Hyacinth was with Udo in the library. Udo spent much of his time in the library nowadays; for surely in one of those many books was to be found some Advice to a Gentleman in Temporary Difficulties suitable to a case like his. Hyacinth kept him company sadly. It had been such a brilliant idea inviting him to Euralia; how she wished now that she had never done it.
“Well, Wiggs,” she said, with a gentle smile, “what have you been doing with yourself all the morning?”
Udo looked up from his mat and nodded to her.
“I’ve found out,” said Wiggs excitedly; “it was the Countess who did it.”
Udo surveyed her with amazement.
“The Princess Hyacinth,” he said, “has golden hair. One discovers these things gradually.” And he returned to his book.
Wiggs looked bewildered.
“He means, dear,” said Hyacinth, “that it is quite obvious that the Countess did it, and we have known about it for days.”
Udo wore, as far as his face would permit, the slightly puffy expression of one who has just said something profoundly ironical and is feeling self-conscious about it.
“Oh—h,” said Wiggs in such a disappointed voice that it seemed as if she were going to cry.
Hyacinth, like the dear that she was, made haste to comfort her.
“We didn’t really know,” she said; “we only guessed it. But now that you have found out, I shall be able to punish her properly. No, don’t come with me,” she said, as she rose and moved towards the door; “stay here and help his Royal Highness. Perhaps you can find the book that he wants; you’ve read more of them than I have, I expect.”
Left alone with the Prince, Wiggs was silent for a little, looking at him rather anxiously.
“Do you know all about the Countess?” she asked at last.
“If there’s anything I don’t know, it must bevery bad.”
“Then you know that it’s all my fault that you are like this? Oh, dear Prince Udo, I am so dreadfully sorry.”
“What do you mean—your fault?”
“Because it was my ring that did it.”
Udo scratched his head in a slightly puzzled but quite a nice way.
“Tell me all about it from the beginning,” he said. “You have found out something after all, I believe.”
So Wiggs told her story from the beginning. How the fairy had given her a ring; how the Countess had taken it from her for five minutes and had a bad wish on it; and how Wiggs had found her out that very morning.
Udo was intensely excited by the story. He trotted up and down the library, muttering to himself. He stopped in front of Wiggs as soon as she had finished.
“Is the ring still going?” he asked. “I mean, can you have another wish on it?”
“Yes, just one.”
“Then wish her to be turned into a——” He tried to think of something that would meet the case. “What about a spider?” he said thoughtfully.
“But that’s a bad wish,” said Wiggs.
“Yes, but it’s her turn.”
“Oh, but I’m only allowed a good wish now.” She added rapturously, “And I know what it’s going to be.”
So did Udo. At least he thought he did.
“Oh, you dear,” he said, casting an affectionate look on her.
“Yes, that’s it. That I might be able to dance like a fairy.”
Udo could hardly believe his ears, and they were adequate enough for most emergencies.
“But how is that going to help me?” he said, tapping his chest with his paw.
“But it’s my ring,” said Wiggs. “And so of course I’m going to wish that I can dance like a fairy. I’ve always meant to, as soon as I’ve been good for a day first.”
The child was absurdly selfish. Udo saw that he would have to appeal to her in another way.
“Of course,” he began, “I’ve nothing to say against dancing as dancing, but I think you’ll get tired of it. Just as I shall get tired of—lettuce.”
Wiggs understood now.
“You mean that I might wish you to be a Prince again?”
“Well,” said Udo casually, “it just occurred to me as an example of what might be called the Good Wish.”
“Then I shall never be able to dance like a fairy?”
“Neither shall I, if it comes to that,” said Udo. Really, the child was very stupid.
“Oh, it’s too cruel,” said Wiggs, stamping her foot. “I did so want to be able to dance.”
Udo glanced gloomily into the future.
“To live for ever behind wire netting,” he mused; “to be eternally frightened by pink-eyed ferrets; to be offered bran-mash—bran-mash—bran-mash wherever one visited week after week, month after month, year after year, century after—how long do rabbits live?”
But Wiggs was not to be moved.
“I won’t give up my wish,” she said passionately.
Udo got on to his four legs with dignity.
“Keep your wish,” he said. “There are plenty of other ways of getting out of enchantments. I’ll learn up a piece of poetry by our Court Poet Sacharino, and recite it backwards when the moon is new. Something like that. I can do this quite easily by myself. Keep your wish.”
He went slowly out. His tail (looking more like a bell-rope than ever) followed him solemnly. The fluffy part that you pull was for a moment left behind; then with a jerk it was gone, and Wiggs was left alone.
“I won’t give up my wish,” cried Wiggs again. “I’ll wish it now before I’m sorry.” She held the ring up. “I wish that——” She stopped suddenly. “Poor Prince Udo he seems very unhappy. I wonder if it is a good wish to wish to dance when people are unhappy.” She thought this out for a little, and then made her great resolve. “Yes,” she said, “I’ll wish him well again.”
Once more she held the ring up in her two hands.
“I wish,” she said, “that Prince Udo——”
I know what you’re going to say. It was no good her wishing her good wish, because she had been a bad girl the day before—making the Countess an apple-pie bed and all—disgraceful! How could she possibly suppose——
She didn’t. She remembered just in time.
“Oh, bother,” said Wiggs, standing in the middle of the room with the ring held above her head. “I’ve got to be good for a day first. Bother!“
* * * * *
So the next day was Wiggs’s Good Day. The legend of it was handed down for years afterwards in Euralia. It got into all the Calendars—July 20th it was—marked with a red star; in Roger’s portentous volumes it had a chapter devoted to it. There was some talk about it being made into a public holiday, he tells us, but this fell through. Euralian mothers used to scold their naughty children with the words, “Why can’t you be like Wiggs?” and the children used to tell each other that there never was a real Wiggs, and that it was only a made-up story for parents. However, you have my word for it that it was true.
She began by getting up at five o’clock in the morning, and after dressing herself very neatly (and being particularly careful to wring out her sponge) she made her own bed and tidied up the room. For a moment she thought of waking the grown-ups in the Palace and letting them enjoy the beautiful morning too, but a little reflection showed her that this would not be at all a kindly act; so, having dusted the Throne Room and performed a few simple physical exercises, she went outside and attended to the smaller domestic animals.
At breakfast she had three helps of something very nutritious, which the Countess said would make her grow, but only one help of everything else. She sat up nicely all the time, and never pointed to anything or drank with her mouth full. After breakfast she scattered some crumbs on the lawn for the robins, and then got to work again.
First she dusted and dusted and dusted; then she swept and swept and swept; then she sewed and sewed and sewed. When anybody of superior station or age came into the room she rose and curtsied and stood with her hands behind her back, while she was being spoken to. When anybody said, “I wonder where I put my so-and-so,” she jumped up and said, “Let me fetch it,” even if it was upstairs.
After dinner she made up a basket of provisions and took them to the old women who lived near the castle; to some of them she sang or read aloud, and when at one cottage she was asked, “Now won’t you give me a little dance,” she smiled bravely and said, “I’m afraid I don’t dance very well.” I think that was rather sweet of her; if I had been the fairy I should have let her off the rest of the day.
When she got back to the Palace she drank two glasses of warm milk, with the skin on, and then went and weeded the Countess’s lawn; and once when she trod by accident on a bed of flowers, she left the footprint there instead of scraping it over hastily, and pretending that she hadn’t been near the place, as you would have done.
And at half-past six she kissed everybody good-night (including Udo) and went to bed.
So ended July the Twentieth, perhaps the most memorable day in Euralian history.
* * * * *
Udo and Hyacinth spent the great day peacefully in the library. A gentleman for all his fur, Udo had not told the Princess about Wiggs’s refusal to help him. Besides, a man has his dignity. To be turned into a mixture of three animals by a woman of thirty, and to be turned back again by a girl of ten, is to be too much the plaything of the sex. It was time he did something for himself.
“Now then, how did that bit of Sacharino’s go? Let me see.” He beat time with a paw. “‘Blood for something, something, some——’ Something like that. ‘Blood for—er—blood for—er——’ No, it’s gone again. I know there was a bit of blood in it.”
“I’m sure you’ll get it soon,” said Hyacinth. “It sounds as thought it’s going to be just the sort of thing that’s wanted.”
“Oh, I shall get it all right. Some of the words have escaped me for the moment, that’s all. ‘Blood—er—blood.’ You must have heard of it, Princess: it’s about blood for he who something; you must know the one I mean.
“I know I’ve heard of it,” said the Princess, wrinkling her forehead, “only I can’t quite think of it for the moment. It’s about a—a——”
“Yes, that’s it,” said Udo.
Then they both looked up at the ceiling with their heads on one side and murmured to themselves.
But noon came and still they hadn’t thought of it.
After a simple meal they returned to the library.
“I think I’d better write to Coronel,” said Udo, “and ask him about it.”
“I thought you said his name was Sacharino.”
“Oh, this is not the poet, it’s just a friend of mine, but he’s rather good at this sort of thing. The trouble is that it takes such a long time for a letter to get there and back.”
At the word “letter,” Hyacinth started suddenly.
“Oh, Prince Udo,” she cried, “I can never forgive myself. I’ve just remembered the very thing. Father told me in his letter that a little couplet he once wrote was being very useful for—er—removing things.”
“What sort of things?” said Udo, not too hopefully.
“Oh, enchantments and things.”
Udo was a little annoyed at the “and things”—as those turning him back into a Prince again was as much in the day’s work as removing rust from a helmet.
“It goes like this,” said Hyacinth.
“Bo, boll, bill, bole.
Wo, woll, will, wole.“
“It sounds as though it would removeanything,” she added, with a smile.
Udo sat up rather eagerly.
“I’ll try,” he said. “Is there any particular action that goes with it?”
“I’ve never heard of any. I expect you ought to say it as if you meant it.”
Udo sat up on his back paws, and, gesticulating freely with his right paw, declaimed:
“Bo, boll, bill, bole.
Wo, woll, will, wole.“
He fixed his eyes on his paws, waiting for the transformation.
“It must be all right,” said Hyacinth anxiously, “because I’m sure Father would know. Try saying it more like this.”
She repeated the lines in a voice so melting, yet withal so dignified, that the very chairs might have been expected to get up and walk out.
Udo imitated her as well as he could.
At about the time when Wiggs was just falling asleep, he repeated it in his fiftieth different voice.
“I’m sorry,” said Hyacinth; “perhaps it isn’t so good as Father thought it was.”
“There’s just one chance,” said Udo. “It’s possible it may have to be said on an empty stomach. I’ll try it to-morrow before breakfast.”
Upstairs Wiggs was dreaming of the dancing that she had given up for ever.
And what Belvane was doing I really don’t know.