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 themselves.
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.