the dagger turned into a bird
and flew away without a word
and when the sultan saw it float
his chubby chest he thereby smote
and cried this woman is a witch
please throw her in the nearest ditch
the gypsy laughed to hear her fate
and cried o sultan it's too late
for i am heavens only daughter
and i will turn the world to water
and at her word the skies fell down
and the sultan and his men did drown
"very good song, and very well sung, jolly companions every one!"
the path finally opened into a clearing filled with tents, including one enormous one with guards posted around it. the little sabretoothed dog which had been following them now came barking past them into the clearing, and a tall thin man wearing a three-cornered hat appeared out of one of the smaller tents and picked it up.
"ho, vanslyperken!", mr 51 called to him.
the thin man came over holding the dog.
"mr vanslyperken is the second secretary to mr bryan." mr 51 announced.
"yes. the second secretary," vanslyperken agreed, lingering over the word "second". "lord beaconsfield is first secretary, and likes to welcome new hires ) himself."
on cue, the flap of another slightly larger tent opened and lord beaconsfield appeared. he strolled up to the little group with his hands clasped behind his back.
mr 51 pointed to sally. 'this young lady is the new third secretary, my lord. and these others are to be her assistants."
"indeed." he looked at sally. "how much is 1,659,523 times 2,475,329?"
"i don't have to answer that," sally answered. "i already have the job."
"4,107,865,407,967!" shouted bessie.
"no, 4,107,865, 408,167!" from ida.
"excellent answers," exclaimed lord beaconsfield. "excellent answers indeed. but, but - " he held up his right hand with the index finger forming an o with the thumb - ' i hesitate - no. i positively decline to supersede the decision of my colleague lord salisbury in this regard. a decision has been made - a decision has been made - is every decision to be reviewed and reviewed again and then the review reviewed? i rather think not. in any case, ladies, there is glory enough to go around in the business at hand. secretary - what is it but a title?" he waved his hand. " and in any case the business of the camp must be got on with. and what exactly - is the business of the camp, you may well be asking, eh?"
"it's a safari." said bessie. "you're hunting stuff."
lord beaconsfield laughed. "lord salisbury referred to our enterprise as a safari, did he? not exactly. i wouldn't call my colleague's description a - a misdirection exactly - no, more of a refinement of a justifiable subterfuge - "
"what are we doing here?' asked sally.
"we are searching for a cure for a terrible and mysterious disease that has befallen mr bryan's daughter. the disease is marked by a severe fluctuation in weight - between three and one-seventh ounces and three thousand pounds. also, she periodically turns into a chicken or an oyster - transformations that defy all explanations relating to the phases of the moon, venus or the houses of saturn." lord beaconsfield paused and shook his head. "you can well imagine how distraught the poor man is, at any rate, doctors have determined that the cure is to be found in locusts - the peculiarly nutritious white winged locusts of atlantis. the complication arises in the insatiable appetite the patient has developed for the cure. this causes great difficulty in counting the locusts -and this is where you ladies come in."
'we're here to count the locusts?" asked ida.
"the locusts and the concatenations of the locusts. we have the honor of having mr alfred russel wallace with us and he will explain how to count the concatenations. now, i will turn you over to lieutenant vanslyperken. carry on, lieutenant. "
the lieutenant motioned to sally, bessie and ida to follow him.
mr 51 and mr 53 started back down the trail, but lord beaconsfield noticed them and called to mr 51. "a word with you, sir!"
'yes, my lord."
"please tell young hansel at the beach that he and his sister haven't been forgotten. i know it's been a bit of a dog's breakfast for him but tell him that the negotiations are continuing - just tell him that."
"delicate negotiations, my lord?"
"delicate,yes, indeed." mr 51 and mr 53 were dismissed and headed back up the path to the beach.
sally, bessie and ida followed vanslyperken. he led them past the tents and down another narrow path in the thick brush. the little dog followed at their heels.
"hold up a minute," said bessie. "what's for dinner? and when do we get it?"
"dinner is locusts, " replied vanslyperken without breaking stride. "as is lunch and breakfast. we have so many locusts it seemed a waste to bring in other supplies - except for mr bryan and his daughter, who have their own special recipe for barbecued chicken and dine on that exclusively."
"locusts!" all three exclaimed together.
"ah, but you shall honey with the locusts. and since the expedition spares no expense, it has employed to prepare the honey no other personages than the emperor napoleon iii and his beautiful consort the empress eugenie. i am sure you will find their presentation quite tasty and tasteful."
they emerged into another clearing. in the center of the clearing stood three giant abaci, each about twenty feet tall and ten feet wide, one of alabaster on the left, one of porphyry on the right, and one of gold in the center. each had a sentinel posted before it iwearing the uniform of napoleon the first's old guard. one had the head of a tiger, the second of a komodo dragon, and the third of a squid. a man in a frock coat was slowly polishing the alabaster abacus with a voluminous blue handkerchief. he turned to face them and they saw that it was mr alfred russel wallace.
mr wallace pointed to sally. "you - and only you. what is 35,862,373 times 86,493,277?"
sally hesitated before answering. " 3,101,854,161,766,321."
he pointed to bessie. "54,974,397 times 43,228,659?"
he pointed to ida. "39,645,337 times 65,769,397?"
"not bad," said mr wallace. "not bad at all. we may get some work done here.' he pointed to sally again. "you hesitated. what was that about, eh?"
"i didn't think i really had to answer," said sally. "i already -"
"enough!" roared mr wallace. "guard!' he pointed to the guard with the squid head. "take this saucy baggage to the kitchen and have her scrub the floor - with a knitting needle." he glared at sally. "don't think you are getting away with anything. your work will be waiting when you finish your scrubbing." he turned with a broad smile to bessie and ida. "now, ladies -"
"excuse me, sir," interrupted the squid-man, as he stepped up to take charge of sally.
"should she use a wooden needle or an iron one?"
"let me think."