77
and you won't be able to get back to
the earth again.'
'And when I've got to the moon
what am I to do ?'
'The moon's not a very large place,
although it's certainly larger than it
looks from the earth. There are five
people who live in the moon. One is
the man in the moon, the rest are all
woien; these are three Fates, who
sit twisting the threads of life into one
large rope, ard besides that there's
Diana; but she keeps to herself, and
never troubles about the other four.
When you touch the shore you'll see
the man in the moon. He's a wrinkled
old man, who carries a bundle of sticks
and a lanthorn. When you. meet him,
give him a loaf of bread to pacify
him, for the moon being made of
green cheese they have nothing else
to eat, and so they're very fond of
bread to eat with it. Ask him the
way to the Miss Parkers-those are
the three Fates. He'll show you
78 THE FEATHER
in reward for the bread, and then
you'll see the house. Knock at the
door, and when it's opened, slip in.
The Fates are blind, and won't see
you. When you get in you'll see a
lot of reels of silver threads. Among
them you'll see his thread. You'll
know it by the label on the reel.
Cut that and those of the King and
Queen, and then come back again as
soon as you like.'
'Very well, then; when shall I start?'
'When you will.'
'Will to-morrow evening do?'
'Yes, quite well.'
'Very well, I'll start to morrow
evening about eight. In the mean-
time, I must see about getting food,
as I'm not a fasting man.'
'Very well, do.'
Just then came a knock at the door,
and Wopole said:
Well, I suppose it's settled. I shall
open the door and see who's knocking.'
THE FEATHER 79
'Yes, do. I suppose it's some one
come'to buy this Princess.'
'Oh, is it?' and Wopole went to
open the door.
The Princess meanwhile quietly
slipped upstairs and took the feather
out. In a few moments she heard a
voice calling her, and she went down.
She found the Prince with the other
two in the little parlour.
'Good-morning, Ernalie,' he said;
and she answered, 'Good-morning.'
'This absurd man,' the Prince went
on, insists that you shall be weighed,
although I offered him two thousand
ounces of gold; and I'm sure you
don't weigh that. However, he will
have you weighed, and it can't be
'I suppose it can't,' said the Prin-
So she was weighed. It doesn't
matter what she did weigh, but it
was less than two thousand ounces.
The Prince ordered the two men
whom he had brought with him as
bearers of the gold, to stop and see
it properly weighed out, and then he
set out with the Princess for the
I thought you wouldn't mind there
not being an escort,' he said apolo-
getically; but all the people about
the Palace are busy preparing for a
The Princess said she didn't mind
She had not had much time to
think about what she had heard Wo-
pole and Mumkie say, nevertheless
she determined to tell the Prince all
she had heard.
When he had listened to it all, he
.'Ah, well, if that's all I've got to
fear I'm quite safe. He's sure to
get drowned if he tries,' was all he
said; and he refused to say anything
more on the subject.
So they went quietly on till they
came to a slight hill down which the
road went, and from the top they
could see' the city shining in the
'It's a very beautiful place, isn't it ?'
said the Prince.
'Very beautiful; only my own
country is far more beautiful.'
It must be very beautiful indeed,
then. However, I suppose this is
good enough for you while you are
away from your own country.'
It'll have to be, at any rate,' said
the Princess dismally, as they went
down the hill.
They soon reached the city, and
went, through crowds of bowing citi-
zens and citizenesses, to the Palace,
where they found the King and Queen
anxiously awaiting them.
So you've come at last,' the King
said; 'I was afraid that you would
come to some harm with that Mumkie.'
But the Princess laughed.
'Oh no,' she said; I'm quite able
82 THE FEATHER
to take care of myself and of other
people too; and while I was in the
house I heard something of great im-
portance.' And she proceeded to tell
them what she had heard.
But when she had finished, the
King laughed even more than his son
'Why, my dear little girl,' he said,
'do you believe all that rigmarole?
They were having a joke at your ex-
pense. They must have heard you
outside the door and wanted to frighten
you. Don't you think of such rubbish.
Why, if they tried it on alone they'd
get swallowed up in a storm; and I'm
sure none of my people would ever
But the Princess did not feel at all
convinced, all the same.
You might just as well have them
put in prison, and then they couldn't
But the King shook his head.
'That's just it, you see; I've only
THE FEATHER 83
just let them go, and I can't put them
into prison unless they've committed
some fresh crime.'
'But isn't it treason to compass the
death of the King or his eldest son?'
'It is; but then it's such a foolish
scheme that no one would believe any
one capable of inventing it. So we'd
better leave it alone.'
But still the Princess was not at all
If you won't stop him going, I shall
go with him,' she said.
'But he won't take you,' said the
He won't be able to help it,' said
'Oh, well, have your own way, my
dear,' said the King good-naturedly;.
for he thought she would change her
mind. But she was quite in earnest.
However, she didn't say anything
more about it, and the rest of the
day went on quietly.
The old King and his son attended
84 THE FEATHER
the council just as if nothing unusual
had ever intervened between it and
the last council they had held before
they had been turned out. As for the
Queen and Princess, they occupied
themselves with choosing dresses for
a grand ball that was to be given on
the day after the, morrow. So that
the time was pretty well filled up
until the evening; and as the Princess
said she felt rather tired, she went
out to take a walk on the sands by
the sea. To tell the truth, she in-
tended to see whether Wopole were
not making preparations.
Now it so happened that the Prince,
too, was going out to take an evening
stroll, and so they went together; and
as the town was rather full, they
walked along the beach to get out
of the way of the enthusiastic popu-
lace, who insisted on congratulating
him on his good fortune. This is
a habit of populaces, they are all fond
of congratulating any one who is suc-
THE FEATHER 85
cessful-but they never assist any one
to success if they can help it. So
they walked on for some time, and
as the evening was approaching, turned
back towards the harbour.
Now it happened that as they came
round a bend of the shore they
noticed a crowd assembled round one
of the boats.
'I wonder what the excitement is?'
said the Princess.
'I don't know, really, unless it's
some gigantic dog fish, or perhaps
they've found a scale of the sea-
serpent. Shall we go and look at
'Yes, let us,' said the Princess
And so they went towards the
crowd, who made way at their ap-
Why, it's Wopole !'said the Princess
suddenly; and so it was.
'What is he up to?' asked the
Prince of one of the bystanders.
86 THE FEATHER
'I don't know, your Majesty, only
we saw him coming along bringing
packages of things to his boat here,
and we thought we'd come and see
that he wasn't up to mischief.'
The Prince then spoke to Wopole,
who was looking angrily at him.
'Well, Wopole,' he said, 'what are
you up to now?'
'I'm going to leave the country,'
said he angrily.
A good thing for the country,' said
several of the crowd. But the Prince
'I'm sorry you're going to leave
us. However, I shall be glad to
make you a small present before you
go.' And he felt in his coat, and
after a moment's search he drew out a
minute pair of nail-scissors. 'Perhaps
these might be of some use to you.
They're very good for cutting threads
of any kind. Good-day.'
And pretending not to notice his
look of astonishment, he drew the
THE FEATHER 87
Princess's arm through his, and they
'Why did you do that?' asked the
Princess, after they had got out of
The Prince laughed.
I thought it might surprise him a
little,' he said. 'And they wouldn't
cut butter if they were heated, so he
won't do much harm with them.'
'.So you don't mean to stop him ?'
The Prince laughed.
No, no !' he said; 'why should I?
He'll never get to the moon.'
'Then if you don't stop him I shall
go with him.'
'I think he'll take care that you
don't,' retorted the Prince.
But he won't be able to help him-
'And why not ?'
'Because he won't be able to see
'You may call it nonsense if you
like. But do you remember some one
who spoke to you last night in the
square? You couldn't see me then,
and why should he stop me if he can't
see me ?'
'Good gracious! Was that you
last night? How stupid of me not
to recognize your voice! But you
won't go with him, will you ?'
'I shall, unless you stop him.'
'But'I promised not to stop him,
and I can't break my promise.'
'Then I must go, that's all. I can't
allow you and your father and mother
to be killed because you've promised
not to stop him.'
'But, Ernalie, can't I go instead?'
'He wouldn't take you, and you
can't make yourself invisible, you
'But all the same, you must not
go; it's absurd.'
'You may be drowned, or any-
THE FEATHER 89
'If I'm drowned or anything Wo-
pole-will have to be drowned or any-
thinged too, so that you'll be safe in
'But I don't want to be safe if
you are drowned.'
'What difference will it make to
you if I'm drowned or not?'
'Oh, Ernalie, you are too bad,' he
said earnestly. 'Can't you see I love
you more than all the world?'
The Princess looked at him in utter
'You love me!' she said, with her
lips parted and the colour coming and
going in her cheeks. Why, whatever
made you ?'
And the Prince answered naturally:
'Why, you did, of course.'
'But you've not known me for more
than two days.'
If I had known you only for two
hours it would have been more than
enough. You are the most beautiful
girl I ever saw.'
90 THE FEA THEIR
'Perhaps you've not seen many,'
said the Princess.
He took no notice of her flippant
remark-he was very much in earnest.
'I love you as much as the whole
world, and a great deal besides. And
don't you love me a little in return?'
'Well, to tell the truth, I never
thought of it at all before; but now
I come to think of it I do love you,
and a very great deal too-if you don't
So they prolonged the stroll in-
definitely, thinking nothing about the
unpleasant walking that the heavy
shingle afforded, or even that it was
getting very dark, and that the air was
chilly with the night and the sea-foam
that the wind blew against them, so
that it was after supper-time by a great
deal when they arrived at the Palace
once more. But all that he could say
would not persuade her not to go with
Wopole, although she was very sorry
that she could not stop. But, as she
THE FEATHER .9
said, it was no use stopping if her
love died,. and if any one was to die
she would be the one. Wopole was
sure to die with her, so the Prince
would be safe at any rate. And
although the King and Queen both
tried to dissuade her it made no
difference. She refused to promise
not to go.
So on the next day they watched
her carefully, though without hindering
her going about.
The day went past just as the day
before had done, and about the same
time in the evening she asked the
Prince to go down to the beach with
her, and they went just as before.
But all the while the Prince kept fast
hold of her hand.
So they walked along the beach as
the wind freshened, and they talked of
all sorts of things,-it is not necessary
to say what.
But the Princess noticed that the
boat which Wopole had loaded with
provisions was almost in the water,
and Wopole and Mumkie were both
standing talking by it.
So she drew the feather quietly out
of her pocket, for you may be sure she
had not forgotten to bring it. Sud-
denly she said:
'Oh dear! my shoe's full of sand.
I must take it off and shake it out.'
'Will you let me do it for you?'
said the Prince, who stepped easily
into the trap.
'Yes, you might, if it's not too much
trouble,' she said.
So he knelt down, and unlaced her
shoe, took it off, and shook out the
sand, and then put it on again for her.
He was just getting up again when the
Princess gave him a little push, so that
he lost his balance altogether, and
before he could recover himself she
put the feather to her hair, and ran
along the sands to the boat which
Wopole and'Mumkie were just about