QUEEN ZIXI RODE OUT AT THE HEAD OF HER ARMY

All soldiers love to fight; so when the army of Ix learned that they
were to go to war, they rejoiced exceedingly over the news.

They polished up their swords and battle-axes, and sewed all the missing
buttons on their uniforms, and mended their socks, and had their hair
cut, and were ready to march as soon as the queen was ready to have them
start.

King Bud of Noland had an army of seven thousand seven hundred and
seventy-seven men, besides a general ten feet high; but the Queen of Ix
had an army more than twice as big, and she decided to lead it in
person, so that when she had conquered the city of Nole she herself
could seize the precious magic cloak which she so greatly coveted.

Therefore Queen Zixi rode out at the head of her army, clad in a suit of
mail, with a glittering helmet upon her head that was surmounted by a
flowing white plume. And all the soldiers cheered their queen and had no
doubt at all that she would win a glorious victory.

Quavo the minstrel, who wandered constantly about, was on his way to
Noland again; and while Queen Zixi’s army was cutting a path through the
forest and making a bridge to cross the river, he came speedily by a
little-known path to the city of Nole, where he told Tullydub, the lord
high counselor, what was threatening his king.

So, trembling with terror, Tullydub hastened to the palace and called a
meeting of the five high counselors in the king’s antechamber.

When all were assembled, together with Bud and Fluff, the old man told
his news and cried:

“We shall all be slaughtered and our kingdom sacked and destroyed, for
the army of Ix is twice as big as our own—yes, twice as big!”

“Oh, pooh! What of that?” said Tollydob, scornfully; “have they a
general as tall as I am?”

“Certainly not,” said the chief counselor. “Who ever saw a man as tall
as you are?”

“Then I’ll fight and conquer them!” declared Tollydob, rising and
walking about the room, so that all might see where his head just grazed
the ceiling.

“But you can’t, general; you can’t fight an army by yourself!”
remonstrated Tullydub, excitedly. “And being so big, you are a better
mark for their arrows and axes.”

At this the general sat down rather suddenly and grew pale.

“Perhaps we can buy them off,” remarked the lord high purse-bearer,
jingling the purse that now never became empty.

“No, I’m afraid not,” sighed Tullydub. “Quavo the minstrel said they
were bent upon conquest, and were resolved upon a battle.”

“And their queen is a witch,” added Tallydab, nervously. “We must not
forget that.”

“A witch!” exclaimed Princess Fluff, with sudden interest. “What does
she look like?”

But all shook their heads at the question, and Tullydub explained:

“None of us has ever seen her, for we have never been friendly with the
people of Ix. But from all reports, Queen Zixi is both young and
beautiful.”

[Illustration: “THE GENERAL SAT DOWN SUDDENLY AND GREW PALE.”]

“Maybe it’s the one who wanted to teach me witchcraft in order to steal
my magic cloak!” said Fluff, with sudden excitement. “And when she found
she couldn’t steal it, she went back after her army.”

“What magic cloak do you refer to?” asked Tullydub.

“Why, the one the fairies gave me,” replied Fluff.

“Is it of gorgeous colors with golden threads running through it?” asked
the lord high general, now thoroughly interested.

“Yes,” said the princess, “the very same.”

“And what peculiar powers does it possess?”

“Why, it grants its wearer the fulfillment of one wish,” she answered.

All the high counselors regarded her earnestly.

“Then that was the cloak I wore when I wished to be ten feet high!” said
Tollydob.

“And I wore it when I wished I could reach the apple,” said Tellydeb.

“And I wore it when I wished that my dog Ruffles could speak,” said
Tallydab.

“And I wore it when I wished the royal purse would always remain full,”
said Tillydib.

“I did not know that,” remarked Fluff, thoughtfully. “But I’ll never
forget that I lent it to Aunt Rivette, and that was the time she wished
she could fly!”

“Why, it’s wonderful!” cried old Tullydub. “Has it granted you, also, a
wish?”

“Yes,” said Fluff, brightly. “And I’ve been happy ever since.”

“And has your brother, the king, had a wish?” Tullydub inquired eagerly.

“No,” said Bud. “I can still have mine.”

“Then why doesn’t your Majesty wear the cloak and wish that your army
shall conquer the Queen of Ix’s?” asked the lord high counselor.

“I’m saving my wish,” answered Bud, “and it won’t be that, either.”

“But unless something is done we shall all be destroyed,” protested
Tullydub.

“Then wear the cloak yourself,” said Bud. “You haven’t had a wish yet.”

“Good!” cried the four other counselors; and the lord high general
added: “That will surely save us from any further worry.”

“I’ll fetch the cloak at once,” said Fluff, and she ran quickly from the
room to get it.

“Supposing,” Tullydub remarked hesitatingly, “the magic power shouldn’t
work?”

“Oh, but it will!” answered the general.

“I’m sure it will,” said the steward.

“I know it will,” declared the purse-bearer.

“It cannot fail,” affirmed the executioner; “remember what it has
already done for us!”

Then Fluff arrived with the cloak; and, after considering carefully how
he would speak his wish, the lord high counselor drew the cloak over his
shoulders and said solemnly:

“I wish that we shall be able to defeat our enemies, and drive them all
from the kingdom of Noland.”

[Illustration: “THE LORD HIGH COUNSELOR DREW THE CLOAK OVER HIS
SHOULDERS.”]

“Didn’t you make two wishes instead of one?” asked the princess,
anxiously.

“Never mind,” said the general; “if we defeat them it will be easy
enough to drive them from our kingdom.”

The lord high counselor removed the cloak and carefully refolded it.

“If it grants my wish,” said he, thoughtfully, “it will indeed be lucky
for our country that the Princess Fluff came to live in the palace of
the king.”

The queen formed her men into a line of battle facing the army of Nole,
and they were so numerous in comparison with their enemies that even the
more timorous soldiers gained confidence, and stood up straight and
threw out their chests as if to show how brave they were.

Then Queen Zixi, clad in her flashing mail and mounted upon her
magnificent white charger, rode slowly along the ranks, her white plume
nodding gracefully with the motion of the horse.

And when she reached the center of the line she halted, and addressed
her army in a voice that sounded clear as the tones of a bell and
reached to every listening ear.

“Soldiers of the land of Ix,” she began, “we are about to engage in a
great battle for conquest and glory. Before you lies the rich city of
Nole, and when you have defeated yonder army and gained the gates you
may divide among yourselves all the plunder of gold and silver and
jewels and precious stones that the place contains.”

Hearing this, a great shout of joy arose from the soldiers, which Zixi
quickly silenced with a wave of her white hand.

“For myself,” she continued, “I desire nothing more than a cloak that is
owned by the Princess Fluff. All else shall be given to my brave army.”

“But—supposed we do not win the battle?” asked one of her generals,
anxiously. “What then do we gain?”

“Nothing but disgrace,” answered the queen, haughtily. “But how can we
fail to win when I myself lead the assault? Queen Zixi of Ix has fought
a hundred battles and never yet met with defeat!”

There was more cheering at this, for Zixi’s words were quite true.
Nevertheless, her soldiers did not like the look of that silent army of
Nole standing so steadfastly before the gates and facing the invaders
with calm determination.

Zixi herself was somewhat disturbed at this sight, for she could not
guess what powers the magic cloak had given to the Nolanders. But in a
loud and undaunted voice she shouted the command to advance; and while
trumpets blared and drums rolled, the great army of Ix awoke to action
and marched steadily upon the men of Nole.

Bud, who could not bear to remain shut up in his palace while all this
excitement was occurring outside the city gates, had slipped away from
Fluff and joined his gigantic general, Tollydob. He was, of course,
unused to war, and when he beheld the vast array of Zixi’s army he grew
fearful that the magic cloak might not be able to save his city from
conquest.

Yet the five high counselors, who were all present, seemed not to worry
the least bit.

“They’re very pretty soldiers to look at,” remarked old Tollydob,
complacently. “I’m really sorry to defeat them, they march so
beautifully.”

“But do not let your kind-hearted admiration for the enemy interfere
with our plans,” said the lord high executioner, who was standing by
with his hands in his pockets.

“Oh, I won’t!” answered the big general, with a laugh which was
succeeded by a frown. “Yet I can never resist admiring a fine soldier,
whether he fights for or against me. For instance, just look at that
handsome officer riding beside Queen Zixi—her chief general, I think.
Isn’t he sweet? He looks just like an apple, he is so round and wears
such a tight-fitting red jacket. Can’t you pick him for me, friend
Tellydeb?”

[Illustration: “THE LORD HIGH EXECUTIONER SUDDENLY STRETCHED OUT HIS
LONG ARM, AND REACHED THE FAR-AWAY GENERAL OF IX, AND PULLED HIM FROM
HIS HORSE.”]

“I’ll try.” And the lord high executioner suddenly stretched out his
long arm, and reached the far-away general of Ix, and pulled him from
the back of his horse.

Then, amid the terrified cries that came from the opposing army,
Tellydeb dragged his victim swiftly over the ground until he was seized
by the men of Nole and firmly bound with cords.

“Thank you, my friend,” said the general, again laughing and then
frowning. “Now get for me that pretty queen, if you please.”

Once more the long arm of the lord high executioner shot out toward the
army of Ix. But Zixi’s keen eyes saw it coming, and instantly she
disappeared, her magical arts giving her power to become invisible.

Tellydeb, puzzled to find the queen gone, seized another officer instead
of her and dragged him quickly over the intervening space to his own
side, where he was bound by the Nolanders and placed beside his
fellow-captive.

Another cry of horror came from the army of Ix, and with one accord the
soldiers stopped short in their advance. Queen Zixi, appearing again in
their midst, called upon her wavering soldiers to charge quickly upon
the foe.

But the men, bewildered and terrified, were deaf to her appeals. They
fled swiftly back, over the brow of the hill, and concealed themselves
in the wooded valley until the sun set. And it was far into the night
before Queen Zixi succeeded in restoring her line of battle.

The next day was a busy one in the city of Nole. The ten-foot lord high
general marched his seven thousand seven hundred and seventy-seven men
out of the city gates and formed them in line of battle on the brow of a
hill. Then he asked Aunt Rivette to fly over the top of the mountain and
see where the enemy was located.

The old woman gladly undertook the mission. She had by this time become
an expert flier, and, being proud to resemble a bird, she dressed
herself in flowing robes of as many colors as a poll-parrot could boast.
When she mounted into the air, streamers of green and yellow silk
floated behind her in quite a beautiful and interesting fashion, and she
was admired by all beholders.

Aunt Rivette flew high above the mountain-top, and there she saw the
great army of Queen Zixi climbing up the slope on the other side. The
army also saw her, and stopped short in amazement at seeing a woman fly
like a bird. They had before this thought their queen sure of victory,
because she was a witch and possessed many wonderful arts; but now they
saw that the people of Noland could also do wonderful things, and it
speedily disheartened them.

Zixi ordered them to shoot a thousand arrows at Aunt Rivette, but
quickly countermanded the order, as the old woman was too high to be
injured, and the arrows would have been wasted.

When the army of Ix had climbed the mountain and was marching down again
toward Nole, the lord high steward sent his dog Ruffles to them to make
more mischief. Ruffles trotted soberly among the soldiers of Ix, and
once in a while he would pause and say in a loud voice:

“The army of Noland will conquer you.”

Then all the soldiers would look around to see who had spoken these
fearful words, but could see nothing but a little dog; and Ruffles would
pretend to be scratching his nose with his left hind foot, and would
look so innocent that they never for a moment suspected he could speak.

[Illustration: “AND RUFFLES WOULD PRETEND TO BE SCRATCHING HIS NOSE WITH
HIS LEFT HIND FOOT.”]

“We are surrounded by invisible foes!” cried the soldiers; and they
would have fled even then had not Queen Zixi called them cowards and
stubbornly declared that they only fancied they had heard the voices
speak. Some of them believed her, and some did not; but they decided to
remain and fight, since they had come so far to do so.

Then they formed in line of battle again and marched boldly toward the
army of Noland.

While they were still a good way off, and the generals were riding in
front of their soldiers, the lord high executioner suddenly stretched
out his long arm and pulled another general of Ix from his horse, as he
had done the day before, dragging him swiftly over the ground between
the opposing armies until he was seized by the men of Nole and tightly
bound with cords.

The soldiers of Ix uttered murmurs of horror at this sight, and stopped
again.

Immediately the long arm shot out, and pulled another general from their
ranks, and made him prisoner.

Queen Zixi raved and stormed with anger; but the lord high executioner,
who was enjoying himself immensely, continued to grab officer after
officer and make them prisoners: and so far there had been no sign of
battle; not an arrow had been fired nor an ax swung.

Then, to complete the amazement of the enemy, the gigantic ten-foot
general of the army of Nole stepped in front of his men and waved around
his head a flashing sword six feet in length, while he shouted in a
voice like a roar of thunder, that made the army of Ix tremble:

“Forward, soldiers of Noland—forward! Destroy the enemy, and let none
escape!”

[Illustration: “THE GIGANTIC TEN-FOOT GENERAL OF THE ARMY OF NOLE
STEPPED IN FRONT OF HIS MEN.”]

[Illustration: “BUD WAS SO AMUSED AT THE SIGHT OF THE FLYING FOE THAT HE
ROLLED ON THE GROUND IN LAUGHTER.”]

It was more than the army of Ix could bear. Filled with terror, the
soldiers threw down their arms and fled in a great panic, racing over
the mountain-top and down the other side and then scattering in every
direction, each man for himself and as if he feared the entire army of
Noland was at his heels.

But it wasn’t. Not a soldier of Nole had moved in pursuit. Every one was
delighted at the easy victory, and King Bud was so amused at the sight
of the flying foe that he rolled on the ground in laughter, and even the
fierce-looking General Tollydob grinned in sympathy.

Then, with bands playing and banners flying, the entire army marched
back into the city, and the war between Noland and Ix was over.