Книга Rinkitink in Oz. Страница 11
Inga said nothing and appeared not to notice the King's failure. So now Rinkitink, with a serious look on his fat, red face, took off his purple robe and rolled up the sleeves of his tunic and tried again.
However, he succeeded no better than before and when he heard Bilbil give a gruff laugh and saw a smile upon the boy Prince's face, Rinkitink suddenly dropped the oars and began shouting with laughter at his own defeat. As he wiped his brow with a yellow silk handkerchief he sang in a merry voice:
"A sailor bold am I, I hold,
But boldness will not row a boat.
So I confess I'm in distress
And just as useless as the goat."
"Please leave me out of your verses," said Bilbil with a snort of anger.
"When I make a fool of myself, Bilbil, I'm a goat," replied Rinkitink.
"Not so," insisted Bilbil. "Nothing could make you a member of my superior race."
"Superior? Why, Bilbil, a goat is but a beast, while I am a King!"
"I claim that superiority lies in intelligence," said the goat.
Rinkitink paid no attention to this remark, but turning to Inga he said:
"We may as well get back to the shore, for the boat is too heavy to row to Gilgad or anywhere else. Indeed, it will be hard for us to reach land again."
"Let me take the oars," suggested Inga. "You must not forget our bargain."
"No, indeed," answered Rinkitink. "If you can row us to Regos, or to any other place, I will go with you without protest."
So the King took Inga's place at the stern of the boat and the boy grasped the oars and commenced to row. And now, to the great wonder of Rinkitink – and even to Inga's surprise – the oars became light as feathers as soon as the Prince took hold of them. In an instant the boat began to glide rapidly through the water and, seeing this, the boy turned its prow toward the north. He did not know exactly where Regos and Coregos were located, but he did know that the islands lay to the north of Pingaree, so he decided to trust to luck and the guidance of the pearls to carry him to them.
Gradually the Island of Pingaree became smaller to their view as the boat sped onward, until at the end of an hour they had lost sight of it altogether and were wholly surrounded by the purple waters of the Nonestic Ocean.
Prince Inga did not tire from the labor of rowing; indeed, it seemed to him no labor at all. Once he stopped long enough to place the poles of the canopy in the holes that had been made for them, in the edges of the boat, and to spread the canopy of silver over the poles, for Rinkitink had complained of the sun's heat. But the canopy shut out the hot rays and rendered the interior of the boat cool and pleasant.
"This is a glorious ride!" cried Rinkitink, as he lay back in the shade. "I find it a decided relief to be away from that dismal island of Pingaree."
"It may be a relief for a short time," said Bilbil, "but you are going to the land of your enemies, who will probably stick your fat body full of spears and arrows."
"Oh, I hope not!" exclaimed Inga, distressed at the thought.
"Never mind," said the King calmly, "a man can die but once, you know, and when the enemy kills me I shall beg him to kill Bilbil, also, that we may remain together in death as in life."
"They may be cannibals, in which case they will roast and eat us," suggested Bilbil, who wished to terrify his master.
"Who knows?" answered Rinkitink, with a shudder. "But cheer up, Bilbil; they may not kill us after all, or even capture us; so let us not borrow trouble. Do not look so cross, my sprightly quadruped, and I will sing to amuse you."
"Your song would make me more cross than ever," grumbled the goat.
"Quite impossible, dear Bilbil. You couldn't be more surly if you tried. So here is a famous song for you."
While the boy rowed steadily on and the boat rushed fast over the water, the jolly King, who never could be sad or serious for many minutes at a time, lay back on his embroidered cushions and sang as follows:
"A merry maiden went to sea —
She sat upon the Captain's knee
And looked around the sea to see
What she could see, but she couldn't see me —
"How do you like that, Bilbil?"
"I don't like it," complained the goat. "It reminds me of the alligator that tried to whistle."
"Did he succeed, Bilbil?" asked the King.
"He whistled as well as you sing."
"Ha, ha, ha, ha, heek, keek, eek!" chuckled the King. "He must have whistled most exquisitely, eh, my friend?"
"I am not your friend," returned the goat, wagging his ears in a surly manner.
"I am yours, however," was the King's cheery reply; "and to prove it I'll sing you another verse."
"Don't, I beg of you!"
But the King sang as follows:
"The wind blew off the maiden's shoe —
And the shoe flew high to the sky so blue
And the maiden knew 'twas a new shoe, too;
But she couldn't pursue the shoe, 'tis true —
"Isn't that sweet, my pretty goat?"
"Sweet, do you ask?" retorted Bilbil. "I consider it as sweet as candy made from mustard and vinegar."
"But not as sweet as your disposition, I admit. Ah, Bilbil, your temper would put honey itself to shame."
"Do not quarrel, I beg of you," pleaded Inga. "Are we not sad enough already?"
"But this is a jolly quarrel," said the King, "and it is the way Bilbil and I often amuse ourselves. Listen, now, to the last verse of all:
"The maid who shied her shoe now cried —
Her tears were fried for the Captain's bride
Who ate with pride her sobs, beside,
And gently sighed 'I'm satisfied' —
"Worse and worse!" grumbled Bilbil, with much scorn. "I am glad that is the last verse, for another of the same kind might cause me to faint."
"I fear you have no ear for music," said the King.
"I have heard no music, as yet," declared the goat. "You must have a strong imagination, King Rinkitink, if you consider your songs music. Do you remember the story of the bear that hired out for a nursemaid?"
"I do not recall it just now," said Rinkitink, with a wink at Inga.
"Well, the bear tried to sing a lullaby to put the baby to sleep."
"And then?" said the King.
"The bear was highly pleased with its own voice, but the baby was nearly frightened to death."
"Heh, heb, heh, heh, whoo, hoo, hoo! You are a merry rogue, Bilbil," laughed the King; "a merry rogue in spite of your gloomy features. However, if I have not amused you, I have at least pleased myself, for I am exceedingly fond of a good song. So let us say no more about it."
All this time the boy Prince was rowing the boat. He was not in the least tired, for the oars he held seemed to move of their own accord. He paid little heed to the conversation of Rinkitink and the goat, but busied his thoughts with plans of what he should do when he reached the islands of Regos and Coregos and confronted his enemies. When the others finally became silent, Inga inquired.
"Can you fight, King Rinkitink?"
"I have never tried," was the answer. "In time of danger I have found it much easier to run away than to face the foe."
"But could you fight?" asked the boy.
"I might try, if there was no chance to escape by running. Have you a proper weapon for me to fight with?"
"I have no weapon at all," confessed Inga.
"Then let us use argument and persuasion instead of fighting. For instance, if we could persuade the warriors of Regos to lie down, and let me step on them, they would be crushed with ease."
Prince Inga had expected little support from the King, so he was not discouraged by this answer. After all, he reflected, a conquest by battle would be out of the question, yet the White Pearl would not have advised him to go to Regos and Coregos had the mission been a hopeless one. It seemed to him, on further reflection, that he must rely upon circumstances to determine his actions when he reached the islands of the barbarians.