FictionForest

Chapter 13 – Zella Saves the Prince

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

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The wicked Queen of Coregos was in a very bad humor
this morning, for one of her slave drivers had come
from the fields to say that a number of slaves had
rebelled and would not work.

“Bring them here to me!” she cried savagely. “A good
whipping may make them change their minds.”

So the slave driver went to fetch the rebellious ones
and Queen Cor sat down to eat her breakfast, an ugly
look on her face.

Prince Inga had been ordered to stand behind his new
mistress with a big fan of peacock’s feathers, but he
was so unused to such service that he awkwardly brushed
her ear with the fan. At once she flew into a terrible
rage and slapped the Prince twice with her hand-blows
that tingled, too, for her hand was big and hard and
she was not inclined to be gentle. Inga took the blows
without shrinking or uttering a cry, although they
stung his pride far more than his body. But King
Rinkitink, who was acting as the queen’s butler and had
just brought in her coffee, was so startled at seeing
the young Prince punished that he tipped over the urn
and the hot coffee streamed across the lap of the
Queen’s best morning gown.

Cor sprang from her seat with a scream of anger and
poor Rinkitink would doubtless have been given a
terrible beating had not the slave driver returned at
this moment and attracted the woman’s attention. The
overseer had brought with him all of the women slaves
from Pingaree, who had been loaded down with chains and
were so weak and ill they could scarcely walk, much
less work in the fields.

Prince Inga’s eyes were dimmed with sorrowful tears
when he discovered how his poor people had been abused,
but his own plight was so helpless that he was unable
to aid them. Fortunately the boy’s mother, Queen Garee,
was not among these slaves, for Queen Cor had placed
her in the royal dairy to make butter.

“Why do you refuse to work?” demanded Cor in a harsh
voice, as the slaves from Pingaree stood before her,
trembling and with downcast eyes.

“Because we lack strength to perform the tasks your
overseers demand,” answered one of the women.

“Then you shall be whipped until your strength
returns!” exclaimed the Queen, and turning to Inga, she
commanded: “Get me the whip with the seven lashes.”

As the boy left the room, wondering how he might
manage to save the unhappy women from their undeserved
punishment, he met a girl entering by the back way, who
asked:

“Can you tell me where to find Her Majesty, Queen
Cor?”

“She is in the chamber with the red dome, where green
dragons are painted upon the walls,” replied Inga; “but
she is in an angry and ungracious mood to-day. Why do
you wish to see her?”

“I have honey to sell,” answered the girl, who was
Zella, just come from the forest. “The Queen is very
fond of my honey.”

“You may go to her, if you so desire,” said the boy,
“but take care not to anger the cruel Queen, or she may
do you a mischief.”

“Why should she harm me, who brings her the honey she
so dearly loves?” inquired the child innocently. “But I
thank you for your warning; and I will try not to anger
the Queen.”

As Zella started to go, Inga’s eyes suddenly fell
upon her shoes and instantly he recognized them as his
own. For only in Pingaree were shoes shaped in this
manner: high at the heel and pointed at the toes.

“Stop!” he cried in an excited voice, and the girl
obeyed, wonderingly. “Tell me,” he continued, more
gently, “where did you get those shoes?”

“My father brought them to me from Regos,” she
answered.

“From Regos!”

“Yes. Are they not pretty?” asked Zella, looking down
at her feet to admire them. “One of them my father
found by the palace wall, and the other on an ash-heap.
So he brought them to me and they fit me perfectly.”

By this time Inga was trembling with eager joy, which
of course the girl could not understand.

“What is your name, little maid?” he asked.

“I am called Zella, and my father is Nikobob, the
charcoal-burner.”

“Zella is a pretty name. I am Inga, Prince of
Pingaree,” said he, “and the shoes you are now wearing,
Zella, belong to me. They were not cast away, as your
father supposed, but were lost. Will you let me have
them again?”

Zella’s eyes filled with tears.

“Must I give up my pretty shoes, then?” she asked.
“They are the only ones I have ever owned.”

Inga was sorry for the poor child, but he knew how
important it was that he regain possession of the Magic
Pearls. So he said, pleadingly:

“Please let me have them, Zella. See! I will exchange
for them the shoes I now have on, which are newer and
prettier than the others.”

The girl hesitated. She wanted to please the boy
Prince, yet she hated to exchange the shoes which her
father had brought her as a present.

“If you will give me the shoes,” continued the boy,
anxiously, “I will promise to make you and your father
and mother rich and prosperous. Indeed, I will promise
to grant any favors you may ask of me,” and he sat down
upon the floor and drew off the shoes he was wearing
and held them toward the girl.

“I’ll see if they will fit me,” said Zella, taking
off her left shoe — the one that contained the Pink
Pearl — and beginning to put on one of Inga’s.

Just then Queen Cor, angry at being made to
wait for her whip with the seven lashes, rushed
into the room to find Inga. Seeing the boy sitting
upon the floor beside Zella, the woman sprang
toward him to beat him with her clenched fists;
but Inga had now slipped on the shoe and the
Queen’s blows could not reach his body.

Then Cor espied the whip lying beside Inga and
snatching it up she tried to lash him with it — all to
no avail.

While Zella sat horrified by this scene, the Prince,
who realized he had no time to waste, reached out and
pulled the right shoe from the girl’s foot, quickly
placing it upon his own. Then he stood up and, facing
the furious but astonished Queen, said to her in a
quiet voice:

“Madam, please give me that whip.”

“I won’t!” answered Cor. “I’m going to lash those
Pingaree women with it.”

The boy seized hold of the whip and with irresistible
strength drew it from the Queen’s hand. But she drew
from her bosom a sharp dagger and with the swiftness of
lightning aimed a blow at Inga’s heart. He merely stood
still and smiled, for the blade rebounded and fell
clattering to the floor.

Then, at last, Queen Cor understood the magic power
that had terrified her husband but which she had
ridiculed in her ignorance, not believing in it. She
did not know that Inga’s power had been lost, and found
again, but she realized the boy was no common foe and
that unless she could still manage to outwit him her
reign in the Island of Coregos was ended. To gain time,
she went back to the red-domed chamber and seated
herself in her throne, before which were grouped the
weeping slaves from Pingaree.

Inga had taken Zella’s hand and assisted her to put
on the shoes he had given her in exchange for his own.
She found them quite comfortable and did not know she
had lost anything by the transfer.

“Come with me,” then said the boy Prince, and led her
into the presence of Queen Cor, who was giving
Rinkitink a scolding. To the overseer Inga said.

“Give me the keys which unlock these chains, that I
may set these poor women at liberty.”

“Don’t you do it!” screamed Queen Cor.

“If you interfere, madam,” said the boy, “I will put
you into a dungeon.”

By this Rinkitink knew that Inga had recovered his
Magic Pearls and the little fat King was so overjoyed
that he danced and capered all around the room. But the
Queen was alarmed at the threat and the slave driver,
fearing the conqueror of Regos, tremblingly gave up the
keys.

Inga quickly removed all the shackles from the women
of his country and comforted them, telling them they
should work no more but would soon be restored to their
homes in Pingaree. Then he commanded the slave driver
to go and get all the children who had been made
slaves, and to bring them to their mothers. The man
obeyed and left at once to perform his errand, while
Queen Cor, growing more and more uneasy, suddenly
sprang from her throne and before Inga could stop her
had rushed through the room and out into the courtyard
of the palace, meaning to make her escape. Rinkitink
followed her, running as fast as he could go.

It was at this moment that Bilbil, in his mad dash
from Regos, turned in at the gates of the courtyard,
and as he was coming one way and Queen Cor was going
the other they bumped into each other with great force.
The woman sailed through the air, over Bilbil’s head,
and landed on the ground outside the gates, where her
crown rolled into a ditch and she picked herself up,
half dazed, and continued her flight. Bilbil was also
somewhat dazed by the unexpected encounter, but he
continued his rush rather blindly and so struck poor
Rinkitink, who was chasing after Queen Cor. They rolled
over one another a few times and then Rinkitink sat up
and Bilbil sat up and they looked at each other in
amazement.

“Bilbil,” said the King, “I’m astonished at you!”

“Your Majesty,” said Bilbil, “I expected kinder
treatment at your hands.”

“You interrupted me,” said Rinkitink.

“There was plenty of room without your taking my
path,” declared the goat.

And then Inga came running out and said. “Where is
the Queen?”

“Gone,” replied Rinkitink, “but she cannot go far, as
this is an island. However, I have found Bilbil, and
our party is again reunited. You have recovered your
magic powers, and again we are masters of the
situation. So let us be thankful.”

Saying this, the good little King got upon his feet
and limped back into the throne room to help comfort
the women.

Presently the children of Pingaree, who had been
gathered together by the overseer, were brought in and
restored to their mothers, and there was great
rejoicing among them, you may be sure.

“But where is Queen Garee, my dear mother?”
questioned Inga; but the women did not know and it was
some time before the overseer remembered that one of
the slaves from Pingaree had been placed in the royal
dairy. Perhaps this was the woman the boy was seeking.

Inga at once commanded him to lead the way to the
butter house, but when they arrived there Queen Garee
was nowhere in the place, although the boy found a silk
scarf which he recognized as one that his mother used
to wear. Then they began a search throughout the island
of Coregos, but could not find Inga’s mother anywhere.

When they returned to the palace of Queen Cor,
Rinkitink discovered that the bridge of boats had again
been removed, separating them from Regos, and from this
they suspected that Queen Cor had fled to her husband’s
island and had taken Queen Garee with her. Inga was
much perplexed what to do and returned with his friends
to the palace to talk the matter over.

Zella was now crying because she had not sold her
honey and was unable to return to her parents on the
island of Regos, but the boy prince comforted her and
promised she should be protected until she could be
restored to her home. Rinkitink found Queen Cor’s
purse, which she had had no time to take with her, and
gave Zella several gold pieces for the honey. Then Inga
ordered the palace servants to prepare a feast for all
the women and children of Pingaree and to prepare for
them beds in the great palace, which was large enough
to accommodate them all.

Then the boy and the goat and Rinkitink and Zella
went into a private room to consider what should be
done next.

 

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