The Queen Of Quok

: American Fairy Tales

A king once died, as kings are apt to do, being as liable to

shortness of breath as other mortals.

It was high time this king abandoned his earth life, for he had

lived in a sadly extravagant manner, and his subjects could spare

him without the slightest inconvenience.

His father had left him a full treasury, both money and jewels being

in abundance. But the foolish king just deceased had sq

every penny in riotous living. He had then taxed his subjects until

most of them became paupers, and this money vanished in more riotous

living. Next he sold all the grand old furniture in the palace; all

the silver and gold plate and bric-a-brac; all the rich carpets and

furnishings and even his own kingly wardrobe, reserving only a

soiled and moth-eaten ermine robe to fold over his threadbare

raiment. And he spent the money in further riotous living.

Don't ask me to explain what riotous living is. I only know, from

hearsay, that it is an excellent way to get rid of money. And so

this spendthrift king found it.

He now picked all the magnificent jewels from this kingly crown and

from the round ball on the top of his scepter, and sold them and

spent the money. Riotous living, of course. But at last he was at

the end of his resources. He couldn't sell the crown itself, because

no one but the king had the right to wear it. Neither could he sell

the royal palace, because only the king had the right to live there.

So, finally, he found himself reduced to a bare palace, containing

only a big mahogany bedstead that he slept in, a small stool on

which he sat to pull off his shoes and the moth-eaten ermine robe.

In this straight he was reduced to the necessity of borrowing an

occasional dime from his chief counselor, with which to buy a ham

sandwich. And the chief counselor hadn't many dimes. One who

counseled his king so foolishly was likely to ruin his own prospects

as well.

So the king, having nothing more to live for, died suddenly and left

a ten-year-old son to inherit the dismantled kingdom, the moth-eaten

robe and the jewel-stripped crown.

No one envied the child, who had scarcely been thought of until he

became king himself. Then he was recognized as a personage of some

importance, and the politicians and hangers-on, headed by the chief

counselor of the kingdom, held a meeting to determine what could be

done for him.

These folk had helped the old king to live riotously while his money

lasted, and now they were poor and too proud to work. So they tried

to think of a plan that would bring more money into the little

king's treasury, where it would be handy for them to help


After the meeting was over the chief counselor came to the young

king, who was playing peg-top in the courtyard, and said:

"Your majesty, we have thought of a way to restore your kingdom to

its former power and magnificence."

"All right," replied his majesty, carelessly. "How will you do it?"

"By marrying you to a lady of great wealth," replied the counselor.

"Marrying me!" cried the king. "Why, I am only ten years old!"

"I know; it is to be regretted. But your majesty will grow older,

and the affairs of the kingdom demand that you marry a wife."

"Can't I marry a mother, instead?" asked the poor little king, who

had lost his mother when a baby.

"Certainly not," declared the counselor. "To marry a mother would be

illegal; to marry a wife is right and proper."

"Can't you marry her yourself?" inquired his majesty, aiming his

peg-top at the chief counselor's toe, and laughing to see how he

jumped to escape it.

"Let me explain," said the other. "You haven't a penny in the world,

but you have a kingdom. There are many rich women who would be glad

to give their wealth in exchange for a queen's coronet--even if the

king is but a child. So we have decided to advertise that the one

who bids the highest shall become the queen of Quok."

"If I must marry at all," said the king, after a moment's thought,

"I prefer to marry Nyana, the armorer's daughter."

"She is too poor," replied the counselor.

"Her teeth are pearls, her eyes are amethysts, and her hair is

gold," declared the little king.

"True, your majesty. But consider that your wife's wealth must be

used. How would Nyana look after you have pulled her teeth of

pearls, plucked out her amethyst eyes and shaved her golden head?"

The boy shuddered.

"Have your own way," he said, despairingly. "Only let the lady be as

dainty as possible and a good playfellow."

"We shall do our best," returned the chief counselor, and went away

to advertise throughout the neighboring kingdoms for a wife for the

boy king of Quok.

There were so many applicants for the privilege of marrying the

little king that it was decided to put him up at auction, in order

that the largest possible sum of money should be brought into the

kingdom. So, on the day appointed, the ladies gathered at the palace

from all the surrounding kingdoms--from Bilkon, Mulgravia, Junkum

and even as far away as the republic of Macvelt.

The chief counselor came to the palace early in the morning and had

the king's face washed and his hair combed; and then he padded the

inside of the crown with old newspapers to make it small enough to

fit his majesty's head. It was a sorry looking crown, having many

big and little holes in it where the jewels had once been; and it

had been neglected and knocked around until it was quite battered

and tarnished. Yet, as the counselor said, it was the king's crown,

and it was quite proper he should wear it on the solemn occasion of

his auction.

Like all boys, be they kings or paupers, his majesty had torn and

soiled his one suit of clothes, so that they were hardly

presentable; and there was no money to buy new ones. Therefore the

counselor wound the old ermine robe around the king and sat him upon

the stool in the middle of the otherwise empty audience chamber.

And around him stood all the courtiers and politicians and

hangers-on of the kingdom, consisting of such people as were too

proud or lazy to work for a living. There was a great number of

them, you may be sure, and they made an imposing appearance.

Then the doors of the audience chamber were thrown open, and the

wealthy ladies who aspired to being queen of Quok came trooping in.

The king looked them over with much anxiety, and decided they were

each and all old enough to be his grandmother, and ugly enough to

scare away the crows from the royal cornfields. After which he lost

interest in them.

But the rich ladies never looked at the poor little king squatting

upon his stool. They gathered at once about the chief counselor, who

acted as auctioneer.

"How much am I offered for the coronet of the queen of Quok?" asked

the counselor, in a loud voice.

"Where is the coronet?" inquired a fussy old lady who had just

buried her ninth husband and was worth several millions.

"There isn't any coronet at present," explained the chief counselor,

"but whoever bids highest will have the right to wear one, and she

can then buy it."

"Oh," said the fussy old lady, "I see." Then she added: "I'll bid

fourteen dollars."

"Fourteen thousand dollars!" cried a sour-looking woman who was thin

and tall and had wrinkles all over her skin--"like a frosted apple,"

the king thought.

The bidding now became fast and furious, and the poverty-stricken

courtiers brightened up as the sum began to mount into the millions.

"He'll bring us a very pretty fortune, after all," whispered one to

his comrade, "and then we shall have the pleasure of helping him

spend it."

The king began to be anxious. All the women who looked at all

kind-hearted or pleasant had stopped bidding for lack of money, and

the slender old dame with the wrinkles seemed determined to get the

coronet at any price, and with it the boy husband. This ancient

creature finally became so excited that her wig got crosswise of her

head and her false teeth kept slipping out, which horrified the

little king greatly; but she would not give up.

At last the chief counselor ended the auction by crying out:

"Sold to Mary Ann Brodjinsky de la Porkus for three million, nine

hundred thousand, six hundred and twenty-four dollars and sixteen

cents!" And the sour-looking old woman paid the money in cash and on

the spot, which proves this is a fairy story.

The king was so disturbed at the thought that he must marry this

hideous creature that he began to wail and weep; whereupon the woman

boxed his ears soundly. But the counselor reproved her for punishing

her future husband in public, saying:

"You are not married yet. Wait until to-morrow, after the wedding

takes place. Then you can abuse him as much as you wish. But at

present we prefer to have people think this is a love match."

The poor king slept but little that night, so filled was he with

terror of his future wife. Nor could he get the idea out of his head

that he preferred to marry the armorer's daughter, who was about his

own age. He tossed and tumbled around upon his hard bed until the

moonlight came in at the window and lay like a great white sheet

upon the bare floor. Finally, in turning over for the hundredth

time, his hand struck against a secret spring in the headboard of

the big mahogany bedstead, and at once, with a sharp click, a panel

flew open.

The noise caused the king to look up, and, seeing the open panel, he

stood upon tiptoe, and, reaching within, drew out a folded paper. It

had several leaves fastened together like a book, and upon the first

page was written:

"When the king is in trouble

This leaf he must double

And set it on fire

To obtain his desire."

This was not very good poetry, but when the king had spelled it out

in the moonlight he was filled with joy.

"There's no doubt about my being in trouble," he exclaimed; "so I'll

burn it at once, and see what happens."

He tore off the leaf and put the rest of the book in its secret

hiding place. Then, folding the paper double, he placed it on the

top of his stool, lighted a match and set fire to it.

It made a horrid smudge for so small a paper, and the king sat on

the edge of the bed and watched it eagerly.

When the smoke cleared away he was surprised to see, sitting upon

the stool, a round little man, who, with folded arms and crossed

legs, sat calmly facing the king and smoking a black briarwood pipe.

"Well, here I am," said he.

"So I see," replied the little king. "But how did you get here?"

"Didn't you burn the paper?" demanded the round man, by way of


"Yes, I did," acknowledged the king.

"Then you are in trouble, and I've come to help you out of it. I'm

the Slave of the Royal Bedstead."

"Oh!" said the king. "I didn't know there was one."

"Neither did your father, or he would not have been so foolish as to

sell everything he had for money. By the way, it's lucky for you he

did not sell this bedstead. Now, then, what do you want?"

"I'm not sure what I want," replied the king; "but I know what I

don't want, and that is the old woman who is going to marry me."

"That's easy enough," said the Slave of the Royal Bedstead. "All you

need do is to return her the money she paid the chief counselor and

declare the match off. Don't be afraid. You are the king, and your

word is law."

"To be sure," said the majesty. "But I am in great need of money.

How am I going to live if the chief counselor returns to Mary Ann

Brodjinski her millions?"

"Phoo! that's easy enough," again answered the man, and, putting his

hand in his pocket, he drew out and tossed to the king an

old-fashioned leather purse. "Keep that with you," said he, "and you

will always be rich, for you can take out of the purse as many

twenty-five-cent silver pieces as you wish, one at a time. No matter

how often you take one out, another will instantly appear in its

place within the purse."

"Thank you," said the king, gratefully. "You have rendered me a rare

favor; for now I shall have money for all my needs and will not be

obliged to marry anyone. Thank you a thousand times!"

"Don't mention it," answered the other, puffing his pipe slowly and

watching the smoke curl into the moonlight. "Such things are easy to

me. Is that all you want?"

"All I can think of just now," returned the king.

"Then, please close that secret panel in the bedstead," said the

man; "the other leaves of the book may be of use to you some time."

The boy stood upon the bed as before and, reaching up, closed the

opening so that no one else could discover it. Then he turned to

face his visitor, but the Slave of the Royal Bedstead had


"I expected that," said his majesty; "yet I am sorry he did not wait

to say good-by."

With a lightened heart and a sense of great relief the boy king

placed the leathern purse underneath his pillow, and climbing into

bed again slept soundly until morning.

When the sun rose his majesty rose also, refreshed and comforted,

and the first thing he did was to send for the chief counselor.

That mighty personage arrived looking glum and unhappy, but the boy

was too full of his own good fortune to notice it. Said he:

"I have decided not to marry anyone, for I have just come into a

fortune of my own. Therefore I command you return to that old woman

the money she has paid you for the right to wear the coronet of the

queen of Quok. And make public declaration that the wedding will not

take place."

Hearing this the counselor began to tremble, for he saw the young

king had decided to reign in earnest; and he looked so guilty that

his majesty inquired:

"Well! what is the matter now?"

"Sire," replied the wretch, in a shaking voice, "I cannot return the

woman her money, for I have lost it!"

"Lost it!" cried the king, in mingled astonishment and anger.

"Even so, your majesty. On my way home from the auction last night I

stopped at the drug store to get some potash lozenges for my throat,

which was dry and hoarse with so much loud talking; and your majesty

will admit it was through my efforts the woman was induced to pay so

great a price. Well, going into the drug store I carelessly left the

package of money lying on the seat of my carriage, and when I came

out again it was gone. Nor was the thief anywhere to be seen."

"Did you call the police?" asked the king.

"Yes, I called; but they were all on the next block, and although

they have promised to search for the robber I have little hope they

will ever find him."

The king sighed.

"What shall we do now?" he asked.

"I fear you must marry Mary Ann Brodjinski," answered the chief

counselor; "unless, indeed, you order the executioner to cut her

head off."

"That would be wrong," declared the king. "The woman must not be

harmed. And it is just that we return her money, for I will not

marry her under any circumstances."

"Is that private fortune you mentioned large enough to repay her?"

asked the counselor.

"Why, yes," said the king, thoughtfully, "but it will take some time

to do it, and that shall be your task. Call the woman here."

The counselor went in search of Mary Ann, who, when she heard she

was not to become a queen, but would receive her money back, flew

into a violent passion and boxed the chief counselor's ears so

viciously that they stung for nearly an hour. But she followed him

into the king's audience chamber, where she demanded her money in a

loud voice, claiming as well the interest due upon it over night.

"The counselor has lost your money," said the boy king, "but he

shall pay you every penny out of my own private purse. I fear,

however, you will be obliged to take it in small change."

"That will not matter," she said, scowling upon the counselor as if

she longed to reach his ears again; "I don't care how small the

change is so long as I get every penny that belongs to me, and the

interest. Where is it?"

"Here," answered the king, handing the counselor the leathern purse.

"It is all in silver quarters, and they must be taken from the purse

one at a time; but there will be plenty to pay your demands, and to


So, there being no chairs, the counselor sat down upon the floor in

one corner and began counting out silver twenty-five-cent pieces

from the purse, one by one. And the old woman sat upon the floor

opposite him and took each piece of money from his hand.

It was a large sum: three million, nine hundred thousand, six

hundred and twenty-four dollars and sixteen cents. And it takes four

times as many twenty-five-cent pieces as it would dollars to make up

the amount.

The king left them sitting there and went to school, and often

thereafter he came to the counselor and interrupted him long enough

to get from the purse what money he needed to reign in a proper and

dignified manner. This somewhat delayed the counting, but as it was

a long job, anyway, that did not matter much.

The king grew to manhood and married the pretty daughter of the

armorer, and they now have two lovely children of their own. Once in

awhile they go into the big audience chamber of the palace and let

the little ones watch the aged, hoary-headed counselor count out

silver twenty-five-cent pieces to a withered old woman, who watched

his every movement to see that he does not cheat her.

It is a big sum, three million, nine hundred thousand, six hundred

and twenty-four dollars and sixteen cents in twenty-five-cent


But this is how the counselor was punished for being so careless

with the woman's money. And this is how Mary Ann Brodjinski de la

Porkus was also punished for wishing to marry a ten-year-old king in

order that she might wear the coronet of the queen of Quok.