“Madam,” said the King, “who are you, if I may ask, and why do these young persons hide behind you? Let us have no delays and no excuses. If we are to get on in the least pleasantly, I beg you of all things to remember that I am King. And I need hardly state that the King of Gee-Whiz is something of a Monarch, if I may so express it.”
“If it please your Majesty,” said the Widow Pickle, “I am a Widow, and come from foreign parts.”
“That,” rejoined the King, “is a claim of no special distinction, for there are very many widows who come from foreign parts. Pray, whatever you do, don’t bore me, for I am very easily bored, and when I am bored I am very bored indeed, as you will readily perceive a true King must be.”
“That I can easily understand,” said the Widow, “but I hope that my Twins will not bore you. Come, my children, and make your bow to the King.”
In truth, it must be said that the Widow Pickle was more frightened at the King than she thought she was going to be.
“Yes,” said the King, “let us see what your children look like.”
At this, very much frightened, Zuzu and Lulu came out from behind their mother and bowed very low before the King, and they had the presence of mind to make the sound “Ah-h-h!” between their teeth as the Private Secretary and others had done. The King was pleased at this. But, at the next moment, he sprang back with an exclamation of surprise.
“What!” said he, “what is that I see? Is it possible that we have here two young persons with the Royal Hereditary Hair in true malazite blue and royal corazine green? Why, bless my soul and body, not since the reign of Gee-Whiz the Twelfth has a true double instance of this kind of hair been found in all our kingdom!”
“Do you like their hair, your Majesty?” asked the Widow Pickle.
“What a question!” exclaimed the King. “How can I help liking it? Did not the Royal Queen Mother of our family three thousand years ago have blue hair; and her husband, the reigning monarch, green? My dear madam, I look upon this as the most fortunate thing that has occurred during my entire reign. If I am not very much mistaken, we shall hear of strange and wonderful things before long.”
“I am glad you like their hair,” said the Widow Pickle proudly, “although I must say that in our country neither was considered a fashionable color.”
“Yours must be a very strange country,” said the King of Gee-Whiz, “and you must have associated with extraordinarily ignorant persons, not to know that blue and green are the finest colors in the world for hair. Really, never in my life have I seen such a delicate shade as this. I am so delighted that I shall at once, in accordance with the law of the Island, have this Prince and Princess measured for a brand-new throne each. Moreover, they shall each have one of the Fairy Wishing Wands, which are a part of the royal property. Whatever they wish they shall have three times a week—but of course no more, for that would not be lawful.”
“Certainly not,” said the Widow Pickle, although she did not in the least understand what all this was about.
“As to yourself, madam,” resumed the Monarch, “although you claim to be the mother of these children, I do not observe that your own hair shows any token of the royal colors. In short, it is somewhat the color of my own. I regret to state that my hair, although once of a royal tint, was bleached by a sudden exposure to the sun by a careless nurse when I was young.” He smiled sadly, but soon recovered. “This, however, shall not happen to this young Prince and Princess,” he said, “for they shall have royal umbrellas and attendants to carry them when they walk abroad.
“Let me think,” went on the King. “I forget what I was about to say. Was I going to banish you, my dear madam, or have you beheaded? Jiji, get up and tell me what I was going to say.”
At this, the Private Secretary, who had been prostrate with his face upon the ground all this time, arose very quickly.
“Your Majesty,” said he, “let me suggest that you neither banish nor behead this good lady. Her husband was a very remarkable man, a dealer in Chemical Substances. It was in this way, as I am assured, that he discovered the means of making a very wonderful dish known as the Waffle, which is considered to be a sovereign cure for what are called the high crimes and misdemeanors of the Royal Stomach.”