The Rose and the Ring, by William Makepeace Thackeray

XIII.

How Queen Rosalba Came to the Castle of the Bold Count Hogginarmo.

Her Majesty, having indeed nothing else to give, made all her followers Knights of the Pumpkin, and Marquises, Earls, and Baronets; and they had a little court for her, and made her a little crown of gilt paper, and a robe of cotton velvet; and they quarrelled about the places to be given away in her court, and about rank and precedence and dignities; — you can’t think how they quarrelled! The poor Queen was very tired of her honors before she had had them a month, and I dare say sighed sometimes even to be a lady’s-maid again. But we must all do our duty in our respective stations, so the Queen resigned herself to perform hers.

We have said how it happened that none of the Usurper’s troops came out to oppose this Army of Fidelity: it pottered along as nimbly as the gout of the principal commanders allowed: it consisted of twice as many officers as soldiers: and at length passed near the estates of one of the most powerful noblemen of the country, who had not declared for the Queen, but of whom her party had hopes, as he was always quarrelling with King Padella.

When they came close to his park gates, this nobleman sent to say he would wait upon her Majesty: he was a most powerful warrior, and his name was Count Hogginarmo, whose helmet it took two strong negroes to carry. He knelt down before her and said, “Madam and liege lady! it becomes the great nobles of the Crimean realm to show every outward sign of respect to the wearer of the Crown, whoever that may be. We testify to our own nobility in acknowledging yours. The bold Hogginarmo bends the knee to the first of the aristocracy of his country.”

Rosalba said the bold Count of Hogginarmo was uncommonly kind; but she felt afraid of him, even while he was kneeling, and his eyes scowled at her from between his whiskers, which grew up to them.

“The first Count of the Empire, madam,” he went on, “salutes the Sovereign. The Prince addresses himself to the not more noble lady! Madam, my hand is free, and I offer it, and my heart and my sword to your service! My three wives lie buried in my ancestral vaults. The third perished but a year since; and this heart pines for a consort! Deign to be mine, and I swear to bring to your bridal table the head of King Padella, the eyes and nose of his son Prince Bulbo, the right hand and ears of the usurping Sovereign of Paflagonia, which country shall thenceforth be an appanage to your — to OUR Crown! Say yes; Hogginarmo is not accustomed to be denied. Indeed I cannot contemplate the possibility of a refusal; for frightful will be the result; dreadful the murders; furious the devastations; horrible the tyranny; tremendous the tortures, misery, taxation, which the people of this realm will endure, if Hogginarmo’s wrath be aroused! I see consent in Your Majesty’s lovely eyes — their glances fill my soul with rapture!”

“Oh, sir!” Rosalba said, withdrawing her hand in great fright. “Your Lordship is exceedingly kind; but I am sorry to tell you that I have a prior attachment to a young gentleman by the name of — Prince Giglio — and never — never can marry any one but him.”

Who can describe Hogginarmo’s wrath at this remark? Rising up from the ground, he ground his teeth so that fire flashed out of his mouth, from which at the same time issued remarks and language, so LOUD, VIOLENT, AND IMPROPER, that this pen shall never repeat them! “R-r-r-r-r-r — Rejected! Fiends and perdition! The bold Hogginarmo rejected! All the world shall hear of my rage; and you, madam, you above all shall rue it!” And kicking the two negroes before him, he rushed away, his whiskers streaming in the wind.

Her Majesty’s Privy Council was in a dreadful panic when they saw Hogginarmo issue from the royal presence in such a towering rage, making footballs of the poor negroes — a panic which the events justified. They marched off from Hogginarmo’s park very crest-fallen; and in another half-hour they were met by that rapacious chieftain with a few of his followers, who cut, slashed, charged, whacked, banged, and pommelled amongst them, took the Queen prisoner, and drove the Army of Fidelity to I don’t know where.

Poor Queen! Hogginarmo, her conqueror, would not condescend to see her. “Get a horse-van!” he said to his grooms, “clap the hussy into it, and send her, with my compliments, to his Majesty King Padella.”

Along with his lovely prisoner, Hogginarmo sent a letter full of servile compliments and loathsome flatteries to King Padella, for whose life, and that of his royal family, the HYPOCRITICAL HUMBUG pretended to offer the most fulsome prayers. And Hogginarmo promised speedily to pay his humble homage at his august master’s throne, of which he begged leave to be counted the most loyal and constant defender. Such a WARY old BIRD as King Padella was not to be caught by Master Hogginarmo’s CHAFF and we shall hear presently how the tyrant treated his upstart vassal. No, no; depend on’t, two such rogues do not trust one another.

So this poor Queen was laid in the straw like Margery Daw, and driven along in the dark ever so many miles to the Court, where King Padella had now arrived, having vanquished all his enemies, murdered most of them, and brought some of the richest into captivity with him for the purpose of torturing them and finding out where they had hidden their money.

Rosalba heard their shrieks and groans in the dungeon in which she was thrust; a most awful black hole, full of bats, rats, mice, toads, frogs, mosquitoes, bugs, fleas, serpents, and every kind of horror. No light was let into it, otherwise the gaolers might have seen her and fallen in love with her, as an owl that lived up in the roof of the tower did, and a cat, you know, who can see in the dark, and having set its green eyes on Rosalba, never would be got to go back to the turnkey’s wife to whom it belonged. And the toads in the dungeon came and kissed her feet, and the vipers wound round her neck and arms, and never hurt her, so charming was this poor Princess in the midst of her misfortunes.

At last, after she had been kept in this place EVER SO LONG, the door of the dungeon opened, and the terrible KING PADELLA came in.

But what he said and did must be reserved for another chapter, as we must now back to Prince Giglio.

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/t/thackeray/william_makepeace/rose/chapter13.html

Last updated Tuesday, March 4, 2014 at 19:07