About the time these events were happening the Widow Pickle was preparing to make ready the King’s breakfast. As she came from her house and approached the palace, her eyes rested upon the prostrate body of the King.
“This,” said the Widow Pickle, “is the strangest looking object I ever saw in all my life. I wonder what it is.”
At this time there came around the corner of the palace the Private Secretary of the King. “Good morning, Widow Pickle,” said the Private Secretary. “Have you seen his Royal Highness anywhere this morning? It is nearly his breakfast hour, and no one knows where he is.”
“I don’t know either,” said the Widow Pickle; “but I do know that it is scandalously late for any decent King to be lying abed. But tell me, what is this thing lying here, do you suppose?”
As she spoke, she gave the King a poke with her foot, which immediately made him resolve to have her beheaded. The King recognized his Private Secretary and made frantic efforts to speak to him, all the time gesticulating in the wildest manner; but all he could do was to squeak as before; and the worst of it was that, as he became excited, he began again to bound up and down in the most violent manner.
“Mercy on us!” said the Widow Pickle. “I didn’t know it was alive! What do you suppose it is?”
The Private Secretary took a second look and turned deathly pale.
“Madam,” said he in a whisper, “it is none less than his Royal Highness, though what has come to him I can not say. But that it is the King I can swear by these two fingers on his hands and by the pink strawberry mark upon his shoulder.”
The King continued to bound up and down.
“Your Majesty,” said the Private Secretary, “how came you in this unfortunate condition? I am very much distressed, indeed, your Majesty. But will you not be seated?”
The King violently shook his head and resumed his agitation, until at length the Private Secretary grasped him by one arm and so at last brought him to a stop and placed him upon the Royal Throne.
“Why, your Majesty,” said the Private Secretary, “you are light as a feather! Pray, tell me, how has this happened?”
The King could only squeak as before, but now he made a violent motion toward his feet. The Private Secretary understood him, as any good Private Secretary should be able to understand even the inmost thoughts of his King.
“Quite right, your Majesty,” said he. “I shall send at once for the Court Physician.”
So presently the Court Physician came up on a run, and, seeing what was the trouble, took his keen lancet and bled the King in his royal left foot. At once there was a sharp, hissing sound, and the dimensions of the King began to subside. In a few moments he had shrunk to such a size that he could be recognized by all. But now he was in such a rage that he could not make himself understood, but merely spluttered. Then he was for beheading the Widow Pickle at once for kicking him while he was helpless. Then he changed his mind, and ordered everybody banished from the Island except himself. This notion also passed, and he at length became more calm.
“Your Majesty, it was all those Waffles,” cried the Court Physician, who was jealous of the Widow Pickle.
“Not in the least,” declared the Widow Pickle. “That was never said of my Waffles before, as I am an honest woman.”
The King was a just Monarch, after all, and presently admitted it was not the Waffles, but what he had taken to be the syrup, which he was now ready to agree was perhaps a foreign substance of a dangerous nature. He explained the appearance of the tree from which he had taken the liquid, and the Court Physician in post-haste set off to the forest. He returned at length quite out of breath, and assured the King that he had examined the tree and found that it was not a syrup tree or Arbor saccharinus, but a rubber tree, Arbor elasticus horribiliensis, whose juice was capable of the most singular consequences when taken into the human system.
“That explains all,” said the King, who was now leaning weakly back upon the throne, very weary and pale; “all but one thing.” As he spoke, he slowly and tremblingly turned his head and looked upon the ground to see if he could discover his shadow.
“Look! Look!” cried the King, pointing before him.
The Court Physician and the Private Secretary both looked but could see nothing.
“There is nothing there, your Majesty,” said the Court Physician.
“Nothing there!” exclaimed the King. “Of course there is nothing there—why, my soul and body! can’t you see my royal shadow is gone?”
They looked again, and, to their great surprise, saw it was quite as the King had said. They looked all around, back of the throne, in front of it, and under it, and behind the door, but, seek as they might, could find no trace of the royal shadow.
“This,” said the King, “is very terrible. I have been attached to that shadow for so long that I am sure I do not know what I shall do without it. Why, I feel so lonesome! Tell me what I shall do, tell me at once! Why do I employ an expensive Court Physician and a Private Secretary, if they are not able to tell me what to do in a case like this?”
“Nonsense!” said the King. “Jiji, do you go at once to the Court Tailor and Royal Robe Maker and have him take my measure for a new shadow. And now bring me my Waffles immediately, my good woman, for I am very much exhausted by all these trying circumstances.”