King Freddie had called for men with coloured hair to come forward to represent England in an international coloured hair contest initiated by a challenge from the Czar of Russia. Prime Minister Merlin had been busy exposing fakes who had painted their hair in the hope of winning the prize of a golden half-sovereign. George had already tried once with his hair painted green, but he was keen to try again now Little Red Spotty Man from the planet of Grendoleon had turned his hair green with a magic spell.
When George reached the castle the second time the queue was even longer than before. He waited patiently for his turn to come again. King Freddie had come to the testing chamber to watch Merlin at work. He found it very amusing to see each person in turn revealed as a fake. Green was the most popular hair colouring but almost every other colour of the rainbow was on display. When Cuthbert came in with a purple coiffure, Freddie encouraged Merlin to give him a really good scrubbing and Alexander, the king’s cat, hissed.
At last it came to George’s turn. He came in with his helmet off, grinning from ear to ear. ‘You’ve been tested once; you’re not entitled to a second assessment,’ said an exhausted Merlin, but Freddie was looking forward to witnessing the ordeal. ‘Give him another chance,’ ordered the King, ‘and make sure it’s done very well.’ So Merlin sent for his largest sponge and took care to give it a really good soaking in the turpentine. Then, without any care for the excess liquid dripping on the floor, he gave George’s hair the most thorough going over that his depleted strength could manage.
‘That’s funny,’ said the Prime Minister. ‘No paint has come off.’
‘That’s because there is no paint,’ spluttered poor old George.
‘Give me that sponge,’ said the King. ‘You’re just a feeble old man.’
Taking the sponge in the hand grown strong from grasping his battle lance, Freddie gave George’s head a rub that Merlin feared might tear the hair from its roots. Then the King stood back, gazing in wonder at the Patron Saint standing dripping before him. ‘It really is green hair,’ he said. ‘I think we have found our man.’ Merlin nodded in agreement, too weak to speak, but relieved that his arduous task had come to a successful conclusion.
‘Can I have the golden half-sovereign now?’ asked George.
‘Ah yes, the golden half-sovereign,’ said Freddie, ‘Do we have one?’
‘I’m not sure,’ said Merlin, finding his voice at the mention of money. ‘We must ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer.’
‘Maybe we should withhold payment until after we’ve met the international challenge,’ said Freddie.
‘That’s a good idea,’ said the Prime Minister, happy to defer government expenditure.