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Chapter 4 – The Deserted Island

L. Frank BaumOct 04, 2016'Command+D' Bookmark this page

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All through that terrible night Prince Inga remained
hidden in his tree. In the morning he watched the great
fleet of boats depart for their own country, carrying
his parents and his countrymen with them, as well as
everything of value the Island of Pingaree had
contained.

Sad, indeed, were the boy’s thoughts when the last of
the boats had become a mere speck in the distance, but
Inga did not dare leave his perch of safety until all
of the craft of the invaders had disappeared beyond the
horizon. Then he came down, very slowly and carefully,
for he was weak from hunger and the long and weary
watch, as he had been in the tree for twenty-four hours
without food.

The sun shone upon the beautiful green isle as
brilliantly as if no ruthless invader had passed and
laid it in ruins. The birds still chirped among the
trees and the butterflies darted from flower to flower
as happily as when the land was filled with a
prosperous and contented people.

Inga feared that only he was left of all his nation.
Perhaps he might be obliged to pass his life there
alone. He would not starve, for the sea would give him
oysters and fish, and the trees fruit; yet the life
that confronted him was far from enticing.

The boy’s first act was to walk over to where the
palace had stood and search the ruins until he found
some scraps of food that had been overlooked by the
enemy. He sat upon a block of marble and ate of this,
and tears filled his eyes as he gazed upon the
desolation around him. But Inga tried to bear up
bravely, and having satisfied his hunger he walked over
to the well, intending to draw a bucket of drinking
water.

Fortunately, this well had been overlooked by the
invaders and the bucket was still fastened to the chain
that wound around a stout wooden windlass. Inga took
hold of the crank and began letting the bucket down
into the well, when suddenly he was startled by a
muffled voice crying out:

“Be careful, up there!”

The sound and the words seemed to indicate that the
voice came from the bottom of the well, so Inga looked
down. Nothing could be seen, on account of the
darkness.

“Who are you?” he shouted.

“It’s I — Rinkitink,” came the answer, and the
depths of the well echoed: “Tink-i-tink-i-tink!” in a
ghostly manner.

“Are you in the well?” asked the boy, greatly
surprised.

“Yes, and nearly drowned. I fell in while running
from those terrible warriors, and I’ve been standing in
this damp hole ever since, with my head just above the
water. It’s lucky the well was no deeper, for had my
head been under water, instead of above it — hoo, hoo,
hoo, keek, eek! — under instead of over, you know —
why, then I wouldn’t be talking to you now! Ha, hoo,
hee!” And the well dismally echoed: “Ha, hoo, hee!”
which you must imagine was a laugh half merry and half
sad.

“I’m awfully sorry,” cried the boy, in answer. “I
wonder you have the heart to laugh at all. But how am I
to get you out?”

“I’ve been considering that all night,” said
Rinkitink, “and I believe the best plan will be for you
to let down the bucket to me, and I’ll hold fast to it
while you wind up the chain and so draw me to the top.”

“I will try to do that,” replied Inga, and he let the
bucket down very carefully until he heard the King call
out:

“I’ve got it! Now pull me up — slowly, my boy,
slowly — so I won’t rub against the rough sides.”

Inga began winding up the chain, but King Rinkitink
was so fat that he was very heavy and by the time the
boy had managed to pull him halfway up the well his
strength was gone. He clung to the crank as long as
possible, but suddenly it slipped from his grasp and
the next minute he heard Rinkitink fall “plump!” into
the water again.

“That’s too bad!” called Inga, in real distress; “but
you were so heavy I couldn’t help it.”

“Dear me!” gasped the King, from the darkness below,
as he spluttered and coughed to get the water out of
his mouth. “Why didn’t you tell me you were going to
let go?”

“I hadn’t time,” said Inga, sorrowfully.

“Well, I’m not suffering from thirst,” declared the
King, “for there’s enough water inside me to float all
the boats of Regos and Coregos or at least it feels
that way. But never mind! So long as I’m not actually
drowned, what does it matter?”

“What shall we do next?” asked the boy anxiously.

“Call someone to help you,” was the reply.

“There is no one on the island but myself,” said the
boy; “– excepting you,” he added, as an afterthought.

“I’m not on it — more’s the pity! — but in it,”
responded Rinkitink. “Are the warriors all gone?”

“Yes,” said Inga, “and they have taken my father and
mother, and all our people, to be their slaves,” he
added, trying in vain to repress a sob.

“So — so!” said Rinkitink softly; and then he paused
a moment, as if in thought. Finally he said: “There are
worse things than slavery, but I never imagined a well
could be one of them. Tell me, Inga, could you let down
some food to me? I’m nearly starved, and if you could
manage to send me down some food I’d be well fed —
hoo, hoo, heek, keek, eek! — well fed. Do you see the
joke, Inga?”

“Do not ask me to enjoy a joke just now, Your
Majesty,” begged Inga in a sad voice; “but if you will
be patient I will try to find something for you to
eat.”

He ran back to the ruins of the palace and began
searching for bits of food with which to satisfy the
hunger of the King, when to his surprise he observed
the goat, Bilbil, wandering among the marble blocks.

“What!” cried Inga. “Didn’t the warriors get you,
either?”

“If they had,” calmly replied Bilbil, “I shouldn’t be
here.”

“But how did you escape?” asked the boy.

“Easily enough. I kept my mouth shut and stayed away
from the rascals,” said the goat. “I knew that the
soldiers would not care for a skinny old beast like me,
for to the eye of a stranger I seem good for nothing.
Had they known I could talk, and that my head contained
more wisdom than a hundred of their own noddles, I
might not have escaped so easily.”

“Perhaps you are right,” said the boy.

“I suppose they got the old man?” carelessly remarked
Bilbil.

“What old man?”

“Rinkitink.”

“Oh, no! His Majesty is at the bottom of the well,”
said Inga, “and I don’t know how to get him out again.”

“Then let him stay there,” suggested the goat.

“That would be cruel. I am sure, Bilbil, that you are
fond of the good King, your master, and do not mean
what you say. Together, let us find some way to save
poor King Rinkitink. He is a very jolly companion, and
has a heart exceedingly kind and gentle.”

“Oh, well; the old boy isn’t so bad, taken
altogether,” admitted Bilbil, speaking in a more
friendly tone. “But his bad jokes and fat laughter tire
me dreadfully, at times.”

Prince Inga now ran back to the well, the goat
following more leisurely.

“Here’s Bilbil!” shouted the boy to the King. “The
enemy didn’t get him, it seems.”

“That’s lucky for the enemy,” said Rinkitink. “But
it’s lucky for me, too, for perhaps the beast can
assist me out of this hole. If you can let a rope down
the well, I am sure that you and Bilbil, pulling
together, will be able to drag me to the earth’s
surface.”

“Be patient and we will make the attempt,” replied
Inga encouragingly, and he ran to search. the ruins for
a rope. Presently he found one that had been used by
the warriors in toppling over the towers, which in
their haste they had neglected to remove, and with some
difficulty he untied the knots and carried the rope to
the mouth of the well.

Bilbil had lain down to sleep and the refrain of a
merry song came in muffled tones from the well, proving
that Rinkitink was making a patient endeavor to amuse
himself.

“I’ve found a rope!” Inga called down to him; and
then the boy proceeded to make a loop in one end of the
rope, for the King to put his arms through, and the
other end he placed over the drum of the windlass. He
now aroused Bilbil and fastened the rope firmly around
the goat’s shoulders.

“Are you ready?” asked the boy, leaning over the
well.

“I am,” replied the King.

“And I am not,” growled the goat, “for I have not yet
had my nap out. Old Rinki will be safe enough in the
well until I’ve slept an hour or two longer.”

“But it is damp in the well,” protested the boy, “and
King Rinkitink may catch the rheumatism, so that he
will have to ride upon your back wherever he goes.”

Hearing this, Bilbil jumped up at once.

“Let’s get him out,” he said earnestly.

“Hold fast!” shouted Inga to the King. Then he seized
the rope and helped Bilbil to pull. They soon found the
task more difficult than they had supposed. Once or
twice the King’s weight threatened to drag both the boy
and the goat into the well, to keep Rinkitink company.
But they pulled sturdily, being aware of this danger,
and at last the King popped out of the hole and fell
sprawling full length upon the ground.

For a time he lay panting and breathing hard to get
his breath back, while Inga and Bilbil were likewise
worn out from their long strain at the rope; so the
three rested quietly upon the grass and looked at one
another in silence.

Finally Bilbil said to the King: “I’m surprised at
you. Why were you so foolish as to fall down that well?
Don’t you know it’s a dangerous thing to do? You might
have broken your neck in the fall, or been drowned in
the water.”

“Bilbil,” replied the King solemnly, “you’re a goat.
Do you imagine I fell down the well on purpose?”

“I imagine nothing,” retorted Bilbil. “I only know
you were there.”

“There? Heh-heh-heek-keek-eek! To be sure I was
there,” laughed Rinkitink. “There in a dark hole, where
there was no light; there in a watery well, where the
wetness soaked me through and through — keek-eek-eek-
eek! — through and through!”

“How did it happen?” inquired Inga.

“I was running away from the enemy,” explained the
King, “and I was carelessly looking over my shoulder at
the same time, to see if they were chasing me. So I did
not see the well, but stepped into it and found myself
tumbling down to the bottom. I struck the water very
neatly and began struggling to keep myself from
drowning, but presently I found that when I stood upon
my feet on the bottom of the well, that my chin was
just above the water. So I stood still and yelled for
help; but no one heard me.”

“If the warriors had heard you,” said Bilbil, “they
would have pulled you out and carried you away to be a
slave. Then you would have been obliged to work for a
living, and that would be a new experience.”

“Work!” exclaimed Rinkitink. “Me work? Hoo, hoo,
heek-keek-eek! How absurd! I’m so stout — not to say
chubby — not to say fat — that I can hardly walk, and
I couldn’t earn my salt at hard work. So I’m glad the
enemy did not find me, Bilbil. How many others
escaped?”

“That I do not know,” replied the boy, “for I
have not yet had time to visit the other parts of
the island. When you have rested and satisfied
your royal hunger, it might be well for us to
look around and see what the thieving warriors
of Regos and Coregos have left us.”

“An excellent idea,” declared Rinkitink. “I am
somewhat feeble from my long confinement in the well,
but I can ride upon Bilbil’s back and we may as well
start at once.”

Hearing this, Bilbil cast a surly glance at his
master but said nothing, since it was really the goat’s
business to carry King Rinkitink wherever he desired to
go.

They first searched the ruins of the palace, and
where the kitchen had once been they found a small
quantity of food that had been half hidden by a block
of marble. This they carefully placed in a sack to
preserve it for future use, the little fat King having
first eaten as much as he cared for. This consumed some
time, for Rinkitink had been exceedingly hungry and
liked to eat in a leisurely manner. When he had
finished the meal he straddled Bilbil’s back and set
out to explore the island, Prince Inga walking by his
side.

They found on every hand ruin and desolation. The
houses of the people had been pilfered of all valuables
and then torn down or burned. Not a boat had been left
upon the shore, nor was there a single person, man or
woman or child, remaining upon the island, save
themselves. The only inhabitants of Pingaree now
consisted of a fat little King, a boy and a goat.

Even Rinkitink, merry hearted as he was, found it
hard to laugh in the face of this mighty disaster. Even
the goat, contrary to its usual habit, refrained from
saying anything disagreeable. As for the poor boy whose
home was now a wilderness, the tears came often to his
eyes as he marked the ruin of his dearly loved island.

When, at nightfall, they reached the lower end of
Pingaree and found it swept as bare as the rest, Inga’s
grief was almost more than he could bear. Everything
had been swept from him — parents, home and country —
in so brief a time that his bewilderment was equal to
his sorrow.

Since no house remained standing, in which they might
sleep, the three wanderers crept beneath the
overhanging branches of a cassa tree and curled
themselves up as comfortably as possible. So tired and
exhausted were they by the day’s anxieties and griefs
that their troubles soon faded into the mists of
dreamland. Beast and King and boy slumbered peacefully
together until wakened by the singing of the birds
which greeted the dawn of a new day.

 

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