The Rose and the Ring, by William Makepeace Thackeray

XVII.

How A Tremendous Battle Took Place, and Who Won It.

As soon as King Padella heard — what we know already — that his victim, the lovely Rosalba, had escaped him, his Majesty’s fury knew no bounds, and he pitched the Lord Chancellor, Lord Chamberlain, and every officer of the Crown whom he could set eyes on, into the cauldron of boiling oil prepared for the Princess. Then he ordered out his whole army, horse, foot, and artillery; and set forth at the head of an innumerable host, and I should think twenty thousand drummers, trumpeters, and fifers.

King Giglio’s advance guard, you may be sure, kept that monarch acquainted with the enemy’s dealings, and he was in nowise disconcerted. He was much too polite to alarm the Princess, his lovely guest, with any unnecessary rumors of battles impending; on the contrary, he did everything to amuse and divert her; gave her a most elegant breakfast, dinner, lunch, and got up a ball for her that evening, when he danced with her every single dance.

Poor Bulbo was taken into favor again, and allowed to go quite free now. He had new clothes given him, was called “My good cousin” by his Majesty, and was treated with the greatest distinction by everybody. But it was easy to see he was very melancholy. The fact is, the sight of Betsinda, who looked perfectly lovely in an elegant new dress, set poor Bulbo frantic in love with her again. And he never thought about Angelica, now Princess Bulbo, whom he had left at home, and who, as we know, did not care much about him.

The King, dancing the twenty-fifth polka with Rosalba, remarked with wonder the ring she wore; and then Rosalba told him how she had got it from Gruffanuff, who no doubt had picked it up when Angelica flung it away.

“Yes,” says the Fairy Blackstick, who had come to see the young people, and who had very likely certain plans regarding them —“that ring I gave the Queen, Giglio’s mother, who was not, saving your presence, a very wise woman: it is enchanted, and whoever wears it looks beautiful in the eyes of the world. I made poor Prince Bulbo, when he was christened, the present of a rose which made him look handsome while he had it; but he gave it to Angelica, who instantly looked beautiful again, whilst Bulbo relapsed into his natural plainness.”

“Rosalba needs no ring, I am sure,” says Giglio, with a low bow. “She is beautiful enough, in my eyes, without any enchanted aid.”

“Oh, sir!” said Rosalba.

“Take off the ring and try,” said the King, and resolutely drew the ring off her finger. In HIS eyes she looked just as handsome as before!

The King was thinking of throwing the ring away, as it was so dangerous and made all the people so mad about Rosalba; but being a Prince of great humor, and good humor too, he cast eyes upon a poor youth who happened to be looking on very disconsolately, and said —

“Bulbo, my poor lad! come and try on this ring. The Princess Rosalba makes it a present to you.” The magic properties of this ring were uncommonly strong, for no sooner had Bulbo put it on, but lo and behold, he appeared a personable, agreeable young Prince enough — with a fine complexion, fair hair, rather stout, and with bandy legs; but these were encased in such a beautiful pair of yellow morocco boots that nobody remarked them. And Bulbo’s spirits rose up almost immediately after he had looked in the glass, and he talked to their Majesties in the most lively, agreeable manner, and danced opposite the Queen with one of the prettiest maids of honor, and after looking at her Majesty, could not help saying, “How very odd! she is very pretty, but not so EXTRAORDINARILY handsome.” “Oh no, by no means!” says the Maid of Honor.

“But what care I, dear sir,” says the Queen, who overheard them, “if YOU think I am good-looking enough?”

His Majesty’s glance in reply to this affectionate speech was such that no painter could draw it. And the Fairy Blackstick said, “Bless you, my darling children! Now you are united and happy; and now you see what I said from the first, that a little misfortune has done you both good. YOU, Giglio, had you been bred in prosperity, would scarcely have learned to read or write — you would have been idle and extravagant, and could not have been a good King as now you will be. You, Rosalba, would have been so flattered, that your little head might have been turned like Angelica’s, who thought herself too good for Giglio.”

“As if anybody could be good enough for HIM,” cried Rosalba.

“Oh, you, you darling!” says Giglio. And so she was; and he was just holding out his arms in order to give her a hug before the whole company, when a messenger came rushing in, and said, “My Lord, the enemy!”

“To arms!” cries Giglio.

“Oh, mercy!” says Rosalba, and fainted of course. He snatched one kiss from her lips, and rushed FORTH TO THE FIELD of battle!

The Fairy had provided King Giglio with a suit of armor, which was not only embroidered all over with jewels, and blinding to your eyes to look at, but was water-proof, gun-proof, and sword-proof; so that in the midst of the very hottest battles his Majesty rode about as calmly as if he had been a British Grenadier at Alma. Were I engaged in fighting for my country, I should like such a suit of armor as Prince Giglio wore; but, you know, he was a Prince of a fairy tale, and they always have these wonderful things.

Besides the fairy armor, the Prince had a fairy horse, which would gallop at any pace you pleased; and a fairy sword, which would lengthen and run through a whole regiment of enemies at once. With such a weapon at command, I wonder, for my part, he thought of ordering his army out; but forth they all came, in magnificent new uniforms, Hedzoff and the Prince’s two college friends each commanding a division, and his Majesty prancing in person at the head of them all.

Ah! if I had the pen of a Sir Archibald Alison, my dear friends, would I not now entertain you with the account of a most tremendous shindy? Should not fine blows be struck? dreadful wounds be delivered? arrows darken the air? cannon balls crash through the battalions? cavalry charge infantry? infantry pitch into cavalry? bugles blow; drums beat; horses neigh; fifes sing; soldiers roar, swear, hurray; officers shout out, “Forward, my men!” “This way, lads!” “Give it ’em, boys!” “Fight for King Giglio, and the cause of right!” “King Padella for ever!” Would I not describe all this, I say, and in the very finest language too? But this humble pen does not possess the skill necessary for the description of combats. In a word, the overthrow of King Padella’s army was so complete, that if they had been Russians you could not have wished them to be more utterly smashed and confounded.

As for that usurping monarch, having performed acts of valor much more considerable than could be expected of a royal ruffian and usurper, who had such a bad cause, and who was so cruel to women — as for King Padella, I say, when his army ran away, the King ran away too, kicking his first general, Prince Punchikoff, from his saddle, and galloping away on the Prince’s horse, having, indeed, had twenty-five or twenty-six of his own shot under him. Hedzoff coming up, and finding Punchikoff down, as you may imagine, very speedily disposed of HIM. Meanwhile King Padella was scampering off as hard as his horse could lay legs to ground. Fast as he scampered, I promise you somebody else galloped faster; and that individual, as no doubt you are aware, was the Royal Giglio, who kept bawling out, “Stay, traitor! Turn, miscreant, and defend thyself! Stand, tyrant, coward, ruffian, royal wretch, till I cut thy ugly head from thy usurping shoulders!” And, with his fairy sword, which elongated itself at will, his Majesty kept poking and prodding Padella in the back, until that wicked monarch roared with anguish.

When he was fairly brought to bay, Padella turned and dealt Prince Giglio a prodigious crack over the sconce with his battle-axe, a most enormous weapon, which had cut down I don’t know how many regiments in the course of the afternoon. But, law bless you! though the blow fell right down on his Majesty’s helmet, it made no more impression than if Padella had struck him with a pat of butter: his battle-axe crumpled up in Padella’s hand, and the Royal Giglio laughed for very scorn at the impotent efforts of that atrocious usurper.

At the ill success of his blow the Crim Tartar monarch was justly irritated. “If,” says he to Giglio, “you ride a fairy horse, and wear fairy armor, what on earth is the use of my hitting you? I may as well give myself up a prisoner at once. Your Majesty won’t, I suppose, be so mean as to strike a poor fellow who can’t strike again?”

The justice of Padella’s remark struck the magnanimous Giglio. “Do you yield yourself a prisoner, Padella?” says he.

“Of course I do,” says Padella.

“Do you acknowledge Rosalba as your rightful Queen, and give up the crown and all your treasures to your rightful mistress?”

“If I must, I must,” says Padella, who was naturally very sulky.

By this time King Giglio’s aides-de-camp had come up, whom his Majesty ordered to bind the prisoner. And they tied his hands behind him, and bound his legs tight under his horse, having set him with his face to the tail; and in this fashion he was led back to King Giglio’s quarters, and thrust into the very dungeon where young Bulbo had been confined.

Padella (who was a very different person in the depth of his distress, to Padella, the proud wearer of the Crim Tartar crown), now most affectionately and earnestly asked to see his son — his dear eldest boy — his darling Bulbo; and that good-natured young man never once reproached his haughty parent for his unkind conduct the day before, when he would have left Bulbo to be shot without any pity, but came to see his father, and spoke to him through the grating of the door, beyond which he was not allowed to go; and brought him some sandwiches from the grand supper which his Majesty was giving above stairs, in honor of the brilliant victory which had just been achieved.

“I cannot stay with you long, sir,” says Bulbo, who was in his best ball dress, as he handed his father in the prog. “I am engaged to dance the next quadrille with her Majesty Queen Rosalba, and I hear the fiddles playing at this very moment.”

So Bulbo went back to the ball-room and the wretched Padella ate his solitary supper in silence and tears.

All was now joy in King Giglio’s circle. Dancing, feasting, fun, illuminations, and jollifications of all sorts ensued. The people through whose villages they passed were ordered to illuminate their cottages at night, and scatter flowers on the roads during the day. They were requested — and I promise you they did not like to refuse — to serve the troops liberally with eatables and wine; besides, the army was enriched by the immense quantity of plunder which was found in King Padella’s camp, and taken from his soldiers; who (after they had given up everything) were allowed to fraternize with the conquerors; and the united forces marched back by easy stages towards King Giglio’s capital, his royal banner and that of Queen Rosalba being carried in front of the troops. Hedzoff was made a Duke and a Field Marshal. Smith and Jones were promoted to be Earls; the Crim Tartar Order of the Pumpkin and the Paflagonian decoration of the Cucumber were freely distributed by their Majesties to the army. Queen Rosalba wore the Paflagonian Ribbon of the Cucumber across her riding-habit, whilst King Giglio never appeared without the grand Cordon of the Pumpkin. How the people cheered them as they rode along side by side! They were pronounced to be the handsomest couple ever seen: that was a matter of course; but they really WERE very handsome, and, had they been otherwise, would have looked so, they were so happy! Their Majesties were never separated during the whole day, but breakfasted, dined, and supped together always, and rode side by side, interchanging elegant compliments, and indulging in the most delightful conversation. At night, her Majesty’s ladies of honor (who had all rallied round her the day after King Padella’s defeat) came and conducted her to the apartments prepared for her; whilst King Giglio, surrounded by his gentlemen, withdrew to his own Royal quarters. It was agreed they should be married as soon as they reached the capital, and orders were dispatched to the Archbishop of Blombodinga, to hold himself in readiness to perform the interesting ceremony. Duke Hedzoff carried the message, and gave instructions to have the Royal Castle splendidly refurnished and painted afresh. The Duke seized Glumboso, the Ex-Prime Minister, and made him refund that considerable sum of money which the old scoundrel had secreted out of the late King’s treasure. He also clapped Valoroso into prison (who, by the way, had been dethroned for some considerable period past), and when the ex-monarch weakly remonstrated, Hedzoff said, “A soldier, sir, knows but his duty; my orders are to lock you up along with the ex-King Padella, whom I have brought hither a prisoner under guard.” So these two ex-Royal personages were sent for a year to the House of Correction, and thereafter were obliged to become monks of the severest Order of Flagellants, in which state, by fasting, by vigils, by flogging (which they administered to one another, humbly but resolutely), no doubt they exhibited a repentance for their past misdeeds, usurpations, and private and public crimes.

As for Glumboso, that rogue was sent to the galleys, and never had an opportunity to steal any more.

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/t/thackeray/william_makepeace/rose/chapter17.html

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