Now as might be expected, Queen Zixi lost no time in endeavoring to secure the magic cloak. The people of Ix were not on friendly terms with the people of Noland, so she could not visit Princess Fluff openly, and she knew it was useless to try to borrow so priceless a treasure as a cloak which had been the gift of the fairies. But one way remained to her -- to steal the precious robe.
So she began her preparations by telling her people she would be absent from Ix for a month, and then she retired to her own room and mixed, by the rules of witchcraft, a black mess in a silver kettle and boiled it until it was as thick as molasses. Of this inky mixture she swallowed two teaspoonfuls every hour for six hours, muttering an incantation each time. At the end of the six hours her golden hair had become brown, and her black eyes had become blue, and this was quite sufficient to disguise the pretty queen so that no one would recognize her. Then she took off her richly embroidered queenly robes and hung them up in a closet, putting on a simple gingham dress, a white apron, and a plain hat such as common people of her country wore.
When these preparations had been made, Zixi slipped out the back door of the palace and walked through the city to the forest, and although she met many people, no one suspected that she was the queen. It was rough walking in the forest, but she got through at last, and reached the bank of the river. Here a fisherman was found who consented to ferry her across in his boat, and afterward Zixi climbed the high mountain and came down the other side into the kingdom of Noland.
She rented a neat little cottage just at the north gateway of the city of Nole, and by the next morning there was a sign over the doorway which announced:
ACADEMY OF WITCHERY
FOR YOUNG LADIES
Then Zixi had printed on green paper a lot of handbills which read as follows:
"MISS TRUST, a pupil of the celebrated Professor Hatrack of Hooktown-on-the-Creek, is now located at Woodbine Villa (North Gateway of Nole) and is prepared to teach the young ladies of this city the ARTS OF WITCHCRAFT according to the most modern and approved methods. Terms moderate. References required."
These handbills she hired a little boy to carry to all the aristocratic houses in Nole and to leave one on each doorstep. Several were left on the different doorsteps of the palace, and one of these came to the notice of Princess Fluff. "How funny!" she exclaimed on reading it. "I'll go and take all my eight maids with me. It will be no end of fun to learn to be a witch."
Many other people in Nole applied for instruction in "Miss Trust's Academy," but Zixi told them all she had no vacancies. When, however, Fluff and her maids arrived, she welcomed them with the utmost cordiality and consented to give them their first lesson at once. When she had seated them in her parlor, Zixi said:
"If you wish to be a witch, You must speak an incantation;
You must with deliberation Say, 'The when of why is which!' "
"What does that mean?" asked Fluff.
"No one knows," answered Zixi, "and therefore it is a fine incantation. Now, all the class will repeat after me the following words: 'Erig-a-ma-role, erig-a-ma-ree; Jig-ger-nut, jog-ger-nit, que-jig-ger-ee. Sim-mer-kin, sam-mer-kin, sem-mer-ga-roo; Zil-li-pop, zel-li-pop, lol-li-pop-loo!' "
They tried to do this, but their tongues stumbled constantly over the syllables, and one of the maids began to laugh. "Stop laughing, please!" cried Zixi, rapping her ruler on the table. "This is no laughing matter, I assure you, young ladies. The science of witchcraft is a solemn and serious study, and I cannot teach it you unless you behave."
"But what's it all about?" asked Fluff.
"I'll explain what it's about tomorrow," said Zixi with dignity. "Now, here are two important incantations which you must learn by heart before you come to tomorrow's lesson. If you can speak them correctly and rapidly and above all very distinctly, I will then allow you to perform a wonderful witchery."
She handed each of them a slip of paper on which were written the incantations, as follows:
Incantation No. 1
(To be spoken only in the presence of a black cat.)
This is that, and that is this; Bliss is blest, and blest is bliss.
Who is that, and what is who; Shed is shod, and shod is shoe!
Incantation No. 2
(To be spoken when the clock strikes twelve.)
What is which, and which is what; Pat is pet, and pit is pat;
Hid is hide, and hod is hid; Did is deed, and done is did!
"Now there is one thing more," continued Zixi, "and this is very important. You must each wear the handsomest and most splendid cloak you can secure when you come to me tomorrow morning."
This request made Princess Fluff thoughtful all the way home, for she at once remembered her magic cloak and wondered if the strange Miss Trust knew she possessed it. She asked Bud about it that night, and the young king said, "I'm afraid this witch-woman is someone trying to get hold of your magic cloak. I would advise you not to wear it when she is around or more than likely she may steal it."
So Fluff did not wear her magic cloak the next day, but selected in its place a pretty blue cape edged with gold. When she and her maids reached the cottage, Zixi cried out angrily, "That is not your handsomest cloak. Go home at once and get the other one!"
"I won't," said Fluff shortly.
"You must! You must!" insisted the witch-woman. "I can teach you nothing unless you wear the other cloak."
"How did you know I had another cloak?" asked the princess suspiciously.
"By witchcraft, perhaps," said Zixi mildly. "If you want to be a witch, you must wear it."
"I don't want to be a witch," declared Fluff. "Come, girls, come; let's go home at once."
"Wait -- wait!" implored Zixi eagerly. "If you'll get the cloak, I will teach you the most wonderful things in the world! I will make you the most powerful witch that ever lived!"
"I don't believe you," replied Fluff, and then she marched back to the palace with all her maids. But Zixi knew her plot had failed, so she locked up the cottage and went back again to Ix, climbing the mountain and crossing the river and threading the forest with angry thoughts and harsh words. Yet the queen was more determined than ever to secure the magic cloak. As soon as she had reentered her palace and by more incantations had again transformed her hair to yellow and her eyes to black and dressed herself in her royal robes, she summoned her generals and counselors and told them to make ready to war upon the kingdom of Noland.
Quavo the minstrel, who wandered constantly about, was on his way to Noland again, and while Queen Zixi's army was cutting a path through the forest and making a bridge to cross the river, he came speedily by a little-known path to the city of Nole, where he told Tullydub, the lord high counselor, what was threatening his king. So, trembling with terror, Tullydub hastened to the palace and called a meeting of the five high counselors in the king's antechamber.
When all were assembled, together with Bud and Fluff, the old man told his news and cried, "We shall all be slaughtered and our kingdom sacked and destroyed, for the army of Ix is twice as big as our own -- yes, twice as big!"
"Oh, pooh! What of that?" said Tollydob scornfully. "Have they a general as tall as I am?"
"Certainly not," said the chief counselor. "Who ever saw a man as tall as you are?"
"Then I'll fight and conquer them!" declared Tollydob, rising and walking about the room so that all might see where his head just grazed the ceiling.
"But you can't, general; you can't fight an army by yourself!" remonstrated Tullydub excitedly. "And being so big, you are a better mark for their arrows and axes."
At this the general sat down rather suddenly and grew pale. "Perhaps we can buy them off," remarked the lord high pursebearer, jingling the purse that now never became empty.
"No, I'm afraid not," sighed Tullydub. "Quavo the minstrel said they were bent upon conquest and were resolved upon a battle."
"And their queen is a witch," added Tallydab nervously. "We must not forget that."
"A witch!" exclaimed Princess Fluff with sudden interest. "What does she look like?"
But all shook their heads at the question, and Tullydub explained, "None of us has ever seen her, for we have never been friendly with the people of Ix. But from all reports, Queen Zixi is both young and beautiful."
"Maybe it is the one who wanted to teach me witchcraft in order to steal my magic cloak!" said Fluff with sudden excitement. "And when she found she couldn't steal it, she went back after her army."
"What magic cloak do you refer to?" asked Tullydub.
"Why, the one the fairies gave me," replied Fluff.
"Is it of gorgeous colors with golden threads running through it?" asked the lord high general, now thoroughly interested.
"Yes," said the princess, "the very same."
"And what peculiar powers does it possess?"
"Why, it grants the wearer the fulfillment of one wish," she answered.
All the high counselors regarded her earnestly. "Then that was the cloak I wore when I wished to be ten feet high!" said Tollydob.
"And I wore it when I wished I could reach the apple," said Tellydeb.
"And I wore it when I wished that my dog Ruffles could speak," said Tallydab.
"And I wore it when I wished the royal purse would always remain full," said Tillydib.
"I did not know that," remarked Fluff thoughtfully. "But I'll never forget that I lent it to Aunt Rivette and that was the time she wished she could fly!"
"Why, it's wonderful!" cried old Tullydub. "Has it granted you, also, a wish?"
"Yes," said Fluff brightly. "And I've been happy ever since."
"And has your brother, the king, had a wish?" Tullydub inquired eagerly.
"No," said Bud. "I can still have mine."
"Then why doesn't your Majesty wear the cloak and wish that your army shall conquer the Queen of Ix's?" asked the lord high counselor.
"I'm saving my wish," answered Bud, "and it won't be that, either."
"But unless something is done, we shall all be destroyed," protested Tullydub.
"Then wear the cloak yourself," said Bud. "You haven't had a wish
"Good!" cried the other four counselors, and the lord high general added, "That will surely save us from any further worry."
"I'll fetch the cloak at once," said Fluff, and she ran quickly from the room to get it.
"Supposing," Tullydub remarked hesitantly, "the magic power shouldn't work?"
"Oh, but it will!" answered the general.
"I'm sure it will," said the steward.
"I know it will," declared the pursebearer.
"It cannot fail," affirmed the executioner. "Remember what it has already done for us!"
Then Fluff arrived with the cloak, and after considering carefully how he would speak his wish, the lord high counselor drew the cloak over his shoulders and said solemnly, "I wish that we shall be able to defeat our enemies and drive them all from the kingdom of Noland."
"Didn't you make two wishes instead of one?" asked the princess anxiously.
"Never mind," said the general. "If we defeat them, it will be easy enough to drive them from the kingdom."
The lord high counselor removed the cloak and carefully refolded it. "If it grants my wish," said he thoughtfully, "it will indeed be lucky for our country that the Princess Fluff came to live in the palace of the king."
The queen formed her men into a line of battle facing the army of Nole, and they were so numerous in comparison with their enemies that even the more timorous soldiers gained confidence and stood up straight and threw out their chests as if to show how brave they were. Then Queen Zixi, clad in her flashing mail and mounted upon her magnificent white charger, rode slowly along the ranks, her white plume nodding gracefully with the motion of the horse.
And when she reached the center of the line, she halted and addressed her army in a voice that sounded clear as the tones of a bell and reached to every listening ear. "Soldiers of the land of Ix," she began. "We are about to engage in a great battle for conquest and glory. Before you lies the rich city of Nole, and when you have defeated yonder army and gained the gates, you may divide among yourselves all the plunder of gold and silver and jewels and precious stones that the place contains."
Hearing this, a great shout of joy arose from the soldiers, which Zixi quickly silenced with a wave of her white hand. "For myself," she continued, "I desire nothing more than a cloak that is owned by the Princess Fluff. All else shall be given to my brave army."
"But -- suppose we do not win the battle?" asked one of her generals anxiously. "What then do we gain?"
"Nothing but disgrace," answered the queen haughtily. "But how can we fail to win when I myself lead the assault? Queen Zixi of Ix has fought a hundred battles and never yet met with defeat!"
There was much cheering at this, for Zixi's words were quite true. Nevertheless, her soldiers did not like the look of the silent army of Nole standing so steadfastly before the gates and facing the invaders with calm determination. Zixi herself was somewhat disturbed at this sight, for she could not guess what powers the magic cloak had given to the Nolanders. But in a loud and undaunted voice she shouted the command to advance, and while trumpets blared and drums rolled, the great army of Ix awoke to action and marched steadily upon the men of Nole.
Bud, who could not bear to remain shut up in his palace while all this excitement was occurring outside the city gates, had slipped away from Fluff and joined his gigantic general, Tollydob. He was, of course, unused to war, and when he beheld the vast array of Zixi's army, he grew fearful that the magic cloak might not be able to save his city from conquest. Yet the five high counselors, who were all present, seemed not to worry the least bit.
"They're very pretty soldiers to look at," remarked old Tollydob complacently. "I'm really sorry to defeat them, they march so beautifully."
"But do not let your kind-hearted admiration for the enemy interfere with our plans," said the lord high executioner, who was standing by with his hands in his pockets.
"Oh, I won't!" answered the big general with a laugh which was succeeded by a frown. "Yet I can never resist admiring a fine soldier, whether he fights for or against me. For instance, just look at that handsome officer riding beside Queen Zixi -- her chief general, I think. Isn't he sweet? He looks just like an apple, he is so round and wears such a tight-fitting jacket. Can't you pick him for me, friend Tellydeb?"
"I'll try." And the lord high executioner suddenly stretched out his long arm and reached the faraway general of Ix and pulled him from the back of his horse. Then, amid the terrified cries that came from the opposing army, Tellydeb dragged his victim swiftly over the ground until he was seized by the men of Nole and firmly bound with cords.
"Thank you, my friend," said the general, again laughing and then frowning. "Now get for me that pretty queen, if you please."
Once more the long arm of the lord high executioner shot out toward the army of Ix. But Zixi's keen eyes saw it coming, and instantly she disappeared, her magical arts giving her power to become invisible. Tellydeb, puzzled to find the queen gone, seized another officer instead of her and dragged him quickly over the intervening space to his own side, where he was bound by the Nolanders and placed beside his fellow captive.
Another cry of horror came from the army of Ix, and with one accord the soldiers stopped short in their advance. Queen Zixi, appearing again in their midst, called upon her wavering soldiers to charge quickly upon the foe. But the men, bewildered and terrified, were deaf to her appeals. They fled swiftly back over the brow of the hill and concealed themselves in the wooded valley until the sun set. And it was far into the night before Queen Zixi succeeded in restoring her line of battle.