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Fairy Stories Every Child Should Know by  Kate Douglas Wiggin & Nora Archibald Smith


 

 

DRAKESBILL AND HIS FRIENDS

DRAKESBILL was very little, and that is why some people called him Bill Drake; but, tiny as he was, he knew a thing or two. He was a great worker and laid up every cent that he earned; and, long before he was half as tall as a gray goose he had saved a hundred dollars in gold. The King of the country, who never did anything but spend money, heard that Drakesbill had some gold pieces, and he made haste to borrow them. How very kind and gracious he was until he heard the little yellow coins jingle in his pocket! And how proud it made Drakesbill feel to have it said that he had lent money to the King!

A year went by—two years, three years—and the King seemed to have forgotten him. He did not even offer to pay Drakesbill the interest, and the little fellow was very uneasy lest he should lose all his money. At last he made up his mind that he would go and see the King and tell him that he needed the gold pieces very much. So, early one morning, Drakesbill, as spruce and fresh as a young robin, went down the highroad towards the King's palace, singing, "Quack, quack, quack, when shall I get my money back?"

He had not gone far when he met friend Fox coming home from his rounds among the farmyards.

"Good morning, my good neighbor," said friend Fox; "where are you going so early in the day?"

"I am going to the King to ask him to pay me what he owes me."

[203] "Oh! take me with you!"

"One can't have too many friends," thought Drakesbill. Then he said, "Certainly I will take you; but you walk on four legs, and you will soon get tired. So make yourself very small, get into my mouth, creep under my tongue—and I will carry you."

Friend Fox thanked him very kindly, made himself very small, and was out of sight like a letter in a letterbox.

Then Drakesbill was off again, all spruce and fresh as a spring morning, and still singing, "Quack, quack, quack, when shall I get my money back?"

He had not gone far when he met his lady friend Ladder leaning against her wall. "Good morning, ducky darling," said the lady friend, "whither away, so bold and gay, this fine, new day?"

"I am going to the King to ask him to pay me what he owes me."

"Oh! take me with you!"

"One can't have too many friends," thought Drakesbill. Then he said, "Certainly I will take you; but you have such long wooden legs that you will soon get tired. So make yourself very small, get into my mouth, creep under my tongue—and I will carry you."

The Ladder thanked him, made herself very small, and went to keep company with friend Fox.

Then Drakesbill was off again, spruce and fresh as any dapper little dandy, and singing, "Quack, quack, quack, when shall I get my money back?"

He had not gone far when he met his sweetheart, laughing River, wandering quietly in the sunshine.

"Good morning, my spoonbill," she said, "whither do you go, so happy and slow, while the soft breezes blow?"

"I am going to the King, you know, for he owes me money, and I want him to pay me back."

"Oh! take me with you!"

"One can't have too many friends," thought Drakesbill. Then he said: "Certainly I will take you; but you always sleep [204] while you run, and you will soon get tired. So make yourself very small, get into my mouth, creep under my tongue—and I will carry you."

The River thanked him very kindly, and then, glou! glou! glou! she went to take her place between friend Fox and friend Ladder.

And Drakesbill was off again, spruce and fresh as a busy bee, and singing "Quack, quack, quack, when shall I get my money back?"

A little farther on he met neighbor Wasp-nest, taking his wasps out for some fresh air.

"Good morning, neighbor Bill," said Wasp-nest; "whither do we run, so full of fun, in the bright, warm sun?"

"Oh, don't you know that the King owes me money? And I am going down to see him and make him pay me," answered Drakesbill.

"Oh, take us with you!"

"One can't have too many friends," thought Drakesbill. Then he said: "Certainly I will take you; but there are so many of you that you will soon get tired. So make yourself quite small, get into my mouth, creep under my tongue—and I will carry you."

Neighbor Wasp-nest thanked him very kindly, and then buzz, buzz, buzz, file right! march! There wasn't much more room, but by getting close together everybody was made quite comfortable.

And then Drakesbill went on singing.

In the afternoon he came to the great city where the King lived; and as he marched straight up High Street, he sang as loud as he could, "Quack quack, quack! Oh, when shall I get my money back?"

When he came to the King's palace he climbed up the step; and then he stood on tiptoe, and knocked at the door, toc! toc! toc!

"Who's there?" asked the doorkeeper, looking out through the keyhole.

" 'Tis I, Drakesbill. I want to speak with the King."

[205] "Speak with the King? Nonsense. That is easier said than done. The King is in the parlor counting out his money."

"That is just what I want to see him do," said Drakesbill. "Tell him I am here, and then he will know my business."

The doorkeeper went into the parlor to speak with the King. But he was not there; he was in the kitchen, just sitting down to dinner with a white napkin round his neck.

"Good! good!" said the King. I know the rascal. Fetch him in and put him with the turkeys and chickens."

The doorkeeper went back to the door.

"Walk in, sir!"

"Good!" said Drakesbill to himself. "Now I can see how the folks eat at the King's table."

"This way, this way!" said the doorkeeper. "Now step through that gate. There you are!"

"What! In the poultry yard? How? What?"

How vexed the little fellow was! And no wonder.

"Just wait," he said at last. "I think I'll show them a thing or two. Quack, quack, quack, when shall I get my money back?"

But turkeys and chickens are queer things, as you know, and think themselves a good deal better than other folks. When they saw what a funny little fellow had come among them, and when they heard him singing his queer song, they began to ask one another:

"Who is he? What is he doing here?

Then they all rushed upon him, and if he had not had his wits about him they would have pecked him to death in no time. But, as good luck would have it, he remembered his friend Fox, and he cried out:—

"Fox, friend Fox, from your hiding place

Come quick, or sad will be my case!"

Then friend Fox, who was only waiting for these words, leaped out from his hiding place, as big as life and as happy as a sunflower; and he threw himself on the wicked fowls, [206] and snip, snap! crish, crash! he tore them in pieces; and at the end of five minutes not one of them was left alive. And Drakesbill, spruce and fresh as ever, began to sing again, "Quack, quack, quack, when shall I get my money back?"

But the King was very angry when the poultry woman and the cook and the doorkeeper all rushed into the kitchen where he was eating and told him what had happened. He ordered them to seize this naughty little Drakesbill and throw him into the well, and thus make an end of him.

"I am lost! I am lost!" cried Drakesbill as he fell fluttering down into the deep, dark hole. "I can never climb out of this place!"

Then he happened to think of his lady friend Ladder, and he sang:

"Ladder, Ladder, from beneath my tongue

Come quick, or soon my song will be sung!"

Friend Ladder, who had only been waiting for these words, leaped quickly out, as tall as a flagpole and as charming as a walking stick; and she stood with her feet at the bottom of the well and her two arms resting upon the top; and Drakesbill climbed nimbly on her back, and hip! hop! hup! how soon he was up and singing louder than ever, "Quack, quack, quack, when shall I get my money back?"

The King, who was still at the table, heard him singing, and the song made him so angry that he almost choked.

"Can't anybody make that fellow hush?" he cried.

Then he ordered his men to build a great fire, and, when it was hot, to throw Drakesbill into it and burn him up for a wicked wizard.

But Drakesbill was not much afraid this time; he remembered his sweetheart River. Just when the flames were the highest, and the captain of the King's men was going to toss him into them, he sang out:—

"River, River, outward flow,

Or into the fire I must go!"

[207] Then friend River, who had only been waiting for these words, flowed quickly out, as strong as a storm and as swift as the wind; and she put out the fire, and drowned all the people that had kindled it; and, glou! glou! glou! she flowed into the King's palace and stood four feet deep in the great hall. And Drakesbill, spruce and fresh as ever, swam hither and thither, singing, "Quack, quack, quack, when shall I get my money back?"

Of course, after all this had happened, the King was more angry than he had ever been before; and when he saw Drakesbill swimming about so coolly, while he had to stand on the table to keep his feet dry, he could hardly hold himself.

"Bring the fellow here, and I'll finish him with the carving knife! bring him here quick!" he cried.

Two servants rushed out and seized Drakesbill very rudely. They dragged him towards the King, who was standing with drawn carving knife. The King's brave men with swords in their hands were all around him. "It is all over with me now," said Drakesbill. "I don't see how I can live through this!"

But just then he thought of his neighbor Wasp-nest, and he cried out:—

"Wasp-nest, Wasp-nest, hither fly,

Or Drakesbill soon will have to die!"

Then Wasp-nest, who had been waiting for these words, began to wake up his wasps, and things changed very quickly.

"Buzz, buzz, buzz! Charge!" cried Wasp-nest. And the wasps rushed out and threw themselves upon the King and his brave men, and stung them so badly that they ran and jumped right out from the windows, and nobody in the palace ever saw them again.

As for Drakesbill, he could only sit still and wonder what was going to happen next. But after awhile he remembered his money, and began to sing as before. Then, as the house was very still, he thought that he might as well look around a [208] little while; perhaps he would find his hundred yellow pieces of gold.

It was of no use, however. He peeped into all the corners and opened all the drawers. There was not a dollar in the house. The King had spent everything.

By and by Drakesbill found his way into the room where the King's throne stood, and as he was very tired he sat down to rest among the cushions of velvet and gold.

When the people saw the King and his brave men running away from the wasps they felt sure that they would never come back. So they crowded into the palace to see what was the matter. And the only person they found there was little Drakesbill sitting by himself on the throne. Then they all shouted:

"The King is dead! long live the King!

How glad we'll be to be ruled by this thing!"

And one of them ran and fetched the golden crown; and they put it on Drakesbill's head and hailed him as King. And Drakesbill, who had made up his mind not to be surprised at anything, sat very still and took it all as a matter of course.

"He doesn't look much like a king," whispered a few idle fellows; but they were soon driven out of the hall and made to understand that it was wrong even to think such words.

"He will be the best king we have ever had," said others. And some who had known him before said: "A Drakesbill is better any day than a king who does nothing but spend our money."

And that is the way in which little Drakesbill became King. When he had been crowned, and the people had finished shouting, he made a speech from the throne. "Ladies and gentlemen," he said, "I am very hungry. Let us all go to supper."


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