Rumpty Dudget by Julian Hawthorne
THE PALACE AND THE TOWER.
In the days before the sun caught fire, before
the moon froze up, and before you were born,
a great queen had three children, whose
names were Hilda, Harold, and Hector.
Princess Hilda, who was the eldest, had blue
eyes and golden hair; Prince Hector, who
was the youngest, had black eyes and black
hair; and Prince Harold, who was neither
the youngest nor the eldest, had, of course,
brown eyes and brown hair. There was
nothing else specially remarkable about them,
except that they were (at the time I write of)
the best children in the world, as well as the
prettiest and the cleverest for their age; that
they lived in the most beautiful palace ever
built, and that the garden they played in was
the loveliest ever seen.
The palace stood on the borders of a
mighty forest, on the further side of which
lay Fairyland. But there was only one
window in the palace that looked out upon
this forest, and that was the round window
of the room in which Hilda, Harold, and
Hector slept. And since the round window
was never open except at night, after the
three children had been put to bed, they
knew very little about how the forest looked,
or what kind of flowers grew there, or what
sort of birds sang in the dark branches of the
lofty trees. Sometimes, however, as they lay
with their three heads on their three pillows,
and with all their eyes open, waiting for the
Spirit of Forgetfulness to come and fasten
down their eyelids, they would see stars,
white, blue, and red, twinkling in the sky
overhead; and below, amongst the gloomy
shadows of the trees, other yellow stars which
danced about and flitted to and fro. These
flitting stars were supposed by grown-up
people to be will-o'-the-wisp, jack-o'-lanterns,
fire-flies, and glow-worms. But the three
children knew them to be the torches borne
by the elves as they capered hither and
thither about their affairs. For although the
Forest of Mystery (as it was named) was
not, strictly speaking, in Fairyland, but formed
the boundary between that and the rest of
the world, yet many fairies held nightly revels
there. The children wished that a few of
these tiny people would come in through the
round window some evening and pay them a
visit. But if such a thing ever happened it
was not until after the children had fallen
asleep; and then, when they woke up in the
morning, they had forgotten all about it.
The garden was on the side of the palace
opposite to the Forest of Mystery; it was
called the Garden of Delight. It was full of
flowers, pink, white, and blue; and there
were birds, and fountains, in the marble
basins of which gold-fishes glowed and swam.
In the centre of the garden was a round
green lawn for the children to play on; but
at the end of the garden was a tall thick
hedge, on which no blossoms ever grew, and
which was prickly with sharp-pointed leaves
and thorns. This hedge also had a name,
but the children did not know what it was.
It was impossible either to get round the
hedge, or to get over it, or to get through
it—except in one place, where a small opening
had been made. But through that
opening no one might pass, for the land on
the other side belonged to a dwarf, whose
name was Rumpty-Dudget, and whose only
pleasure lay in doing mischief. An ugly
little dwarf he was, all grey from head to
foot. He wore a broad-brimmed grey hat,
a thick grey beard, and a grey cloak that was
so much too long for him that it trailed on
the ground like a grey tail as he walked. On
his back was a grey hump, which made him
look even shorter than he was—and he was
not much over a foot high at his tallest. He
lived in a large grey tower, whose battlements
the three children could see rising above the
hedge as they played on the round lawn;
and over the tower there hung, even in the
brightest weather, a dull grey cloud.
Inside the tower was a vast room with a
hundred and one corners to it; and in each
of the corners stood a little child, with its face
to the wall and its hands behind its back.
Who were the children, and how came they
there? They were children, whom Rumpty-Dudget
had caught trespassing on his grounds,
and had therefore carried away with him to
his tower. In this way he had filled up one
corner after another, until only one corner was
left unfilled; and that one, curiously enough,
was the one-hundred-and-first. Now, it was
a well-known fact that if Rumpty-Dudget
could but catch a child to put it in that one
empty corner he would become master of all
the country round about. And since he loved
nothing that was not of the same colour and
temper as himself, the noble palace would in
that case disappear, the garden would be
changed into a desert covered with grey
stones and brambles, and the dull grey cloud
that now hung above the tower would sullenly
spread itself over all the heavens. The
mighty Forest of Mystery, too, would be cut
down and sold for firewood; and the elves
and fairies would fly westward in pursuit of
the flying sun. You may be sure, therefore,
that Rumpty-Dudget tried with all his might
to get hold of a child to put into that hundred-and-first
corner. But by this time the inhabitants
of the country had begun to realise
their danger; and all the mothers were so
careful, and all the children were so obedient,
that, for a long time, the hundred-and-first
corner remained empty.
THE AUNT, THE CAT, AND THE DWARF.
When Hilda, Harold, and Hector were still
very young indeed the Queen, their mother,
was obliged to make a long journey to a far-off
country, and to leave her children behind
her. But before going she took them in her
arms and said, 'My darlings, though I must
leave you, you will not be left alone, either
by night or by day. While you are awake
you will be protected by a beautiful white cat
that I shall send to you, named Tom; and
while you are asleep your fairy aunt will keep
watch over you; you will not see her, but you
will know that she is with you by your pleasant
dreams. Only at one hour of the day
will you be left unguarded, and that is the
hour before sunset. At that hour Tom will
have to be away, and your fairy aunt will not
yet have arrived, so you must be very careful
of yourselves. You will, I hope, try always
to be good children; but in the hour before
sunset you must try twenty-four times harder
than ever. Nobody knows what may happen
when a little child does wrong; but there is
great danger that the sun might catch fire
and the moon freeze up. So, once more, my
darlings, be very careful; for every hour is
as long as it is short, but the hour before sunset
is the longest and the shortest of all.'
The children promised to remember; and
their mother kissed them and went away.
The same day Tom the Cat arrived. A
beautiful big cat he was, with deep soft fur,
round yellow eyes, and a tail as thick as a
feather duster. He was also the sweetest-tempered
cat in the world, so that the children
lived with him several years without even so
much as suspecting that he had such a thing
as a claw about him. He could purr as comfortably
as the hopper of a windmill; and he
took care of the children better than a dozen
nurses would have done. But an hour before
sunset every day he always disappeared, and
only came back again when the last bit of the
sun had gone out of sight. Then he put the
children to bed, and purred outside their
window until they fell asleep; and as soon as
that happened in floated the Fairy Aunt, to
kiss their closed eyelids, and to hover beside
their beds and whisper in their ears all manner
of charming stories about Fairyland, and the
wonderful things that were to be seen and
done there. But early in the morning, just
before they awoke, she would kiss their eyelids
once more and flit away out of the round
window; and the white cat, with his yellow
eyes and his thick tail, would come purring
comfortably in at the door.
One day, however (the unluckiest day in
the whole year), Hilda, Harold, and Hector
went out to play as usual on the round lawn
in the centre of the garden. It was Rumpty-Dudget's
birthday—the only day in the whole
year on which he had power to creep through
the hole in the hedge and prowl about the
Queen's grounds. Nevertheless, all went
well until the last hour before sunset, when
Tom the Cat was forced to be away. Before
he went he warned the children to look out
for the grey rat; but before he had time to
explain what he meant by the grey rat the
hour struck, and he could not help vanishing.
The children were left to themselves; but
they were not at all frightened. They had
never heard of Rumpty-Dudget; and this is
not so strange as it might at first seem; for it
often happens in the world that our worst
enemies live so close to us that we are not
aware of them until after we have fallen into
their power. Hilda, Harold, and Hector, at
all events, went on playing together very
kindly; for up to this time they had never
had a quarrel. The only thing that troubled
them was, that Tom the Cat was not there to
play with them; they all longed to see his
yellow eyes and his thick tail, and to stroke
his soft back, and hear his comfortable purr.
But it was now very near sunset, and he must
soon return. The sun, like a great red ball,
hung a little way above the edge of the world;
though he had not caught fire as yet, he was
evidently very hot, and it was quite time for
him to be at rest.
All at once Princess Hilda, who had been
gazing at the sun with her blue eyes wide
open, heard a little croaking laugh, and looking
down, she saw a strange little creature
standing close beside her, all grey from head
to foot. He wore a grey hat and beard, and
a long grey cloak that dragged on the ground
like a tail, and on his back was a grey hump
that made him seem even shorter than he was,
though at the most he was hardly over a foot
high. Hilda was surprised, but not in the
least frightened, for nobody had ever yet done
her any harm; and besides, this odd little
grey man, though he was as ugly as a rent in
a new pinafore, grinned at her from one ear
to the other, and seemed to be the most good-natured
dwarf in the world. So Princess
Hilda called to Prince Harold and Prince
Hector, who, when they saw what had come
to them, were no more frightened than Hilda,
and a good deal more amused; and as the
dwarf kept on grinning from one ear to the
other the three children began to smile back
at him. Meanwhile the great red ball of the
sun was slowly dropping downwards; and
now his lower rim was just resting on the
edge of the world.
Since you have already heard about
Rumpty-Dudget you will have guessed that
this grey dwarf was none other than he, and
that although he grinned so broadly from one
ear to the other he wished in reality to do the
three children harm; and even (if he could
manage it) to carry one of them off to his
tower, to stand in the hundred-and-first
corner, with his face to the wall and his
hands behind his back. But Rumpty-Dudget
had no power to do this so long as the
children stayed on their side of the prickly
hedge; he must first tempt them to creep
through the opening, and then, when they
were upon his own grounds, he could do with
them what he pleased. Now, the children
had often been warned not to creep through
the hedge, both by their Queen-mother, before
she went away, and by their Fairy Aunt in
dreams, and by Tom the Cat in the daytime;
and as they had never had reason to
suppose that there was anything prettier on
the other side of the hedge than on their own,
they had never thought of going thither.
Rumpty-Dudget knew this; and as he was
even more cunning than he was ugly he had
made up his mind to profit by it.
'My dear young people,' he said, holding
out his hands, 'I am very glad to meet you.
It has grieved me to see you all playing here
on this ugly lawn, when there is a garden so
much more beautiful just on the other side of
the hedge. I am very fond of children, and
I make it my business to amuse them. If
you will just give yourselves the trouble to
step through that opening in the hedge you
shall see something that you never saw
The three children thought this sounded
very pleasant; but, after a pause, Princess
Hilda, who generally took the lead, said:
'We were told not to go on the other
side of the hedge.'
'Who could have been so unkind as to
tell you that?' cried Rumpty-Dudget, as if
he was very much shocked. 'Besides, one
side of the hedge is just the same as another;
and if it is wrong to go on the other side,
how much more wrong it must be to stay on
Hilda thought awhile before answering,
for what Rumpty-Dudget had said certainly
sounded reasonable. 'But why,' she asked
at last, 'should there be any hedge at all?'
'It is all on account of the hole through
it,' the dwarf replied, with his most charming
grin. 'There could have been no hole, you
see, if there hadn't been a hedge; and that is
why the hedge was planted.'
Princess Hilda could not deny that this
was true; and, moreover, since she had
begun to talk with the dwarf she had felt a
strong desire to see whether the garden on
the other side of the hedge was so very much
prettier than their own, as he declared.
'What do you say, boys?' she asked, turning
to the two little princes. 'Shall we take just
'That is right! Come, my dears, at
once!' put in Rumpty-Dudget eagerly, taking
Hilda and Harold each by the hand, and
letting little Hector trot on before. 'It is
already late, and I want you to see my
garden before the sun goes down.' So they
all came to the opening in the hedge; and, if
the truth must be told, the three children
were almost as anxious to get through it as
Rumpty-Dudget was to have them do so.
And the great red ball of the sun kept going
down further and further, and now all his
lower half was out of sight beneath the edge
of the world.
'Now, my dear,' said Rumpty-Dudget to
Princess Hilda, 'will you step through first?
Ladies always go first, you know.'
'Not through holes in the hedges,' replied
Hilda, drawing back. 'It is always
the men who go first then.'
All but the last quarter of the sun was
now hidden behind the edge of the world,
and there was no time to be lost, for (as
Rumpty-Dudget well knew) as soon as the
sun was quite gone Tom the Cat would appear.
So he said, as amiably as he could,
though in reality he felt very angry:
'Well, then, Prince Harold, my fine
fellow, you are the next eldest; take my
hand, and in we go.'
'No,' said Prince Harold, drawing back;
'I think I am too big to get through that
little hole. Somebody else must go first.'
Rumpty-Dudget trembled with rage and
fear; and there was only the smallest bit of
the sun yet visible. However, he managed
to say, in a tolerably smooth voice:
'Little Prince Hector, there, is my man
after all! He will come through the hole,
and see the pretty things, won't he?'
Now, Prince Hector was a sturdy little
fellow, and afraid of nothing; so he put his
hand in Rumpty-Dudget's and said boldly:
'Yes, I'll go; but if your garden isn't any
prettier than you are I shan't want to stay
'Let me lift you in, my little hero,' said
Rumpty-Dudget, taking Hector round the
waist with his little bony hands; 'and I'll
warrant you won't come back in a hurry.
But just at that moment the last scrap
of the sun vanished beneath the edge of the
world; and instantly, with a tremendous
hissing and caterwauling, Tom the Cat came
springing across the lawn like a white-hot
snowball. His yellow eyes flashed, his back
bristled, and every hair upon his tail stood
out so straight that the tail looked as thick
as an old-fashioned muff. He flew straight
at Rumpty-Dudget and leaped upon his
hump, and bit and scratched him soundly.
Rumpty-Dudget yelled with pain, and dropping
Prince Hector, he vanished through the
hole in the hedge like a hot chestnut into a
But from the other side of the hedge he
flung at the three children a handful of
black mud; a bit of it hit Princess Hilda on
the forehead, and another bit fell upon Prince
Harold's nose, and another upon little Prince
Hector's chin. And there those three black
spots stayed; and all the washing and scrubbing
in the world would not make them go
away. It is always so with the mud that
Rumpty-Dudget throws; it seems to grow
down into you until it fastens a root in your
heart. And this, probably, was the reason
why Princess Hilda (who had until then been
the best little girl in the world) began from
that time to wish to rule things; and Prince
Harold (who had until then been one of the
two best little boys in the world) began from
that time to wish to have things; and little
Prince Hector (who had until then been the
other of the two best little boys in the world)
began from that time to wish to do things
which he was told not to do.
Such was the effect of Rumpty-Dudget's
THE WAYS OF THE WIND.
But, although Hilda, Harold, and Hector
were no longer quite the best children in the
world, they were pretty good children as the
world goes, and if it had not been for the
north wind they would have got on together
very well. But whenever that wind blew
everything began to go wrong. Hilda wanted
everything her own way; Harold wanted
everything in his own pockets; and Hector
wanted everything at cross-purposes. Then,
too, the spots on Hilda's forehead, on
Harold's nose, and on Hector's chin became
blacker and blacker, and hotter and hotter,
until the children were ready to cry from
pain and vexation. But tears could do no
more than soap and water to wash the spots
As soon as the wind began to blow from
the south, however, the spots began to lose
their blackness, and the pricking to lessen,
until at last the children almost forgot their
trouble. Yet it never altogether disappeared;
and neither Tom the Cat nor the Fairy Aunt
had the power to cure it. But Tom used to
say that, unless Hilda and her two brothers
would agree always to make the wind blow
from the south, the hundred-and-first corner
in Rumpty-Dudget's tower would sooner or
later be filled.
'How can we make the wind blow one
way or the other?' Hilda would ask.
'It all depends upon you, nevertheless,'
Tom would reply. 'Winds do not move of
themselves, but people pull them.'
'Well, I don't understand it,' Hilda would
answer, after a little thinking; 'and if I
don't, of course the boys don't either.'
At night, when the Fairy Aunt came in
through the round window, and sat on their
bedside to whisper stories about Fairyland
into their ears, the children would sometimes
ask her to take them all three up in her arms
and carry them over the tops of the trees of
the Forest of Mystery to her home far away
on the other side. Then she would shake
her head and say:
'While those spots are on your faces you
cannot come with me.'
'Why not?' the children asked in their
'Because they are a sign that a part of
each of you belongs to Rumpty-Dudget; and
he will not let go of that part, in spite of all
that I can do.'
'Shall we never be able to go with you,
then?' dreamed the children piteously.
'Not until the wind blows from the south
every day in the week. When that happens
the spots will vanish, and I will take you all
three in my arms, and fly with you over the
tops of the trees to Fairyland.'
'And what shall we see there?' the
'You will see the Queen, your mother.'
'And shall we see you too?'
'Yes, I shall be with you.'
'And Tom the Cat too?'
'What you have loved in Tom the Cat
will be there too,' answered the fairy, smiling.
'But how shall we make the wind blow
from the south every day in the week?'
At that the fairy smiled and shook her
head, and touched each one of them on the
heart; and no other answer would she give.
So the children were no wiser on that point
Thus time went on steadily, to-morrow
always going before to-day, and yesterday
invariably bringing up the rear, until a year
was past; and what should come round again
but Rumpty-Dudget's birthday, the most unlucky
day of all the three hundred and sixty
five! An hour and twenty seconds before
sunset Tom the Cat said to the children:
'Now, you must be very careful, while I
am away, to do as I tell you. Do not go out
into the garden, do not touch the black ball
that lies on the nursery table, and do not
jump against the north wind; for if you
But at this moment the hour struck, and
Tom the Cat sprang into the air and disappeared
like a soap bubble.
For a while the three children remembered
what had been said to them; they
played quietly in the palace, and did not
touch the black ball on the nursery table.
But towards sunset it so happened that they
were all leaning against the table, with their
elbows resting on it, and their heads between
their hands. There lay the black ball mysterious
and quiet. The longer the children
looked at it the more mysterious it appeared.
At last Hilda said:
'I wonder where it came from?'
'I wonder what it's made of?' said
'I wonder why we mustn't touch it?' said
Then all three looked at it steadily for
another minute. Then Hilda exclaimed suddenly:
'I believe it moved!'
'So do I!' cried Harold.
'I don't!' said Hector. 'But I can make
it move.' And with that he gave the table a
tip, and the black ball rolled off, bounced on
to the floor, and jumped out of the window
into the garden.
'You have disobeyed Tom the Cat,' said
Hilda, after a pause.
'How shall we ever get it back again?'
cried Harold, running to the window and
looking out. 'Oh, I can see it! there, in the
middle of the lawn.'
'Yes, but we are not to go into the
garden,' said Hilda.
'It is all Hector's fault,' said Harold.
'I am going into the garden to play with
the ball,' said Hector boldly; and he walked
'What a naughty boy he is!' said Harold
'Yes; but the wind blows from the south,'
she answered. 'You may stay here if you
like; I think I shall go and play with Hector.'
And she walked off.
'What naughty children they are!' said
Harold to himself. 'But Hilda is older than
I, and Hector is younger, so I think I will go
out too.' So he ran after the others, and
came up with them just as Hector had picked
up the black ball and was tossing it to Hilda.
'Let us play in a triangle,' said Harold.
So they stood at the three corners, and tossed
the ball from one to another.
But, strange to say, the wind, which had
been blowing all day from the south, had
suddenly changed to the north; and the
spots on the children's faces began to get
blacker than ink and hotter than pepper.
And, as they had to keep rubbing the spots
first with one hand and then with another,
they were continually missing the ball when
it was thrown to them; and they did not
notice that every time it fell to the ground it
struck nearer and nearer to the tall hedge
which divided Rumpty-Dudget's land from
the Queen's. At last Harold got the ball to
himself, and kept tossing it up and down
without letting the others have their turn.
Hereupon Hilda and Hector began to run
after him to take the ball away from him; but
just as they caught up with him he gave the
ball a great throw, and it flew clear over the
high hedge, and came down with a bounce in
Rumpty-Dudget's garden. It wanted three
minutes to sunset.
The three children were a good deal
frightened at this, and looked at one another
in dismay. But they did not yet know how
much reason for fright there was.
'It is your fault!' said Hector to Harold.
'It is your fault!' said Harold to Hilda.
'It is your fault!' said Hilda to Hector.
'Let us look through the hole in the
hedge,' said Hector, putting his finger on his
chin, where the black spot was. Hilda put
her finger upon the spot on her forehead
and followed him; and Harold followed them
both, with his finger on his nose. They came
to the hole in the hedge, and looked through
'I can see it!' exclaimed Hilda.
'It is not far off,' said Harold. 'If the
north wind did not blow so hard through this
hole we might jump through and get it.'
'I don't mind jumping against the north
wind,' said Hector boldly; and with that he
jumped through the hole: and the sun set.
'It is too late!' said Tom the Cat, who
appeared between Harold and Hilda at that
moment. 'I cannot save him now. Look!'
Hector, after jumping through the hedge,
had run up to the black ball and stooped to
pick it up. But the ball moved and unfolded
itself, and a little cackling laugh came out of
it, and it stood up on its legs. It was no
other than Rumpty-Dudget himself.
'Now, my young prince, you will come
with me and stand in my hundred-and-first
corner!' said he, with a malignant grin.
'No, I won't!' said Hector.
At that Rumpty-Dudget took a piece of
black string from his pocket and held one end
of it to the black spot on Hector's chin; and
it stuck to it so fast that all the pulling in the
world could not pull it off. Then Rumpty-Dudget
put the string over his shoulder, and
so dragged Hector into his tower, and put him
in the hundred-and-first corner.
As soon as this was done the north wind
increased to a hurricane; the beautiful palace
was blown away, the Garden of Delight was
destroyed, and nothing was left but a desert
covered with grey stones and brambles. The
dull grey cloud covered all the sky, and
Rumpty-Dudget was master of the whole
NO TIME TO BE LOST.
Princess Hilda and Prince Harold sat down
on a heap of rubbish that happened to be
near them, and cried heartily. Tom the Cat
sat before them, moving the end of his tail
first one way and then the other, and looking
very sorrowful out of his yellow eyes. But
presently he said:
'Crying will not get poor Hector back
'Can we ever get him back?' sobbed
'I would do anything!' whimpered Hilda.
'If our Fairy Aunt were only here,' said
Harold, 'perhaps she could tell us what we
ought to do.'
'You will not see the Fairy Aunt again,'
Tom replied, 'until you have got Hector out
of the grey tower, where he is at this moment
standing, with his face to the wall and his
hands behind his back, in the one-hundred-and-first
'But what can we do?' cried Hilda, beginning
to weep afresh. 'We are nothing
but little children.'
'Perhaps you may be able to do more than
if you were grown up,' Tom replied. 'It depends
a good deal upon how much you love
'Oh!' exclaimed both the children at
once; and as they could not think of anything
big enough to compare their love for Hector
to, they said nothing more.
'Listen to me, then,' said Tom, 'and all
may yet be well. But in the first place get on
my back, so that I may take you out of this
desert and into the great forest, where we can
lay our plans without being interrupted.'
So saying Tom rose and curved his back:
the two children jumped upon it; off they all
went, and, in less time than it takes to tell
it, they were in the midst of that great Forest
of Mystery which they had so often seen from
the window of their chamber, but which, until
now, they had never entered. It was quite
still, except a faint chopping noise that seemed
to come from a long way off.
'What makes that noise?' Hilda asked.
'That is Rumpty-Dudget cutting down
the trees,' Tom replied; 'and unless we can
stop him he will cut down every one of them.
However, he will hardly get so far as this to-night.
Now, children, sit down and listen.'
The children accordingly seated themselves
on a cushion of moss at the foot of one
of the tallest pine-trees in the forest, and the
cat sat down in front of them, with his thick
tail curled round his toes.
'The first thing to be done,' said Tom,
looking at the children with his yellow eyes,
which burned as brightly as lamps in the
gloom of the forest, 'the first thing to be done
is, of course, to get the Golden Ivy-seed and
the Diamond Waterdrop. After that the
rest is easy.'
'And where are the Golden Ivy-seed and
the Diamond Waterdrop to be found?' inquired
the two children hopefully.
'The Golden Ivy-seed must be sought in
the centre of the earth, where the King of
the Gnomes reigns,' replied the cat; 'and the
Diamond Waterdrop is to be asked for in the
kingdom of the Air Spirits, above the clouds.'
'But how are we to get up to the Air
Spirits and down to the Gnomes?' asked the
'We will see about that,' replied the cat.
'But before starting we must build the enchanted
'What good will that do?' demanded the
'We could never get on without it,' replied
Tom. 'For since Hector has been put
into the one-hundred-and-first corner the sun
has caught fire and the moon has frozen up,
and this fire will be all we can have to warm
and light us on our journey.'
'But what if it should go out while we are
away?' said the children.
'In order to prevent that one of you
must stay by it, while the other goes with
me on the journey,' said Tom. 'Harold, you
shall be the one to stay. Be sure and not let
the fire go out whatever happens; for if it
does, Rumpty-Dudget will take the blackened
logs and rub Hector's face all over with them,
and then we should never be able to get him
out of the tower at all. Now do you two run
about and pick up all the dried sticks you can
find, and pile them together in a heap, while
I get the touchwood ready.'
In a few minutes—so diligently did
Hilda and Harold work—a heap of faggots
had been gathered together as high as the top
of Hilda's head. Meanwhile Tom the Cat
had not been idle. He had drawn on the
ground with the tip of his tail a large circle,
in the centre of which was the heap of faggots.
It had now become quite dark, and the children
could not have seen their way about
had it not been for Tom's yellow eyes, which
burned as brightly as two carriage-lamps.
'Come inside the circle, children,' said he
at length. 'I am now going to light the
In they came accordingly, and sat down
again on the moss cushion at the foot of the
tall pine-tree. The cat then put the touchwood
on the ground and crouched down in
front of it, with his nose resting against it;
and he stared and stared at it with his flaming
yellow eyes, and by and by it began to smoke
and smoulder, and at last it caught fire and
burned away famously.
'That will do nicely,' said the cat; 'now
put on some sticks.'
Hilda and Harold heaped on the dry
sticks in handfuls; and so the enchanted fire
was fairly started, and it burned blue, red,
'And now there is no time to be lost,' said
Tom the Cat. 'Harold, you will stay beside
this fire, and keep it burning until I come
back with Hilda from the kingdoms of the Air
Spirits and of the Gnomes. Remember, that if
you let the fire go out it can never again be
lighted, and all will be lost. Nevertheless,
you must on no account go outside the circle
to gather more faggots, if those which are
already inside get used up before we return.
You may, perhaps, be tempted to do so; but
if you yield to the temptation all will go
wrong. Your brother Hector will then be in
greater danger than ever, and the only way
you can save him will be to get into the fire
yourself and burn!'
Prince Harold did not much like the idea
of being left alone in the woods all night, with
the sound of Rumpty-Dudget's axe coming
ever nearer and nearer. Still, since it was
for his little brother Hector's sake, he never
dreamed of refusing. But he made up his
mind to be particularly careful not to use up
the faggots too fast, so that he would not be
tempted to go outside the ring.
Hilda and Tom kissed him, and bade him
farewell; then Hilda got on the cat's back,
and nestled down amidst the warm white fur.
Tom sprang on to the trunk of the tall pine-tree,
and away! straight upwards they went,
and were out of sight in the twinkling of an
THE QUEEN OF THE AIR.
After climbing upwards for a long time they
came at last to the very tiptop of the pine-tree,
which was just on a level with the upper
surface of the clouds.
'We are now above the reach of the north
wind,' remarked the cat; 'and this is the
only tree in the forest tall enough for our
purpose. All the clouds hereabouts, as you
see, are blown by the south wind and by the
west. If we rode on one blown by the north
we should be driven straight into Rumpty-Dudget's
'Are we going to ride on a cloud, then?'
asked Hilda, feeling a little nervous; for it
was a terrible distance if they should fall.
'Hold tight to me, and you will be safe,'
replied Tom. 'Here comes the cloud we
want—it will pass within two yards of us.
As we make the jump do you look down to
the foot of the tree and see whether Harold
is in his place and the fire still burning.'
Hardly had Tom done speaking, when
the cloud sailed by, passing, as he had said,
within two yards of the top of the pine-tree
to which they were clinging. The cat jumped,
and alighted very cleverly on the cloud's
edge, and a moment's scramble brought them
to the top. Meanwhile, Hilda had looked
downward to the foot of the tree as they
took their leap; and she had caught a
glimpse of Harold sitting within the ring,
beside the enchanted fire, and seeming rather
disconsolate. But the fire was burning
brightly, yellow, red, and blue.
The cloud sailed away, and took them
to a part of the sky which Hilda had never
seen before. It was full of a strange white
light, and no darkness ever came there. On
went the cloud, moving slowly but steadily,
like a great ship steering its way amidst the
sky. The kingdom of the Air Spirits soon
loomed in sight. Rainbow bridges spanned
its shining rivers; its forests were like the
tracery of the Northern Lights; and the
houses and palaces in which the people lived
were stars of different sizes, along whose
rays was the only path to get to them.
At length the cloud entered the harbour,
and, letting down an anchor of raindrops, its
'You must go the rest of the way alone,
Hilda,' said the cat. 'I shall wait for you,
and you will find me here on your return.'
'But which way am I to go, and what am
I to do?' asked Hilda in a tremulous tone;
for being so high above the earth almost took
her breath away.
'You must ask the first Air Spirit you
meet to show you the star where the Queen
lives, and then you must get there the best
way you can,' Tom replied. 'When you
have found her you must ask her for the
Diamond Waterdrop. But be very careful
not to sit down, however much you may be
tempted to do so; for if you do, your little
brother Hector never can be saved.'
Hilda did not much like the idea of
making so perilous a journey as this promised
to be, without even the cat to go
with her; but since it was for Hector's sake
she never dreamed of refusing: only she
made up her mind on no account to sit down,
no matter what happened. She bade Tom
farewell, therefore, and walked off.
She had not gone far when she met an
Air Spirit, carrying its nose in the air—as, of
course, all Air Spirits do.
'Can you tell me which star the Queen
sits in?' Hilda asked.
'What do you want of the Queen?' inquired
the Air Spirit superciliously.
'I want to ask her where the Diamond
Waterdrop is,' answered Hilda.
'You will never get on in this country
unless you carry your nose more in the air
than you do,' observed the Air Spirit. 'As
for her Majesty, she sits in the large star up
yonder with the white ray. Mind you don't
break your neck. Ta-ta!'
Hilda went onward very disconsolately.
As to carrying her nose in the air she had
never in her life felt less inclined to do
such a thing. By and by she came to the
spot where the white ray of light from the
Queen's star touched the solid air. A
number of Air Spirits were walking up and
down it like so many tight-rope dancers.
'Look at that absurd child!' they said to
one another. 'See how she hangs her head!
Why doesn't she put on airs? She will never
come to anything.'
Hilda began to climb up the long white
ray; and though at first she was very much
frightened, by degrees she gained courage,
and at last she was able to walk along tolerably
fast. But it was a long distance to the
top, and by the time she got there she was
almost ready to drop with fatigue.
The star, when she entered it, was a
glorious place indeed; and the Queen of
the Air Spirits was dazzlingly beautiful,
though Hilda fancied that she looked
upon her rather haughtily. She was seated
upon a throne of fretted sunshine; and as
soon as Hilda was within hearing she
'I have been expecting you. You have
come a long way, and you look very tired.
Come here and sit down.'
'No, your Majesty,' replied Hilda faintly,
'I have no time to sit down or to stay. I
have come to ask you for the Diamond
'For the Diamond Waterdrop indeed!'
exclaimed the Queen, laughing. 'And pray
what made you suppose that you would find
the Diamond Waterdrop here? However,
sit down here beside me, and let us talk
about it. Such a question as you ask cannot
be answered in a moment.'
But Hilda shook her head.
'Listen to me, my dear Princess,' said the
Queen again, more courteously than she had
yet spoken. 'I know that you like to have
everything your own way; and, as you are
perhaps aware, there is no one who can have
things so entirely her own way as can the Queen
of the Air Spirits. Now, Princess Hilda, if
you will sit down here on my throne I will
let you be Queen of the Air Spirits instead of
me. You shall have everything your own
way, and you shall put on as many airs as
you please. Come!'
When Hilda heard this she certainly felt
for a moment very much tempted to do as
the Queen asked her. But the next moment
the thought came to her of her poor little
brother Hector, standing in the hundred-and-first
corner of Rumpty-Dudget's tower, with
his face to the wall and his hands behind his
back. So she answered, with tears in her
'Oh, Queen of the Air Spirits, I am so
sorry for my little brother that I do not any
longer care to have everything my own way,
or to put on airs, or to do anything except
find the Diamond Waterdrop, so that Hector
may be saved. Can you tell me where it is?'
But the Queen shook her beautiful head
'I have no Diamond Waterdrop,' said
she. 'Ask yourself where it is.'
Then poor Hilda felt as if her heart
would break, and she sobbed out:
'Oh, what shall I do to save my poor
There was no answer, and Hilda turned
away. But, as she did so, the Queen suddenly
'I see the Diamond Waterdrop now,
'Oh, where?' cried Hilda, turning again
The Queen was smiling upon her now
with a very kind expression.
'It is on your own cheek!' said she.
Hilda was so bewildered that, at first, she
could only gaze at the Queen without moving
'Yes,' the Queen continued, in a gentle
tone, 'you might have searched through all
the kingdoms of the earth and air, and yet
never have found that precious Diamond,
had you not loved your brother Hector more
than you loved to be Queen. That tear upon
your cheek, Hilda, which you shed for love
of him, is the Diamond Waterdrop that you
have sought. Keep it in this crystal phial;
be prudent, patient, and resolute, and sooner
or later Hector will be free.'
As the Queen spoke she held out a small
crystal phial, and the tear from Hilda's cheek
fell into it. Then the Queen hung the phial
about Hilda's neck by a chain of moon-sparkles,
and kissed her tenderly and bade
her farewell. And away went Hilda, light of
foot, for the weariness had left her. But as
she went she kept fancying that she had
somewhere heard a voice like this Queen's
before; but where or when she could not
She now reached the solid air again, and
hastening her steps, she presently arrived at
the harbour in which the cloud was anchored;
and there she found Tom the Cat awaiting
her. He got up and stretched himself as she
approached; and when he saw the crystal
phial hanging at her neck by its chain of
moon-sparkles he said:
'So far all has gone well. But the hardest
part is yet to come: we have to find the
Golden Ivy-seed. There is no time to be
lost, so jump on my back, and let us be
With that he curved his back, Hilda put
her arms round his neck and nestled down in
the soft white fur, and Tom gave a great leap
off the edge of the cloud, and away! down
they went through the empty air like a live
snowball, and it seemed to Hilda that they
never would have done falling. At length,
however, they alighted safely on the top of a
haystack, and the next moment they were
standing in the hayfield.
THE KING OF THE GNOMES.
Just beside the haystack was a field-mouse's
hole, or what looked like one; and something
that looked like a little brown mouse, but
which might have been something else for
all Hilda could tell, was sitting at the entrance
of it. But when it saw the cat it rose up on
its little hind legs, turned a complete somersault,
and then darted away down the hole;
and Hilda noticed that it had no tail.
'What a curious mouse!' she said to
'It was a Gnome,' he replied: 'they are
often mistaken for mice when they appear on
the surface of the ground.'
'Where has he gone to?' inquired Hilda.
'Down to the centre of the earth, to be
sure,' said Tom, 'to tell the others that we
'But we can never get into such a little
hole as that,' Hilda said.
'Get on my back, and hold fast!' was all
Tom's answer; and when Hilda had nestled
down in his soft white fur and clasped her
arms round his neck he began scratching at
the hole with both his fore-paws, and throwing
up the dirt in a mighty heap behind; till in a
wonderfully short time a large passage was
made, opening towards the centre of the
'Hold fast!' said Tom again, and into the
passage they went.
If it had not been for the cat's eyes, which
shone like two yellow carriage-lamps, they
might more than once have missed their way,
for it was as dark as pitch during the first part
of the journey. Hilda, as she clung close to
the cat's back, could see that they were passing
rapidly through what seemed to be a series of
caves, one opening into another, and growing
always higher and broader as they went on.
At first the air felt damp and cold; but as
they sped onwards it grew warmer and drier;
and now the wall of the caverns began to
throw back gleams of many-coloured light,
as if from gigantic jewels sticking there; and
presently the light increased, without seeming
to come from anywhere in particular; and the
great vault overhead seemed to soar aloft,
until only a misty brightness was visible, like
the sky at sunset-time, when it is feathered
with gorgeous clouds. It was a new and
marvellous country, with gold and silver filagree
instead of foliage, and fields of emerald,
and rivers of sapphires, and distant mountains
of amethyst. By and by the cat came to two
lofty pillars of plain white alabaster, and there
'Now, Hilda,' he said, 'you must go the
rest of the way alone. Pass between those
pillars, and then you will be in the kingdom
of the Gnomes. Ask the first Gnome you
meet to show you the place where the King
ploughs; and when you have found him, ask
him where the Golden Ivy-seed is. But be
very careful to do everything that he bids
you, no matter how strange or disagreeable it
may be; for, if you disobey him, your brother
Hector cannot be saved.'
Though Hilda did not much like the idea
of going on through this strange land all by
herself, still, since it was for Hector's sake,
she never dreamed of refusing; only she made
up her mind to do everything the King bade
her, whatever happened. So off she started,
and after passing between the alabaster pillars
she came to a road on which the gold-dust lay
an inch thick; for it seldom rains in the centre
of the earth. Pretty soon she met a little
brown Gnome, running along on all-fours, and
turning somersaults, as all Gnomes do.
'Will you show me the place where the
King ploughs?' asked Hilda.
'What do you want of him?' asked the
'I want to ask him to tell me where the
Golden Ivy-seed is,' Hilda replied.
'He ploughs in the emerald field on the
other side of the mountain of amethyst,' said
the Gnome; 'but, unless you can go on all-fours
and turn somersaults better than you
seem able to do, you will never get on in this
But Hilda had never walked on all-fours,
much less turned somersaults, since she was
a baby a year old; so she trudged along the
dusty golden road just as she was, and all the
Gnomes who met her threw somersaults and
'See how upright she walks! She will
never come to anything!'
The road was very long, the amethyst
mountain was very far away, and Hilda was
very tired by the time she arrived at the
emerald field. But there was the field at
last, and there was the King of the Gnomes
on all-fours in the midst of it. He was a
strange little being, with piercing black eyes,
immensely broad shoulders, and a beard of
white asbestos woven together like a woman's
braid. As soon as he caught sight of Hilda
he shouted out to her:
'Get down on all-fours this instant! How
dare you come into my kingdom walking upright?'
Hilda was a good deal frightened at the
way the King spoke; but she answered resolutely,
'Your Majesty, I walked upright because
there was no time to lose, and I have
come to ask you for the Golden Ivy-seed.'
'The Golden Ivy-seed, forsooth!' exclaimed
the King, with a deep laugh. 'What
made you suppose, I should like to know,
that there was any Golden Ivy-seed to be got
here? The Golden Ivy-seed is not given to
people with stiff necks, I can assure you; so
get down on all-fours at once, or else go about
Then Hilda remembered what Tom the
Cat had told her, and down she dropped on
all-fours without a word.
'Now, listen to me,' said the King sternly.
'I shall harness you to that plough in the
place of my horses, and you must drag it up
and down over this field until the whole of
it is ploughed, while I follow behind with
the whip. Hitch yourself to the shaft immediately.
When Hilda heard this command it
seemed to her at first as if it was impossible
that she could obey it. For she was weary
with her long journey along the golden road
and over the mountain of amethyst, and the
King's plough looked very heavy, and his
whip very long; and, besides, she thought it
was much beneath the dignity of a princess
such as she was to be driven on all-fours
through a ploughed field. But the next moment
the thought came to her of her poor
little brother Hector, standing in the hundred-and-first
corner of Rumpty-Dudget's tower,
with his face to the wall and his hands behind
his back. So she said humbly:
'Oh, King of the Gnomes! I am so sorry
for my brother Hector that for his sake I will
do as you bid me, in the hope that afterwards
you will tell me where the Golden Ivy-seed
is to be found, so that Hector may be saved
from Rumpty-Dudget's tower.'
The King made no reply whatever, but
he harnessed Hilda to the plough, and she
dragged it back and forth across the emerald
field until the whole of it was ploughed, while
the King followed behind with the whip. At
last he unharnessed her.
'Now begone about your business!' he
'But you have not told me where the
Golden Ivy-seed is,' said Hilda, with a piteous
throb in her heart.
'I have no Golden Ivy-seed!' returned
the King, with his deep laugh. 'Why don't
you ask yourself where it is?'
At this poor Hilda's heart felt as if it were
broken, and she sank down on the ground and
'Oh! what shall I do to save my little
But hereupon the King of the Gnomes
smiled upon her, and he said, in a gentler
voice than he had yet used:
'Put your hand to your heart, Hilda, and
see what you find there.'
Hilda did not understand what he meant;
but she had by this time got so used to obeying
him that she put her hand to her heart,
and felt something fall into the palm of her
hand; and when in astonishment she looked
at it, behold, it was a tiny golden seed!
'Yes,' said the King kindly, 'you might
have searched through all the kingdoms of
the earth and air, and yet never have found
that precious seed, had not your heart been
broken like this field for love of your brother
Hector. Keep the Golden Ivy-seed in this
hollow pearl; be humble, patient, and gentle,
and sooner or later Hector will be free.'
As he said these words he fastened the
pearl to her girdle with a jewelled clasp, and
kissed her on the forehead and bade her farewell.
And as Hilda trudged back along the
golden road and over the mountain of amethyst
she kept thinking that somewhere she
had heard a voice like this King's before; but
where or when she could not tell.
In course of time she arrived at the alabaster
pillars, and, passing out between them,
she found Tom the Cat awaiting her. He got
up and stretched himself as she approached;
and when he saw the hollow pearl at her
girdle he said:
'So far all has gone well. But now we
must see whether or not Harold has kept the
enchanted fire going. There is no time to be
lost; so jump on my back and hold fast, and
let us be off.'
With that he curved his back; Hilda
clasped her arms round his neck as before,
and away they went, through the gleaming
caverns, and up the sombre passages, and
through the cold damp tunnels, until at last
out they popped beside the haystack in the
field; and after they had come out the little
brown creature which had been sitting waiting
at the entrance threw a somersault into the
great pit and disappeared. And immediately
the whole heap of earth which Tom had dug
up fell back into its place, and nothing was
left but a small round crevice in the ground,
like a field-mouse's hole.
THE ENCHANTED FIRE.
Now, Harold—after he had seen Hilda and
the cat vanish up the trunk of the tall pine-tree—had
sat himself down rather disconsolately
beside the fire, which was blazing
away famously, yellow, red, and blue. He
rested his back against the trunk of the tree,
and fixed his eyes upon the fire; it made a
slight rustling and crackling noise as it burned.
There was also another noise, but that did not
come from the fire; it was a chopping noise,
sounding far away in the forest, and Harold
knew that it was Rumpty-Dudget cutting
down the trees. Each time he heard this
sound it seemed to be a little nearer. Then
he would wonder to himself what he should do
if Rumpty-Dudget were suddenly to appear.
He must not, at all events, let the fire go out;
and every once in a while he took a faggot
from the pile that he and Hilda had heaped
up and put it in the leaping flame; but he
was very careful to avoid stepping outside the
circle which Tom the Cat had drawn with the
tip of his tail.
In this manner a very long time passed
away, and Harold, who had never sat up so
late before in his life, began to get uncommonly
sleepy. But still Hilda and Tom did
not return; and Harold knew that, if he were
to lie down and take a nap, the enchanted fire
might go out before he waked up again; and,
as Tom had warned him, once out it could
never be rekindled. Moreover, Rumpty-Dudget
would then be able to steal the fire-blackened
logs and blacken poor Hector's
face all over with them, so that he never
could be saved. Therefore Harold kept
himself awake, partly by sitting on a pine-needle
which he had found stuck in the moss
cushion, and partly by putting fresh faggots
into the flame, which went on burning blue,
yellow, and red.
But another very long time passed away,
and the sound of Rumpty-Dudget's axe
sounded nearer, and the forest was dark and
full of mystery, and there was no sign yet of
Hilda and the cat. 'I never knew before,'
said Harold to himself, 'that a night was so
much longer than a day. I always thought
they were a great deal shorter, But then I
have no Fairy Aunt now to come and whisper
pleasant stories into my ear. Heigho! well,
I suppose I must put on another faggot.' And
he got up to fetch one.
Much to his consternation, however, he
found that there was now only a single faggot
left of all those that he and Hilda had gathered
He was really frightened at this, and knew
not what to do; for this last faggot would soon
be burnt up, and then what was to be done to
keep the enchanted fire going? He made a
careful search inside the ring, and satisfied
himself that there was not so much as another
chip to be found there; and Tom had told
him that if he went outside the ring all would
However, the last faggot was not gone yet,
and in order to make it last as long as possible
Harold took it apart and put only one stick at
a time on the fire; but it was alarming to see
how quickly the flame ate up one after another,
and seemed hungrier than ever. After
a while all but the last stick was gone. A
little while more and that had to be put in
too. And then Prince Harold sat down quite
in despair and cried with all his might. He
was at the end of everything, and at his wit's
At that moment he heard a voice calling
to him; and looking up he saw an odd little
man standing just outside the circle, carrying
a great bundle of faggots on his shoulder.
Harold's eyes were so full of tears that he did
not see that this odd little man was Rumpty-Dudget
himself; or else (what is quite as
likely) the dwarf had some spell by means of
which he could make himself appear different
from what he was.
'What are you crying for, my poor dear
little boy?' asked Rumpty-Dudget of Prince
Harold in his most coaxing voice.
'Because I have used up all my faggots,'
'Used them all up! But surely there are
plenty more in the forest where those came
from?' the dwarf answered in pretended surprise.
'Besides, what harm if the fire does
go out? It isn't a cold night, and the moon
will be up presently.'
'But if the fire goes out,' said Harold, 'my
poor little brother Hector cannot be saved.'
'Oh, that is the trouble, is it?' exclaimed
the dwarf. 'Well, now, it is lucky I
happened to come along this way; you
could not have met with a better adviser
than I am. For I know all about this
Rumpty-Dudget, with whom your brother
Hector is staying; and I saw Hector myself
not an hour ago.'
'Oh! did you?' cried Harold in great
'To be sure I did; and very well he
looked, I can tell you. He has done nothing
but eat sugar-candy and blow on a tin whistle
ever since he went there; and he says he
wants nothing better than to stay with
Rumpty-Dudget all his life. And, by the
way, he asked me to tell you if I saw you
that he hoped you and your sister would
come and join; for that Rumpty-Dudget is
the pleasantest fellow in the world, and not at
all like what you had been made to believe
'Oh-h!' exclaimed Harold, staring at
Rumpty-Dudget with wide-open eyes. 'I
don't see how that can be true. Who are
'A friend,' replied Rumpty-Dudget. 'And
to prove it I have brought over this bundle of
faggots; and when these are used up I will
get you some more.'
'Oh, thank you very much!' exclaimed
Harold, jumping for joy, and going as near
to the inside edge of the circle as he could.
'Give them to me quick, for there is no
time to be lost; the fire is just going out.'
'I can't bring them inside the circle,' said
the dwarf, suddenly putting the bundle on the
ground, and pretending to be very much exhausted.
'I have carried them already all
the way from the further side of the forest,
and that is far enough. Surely you can come
the rest of the way for them yourself.'
'But I must not come outside the circle,
you know,' said Harold, dancing up and down
'Because Tom the Cat said that if I did
all would go wrong.'
'Pshaw! what should a cat know about a
thing like this?' demanded the dwarf very
scornfully. 'At all events, your fire will burn
less than a minute longer; and you know what
will happen when it goes out.'
At that Harold became almost beside himself
with anxiety and bewilderment, and what
to do he could not tell. But at last he thought
that anything would be better than to let the
fire go out; so he put one foot outside the circle
and stretched forth his hand for the faggots.
'Just the least bit further,' said the dwarf
coaxingly. 'I would save you the trouble if
I could; but I am really too tired to stir.'
Harold saw that by stretching about six
inches further he could reach a faggot. But
in order to stretch six inches he would be
obliged to put the other foot outside the
circle. 'After all, what can it matter?' he
thought. And the next moment there he
Immediately, with aloud laugh, the dwarf
flung away the faggots far into the depths of
the forest; and rushing into the circle, he began
to stamp out with his feet what was left
of the enchanted fire.
Then Harold recognised Rumpty-Dudget
for the first time, for the spell was off him.
And Harold remembered what Tom the Cat
had said, and he leaped back into the circle,
and as the last bit of flame flickered at the
end of the stick he laid himself down upon it.
Whereupon Rumpty-Dudget gave a hoarse
cry and vanished; and the enchanted fire
blazed up famously, red, blue, and yellow,
with poor Harold in the midst of it.
THE GOLDEN IVY.
Now, or never, it was the time for Hilda and
the cat to come back. And, sure enough, at
this very instant there was a sound like the
whistling of a blast of wind through the forest,
and a hurrying and a skurrying, and behold!
there was Tom the Cat, with Hilda on his
Tom said nothing, but he sprang into the
circle, and without losing an instant he dug a
little hole in the ground with his fore paws,
throwing up the dirt in a heap behind him.
When it was finished he said:
'Open the hollow pearl, Hilda, and put
the Golden Ivy-seed in this hole; and make
haste, for Harold is burning for Hector's sake!'
So Hilda made haste to open the hollow
pearl and to put the Golden Ivy-seed in the
hole; and the cat spread the earth over it, and
'Now take the crystal phial, Hilda, and
pour half the Diamond Waterdrop upon the
place where the seed is planted, and the other
half upon the enchanted fire; and make haste,
for Harold is burning for Hector's sake!'
So Hilda made haste and did what the
cat had told her to do.
When the half of the Diamond Waterdrop
fell upon the fire in which Harold had all this
while been burning the fire was immediately
put out. And there lay Harold, alive and
well, amidst the embers; but the black spot
upon his nose was all burned away, and his
hair and eyes, which had until then been
brown, were now quite black.
So up he jumped, and he and Hilda kissed
each other heartily, for they felt as if they
had been separated for a long time.
'What has become of the black spot on
your forehead, Hilda?' asked Harold. 'It is
not there any more.'
'Ah!' said Tom, 'that disappeared when
the King of the Gnomes kissed her. But now
make yourselves ready, children, for we are
going to take a ride to Rumpty-Dudget's
On hearing this the young prince and
princess were greatly surprised, and looked
about for the horses on which they were to
But behold! the Golden Ivy-seed, watered
with the Diamond Waterdrop, was already
growing and sprouting with marvellous vigour
and rapidity. A strong stem, with leaves of
glistening gold, had pushed itself out of the
earth, and was creeping along the ground
towards Rumpty-Dudget's tower: hardly
creeping, either, for it moved faster than a
man could run. The cat helped Hilda and
Harold to a seat on two of the largest leaves,
while he himself clung to the stem; and so
away they went through the forest merrily.
As they advanced the heavy grey cloud
which had overcast all the heavens since
Rumpty-Dudget's rule began was rolled back
like a mighty scroll; and the pure sky, lit
up with the fresh sunshine of the early
dawn, smiled above the mysterious forest.
Then the forest too awoke to life and joyousness;
the birds sang in the branches, and
fragrant flowers, sparkling with dew, glowed
in the happy glades with mingled tints of
white, blue, and red. So on they went, carrying
with them the freshness and perfume of
the morning and of spring; and in a wonderfully
short time the Golden Ivy had brought
them to the gates of Rumpty-Dudget's tower.
'Jump down now,' said Tom, 'and leave
the Golden Ivy to do the rest.'
Down they all jumped accordingly, and
stood at one side, near the castle gates. But
the Golden Ivy kept on, and threw itself across,
the moat, and clambered over the portcullis,
and forced its way into the courtyard, and
writhed along the passages and up the staircases,
until (in less time than it takes to write
about it) the Ivy had reached the room with
the hundred-and-one corners. In the midst
of this room stood Rumpty-Dudget, having
fled to it for safety; for it was defended by
enchantments which only the Golden Ivy
could have overcome. There he stood, trembling
in his shoes, as well he might; and in
all the corners round about, with their faces
to the wall and their hands behind their backs,
stood the poor little children that Rumpty-Dudget
But they were not to stand there much
longer, for Rumpty-Dudget's hour had come!
He tried to run away, but the terrible Golden
Ivy ran after him and caught him, and bound
down his arms, and tied together his legs, and
clutched him around the throat, and squeezed
him round the body, and fastened its coils
upon him tighter and tighter, until all the mischief
was squeezed out of him. But, since
Rumpty-Dudget was entirely made of mischief,
when all the mischief was squeezed out of him
of course there was no Rumpty-Dudget left—no,
not so much as one of his shoe-buckles!
And when Rumpty-Dudget had ceased to
exist of course all the children who had been
made prisoners by his spells became free; and
they came racing and shouting out of the grey
tower, with little Prince Hector at their head.
But when Hector saw his brother and sister,
and they saw him, they all three set up a cry
of joy, and ran together and hugged and
kissed each other heartily; for they felt as if
they had been parted for a very long time.
At last Hilda said, 'Why, Hector, what
has become of the black spot that used to be
on your chin? It is not there any more.'
'It got rubbed off against the wall of the
room with the hundred-and-one corners,' replied
At that they all three laughed; but Hilda
at least had tears in her eyes.
'And look at his hair and eyes!' exclaimed
Harold; 'they are brown now, instead
of black, as they used to be. What is
the reason of that?'
'It is the touch of the Golden Ivy,' said
a voice behind them, which Hilda fancied
she had heard somewhere before.
The three children looked round, and
saw a lady standing beside them, dazzlingly
beautiful, with a crown on her head and a
smile in her eyes. They all knew her at
once, though they had never seen her before
except in their dreams. It was their Fairy
'But you look very much like the Queen
our mother,' said Hilda.
'And do I look like anyone besides
her?' asked the lady, with a smile.
'Yes, you are like the Queen of the Air
Spirits!' exclaimed Hilda; 'though you don't
look so haughty as she did at first.'
'Anyone else?' asked the lady again,
speaking in a very gruff tone, and drawing
her eyebrows together.
'Dear me! that is the way the King of
the Gnomes talked,' said Hilda, clasping her
hands. 'Surely you couldn't have been him?'
'Yes, my darlings,' said the lady, sitting
down and drawing the three children to her
lap, 'I am the Queen, your mother; though,
by Rumpty-Dudget's spells, I was obliged to
leave you, and to be seen by you only in
your dreams at night. And I was what
seemed to you the Queen of the Air Spirits,
Hilda, and the King of the Gnomes as well;
because love shows itself in many forms, and
works for you above and beneath, and both
while you wake and while you sleep; but it
is always the same love in the end, and if
you love one another you will find it out at
'After all,' said Hilda thoughtfully, 'I
love you best as our own mamma. And you
will always be our mamma, and be with us
now, won't you?'
'Yes, my darlings,' answered the Queen,
giving them all a hug and a kiss; 'there will
be no more changes or partings, for Rumpty-Dudget
and his tower are gone, and we are
'But where is Tom the Cat?' cried
Hector all of a sudden, looking this way
and that. 'We can never be happy anywhere
'Oh, Tom has done his work, and we
shall not see him any more,' said the Queen,
shaking her head mysteriously.
But at this all the children looked ready
'Well, then, you shall have one more look
at him,' said the Queen. She wore on her
shoulders a long hooded mantle of the finest
white fur. By a sudden movement she drew
this mantle round her, and pulled the hood
over her head and face; and behold! there
sat Tom the Cat, looking as natural as possible,
only that between the folds of the fur
the children could see their mother's eyes
'I have often looked out at you so before
now,' she said, as she threw back the hood
and mantle; 'and you would have seen me
as plainly as you do now, but that the spell
prevented you. So, you see, we shall take
what was really Tom the Cat along with us,
'Where are we going?' Harold asked.
'To our home in Fairyland,' answered
'And are we never coming back here
any more?' asked Hilda, glad to go, and yet
with almost a sigh.
'No, we shall never see this land again,'
the Queen replied. 'It was beautiful, but
all its beauty lives again in the land whither
we go. And there are no Rumpty-Dudgets
in that land, and no grey towers full of
corners, and no prickly hedges, nor winds
from the north. And all the stars of the
air and jewels of the earth are in that land,
only more glorious and splendid than those
that Hilda saw. But why should I tell you
about it, when you are going to see it all for
yourselves this very day? Are you ready?'
'Yes!' said all the children together.
Then she folded her arms about them,
and they clung to her neck, and so they
seemed to rise aloft in the warm air, and
float towards the south. Far beneath them
lay the tops of the tallest trees; but the
children felt no fear. For they were going
to their home in Fairyland; and they are
all three living there, with the Queen their
mother, to this very day.
But Hilda's hair is golden still, and her
eyes are blue.