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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.
A Fairy Story
FORD H. MADOX HUEFFER
TWO ILLUSTRATIONS BY
Ff, MADOX BROWN
T. FISHER UNWIN
while agoâ€”in fact long
g before Egypt had risen to
power and before Rome or Greece
had ever been heard ofâ€”and that was
some time before you were born, you .
knowâ€”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
20 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 â€” 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 classesâ€”those who were magi-
cians, and those who werenâ€™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 beautifulâ€”as indeed all prin-
cesses are or ought to be. She hada
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
fatherâ€™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 Princessâ€™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:
â€˜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
â€˜To such a master and to such a
mistress how could I but be faithful ?â€™
and to this noble sentiment the three
hundred and forty-seven magicians
could not help according unanimous
When they were quiet again the
King said :
â€˜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.â€™
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
â€˜My dear daughter,â€™ he said, â€˜when
Iam gone be kind to every one, and,
above all, cherish the Owlâ€”do cherish
the Owlâ€”promise me to cherish the
â€˜But how can I cherish the Owl?â€™
cried the poor Princess; â€˜how can I,
unless I know who he is?â€™
But the King only answered :
â€˜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:
â€˜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.â€™
â€˜You will see that in good time,â€™
answered the King. â€˜Now, my dear
Ismara, I shall die happy, and you
will be safe. If you had not pro-
misedâ€”however, we will let that rest
unsaid. Now wheel the bed to where
I can see out of the window.â€™
The Princess did as she was told.
Now from this you must not imagine
that she was a very strong princessâ€”
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 Kingâ€™s hard countenance, as if it
knew that his work on earth for the
day, and for ever, was done. ;
â€˜Is it not grand?â€™ cried the old
King, as if the glorious sight warmed
his blood again and made him once
more young. â€˜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 worldâ€™s
8 THE BROWN OWL
end to worldâ€™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, Â©
the grand power, of swaying the world.â€™
But long before he had got thus
far, the Princess was weeping bitterlyâ€”
partly at the overwhelming prospect,
and partly from her great grief. She
seized her fatherâ€™s hand and kissed it
â€˜My father, my father, she cried,
â€˜say not so; they are all thine, not mine,
for thou livest still, and all is yet well.â€™
But the old King cut her short:
â€˜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.â€™
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 sunâ€™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
ina more fearful sound. Never before
had the sound been heard, except at
the death of the Princessâ€™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 knownâ€”to every
one except to the Princess,
Io THE BROWN OWL
For she lay on the bed passionately
kissing the dead faceâ€”not yet cold in
deathâ€”and calling on his name in
vain; for the ears of the dead are
closed â€˜to the voice of the charmer,
charm he never so wisely.â€™
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 â€
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
THE BROWN OWL It
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
r2 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
. Strange scene.
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 objectâ€”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 â€˜thingâ€™ was
gradually drawing them nearer and
nearer to the poor doctor.
But the strangest thing of all was
that the doctorâ€™s face was lit up by
two distinct rounds of light. It was
just as if some one had turned the
light of a bullâ€™s-eye lantern on him,
THE BROWN OWL 13
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 :
â€˜ Send for a regiment of Lifeguardsâ€”
let them shoot the Owlâ€”it is necessary
for the health of the Princess. Owls
are very bad things to have in bed-
roomsâ€”they bring scarlatina, and they
always carry the influenza epidemic.
Lifeguards, I tell you, send for them.â€™
But still the â€˜thingâ€™ came nearer, and
with an agonised shriek of â€˜The Owl!â€™
he sank altogether under the rim.
This loud cry of â€˜The Owlâ€™ 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
â€˜Come here, good Owl.â€™
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, â€˜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-
â€˜Cherished Owl,â€™ said the Princess,
â€˜why didst thou hurt the physician ?â€™
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.
â€˜Go and help them, good Owl,â€™ 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:
â€œ*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, andâ€”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: â€˜Sleeping in unaired sheets
causes rheumatism, sciatica, pleurisy,
pneumonia andâ€”owls;â€™ and as the
door closed they heard him say,
â€˜Gregory powder and Epsom salts.â€™
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.
â€˜However, after she had cried thus
THE BROWN OWL 17
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 nightâ€™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
18 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 shepherdâ€™s dog
as it recognised its masterâ€™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 leanedâ€™ 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 fora
time the Princess stood looking over
the deep-blue sea.
Suddenly, however, a footstep
sounded in the courtyard below, and
20 THE BROWN OWL
the Princess drew back from the
window, for a thought suddenly came
into her head :
â€˜Oh dear,â€™ she said, â€˜I have been
crying such a lot that my eyes must
be quite red, and my hair is all ruffled.
This will never do.â€ - And as she
looked in the glass she said, â€˜ 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.â€™ .
The Owl did as he was told, and the
Princess began to wash in cold waterâ€”
a thing she had never done beforeâ€”
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: â€˜And I have heard,â€™ she
thought to herself, â€˜that washing in
THE BROWN OWL 2u
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:
â€˜Now, cherished. Owl, you may sit
on my shoulder again.â€™
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 ifhe felt quite
happy and comfortable, and the Prin-
22 THE BROWN OWL
cess smiled at his happy look, for sheâ€™ Â©
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:
â€˜The King is dead, they cried.
â€˜Long live the Queen!â€™ And through-
out the city far and wide echoed and
re-echoed the cry: -
â€˜Long live the Queenâ€™; 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.
â€˜Good people all, she said in clear
ringing tones, â€˜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;
THE BROWN OWL 23
remember that the great King Inta-
fernes, the founder of the kingdom to
which we all belong, has but just left
the earthâ€”sorrow for him but a short
â€˜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 Princessâ€™s shoulder,
and those who had been near enough,
said that it was an owlâ€”though what
it meant they knew not.
â€˜To me it seemed as if the head of
the old King were looking over his
daughterâ€™s shoulder,â€™ 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: â€˜Tush, childâ€”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.â€™ 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 â€˜ Come
inâ€ A page entered and said that the
Chancellor, Merrymineral, was below
and requested audience of the Princess.
â€˜Let him be shown into the audience
chamber to await me there,â€™
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
Princessâ€™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 :
â€˜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?â€™
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
â€˜I came,â€™ he moaned, â€˜to console
you for your great loss. I too,â€™ he
continued in a voice choked with sobs,
â€˜T too am an orphan.â€™
It seemed funny to the Princess to
â€˜see him weeping thus, and she could
hardly help laughing at him, but her
grief soon came back.
â€˜Poor Merrymineral,â€™ she sighed,
26 THE BROWN OWL
â€˜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 :
â€˜ The beloved King your fatherâ€™; but
his sobs choked him, and he hid his
â€˜The beloved King your father,â€™
echoed a loud voice, exactly mimicking
the tones of the Chancellor, but where
the voice came from no one could tell.
The Chancellor started.
â€˜Did you say that?â€™ said the
â€˜Not the second time,â€™ answered
â€˜Who could it be?â€™ said the
Princess ; â€˜for there is no one in the
room except the cherished Owl; and
you canâ€™t speak, can you, Owl dear?â€™
The Owl shook his head dismally.
But the change that came over Merry-
THE BROWN OWL 27
mineral was most astonishing as his
eye suddenly lit upon the Owlâ€”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.
â€˜Just bring that man to,â€™ 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
and said :
â€˜May it please your Majesty, but the
Chancellor refuses to come to, and we
canâ€™t bring him.â€™
28 THE BROWN OWL
â€˜So he refuses to obey my orders,â€™ .
said the Princess) â€˜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.â€™
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-
ful. : soe
â€˜You had. better not throw it all
over him,â€™ said the Princess ; â€˜just let
it trickle over his face gently.â€™
So one of the pages began to do as
he was told, but somehowâ€”either he
had a sudden push, or, as he said after-
wards, the Owl looked at him, and
startled himâ€”he let the pail go, and all
the water and the pail too fell over the
unlucky Chancellor. This really did
bringhim very much toâ€”much too much
THE BROWN OWL 29
to, in factâ€”for he sprang up in such a
rage that the Princess el wished
herself out of the room.
â€˜You jackanapes,â€™ he screamed at
the unfortunate: page;.â€˜you ape, you
boar, you cow, you clumsy monkey,
T'll be revenged on you.â€™
But the Princess, who had gained
courage while he was screaming, said:
â€˜You will not be revenged on
â€˜But I shall,â€™ he said.
â€˜Indeed you will not,â€™ said the
Princess, â€˜for he did it by my orders.â€™
â€˜Oh! he did it by your orders,â€™ said
the Chancellor; â€˜then Iâ€™ll be revenged
on you too,â€™ 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.
â€˜What,â€™ he said scornfully, â€˜you try
to stop meâ€”ye frogs! Ah! a good
ideaâ€”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 ae 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.
â€˜I thought I told you not to hurt
â€˜Who cares what you say ?â€™
â€˜Dear me,â€™ thought the Princess,
â€˜he is getting excessively insolentâ€”I
shall have to be severe with him in a
moment.â€™ So she said:
â€˜Turn those pages back again.â€™
â€˜T shall not.â€™
â€˜Then leave the room.â€™
â€˜T shall not.â€™
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
â€˜Ha! ha!â€™ he cried; â€˜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.â€™
But the Princess, leaning her head
against the soft feathers of the Owl,
only smiled, and did not turn into a
mouse at all,
â€˜The Chancellor seemed perplexed.
â€˜Js that not enough for you?â€™ he
said; â€˜I thought I told you to turn
into a mouse.â€™
But the Princess smiled calmly and
â€˜Do you suppose I am going to
do anything of the sortâ€”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 â€œâ€˜ Your Majesty.â€ 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.â€™
But the Chancellor laughed. â€˜You
canâ€™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.â€™
It really seemed as if the Owl were
going to obey him, for greatly to the
Princessâ€™s surprise it sprang off her
shoulder and seized the three rats, one
in each claw, and one in its beakâ€”
but it returned at once to her and laid
them squeaking on the table in front
of herâ€”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
â€”he even went back a little and tried
to run at herâ€”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
said : ;
â€˜Will you be quiet, you naughty old
man ?â€”leave the room or I will send
for the police.â€™
But Merrymineral answered :
â€˜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.
â€˜Send for a policeman and ask him
to step this way.â€™
The page looked astonished, but he
saluted and left the room. Almost
immediately a policeman came inâ€”for
you see there was one always on the
palace steps. He entered the room
with a low bow.
â€˜Take the Chancellor out of the
room,â€™ said the Princess, â€˜and put him
in prison for three days.â€™
But the policeman shook his head.
34 THE BROWN OWL
â€˜Excuse me, mumâ€”I mean your
most gracious Majestyâ€”but it is
against the law to imprison a member
of Parliament, much less a chancellor.â€™
The Chancellor laughed sarcastic-
â€˜Oh, is it?â€™ said the Princess; â€˜never
mind, take him into custody ; I depose
himâ€”he is no longer Chancellor.â€™
Merrymineral looked astonished,
but the policeman cleared his throat
and said :
â€˜Come, I say, young fellow; will you
go quietly, or shall I make you?â€™
â€˜Oh, make me, by all means,â€™
answered Merrymineral. .
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. â€˜I told
you so,â€™ he said. :
The Princess was now thoroughly
THE BROWN OWL 35
nonplussed. However, she rang the
bell again. Again the page appeared.
â€˜Summon the Lords of the Council ;
let them come here at once.â€™
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 tableâ€”for as
they had not yet been told to g0 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 Owlâ€”nevertheless he
took his seat.
When all was quiet the Princess
began to speak,
â€˜My lords,â€™ she said, â€˜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.â€™
So spoke the Princess, but before any
one could answer Merrymineral spoke:
â€˜My lords,â€™ he said, â€˜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?â€™ 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
spoke again :
â€˜What he has just said is right,â€™ she
said; â€˜I have no right to reign over
you, for I am but a girl, Do ye there-
fore elect a ruler.â€™
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-
mineralâ€™s. When therefore he saw
that all eyes were turned on him,
Lord Licec, for so he was called,
â€˜Your most gracious Majesty,â€™ he
began, â€˜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.â€™
38 THE BROWN OWL
And then turning to the rest of the
assembly he said:
â€˜Am I not right, my lords?â€™ and
with one voice they answered :
â€˜We will die for our Queen Ismara.â€™
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:
â€˜And now what are we to do about
turning this man out ? for he refuses to
go of his own accord.â€™
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
â€˜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 faceâ€”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
canâ€™t say. But just at this moment
Merrymineral seemed to wake up
â€˜Ah,â€™ he said, â€˜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,â€™ 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 horseâ€™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.
â€˜I-see I have not quite forgotten
how to clear a room yet,â€™ he said,
as he once more folded his arms in
the same attitude and relapsed into
â€˜What am I to do?â€™ 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.
â€˜If I might be allowed to make a
suggestion,â€™ he said, â€˜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 atask. And if I might
be allowed to add yet another sugges-
tion it would be, â€œto be well shaken
before taken,â€ 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:
â€˜Do you know, I canâ€™t stop any
longer ; so sorry, but I have an engage-
ment and I am rather in a hurry. |
Good-day.â€™ And he began to walk
quickly towards the door. But the
Princess had already, whispered to
the Owl, â€˜Catch him, dear Owl.â€™
And however fast he went the Owl
caught him up, and taking him by the
-middle of his coat-tailsâ€”and I am
bound to say some of his skin tooâ€”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.
â€˜Q-o-o-h,â€™ shrieked the wretched
man, â€˜I say, do you know you're
tearing my best coat, and your beak
is awfully sharp? O-o-ouch,â€™ and he
filled the room with his shrieks, After
they had continued like that for some
minutes the Princess said :
â€˜T think he has been punished enough
now, Cherished Owl, so let him down.â€™
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.
â€˜Tl be revenged on you,â€™ roared
Merrymineral ; â€˜youâ€™ve spoilt my Sun-
day coat, and I shanâ€™t be able to afford
another for I donâ€™t know how long.
Tl be revenged on you.â€™ 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
â€˜You had better be quiet and go,â€™
â€˜TI shall not.â€™
â€˜Oh, very well,â€™ she answered,
â€˜perhaps you would like to try the
At the same time the Owl gave him
such a look jfrom 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-balloonâ€”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
of relief :
â€˜Thatâ€™s an end of him at last.â€™
46 THE BROWN OWL
But the Owl shook his headâ€”he
When he was thus at last got rid off
the Princess said to the physician :
â€˜How can we ever thank thee
enough, good doctor, for thy timely
â€˜Oh, your Majesty,â€™ said the blushing
doctor, â€˜experience does it; and I
had plenty of that this morning. Do
you know, I think I shall never be free
again from painâ€”although I have
bathed in opodeldoc and arnica, and
I am clothed from head to foot in
Court plaster,â€™ -
The Princess smiled and said :
â€˜T 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.â€™
She then said to the three pages who
still sat on the table:
â€˜I must ask you to depart now as
Parliament cannot carry on business
THE BROWN OWL 47
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:
â€˜As there seems no further need to
keep you, I will detain you no longer.â€™
Having her permission the Coun-
cillors left the hall. Last of all was
Lord Licec, and â€˜he remained as it
hesitating whether to go, or to stay and
speak to the Princess. She, noticing
his hesitation, said :
â€˜Ah, Lord Licec, hast thou some-
thing to ask me?â€™
The old lord made answer:
â€˜I would ask your Majestyâ€™s per-
mission to enter the room of the late
King, your Majestyâ€™s father, for, as you
are aware, it is against the law to enter
the royal presence without the royal
48 THE BROWN OWL
â€˜You have my permission of course ;
but ought not some preparations to be
made for the funeral ?â€™
Lord Licec answered :
â€˜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.â€™
' â€˜Let us then go together to the
room, my lord,â€™ said the Princess.
So they went together, the Princess
leaning on Licecâ€™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 Princessâ€™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
â€˜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 5r
to get near the country round. So
you see there was no immediate
danger ; still an enemyâ€™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 canâ€™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 horseâ€™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 83
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 cameso 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
â€œstopped and the Princess could make
herself heard she said :
54 THE BROWN OWL
_ â€˜What news, Sir Knight, from the
front, that thou ridest in such haste P
â€˜But bad news, I fear,â€™ answered the
â€˜What say you?â€™ said the Princess ;
â€˜bad news, and with such an army as
ye had? has some fresh rebellion
broken out among the men?â€™
â€˜No rebellion, but plain fighting has
beaten usâ€”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 daysâ€™
THE BROWN OWL 55
fighting the army remains at Arecarp.
Thence I started at eight this morn-
ing to hurry the reinforcements from
Britain and Gaul.â€™
â€˜Alas! they are still at three daysâ€™
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 isâ€˜ impossible.
Arecarp is twenty-four hoursâ€™ journey
for a fast horse, and it is now but
twelve oâ€™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 belost. Sir Knight, will you
escort these ladies back to the town,
and rest for a while?â€™
â€˜But what will you do, your
â€˜I. must ride forward to Are-
â€˜To Arecarp! Your Majesty, what
856 THE BROWN OWL
will you do there? The battlefield is
no place for a girl.â€™
â€˜Nevertheless I must go, for my
place is with the army.â€™
â€˜But if you are killed what will
happen to your people without their
â€˜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.â€™
â€˜But your Majesty could send the
Owl in a cage against the enemy.â€™
â€˜I promised my father never to go
out of its sightâ€”no, I must go.â€™
â€˜I beseech you then, your Majesty,
to allow me to accompany. you, for
the road to the camp is full of
â€˜But your horse is tired, and even if
he were not he could never keep up
THE BROWN OWL 57
â€˜But if you will excuse the con-
tradiction, I think I shall.â€™
â€˜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.â€™
And they set offâ€”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
that morning, :
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
everâ€”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 knightâ€™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.
â€˜Heâ€™s a wonderfully swift horse, Sir
Knight,â€™ she said suddenly, â€˜and I
believe there is no other horse in the
world as swiftâ€”not even Selimâ€”the
horse I spoke aboutâ€”that belongs to
the Prince of India.â€™
The knight nodded.
â€˜He is a good horse, but he is no
better than Selim, your Majesty, for I
know Selim very well.â€™
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:
â€˜Sir Knight, should you think me very
rude if I were to ask you whether you
are under a vow of hiding your face?â€™
â€˜I am bound by no such vow; but
why do you ask, your Majesty ?â€™
â€˜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,â€™
-*Oh, I beg your pardon a thousand
times, your Majesty,â€™ 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,â€™ and he raised
the vizor, at the same time bowing low
THE BROWN OWL 6x
to her. But it was now the Princessâ€™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:
â€˜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 â€œSir Knight,â€ instead
of as â€œyour Majesty.â€ But I am very
But Sir Alured said:
â€˜Nay, your Majesty, you have the
right to call me what you will, for I
am always your humble vassal.â€™
â€˜My ally, you should say, your
â€˜I am always your servant, not your
ally, your Majesty.â€™
â€˜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.â€™
But the Prince said:
62 THE BROWN OWL
â€˜All is not yet lost, your Majesty,
and whatever happens your Majesty
will always have a protector while I
The Princess smiled.
â€˜Ah! you mean the cherished Owl.
You will always protect me, wonâ€™t you,
Owl?â€™ 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.
â€˜Why,â€™ she said, â€˜we have been here
just ten minutes, and it is time to start
again, if you are rested sufficiently.â€™
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:
â€˜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.â€™
The Princess smiled.
â€˜He will never surrender,â€™ she said.
â€˜Nor will any of us, your Majesty,â€™
added the Prince. â€˜However, let us
descend the hill.â€™
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 recognised 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
â€˜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.
â€˜Was it not rather foolish,â€™ he said,
â€˜to hazard your life for nothing? for of
a truth you are :
But the Princess put her finger on
â€˜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 sayâ€”that the battlefield
is no place for girls. Now I won't be
called a girl, for Iâ€™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.â€™
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 thÃ©y 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
â€˜May it please your Majesty, am-
bassadors have arrived from the enemy
and would speak to you.â€™
â€˜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 saddleâ€”
for you must know he had insisted on
not getting off his horse, or rather pony,
for that too was very smallâ€”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:
â€˜Are you the ambassadors from the
rebel Merrymineral ?â€™
The dwarf replied :
â€˜IT donâ€™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
sulting manner? Dâ€™you think Iâ€™m
here to be insulted by you? If you
think so, I'll tell you point-blank â€™m
notâ€”so there.â€™ 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 itâ€”she only laughed at
his misfortune, which made him all the
â€˜How dare you laugh at me?â€™ he
screamed ; â€˜who are you, you minx,
you minx, you lynxâ€”you :
But the Princess did not listen to
him. She turned to the giant, who at â€”
any rate was quiet, and said:
â€˜Will you not take a chair until the
Lords of the Council arrive ?â€™
The giant looked at her in stupid
â€˜What shall I do with the chair
when Iâ€™ve taken it?â€™ he mumbled.
70 THE BROWN OWL
â€˜I mean you to sit down on it, of
course,â€™ said the Princess.
The giant growled out in reply :
â€˜Well, I never sat on a chair before,
but to please you I will.â€™
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.
â€˜I think I'll stop where I am,â€™ he
said, when they offered him a wooden
stool to sit on, â€˜for you see Iâ€™m not
used to chairs.â€™ 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 qr
â€˜Now if you will state your message
we will listen.â€™
Soâ€™ the dwarf snarled in a_bad-
tempered voice :
â€˜I shanâ€™t tell youâ€”you arenâ€™t the
commander-in-chief of the army, are
â€˜No, but I am the Queen of the
â€˜Oh! youâ€™re the Queen of the
Western World, are you? Well, you
wonâ€™t be Queen of the Western World
long, if you donâ€™t mind your Pâ€™s and
Qâ€™s. The king Merrymineral sent me
to say that if you donâ€™t marry him and
make him king, he'll kill the lot of
you and make himself king in spite of
youâ€”so there; and Iâ€™m to wait for an
After consulting the Council for a
moment the Princess said :
â€˜Of course I shanâ€™t marry himâ€”
how could he be so ridiculous as to
The dwarf laughed.
72 THE BROWN OWL
â€˜Thatâ€™s your answer, is it?â€™ he said.
â€˜I thought so. I say, Gog, have you
written it down ?â€™
But Gog had gone to sleep. So
the dwarf pricked him with the end of
â€˜I say, Gog, he said, â€˜sheâ€™s given
her answer and you havenâ€™t written
it down, and Iâ€™ve forgotten it
already. Just say it over again,
Queen, will you? and not too fast, |
or Gog here will never get it down.â€™
The giant now drew from his pocket
a very soiled and crumpled halfsheet
of a copy-book and began to write
from the Princessâ€™s dictation.
â€˜Of course I should not do anything
soâ€”â€”â€™ Here he stopped.
â€˜How do you spell â€œridiculousâ€ ?â€™
â€˜With two â€œkâ€™s,â€ of course,â€™ said
the dwarf; â€˜even I know that, though I
When he had finished he handed it
to the Princess :
THE BROWN OWL 73
â€˜Just sign your name, will you?â€™
The Princess signed her name, but
she could not help seeing that the
writing was very bad and the spelling
â€˜Why didnâ€™t they send some one
who could write better? Why! that
â€œryâ€ is more like a â€œkâ€ than an â€œrâ€,â€™
But the giant shook his head mourn-
â€˜ They hadnâ€™t got any one else in the
army who could write except Merry-
mineral, and he was afraid to come.â€™
â€˜But werenâ€™t you afraid to come?â€™
The giant shook his mace round so
violently that it grazed the helmet of
the dwarf, and cut his crest of roses
â€˜Whom am I to be afraid of?â€™ he
growled. â€˜I could kill your whole
army single-handedâ€™; 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 Princessâ€™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
â€˜Come, I say, you know,â€™ he said, â€˜1
can fight anything in reasonâ€”but Iâ€™m
not going to tackle that, you know;
besides, weâ€™re ambassadors; and you
canâ€™t hurt us. Iâ€™m goingâ€™; 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
still remained :
â€˜Now let us finish our dessertâ€™â€” for
THE BROWN OWL 78
the ambassadors had come in right in
the middle of it.
After a moment the Princess said :
â€˜How absurd of. him to think I
would marry him-â€”â€”why, heâ€™s old_
enough to be my great-grandfather.â€™
But suddenly she became grave:
â€˜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,â€™
But the Prince became quite angry
at such an idea. â€˜Itâ€™s absurd,â€™ he
said.- â€˜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:
â€˜What do you say, my lord?â€™ she said.
â€˜I think just as the Prince of India
â€”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.â€™
The Princess gave a sigh of relief.
â€˜Since you say so, Lord Licec, it
must be right; besides, I donâ€™t think
I could ever marry himâ€”he is such
a very unpleasant sort of man.â€™
And the Prince answered :
â€˜You are quite right thereâ€™; 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 attackâ€”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 alone
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
â€˜What does your Majesty intend to
do this morning? for I shall not be
with you, as J 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.â€™
â€˜Indeed, I shall do nothing of the
sort,â€™ she answered. â€˜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 donâ€™t say I mustnâ€™t
go; besides, the Owl will protect me;
he promised to; didnâ€™t you, Owl?â€™
and the Owl nodded.
â€˜But they may shoot the Owl with
their arrows, and then a
78 THE BROWN OWL
â€˜But the Owl before now has
conquered Merrymineral himself, and
he may still do it. Oh, please donâ€™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 canâ€™t.â€™
â€˜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.â€™
â€˜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 knightâ€™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 Â°
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.
â€˜Do you really mean to say,â€™ he
exclaimed, â€˜that Lord Licec allowed
you to come out to the field of battle?
Why, he must be mad.â€™
â€˜Oh no, heâ€™s not,â€™ answered the
Princess; â€˜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 donâ€™t
seem very glad to see meâ€”perhaps
you think I shall hinder youâ€”so Tâ€™ll
go and ask some one else to take care
of me, as you donâ€™t seem to relish the
80 THE BROWN OWL
task. Good-morningâ€™; 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 wouldnâ€™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.
â€˜Tf you really insist on stopping on
the field no one is more fit to take
care of you than I. So do stop.â€™
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 ot
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 8x
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 togetherâ€”so close indeed that
they could see each otherâ€™s faces quite
plainlyâ€”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 himselfâ€”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 recognised
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,
â€˜I do believe theyâ€™re ashamed ot
themselves,â€™ she said to the Prince;
and he answered :
THE BROWN OWL 83
â€˜They certainly look like it.â€™
â€˜Do you think,â€™ she asked, â€˜if I
were to go over to them and offer to
pardon them that they would leave
Merrymineral and come on my side?â€™
The Prince thought a moment.
*T believe they would,â€™ he said; â€˜ only
if I were you I would not go, I should
send an ambassador or a herald.â€™
But the Princess shook her head.
â€˜That would never do,â€™ she said.
â€˜Iâ€™m sure theyâ€™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, Ill go
to them quite alone.â€™
But the Prince said:
â€˜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, donâ€™t
So the Princess said :
84 THE BROWN OWL
â€˜Well, I suppose you're right, only
you must come alone.â€™
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:
â€˜Good-morning, my lords.â€™
And they replied in chorus:
â€˜Good-morning, your Majesty.â€™
So she went on:
â€˜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.â€™
One of the nobles replied :
â€œWe have no grievances.â€™
â€˜Then why have you fought against
- â€˜Because we could not help it, your
â€˜But I should have thought you
could have helped fighting.â€™
â€˜I mean, your Majesty, that Merry-
mineral threatened to kill us all if we
did not fight,â€™
â€˜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 ?â€™
â€˜We would most willingly; only
perhaps your Majesty might inflict
some punishment on us for our mis-
But the Princess shook her head.
â€˜No; I will give you all a free
pardon if you return to your allegiance.â€™
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 ~
said : ;
â€˜And you, sirs, will you not also
But the giant shook his head, and
the dwarf said snappishly :
â€˜Donâ€™t you know we canâ€™t?â€™ Â©
But the Princess answered: â€”
â€˜No; I do not know why you canâ€™t.â€™
So the dwarf snarled :
â€˜We're bound to serve him for a
certain time, whether we like it or not.
Iâ€™m the King of the Underground
Gnomesâ€”we live in tunnels under the
earth, and never come up unless weâ€™re
And the giant said:
â€˜Ym the Spirit of the Woodsâ€”
thatâ€™s why Iâ€™m dressed in leaves like
this; and Iâ€™m the King of the Foresters,
and we live in trees.â€™
But just at this moment a frightful
roar came from the camp:
â€˜Why donâ€™t you begin ?â€™ it came.
It was so sudden that it quite
88 THE BROWN OWL
startled the Princess, but the giant
shook his head mournfully :
â€˜He always roars like that when heâ€™s
ina temper. He'll be coming out in
a moment, and wonâ€™t there be a row?â€™
Just then the voice came again.
â€˜Bring Popfelwuski to the door.â€™
â€˜Popfelwuskiâ€™s his dragon that he
rides on,â€™ 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 Princessâ€™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 manâ€”for he
was over eight hundred years old. He
vaulted on to his dragonâ€™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 â€œ
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 :
â€˜Oh, itâ€™s you, is it? Tl soon do
for you,â€™ 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.
go THE BROWN OWL
â€˜Had we not better retreat and
join the rest of the army?â€™ he said.
But the Princess answered :
â€˜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.â€™
So the Prince came a good deal
closer, and they sat watching the frantic
efforts of Merrymineral to get at them,
but it wasno use. Suddenly, however,
he changed his mode of attack. He
made his dragon fly high into the airâ€”
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.
â€˜I do believe heâ€™s going to drop on
us from aboveâ€™; and so he was. The
Prince put up his lance that the dragon
THE BROWN OWL QI
might be spiked on it as it fell, But
he might have saved himself the
trouble, for suddenly, when the thing
had fallen to within a few feet of their
heads, it stopped as if it had fallen on
to the roof of a house, and then it
bounced off again like a ball.
But the Princess had shut her eyes,
so she did not see this; but when she
opened them she saw the dragon and
Merrymineral lying on the grass in a
heap where they had fallen.
But he was soon on his feet again,
and again he tried to charge at the
Princess; but it was no use, and he
only tired himself. At last the Prin-
cess began to get tired too, so she
turned to the Prince and said:
â€˜I think weâ€™ve had enough of thisâ€”
And he replied:
â€˜Oh, plenty; but I donâ€™t see how
we're to get rid of him, unless I go
out and fight him,â€™
But the Princess answered :
92 THE BROWN OWL
â€˜Oh, I donâ€™t think you need do that,
although itâ€™s very good of you to offer
â€”but youâ€™ve forgotten all about the
Owl. So she took the Owl off her
shoulder, and putting it on the horseâ€™s
head with its face to her she asked it:
â€˜You can drive him away, canâ€™t
you, dear Owl?â€™
And the Owl nodded gravely. So
the Princess said:
â€˜Then Iâ€˜ wish you wouldâ€”only
donâ€™t hurt him; only drive him away.â€™
As she said this a wonderful change
came over the Owl. It began to grow
bigger and bigger, until it quite covered
them over as it spread its wings to
fly. Merrymineral seemed to know
what was coming, for he drew his
steedâ€™s reins up tight and examined
his stirrups and saddle. And then, as
the Owl flew towards him, he tried to
spur the golden dragon against him ;
but the dragon refused to move, and
at last it turned and bolted with its tail
between its legs, like a whipped dog.
THE BROWN OWL 93
Merrymineral tried hard to stop it,
but he might as well have tried to
stop a mad bull. As he could not
stop, and the Owl was catching him
up, he turned in his saddle and hurled
his heavy battle-axe at the Owl; but
the Owl caught it as it few, and flung
it back with such good aim and force
that it hit the dragon on the back
and cut it clean in half, so that it fell
from under Merrymineral and left him
standing on the ground.
But when he saw that the Owl was
quite close to him, a wonder happened
â€”for he suddenly caught fire at his
feet and shot up into the air just as
you may have seen a rocket do, and
he shot right away, so that the last
they saw of him was just as he disap-
peared over the mountains. But the
Owl flew back to its mistress quite
small again, and it perched once more
on her shoulder as affectionately as
ever. As to the golden dragon, it had
disappeared altogetherâ€”and the funny
94 THE BROWN OWL
part was that nothing was heard of it
ever after, and no one knew how it
had goneâ€”so that the only thing that
remained was the battle-axe, and that
took seven men to lift it. However,
the main thing was that Merrymineral
had departed, and there seemed no
likelihood of his returning.
So you may Imagine how great the
Princessâ€™s joy was.
As soon as he had quite disappeared,
she said :
â€˜That really does seem to be the
last of him.â€™
But the Prince shook his head:
â€˜You never know when that sort of
man will turn up again; and in the
meantime what are we to do with the
giant and the dwarf? I suppose we
had better attack them at once and
get rid of them.â€™
â€˜But why?â€™ asked the Princess.
â€˜They donâ€™t seem to want to fight
much, and why should we attack them ?
Let us go and ask them to go away
THE BROWN OWL 98
quietly, and I should think they
So they went up to where the giant
and the dwarf and their forces were
â€˜What are you going to do now?â€™
she asked of them.
â€˜T donâ€™t know,â€™ answered the dwarf,
and the giant too shook his head. So
the Princess said :
â€˜Will you come and join our rejoic-
But the dwarf said :
â€˜No; I must be going back to my
kingdom, or I donâ€™t know what wonâ€™t
And the giant said:
â€˜And I'll go too, or they might rebel
there just as your subjects have done.â€™
So he said good-day, and in three
minutes he had disappeared. The
dwarf too said good-day quite politely
for him, and then he struck the
ground with the point of his lance,
and immediately the earth opened
96 THE BROWN OWL
before him and he marched into the
opening at the head of his troops,
and with their trumpets blowing and
banners waving they disappeared, and
the Princess never saw them nor their
master againâ€”and to tell the truth she
was not very sorry. But the Prince
and Princess marched back to the
town at the head of the army, and
there Lord Licec met them and con-
gratulated the Princess on her success,
and the people shouted for joy, and
the bells pealed gladly. ;
So they marched through the town to
the principal city, from which you may
remember she had set out on the day
before. And there they were received
with even greater joy, and for six
days there was feasting and rejoicing
throughout the whole land, but on
the seventh day, after the Princess had
rewarded the knights who had fought
the best, the army dispersed, and the
town quieted down, and everything
went on just as usual
THE BROWN OWL 97
Only the Prince of India remained
of all the knights who had fought.
He said he was not well, and wanted
a rest before he set out for India, which
was a long way off. So he stopped
and rested, and the winter changed to
summer, and the summer to autumn,
and he was still there, and he did not
seem as if he were likely to go either.
The time slipped away quietly enough,
and no more was heard of Merry-
mineralâ€”not even a word. One day
when the Lords of the Council had
finished sitting for the day, and were
departing, Lord Licec remained, as he
always did when he had anything
private to say to the Princess. So
she said :
â€˜Well, my lord, what is it that you
wish to tell to me to-day?â€™
â€˜I had come, your Majesty, to make
a suggestion to you that it would be
greatly to the good of the nation if
your Majesty would condescend to
think about marrying some one.â€™
98 THE BROWN OWL
The Princess was so startled that
she quite jumped :
â€˜Marry any one! good gracious me,
whom amI to marry? I donâ€™t know
any one that I like at all,â€™
Lord Licec stroked his chin :
â€˜That is rather a drawback,â€™ he
said ; â€˜but I had thought that perhaps
the Prince of India mightâ€”â€”â€™
_ But the Princess interrupted him :
â€˜Oh, he would never do; besides he
would have to ask. me, and he wonâ€™t
But it might have been noticed that
she blushed just a little as she said it,
so .that perhaps she was not quite
sincere in what she said. Lord
Licec did not notice that, so he
â€˜Well, if he wonâ€™t suit, the only
thing to do is to have a tournament,
and then you must marry the winner.â€™
But she did not seem to like the
idea at all.
â€˜Suppose the winner should turn
THE BROWN OWL 99
out a hunchback, or a cripple, or a
very hideous man,â€™ she said.
â€˜Your Majesty might arrange it so
that the candidates should only be
allowed to tilt if they were sufficiently
She agreed. to the suggestion.
â€˜I suppose it is the only thing to
do,â€™ she said; and it was arranged
that in four weeksâ€™ time a grand >
tournament was to take place for the
hand of the Princess Ismara, and that
all the handsome knights in the world
could come if they liked.
As to the Owl, when he was asked
if he liked the arrangement, he gravely
nodded his head; so the Princess felt
quite safe in her choice, and the
Prince of India felt contented also, for
he knew he had a very good chance
â€˜of winning, unless some knight of
whom he had never heard should
suddenly turn up. He spent the
time in between in practising for the
tournament, and he ordered a new set
Loo THE BROWN OWL
of.armour to be sent to him from
India in time. _
So every one seemed pleased with
the arrangement, except, perhaps, the
ugly knights, but they kept quiet
The month went away quietly,
except that the town was gradually
filling with knights, who were coming
to take part in the contest. The lists
were erected on a plain just outside the
town-walls, and on the day before the
tournament the free seats were already
filled with people, who had come there
determined to get places even if they
had to wait all day long and had to
sleep there all night. As you may
imagine, the Princess did not get
much sleep that night, for she was
naturally in a great fever of excite-
ment thinking about who the knight
would be. One thing she was sure
about, and that was, that if she did
not like him she would not have
anything to do with him, even if she
THE BROWN OWL TOr
had to forfeit her kingdom. However
that might be, she did not sleep that
night, and on the morrow she felt
quite tired. She dressed herself in
her most splendid robes, and drove
to the lists in a little basket-work
pony carriage drawn by eight little
mouse-coloured ponies. It was a
beautiful day, and the road to the
lists was covered with people who
were going to look on, or to take part
in the tournament, and as she went by
they drew up their horses to bow to
her, for she had specially forbidden
them to cheerâ€”she said it made
her head ache. So she drove down
the hard, white road bowing and
smiling to the people, and they smiled
and. looked glad too, for they were
very fond of their Princess.
After she had gone along thus for
about five minutes she overtook the
Prince of India, who was going the
same way on his famous horse. The
Prince did not seem to see herâ€”in fact
102 THE BROWN OWL
he was engaged in looking very hard
at his spur on the other side.
But the Princess did not mean to
pass him like that, so she said cheer-
â€˜Good morning, Prince.â€™
He looked up quite astonished :
â€˜Good morning, your Majesty!â€™ he
said, and he took off his cap and
bowed low in his saddle, for you see
he had not got his armour onâ€”he had
sent it on with his page.
The Princess did not know exactly
what to say next, so for a moment they
were silent, and the Prince trotted
quietly by her side. At last she
â€˜Are you, too, going to look on at
the tournament ?? Â©
The Prince answered :
â€˜I had purposed taking part in itâ€”
that, ahem !â€”is if your Majesty thinks
I am sufficiently handsome, and if you
have no other objection.â€™
' The Princess answered quickly :
THE BROWN OWL 103
â€˜Oh, no objection at all. I should
like it very muchâ€”that is, if you are
content to run the risk of your life for
such a small prize.â€™
But the Prince only answered :
â€˜Oh, your Majesty!â€™ and her Majesty
flushed a little at his reply.
So they went on again in silence, and
the road began to get fuller and fuller
of people, and the Princess had her
time so taken up by managing her
poniesâ€”for she was driving herself, you
knowâ€”that she could not say much.
However, just as they reached the
entry she said:
_ â€˜By the bye, what seat have you got?â€™
â€˜T believe theyâ€™ve given me a seat
over on the south side,â€™ he answered.
â€˜Dearme, howcarelessofthem. Why,
yow'll have the sun in your face all the
time you're not tilting, and it will give
you such a headache. You'd better
come into the Royal Boxâ€”theyâ€™ve got
an awning over that, and you'll be able
to see much better. Do come.â€™
IO4 THE BROWN OWL
So the Prince gave his horse to his
page and went with the Princess and
the Owlâ€”for you must remember that
the Owl was always perched on her
The lists were very gay with horses,
and knights, and heralds, and many
and â€œgreat were the knights that in-
tended to tilt. They had come from
the uttermost parts of the worldâ€”from
Kensington, from Nubia, fromâ€”well,
from everywhere, for you see they did
not get the chance of fighting for a
princess every day. So you may
imagine how many suitors there were.
Nearly a thousand came, but a good
many of them were not considered
handsome enough, so they either went
away in a tiff or else they stayed to
look on. Still it would take a good
three days before the last man had
The entrance of the Princess. was
the signal for the music to begin, and
the procession of knights filed past,
THE BROWN OWL 105
each one bowing to the Princess and
making his horse perform feats of skill.
And then the tournament began and
the knights charged each other, each
in their turn, The way they managed
it was for each knight to throw lots for
the order of. their fighting, and then
they were to be divided into two bodies
â€”the challengers and those to be
challenged ; and as it came to the turn
of each challenger, he rode out and
touched the shield of the knight on the
. other side with whom he wished to fight,
and then the victors were to fight it
out among themselves until they were
all finished except one.
The Prince of India happened to be
one of the challengers, and his turn
did not come until the afternoon. So
during the morning he sat in the Royal
Box talking to the Princess or to the
lords and maids in waiting.
But the Princess did not seem to
enjoy the gentle and joyous passages
of arms at all, for you see she was very
106 THE BROWN OWL
soft-hearted, and did not like to see the
knights knocked off their horses so
very roughly. So, on the whole, she
was not nearly so gay as the Prince,
and indeed, she seemed very unhappy
when he went to put on his panoply as
his turn came near.
However, he soon afterwards came
into the lists dressed in his full armour,
and you may be sure he looked very
splendid, mounted on his black horseâ€”
for his armour was entirely of silver,
and his shield shone so brightly that it
hurt oneâ€™s eyes to look at it, and_ his
long plumes floated in the wind a great
many yards behind him.
The spectators cheered him very
much as he caracoled from one end of
the lists to the other, and the Princess
quite brightened up as she saw him.
â€˜I wonder whose shield heâ€™s going
to touch?â€™ she said to herself; and
when she saw who it was she said:
â€˜Good gracious me! heâ€™s challenged
the Knight of Sarragos ; why, heâ€™s the
THE BROWN OWL 107
greatest knight in the world. Oh
dear, Iâ€™m sure the Prince will be
However, the knights were now
going each to his own station at
different ends of the lists. The horses
seemed quite as excited as the knights,
and they champed their bits and
foamed and pawed up the ground,
while the heralds read the challenge
from the Prince of India to the Knight
It seemed as if the Princess was
right about the strength of the Knight,
for he was of enormous size, and he
looked a veritable pillar of steel as he
saton his horse listening tothe challenge.
However, the trumpets for the charge
sounded, and away went the knights
straight towards each other like arrows,
each one looking along his spear to see
that it was aimed truly for his adversary
â€”covering himself well with his shield.
They went so fast that they could
- hardly be seen, and the crash when
108 THE BROWN OWL
they met was louder than the loudest
peal of thunder you ever heard.
The Princess shut her eyes at the
sound.- But she could not keep them
shut, for the people were cheering very
loudly. So she opened them reluctantly,
and she seemed quite glad to see that
the Knight of Sarragos had been thrown
from his horse by the shock and was
rolling in the dust. It was -rather odd
that she should be pleased at this,
because as a rule she was sorry for the
conquered knight ; for myself I rather
think she had wanted the Prince to
win all along. Anyhow she con-
gratulated him warmly on his success
when he came back to his seat, and
for the rest of the day she did not
seem much interested in the tilting
although some of it was very good,
So the first two days passed away
and nothing particular happened. The
Prince of India took his turn with the
_ rest, till at last the third day came and
THE BROWN OWL Tog
there were only ten knights left. These,
too, the Prince overcame, and it seemed
as if all was over and he had gained the
prize; but while the heralds were still
calling for any one to come and defeat
the Prince, and while every one was
holding their breath in expectation, a
loud blast from a trumpet sounded
through the air, and at the other end
of the lists a knight appeared. He
was a very tall and splendid-looking
knightâ€”for his armour was of gold, and
the crest on his helmet-top was a
dragon carved out of a rose-red ruby of
enormous size; and the point of his
lance was made of one diamond, that
sparkled in the sun a great deal more
brightly than any dewdrop on a spring
morning. And as to handsome, why
he was a perfect blaze of handsome-
ness, so that there could be no objection
to him. Theonly thing was, no one
knew who he was, or where he came
So the Princess beckoned him to
TIO THE BROWN OWL
her, and he came and bowed low in
â€˜Who are you, Sir Knight?â€™ she
asked; â€˜and where do you come
â€˜Jam the Knight of London, your
â€˜London, London ; whereâ€™s that Pâ€”
Iâ€™ve never heard of it.â€™
â€˜London is the capital city of
â€˜But where zs England ?â€™ she asked.
â€˜IT had thought that every one had
heard of England,â€™ he said. â€˜ However,
as no report of England has ever
reached your ears, I will tell your
Majesty. The British Islands, of
which England is one, are a set
of small islands off the west coast of
Europe. They are composed of
England, Scot ;
But here the Princess interrupted
â€˜I thank you, Sir Knight, for your
information, but just now the tourna-
THE BROWN OWL III
ment is waiting for you, and I am not
very fond of geography lessons,â€™
The Knight bowed again, and retired
to take up his place in the lists.
â€˜How very handsome he is!â€™ said the
Princess to one of her maids in waiting.
And the lady answered :
_ Â©Oh, quite too handsome !â€™
However, by this time both the
. knights were in their places, and the
Princess nodded to the heralds to give
_ the signal.
â€˜ Laissez aller, they cried, which is
the French for â€˜Go.â€™
And they did go with a vengeanceâ€”
they went so fast that they looked all
blurred together like streaks of lightning,
And when they met, it was louder
than thunder, louder than the shock of
avalanches, louder thanâ€”well, louder
than everything you ever heard, except
perhaps when some one lets the tea-tray
fall down the kitchen stairs. -
And when the dust cleared up, the
poor Knight of India was rolling on the
112 THE BROWN OWL
ground in a heap, composed of himself
and his horse, But the Princess did
not seem very sorry for himâ€”so wags
The Knight of London, however, was
seated in his saddle as firmly as if he
were part of it; and as there seemed
nothing else to do, he commanded his
heralds to challenge any one who
should wish to dispute his right to
the victory. But no one came out,
for either there was no one else left, or
else the knights were afraid to enter the
lists against one who had overthrown
. So easily so doughty a knight as the
Prince of India. However that might
be, no one turned up, so the Knight
of London was declared the victor.
The shout that was raised at this
declaration was not very tremendous,
for most of the people liked the Prince
of India, whereas they did not care
much for the new-comer. But he did
not seem to mind it much, and he
went smilingly to the Princess. As he
THE BROWN OWL 113
came before the royal presence he
made his horse kneel, and advance
kneeling, till he was quite close.
Then he said:
â€˜As no one appears to dispute my
right I believe I am the victor, and
in virtue of that right I claim your
But the Princess laughed.
â€˜Oh, we'll see about that to-morrow ;
there'll be plenty of time then. Mean-
while, this evening we are going to
give a ball at the palace, to which all
who have taken part in the tournament
are invited. Of course you'll come,
â€˜Of course I will, at your invitation,
your Majesty, but :
What he was going to say was
drowned in an immoderate fit of
laughter, which came from the Prince
â€˜Ha! ha! ha!â€™ he laughed. â€˜Canâ€™t
you see who it is you're talking too?
he continued, talking to the Princess.
1I4 THE BROWN OWL
The Princess drew herself up.
â€˜I believe I am talking to the
Knight of London,â€™ she said severely.
â€˜The Knight of London! why heâ€™s
no more the Knight of London than
I am. Why, your Majesty must be
blind or mad, or both, not to see who
he is. Blindâ€™s not enough to express
But he got no farther, for the
Princess called for the police to arrest
him, but before they could get at him
he had fainted; for the spear of the
Knight of London had gone right
through his side. So the Princess
told the police to lift him up gently
and to carry him to his house in the
But the Knight of London frowned :
â€˜If I were you, your Majesty, I
should order them to cut his head off
on the first opportunity. To call you
mad and blindâ€”why Iâ€™ve never heard
of such a thing.â€™
But the Princess said Â°
THE BROWN OWL TI5
â€˜That would never do. Why, he is an
independent prince, and if I hurt him
it would bring on a war with India,
and goodness knows what else. How-
ever, Iâ€™ll have him turned out of the
kingdom as soon as he is well enough
to go. However, I am going back now.
Mind and be in time this evening.â€™
So he went to doff his armour, and
she drove home once moreâ€”this time
without the poor Prince, who was being
carried behind in an ambulance waggon.
The rest of the day passed off somehow,
and the night came at last, as nights are
in the habit of doing, and with the night
came knightsâ€”no longer dressed in
steel armour, but gorgeous in velvet
and silk and evening dress. . But, how-
ever gorgeous and fine they might be,
the Knight of London outstripped
them all, in dress, manners, looks, and
everything else, and the Princess said
he had the best step of any one she
had ever knownâ€”and she ought to
know, for she danced with him a great
116 THE BROWN OWL
many times. In fact, by the end of
the ball she had forgotten all about
the poor Prince, for the Knight of
London was a most enchanting person
â€”although one thing did seem strange,
and that was, that the Knight seemed
positively afraid of the Owl; and at
supper-time he actually refused to sit
on the right hand of the Princess
because the Owl was sitting on her
But the Owl took no notice of him
at all, and never even looked at him,
so she thought it was only a rather
foolish prejudice on his part. How-
ever, the ball came to an end at last,
and the Princess went to bed and
dreamt pleasantly of some one, but
it was not the Prince this time.
And the Prince lay tossing on his
bed only half dreaming, and not
pleasantly, of some one, and it was
the Princess. As for the Knight or
London, nobody knows what he
dreamt about; and, to tell the truth,
THE BROWN OWL II7
nobody cared. But the Owl sat at.
the head of the Princessâ€™s bed, and
slept calmly,â€”he did not dream ;
owls are not in the habit of dreaming
â€”they are a good deal wiser.
When the next morning came, the
Knight of London came with it, and
he wanted to know when the Princess
would marry him; but the Princess
put him offâ€”for somehow, although
she liked him very much, she did
not altogether relish the idea ot
matrying so soon. So she told him
that he must wait until the Lords of
the Council had given their consent,
and they were not going to meet till
the next day, so he would have to
wait till then. But the Knight did
not like this at all.
â€˜ At all events, my dear Princess,â€™ he
said, â€˜you might promise to marry
me, for, after all, I did win the tourna-
ment, you see, and soâ€”â€”â€™
But the Princess put her hand to
her chin and rubbed it softly as if she
118 THE BROWN OWL
were thinking very deeplyâ€”and no
doubt she wasâ€”and shook her head
â€˜No; I canâ€™t promise until the
Council have given their consent, for
you see that would be unconstitutional,
and I canâ€™t be that even for you.â€™
The Knight seemed quite angry.
â€˜Bother the unconstitutionality,â€™ he
said ; â€˜ what does the stupid old Council
want to blunder into such matters ?â€™
But the Princess stopped him:
â€˜Oh, you mustnâ€™t say thatâ€”please
donâ€™t say that,â€™ she said; â€˜itâ€™s not a
stupid old Council, itâ€™s a very nice old
Council,and itâ€™smuchnicer than youare.
When you get angry like that youâ€™re
not at all niceâ€”so just be quiet; now
And he had to be quiet, for he was
afraid of making her really angry.
She too was afraid she had hurt
his feelings by telling him to be quiet.
So she asked him to join the hunt that
was preparing outside, and he of course
THE BROWN OWL 119
accepted her invitation, for you see
he was only too glad to make it up.
They rode out of the town, and soon
a deer was started, and the chase swept
through the tall trees after it over the
thick carpet of fallen leaves and
between the trunks of the beech-trees.
As a rule the Princessâ€™s horse was
swifter than any of the deer they
started, but this one seemed an excep-
tion to the rule, for it went on at just
the rate she did, keeping always
at the same speed whether she pulled
her horse in or let it go at the
top of its speed. The Princess was
quite annoyed at this. Gradually she
passed all the knights and huntsmen
who were labouring forward at full
gallop, and then she came up with the
hoarse-tongued hounds, who were
running steadily along with their noses
close to the ground. And then she
passed them too, and their deep
mouthing sounded behind, and gradu-
ally the shouts of the huntsmen and
120 THE BROWN OWL
the cries of the dogs and all the sounds
of the chase died away behind, and
still the deer kept steadily forward.
Just at this time she noticed the heavy
gallop of a horse behind her, and
looking round she saw the Knight of
London cantering easily behind. So
she slackened her speed a little to let
him come up, and then she stopped to
let the rest of the chase come up with
her; and when she stopped the deer
stopped too, and nibbled quietly at a
flower that was growing at the foot of
a tree. ,
By this time the Knight had come
up with her, and she said:
â€˜So here youare. What an annoying
thing that deer isâ€”I canâ€™t catch it up,
do whatever I may,and my horse used
to be thought the fastest in the world,
except one,â€™ she added, after a
â€˜That is strange,â€™ said the Knight.
â€˜I used always to think mine the
fastest in the world, and indeed, your
THE BROWN OWL I2I
Majesty, I think it is quite as fast as
â€˜I do believe it is,â€™ she said. â€˜Itâ€™s
most annoying ; every second person I
see now has a horse as fast as mine.
However, we'll try a race as soon as
the rest have caught us up.â€™
Just at that moment a houndâ€™s bay
came from close behind them, and the
deer started off again.
â€˜There it goes,â€™ said the Princess ;
and again she started off, and the
Knight kept close beside her. They
went faster than ever, and she could
hardly breathe because of the wind,
but the Knight kept steadily by her
side, and would not be out-distanced.
Just at this moment she happened to
look upwards, and there was the Owl
sailing quietly along just over her
head, flapping his wings lazily as if
there were no need for exertion,
although they were going at such a rate
that the Princess could hardly keep her
eyes Openâ€”just as when you put your
122 THE BROWN OWL
head out of the window of a railway
train that is going pretty fastâ€”a thing,
by the bye, that it is to be hoped you
never do, or you might get your nose
chopped off against a post. When she
looked down from the Owl, to her
surprise the deer had vanished al-
together, and although she rubbed her
eyes she could not see it anywhere;
and although they galloped still farther
on, no deer made its appearance, and
the forest had become dark and thick
and she had never been there before.
So she drew her horse in so suddenly
that its hoofs threw up the copper-
coloured beech-leaves in showers, and
the Knight shot some distance in
advance. However, he turned and
came back. So the Princess said:
â€˜What are we to do now?â€™
â€˜Go back, I suppose,â€™ he answered.
â€˜But I donâ€™t know the way,â€™ she
said, â€˜and we are near the country of
the Magi, and theyâ€™re the most fright-
ful creatures, who would tear us up and
THE BROWN OWL 123
eat us if they knew where to find
The Knight smiled :
â€˜T could save you from them,â€™ he
But the Princess said reflectively :
â€˜T donâ€™t know so much about that,
for you see theyâ€™re very strongâ€”and
how dark itâ€™s getting; it must be past
five, and it will soon be night.â€™
I daresay if she had been alone she
would have had a good cry, but that
wouldnâ€™t do before strangers.
It was still getting darker and she
began to feel very uncomfortable, for
the howl of a wolf came down on the
breeze, and a squirrel that had been
searching for nuts darted home to its
hole, scuttling along as fast as it could.
So she said:
â€˜Come, let us be quick and get away.â€™
â€˜Promise to marry me first.â€™
But she only said :
â€˜Oh, I'll see about that when weâ€™re
safeâ€”so do come.â€™
124 THE BROWN OWL
What the Knight would have
answered was never known, for just
then the Owl, who was seated on her
shoulder, gave a mournful â€˜Tu-whoo,â€™
at which the horse of the Knight jumped
back nearly ten feet and almost threw
him with the unexpected shock. But
before she could do anything a hunter
burst from the bushes near at hand
â€˜Hurry, Princess, hurry; the Magi
have heard of your whereabouts, and
they are coming at full speed here.
Come, be quick.â€™
But the Princess said:
â€˜But what will you do, old man? for
you have no horse.â€™
But he smiled contemptuously.
â€˜Horse! I donâ€™t want a horseâ€”why,
I can run as well as any deer. Come,
And he caught the bridle of her
horse and away they went, and for the
moment she forgot all about the Knight,
for from behind came the sound of
THE BROWN OWL 125
crashing branches, and she knew that
the Magi were following them. But
the old hunter ran in front of the
horse, tugging at the bridle-rein, and
shouting to her to go faster, so she
leant forward and whispered in her
horseâ€™s ear, and it stretched forward
with such speed that it outsped the
wind. Gradually the sounds behind
began to get less and less, and the
wood began to get lighter, and at
last they jumped a little brook, and
were at the end of the forest in a
smooth meadow. Here the old man
â€˜Vou are safe now,â€™ he said. And
she drew a sigh of relief.
Â© At last!â€™ she said; â€˜but how can I
reward you, my preserver? Would you
like a lock of my hair, or a purse full
of gold, or a ? well that wouldnâ€™t
doâ€”you see I canâ€™t well offer to marry
you, though thatâ€™s what princesses
generally do to their preservers.
Youâ€™d better choose something for
126 THE BROWN OWL
yourself. I- will grant it, whatever
But the old man shook his head.
â€˜I want no reward, your Majesty; I
only did my duty. I couldnâ€™t have
done less. See, here come some of
the hunters whom you left behind.â€™
And just then several of them came
up, and when they saw her they
shouted and blew their horns to let
the others know that the Princess was
found. But the huntsman said :
â€˜Good-day, your Majesty. I must
â€˜But you havenâ€™t got your reward
_ But he shook his head.
â€˜I want no reward,â€™ he said; and
before the Princess could say any
more he stepped into the forest and
was seen no more; so she turned her
horse towards the town.
On her way she met the head
huntsman, so she drew rein and
THE BROWN OWL 127
â€˜Why did you not follow on the
scent of the deer?â€™
â€˜Tt lay so thinly, your Majesty, that
the dogs could not follow, and they
soon gave in.â€™
â€˜But you should have followed me,
at any rate.â€™
â€˜Ah, your Majesty, we might as
well have tried to prove the moon
was made of green cheese. Besides,
your Majesty had one cavalier; and
sometimes twoâ€™s company and threeâ€™s
Just at this moment the Princess
remembered the Knight.
â€˜Good gracious!â€™ she said, â€˜what
has become of the Knightâ€”have none
of you seen him ?â€™
But none of them had, and although
the question went far and wide no
news came of him, nor could he be
â€˜He must have been caught by the
Magiâ€”if so, he will have been de-
voured to a certainty! Poor Knight!â€™
128 THE BROWN OWL
The chief huntsman seemed ex-
â€˜Your Majesty has not been near
the country of the Magi surely?â€™ he
â€˜IT was almost too near, and the
poor Knight has probably been torn to
pieces in trying to drive them back.â€™
â€˜Your Majesty should be thankful
that knights are so faithful) said the
chief huntsman; â€˜but perhaps, after
all, he has escaped by a different
But the Princess sighed :
â€˜T am afraid not,â€™ she said
However, she rode on to the
town to consult Lord Licec as to what
had better be done. But when she
got there she found that he was out ot
town and would not be back till next
morning. So the poor Princess had
to go back home and waitâ€”but she
looked so pale that her ladies-in-waiting
insisted on sending for the doctor.
He came in a hurry, and asked
THE BROWN OWL 129
her of course what was the matter, and
when she told him he shook his head.
â€˜Iâ€™m afraid heâ€™s got rather a poor
chance, for these Magi havenâ€™t had
a good meal of one of your Majestyâ€™s
subjects for nearly three weeks, and
they were uncommonly hungry. But
if your Majesty will allow me to feel
your pulse, Iâ€”â€”â€™. '
So she gave him her hand, and he
took out his watch and began to
count. â€˜One, two, three, fourâ€™; but
just then he looked up and saw the
Owl sittingâ€™ on the Princessâ€™s shoulder,
and his hand trembled so much that
he dropped his watch, and it smashed
to atoms on the floor.
â€˜Oh dear, there goes ten and six-
pence,â€™ he groaned â€˜and I shanâ€™t be
able to get another for ever so long.
Dâ€™you know, your Majesty, I think you
are somewhat feverish ; and: you had
better go-to bed. And meanwhile,
the Owl is too exciting for you; if
you could let it be put in a cellar and
130 THE BROWN OWL
let it have nothing to eat for, say,
three weeks, perhaps it might not be
so fiery after that.â€™
The Princess smiled:
â€˜Perhaps you would like to take
him there yourself,â€™ she said.
But the doctor said:
â€˜Good gracious! no. I think heâ€™s
perfectly capable of taking himself
without any assistance, Dâ€™you know,
your Majesty, Iâ€™ve got a very pressing
case outside ; and if you will excuse me
I will retire.â€™
And he retired so quickly that he
left his umbrella behind himâ€”for you
see he was very frightened of the Owl.
Acting on his advice the Princess
went to bed, and dismissed her ladies-
in-waiting and told them not to come
to the room again until she called for
And then she lay with her hand
under her head thinking of nothing in
particular, and the Owl sat on the top
of the canopy over her bed.
THE BROWN OWL 131
Suddenly she heaved a deep sigh.
'*T wish I knew what had become
of him,â€™ she thought to herself.
â€œYou wouldnâ€™t like it if you did
know,â€™ said a strange cracked voice
that seemed to come from nowhere in
particular. She started up and looked
all round the room, but there was no
one to be seen; so she thought it
was all imagination, and lay down
again. And again she thought to
herself, â€˜How I should like to be with
â€˜No, you wouldn't,â€™ said the voice,
â€˜This time she was sure it came
from the Owl, so she asked quite softly,
â€˜Did you say that, cherished Owl ?â€™
And the Owl answered :
â€˜But I thought you could not speak,
â€˜Well, you see, I can sometimesâ€”
when itâ€™s necessary.â€™
â€˜But how did you know what I was
thinking ?â€”for I did not speak aloud.â€™
132 THE BROWN OWL
â€œAh! you see, Princess, I canâ€™t tell
you thatâ€”itâ€™s quite enough for you
that I can tell.â€™
â€˜But why do you say I should not
like to see him ?â€™
â€˜Because you wouldn't.â€™
â€˜Why? Is he all torn to pieces by
â€˜Torn to pieces !â€”not he,â€™ laughed
â€˜Oh! that is good news,â€™ said she
quite joyfully. â€˜Oh! do take me to
him, dear Owl.â€™
â€˜Very well, Princess. But I warn
you, you wonâ€™t be pleased with what
you see.â€™ But the Princess was quite
â€˜Oh yes, I shall, dear Owlâ€”when
shall we go?â€™
â€˜At once, if you likeâ€”the sooner
â€˜Oh! you dear Owl. I'll go and
get dressed at once.â€™
So she ran into her dressing-room
and dressed herself in no time, without .
THE BROWN OWL 133
bothering to call up any of her ladies-
in-waiting about it. Then she went
back to the room where the Owl was
waiting for her.
He was sitting on the floor near
the fire, blinking quietly at the coals,
and he did not at first notice her
entry, so she said:
â€˜Well, good Owl, shall I send for
â€˜What for?â€™ asked the Owl.
â€˜To ride on, I suppose!â€™ she
â€˜Oh, thatâ€™s it, is it? That would
never do. Just get on my back, and
Til see if I canâ€™t carry you somewhat
faster than a horse could.â€™
So she got on his back, although
she was rather afraid she would crush
him altogether. But somehow, when
she sat down, she sank deep into
his warm feathers,â€”either she had
grown small, or the Owl had grown
very big all of a sudden. Without
the least shock they passed through
134 THE BROWN OWL
the wall, and out into the clear star-
â€˜Good Owl,â€™ said the Princess,
â€˜you wonâ€™t let me fall, will you ?â€™ for,
to tell the truth, she felt rather afraid
on the whole; but the Owl answered :
â€˜No, of course not; youâ€™re quite
safe, only you'd better keep close to
me, for we shall go pretty fast, and
the wind will be sharp enough to cut
your hair off.â€™
So she sat still, protected against
the wind, and looking at the twinkling
starsâ€”for the Owl flew so high that he
almost rubbed some of them out of
their places. :
The wind whistled loud in the
wings of the Owl, but his flight was
so regular that she almost fell asleep,
and was quite happyâ€”for you see
she felt quite safe. Presently the
straight flight of the Owl changed, and
he began to circle round and round,
and then they dropped quickly towards
â€˜the earth, and the Owl stopped.
THE BROWN OWL 135
â€˜You can get off now,â€™ he said, and
she stepped off his back.
â€˜Take care,â€™ he said next; and she
rubbed her eyes in astonishment, for
she found herself on the top of a
roof. ; ;
â€˜I told you you wouldnâ€™t like it
if you came,â€™ he said. â€˜But you'd
better look down below if you want
to see anything thatâ€™s going on,â€™ and
he gravely seated himself on her
shoulder, for he seemed quite small
again. So the Princess looked down,
and she saw at some distance below
a large fire that was blazing in a sort
of courtyard, and then she saw that
it was the battlements of a castle
on which they were standing. Pre-
sently a horrible-looking old witch
came within the glow of the fireâ€”she
was an awful old creature too, and
she almost made the Princess cry out
from fright. She seated herself near
the fire, and began to beat the ground
angrily with the handle of a broom
136 THE BROWN OWL
that she carried, and every now and
then muttered as she did so:
â€˜How awfully late he iss Why
donâ€™t he come?â€™ and various other
complaints of his. lateness.
â€˜But who is he?â€™ asked the Princess
of the Owl in a whisper.
â€˜Wait, and you'll see,â€™ said the
Just then something peculiar
happened down belowâ€”a couple of
men appeared suddenly. They did
not seem to come from anywhere in
particular, but they were there all the
same. â€˜The Princess almost screamed
with astonishment, but she checked
herself in time by stuffing a pocket-
handkerchief into her mouth, for one
of the men whom she saw was the
Knight of London, and the other was
Magog the King of the Magi; and
the Knight of London did not seem~
to be on bad terms with the King of
â€˜You've come at last,â€™ growled the
THE BROWN OWL 137
old woman, in a voice something
between the squeaking of a slate-
pencil on a slate and the growling of
a bear with a sore head.
â€˜I couldnâ€™t come any sooner,
mother,â€™ said the Knight of London
soothingly ; â€˜you see I had to wait for
her to promise to marry me,â€™
â€˜Well, has she promised ?â€™ said the
â€˜Then why on earth not?â€™
â€˜She said she had to wait for the
consent of the Council.â€™
â€˜Why didnâ€™t you eat her?â€™ said
Magog sleepily; and then, without
waiting for an answer, he curled him-
self up close to the fire and went to
But the old witch went on:
â€˜Well, and what are your plans
â€˜Iâ€™m going back to-morrow morning,
and Iâ€™m going to take old Magog and
pretend that heâ€™s my prisoner of war,
138 THE BROWN OWL
and then the stupid old Council will
say Iâ€™ve done a service to the State,
and they will give me the hand of the
Princess for my pains.â€™
â€˜But supposing they donâ€™t?â€™
â€˜Then I shall cut them all to pieces,
and kill the Princess, and make myself
king by forceâ€”for you see nothing can
cut through my armour, except one
â€˜And whatâ€™s that?â€™ asked the
â€˜Well, I donâ€™t mind telling you,
mother, because you wonâ€™t go and tell
any oneâ€”itâ€™s Pager |â€™
â€˜Thatâ€™s a funny sort of thing to cut
â€˜It may be funny,â€™ answered the
Knight, â€˜ but itâ€™s true all the same, and
if the Prince of India had found it out
I should not be where Tam now; only
he didnâ€™t, you see.â€™.
â€˜So much the worse for him,â€™ said
the witch; â€˜but is there nothing at all
but paper that can cut through it?â€™
THE BROWN OWL 139
- â€˜Well, there is one thing that canâ€”
the beak of the Owl, to wit.â€™
â€˜Tu-whoo!â€™ suddenly cried the
The effect of this sudden cry was
tremendous. The Knight clung to his
mother, and cried out in a piteous
â€˜Oh, mother! mother! itâ€™s the Owl ;
save me!â€™ ;
_ â€˜How on earth can I save you if
you hang on me like this?â€™ said his
â€˜mother. â€˜Just throw some more wood
on, so that we can see this Owl, and
[ll fling my broom at it, and see if
that won't bring it down.â€™
But the Princess leant her head to
the Owl, and said:
â€˜Dear Owl, let's go. Iâ€™ve seen
And the Owl seemed to think the
same, for he said:
â€˜All right. Just get on my back
again, and we'll go.â€™
So she did as she was told, and no
140 THE BROWN OWL
sooner had she got on his back than
she fell asleep, and remembered no
more until she found herself lying on
her bed with the early morning sun
shining through the lattice.
She rubbed her eyes in astonish-
ment, and it seemed as if it had been
all a dream. But it all was so clear
on her mind, and besides she had on
her riding-clothes just as she had put
them on to go with the Owl.
To make herself feel more sure she
said tothe Owl:
â€˜Good Owl, was it a dream ?â€™
And the Owl shook his head; but
although she asked him several times
to speak she could not get the least
word out of him, although he always
shook his head if she asked him if it
was a dream.
Just then a tremendous noise in
the street made her run to the window,
and there she saw the Knight of
London coming up to the door,
dragging the King of the Magi behind
THE BROWN OWL I4r
him in chains, and the people of the
town were following him in an excited
crowd, which caused all the noise, for
they were naturally very glad to see
their old enemy in chains.
The Knight rode straight up to the
palace door, and when he saw the
Princess at the window he smiled and
â€œGood morning, your Majestyâ€”you
see I am returned.â€™
And the Princess said:
â€˜Good morning, as if she were
very glad to see him, for she had not
yet quite made up her mind about
what she was going to doâ€”for of
course she could not marry him after
what she had seen the night before.
So she drew back from the window to
think about itâ€”for it would never do
to try to get rid of him by force.. At
last she hit upon a planâ€”she had to
think of it herselfâ€”for the Owl would
tell her nothing.
She went to the door of her room,
142 THE BROWN OWL
but there were no guards at the door
â€”they had run down to see what the
shouting was about. But just then
the doctor came up the stairs:
â€˜Good morning, your Majesty,â€™ he
said; â€˜have you-had a good night ?â€™
.*A very good night, thank you,
doctor. But that doesnâ€™t matter just
now. I want the Prince of India,â€™
â€˜I beg your pardon,â€™ said the doctor.
â€˜I say I want the Prince of India.â€™
â€˜The who?â€™ said the astonished
â€˜The Prince of India.â€™
â€˜Then I am afraid he canâ€™t come.
But if the Knight of London would
â€˜But he wonâ€™t! I want the Prince
of India at once.â€™ ;
_ â€˜I fear your Majesty canâ€™t have him
-at once. You zouldnâ€™Â¢ have him once,
â€˜But why not?â€™
â€˜Because at the present moment he
isnâ€™t well enough to move.â€™
THE BROWN OWL 143
â€˜Oh, good gracious !â€”but why is
â€˜Well, your Majesty, if youâ€™d been
thrown from, your horse with great
violence, and had half a foot of spear
stuck into you, besides being mortified
at your overthrow, perhaps you would
be rather unwell.â€™
â€˜Oh, poor fellow, I didnâ€™t know he
was so bad as that. I'll go and see
him at once.â€™
â€˜T think your Majesty had better not.â€™
â€˜Because it might excite him too
much, and besides, what would the
Knight of London ,
But the Princess drew herself up
â€˜I beg your pardon, but I must ask
you not to mention that gentlemanâ€™s
name, if you please.â€™
â€˜â€œWheâ€”ew,â€™ ejaculated the doctor ;
â€˜whatâ€™s in the wind now?â€™
â€˜I beg your pardon?â€™ said the
144 THE BROWN OWL
â€˜Iâ€”I only saidâ€”itâ€™s an east wind
now, your Majesty.â€™
Just then a page came running up,
and said that the Knight of London
wished to speak to the Princess.
â€˜Tell him that I am not quite well
enough to see him now, but I will send
a message to him, if he will stop
a moment. And on your way just
ask Lord Licec to come to me,
â€˜Yes, your Majesty,â€™ said the page,
and he disappeared.
In a moment Lord Licec came.
â€˜You sent for me, your Majesty, I
â€˜I did, my lord. It was about this
Knight of London. I have discovered
that he is not what he pretends to be
at all, for he is in league with the
Magi; and this Magog whom he
pretends is his prisoner is really
nothing of the sort. He is one of
his allies, and they are going to break
out and kill me, and every one else,
THE BROWN OWL 148
and make themselves masters of every-
â€˜Oh, my wig!â€™ suddenly said the
doctor, â€˜I hope your Majesty wonâ€™t
let them; if you intend to I shall
depart without delay, for I donâ€™t want
to be eaten by this Magog.â€™
â€˜Thatâ€™s just what I wanted to
prevent by begging the Prince of
India to help us; only you said that -
I maynâ€™t see him, doctor.â€™
â€˜Oh! on the contrary, your Majesty,
it would be the best thing in the world
â€”we'll go at once.â€™
â€˜Wait a moment,â€™ said the Princess,
and turning to Lord Licec she went on:
â€˜Now I want you to tell him that
the Lords of the Council say that the
last tournament was unfair, because he
came in fresh at the end. And that
if he wants toâ€”to claim his rights, he
must submit to go through another
tournament. Of course he willâ€” -
because heâ€™s quite sure of winningâ€”
but he wonâ€™t this time.â€™
146 THE BROWN OWL
â€˜ Are you quite sure, your Majesty ?â€™
â€˜Oh! quite. And as all the knights
who tilted last time are still in the
town, let it take place to-morrow.â€™
â€˜Yes, your Majesty.â€™
â€˜And if you could keep him out of
the way for a few hoursâ€”so that he
â€˜wonâ€™t know what Iâ€™m going to doâ€”so
â€˜much the better.â€™
â€˜Tll challenge him to a game of
â€œ Beggar-my-Neighbour â€â€”that gener-
ally lasts for a pretty good time.â€™
â€˜ That will do; the longer the better.
Now Iâ€™m ready, doctor, if you'll conduct
me to the Princeâ€™
So they went out at a back door
for fear the Knight of London should
see them, and they soon reached the
house of the Prince.
At the door was a servant, and they
asked him where the Prince was.
â€˜In the garden, your Majesty. I
will go and announce your arrival to
But the Princess said :
THE BROWN OWL 147
â€˜Oh no! never mindâ€”you neednâ€™t
And they went through into the
garden. On the way the Princess
said to the doctor :
â€˜I thought you said he was not well
enough to get up?â€™
â€˜I did, your Majesty, but he insisted
that he must get up, and be off to
India this afternoon, and he was
excessively violent when I told him he
had better not get upâ€”in fact heâ€”he
kicked me downstairs; and if your
Majesty has no present need of me I
will retire, for to tell the truth he
threatened to have me ducked in a
horsepond if I came near him againâ€”
and he meant it too.â€™
So the Princess gave him leave to
goâ€”in fact she was rather glad he had
gone ; and she went on walking down
the path. It was one of those old-
fashioned manor-gardens, full of tall
stiff hollyhocks, and damask roses, and
beds of thyme and mint, over which
148 THE BROWN OWL
the bees were humming so loudly that
they could be heard over the whole
garden, As the Princess could not
see him down one path, she turned
â€œinto another alley of stiff holly bushes,
but he was not to be seen down there
either ; however, she walked fast to the
end of itâ€”for you see she was rather
impatient. Now it happened that just
as she turned the corner, the Prince
happened to be coming round too, and
the result was that as they were going
rather fast, and the Prince was the
heavier of the two, the Princess was
thrown back with violence against the
hedge, and she couldnâ€™t help ex-
â€˜Oh!â€™â€”for you see he had trodden
on her toe. As for the Prince, he could
scarcely standâ€”for the shock and the
sight of the Princess together produced
a tremendous effect, as you may
imagineâ€”for she was the last person
he â€˜had expected to see.
â€˜My goodness!â€™ he said, as soon as
THE BROWN OWL 149
he was able to speak. â€˜Your Majestyâ€”
I hope-I havenâ€™t hurt youâ€”I am really
very sorry. I-am very sorryâ€”will you
allow me to helpâ€™ you to a seat?
â€”for I see I have trodden on your
Her Majesty said :
~ Oh no! not at all, thank you.â€™
But all the same she let him give her
his arm, and help her toaseat. It was
a rustic seatâ€”one of those queer seats
made of branches of trees, and it stood
in an arbour formed of rose-bushes, and
there was plenty of room for two; so
she said :
â€˜Won't you sit down, Prince ?â€™
But he answered :
â€˜T really have not the time, your
Majesty. I was just about to start for
India, and if your Majesty has no
further need of me I will go, and send
~ an attendant,â€™
But she did not seem to hear the last
part of his sentence, for she answered :
â€˜You were going away without say-
150 THE BROWN OWL
ing good-byetome. Perhaps, however,
-you intended to call as you passed the
â€˜I really had not intended to, your
Majesty, for you seemed to have so
many affairs that I might have in-
terrupted, that I thought it as well to
go without troubling you.â€™
â€˜You shouldnâ€™t have thought that.
You see I have had so many affairs of
State occupying me that I could not
possibly get round to call, and you
didnâ€™t choose to come and see me,
which was rather, I thinkâ€”however,
that doesnâ€™t matter now. I have come
to ask you to stop a little longerâ€”till
the day after to-morrow, if you wonâ€™t
stop after that.â€™
But the Prince shook his head:
â€˜T have to go immediately ; affairs of
State, you know, demand my presence
in India, and I must go at once, your _
*Canâ€™t you really stop a little
THE BROWN OWL ISI
â€˜T really canâ€™t, your Majestyâ€”that
â€˜Oh, please do; I'll tell you some-
thing, if you like. Iâ€™ve found out who
the Knight of London is.â€™
â€˜And then, your Majesty ?â€™ inquired
â€˜I donâ€™t know what else. Iâ€”TI
thought that would be enough for you.â€™
â€˜I donâ€™t understand you, your
â€˜IT mean that when I didnâ€™t know he
was a wizard I thought he was very
enchanting; but when I found out he
was an enchanter, I thought you were
enchanterâ€”I mean more enchanting.â€™
The Prince was just saying :
â€˜Oh, your Majesty,â€™ when a peculiar
noise from the back of the arbour
made them both start, and the Princess
jumped up so violently that the Owl,
who had meanwhile gone to sleep, was
nearly shaken off her shoulder.
â€˜What was that?â€™ she said.
â€˜It sounded like somebody laughing,
rsa THE BROWN OWL
or trying to keep from laughing rather.
Just wait a moment, I'll see who it was,â€™
And he went round behind the
arbour. He soon returned bringing
the doctor with him, and the doctor
did not seem at all happy either.
â€˜Why,â€™ said the Princess, â€˜I thought
you were going to leave me. How is
it that you came like this behind the
â€˜I might just as well ask your
Majesty why you came here.â€™
â€˜You might, but it would not be
answering my question.â€™
â€˜I happened to come round there,
your Majesty, to read a book in the
shade, and I happened to drop off to
sleep, and the noise you heard was my
â€˜ But how did you know we heard a
noise if you were asleep at the time ?â€™
â€˜Tâ€”ehâ€”I donâ€™t exactly know, your
â€˜Itâ€™s quite clear you were listening.
Pll excuse you this time, but if I catch
THE BROWN OWL 153
you eavesdropping again [ll make the
Owl take you up into the sky and drop
youâ€”that may be a drop too much for
you. Youcan go now, but donâ€™t do so
But the Prince had still hold of
â€˜By the bye,â€™ he said, â€˜thereâ€™s a
horsepond near here; I think Tâ€™ll just
take you there and throw you in,
as I said I would if I caught you
But the Princess said :
â€˜Oh, let him go, Prince,â€™ and the
doctor hurried off at a great rate.
â€˜T donâ€™t think heâ€™ll come back again
ina hurry,â€™ said the Prince ; â€˜meanwhile,
what about the Knight of London ?â€™
â€˜I must get rid of him as soon as I
can, and I want you to help me.â€™
â€˜I, your Majestyâ€”but how?â€™
â€˜The Council have decided that last
tournament was not fair, because the
Knight came in fresh and you were
already tired out, so they have decided
154 THE BROWN OWL
to have it over again, and you are re-
quested to come and fightâ€”for me.â€™
â€˜But what is the use of that? he'll
knock me over just as he did before.â€™
â€˜Ohno! he wonâ€™t, because Iâ€™ve found
out his secret.â€™ And she told him
about the paper.
At the end the Prince said :
â€˜Oh! thatâ€™s all right then. Tl be
there, your Majesty.â€™
â€˜But are you strong enough, do you
â€˜Oh yes, your Majesty.â€™
â€˜And the affairs of State can be put
off till the day after to-morrow. I
promise to let you go as soon as
you have got rid of the Knight for
â€˜Oh, for the. matter of that, there is
no such great hurry. I really neednâ€™t
go for some time.â€™
â€˜But you can go whenever you like,
â€˜Thank you, your Majesty.â€™
â€˜Butâ€”aâ€”I donâ€™t want you to go,
THE BROWN OWL re
you know. In fact I should like you
to stop, very much,â€™
â€˜Then Tl stop as long as you like,
your Majestyâ€”for ever, if you like,
â€˜IT should like it very much, Be
_I donâ€™t exactly know what Haeneued
after thatâ€”perhaps you can guessâ€”
but they do say that the Owl, who
chanced -to wake at that moment,
positively blushed ; but then people are
fond of exaggerating, and the Owl did
not seem to object, so I suppose it was
all right; and when the Princess went
back to the palace, the Prince was
quite good-tempered again, whereas
before her visit he had been so angry
that all his servants had left in a bodyâ€”
however, they came back when they
found he was quiet again.
So the Princess was quite happy
once more, as you may imagine, only
there was one nasty thing she had to
do, and that was to send a note to the
156 THE BROWN OWL
Knight of London thanking him for
having taken prisoner the King of the
Magi, and hoping that he would be
successful at the tournament on the
next dayâ€”for you see she was not well
enough to see him, and he was quite
sure of winning, as he had done before,
so he did not mind it very much.
The next day came, and the Princess
was at the lists as before, and the
crowd was just as great too, only there
were very many less knights to fight,
for the Knight of London was the
challenger, and heâ€”well, they had seen
how he had treated the Prince of India,
and they did not care to be tumbled
over in such a very unceremonious
way. However, two or three of the
bravest in the world came and answered
his challenge, but it was no use; they
might just as well not have tried, for
they were thrown from their horses so
violently that they were most of them
seriously hurt. So it seemed as if he
was going to have it all his own way,
THE BROWN OWL 157
for the Prince had as yet not put in an
appearance, and the spectators began
to call for himâ€”for, as I said before,
they liked the Prince better than the
Knight ; although he was so very hand-
some, still there was a something about
him that they did not like at all. But
the Knight had overcome all who had
chosen to come against him, and his
trumpets were sounding the challenge
for the last time, and then their echoes
died away and still no answering
trumpet came, and the Princess was
beginning to feel afraid that he had
gone off to India and left her. But
just as the Knight was advancing to
claim his rights, a trumpet blast rang
out brazen and shrill on the still air,
and the Prince of India rode into the
lists. He was still pale from his illness,
but the people cheered him loudly, and
the Princess gave a sigh of relief, and
quite flushed with joy and excitement.
â€˜He'll win this time,â€™ she said to
_Lord Licec, who was standing near her.
158 _THE BROWN OWL
â€˜I donâ€™t know so much about that,â€™
he answered, â€˜for you see the Knight
of London is in very good form to-
day; and just look at the Princeâ€™s
shield â€” itâ€™s made of cardboard, I |
should thinkâ€”yes, it iss Ahâ€”I am
afraid his last defeat has rather turned
The Princess smiled and nodded.
Lord Licec thought she was nodding
to him, but she wasnâ€™t; both the
smile and the nod were meant for
quite another person.
However,: the .combatants were
already in their places, so she signed
to the heralds to give the signal.
â€˜ Laissez aller,â€™ they cried, and once
again the Knight and Prince charged
each other. This time they did not
go so fast, and the spectators could see
what took place. It was soon over.
The spear of each of the combatants
hit exactly the centre of the otherâ€™s
shield. But the spear of the Knight
broke as if it had been made of a bul-
THE BROWN OWL 159
rush. It was not so with the Princeâ€”for
his spear pierced through and through
the seven-fold shield of the Knight,
and the. Knight himself was thrown
right off his horse on to the ground.
He, however, was on his feet in an
instant, and rushed at the Prince, who
leapt off his horse and confronted the
The Knight made a pass at the
Prince with his rapier, but the Prince
caught the thrust on his shield, and the
sword came to the same end as the
spear.. The Knight had still his
heavy battle-axe, and he lifted it on high
to swing it down on to the head of
his opponent. The Prince made no
movement to defend himself, and the
axe came full on his crestâ€”through the
crest it hit its way, and through the
steel helmet, but when it got past the
steel it hit on a paper helm below,
and the axe shivered at the touch as
if it had been glass. Then the Prince
caught the Knight by the wrist:
160 THE BROWN OWL
â€˜Keep still,â€™ he said, â€˜or I run you
to the heart with my paper dagger.â€™
â€˜You canâ€™t,â€™ sneered the Knight.
â€˜Because Iâ€™m heartless ; so you canâ€™t
hurt my heart.â€™
The Prince took no notice of what
hesaid. He had turned to the Princess,
who was clapping her hands for joyâ€”
which was rather an unprincess-like
act; but she couldnâ€™t help it.
â€˜What shall I do with him?â€™ he
â€˜Let him go, I suppose.â€™
And the Knight was beginning to
walk off as fast as he could. But a
loud and commanding voice came from
behind the Princess, and she looked
behind her suddenly, and she almost
fainted, for a marvellous change had
come over the Owl, and it was still
changing. She rubbed her eyes in
astonishment, and all the people who
could see him did so too, and then a
great shout went up from all of â€˜God
THE BROWN OWL 16r
save the King!â€™ for it was no longer
the Owl they sawâ€”it was the old
â€˜Stop!â€™ he cried loudly to the
Knight, who was slinking offâ€”â€˜you
have not received your reward yet.
Just wait a moment, and to prevent
mistakes just take your ordinary form.â€™
And again every one present rubbed
their eyes in astonishmentâ€”for the
handsome calm face of the Knight
was shrivelling up, and his raven hair
had become an ugly gray, and the
people recognised him too as an old
acquaintance, for he wasâ€”who do
you think now? Why, he was Merry-
mineralâ€”it seemed as if that day
gave two instances of old friends with
Although he didnâ€™t at all seem to
want to stay, he was obliged to stop at
the Kingâ€™s voice. So he stood in the
middle of the lists looking very un-
comfortableâ€”for every one was looking"
at him. The King began :
162 THE BROWN OWL
â€˜Now let us see how many crimes
you have committed. You have broken
your oathâ€”isnâ€™t that right ?â€™
â€˜Oh! quite correct, your Majesty.â€™
â€˜And you have rebelled against
â€˜Quite correct, your Majesty.
â€˜And you have intended to murder
â€˜Just so, your Majesty.â€™
â€˜And you tried to marry her?â€™
â€˜I should have been only too
pleased, your Majesty.â€™
â€˜And you donâ€™t repent, do you?â€™
â€˜Not at all, your Majesty.â€™
â€˜And the right punishment for each
of your crimes is death?â€™
â€˜Just so, your Majesty.â€™
â€˜But I donâ€™t care to sentence you
to deathâ€”itâ€™s not hard enough I
sentence you to live underground for
ten thousand years.â€™
â€˜Ten thousand years, your Ma-
â€˜You can go at once, and if I catch
THE BROWN OWL 163
you above groundâ€”TI shouldnâ€™t like to
â€˜No, your Majesty. Good-day.â€™
And he kissed his hand to the
Princess, and bowed gallantly to the
Prince of India, and then the ground
gave way under himâ€”and he has never
been heard of since. But the King
turned to the Prince of India and
â€˜You may go now, Prince.â€™
The Prince looked astonished.
â€˜I do not quite understand, your
Majesty,â€™ he said.
The King looked at him and
â€˜You seem to be uncommonly hard |
of understanding, cousin of India. I
said, You can go.â€™
â€˜But I donâ€™t want to go, your
Majesty,â€™ the Prince answered, getting
a little red.
â€˜Oh, donâ€™t you?â€™ said the King;
â€˜from what I heard of a certain
pleasant conversation in a certain
164 THE BROWN OWL
summer-house you seemed to have
important affairs of State that demanded
instant attention.â€™ :
Here the doctor suddenly re-
â€˜If you will excuse me, your Ma-
jesty, I beg to differ from you when
you refer to that conversation as
pleasant. I myself heard it, or rather
overheard it, and all I can say is I
thought it most unpleasant,â€”most.
â€œThat is, if your Majesty will excuse my
â€˜But I won't, said the King
suddenly, â€˜I believe it was you that
suggested I should be confined to a
dark cellar for three weeks without
foodâ€”eh !â€™ ;
But the doctor suddenly remembered
that he had an important case that
demanded instant attention.
The King turned to the Princess
â€˜Wellâ€”I suppose you can settle it
for yourselves, you two, because [â€™m
THE BROWN OWL 165
going now. I shall come and see you
every seven years. Good-bye.â€™
And he suddenly turned into the
Brown Owl, and flitted noiselessly off,
before they could say â€˜Good-bye,â€™ or
The Prince found that he could
manage to postpone his affairs of State
indefinitely, and in a few days the
Prince and Princess were married and
lived happily ever afterwards.
Printed by R. & R. Cuark, Edinburgh
AY SP 7
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The element type "div" must be terminated by the matching end-tag "