In the meantime, as may readily be imagined, there was a sad time at the palace of the King of Gee-Whiz. The Widow Pickle threatened to upset the royal household if her Twins were not brought back before sundown of that day. No trace could be found of the royal shadow, nor could any one tell what had become of the wooden leg of the Royal Army. The Private Secretary was almost frantic over all these difficulties, and the Court Physician was also at his wits’ end, seeking for some remedy for the strange disease of the King, which had caused him to lose his shadow, this being a thing which he could not find mentioned in any of the medical works which he habitually consulted.
“Oh, my poor head! My poor head!” said the King. “And to think that my poor, dear shadow may have quite as bad a headache for all I know! Oh, dear, was ever so unhappy a King as I! Jiji, play for me, and see if you cannot do something to settle my poor nerves.”
The Private Secretary went into his apartment, but presently returned and fell prostrate upon his face. “O, King,” cried he, “I am the most wretched servant that ever disappointed a royal master!”
“Why, what is the matter now? What is the matter?” asked the King. “Has anything else gone wrong?”
“O, King,” said the Private Secretary, “I regret to say that the Enchanted Banjo has disappeared from my apartments in the royal palace.”
“Ah!” cried the King of Gee-Whiz, as he heard the news. “This is almost too much! I begin to feel so strange that I really think I shall have to send for the Court Headsman.”
As the King of Gee-Whiz said this, he fixed a stern eye upon the unfortunate Private Secretary; who, as must be plain to all, had not been in the least to blame for any of these unhappy events.
“If in your opinion he can be of the slightest service,” replied the King, “then pray have him come and set to work at once.”
So the Court Detective came and was admitted to the presence of the King. He was an oldish looking man, thin, and dressed in a long, flowing, black gown. He carried under one arm a large book, and under the other a basket of plaster-of-paris, with which he was accustomed to think he would some day make a cast of the footprints of some escaping criminal. On his nose he wore two pairs of spectacles, one for far looking and one for close looking, and in general he was a very wise-appearing man. The King at once explained to him the reasons for his summons to the palace, and at that the Court Detective became even more wise.
“I see, your Majesty,” he remarked, “you have lost your shadow. Ha! Hum! Most serious, most serious, I assure your Majesty.”
“And the Widow has lost the Royal Hereditary Twins,” continued the King.
“Precisely. Most serious, most serious,” said the Court Detective. “It would have been better had I been called much earlier, before the trail was so cold; but we shall see, your Majesty, we shall see.”
“And the Private Secretary has lost the Enchanted Banjo, upon which we were accustomed to rely for our entertainment.”
“Ah, that is very bad, very bad indeed! Whom does your Majesty suspect of all these things? Is it your Majesty’s belief that one and the same person has committed all these crimes?”
“That is for you to tell,” said the King.
“Ah! That will render it more difficult,” said the Court Detective, “very much more difficult; but we shall see, your Majesty, we shall see.”
“You will report at the palace at two this afternoon,” said the King, “and if you have not at that time brought back the missing articles, your head will be removed and you will also lose your position as Court Detective.”
“Your Majesty,” said the Court Detective, “I hope you will not exercise undue haste. This is the first case I have ever had, and I should like permission to continue my studies a little later than two o’clock this afternoon.”
“Very well, then,” said the King, “you shall have until half-past two. By that time you must have results.” Whereupon, the King bowed and turned away.
The Court Detective was very much agitated at these sudden responsibilities, but he now hastened away. After sitting for some time in deep thought, he began to search all about the palace yard, looking for footprints. In this he was successful, and of every footprint he found he made a cast in plaster-of-paris; so that before long he had a basketful of footprints, and with these he hastened back to the King.
“Your Majesty,” he exclaimed, “my eagle eye has discovered many things, and if my plaster-of-paris had not run out, I should have been able to show your Majesty even more footprints than these.”
The King was much pleased. “You have a good mind,” said he to the Court Detective. “Among these footprints I see several which no doubt belong to the Royal Hereditary Twins. In which direction were they going?”
“That, your Majesty,” replied the Court Detective, “is something which I did not look into, considering it immaterial; but now that your Majesty has mixed up these footprints in the basket, I feel that it will be much more difficult to determine the course which they were taking when I discovered them.”
The King sent out the Court Detective once more with instructions to examine closely the ground around the home of the Dragon Jankow, as the Private Secretary had suggested that they might have gone thither. The Court Detective declared that if the Twins were found, the shadow and the lost Banjo also would be discovered; but he refused to say what made him think this, and only wagged his head.
Within a short time after he had gone out the second time, the Court Detective again returned, very much excited. “Your Majesty, your Majesty,” he cried, “a crime has been committed!”
“Several crimes have been committed,” said the King sternly, “but what is it that you have detected now?”
“The Royal Army has lost its wooden leg.”
“Ah,” said the King. “Have you just detected that? I knew that long ago, as also did the Dragon. But did you find any footprints near there?” asked the King.
“I did not look for any,” said the Court Detective; “but had I found any I should have been helpless, for I was quite out of plaster-of-paris. But I discovered that a portion of a sandwich and two tins of preserved herring had been left near the opening of the gorge where the Royal Army lives.”
“Ah,” said the King, “let us see them.”
“Your Majesty,” said the Court Detective, “I regret very much to state that I was hungry and ate the sandwich and the tinned herring; but if I had had more plaster-of-paris, I could have made you an excellent cast of the tins.”
“It seems to me,” said the King, “that you are not really accomplishing much toward taking the criminals.”
“But, consider, your Majesty,” said the Court Detective, “the handicap under which I labor. A detective without plaster-of-paris is almost helpless, and there is no more plaster-of-paris on the Island. This which I have used was left to me by my father, the Court Detective to your Majesty’s grandfather, and it was a most superior article, which can not be replaced.”
At this time the King looked at the palace clock. “Very well,” said he, “it will not matter, for, as I perceive, it is now half-past two; so I presume I may as well behead you now.”
“Your Majesty,” said the Court Detective, “I respectfully request that you do not behead me.”
“I am sure you can do quite as well without your head,” said the King.
“No,” replied the Court Detective, “that I respectfully deny, your Majesty; and I request that you leave the matter of the legality of my execution to the Court Lawyer. I maintain that the lack of plaster-of-paris is the cause of my failure, and that lack was not my own fault.”
The Private Secretary went after the Court Lawyer, who was asleep in his office, but who awoke and accompanied him to the palace. The Court Lawyer was a small man, but very wise indeed. He, too, was old and he, too, wore a long, flowing robe of black, and a high, pointed hat with narrow rim, which made him look taller than he really was. He carried a black bag under his arm, in which were many wise and learned books of the law. To him the King of Gee-Whiz stated the case as it had been submitted, saying that he would very much like to behead the Court Detective, but that he did not wish to do anything illegal.
“What do you think in regard to this,” asked the King, “and how quickly can you give me a decision upon this question of law?”
“Your Majesty,” said the Court Lawyer, “I have known less knotty questions than this one to remain in the Courts of Chancery for over a hundred years; but such is my own great personal skill in this branch of the law, that I make no doubt I can deliver your Majesty an opinion of several hundred pages and of great importance in less than half that time.”
“The law can not take any cognizance of unimportant details,” said the Court Lawyer; “so I do not presume to enter into any discussion of that point, as I have had no brief prepared, nor could I have had on such short notice.”
“But can you not guess,” asked the King, “and give us an informal opinion as to whether I can behead this gentleman, and so go take a nap?”
“Your Majesty,” said the Court Lawyer firmly, “the law is not to be handled in so hurried a manner. I can make no such hasty decision. I should not undertake to render an opinion upon this question in less than fifty years, and then only in case I have received my proper fee.”
“But in case the act should later be found illegal?” asked the King.
“Then, in that case,” said the Court Lawyer, “your Majesty would be in danger of impeachment proceedings, which might cause your Majesty to lose your throne.”
“It is enough for the King to lose his shadow without losing his throne,” said the King angrily. “Away with you, every one, or, I declare, I shall send for the Court Executioner and consult with him alone!”
So they all hastily withdrew from the King’s presence, and for the time the matter was allowed to rest. It may be if the bad Fairy had not stolen the White Cricket, they might have used the Fairy Telephone and asked the good Queen Zulena whether any word had been received there of a missing pair of Twins, a royal shadow, the wooden leg of a Dragon, and an Enchanted Banjo.