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Whereupon Rumpty-Dudget gave a hoarse cry and vanished; and the enchanted fire blazed up famously, red, blue and yellow, with poor Harold in the midst of it.
THE GOLDEN IVY.
Now, or never, it was the time for Hilda and the cat to come back. And, sure enough, at this very instant, there was a sound like the whistling of a blast of wind through the forest, and a hurrying and a skurrying, and behold! there was Tom the Cat with Hilda on his back.
Tom said nothing, but he sprang into the circle, and without losing an instant he dug a little hole in the ground with his fore paws, throwing up the dirt in a heap behind him. When it was finished he said,
"Open the hollow pearl, Hilda, and put the Golden Ivy-seed in this hole; and make haste, for Harold is burning for Hector's sake!' So Hilda made haste to open the hollow pearl, and to put the Golden Ivy-seed in the hole; and the cat spread the earth over it, and then said,
Now take the crystal phial, Hilda, and pour half the Diamond Waterdrop upon the place where the seed is planted, and the other half upon the enchanted fire and make haste, for Harold is burning for Hector's sake!'
So Hilda made haste, and did what the cat had told her to do. When the half of the Diamond Waterdrop fell upon the fire in which Harold had all this while been burning, the fire was immediately put out. And there lay Harold, alive and well, amidst the embers; but the black spot upon his nose was all burned away, and his hair and eyes, which had until then been brown, were now quite black.
So up he jumped, and he and Hilda kissed each other heartily, for they felt as if they had been separated for a long time.
What has become of the black spot on your forehead, Hilda?' asked Harold. It is not there any more.'
'Ah!' said Tom, that disappeared when the King of the Gnomes kissed her. But now make yourselves ready, children; for we are going to take a ride to Rumpty-Dudget's tower!'
On hearing this, the young prince and princess were greatly surprised, and looked about for the carriage in which they were to ride.
But behold the Golden Ivy-seed, watered with the Diamond Waterdrop, was already growing and sprouting with marvellous vigour and rapidity. A strong stem, with leaves of glistening gold, has pushed itself out of the earth, and was creeping along the ground towards Rumpty-Dudget's tower-hardly creeping, either, for it moved faster than a man could run. The cat helped Hilda and
Harold to a seat on two of the largest leaves, while he himself clung to the stem; and so away they went through the forest merrily. As they advanced, the heavy grey cloud which had overcast all the heavens since Rumpty-Dudget's rule began was rolled back like a mighty scroll; and the pure sky, lit up with the fresh sunshine of the early dawn, smiled above the mysterious forest. Then the forest, too, awoke to life and joyousness; the birds sang in the branches, and fragrant flowers, sparkling with dew, glowed in the happy glades with mingled tints of white, blue and red. So on they went, carrying with them the freshness and perfume of the morning and of spring; and in a wonderfully short time the Golden Ivy had brought them to the gates of Rumpty-Dudget's tower.
'Jump down now,' said Tom, and leave the Golden Ivy to do the rest.'
Down they all jumped accordingly, and stood at one side, near the castle gates. But the Golden Ivy kept on, and threw itself across the moat, and clambered over the portcullis, and forced its way into the courtyard, and writhed along the passages and up the staircases, until (in less time than it takes to write about it) the Ivy had reached the room with the hundred and one corners. In the midst of this room stood Rumpty-Dudget, having fled to it for safety; for it was defended by enchantments which only the Golden Ivy could have overcome. There he stood, trembling in his shoes, as well he might; and in all the corners round about, with their faces to the wall and their hands behind their backs, stood the poor little children that Rumpty-Dudget had caught.
But they were not to stand there much longer, for RumptyDudget's hour had come! He tried to run away, but the terrible Golden Ivy ran after him, and caught him, and bound down his arms, and tied together his legs, and clutched him around the throat, and squeezed him round the body, and fastened its coils upon him tighter and tighter, until all the mischief was squeezed out of him. But, since Rumpty-Dudget was entirely made of mischief, when all the mischief was squeezed out of him, of course there was no RumptyDudget left-no, not so much as one of his shoe-buckles!
And when Rumpty-Dudget had ceased to exist, of course all the children who had been made prisoners by his spells became free, and they came racing and shouting out of the grey tower, with little Prince Hector at their head. But when Hector saw his brother and sister, and they saw him, they all three set up a cry of joy, and ran together and hugged and kissed each other heartily; for they felt as if they had been parted for a very long time.
At last Hilda said, 'Why, Hector, what has become of the black spot that used to be on your chin? It is not there any more.'
'It got rubbed off against the wall of the room with the hundred and one corners,' replied Hector demurely.
At that they all three laughed; but Hilda, at least, had tears in her eyes.
'And look at his hair and eyes!' exclaimed Harold; they are brown now, instead of black as they used to be. What is the reason of that?'
It is the touch of the Golden Ivy,' said a voice behind them, which Hilda fancied she had heard somewhere before.
The three children looked round, and saw a lady standing beside them, dazzlingly beautiful, with a crown on her head and a smile in her eyes. They all knew her at once, though they had never seen her before except in their dreams. It was their Fairy Aunt.
'But you look very much like the Queen our mother,' said Hilda.
And do I look like anyone besides her?' asked the lady, with a
Yes, you are like the Queen of the Air Spirits!' exclaimed Hilda; though you don't look so haughty as she did at first.'
Anyone else?' asked the lady again, speaking in a very gruff tone, and drawing her eyebrows together.
'Dear me! that is the way the King of the Gnomes talked,' said Hilda, clasping her hands. Surely you couldn't have been him?'
"Yes, my darlings,' said the lady, sitting down and drawing the three children to her lap. I am the Queen, your mother; though, by Rumpty-Dudget's spells, I was obliged to leave you, and to be seen by you only in your dreams at night. And I was what seemed to you the Queen of the Air Spirits, Hilda, and the King of the Gnomes as well; because love shows itself in many forms, and works for you above and beneath, and both while you wake and while you sleep; but it is always the same love in the end, and if you love one another you will find it out at last.'
'After all,' said Hilda thoughtfully, 'I love you best as our own mamma. And you will always be our mamma, and be with us now, won't you?'
"Yes, my darlings,' answered the Queen, giving them all a hug and a kiss: there will be no more changes or partings, for RumptyDudget and his tower are gone, and we are free.'
But where is Tom the Cat?' cried Hector, all of a sudden, looking this way and that; we can never be happy anywhere without him!'
'Oh, Tom has done his work, and we shall not see him any more,' said the Queen, shaking her head mysteriously.
But at this all the children looked ready to cry.
'Well, then, you shall have one more look at him,' said the Queen. She wore on her shoulders a long hooded mantle of the finest white fur. By a sudden movement she drew this mantle round her, and pulled the hood over her head and face; and behold! there sat Tom the Cat, looking as natural as possible, only that between the folds of the fur the children could see their mother's eyes laughing.
'I have often looked out at you so before now,' she said, as she brew back the hood and mantle; and you would have seen me as
plainly as you do now, but that the spell prevented you. So, you see, we shall take what was really Tom the Cat along with us, after all.'
'Where are we going?' Harold asked.
'To our home in Fairyland,' answered the Queen.
'And are we never coming back here any more?' asked Hilda, glad to go, and yet with almost a sigh.
'No, we shall never see this land again,' the Queen replied. "It was beautiful, but all its beauty lives again in the land whither we go. And there are no Rumpty-Dudgets in that land, and no grey towers full of corners, and no prickly hedges, nor winds from the north. And all the stars of the air and jewels of the earth are in that land, only more glorious and splendid than those that Hilda saw. But why should I tell you about it, when you are going to see it all for yourselves this very day? Are you ready?'
"Yes!' said all the children together.
Then she folded her arms about them, and they clung to her neck, and so they seemed to rise aloft in the warm air, and float towards the south. Far beneath them lay the tops of the tallest trees; but the children felt no fear. For they were going to their home in Fairyland; and they are all three living there, with the Queen their mother, to this very day.
But Hilda's hair is golden still, and her eyes are blue.
AN HISTORICAL LOVE MATCH.
T the Court of Henry VIII. there lived the sister of the King, a young girl of some seventeen years, and a universal favourite. Though slightly short for a Tudor, the Princess Mary is described by contemporaries as the greatest beauty of her day. This last Sunday in Lent,' writes an unknown correspondent to Margaret of Savoy, the clever daughter of the bankrupt Emperor Maximilian, the man of few pence,' as he was called, 'I saw the Princess Mary dressed in the Milanese fashion; and I think never man saw a more beautiful creature, or one possessed of so much grace and sweetness.' Similar testimony is borne by Gerard de Pleine, President of the Council of the Prince of Castile. I would not write to you about the Princess,' he says to Margaret, until I had seen her several times. I assure you that she is one of the most beautiful young women in the world. I think I never saw a more charming creature. She is very graceful. Her deportment in dancing and in conversation is as pleasing as you could desire. There is nothing gloomy or melancholy about her. I am certain if you had seen her you would never rest until you had her over. I assure you she has been well educated.' So charming a specimen of her sex was not allowed to remain long in the cold shade of spinsterhood. Scarcely had Mary passed the boundary when the girl bids farewell to the child, than she had been betrothed to Prince Charles, afterwards the famous Charles V. The sister of the King of England,' writes Peter Martyr, 'was betrothed to Prince Charles on condition that he should marry her when he had passed the age of fourteen.' In spite of the boyishness of her fiancé Mary appears then to have been far from averse to her future husband. It is certain, from everything I hear,' says De Pleine, that she is much attached to the prince, of whom she has a very bad picture. And never a day passes that she does not express a wish to see him, "plus de dix fois, comme l'on m'a affirmé." I had imagined that she would have been very tall, but she is of middling height, and, as I think, a much better match in age and person for the Prince than I had heard or could have believed before I saw her.' The love, however, if it ever existed, was all on one side. Charles was a delicate, sickly lad, and already showed signs of the cold calculating disposition which afterwards characterised him. He was unlike all other boys. In an age when skill in all athletic exercises was considered part of the education of a gentleman, Charles took little interest in active sports, and only saved himself in the eyes of the Emperor Maximilian from being considered a bastard by occasionally going out hunting. His mother's insanity had apparently cast its shadow over him, and caused his disposition to be singularly sedate and melancholy. A lad