He may be drowned at sea

The sun had scarcely risen next morning when our friends left the city
of Ix in search of the magic cloak. All were mounted on strong horses,
with a dozen soldiers riding behind to protect them from harm, while the
royal steward of the witch-queen followed with two donkeys laden with
hampers of provisions from which to feed the travelers on their way.

It was a long journey to the wide river, but they finally reached it,
and engaged the ferryman to take them across. The ferryman did not like
to visit the other shore, which was in the kingdom of Noland; for
several of the Roly-Rogues had already been seen upon the mountain-top.
But the guard of soldiers reassured the man; so he rowed his big boat
across with the entire party, and set them safely on the shore. The
ferryman’s little daughter was in the boat, but she was not sobbing
to-day. On the contrary, her face was all smiles.

“Do you not still wish to be a man?” asked Zixi, patting the child’s
head.

“No, indeed!” answered the little maid. “For I have discovered all men
must work very hard to support their wives and children, and to buy them
food and raiment. So I have changed my mind about becoming a man,
especially as that would be impossible.”

It was not far from the ferry to the grove of lilacs, and as they rode
along Zixi saw the gray owl sitting contentedly in a tree and pruning
its feathers.

“Are you no longer wailing because you cannot swim in the river?” asked
the witch-queen, speaking in the owl language.

“No, indeed,” answered the gray owl. “For, as I watched a fish swimming
in the water, a man caught it on a sharp hook, and the fish was killed.
I believe I’m safer in a tree.”

“I believe so, too,” said Zixi, and rode along more thoughtfully; for
she remembered her own desire, and wondered if it would also prove
foolish.

Just as they left the river-bank she noticed the old alligator sunning
himself happily upon the bank.

[Illustration: “‘OF COURSE,’ ANSWERED THE ALLIGATOR, OPENING ONE EYE TO
OBSERVE HIS QUESTIONER.”]

“Have you ceased weeping because you cannot climb a tree?” asked the
witch-queen.

“Of course,” answered the alligator, opening one eye to observe his
questioner. “For a boy climbed a tree near me yesterday and fell out of
it and broke his leg. It is quite foolish to climb trees. I’m sure I am
safer in the water.”

Zixi made no reply, but she agreed with the alligator, who called after
her sleepily:

“Isn’t it fortunate we cannot have everything we are stupid enough to
wish for?”

Shortly afterward they left the river-bank and approached the
lilac-grove, the witch-queen riding first through the trees to show the
place where she had dropped the magic cloak. She knew it was near the
little spring where she had gazed at her reflection in the water; but,
although they searched over every inch of ground, they could discover no
trace of the lost cloak.

“It is really too bad!” exclaimed Zixi, with vexation. “Some one must
have come through the grove and taken the cloak away.”

“But we must find it,” said Bud, earnestly; “for otherwise I shall not
be able to rescue my people from the Roly-Rogues.”

“Let us inquire of every one we meet if they have seen the cloak,”
suggested Princess Fluff. “In that way we may discover who has taken
it.”

So they made a camp on the edge of the grove, and for two days they
stopped and questioned all who passed that way. But none had ever seen
or heard of a cloak like that described.

[Illustration: “‘WE HAVE LOST A BEAUTIFUL CLOAK IN THE LILAC-GROVE,’
SAID QUEEN ZIXI TO THE SHEPHERD.”]

Finally an old shepherd came along, hobbling painfully after a flock of
five sheep; for he suffered much from rheumatism.

“We have lost a beautiful cloak in the lilac-grove,” said Zixi to the
shepherd.

“When did you lose it?” asked the old man, pausing to lean upon his
stick.

“Several days ago,” returned the queen. “It was bright as the rainbow,
and woven with threads finer than—”

“I know, I know!” interrupted the shepherd, “for I myself found it lying
upon the ground beneath the lilac-trees.”

“Hurrah!” cried Bud, gleefully; “at last we have found it!” And all the
others were fully as delighted as he was.

“But where have you put the cloak?” inquired Zixi.

“Why, I gave it to Dame Dingle, who lives under the hill yonder,”
replied the man, pointing far away over the fields; “and she gave me in
exchange some medicine for my rheumatism, which has made the pain
considerably worse. So to-day I threw the bottle into the river.”

They did not pause to listen further to the shepherd’s talk, for all
were now intent on reaching the cottage of Dame Dingle.

So the soldiers saddled the horses, and in a few minutes they were
galloping away toward the hill. It was a long ride, over rough ground;
but finally they came near the hill and saw a tiny, tumbledown cottage
just at its foot.

Hastily dismounting, Bud, Fluff, and the queen rushed into the cottage,
where a wrinkled old woman was bent nearly double over a crazy-quilt
upon which she was sewing patches.

“Where is the cloak?” cried the three, in a breath.

The woman did not raise her head, but counted her stitches in a slow,
monotonous tone.

“Sixteen—seventeen—eighteen—”

“Where is the magic cloak?” demanded Zixi, stamping her foot
impatiently.

“Nineteen—” said Dame Dingle, slowly. “There! I’ve broken my needle!”

“Answer us at once!” commanded Bud, sternly. “Where is the magic cloak?”

The woman paid no attention to him whatever. She carefully selected a
new needle, threaded it after several attempts, and began anew to stitch
the patch.

“Twenty!” she mumbled in a low voice; “twenty-one—”

But now Zixi snatched the work from her hands and exclaimed;

“If you do not answer at once I will give you a good beating!”

“That is all right,” said the dame, looking up at them through her
spectacles; “the patches take twenty-one stitches on each side, and if I
lose my count I get mixed up. But it’s all right now. What do you want?”

“The cloak the old shepherd gave you,” replied the queen, sharply.

“The pretty cloak with the bright colors?” asked the dame, calmly.

“Yes! Yes!” answered the three, excitedly.

“Why, that very patch I was sewing was cut from that cloak,” said Dame
Dingle. “Isn’t it lovely? And it brightens the rest of the crazy-quilt
beautifully.”

“Do you mean that you have cut up my magic cloak?” asked Fluff, in
amazement, while the others were too horrified to speak.

“Certainly,” said the woman. “The cloak was too fine for me to wear, and
I needed something bright in my crazy-quilt. So I cut up half of the
cloak and made patches of it.”

The witch-queen gave a gasp, and sat down suddenly upon a rickety bench.
Princess Fluff walked to the door and stood looking out, that the others
might not see the tears of disappointment in her eyes. Bud alone stood
scowling in front of the old dame, and presently he said to her, in a
harsh tone:

“You ought to be smothered with your own crazy-quilt for daring to cut
up the fairy cloak!”

“The fairy cloak!” echoed Dame Dingle. “What do you mean?”

“That cloak was a gift to my sister from the fairies,” said Bud; “and it
had a magic charm. Aren’t you afraid the fairies will punish you for
what you have done?”

[Illustration: “‘WHERE IS THE CLOAK?’ CRIED THE THREE, IN A BREATH.”]

Dame Dingle was greatly disturbed.

“How could I know it?” she asked, anxiously; “how could I know it was a
magic cloak that old Edi gave to me?”

“Well, it was; and woven by the fairies themselves,” retorted the boy.
“And a whole nation is in danger because you have wickedly cut it up.”

Dame Dingle tried to cry, to show that she was sorry and so escape
punishment. She put her apron over her face, and rocked herself back and
forth, and made an attempt to squeeze a tear out of her eyes.

Suddenly Zixi jumped up.

“Why, it isn’t so bad, after all!” she exclaimed. “We can sew the cloak
together again.”

“Of course!” said Fluff, coming from the doorway. “Why didn’t we think
of that at once?”

“Where is the rest of the cloak?” demanded Zixi.

Dame Dingle went to a chest and drew forth the half of the cloak that
had not been cut up. There was no doubt about its being the magic cloak.
The golden thread Queen Lulea had woven could be seen plainly in the
web, and the brilliant colors were as fresh and lovely as ever. But the
flowing skirt of the cloak had been ruthlessly hacked by Dame Dingle’s
shears, and presented a sorry plight.

“Get us the patches you have cut!” commanded Zixi; and without a word
the dame drew from her basket five small squares and then ripped from
the crazy-quilt the one she had just sewn on.

“But this isn’t enough,” said Fluff, when she had spread the cloak upon
the floor and matched the pieces. “Where is the rest of the cloak?”

“Why,—why—” stammered Dame Dingle, with hesitation, “I gave them away.”

“Gave them away! Who got them?” said Bud.

“Why,—some friends of mine were here from the village last evening, and
we traded patches, so each of us would have a variety for our
crazy-quilts.”

“Well?”

“And I gave each of them one of the patches from the pretty cloak.”

“Well, you _are_ a ninny!” declared Bud, scornfully.

“Yes, your Majesty; I believe I am,” answered Dame Dingle, meekly.

“We must go to the village and gather up those pieces,” said Zixi. “Can
you tell us the names of your friends?” she asked the woman.

“Of course,” responded Dame Dingle; “they were Nancy Nink, Betsy Barx,
Sally Sog, Molly Mitt, and Lucy Lum.”

“Before we go to the village let us make Dame Dingle sew these portions
of the cloak together,” suggested Fluff.

The dame was glad enough to do this, and she threaded her needle at
once. So deft and fine was her needlework that she mended the cloak most
beautifully, so that from a short distance away no one could discover
that the cloak had been darned. But a great square was still missing
from the front, and our friends were now eager to hasten to the village.

“This will cause us some delay,” said the witch-queen, more cheerfully;
“but the cloak will soon be complete again, and then we can have our
wishes.”

Fluff took the precious cloak over her arm, and then they all mounted
their horses and rode away toward the village, which Dame Dingle pointed
out from her doorway. Zixi was sorry for the old creature, who had been
more foolish than wicked; and the witch-queen left a bright gold piece
in the woman’s hand when she bade her good-by, which was worth more to
Dame Dingle than three pretty cloaks.

The ground was boggy and uneven, so they were forced to ride slowly to
the little village; but they arrived there at last, and began hunting
for the old women who had received pieces of the magic cloak. They were
easily found, and all seemed willing enough to give up their patches
when the importance of the matter was explained to them.

At the witch-queen’s suggestion, each woman fitted her patch to the
cloak and sewed it on very neatly; but Lucy Lum, the last of the five,
said to them:

“This is only half of the patch Dame Dingle gave me. The other part I
gave to the miller’s wife down in the valley where the river bends. But
I am sure she will be glad to let you have it. See—it only requires that
small piece to complete the cloak and make it as good as new.”

It was true—the magic cloak, except for a small square at the bottom,
was now complete; and such skillful needlewomen were these crazy-quilt
makers that it was difficult to tell where it had been cut and afterward
mended.

But the miller’s wife must now be seen; so they all mounted the horses
again, except Aunt Rivette, who grumbled that so much riding made her
bones rattle and that she preferred to fly. Which she did, frightening
the horses to such an extent with her wings that Bud made her keep well
in advance of them.

They were all in good spirits now, for soon the magic cloak, almost as
good as new, would be again in their possession; and Fluff and Bud had
been greatly worried over the fate of their friends who had been left to
the mercy of the terrible Roly-Rogues.

The path ran in a zigzag direction down into the valley; but at length
it led the party to the mill, where old Rivette was found sitting in the
doorway awaiting them.

The miller’s wife, when summoned, came to them drying her hands on her
apron, for she had been washing the dishes.

“We want to get the bright-colored patch Lucy Lum gave you,” explained
Fluff; “for it was part of my magic cloak, which the fairies gave to me,
and this is the place where it must be sewn to complete the garment.”
And she showed the woman the cloak, with the square missing.

“I see,” said the miller’s wife, nodding her head; “and I am very sorry
I cannot give you the piece to complete your cloak. But the fact is, I
considered it too pretty for my crazy-quilt, so I gave it to my son for
a necktie.”

[Illustration: “‘AND WHERE IS YOUR SON?’ DEMANDED ZIXI.”]

“And where is your son?” demanded Zixi.

“Oh, he is gone to sea, for he is a sailor. By this time he is far away
upon the ocean.”

Bud, Fluff, and the witch-queen looked at one another in despair. This
seemed, indeed, to destroy all their hopes; for the one portion of the
cloak that they needed was far beyond their reach.

Nothing remained but for them to return to Zixi’s palace and await the
time when the miller’s son should return from his voyage. But before
they went the queen said to the woman:

“When he returns you may tell your son that if he will bring to me the
necktie you gave him, I will give him in return fifty gold pieces.”

“And I will give him fifty more,” said Bud, promptly.

“And I will give him enough ribbon to make fifty neckties,” added Fluff.

The miller’s wife was delighted at the prospect.

“Thank you! Thank you!” she exclaimed. “My boy’s fortune is made. He can
now marry Imogene Gubb and settle down on a farm, and give up the sea
forever! And his neckties will be the envy of all the men in the
country. As soon as he returns I will send him to you with the bit of
the cloak which you need.”

But Zixi was so anxious that nothing might happen to prevent the
miller’s son from returning the necktie, that she left two of her
soldiers at the mill, with instructions to bring the man to her palace
the instant he returned home.

As they rode away they were all very despondent over the ill luck of
their journey.

“He may be drowned at sea,” said Bud.

“Or he may lose the necktie on the voyage,” said Fluff.

“Oh, a thousand things _might_ happen,” returned the queen; “but we need
not make ourselves unhappy imagining them. Let us hope the miller’s son
will soon return and restore to us the missing patch.” Which showed that
Zixi had not lived six hundred and eighty-three years without gaining
some wisdom.

When they were back at the witch-queen’s palace in the city of Ix, the
queen insisted that Bud and Fluff, with their Aunt Rivette, should
remain her guests until the cloak could be restored to its former
complete state. And, for fear something else might happen to the
precious garment, a silver chest was placed in Princess Fluff’s room and
the magic cloak safely locked therein, the key being carried upon the
chain around the girl’s neck.

But their plans to wait patiently were soon interfered with by the
arrival at Zixi’s court of the talking dog, Ruffles, which had with much
difficulty escaped from the Roly-Rogues.

Ruffles brought to them so sad and harrowing a tale of the sufferings of
the five high counselors and all the people of Noland at the hands of
the fierce Roly-Rogues, that Princess Fluff wept bitterly for her
friends, and Bud became so cross and disagreeable that even Zixi was
provoked with him.

“Something really must be done,” declared the queen. “I’ll brew a
magical mess in my witch-kettle to-night, and see if I can find a way to
destroy those detestable Roly-Rogues.”

Indeed, she feared the creatures would some day find their way into Ix;
so when all the rest of those in the palace were sound asleep, Zixi
worked her magic spell, and from the imps she summoned she obtained
advice how to act in order to get rid of the Roly-Rogues.

Next morning she questioned Ruffles carefully.

“What do the Roly-Rogues eat?” she asked.

“Everything,” said the dog; “for they have no judgment, and consume
buttons and hairpins as eagerly as they do food. But there is one thing
they are really fond of, and that is soup. They oblige old Tollydob, the
lord high general, who works in the palace kitchen, to make them a
kettle of soup every morning; and this they all eat as if they were half
starving.”

“Very good!” exclaimed the witch-queen, with pleasure. “I think I see a
way of ridding all Noland of these monsters. Here is a Silver Vial
filled with a magic liquid. I will tie it around your neck, and you must
return to the city of Nole and carry the vial to Tollydob, the lord high
general. Tell him that on Thursday morning, when he makes the kettle of
soup, he must put the contents of the vial into the compound. But let no
one taste it afterward except the Roly-Rogues.”

“And what then?” asked Ruffles, curiously.

“Then I will myself take charge of the monsters; and I have reason to
believe the good citizens of Noland will no longer find themselves
slaves.”

“All right,” said the dog. “I will do as you bid me; for I long to free
my master and have revenge on the Roly-Rogues.”

So Queen Zixi tied the Silver Vial to the dog’s neck by means of a broad
ribbon, and he started at once to return to Nole.

And when he had gone, the queen summoned all her generals and bade them
assemble the entire army and prepare to march into Noland again. Only
this time, instead of being at enmity with the people of Noland, the
army of Ix was to march to their relief; and instead of bearing swords
and spears, each man bore a coil of strong rope.

[Illustration: “HE STARTED AT ONCE TO RETURN TO NOLE.”]

“For,” said Zixi, “swords and spears are useless where the Roly-Rogues
are concerned, as nothing can pierce their tough, rubber-like bodies.
And more nations have been conquered by cunning than by force of arms.”

Bud and Fluff, not knowing what the witch-queen meant to do, were much
disturbed by these preparations to march upon the Roly-Rogues. The
monsters had terrified them so greatly that they dreaded to meet with
them again, and Bud declared that the safest plan was to remain in
Zixi’s kingdom and await the coming of the miller’s son with the
necktie.

“But,” remonstrated Zixi, “in the meantime your people are suffering
terribly.”

“I know,” said Bud; “and it nearly drives me frantic to think of it But
they will be no better off if we try to fight the Roly-Rogues and are
ourselves made slaves.”

“Why not try the magic cloak as it is,” suggested the princess, “and see
if it won’t grant wishes as before? There’s only a small piece missing,
and it may not make any difference with the power the fairies gave to
it.”

“Hooray!” shouted Bud. “That’s a good idea. It’s a magic cloak just the
same, even if there is a chunk cut out of it.”

Zixi agreed that it was worth a trial, so the cloak was taken from the
silver casket and brought into the queen’s reception-room.

“Let us try it on one of your maids of honor, first,” said Fluff; “and,
if it grants her wish, we will know the cloak has lost none of its magic
powers. Then you and Bud may both make your wishes.”

“Very well,” returned the queen, and she summoned one of her maids.

“I am going to lend you my cloak,” said the princess to the maid; “and
while you wear it you must make a wish.”

She threw the cloak over the girl’s shoulders, and after a moment’s
thought the maid said:

“I wish for a bushel of candies.”

“Fudge!” said Bud, scornfully.

“No; all kinds of candies,” answered the maid of honor. But, although
they watched her intently, the wish failed absolutely, for no bushel of
candies appeared in sight.

“Let us try it again,” suggested Fluff, while the others wore
disappointed expressions. “It was a foolish wish, anyhow; and perhaps
the fairies did not care to grant it.”

So another maid was called and given the cloak to wear.

[Illustration: “‘AND MAY I WISH FOR ANYTHING I DESIRE?’ SHE ASKED
EAGERLY.”]

“And may I wish for anything I desire?” she asked eagerly.

“Of course,” answered the princess; “but, as you can have but one wish,
you must choose something sensible.”

“Oh, I will!” declared the maid. “I wish I had yellow hair and blue
eyes.”

“Why did you wish that?” asked Fluff, angrily, for the girl had pretty
brown hair and eyes.

“Because the young man I am going to marry says he likes blondes better
than brunettes,” answered the maid, blushing.

But her hair did not change its color, for all the wish; and the maid
said, with evident disappointment:

“Your magic cloak seems to be a fraud.”

“It does not grant foolish wishes,” returned the princess, as she
dismissed her.

When the maid had gone Zixi asked:

“Well, are you satisfied?”

“Yes,” acknowledged Fluff. “The cloak will not grant wishes unless it is
complete. We must wait for the sailorman’s necktie.”

“Then my army shall march to-morrow morning,” said the queen, and she
went away to give the order to her generals.