A few paces off the soldiers hesitated and stopped altogether, and Kwytoffle yelled at the captain:
"Why don't you go on? Why don't you capture them? Why don't you fight them?"
"Why, they have drawn their swords!" responded the captain, reproachfully.
"Who cares?" roared the sorcerer.
"We care," said the captain, giving a shudder, as he looked upon the strangers. "Their swords are sharp, and some of us would get hurt."
"You're cowards!" shrieked the enraged Kwytoffle. "I'll turn you all into June-bugs!"
At this threat the soldiers dropped their swords and axes, and all fell upon their knees, trembling visibly and imploring their cruel master not to change them into june-bugs.
"Bah!" cried Nerle, scornfully; "why don't you fight? If we kill you, then you will escape being June-bugs."
"The fact is," said the captain, woefully, "we simply can't fight. For our swords are only tin, and our axes are made of wood, with silver-paper pasted over them."
"But why is that?" asked Wul-Takim, while all the party showed their surprise.
"Why, until now we have never had any need to fight," said the captain, "for every one has quickly surrendered to us or run away the moment we came near. But you people do not appear to be properly frightened, and now, alas! since you have drawn upon us the great sorcerer's anger, we shall all be transformed into June-bugs."
"Yes!" roared Kwytoffle, hopping up and down with anger, "you shall all be June-bugs, and these strangers I will transform into grasshoppers!"
"Very well," said Prince Marvel, quietly; "you can do it now."
"I will! I will!" cried the sorcerer.
"Then why don't you begin?" inquired the prince.
"Why don't I begin? Why, I haven't got the enchantments with me, that's why. Do you suppose we great magicians carry around enchantments in our pockets?" returned the other, in a milder tone.
"Where do you keep your enchantments?" asked the prince.
"They're in my dwelling," snapped Kwytoffle, taking off his hat and fanning his fat face with the brim.
"Then go and get them," said Marvel.
"Nonsense! If I went to get the enchantments you would all run away!" retorted the sorcerer.
"Not so!" protested Nerle, who was beginning to be amused. "My greatest longing in life is to become a grasshopper."
"Oh, yes! PLEASE let us be grasshoppers!" exclaimed the High Ki maids in the same breath.
"We want to hop! We want to hop! Please--PLEASE let us hop!" implored the bald-headed Ki, winking their left eyes at Wul-Takim.
"By all means let us become grasshoppers," said King Terribus, smiling; and Wul-Takim added:
"I'm sure your soldiers would enjoy being June-bugs, for then they wouldn't have to work. Isn't that so, boys?"
The bewildered soldiers looked at one another in perplexity, and the still more bewildered sorcerer gazed on the speakers with staring eyes and wide-open mouth.
"I insist," said Prince Marvel, "upon your turning us into grasshoppers and your soldiers into June-bugs, as you promised. If you do not, then I will flog you--as I promised."
"Very well," returned the sorcerer, with a desperate look upon his face; "I'll go and find the enchantment."
"And we'll go with you," remarked the prince, pleasantly.
So the entire party accompanied Kwytoffle into the house, where they entered a large room that was in a state of much disorder.
"Let me see," said the sorcerer, rubbing his ears, as if trying to think; "I wonder if I put them in this cupboard. You see," he explained, "no one has ever before dared me to transform him into a June-bug or grasshopper, so I have almost forgotten where I keep my book of enchantments. No, it's not in the cupboard," he continued, looking there; "but it surely must be in this chest."
It was not in the chest, either, and so the sorcerer continued to look in all sorts of queer places for his book of enchantments, without finding it. Whenever he paused in his search Prince Marvel would say, sternly:
"Go on! Find the book! Hunt it up.