The next day the funeral of the old king took place, and the new king rode in the grand procession in a fine chariot, clothed in black velvet embroidered with silver. Not knowing how to act in his new position, Bud sat still and did nothing at all, which was just what was expected of him. But when they returned from the funeral, he was ushered into the great throne room of the palace and seated on the golden throne. And then the chief counselor informed him that he must listen to the grievances of his people and receive the homage of the noblemen of Noland.
Fluff sat on a stool beside the king, and the five high counselors stood back of him in a circle. And then the doors were thrown open and all the noblemen of the country crowded in. One by one they kissed first the king's hand and then the princess's hand and vowed they would always serve them faithfully.
Bud did not like this ceremony. He whispered to Fluff that it made him tired. "I want to go upstairs and play," he said to the lord high steward. "I don't see why I can't."
"Very soon your Majesty may go. Just now it is your duty to hear the grievances of your people," answered Tallydab gently.
"What's the matter with 'em?" asked Bud crossly. "Why don't they keep out of trouble?"
"I do not know, your Majesty, but there are always disputes among the people."
"But that isn't the king's fault, is it?" said Bud.
"No, your Majesty, but it's the king's place to settle these disputes, for he has the supreme power."
"Well, tell 'em to hurry up and get it over with," said the boy restlessly.
Then a venerable old man came in leading a boy by the arm and holding a switch in his other hand. "Your Majesty," began the man, having first humbly bowed to the floor before the king. "My son, whom I have brought here with me, insists upon running away from home, and I wish you would tell me what to do with him."
"Why do you run away?" Bud asked the boy.
"Because he whips me," was the answer.
Bud turned to the man. "Why do you whip the boy?" he inquired.
"Because he runs away," said the man.
For a minute, Bud looked puzzled. "Well, if anyone whipped me, I'd run away, too," he said at last. "And if the boy isn't whipped or abused he ought to stay at home and be good. But it's none of my business anyhow."
"Oh, your Majesty!" cried the chief counselor. "It really must be your business. You're the king, you know, and everybody's business is the king's."
"That isn't fair," said Bud sulkily. "I've got my own business to attend to, and I want to go upstairs and play."
But now Princess Fluff leaned toward the young king and whispered something in his ear which made his face brighten. "See here!" exclaimed Bud. "The first time this man whips the boy again or the first time the boy runs away, I order my lord high executioner to give them both a good switching. Now let them go home and try to behave themselves."
Everyone applauded his decision, and Bud also thought with satisfaction that he had hit upon a good way out of the difficulty.
Next came two old women, one very fat and the other very thin, and between them they led a cow, the fat woman having a rope around one horn and the thin woman a rope around the other horn. Each woman claimed she owned the cow, and they quarreled so loudly and so long that the lord high executioner had to tie a bandage over their mouths. When peace was thus restored, the high counselor said, "Now, your Majesty, please decide which of these two women owns the cow."
"I can't," said Bud helplessly.
"Oh, your Majesty, but you must!" cried all the five high counselors.
Then Meg whispered to the king again, and the boy nodded. The children had always lived in a little village where there were plenty of cows, and the girl thought she knew a way to decide which of the claimants owned this animal. "Send one of the women away," said Bud. So they led the lean woman to a little room nearby and locked her in. "Bring a pail and a milking stool," ordered the king. When they were brought, Bud turned to the fat woman and ordered the bandage taken from her mouth.
"The cow's mine! It's my cow! I own it!" she screamed the moment she could speak.
"Hold!" said the king. "If the cow belongs to you, let me see you milk her."
"Certainly, your Majesty, certainly!" she cried, and seizing the pail and the stool, she ran up to the left side of the cow, placed the stool, and sat down upon it. But before she could touch the cow, the animal suddenly gave a wild kick that sent the startled woman in a heap upon the floor, with her head stuck fast in the milk pail. Then the cow moved forward a few steps and looked blandly around.
Two of the guards picked the woman up and pulled the pail from her head. "What's the matter?" asked Bud.
"She's frightened, of course," whimpered the woman, "and I'll be black and blue by tomorrow morning, your Majesty. Any cow would kick in such a place as this."
"Put this woman in the room and fetch the other woman here," commanded the king. So the lean woman was brought out and ordered to milk the cow. She took the stool in one hand and the pail in the other, and approaching the cow softly on the RIGHT side, patted the animal gently and said to it, "So, Boss! So-o-o-o, Bossie my darlin'! Good Bossie! Nice Bossie!" The cow turned her head to look at the lean woman, and made no objection when she sat down and began milking.
In a moment the king said, "The cow is yours! Take her and go home!" Then all the courtiers and people, and even the five high counselors, applauded the king enthusiastically, and the chief counselor lifted up his hands and said, "Another Solomon has come to rule us!"
And the people applauded again, till Bud looked very proud and quite red in the face with satisfaction. "Tell me," he said to the woman, who was about to lead the cow away, "tell me, where did you get such a nice faithful Bossie as that?"
"Must I tell you the truth?" asked the woman.
"Of course," said Bud.
"Then, your Majesty," she returned, "I stole her from that fat woman you have locked up in that room. But no one can take the cow from me now, for the king has given her to me."
At this a sudden hush fell on the room, and Bud looked redder than ever. "Then how did it happen that you could milk the cow and she couldn't?" demanded the king angrily.
"Why, she doesn't understand cows, and I do," answered the woman. "Good day, your Majesty. Much obliged, I'm sure!" And she walked away with the cow, leaving the king and Princess Fluff and all the people much embarrassed.
"Have we any cows in the royal stables?" asked Bud, turning to Tullydub.
"Certainly, your Majesty, there are several," answered the chief counselor.
"Then," said Bud, "give one of them to the fat woman and send her home. I've done all the judging I am going to do today, and now I'll take my sister upstairs to play."
"Hold on! Hold on!" cried a shrill voice. "I demand justice! Justice of the king! Justice of the law! Justice to the king's aunt." Bud looked down the room and saw Aunt Rivette struggling with some of the guards. Then she broke away from them and rushed to the throne, crying again, "Justice, your Majesty!"
"What's the matter with you?" asked Bud.
"Matter? Everything's the matter with me. Aren't you the new king?"
"Yes," said Bud. "That's what I am."
"Am I not your aunt? Am I not your aunt?"
"Yes," said Bud again.
"Well, why am I left to live in a hut and dress in rags? Doesn't the law say that every blood relative of the king shall live in a royal palace?"
"Does it?" asked Bud, turning to Tullydub.
"The law says so, your Majesty."
"And must I have that old crosspatch around me all the time?" wailed the new king.
"Crosspatch yourself!" screamed Aunt Rivette, shaking her fist at Bud. "I'll teach you to crosspatch me when I get you alone!"
Bud shuddered. Then he turned again to Tullydub. "The king can do what he likes, can't he?" the boy asked.
"Certainly, your Majesty."
"Then let the lord high executioner step forward!"
"Oh Bud! What are you going to do?" said Fluff, seizing him tightly by the arm.
"You let me alone!" answered Bud. "I'm not going to be a king for nothing. And Aunt Rivette whipped me once, sixteen hard switches! I counted 'em."
The executioner was now bowing before him. "Get a switch," commanded the king.
The executioner brought a long, slender birch bough. "Now," said Bud, "you give Aunt Rivette sixteen good switches."
"Oh, don't! Don't, Bud!" pleaded Meg.
Aunt Rivette fell on her knees, pale and trembling. In agony she raised her hands. "I'll never do it again! Let me off, your Majesty!" she screamed. "Let me off this once! I'll never do it again! Never! Never!"
"All right," said Bud with a cheery smile. "I'll let you off this time. But if you don't behave or if you interfere with me or Fluff, I'll have the lord high executioner take charge of you. Just remember I'm the king, and then we'll get along all right. Now you may go upstairs if you wish to and pick out a room on the top story. Fluff and I are going to play."
With this, he laid his crown carefully on the seat of the throne and threw off his ermine robe. "Come on, Fluff! We've had enough business for today," he said, and dragged the laughing princess from the room, while Aunt Rivette meekly followed the lord high steward up the stairs to a comfortable apartment just underneath the roof. She was very well satisfied at last, and very soon she sent for the lord high pursebearer and demanded money with which to buy some fine clothes for herself. This was given her willingly, for the law provided for the comfort of every relative of the king, and knowing this Aunt Rivette fully intended to be the most comfortable woman in the kingdom of Noland.