"I have, many times; and every time she has refused."
"Well?" said the King harshly.
"Well," said Googly-Goo in a jaunty tone, "a bird that can sing, and won't sing, must be made to sing."
"Huh!" sneered the King. "That's easy, with a bird; but a girl is harder to manage."
"Still," persisted Googly-Goo, "we must overcome difficulties. The chief trouble is that Gloria fancies she loves that miserable gardener's boy, Pon. Suppose we throw Pon into the Great Gulf, your Majesty?"
"It would do you no good," returned the King. "She would still love him."
"Too bad, too bad!" sighed Googly-Goo. "I have laid aside more than a bushel of precious gems --each worth a king's ransom -- to present to your Majesty on the day I wed Gloria."
The King's eyes sparkled, for he loved wealth above everything; but the next moment he frowned deeply again.
"It won't help us to kill Pon," he muttered. "What we must do is kill Gloria's love for Pon."
"That is better, if you can find a way to do it," agreed Googly-Goo. "Everything would come right if you could kill Gloria's love for that gardener's boy. Really, Sire, now that I come to think of it, there must be fully a bushel and a half of those jewels!"
Just then a messenger entered the court to say that the banquet was prepared for the strangers. So Cap'n Bill, Trot and Button-Bright entered the castle and were taken to a room where a fine feast was spread upon the table.
"I don't like that Lord Googly-Goo," remarked Trot as she was busily eating.
"Nor I," said Cap'n Bill. "But from the talk we heard I guess the gardener's boy won't get the Princess."
"Perhaps not," returned the girl; "but I hope old Googly doesn't get her, either."
"The King means to sell her for all those jewels," observed Button-Bright, his mouth half full of cake and jam.
"Poor Princess!" sighed Trot. "I'm sorry for her, although I've never seen her. But if she says no to Googly-Goo, and means it, what can they do?"
"Don't let us worry about a strange Princess," advised Cap'n Bill. "I've a notion we're not too safe, ourselves, with this cruel King."
The two children felt the same way and all three were rather solemn during the remainder of the meal.
When they had eaten, the servants escorted them to their rooms. Cap'n Bill's room was way to one end of the castle, very high up, and Trot's room was at the opposite end, rather low down. As for Button-Bright, they placed him in the middle, so that all were as far apart as they could possibly be. They didn't like this arrangement very well, but all the rooms were handsomely furnished and being guests of the King they dared not complain.
After the strangers had left the courtyard the King and Googly-Goo had a long talk together, and the King said:
"I cannot force Gloria to marry you just now, because those strangers may interfere. I suspect that the wooden- legged man possesses great magical powers, or he would never have been able to carry himself and those children across the deadly desert."
"I don't like him; he looks dangerous," answered Googly-Goo. "But perhaps you are mistaken about his being a wizard. Why don't you test his powers?"
"How?" asked the King.
"Send for the Wicked Witch. She will tell you in a moment whether that wooden-legged person is a common man or a magician."
"Ha! that's a good idea," cried the King. "Why didn't I think of the Wicked Witch before? But the woman demands rich rewards for her services."
"Never mind; I will pay her," promised the wealthy Googly-Goo.
So a servant was dispatched to summon the Wicked Witch, who lived but a few leagues from King Krewl's castle. While they awaited her, the withered old courtier proposed that they pay a visit to Princess Gloria and see if she was not now in a more complaisant mood. So the two started away together and searched the castle over without finding Gloria.
At last Googly-Goo suggested she might be in the rear garden, which was a large park filled with bushes and trees and surrounded by a high wall.