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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesPrince Ricardo Of Pantouflia - Chapter X. The End
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Prince Ricardo Of Pantouflia - Chapter X. The End Post by :Jerry_Springer Category :Long Stories Author :Andrew Lang Date :July 2011 Read :2371

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Prince Ricardo Of Pantouflia - Chapter X. The End

CHAPTER X. The End

It was on a strange sight that the king and Ricardo looked down from the Flying Horse. Beneath them lay the City of Manoa, filling with its golden battlements and temples a hollow of the mountains. Here were palaces all carved over with faces of men and beasts, and with twisted patterns of serpents.

The city walls were built of huge square stones, and among the groves towered pyramids, on which the people did service to their gods. From every temple top came the roar of beaten drums, great drums of serpentskin.

But, in the centre of the chief square of the town, was gathered a wild crowd of men in shining copper armour and helmets of gold and glittering dresses of feathers. Among them ran about priests with hideous masks, crying them on to besiege and break down the royal palace. From the battlements of the palace the king's guardsmen were firing arrows and throwing spears. The mob shot arrows back, some of them tipped with lighted straw, to burn the palace down.

But, in the very centre of the square, was a clear space of ground, on which fell the shadow of a tall column of red stone, all carved with serpents and faces of gods. Beside it stood a figure horrible to see: a man clothed in serpent skins, whose face was the grinning face of a skull; but the skull was shining black and red in patches, and a long white beard flowed from beneath it. This man, mounted on a kind of altar of red stone, waved his hand and yelled, and seemed to point to the shadow of the column which fell across the square.

The people were so furious and so eager that they did not, at first, notice King Prigio as he slowly descended. But at last the eyes within the skull looked up and saw him, and then the man gave a great cry, rent his glittering dress of serpentskin, and held up his hands.

Then all the multitude looked up, and seeing the Flying Horse, let their weapons fall; and the man of the skull tore it from his face, and knelt before King Prigio, with his head in the dust.

"Thou hast come, oh, Pachacamac, as is foretold in the prophecy of the Cord of the Venerable Knots! Thou hast come, but behold the shadow of the stone! Thou art too late, oh Lord of the Earth and the Sea!"

Then he pointed to the shadow, which, naturally, was growing shorter, as the sun drew near mid-day.

He spoke in the language of the ancient Incas of Peru, which of course Prigio knew very well; and he also knew that Pachacamac was the god of that people.

"I have come," Prigio said, with presence of mind, "as it has been prophesied of old."

"Riding on a beast that flies," said the old priest, "even as the oracle declared. Glory to Pachacamac, even though we die to-day!"

"In what can I help my people?" said Prigio.

"Thou knowest; why should we instruct thee? Thou knowest that on midsummer-day, every year, before the shadow shrinks back to the base of the huaca {190} of Manoa, we must offer a maiden to lull the Earthquaker with a new song. Lo, now the shadow shrinks to the foot of the huaca , and the maid is not offered! For the lot fell on the daughter of thy servant the Inca, and he refuses to give her up. One daughter of his, he says, has been sacrificed to the sacred birds, the Cunturs : the birds were found slain on the hill-top, no man knows how; but the maiden vanished."

"Why, it must have been Jaqueline. I killed the birds," said Ricardo, in Pantouflian.

"Silence, not a word!" said the king, sternly.

"And what makes you bear arms against the Inca?" he asked the old man.

"We would slay him and her," answered the priest; "for, when the shadow shrinks to the foot of the stone, the sun will shine straight down into the hollow hill of the Earthquaker, and he will waken and destroy Manoa and the Temples of the Sun."

"Then wherefore would you slay them, when you must all perish?"

"The people, oh Pachacamac, would have revenge before they die."

"Oh, folly of men!" said the king, solemnly; then he cried: "Lead me to the Inca; this day you shall not perish. Is it not predicted in the Cord of the Venerable Knots that I shall slay this monster?"

"Hasten, oh Pachacamac, for the shadow shortens!" said the priest.

"Lead me to the Inca," answered Prigio.

At this the people arose with a great shout, for they, too, had been kneeling; and, sending a flag of truce before King Prigio, the priest led him into the palace. The ground was strewn with bodies of the slain, and through them Prigio rode slowly into the courtyard, where the Inca was sitting in the dust, weeping and throwing ashes on his long hair and his golden raiment. The king bade the priest remain without the palace gates; then dismounted, and, advancing to the Inca, raised him and embraced him.

"I come, a king to a king," he said. "My cousin, take courage; your sorrows are ended. If I do not slay the Earthquaker, sacrifice me to your gods."

"The Prophecy is fulfilled," said the Inca, and wept for joy. "Yet thou must hasten, for it draws near to noon."

Then Prigio went up to the golden battlements, and saying no word, waved his hand. In a moment the square was empty, for the people rushed to give thanks in the temples.

"Wait my coming, my cousin," said Prigio to the Inca; "I shall bring you back the daughter that was lost, when I have slain your enemy."

The Inca would have knelt at his feet; but the king raised him, and bade him prepare such a feast as had never been seen in Manoa.

"The lost are found to-day," he said; "be you ready to welcome them."

Then, mounting the Flying Horse, with Dick beside him, he rose towards the peak of the hill where the Earthquaker had his home. Already the ground was beginning to tremble; the Earthquaker was stirring in his sleep, for the maiden of the new song had not been sent to him, and the year ended at noon, and then he would rise and ruin Manoa.

The sun was approaching mid-day, and Prigio put spurs to the Flying Horse. Ten minutes more, and the sun would look straight down the crater of the hollow hill, and the Earthquaker would arouse himself when the light and the heat fell on his body.

Already the light of the sun shone slanting half-way down the hollow cone as the whirlpool of air caught the Flying Horse, and drew him swiftly down and down to the shadowy halls. There knelt and wept the nurses of the Earthquaker on the marble floor; but Jaqueline stood a little apart, very pale, but not weeping.

Ricardo had leaped off before the horse touched the ground, and rushed to Jaqueline, and embraced her in his arms; and, oh! how glad she was to see him, so that she quite forgot her danger and laughed for joy.

"Oh! you have come, you have come; I knew you would come!" she cried.

Then King Prigio advanced, the mighty weight in his hand, to the verge of the dreadful gulf of the Earthquaker. The dim walls grew radiant; a long slant arm of yellow light touched the black body of the Earthquaker, and a thrill went through him, and shook the world, so that, far away, the bells rang in Pantouflia. A moment more, and he would waken in his strength; and once awake, he would shatter the city walls and ruin Manoa. Even now a great mass of rock fell from the roof deep down in the secret caves, and broke into flying fragments, and all the echoes roared and rang.

King Prigio stood with the mighty mass poised in his hands.

"Die!" he cried; and he uttered the words of power, the magic spell that the dark Moon Lady had taught him.

Then all its invincible natural weight came into the mass which the king held, and down it shot full on the body of the Earthquaker; and where that had been was nothing but a vast abyss, silent, empty, and blank, and bottomless.

Far, far below, thousands of miles below, in the very centre of the earth, lay the dead Earthquaker, crushed flat as a sheet of paper, and the sun of midsummer-day shone straight down on the dreadful chasm, and could not waken him any more for ever.

The king drew a long breath.

"Stupidity has saved the world," he said; and, with only strength to draw back one step from the abyss, he fell down, hiding his face in his hands.

But Jaqueline's arms were round his neck, and the maidens brought him water from an ice-cold spring; and soon King Prigio was himself again, and ready for anything. But afterwards he used to say that the moment when the Earthquaker stirred was the most dreadful in his life.

Now, in Manoa, where all the firm foundations of the city had trembled once, when the sun just touched the Earthquaker, the people, seeing that the shadow of the sacred column had crept to its foot, and yet Manoa stood firm again, and the Temple of the Sun was not overthrown, raised such a cry that it echoed even through the halls within the hollow hill.

Who shall describe the joy of the maidens, and how often Jaqueline and Ricardo kissed each other?

"You have saved me!" she cried to the king, throwing her arms round him again. "You have saved Manoa!"

"And you have saved the Hope of Pantouflia, not once or twice," said his Majesty, grandly.

And he told Dick how much he had owed to Jaqueline, in the fight with the Yellow Dwarf, and the fight with the Giant, for he did not think it necessary to mention the affair at Rome.

Then Dick kissed Jaqueline again, and all the maidens kissed each other, and they quite cried for gladness.

"But we keep his Majesty the Inca waiting," said Prigio. "Punctuality is the courtesy of kings. You ladies will excuse me, I am sure, if I remove first from the dungeon her whom we call the Princess Jaqueline. The Inca, her father, has a claim on us to this preference."

Then placing Jaqueline on the saddle, and leaving Dick to comfort the other young ladies, who were still rather nervous, the king flew off to Manoa, for the wind, of course, died with the death of the Earthquaker.

I cannot tell you the delight of all Manoa, and of the Inca, when they saw the Flying Horse returning, and recognised their long-lost princess, who rushed into the arms of her father. They beat the serpent drums, for they had no bells, on the tops of the temples. They went quite mad with delight: enemies kissed in the streets; and all the parents, without exception, allowed all the young people who happened to be in love to be married that very day. Then Prigio brought back all the maidens, one after the other, and Dick last; and he fell at the Inca's feet, and requested leave to marry Jaqueline.

But, before that could be done, King Prigio, mounted on the palace balcony, made a long but very lucid speech to the assembled people. He began by explaining that he was not their God, Pachacamac, but king of a powerful country of which they had never heard before, as they lived very much withdrawn in an unknown region of the world. Then he pointed out, in the most considerate manner, that their religion was not all he could wish, otherwise they would never sacrifice young ladies to wild birds and Earthquakers. He next sketched out the merits of his own creed, that of the Lutheran Church; and the Inca straightway observed that he proposed to establish it in Manoa at once.

Some objection was raised by the old priest in the skull mask; but when the Inca promised to make him an archbishop, and to continue all his revenues, the priest admitted that he was perfectly satisfied; and the general public cheered and waved their hats with emotion. It was arranged that the Inca, with his other daughters, should visit Pantouflia immediately, both because he could not bear to leave Jaqueline, and also because there were a few points on which he felt that he still needed information. The Government was left in the hands of the archbishop, who began at once by burning his skull mask (you may see one like it in the British Museum, in the Mexican room), and by letting loose all the birds and beasts which the Manoans used to worship.

So all the young people were married in the Golden Temple of the Sun, and all the Earthquaker's nurses who were under thirty were wedded to the young men who had been fond of them before they were sent into the hollow hill. These young men had never cared for any one else. Everybody wore bridal favours, all the unengaged young ladies acted as bridesmaids, and such a throwing of rice and old shoes has very seldom been witnessed. As for the happy royal pair, with their fathers, and the other princess (who did not happen to be engaged), back they flew to Pantouflia.

And there was Queen Rosalind waiting at the palace gates, and crying and laughing with pleasure when she heard that the wish of her heart was fulfilled, and Jaqueline was to be her daughter.

"And, as for the Earthquaker," said her Majesty, "I never was really anxious in the least, for I knew no beast in the world was a match for you , my dear."

So, just to make everything orderly and correct, Ricardo and Jaqueline were married over again, in the Cathedral of Pantouflia. The marriage presents came in afterwards, of course, and among them, what do you think? Why, the Seven-League Boots and the Sword of Sharpness, with a very polite note of extraordinary size:

"The Giant who does not Know when he has had Enough presents his hearty congratulations to the royal pair, and begs to lay at their feet the Seven-league Boots (they not fitting me) and the Sword which Prince Ricardo left in the Giant's keeping recently. The Giant hopes no bad blood ; and I am,

"Yours very faithfully,
"THE G., &c.

"P.S.--His little woman sends her congratulations."

So you see the Giant was not such a bad sort of fellow after all, and Prince Ricardo always admitted that he never met a foe more gallant and good-humoured.

With such a clever wife, Ricardo easily passed all his examinations; and his little son, Prince Prigio (named after his august grandfather), never had to cry, "Mamma, mamma, father's plucked again."

So they lived happily in a happy country, occasionally visiting Manoa; and as they possessed the magical Water o Life from the Fountain of Lions, I do not believe that any of them ever died at all, but that Prigio is still King of Pantouflia.

"No need such kings should ever die!"

THE END.

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