Read CHAPTER XVI - THE NEW KING of Wood Magic A Fable , free online book, by Richard Jefferies, on ReadCentral.com.

Up came the lovely young bride, full of news, and told them that the most extraordinary thing had just happened.

“Whatever is it, my love?” said her husband.

“Quick, whatever is it?” said the squirrel.

“I can’t wait,” said Bevis.

“Nor I,” said the hare.

“Well,” said the lovely creature — for whom an empire had been thrown away — “while the rook council was deliberating about the punishment to be awarded to Ah Kurroo, the legions, disgusted with the treatment they had received after so wonderful a victory, have risen in revolt, overthrown the government, driven the council away, taken the Khan from the tree where he was a prisoner and proclaimed him dictator!”

“Extraordinary!” said the hare; “the rooks always would have it that theirs was the most perfect form of government ever known.”

“No such rebellion was ever heard of before,” said the squirrel, “there is nothing like it in history; I know, for I’ve often slipped into the owl’s muniment room (between you and me) on the sly, and taken a peep at his ancient documents.  It is most extraordinary!”

“I can’t see it,” said the jay; “I don’t agree with you; I am not in the least surprised.  I always said they would never get on with so much caw-cawing and talking every evening; I always said — ”

“Gentlemen,” shouted the woodpecker, rushing up breathless with haste, “I am sent round to tell you from the dictator that you can now proceed to the election of a king without fear of any kind, for he will keep the enemy employed should they appear, and he will over-awe the two pretenders, Ki Ki and Kauc.  Let every one say what he thinks without dread, and let there be no bribery and no intimidation.  In the name of Ah Kurroo Khan!” and away he flew through the copse to make the proclamation.

Immediately afterwards the owl, blundering in the daylight, came past and said that they had better come on to his house, for he had just had a private interview with the Khan, and had orders to preside over this business.  So Bevis and the squirrel, the hare and the two jays proceeded to the pollard-tree; there was no need for Bevis to hide now, because he was recognised as a great friend of the squirrel’s and the enemy of the weasel.  A noisy crowd had already collected, which was augmented every minute, and there was a good deal of rough pushing and loud talking, not unmingled with blows.  They were all there (except the weasel), the goldfinch, the tomtit, the chaffinch, the thrush, the blackbird, the missel-thrush, all of them, jays, the alien pigeons, doves, woodpeckers, the rat, the mouse, the stoat, and the fox.

As the crowd increased, so did the uproar, till the owl appeared at the balcony of his mansion, and the woodpecker called for silence.  The owl, when he could get a hearing, said they were all to give their opinions and say who they would have for their king.  And that there might be less confusion he would call upon the least of them in size and the youngest in age to speak first, and so on upwards to the oldest and biggest.

“I’m the least,” cried the wren, coming forward without a moment’s delay, “and I think that, after all I have seen of the ins and outs of the world, I myself should make a very good king.”

“Indeed you’re not the smallest,” said Te-te, the tomtit; “I am the smallest, besides which you are a smuggler.  Now I, on the contrary, have already rendered great services to my country, and I am used to official life.”

“Yes, you spy,” cried Tchink, the chaffinch; and all the assembly hissed Te-te, till he was obliged to give way, as he could not make himself heard.

“Why not have a queen?” said the goldfinch.  “I should think you have had enough of kings; now, why not have me for queen?  I have the richest dress of all.”

“Nothing of the kind,” said the yellow-hammer, “I wear cloth of gold myself.”

“As for that,” said the woodpecker, “I myself have no little claim on the score of colour.”

“But you have no such azure as me,” said the kingfisher.

“Such gaudy hues are in the worst possible taste,” said the blackbird, “and very vulgar.  Now, if I were chosen — ”

“Well,” said the thrush, “well, I never heard anything equal to the blackbird’s assurance; he who has never held the slightest appointment.  Now, my relation was ambassador — ”

“I think,” said the dove, “I should be able, if I held the position, to conciliate most parties, and make everything smooth.”

“You’re much too smooth for me,” said Tchink.  “It’s my belief you’re hand-in-glove with Choo Hoo, for all your tender ways — dear me!”

“If experience,” said Cloctaw, “if experience is of any value on a throne, I think I myself — ”

“Experience!” cried the jay, in high disdain, “what is he talking of?  Poor Cloctaw has gone past his prime; however, we must make allowance for his infirmities.  You want some one with a decided opinion like myself, ladies and gentlemen!”

“If I might speak,” began one of the alien wood-pigeons, but they shouted him down.

“I don’t mean to be left out of this business, I can tell you,” said the mole, suddenly thrusting his snout up through the ground; “I consider I have been too much overlooked.  But no election will be valid without my vote.  Now, I can tell you that there’s not a fellow living who knows more than I do.”

“Since the throne is vacant,” said the mouse, “why should not I be nominated?”

“I do not like the way things have been managed,” said the rat; “there were too many fine feathers at the court of the late king.  Fur must have a turn now — if I am elected I shall make somebody who wears fur my prime minister.”  This was a bold bid for the support of all the four-footed creatures, and was not without its effect.

“I call that downright bribery,” said the jay.

“Listen to me a minute,” said Sec, the stoat; but as they were now all talking together no one could address the assembly.

After a long time Bevis lost all patience, and held up his cannon-stick, and threatened to shoot the next one who spoke, which caused a hush.

“There’s one thing I want to say,” said Bevis, frowning, and looking very severe, as he stamped his foot.  “I have made up my mind on one point.  Whoever you have for king you shall not have the weasel, for I will shoot him as dead as a nail the first time I see him.”

“Hurrah!” cried everybody at once.  “Hurrah for little Sir Bevis!”

“Now,” said Bevis, “I see the owl wants to speak, and as he’s the only sensible one among you, just be quiet and hear what he’s got to say.”

At this the owl, immensely delighted, made Sir Bevis a profound bow, and begged to observe that one thing seemed to have escaped the notice of the ladies and gentlemen whom he saw around him.  It was true they were all of noble blood, and many of them could claim a descent through countless generations.  But they had overlooked the fact that, noble as they were, there was among them one with still higher claims; one who had royal blood in his veins, whose ancestors had been kings, and kings of high renown.  He alluded to the fox.

At this the fox, who had not hitherto spoken, and kept rather in the background, modestly bent his head, and looked the other way.

“The fox,” cried Tchink, “impossible — he’s nobody.”

“Certainly not,” said Te-te, “a mere nonentity.”

“Quite out of the question,” said the goldfinch.

“Out of the running,” said the hare.

“Absurd,” said the jay; and they all raised a clamour, protesting that even to mention the fox was to waste the public time.

“I am not so sure of that,” muttered Cloctaw.  “We might do worse; I should not object.”  But his remark was unheeded by all save the fox, whose quick ear caught it.

Again there was a great clamour and uproar, and not a word could be heard, and again Bevis had to lift up his cannon-stick.  Just then Ah Kurroo Khan sent a starling to know if they had finished, because Choo Hoo had quitted his camp, and his outposts were not a mile off.

“In that case,” said the owl, “our best course will be to stop further discussion, and to put the matter to the test of the vote at once.  (’Hear, hear.’) Do you then all stand off a good way, so that no one shall be afraid to do as he chooses, and then come to me one at a time, beginning with the wren (as she spoke first), and let each tell me who he or she votes for, and the reason why, and then I will announce the result.”

So they all stood off a good way, except Sir Bevis, who came closer to the pollard to hear what the voters said, and to see that all was done fairly.  When all was ready the owl beckoned to the wren, and the wren flew up and whispered:  “I vote for the fox because Te-te shall not have the crown”.

Next came Te-te, and he said:  “I vote for the fox because the wren shall not have it”.

Then Tchink, who said he voted for the fox so that the goldfinch should not have the throne.

The goldfinch voted for the fox that the yellow-hammer should not have it, and the yellow-hammer because the goldfinch should not succeed.  The jay did the same because Tchack-tchack should not have it; the dove because the pigeon should not have it; the blackbird to oust the thrush, and the thrush to stop the blackbird; the sparrow to stop the starling, and the starling to stop the sparrow; the woodpecker to stop the kingfisher, and the kingfisher to stop the woodpecker; and so on all through the list, all voting for the fox in succession, to checkmate their friends’ ambition, down to Cloctaw, who said he voted for the fox because he knew he could not get the throne himself, and considered the fox better than the others.  Lastly, the owl, seeing that Reynard had got the election (which indeed he had anticipated when he called attention to the modest fox), also voted for him.

Then he called the fox forward, and was about to tell him that he was duly elected, and would sit on a throne firmly fixed upon the wide base of a universal plebiscite, when Eric, the missel-thrush (who had taken no part in the proceedings, for he alone regretted Kapchack), cried out that the fox ought to be asked to show some proof of ability before he received the crown.  This was so reasonable that every one endorsed it; and the missel-thrush, seeing that he had made an impression, determined to set the fox the hardest task he could think of, and said that as it was the peculiar privilege of a monarch to protect his people, so the fox, before he mounted the throne, ought to be called upon to devise some effectual means of repelling the onslaught of Choo Hoo.

“Hear, hear!” shouted the assembly, and cried with one voice upon the fox to get them out of the difficulty, and save them from the barbarian horde.

The fox was in the deepest bewilderment, but he carefully concealed his perplexity, and looked down upon the ground as if pondering profoundly, whereas he really had not got the least idea what to do.  There was silence.  Every one waited for the fox.

“Ahem!” said Cloctaw, as if clearing his throat.

The fox detected his meaning, and slyly glanced towards him, when Cloctaw looked at Bevis and winked.  Instantly the fox took the hint (afterwards claiming the idea as entirely his own), and lifting his head, said: —

“Ladies and gentlemen, you have indeed set me a most difficult task — so difficult, that should I succeed in solving this problem, I hope shall obtain your complete confidence.  Gentlemen, we have amongst us at this moment a visitor, and one whom we all delight to honour, the more especially as we know him to be the determined foe of that mercenary scoundrel the weasel, who, should I be so fortunate as to obtain the crown, shall, I promise you, never set foot in my palace — I allude to the friend of the squirrel and the hare — I allude to Sir Bevis. (’Hear, hear!  Hurrah for little Sir Bevis!  Three cheers more!’) I see that you respond with enthusiasm to the sentiment I have expressed.  Well, our friend Sir Bevis can, I think, if we call upon him in a respectful and proper manner, help us out of this difficulty.

“He carries in his hand an instrument in which the ignition of certain chemical substances causes an alarming report, and projects a shower of formidable missiles to a distance.  This instrument, which I hear he constructed himself, thereby displaying unparalleled ingenuity, he calls his cannon-stick.  Now if we could persuade him to become our ally, and to bang off his cannon-stick when Choo Hoo comes, I think we should soon see the enemy in full retreat, when the noble dictator, Ah Kurroo Khan, could pursue, and add another to his already lengthy list of brilliant achievements.  I would therefore propose, with the utmost humility, that Sir Bevis be asked to receive a deputation; and I would, with your permission, nominate the hare, the squirrel, and Cloctaw as the three persons best able to convey your wishes.”

At this address there was a general buzz of admiration; people whispered to each other that really the fox was extraordinarily clever, and well worthy to ascend the throne — who would have thought that any one so retiring could have suggested so original, and yet at the same time so practical a course?  The fox’s idea was at once adopted.  Bevis went back with the jay to his seat on the moss under the oak, and there sat down to receive the deputation.

Just as it was about to set out, the fox begged permission to say one word more, which being readily granted, he asked if he might send a message by the starling to Ah Kurroo Khan.  The present, he said, seemed a most favourable moment for destroying those dangerous pretenders, Ki Ki and Kauc.  Usually their brigand retainers were scattered all over the country, miles and miles apart, and while thus separated it would require an immense army — larger than the state in the present exhausted condition of the treasury could afford to pay without fresh taxes — to hunt the robbers down in their woods and fastnesses.  But they were now concentrated, and preparing no doubt for a raid upon the copse.

Now if Ah Kurroo Khan were asked to fall upon them immediately, he could destroy them in the mass, and overthrow them without difficulty.  Might he send such a message to the Khan?  The assembly applauded the fox’s foresight, and away flew the starling with the message.  Ah Kurroo, only too delighted to have the opportunity of overthrowing his old enemy Kauc, and his hated rival Ki Ki, immediately gave the order to advance to his legions.

Meantime the deputation, consisting of the hare, the squirrel, and Cloctaw, waited upon Sir Bevis, who received them very courteously upon his seat of moss under the oak.  He replied that he would shoot off his cannon-stick with the greatest pleasure, if they would show him in which direction they expected Choo Hoo to come.  So the hare, the squirrel, and Cloctaw, with all the crowd following behind, took him to a gap in the hedge round the copse on the western side, and pointed out to him the way the enemy would come.

Indeed, Sir Bevis had hardly taken his stand and seen to the priming than the van-guard of the barbarians appeared over the tops of the trees.  They were pushing on with all speed, for it seems that the outposts had reported to the emperor that there was a division in the copse, and that civil war had broken out, being deceived by the attack delivered by Ah Kurroo upon the black pretender Kauc.  Up then came the mighty host in such vast and threatening numbers that the sun was darkened as it had been on the day of the eclipse, and the crowd behind Sir Bevis, overwhelmed with fear, could scarce stand their ground.  But Sir Bevis, not one whit daunted, dropped upon one knee, and levelling his cannon-stick upon the other, applied his match.  The fire and smoke and sound of the report shook the confidence of the front ranks of the enemy; they paused and wheeled to the right and left instead of advancing.

In a minute Bevis had his cannon-stick charged again, and bang it went.  The second rank now turned and fell back and threw the host into confusion; still the vast numbers behind pushed blindly on.  Bevis, in a state of excitement, now prepared for a grand effort.  He filled his cannon with powder nearly to the muzzle, he rammed it down tight, and fearing lest it might kick and hurt him, he fixed his weapon on the stump of an elm which had been thrown some winters since, and whose fall had made the gap in the hedge.  Then he cut a long, slender willow stick, slit it at one end, and inserted his match in the cleft.  He could thus stand a long way back out of harm’s way and ignite the priming.  The report that followed was so loud the very woods rang again, the birds fluttered with fear, and even the fox, bold as he was, shrank back from such a tremendous explosion.

Quite beside themselves with panic fear, the barbarian host turned and fled in utter confusion, nor could Choo Hoo, with all his efforts, rally them again, for having once suffered defeat in the battle of the eclipse, they had lost confidence.  Ah Kurroo Khan, just as he had driven in the defenders and taken Kauc’s camp (though Kauc himself, like the coward he was, escaped before the conflict began), saw the confusion and retreat of Choo Hoo’s host, and without a moment’s delay hurled his legions once more on the retiring barbarians.  The greater number fled in every direction, each only trying to save himself; but the best of Choo Hoo’s troops took refuge in their old camp.

Ah Kurroo Khan surrounded and invested the camp, but he hesitated to storm it, for he knew that it would entail heavy losses.  He prepared to blockade Choo Hoo with such strictness that he must eventually surrender from sheer hunger.  He despatched a starling with a message, describing the course he had taken at once to the copse, and the starling, flying with great speed, arrived there in a few minutes.  Meanwhile the assembly, delighted with the success which had attended Bevis’s cannonading, crowded round and overwhelmed him with their thanks.  Then when their excitement had somewhat abated, they remembered that the idea had emanated from the fox, and it was resolved to proceed with his coronation at once.  Just then the starling arrived from the Khan.

“Ah! yes,” said Eric, the missel-thrush, who wanted Tchack-tchack to ascend the throne of his fathers, “it is true Choo Hoo is driven back and his camp surrounded.  But do you bear in mind that Tu Kiu is not in it.  He, they say, has gone into the west and has already collected a larger host than even Choo Hoo commanded, who are coming up as fast as they can to avenge the Battle of the Eclipse.  You must also remember that Sir Bevis cannot be always here with his cannon-stick; he is not often here in the morning, and who can tell that some day while he is away Tu Kiu may not appear and, while Choo Hoo makes a sortie and engages Ah Kurroo’s attention, come on here and ravage the whole place, destroy all our stores, and leave us without a berry or an acorn!  It seems to me that the fox has only got us into a deeper trouble than ever, for if Choo Hoo or Tu Kiu ever does come down upon us, they will exact a still worse vengeance for the disgrace they have suffered.  The fox has only half succeeded; he must devise something more before he can claim our perfect confidence.”

“Hear, hear!” shouted the assembly, “the missel-thrush is right.  The fox must do something more!”

Now the fox hated the missel-thrush beyond all expression, for just as he was, as it seemed, about to grasp the object of his ambition, the missel-thrush always suggested some new difficulty and delayed his triumph, but he suppressed his temper and said:  “The missel-thrush is a true patriot, and speaks with a view not to his own interest but to the good of his country.  I myself fully admit the truth of his observations; Choo Hoo is indeed checked for a time, but there is no knowing how soon we may hear the shout of ‘Koos-takke’ again.  Therefore, gentlemen, I would, with all humility, submit the following suggestion.

“There can be no doubt but that this invasion has gone on year after year, because the kingdom of Kapchack had become somewhat unwieldy with numerous annexations, and could not be adequately defended.  This policy of annexation which the late government carried on for so long, bore, indeed, upon the surface the false glitter of glory.  We heard of provinces and principalities added to the realm, and we forgot the cost.  That policy has no doubt weakened the cohesive power of the kingdom:  I need not pause here to explain to an audience of the calibre I see before me the difference between progress and expansion, between colonisation and violent, uncalled-for, and unjust annexation.

“What I am now about to suggest will at once reduce taxation, fill our impoverished treasury, secure peace, and I believe impart a lasting stability to the state.  It will enable us one and all to enjoy the fruits of the earth.  I humbly propose that a treaty be made with Choo Hoo (’Oh!  Oh!’ from the missel-thrush and Tchack-tchack), that upon the payment of an ample war indemnity — say a million nuts, two million acorns, and five million berries, or some trifling figure like that, not to be too exorbitant — he be permitted to withdraw (’Shame!’ from Tchack-tchack), and that the provinces torn by force and fraud by the late government from their lawful owners be restored to them (’Which means,’ said the missel-thrush, ’that as the lawful owners are not strong enough to protect themselves, Choo Hoo may plunder half the world as he likes’), and that peace be proclaimed.  I, for my part, would far rather — if I be so fortunate as to be your king — I say I would far rather rule over a contented and prosperous people than over an empire in which the sword is never in the scabbard!”

“Hear, hear!” shouted the assembly.  “We have certainly selected the right person:  this is truly wisdom.  Let the treaty be concluded; and what a feast we will have upon the war indemnity,” they said to one another.

“It is selling our honour — making a bargain and a market of our ancestors’ courage,” said the missel-thrush.

“It is a vile infringement of my right,” said Tchack-tchack; “I am robbed of my inheritance, and the people of theirs, under a false pretext and sham.  The country will be ruined.”

“Begone,” shouted the crowd, “begone, you despicable wretches,” and away flew the missel-thrush and Tchack-tchack in utter disgust and despair.

So soon as they had gone the assembly proceeded to appoint a Commission to negotiate the treaty of peace.  It consisted of the woodpecker, the thrush, and Cloctaw:  the stoat muttered a good deal, for having been almost the only adherent of the fox in his former lowly condition, he expected profitable employment now his friend had obtained such dignity.  The fox, however, called him aside and whispered something which satisfied him, and the Commission having received instructions proceeded at once to Ah Kurroo, who was to furnish them with a flag of truce.  A company of starlings went with them to act as couriers and carry intelligence.  When the Commission reached Ah Kurroo, he declined to open a truce with Choo Hoo, even for a moment, and presently, as the Commission solemnly demanded obedience in the name of the fox, he decided to go himself to the king-elect and explain the reasons — of a purely military character — which led him to place this obstruction in their way.

The fox received Ah Kurroo with demonstrations of the deepest respect, congratulated him upon his achievements, and admired the disposition he had made of his forces so as to completely blockade the enemy.  Ah Kurroo, much pleased with this reception, and the appreciation of his services, pointed out that Choo Hoo was now so entirely in his power, that in a few days he would have to surrender, as provisions were failing him.  Long ere Tu Kiu could return with the relieving column the emperor would be a captive.  Ah Kurroo begged the fox not to throw away this glorious opportunity.

The king-elect, who had his own reasons for not desiring the Khan to appear too victorious, listened attentively, but pointed out that it was not so much himself, but the nation which demanded instant peace.

“Moreover,” said he in a whisper to the Khan, “don’t you see, my dear general, that if you totally destroy Choo Hoo your occupation will be gone; we shall not require an army or a general.  Now as it is my intention to appoint you commander-in-chief for life — ”

“Say no more,” said Ah Kurroo, “say no more;” then aloud:  “Your royal highness’ commands shall be immediately obeyed;” and away he flew, and gave the Commission the flag of truce.

Choo Hoo, confined in his camp with a murmuring and mutinous soldiery, short of provisions, and expecting every moment to see the enemy pouring into his midst, was beyond measure delighted when he heard that peace was proposed, indeed he could scarcely believe that any one in his senses could offer such a thing to an army which must inevitably surrender in a few hours.  But when he heard that the fox was the king-elect, he began to comprehend, for there were not wanting suspicions that it was the fox who, when Choo Hoo was only a nameless adventurer, assisted him with advice.

The Commission, therefore, found their task easy enough so far as the main point was concerned, that there should be peace, but when they came to discuss the conditions it became a different matter.  The fox, a born diplomat, had instructed them to put forward the hardest conditions first, and if they could not force these upon Choo Hoo to gradually slacken them, little by little, till they overcame his reluctance.  At every step they sent couriers to the king-elect with precise information of their progress.

The negotiations lasted a very long time, quite an hour, during which the couriers flew incessantly to and fro, and Bevis, lying on his back on the moss under the oak, tried which could screech the loudest, himself or the jay.  Bevis would easily have won had he been able to resist the inclination to pull the jay’s tail, which made the latter set up such a yell that everybody started, Bevis shouted with laughter, and even the fox lost his gravity.

Choo Hoo agreed to everything without much difficulty, except the indemnity; he drew back at that, declaring it was too many millions, and there was even some danger of the negotiations being broken off.  But the fox was equally firm, he insisted on it, and even added 10,000 bushels of grain to the original demand, at which Choo Hoo nearly choked with indignation.  The object of the fox in requiring the grain was to secure the faithful allegiance of all his lesser subjects, as the sparrows, and indeed he regarded the indemnity as the most certain means of beginning his reign at the height of popularity, since it would be distributed among the nation.  People could not, moreover, fail to remark the extreme disinterestedness of the king, since of all these millions of berries, acorns, nuts, grain, and so forth, there was not one single mouthful for himself.  Choo Hoo, as said before, full of indignation, abruptly turned away from the Commission, and, at a loss what to do, they communicated with the fox.

He ordered them to inform Choo Hoo that under certain restrictions travellers would in future be permitted access to the spring in the copse which did not freeze in winter.  The besieged emperor somewhat relaxed the austerity of his demeanour at this; another pourparler took place, in the midst of which the fox told the Commission to mention (as if casually) that among others there would be a clause restoring independence to all those princes and archdukes whose domains the late Kapchack had annexed.  Choo Hoo could scarce maintain decorum when he heard this; he could have shouted with delight, for he saw in a moment that it was equivalent to ceding half Kapchack’s kingdom, since these small Powers would never be able to defend themselves against his hosts.

At the same moment, too, he was called aside, and informed that a private messenger had arrived from the fox:  it was the humble-bee, who had slipped easily through the lines and conveyed a strong hint from the king-elect.  The fox said he had done the best he could for his brother, the emperor, remembering their former acquaintance; now let the emperor do his part, and between them they could rule the earth with ease.  Choo Hoo, having told the humble-bee that he quite understood, and that he agreed to the fox’s offer, dismissed him, and returned to the Commission, whose labours were now coming to a close.

All the clauses having been agreed to, Ess, the owl, as the most practised in such matters, was appointed by the fox to draw up the document in proper form for signature.  While this was being done, the king-elect proceeded to appoint his Cabinet:  Sec, the stoat, was nominated treasurer; Ah Kurroo Khan, commander-in-chief for life; Ess, the owl, continued chief secretary of state; Cloctaw was to be grand chamberlain; Raoul, the rat, lieutenant-governor of the coast (along the brook and Long Pond), and so on.

Next the weasel, having failed to present himself when summoned by the woodpecker, was attainted as contumacious, and sentenced, with the entire approval of the assembly, to lose all his dignities and estates; his woods, parks, forests, and all his property were escheated to the Crown, and were by the king handed over to his faithful follower Sec.  The weasel (whose whereabouts could not be discovered) was also proclaimed an outlaw, whom any one might slay without fear of trial.  It was then announced that all others who absented themselves from the court, and were not present when the treaty was signed, would be treated as traitors, and receive the same punishment as the weasel.

Immediately he heard this, Yiwy, son and heir of Ki Ki, the hawk, who had fled, came and paid homage to the fox, first to save the estates from confiscation, and secondly that he might enjoy them in his father’s place.  Ki Ki was accordingly declared an outlaw.  Directly afterwards, Kauc, the crow, crept in, much crestfallen, and craved pardon, hoping to save his property.  The assembly received him with hisses and hoots:  still the fox kept his word, and permitted him to retain his estates upon payment of an indemnity for the cost of the troops employed against him under Ah Kurroo, of 100,000 acorns.  Kauc protested that he should be ruined:  but the crowd would not hear him, and he was obliged to submit.

Then Eric, the missel-thrush, and Prince Tchack-tchack flew up:  the prince had yielded to good advice, and resolved to smother his resentment in order to enjoy the immense private domains of his late parent.  The protocols were now ready, and the fox had already taken the document to sign, when there was a rush of wings, and in came six or seven of those princes and archdukes — among them the archduke of the peewits — to whom independence was to be restored.  They loudly proclaimed their loyalty, and begged not to be cast off:  declaring that they were quite unable to defend themselves, and should be mercilessly plundered by the barbarian horde.  The fox lifted his paw in amazement that there should exist on the face of the earth any such poltroons as this, who preferred to pay tribute and enjoy peace rather than endure the labour of defending their own independence.  The whole assembly cried shame upon them, but the princes persisted, and filled the court with their lamentations, till at a sign from the king they were hustled out of the copse.

The treaty itself filled so many pages of parchment that no one attempted to read it, the owl certifying that it was all correct:  an extract, however, divested of technical expressions, was handed about the court, and was to the following effect: —

The Treaty of Windflower Copse.

1.  The high contracting parties to this treaty are and shall be, on the one side, King Reynard CI., and on the other side, Choo Hoo the emperor.

2.  It is declared that Kapchack being dead honour is satisfied, and further fighting superfluous.

3.  Choo Hoo agrees to pay a war indemnity of one million nuts, two million acorns, five million berries, and ten thousand bushels of grain, in ten equal instalments, the first instalment the day of the full moon next before Christmas, and the remainder at intervals of a fortnight.

4.  The spring in the copse, which does not freeze in winter, is declared free and open to all travellers, not exceeding fifty in number.

5.  The copse itself is hereby declared a neutral zone, wherein all councils, pourparlers, parliaments, commissions, markets, fairs, meetings, courts of justice, and one and all and every such assembly for public or private purposes, may be and shall be held, without let or hindrance, saving only: — (a) Plots against His Majesty King Reynard CI.; (b) plots against His Imperial Majesty Choo Hoo.

6.  The unjust annexations of the late King Kapchack are hereby repudiated, and all the provinces declared independent.

7.  Lastly, peace is proclaimed for ever and a day, beginning to-morrow.

(Signed)
His Majesty King Reynard CI. 
His Imperial Majesty the Emperor Choo Hoo. 
B. (for Sir Bevis). 
Sec, the stoat (Treasurer). 
Ah Kurroo Khan (Commander-in-Chief). 
Ess, the owl (Chief Secretary of State). 
Cloctaw, the jackdaw (Grand Chamberlain). 
Raoul, the rat (Lieutenant-Governor of the Coasts). 
Phu, the starling. 
Tchink, the chaffinch. 
Te-te, the tomtit. 
Ulu, the hare. 
Eric, the missel-thrush. 
Tchack-tchack, the magpie, etc., etc., etc.

Every one in fact signed it but the weasel, who was still lying sullenly perdu.  The B. was for Bevis; the fox, who excelled in the art of paying delicate compliments, insisted upon Bevis signing next to the high contracting parties.  So taking the quill, Bevis printed a good big B, a little staggering, but plain and legible.  Directly this business was concluded, Ah Kurroo withdrew his legions; Choo Hoo sallied forth from the camp, and returning the way he had come, in about an hour was met by his son Tu Kiu at the head of enormous reinforcements.  Delighted at the treaty, and the impunity they now enjoyed, the vast barbarian horde, divided into foraging parties of from one hundred to a thousand, spread over a tract of country thirty miles wide, rolled like a devastating tidal wave in resistless course southwards, driving the independent princes before them, plundering, ravaging, and destroying, and leaving famine behind.  Part of the plunder indeed, of the provinces recently attached to Kapchack’s kingdom, and now declared independent, furnished the first instalment of the war indemnity the barbarians had engaged to pay.

Meantime, in the copse, preparations were made for the coronation of the king, who had assumed, in accordance with well-known precedents, that all his ancestors, whether acknowledged or not, had reigned, and called himself King Reynard the Hundred and First.  The procession having been formed, and all the ceremonies completed, Bevis banged off his cannon-stick as a salute, and the fox, taking the crown, proceeded to put it on his head, remarking as he did so that thus they might see how when rogues fall out honest folk come by their own.