THE BEAUTIFUL KINGDOM
Mr. Maygild was a model father. He never meant to bring the airy towers of Romavia tumbling down
ROMAVIA WAS discovered the summer the Maygilds rented the while frame house on the bluff, facing t he sea, not far from Wiscasset. It happened when Irene and her brother, David, explored the north arm of the bay.
They came down the cliff, slippery with pine needles, and broke through the fringe of bracken that opened to the water. A tiny island lay before them: really an isthmus, overgrown with scrub pine and low bushes, connected with the beach by a narrow sandspit.
“Land ho!” David said.
“Don’t be silly,” said Irene primly. “You must only say that when we play ship. We must, be like Cortez.” She clasped her hands in front of her and looked with reverence at the little land. “Silent upon a peak in Darien,” she said.
They scrambled among the rocks and crossed over the spit, heedless of wet shoes. The ground was damp and mossy, with outcroppings of micasprinkled rock. A few gnarled evergreens clustered at one end making a patch of shade, the rest was steine and shrubs, tangled bushes that fought each other for breathing space.
“It’s like a fairyland,” Irene whispered. “I wonder who it belongs to?”
“To us,” David said. “Only you got to plant a flag and take possession in the name of the king.”
Irene broke a slender branch and stripped it of its leaves. She tied her handkerchief to it and planted it in a crevice in the rocks.
“I name this land Romavia,” she said. “I take possession of it in the name of Her Most Gracious Majesty, the Queen.”
“What queen?” David asked.
“Me,” said Irene. “The Queen of Romavia, Irene the Second.” -
“Ah, you’ve always got to be queen because you’re the oldest,” David said sulkily. “I guess I can be king sometimes.”
“No,” Irene said. She walked majestically to a little pinnacle of stone and held out her arm in a regal gesture. “Approach, David Maygild. You can’t be king,” she added, in an aside. “Queen Elizabeth never had a king and I’m going to be like her. But you can be my admiral, like Francis Drake. Kneel down.”
David knelt with an ill grace.
“You will command my navy and sink the Armada,” Irene went on. She looked around her, and at last tore another small branch from its desperate hold.
She tapped his shoulder with the twig. “Rise, Sir David of the Red Sleeve. I name you Lord High Admiral of the Ocean Sea.”
“Thank thee, Your Gracious Majesty.”
“You must say, T will strive to perform my best endeavor as me befits a true knight.’ ”
“Aw, no. That’s from ‘The Boys’ King Arthur.’ ” “Oh, please, Davy. It sounds right.”
“Okay, then. I will strive to perform my best endeavor as me befits a true knight.”
“Yes. Now, I charge thee, send out a commission to explore these lands and chart them for Us.”
“I want to see what’s at the foot of the rocks,” said David. He climbed the rise where the twisted hemlocks were gathered.
“We will call this part The Prow,” Irene decided. “And there, to the left, where that patch of bayberry is, will be the province of Mangrove.”
She sank down, her thin freckled legs dangling over the minature precipice. “Right here,” she said softly, looking out into the distance, into the deep space where a misty line marked the edge of the world, “I’ll build me a great palace, and call it-— oh, I’ll call it The Splendid Place.”
David did not hear her. He was already launching his navy from the Sea Wall to follow the unmapped and savage coast of the kingdom.
Irene was not a beautiful child. Her nose was too long and her pale skin was covered with freckles. Her brown hair was long but coarse. Her body, with its sharp elbows and knees, had even less grace than the scrawny bodies of most 10-year-old girls. Nevertheless, within her own imagination, her conception of herself was fluid. At times she was as beautiful as Guinevere; again, her play demanded that she be ugly and aloof. She was no more conscious of unhappiness or loneliness than any girl stepping out of angular childhood is consciously lonely or ill at ease. She was aware only of amazing dreams which reality did not approximate. She was beginning to realize that her parents, those people with whom she had spent all of her life, did not understand what went on in her head, and did not accept her as of their own stature. The rebellion which was forcing her out of the nest flamed up at those times when such realization was made most clear to her.
ONE SUCH moment came on the very evening of the discovery of Romavia, as though a good must be balanced by an ill.
Her father was lounging in an easy chair, resting on the middle of his spine with his legs sprawled out in front of him.
“What’d you do today, Chickie?” he asked, as he opened his newspaper.
“We explored,” Irene said.
“You and Dave ought to have a competition to see which one is the dirtiest,” Mr. Maygild said.
Irene smiled dutifully. “Daddy, who do you suppose owns the land around here?” she asked.
Mr. Maygild turned to the financial page. “The Coveys own this house,” he said. “You know that. About how we rented it.”
“Yes, but I mean suppose you found a sort of island on the coast.
An island in the sea. Would it belong to this land anyway?”
Mr. Maygild prided himself on his treatment of his children as equals. He folded the paper with a sigh and gave his attention to what Irene was saying.
“If you discovered an island off the coast,” he replied patiently, “and it wasn’t attached to the mainland and no one had any prior
claims on it, you could register your discovery, I suppose, and then it would belong to you. Why? Did you find such a place?”
“Well, I was just supposing,” Irene said shyly. She didn’t feel quite ready to announce the discovery of Romavia, and David had been sworn to equal secrecy.
“Is that all, Chickie?” Mr. Maygild said patiently.
“Is that all what?” Mrs. Maygild asked. She brought with her the cool breeze of the icebox, the odor of chocolate, the freshness of lettuce. She shook out a crisp, white, summer tablecloth and spread it on the trestle table. “What are you two conspirators up to?”
“We’re talking about an island Irene has discovered,” said Mr. Maygild. “She plans to retire from the world like Gauguin.”
“Dear me, let’s hope not,” said Mrs. Maygild gaily. “What would Daddy and I do?”
“It’s not that,” Irene said. “1 just, was thinking of having a place that’s all my own.”
Mrs. Maygild raised her eyebrows. “Help me with the forks and spoons, dear,” she said. “We’re having tuna salad since it’s so warm, Richard. I don’t know why you say such things, Irene dear. You have your very own room, don’t you? We all have everything else together. That’s the way a loving family should be.”
“Not necessarily,” Mr. Maygild said, from behind his paper. “Children like things for themselves. You remember how the kids used to fight for toys when they were infants, Peggy.”
“I’m not an infant now,” Irene said. She moved one of t he flat, thin, silver forks a half inch to the left so that it made a symmetrical pattern with the spoon and t he butter knife.
“That’s what I mean,” Mrs. Maygild said, a little impatiently. “You always change the subject, Irene. You should learn to keep to one idea at a time. You’re not an infant. You’re old enough to know about family responsibilities. Going oil to your own corner to sulk is babyish.”
“My island isn’t; a corner to sulk in,” Irene protested. She began to blush furiously and for no particular reason felt close to tears. “I just mean I want a place where I can be free, and do what I want to without anybody but me. A room in a house isn’t the same thing at all.”
Mrs. Maygild put down the cups with a decisive thump and rattle. “Irene,” she said in her “warning” voice. “I can’t imagine where you pick these ideas up. Anyone would think you’re treated dreadfully. Don’t Daddy and I do everything we can to please you? Aren’t we always thoughtful of your interests? I think that’s a perfectly horrid idea—wanting to be ‘free.’ ”
“Your mother’s right, Irene,” said Mr. Maygild. “Perfectly right, Chickie. It isn’t every little girl who has the freedom you have. Just think, coming to the country for the summer: that alone’s enough to make an ordinary kid sing for joy. I’m sure Mommy and I give a lot more attention and consideration to you than most parents do to the wishes and ideas of their children.”
They were driving her into a defensive corner and she did not know how it had come to be like that. She had not meant to make it an argument, she only knew that her island was fun, it was her own place and Davy’s, of course. She felt trapped; once again in her short life, with protest, she understood the unfair advantage adults had over her.
“1 don’t care,” she said sullenly. “If I want my island, 1 want it, that’s all. It’s mine. It’s my island.”
Her father’s voice was suddenly edged. “That’s enough, Irene,” he said. He stood up and flipped his newspaper into the chair. “Go call David, and tell him supper’s ready. 1 don’t want to hear any more about this island nonsense tonight. We’ll talk about it another time.”
But supper was spoiled. Irene’s throat was so choked with unshed tears and bitterness that she could hardly swallow the salad. Mr. Maygild’s good humor ret urned, and Mrs. Maygild made chocolate milk for the children as a peace offering, but Irene ate as though t he food was ashes. As soon as supper was ended she fled upstairs.
When they took the summer house, the Maygilds had at first considered making the children share a room, and using the third upstairs bedroom as a guest room. Th's decision had been reversed after some discussion, and Irene had been given her own room. It was an ugly little chamber with the beaverboard walls and calendar art dear to rented summer homes. Not all Mrs. Maygild’s ingenuity could transform it, which was perhaps just as well, for Irene liked it as it was. Tonight it took on new meaning; it became her secret headquarters, the underground chamber of the Romavian government in enemy territory.
She quietly locked the door. From under the bed she pulled a metal box her fat her had once given her. The key hung from a string around her neck, under her overalls. Whispering to herself she opened the box with ceremony, going to the window at one point to look out cautiously, and tiptoeing to the door to listen. Then she sat down on the floor and took from the box a leatherbound diary, also furnished with a heart-
shaped lock. The Continued on page 42
Continued from page 19
key to this was hidden in a nest of cotton in a flat box that had once held a wrist watch. Opening the diary, she tore out the first 10 or 11 pages which were covered with writing, folded them up small and tucked them into a corner of her “safe.” On a clean page she wrote:
“History and Journal of the Land of Romavia. (Discovered and founded by Irene de Maygild, named Queen by popular demand.)”
She thought for a few minutes, biting her fingernails. Then she wrote, “Romavia was a continent. It was 4,000 miles in circumfrence. At first the Romavians were savages but then they discovered the Arts of Civalazation. The first Queen was Irene I. After her succeeded Irene II, who was known as
the Mother of the Kingdom and the Virgin Queen.”
She cocked her head on one side and looked at what she had written. “I ought to draw a map,” she whispered. “Oh, but first I have to say about Davy.”
She bent over the book again. “Queen Irene’s adviser and friend was Sir David of the Red Sleeve. He was also Lord Admiral of the Ocean Sea. In spite of numerous conspiracies the Queen overthrew them and succeeded in ruling her kingdom.”
She sat quite still, after that, looking inward, seeing before her the pageantry of that court, the Great Hall of The Splendid Place full of ladies and knights, and above them all the wise, the beautiful, the proud Queen, who had overcome all plotters and retained her throne.
Downstairs there was a certain amount of consternation.
“What on earth can have gotten into her?” Mrs. Maygild said. “Oh dear, I don’t believe I understand children after all.”
“Who are you talking about, Mom?” David asked.
“Never mind. Run out and play. You have 15 minutes to bath time, Davy,” Mr. Maygild said.
“But I just want to know who.”
“Look, Davy,” Mr. Maygild said, holding his exasperation down, “let’s not discuss it tonight. Be a good guy, now, and go on. Otherwise there’ll be no timeat all for play before your bath.”
David put his hands in his pockets and scuffed out. “There’s nothing to play if Irene is gonna poke upstairs,” his voice came trailing back.
Mrs. Maygild rested her chin on her hands, elbows on the table, and stared forlornly at the scraps of tuna fish.
“What do you think, Rich?” she said. “It’s not as though the child was frustrated or anything. What kind of crazy idea is cooking in her little head, now?”
“Well, I’ll tell you what I think it is,” said Mr. Maygild weightily. “It’s not easy to decide. But in the first place, we’ve always tried to make the kids feel part of the family democracy. You know, listened to them and paid attention to what they wanted, and tried to treat them like like people. Within reason, of course.
“Now Irene comes up with this desire to be free. To have a place of her own. Well, as I see it, that’s part of our training, Peggy. It’s nothing to be afraid of. The kid is just beginning to have yearnings for independence. Since she’s been treated as an individual she’s grown up to the feeling that she wants a private life.”
Mrs. Maygild shook her head slowly from right to left and back again. “That may be,” she said, her lips pulled taut by her palms. It sounded as though she were saying, “At ay ee.”
Mr. Maygild took a turn about the room. With his hands deep in his pockets he looked wonderfully like his son.
“Sure there’s a solution for this thing,” he said. “Irene needs two things. First and foremost, we ought to give her more of a sense of responsibilit y in the family.”
“But she does help with the meals, and she usually washes dishes with me, and she knows she’s responsible for cleaning her own room,” Mrs. Maygild objected, all in a breath.
“Oh, I know that. But I mean a different feeling.” Mr. Maygild looked annoyed, and lit a cigarette. “I mean, she ought to feel that she owes us something, a kind of duty. We ought to all discuss together the problems we have, like where to move and what to buy for supper and and things like that.” He made a vague gesture with
his cigarette, and breathed out a cloud of smoke. “We don’t have to you know, follow her advice. But just accepting her into our talk would give her that feeling.”
“What’s the other thing?”
“You said, ‘two things.’ ”
“Oh. Well, maybe this wanting privacy is our fault, too. That is, wanting to go to an island. Maybe it’s because we don’t go out of our way enough to see that she gets what she wants. Maybe we aren’t paying enough real attention to her.”
“I don’t know what to make of you, Richard,” Mrs. Maygild said. She got wearily to her feet and began to gather up the dishes and silver. “First you say we’ve always given in to the children’s wishes. Now you say we ought, to give Irene more attention.” “Well, I mean real attention,” said Mr. Maygild lamely. “Let me help you with the dishes, Peggy. Look, I’ll tell you what I’m going to do. I’m going to tag along behind them tomorrow and see what they play. That’s the only way to find out what they really think and want. If Irene Ls playing that she’s on an island, maybe we can sort of help her. Maybe we can arrange for her to have a real island to play on, if the Coveys know of any around. See, that would be something like it.”
“1 don’t think you’ll find any island around here,” Mrs. Maygild said. “I’m not sure you’re not just going to spoil the child, Rich. I think the real trouble is we’ve given in to them too much. They just don’t know what discipline is any more.”
“Ah, don’t worry about, it.” Mr. Maygild put an arm around his wife’s shoulders. “Kids are funny. You know. There’s never anything to worry about.”
“Well, maybe you’re right.”
“1 know 1 am.”
IRENE’S FIRST waking thought was of Romavia. She put on her hidden royalty with her overalls, whispering to herself: They don't know who 1 am but they'll be surprised some day. They'll see, then.
She ran downstairs to find David already at his cornflakes and milk.
“Hey, Irene, are we going to play island today?” he asked.
“Shh.” Irene straddled the bench and poked her brother’s ribs. “What’s the matter with you, you little dope? You know if Mommy finds out she’ll say, ‘Now children be careful and don’t get your feet wet,’ or something, and we won’t, be able to play Romavia. Anyway, you promised.”
“Yeah. 1 swore an oath,” David said with his mout h full.
“Hurry up and finish eating.”
As soon as breakfast was over Irene got the garden spade and the hoe from the garage and led the way to the cliffs.
“We’ve got important work to do,” she explained to David, who was lagging a little behind trying to make his cap pistol stay in his belt. “Daddy said last night if we discovered an island that wasn’t attached to the mainland we could keep it.”
“Well,so Romavia’s attached, stupid. What we have to do is cut through the the neck of land, like digging the Panama Canal. Only we will call it Brightwater Flow, and we’ll put a bridge across where we cut the place so that we can pull it up when we’re in our land and then it’ll be an island and no enemies can attack us.”
“It’ll be a lot of work, and it’s hot,” David complained.
Irene gave him a push, but, with the dignity of the Virgin Queen upon her, did not condescend to answer.
When t hey came to the narrow spit,
she handed the spade to her brother. Holding the hoe like a spear, she advanced to the water’s edge and declaimed, “In the name of the people of Romavia, I—I mean We—Irene the Second, Queen by the Grace of God, do mark off' the first spot to be dug, and this stream which will make Romavia free from the Great Continent I—We— name Brightwater Flow.”
She chopped into the hard sand and marked off two parallel lines about a foot apart. David joined her, a little more willingly when she said, “Now I must be part of the digging crew and I’ll work from the east. And you must be working from the west.”
“And we’ll meet in the centre.”
“Yes, and we’ll cut . the last mile through and then there must be a great ceremony.”
They began digging furiously, talking to themselves, encouraging the crews, shouting advice to their men, describing their adventures. The firm, gravelly sand came up easily. When they had reached a depth of a foot, the trench was full of cloudy water. To the accompaniment of massed bands and tremendous cheers the Queen decorated her workmen and engineers, the last spadeful was lifted out, and the sea ran through. Flat rocks were set along either side to prevent collapse of the ditch, and a short board was laid across; this was the drawbridge, and when the Romavians had entered their country it was pulled after them. Romavia was an island, at last.
For the rest of the morning Irene sat on her throne in The Splendid Place, mapping out the land and naming the cities and rivers and mountains and forests. To David was allotted the coastline, and to him, also, was given the seaport city named and founded by himself, called Kestril, which looked toward the rising sun and from which his galleons and swift rovers set out daily. On the rocky rise which she had first named The Prow, and where The Splendid Place was built, Irene had a city called Eyrie whose houses were all of alabaster with red roofs. Looking down the slant of ground toward Brightwater Flow she faced her three provinces, Mangrove on the left, where the bayberry bushes clustered, Proudia on the right, where sparkling stones made a wild, mountainous country, and the fiatlands of March which bordered on the Flow and guarded the gates of the kingdom. Each province had its capital city, its industries, its government, its army, its ports, and its intrigues.
Sitting in the midst of her country, as it took shape around her, Irene tasted the winged secret joy that comes at least once to every child who (outwits the world. At the same time, deep inside her she knew the terror that is born of responsibility, not the sham responsibility of childhood’s tasks, but that which is reserved for the heads of families and states and which grows from the certainty of one day losing all cherished trusts.
All that week the joy grew and warmed her and the fear was pushed back to the secret inner dark of her mind. It lurked there, ready at a word to prod her. At the end of the week it was startled awake when, at lunchtime one day, her father remarked, “I hope you’re going to make your island a democracy, Chiekie.”
“What island?” she said. That was the first defense she had learned, to play for time with a pretended ignorance.
“The one we were talking about Monday night,” Mr. Maygild replied innocently. “You know, it ought to be a democracy.”
“Why?” Mr. Maygild repeated,
mocking her. “What a silly question. Because you don’t want a rotten dictatorship, do you? Suppose Mommy and I ran the family like a dictatorship? Suppose we never thought about your interests or what you and David wanted, but just ran everything to suit ourselves? Wouldn’t that be unpleasant?”
“I suppose so,” Irene said.
Mr. Maygild compressed his lips. “You’re getting to be awfully contradictory lately, Irene,” he said. “Haven’t we always told you about the differences between democracy and the ‘isms’? ”
“Yes,” said Irene.
“Well, then? Don’t you ever learn anything?”
“Yes, Daddy,” said Irene.
“Okay, that’s enough of that.” Mr. Maygild recovered his composure and took out his cigarette case. “What 1 really wanted to tell you was that Mommy is going to take you kids on a trip tomorrow.”
“Where?” David yelled. “I want to go to Fort Western! Mom, they have blockhouses where they fought Indians and they have forts and garrisons there.”
“We’ll see that another time, Davy,” Mrs. Maygild said. “I thought you both would like a nice picnic for a change. We’ll go to the Desert of Maine and see where the dunes have drifted inland so that the trees are buried.”
“Is it like the Sahara Desert?” David wanted to know.
“Something like that, but on a smaller scale,” Mr. Maygild said cautiously.
“And then,” Mrs. Maygild continued, “we’ll take the picnic box and have a picnic somewhere in a nice spot.”
“Like the one Mole and Water Rat had in ‘The Wind in the Willows’? ” David persisted. He was beginning to read, avidly, everything he could get his hands on.
“Just exactly,” Mrs. Maygild said. “We’ll leave very early tomorrow morning, because it’s a long drive. So we’ll pack our picnic box tonight, all but the sandwiches and drinks, and go to bed early. What do you say, Irene? Don't you think it’ll be fun?”
“Yes, Mommy,” said Irene the exiled princess.
THE Desert of Maine was a great success. Irene forgot, in the exhilaration of the automobile ride, her disguise; she inhaled the fresh morning wind and let it whip away, as it whipped her hair, Roriiavia for a little while. The rolling sand hills of the Desert, so far from the sea, stirred her imagination. And then the picnic! They had peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and cream cheese and olive sandwiches, and hard-boiled eggs, and pickles, and fruit, and cake with thick butterscotch icing, and cream soda. They found a mossy spot under some pine trees, and after they had eaten lunch Mrs. Maygild read to them.
On the way home, David fell fast asleep curled on the front seat, and Irene watched the oncoming headlights that swept up to and past them with a rush, until she, too, began to nod in that sweetest of interrupted dozes that comes with summer nights and long automobile trips. They ate a sleepy supper when they got home, and tumbled into bed too tired to answer their father’s questions.
Nevertheless, by morning the excursion had been niched in its proper place in the past. Irene dressed, full of the business of Romavia. There was a war to be fought with the invading Ghouls. Already they had established a foothold in the province of Proudia
and the gallant mountaineers were retreating slowly up into their heights, battling every inch of the way. If only their Queen would come in person to lead them!
Irene went grandly down the stairs to breakfast.
The Queen sat on her crystal throne in The Splendid Place. Looking out to sea, worry and care marring her smooth forehead, she waited anxiously for word of her High Admiral. He would sail around the Proudian coast and catch the (Jhouls in the rear.
She ate her cereal and milk so abstractedly that her mother said, “Don’t you feel well, Irene?”
“Sure, Mommy, I feel fine.”
“That’s good. Daddy has a surprise for you.”
“What is it?” She shook free of her dream at that.
“It’s a surprise. You’ll see.”
“All right, Mommy.”
David whispered, “Going to Romavia this morning, huh?”
“Yes,” she whispered back. “You make a couple of swords to bring. I’ll meet you on The Prow. There’s a war going on.”
He nodded, and finished his breakfast quickly.
The Admiral still made no sign. Somewhere in the waste of waters his long ships rode but he could not signal the land.
No . . . the signal had been received. All was going according to plan. But before it could be delivered, the Queen had decided not to wait for the Admiral’s message.
“I’m going out now, Mommy,” she called.
“All right, dear.”
She rose up and girded herself in all her silver armor, with a coronet of emeralds around her brow (for, like the picture of Joan crowning the Dauphin, she went helmetless) and a diamondlinked belt about her slender middle.
She called for her great sword, Swinger, which had been her father’s blade, the ancestral sword of the royal house. Its edge ran fire, and inset in the bright steel were mystic symbols all in black. She sounded trumpets for her armies to assemble, and standing on the topmost step of the marble stair she addressed her devoted troops:
Men of Romavia! We go forth to battle—victory or death! There is no
other way. For your homes and your loved ones, I, your Queen, ash each man to strike until his sword arm wearieth with the striking. For, rather than let the awful Ghouls be here, 1 ueiuld burn my castle, my Splendid Place . . .
She stopped, her rhetoric dying in her throat.
She was standing on the shore, before Brightwater Flow, and here was the drawbridge. It was not the bridge she and David had set in place. This one had an iron post driven into the ground of the island, with clothesline running through a pulley to the edge of the bridge so that you could pull it up. It might have fascinated her had she come across it anywhere but within the Romavian borders. Now, however, that premonitory fear which had haunted her all week rose up like bile to turn her sick.
And beyond the bridge! What had happened to the island?
She ran across, and stopped.
A cement path, so fresh that its wooden frame had not yet been removed, ran from the bridge up to the city of Eyrie where it spread out fiat into a kind of observation platform. There could be no city where that blank disc lay.
The province of Proudia had been taken. In its centre, towering over its little mountains, showing them for the pebbles they were, stood a swing whose chains hung from a trestle of iron pipe.
A rustic table and two benches stood among the bayberry of Mangrove. Mangrove had fallen, too.
And the Splendid Place . . . Where its domes and pinnacles had glittered in the sun stood a wooden, square playhouse. It was painted red. It had a low door with a little knocker. There were windows cut in two sides, covered with copper screening. It had a flat roof with a ladder set against one wall.
For a desperate moment Irene tried to banish the image, to fix in her mind the memory of The Splendid Place, to superimpose it upon the wooden playhouse. It was useless. The abomination was too strong, too real for her. The playhouse would never he anything but a box with holes in it.
Irene uttered one birdlike, heartbroken cry. She ran down the cement walk, across the drawbridge, up the steep bank. Tears blinded her to her
father, who stepped out from behind a tree.
“Here I am, Chickie,” he said. He sounded happy and satisfied.
Irene stopped and blinked, to look at him more clearly.
“Do you like it?” he asked. “You see, that's why we cooked up that picnic, so you’d have a surprise when you came back. And it wasn’t easy, I’ll tell you. I’ve had Ed Thomason building that playhouse all week, and then, when we fixed the place up yesterday, we were afraid the cement wouldn’t be dry in time.”
“You did it?” Irene sobbed. “Daddy, daddy ! How could you do it?”
Mr. Maygild’s smile disappeared. He looked like a foolish big boy who bas been told that an innocent escapade will mean jail.
“Chickie,” he said. “What’s the matter with you? I don’t understand you at all. Don’t you want the island?”
Irene turned from side to side, fluttering, caged. “Leave me alone,” she wept. “Always talking about my good, my good. You don’t care about me. Leave me alone.”
“I’m sure we give your wishes all the consideration we can—more than any other kid—like a grownup, a real person,” Mr. Maygild said. “I don’t understand what the hell—
“Irene!” he said sharply.
She had fled away, was running along the cliff, among the pine trees.
“Irene!” be roared. “Damn it, you’re too spoiled. That’s what’s the matter with you.”
His anger was futile. He could not catch her.
No one could catch her. She scrambled down the cliffside to the shore, weeping all the way. She stopped among round stones that formed the beach here. Looking along the shore, she could see the forepart of Romavia jutting out away from the mainland, and on The Prow was the wooden, red cube.
“Daddy,” she whined, deep in her throat, “Daddy, I hate you. I bate you.”
That eased the hurt in her stomach a little. She wiped her eyes and her nose in the crook of her arm. Then, picking up the biggest rock she could carry she waded into the water and threw it in. Again and again she made the trip, carrying stones, dropping them where the water was shallow, heaping them together. The stones slid gently into the water, rocked on the sand, rolled away in the rippling bars of light.
“I’ll build another island,” Irene whimpered. “I’ll show them. I’ll build my own Island that they can’t touch. They’ll never be able to get me, then.”
But as she said it, she stood still. The waves lifted her little heap of stones, pulled them remorselessly apart and rolled them along the bottom. They were not very big nor very heavy stones. She was only a little girl, after all.
She turned away from the enemy sea. Then all at once a thought struck her that made her smile, that made her run, almost gaily, up the bank. She had forgotten—-how could she be so dumb? —the diary, the locked diary, the History and Journal of Romavia. It was hidden and safe. Romavia was still hers.
She wiped the wet sand from her hands and started home, if