Files turned around and, seeing the strangers for the first time, examined them with much curiosity. Then, discovering that three of the party were girls, he lifted his cap and made a polite bow.
"What's all this?" demanded a harsh voice, as Queen Ann reached the place and beheld her kneeling army.
"Permit us to introduce ourselves," replied Shaggy, stepping forward. "This is Tik-Tok, the Clockwork Man--who works better than some meat people. And here is Princess Ozga of Roseland, just now unfortunately exiled from her Kingdom of Roses. I next present Polychrome, a sky fairy, who lost her Bow by an accident and can't find her way home. The small girl here is Betsy Bobbin, from some unknown earthly paradise called Oklahoma, and with her you see Mr. Hank, a mule with a long tail and a short temper."
"Puh!" said Ann, scornfully; "a pretty lot of vagabonds you are, indeed; all lost or strayed, I suppose, and not worth a Queen's plundering. I'm sorry I've conquered you."
"But you haven't conquered us yet," called Betsy indignantly.
"No," agreed Files, "that is a fact. But if my officers will kindly command me to conquer you, I will do so at once, after which we can stop arguing and converse more at our ease."
The officers had by this time risen from their knees and brushed the dust from their trousers. To them the enemy did not look very fierce, so the Generals and Colonels and Majors and Captains gained courage to face them and began strutting in their most haughty manner.
"You must understand," said Ann, "that I am the Queen of Oogaboo, and this is my invincible Army. We are busy conquering the world, and since you seem to be a part of the world, and are obstructing our journey, it is necessary for us to conquer you--unworthy though you may be of such high honor."
"That's all right," replied Shaggy. "Conquer us as often as you like. We don't mind."
"But we won't be anybody's slaves," added Betsy, positively.
"We'll see about that," retorted the Queen, angrily. "Advance, Private Files, and bind the enemy hand and foot!"
But Private Files looked at pretty Betsy and fascinating Polychrome and the beautiful Rose Princess and shook his head.
"It would be impolite, and I won't do it," he asserted.
"You must!" cried Ann. "It is your duty to obey orders."
"I haven't received any orders from my officers," objected the Private.
But the Generals now shouted: "Forward, and bind the prisoners!" and the Colonels and Majors and Captains repeated the command, yelling it as loud as they could.
All this noise annoyed Hank, who had been eyeing the Army of Oogaboo with strong disfavor. The mule now dashed forward and began backing upon the officers and kicking fierce and dangerous heels at them. The attack was so sudden that the officers scattered like dust in a whirlwind, dropping their swords as they ran and trying to seek refuge behind the trees and bushes.
Betsy laughed joyously at the comical rout of the "noble army," and Polychrome danced with glee. But Ann was furious at this ignoble defeat of her gallant forces by one small mule.
"Private Files, I command you to do your duty!" she cried again, and then she herself ducked to escape the mule's heels--for Hank made no distinction in favor of a lady who was an open enemy. Betsy grabbed her champion by the forelock, however, and so held him fast, and when the officers saw that the mule was restrained from further attacks they crept fearfully back and picked up their discarded swords.
"Private Files, seize and bind these prisoners!" screamed the Queen.
"No," said Files, throwing down his gun and removing the knapsack which was strapped to his back, "I resign my position as the Army of Oogaboo. I enlisted to fight the enemy and become a hero, but if you want some one to bind harmless girls you will have to hire another Private."
Then he walked over to the others and shook hands with Shaggy and Tik-Tok.
"Treason!" shrieked Ann, and all the officers echoed her cry.