It began on a bright and cloudless morning, as the sun peeked over the far off mountaintop, shedding its glorious rays across the wide forests and dales. The wind gamboled through the trees and the squirrels and chipmunks which peopled the forest scurried hither and yon with a noise that was noiseless. Suddenly the dense silence was broken by the sound of a furious clamor, and a horse, steaming at the nostrils and bespeckled with foam, dashed with its rider through the thick woods. The rider was seated on it with his legs crossed (casually perusing a newspaper he held with one hand and munching on a half-eaten banana which he held in the other) when a low bough wiped him clean out of the saddle. The court jester plummeted to the ground, newspaper, banana, and all. Leaping up, he gathered his newspaper, forgot his banana, and rushed after his horse. But as soon as he was out of sight a figure stepped out of the bushes and approached the banana cautiously. Stooping down he gathered the remains of the banana, pocketed them, chuckled to himself, and fled rapidly in the opposite direction.
It was dusk by the time the court jester, having caught his unwieldy horse, lost half of what was left of his newspaper, and gotten as besplattered with mud as his horse was with foam, rode in through the gates of the king’s city. An hour later he was ushered into the presence of the king and his councilors.
“Well, Mad Spole, I hope your travelling has not addled your brain any farther,” King Henri Clumperdinker declared, looking quizzically at the mud-splattered countenance of his jester and at the equally misused newspaper which hung from his hand. “I hope,” he went on, and he actually meant it now, “I hope your mission has been successful?”
“Yea, my Lord, certainly!”
“Good,” replied King Clumperdinker shortly, though he looked doubtful. “Have you the banana then?”
“The banana?” The jester looked pensive, a rare thing for him. “Ah, yes, I remember now!” he replied.
“What is it you remember?” King Clumperdinker asked impatiently. “Out with it, let’s hear the story!”
“I arrived at the castle of King Dinkerclumper, your cousin and faithful ally. He took your letter, but he gave me a banana, a ham sandwich, and a glass of milk. The milk spilled when I put them into my saddlebag, so I went off at a gallop in a cloud of milky dust. After a while my stomach began to whisper tales of lunch.” He paused and coughed.
“And?” queried the king, who was not too surprised. Actually, he was beginning to have much the same feeling himself just then.
“Well, I considered my saddlebag. It had one empty glass of milk, one soggy ham sandwich, and one banana. I took out the banana. I looked at it. It seemed normal. I turned it upside-down, my lord. Nothing looked wrong. But it tasted bad. I thought at the time that the spilled milk was sour.”
“What!?” shouted King Clumperdinker. He had been moving uneasily in his chair for the last few sentences, but now he could contain himself no longer. “You did what?! You ate it! What about the message?!”
“Message?” replied Mad Spole. “I don’t know anything about a message. But here is the ham sandwich if you want it.”
He took out the milk-drenched ham sandwich and handed it to the enraged king, who kicked it halfway across the room where it splatted on a councilor’s hat. For half a minute only the sound of milk dripping off the hat onto the trembling councilor’s face broke the silence.
Then Mad Spole asked, “Where was I?”
“You were eating my message!” Clumperdinker bellowed.
“Oh yes! I was reading my newspaper and eating your banana, when Cow—that’s my horse’s name—”
The king sighed wearily.
“Cow passed under the branch of a tree which had it out for me, and I fell down. Then I picked myself up, picked the newspaper up, and chased Cow down until I found him, and came directly here.”
King Clumperdinker turned to one of the councilors seated beside him.
“Kintville! You and your great ideas! Will you look at that! He ate half of the message, and left the other half somewhere in the middle of the forest! I hereby promote you to second fool of the court—second, because not even you could beat this one! Ate the banana!!”
“I am sure no one suspected him,” Kintville ventured. “Perhaps we could get it back—”
“Begone!” boomed the king, “and don your donkey ears before you show your face around me again!”
But as soon as the ill-fated councilor was gone the king leapt out of his chair and exclaimed, “Yes, yes, the very ticket! There may be a way out of this mess after all! Get the used banana dealer over here as fast as you possibly can!” and King Clumperdinker dashed out of the room. A second later he popped his head back around the corner to yell, “The council is dismissed!” before he dashed off again.
Not much later, however, the council was again convened, much to the dismay of the councilors, who had all been in the middle of their lunches. This time the used banana dealer stood before them, half-eaten bananas nearly falling out of the large container by his side, bristling from his pockets, and with a long retinue of similarly armed servants lining the way from the council room out to the drawbridge. King Clumperdinker groaned. Finding the right banana was going to be quite some work.
“My lord,” began the used banana dealer, “you seem to be in need of some used bananas.”
“I only want one,” King Clumperdinker retorted, and his eyes again followed the long line of attendants. He coughed slightly. “Call Mad Spole!”
That worthy, having arrived, began to inspect the bananas falling out of the used banana dealer’s pockets.
“Aha!” the jester exclaimed. He took out a banana covered in mud and gazed intently on the teeth marks on it. Then he tried to look at his own teeth.
“My lord,” he declared, “This might possibly be the one!”
King Clumperdinker turned to the used banana dealer. “How much does this, ahem, half-eaten banana cost?” he inquired.
The used banana dealer drew an abacus out of one of his pockets, turned it over a couple of times, tilted his head slightly, moved all the beads to one side, looked up, and smiled. “That will be sixty dinkers,” he replied.
“Sixty dinkers!” faltered the king. “Sixty dinkers for a half-eaten mud-covered banana! I could buy myself a four-horse carriage for that price!”
But King Clumperdinker gave in and bought the banana at the price named. He then grasped the banana and excitedly examined the inside of the peel. He frowned.
“Where exactly did you find this banana?” the king queried.
The used banana dealer cleared his throat. “Banana six thousand three hundred seventy two,” he said sentimentally. “I believe it was in the process of being consumed by a hungry chimpanzee when I came across it.”
King Clumperdinker stared hard at his jester for about the space of a minute.
“Alright,” the king declared finally, “what we are looking for is actually a banana which was being annihilated by Mad Spole here while he was riding through the forest on his horse.”
“His Cow, you mean,” the jester threw in helpfully.
“I mean nothing of the sort!” King Clumperdinker retorted angrily. “He was on a horse!”
The used banana dealer thought for a while. “Well,” he remarked at last, “you have no idea how often such things happen. Here is one I found in the forest not long ago, which I am willing to sell to you for the small price of,” he glanced at his abacus, which looked exactly the same as it had a minute ago, “sixty-five dinkers.”
“Sixty-five!” gasped the king again. “Why, it’s even dirtier and smaller than the last!”
“But it does look like it!” Mad Spole exclaimed.
The king heaved a sigh. “Pay him the money,” he commanded.
But once again, it was the wrong banana. By the time this had gone on for about ten or fifteen bananas, King Clumperdinker was starting to think about splatting the next couple of bananas he bought on the jester and the used banana dealer. Just then, however, one of his councilors, Kinton (the unfortunate Kintville’s half cousin), whispered something into the king’s ear. King Clumperdinker thumped him on the shoulder and sent him off in a hurry. In a minute the councilor was back with the king’s monkey.
The king smiled at the jester, for the first time that day.
“I believe you said the banana tasted bad?”
“Bad as sour milk,” Mad Spole replied, making a face.
King Clumperdinker nodded to his councilor to let go of the monkey. It tore off instantly, rushing around stuffing bananas into its mouth left and right. At first the used banana dealer looked on in horror, but then, taking out his abacus again, he started fiddling with the beads and rapidly marking down numbers on a piece of paper. Soon there was not a used banana left, except one last one the monkey held in its hand. It took a great bite, made a wry face, and threw the banana onto the floor with a look of disgust. King Clumperdinker rushed for the peel and carefully drew it back to see the message etched inside.
“Haha!” he yelled in ecstasy. “Brilliant, Kinton, brilliant!”
He looked around for his councilor, but that worthy had fled the instant he saw the abacus. King Clumperdinker’s gaze fell on the used banana dealer’s chuckling countenance. He frowned.
“That will be thirty-five million dinkers,” grinned the used banana dealer.
King Clumperdinker roared. “Kinton!!!!”