Author of The Hungry Tiger of Oz, Ozoplaning with the Wizard of Oz, The Wish Express, "King, King! Double King!" etc.
Originally published in the Philadelphia Public Ledger, January 16, 1921.
Patch is a country half-way between the Fairy and Witch Lands, and being neither one nor the other is rather a mixed-up sort of place. The King is mixed up, too, for his mother was a witch and his father a Fairy, and sometimes he is very wicked and bad indeed, so that the people of Patch call him King Cross Patch.
They never know what to expect. One minute he is as good and kind a monarch as a people could want, and next thing he is in a temper, ordering everybody into the tower. The Witches made all manner of fun of him for not being altogether bad, and the Fairies visited him often and begged him to take a magic draught that would make him altogether good. But King Cross Patch couldn't make up his mind. He rather enjoyed making up to people for his unkind spells and "if I were always good I should never have any fun at all," he thought to himself.
So things went on in a very uncomfortable fashion for the poor Patches. One day a man would have a farm and the next day it would be snatched away from him. And it really seemed of no use to be industrious and thrifty, for when the King was in a temper the good fared as badly as the wicked. So the people grew lazy and discontented and the Kingdom of Patch very patchy, indeed.
Two or three times the King was on the point of accepting the Fairies' draught, but each time his bad witch temper spoiled his good resolutions, and one day in a fit of rage he ordered his three sons beheaded. No sooner were the words out, before the King could have bitten his tongue off. I'll tell you why. There is in Patch an ancient law that says that the King's commands once given must be carried out or on the third day afterward the Kingdom of Patch will be destroyed forever.
Never before had the King ordered any one's death. Wicked as he was, he knew that he would regret it and try to fix matters too late. But this time his bad temper got the best of him.
He ran around the palace in a frenzy, tearing out lock after lock of his hair.
The princes, who were delightful young chaps, begged him not to be disturbed, that they would willingly go to their death to save the country. At this the Queen fainted away entirely and the whole court was thrown into confusion. The King, without waiting for his golden chariot, dashed off to Fairyland to ask the Fairies' advice, but the Fairies refused to help him. Then he rushed off to the Witches, but they only roared with glee and said that at last he was as wicked as they themselves and to come over before the kingdom was destroyed.
The poor King, at his wits' end and cursing his wicked temper heartily, returned to the palace and shut himself up with the wise men. They must find a way out of it. And the old wise men thought and thought the whole night through, for they were very fond of the young princes. But when the morning came they could still think of no way out of the difficulty.
"Chop off our heads and be done with it!" said the princes, touched by King Cross Patch's grief, "but promise to take the Fairies' draught and become good hereafter, so that a thing like this may not happen again!"
The King merely wrung his hands and implored the wise men to think harder, which they did. And that night, just as the first star peeked out of the sky, the oldest wise man came running to the King.
"What were your Majesty's exact words?" he asked excitedly.
"You shall all three be beheaded before night!" moaned the King.
"Then the edict cannot be carried out; the command is impossible," exulted the old man, hopping up and down. "No one can make a man's head into a bee's head, leastwise unless they are wizards - and as there are no wizards in the kingdom the command cannot be carried out!"
For a minute the King did not understand. Then all at once he began to shout, too. But before he told any one else he ran over to Fairyland as fast as he could patter and swallowed the magic draught. And thence afterward King Cross Patch was known as the Kind King Cross Patch. And certainly the decree could not be carried out - for no one can be beeheaded except a bee.
The Puzzle Corner
The Forgetful Poet says he wrote this valentine just for you
Will you be my ------?
You are sweet as a duck
And as pink as a lily!
Your nose is a rose -
(Pshaw, this sounds a bit silly.)
Your eyes shine like - dear me
Now what is the word?
It's escaped me entirely,
How simply absurd!
Will you be - will you be -
Now I seem to forget
What I want you do be,
My poor head's all upset.
(Did you ever?)
[Answers next time.]
Copyright © 2013 Eric Shanower and David Maxine. All rights reserved.