Next day the witch-queen returned with her army to the city of Ix to await the coming of the sailorman with the necktie, and King Bud set about getting his kingdom into running order again. The lord high pursebearer dug up his magic purse, and Bud ordered him to pay the shopkeepers full value for everything the Roly-Rogues had destroyed. The merchants were thus enabled to make purchases of new stocks of goods, and although all travelers had for many days kept away from Noland for fear of the monsters, caravans now flocked in vast numbers to the city of Nole with rich stores of merchandise to sell, so that soon the entire city looked like a huge bazaar.
Bud also ordered a gold piece given to the head of every family, and this did no damage to the ever-filled royal purse, while it meant riches to the poor people who had suffered so much. Princess Fluff carried her silver chest back to the palace of her brother, and in it lay, carefully folded, the magic cloak. Being now fearful of losing it, she wanted Jikki to allow no one to enter the room in which lay the silver chest except with her full consent, explaining to him the value of the cloak. "And was it this cloak I wore when I wished for half a dozen servants?" asked the old valet.
"Yes," answered Fluff. "Aunt Rivette bade you return it to me, and you were so careless of it that nearly all the high counselors used it before I found it again."
"Then," said Jikki, heedless of the reproof, "will your Highness please use the cloak to rid me of these stupid servants? They are continually at my heels, waiting to serve me, and I am so busy myself serving others that those six young men almost drive me distracted. It wouldn't be so bad if they would serve anyone else, but they claim they are my servants alone and refuse to wait upon even his Majesty the king."
"Sometime I will try to help you," answered Fluff, "but I shall not use the cloak again until the miller's son returns from his voyage at sea."
So Jikki was forced to wait as impatiently as the others for the sailorman, and his servants had now become such a burden upon him that he grumbled every time he looked around and saw them standing in a stiff line behind him.
Aunt Rivette again took possession of her rooms at the top of the palace, and although Bud, grateful for her courage in saving him and his sister from the Roly-Rogues, would gladly have given her handsomer apartments, the old woman preferred to be near the roof, where she could take flight into the air whenever it pleased her to go out. With her big wings and her power to fly as a bird, she was the envy of all the old gossips she had known in the days when she worked as a laundress, and now she would often alight upon the doorstep of some humble friend and tell of the wonderful adventures she had encountered. This never failed to surround her with an admiring circle of listeners, and Aunt Rivette derived far more pleasure from her tattle than from living in a palace with her nephew the king.
The kingdom of Noland soon took on a semblance to its former prosperity, and the Roly-Rogues were only remembered with shudders of repugnance and spoken of in awed whispers. And so the days wore away until late in the autumn, when one morning a mounted soldier from Queen Zixi dashed into Nole and rode furiously up to the palace gate. "The sailorman is found!" he shouted, throwing himself from his horse and bowing low before little King Bud, who had come out to meet him.
"Good," remarked Bud.
"The Queen of Ix is even now riding to your Majesty's city with a large escort surrounding the sailorman," continued the soldier.
"And has he the necktie?" asked Bud eagerly.
"He is wearing it, your Majesty," answered the man, "but he refuses to give it to anyone but the Princess Fluff."
"That's all right," said the king, and reentering the palace, he ordered Jikki to make preparations to receive the witch-queen and her retinue. When Zixi came to the city gates, she found General Tollydob in a gorgeous new uniform waiting to escort her to the palace. The houses were gay with flags and streamers, bands were playing, and on each side of the street along which the witch-queen rode were lines of soldiers to keep the way clear of the crowding populace. Behind the queen came the sailorman, carefully guarded by Zixi's most trusted soldiers. He looked uneasy at so great a reception, and rode his horse as awkwardly as a sailor might.
So the cavalcade came to the palace, which was thronged with courtiers and ladies in waiting. Zixi and the sailorman were ushered into the great throne room, where King Bud, wearing his ermine robe and jeweled crown, sat gravely upon his throne with Princess Fluff beside him.
"Your Majesty," began the witch-queen, bowing prettily, "I have brought you the sailorman at last. He has just returned from his voyage, and my soldiers captured him at his mother's cottage by the mill. But he refuses to give the necktie to anyone except the Princess Fluff."
"I am the Princess Fluff," said Meg to the sailor, "and your necktie is part of my magic cloak. So please give it back to me."
The sailorman shifted uneasily from one foot to the other. "My mother told me," he finally said, "that King Bud would give me fifty gold pieces for it, and the Queen of Ix would give me another fifty gold pieces, and that your Highness would give me fifty neckties."
"That is all true," returned Fluff, "so here are the fifty neckties."
Tillydib, the lord high pursebearer, counted out fifty gold pieces, and Zixi's treasurer counted out another fifty, and all were given to the sailorman. Then the miller's son unfastened the necktie from about his collar and handed it to Fluff. During the murmur of satisfaction that followed, the girl unlocked her silver chest, which Jikki had brought, and drew out the magic cloak. Lifting the skirt of the garment, she attempted to fit the sailor's necktie into the place it should go. And then, while everyone looked on with breathless interest, the girl lifted a white face to the sailorman and exclaimed, "This is not the necktie your mother gave you!"
For a moment there was silence while the assemblage glared angrily upon the sailor. Then the king, rising from his seat, demanded, "Are you sure, Fluff? Are you sure of that?"
"Of course I'm sure," said the girl. "It is neither the shape nor the color of the missing patch."
Bud turned to the now-trembling sailor. "Why have you tried to deceive us?" he asked sternly.
"Oh, your Majesty!" returned the man, wringing his hands miserably. "I lost the necktie in a gale at sea, for I knew nothing of its value. And when I came home, my mother told me of all the gold you had offered for its return and advised me to deceive you by wearing another necktie. She said you would never know the difference."
"Your mother is a foolish woman, as well as dishonest," answered Bud, "and you shall both be severely punished. Tellydeb," he continued, addressing the lord high executioner, "take this man to prison and see that he is fed on bread and water until further orders."
"Not so!" exclaimed a sweet voice near the king. And then all looked up to see the beautiful Lulea, queen of the fairies, standing beside the throne.