PRINCE PRIGIO did not go to bed. It was bright daylight, and he had promised to bring the horns and tail of a Fire-drake as a present to a pretty lady.
He had said it was easy to do this; but now, as he sat and thought over it, he did not feel so victorious.
“First,” he said, “where is the Firedrake?”
He reflected for a little, and then ran upstairs to the garret.
“It should be here!” he cried, tossing the fairies’ gifts about; “and, by George, here it is!”
Indeed, he had found the spyglass of carved ivory which Prince Ali, in the Arabian Nights, bought in the bazaar in Schiraz. Now, this glass was made so that, by looking through it, you could see anybody or anything you wished, however far away. Prigio’s first idea was to look at his lady. “But she does not expect to be looked at,” he thought; “and I won’t!” On the other hand, he determined to look at the Firedrake; for, of course, he had no delicacy about spying on him, the brute.
The prince clapped the glass to his eye, stared out of window, and there, sure enough, he saw the Firedrake. He was floating about in a sea of molten lava, on the top of a volcano. There he was, swimming and diving for pleasure, tossing up the flaming waves, and blowing fountains of fire out of his nostrils, like a whale spouting!
The prince did not like the looks of him.
“With all my cap of darkness, and my shoes of swiftness, and my sword of sharpness, I never could get near that beast,” he said; “and if I did stalk him, I could not hurt him. Poor little Alphonso! poor Enrico! what plucky fellows they were! I fancied that there was no such thing as a Firedrake: he’s not in the Natural History books; and I thought the boys were only making fun, and would be back soon, safe and sound. How horrid being too clever makes one! And now, what am I to do?”
What was he to do, indeed? And what would you have done? Bring the horns and tail he must, or perish in the adventure. Otherwise, how could he meet his lady?—why, she would think him a mere braggart!
The prince sat down, and thought and thought; and the day went on, and it was now high noon.
At last he jumped up and rushed into the library, a room where nobody ever went except himself and the queen. There he turned the books upside down, in his haste, till he found an old one, by a French gentleman, Monsieur Cyrano de Bergerac. It was an account of a voyage to the moon, in which there is a great deal of information about matters not generally known; for few travellers have been to the moon. In that book, Prince Prigio fancied he would find something he half remembered, and that would be of use to him. And he did! So you see that cleverness, and minding your book, have some advantages, after all. For here the prince learned that there is a very rare beast, called a Remora, which is at least as cold as the Firedrake is hot!
“Now,” thought he, “if I can only make these two fight, why the Remora may kill the Fire-drake, or take the heat out of him, at least, so that I may have a chance.”
Then he seized the ivory glass, clapped it to his eye, and looked for the Remora. Just the tip of his nose, as white as snow and as smooth as ice, was sticking out of a chink in a frozen mountain, not far from the burning mountain of the Firedrake.
“Hooray!” said the prince softly to himself; and he jumped like mad into the winged shoes of swiftness, stuck on the cap of darkness, girdled himself with the sword of sharpness, and put a good slice of bread, with some cold tongue, in a wallet, which he slung on his back. Never you fight, if you can help it, except with plenty of food to keep you going and in good heart. Then off he flew, and soon he reached the volcano of the Firedrake.