The Widow Pickle proved that she had not lost her skill in the art of baking Waffles, and those which she furnished for the royal breakfast-table could not have been surpassed in any land. After eating several platefuls, the King had again fallen asleep, remarking that he had not slept so well for years. The Widow Pickle herself was taking a nap in a hammock under the trees when the Twins finally returned; and, seeing that every one was fast asleep and they themselves left alone, they presently wandered out a little way into the edge of the wood, where they sat down side by side upon a log, their royal crowns upon their brows and the Royal Wishing Wands in their hands.
They sat thus, staring out over the distant sea.
“This is a very strange and wonderful country,” said Zuzu, “and I am sure I should never have expected to be here, above all places. I sometimes have to rub my eyes to be sure I am awake. Now, the very idea that we should be so close to actual Fairies, to have them all about, or at least within a short walk—that is very strange and hard for me to believe.”
“But we don’t see them anywhere,” said Lulu ruefully. “Now, Fairies may be very close to one, indeed be almost any place about, and still one may not see them. We seem to be very little better off than when we were at home over there;” and she waved her hand toward the distant blue sea, from the other side of which they had come to this strange Island of Gee-Whiz.
Zuzu sat thoughtful for a moment. “Yet,” said he, “here we are, with thrones almost as good as that of the King, and with Royal Wishing Wands, which will bring us anything we want if we only ask for it; and you know we are allowed to telephone to the Fairies.”
“That is true,” cried Lulu, “I had forgotten that. But we must have a web and a Cricket. A White Cricket may be very hard to find.”
“Perhaps if we got a plain black one it would do just as well,” said Zuzu. “Look, there goes one now!” And indeed, as they glanced down they saw a large Black Cricket hopping along through the grass.
“I will get it,” cried Zuzu, and sprang after it with his hat in his hand, soon returning with the Cricket held in his fingers.
“Now we must have some spider webs,” said Lulu, forgetting that they were not complying with the conditions the Private Secretary had told them. They forgot to look for a White Cricket, but eagerly ran about in the grass searching for a spider web. At length, under a wide burdock leaf, they found one. “Here is the Fairy Telephone,” cried Lulu. “Quick! Quick! Listen! Let us hear what the Cricket and the spider say for us!”
So Zuzu put the Cricket to his ear. “Creek! Creek!” said the Cricket. Then, as he listened very closely, Zuzu heard something very thin and very far away begin to sing to him.
“Aha!” cried Zuzu, “this is not such a bad Cricket after all. I shall call the Fairy, and we’ll see what it is, good or bad.” So he called out in a loud voice over the Telephone, “Come, Fairy, come!”
To their great surprise, as he spoke there stood at their feet a little Black Fairy, with pointed hat, who smiled and bowed.
“I am Gobo, a Fairy,” he explained. “What was it that you wished, good sir?”
“We wish to see a Fairy,” replied Lulu eagerly. “Are you a Fairy?”
“I am one sort of Fairy,” replied the little one. “Unhappily, there are other kinds, as I must admit.”
“But we wish to see the real ones, with white wings. We want to go to the Valley of the Fairies, where we may see the Queen herself and learn how the good Fairies live,” said Lulu.
“I can be of no use in that case,” said the little one, turning away gruffly.
“But surely you can help us to get into the Fairy Valley!” cried Lulu.
“I might get into trouble if I did too much talking,” replied the little one. “But why do you ask me so foolish and childish a question, when you have all the means in your power without my aid?”
“What do you mean?” cried Zuzu eagerly. “It is true, we have three wishes every week, though foolishly, like most Twins, we often wish the same thing, and so shorten our allowance. In this way we have nearly used up all our wishes for this week, and I am sure we can not wait another whole week before trying to get to the Fairy Valley, where the Queen lives and whence all the gold and jewels come.”
“Aha!” laughed the little black one. “Suppose I should tell you. Could you keep the secret to yourselves?”
“To be sure we could,” cried both the Twins. “We would not tell a soul on the Island.”
“Then why not go?” said the little one. “Have you not the Enchanted Banjo?”
“We could get it,” said Zuzu, “and it plays for us.”
“That I know,” said the Wicked Fairy, “and with the Enchanted Banjo can you not do all manner of things? For instance, although I do not say it or admit it, would not the Enchanted Banjo put the Dragon to sleep?”
“Precisely what the Private Secretary said, and indeed what the Dragon himself wished!” said Zuzu.
“And if the Dragon were asleep,” said the Wicked Fairy, “would it not be easy to unscrew his wooden leg, and leave him so that he could not get away, no matter how hard he tried? And if he were helpless, what could hinder you from slipping past him and going down the Golden Ladder into the Valley of the Fairies, which he guards so faithfully?”
“You must be a very ignorant person not to know,” said the Fairy. “That is the stairway of the Fairies, very long but not hard to travel, if you know the way. It leads to the Fairy Valley, that is sure; and it is also sure that no person except a Fairy has ever been down that Golden Ladder, no, not in the thousands of years that I have lived on this Island; and that is the truth and you may depend on it, even if I am called a Wicked Fairy and answer the Black Cricket instead of the White.”
“But could we ever get back again?” asked Zuzu fearfully.
“That is for you to determine,” said the Wicked Fairy, scowling.
In his excitement over these matters Zuzu had let go of the Cricket, which, finding itself at liberty, now hopped away and crawled under a log. As he stooped over to pick up the Cricket, Zuzu noticed that the Wicked Fairy was gone; so they could ask no more about this matter of the Golden Ladder into the Valley of the Fairies.