From the tops of the hills the travelers caught their first glimpse of th_onderful cities of Twi. Two walls surrounded the cities, and in the wall_ere two gates just alike. Within the inclosures stood many houses, but al_ere built in pairs, from the poorest huts to the most splendid palaces. Ever_treet was double, the pavements running side by side. There were two lamp- posts on every corner, and in the dim twilight that existed these lamp-post_ere quite necessary. If there were trees or bushes anywhere, they invariabl_rew in pairs, and if a branch was broken on one it was sure to be broken o_he other, and dead leaves fell from both trees at identically the sam_oment.
Much of this Marvel and Nerle learned after they had entered the cities, bu_he view from the hills showed plainly enough that the "double" plan existe_verywhere and in every way in this strange land.
They followed the paths down to the gates of the walls, where two pairs o_oldiers rushed out and seized their horses by the bridles. These soldiers al_eemed to be twins, or at least mates, and each one of each pair was as lik_he other as are two peas growing in the same pod. If one had a red nose th_ther's was red in the same degree, and the soldiers that held the bridles o_erle's horse both had their left eyes bruised and blackened, as from a blo_f the same force.
These soldiers, as they looked upon Nerle and the prince, seemed fully as muc_stonished and certainly more frightened than their prisoners. They wer_ressed in bright yellow uniforms with green buttons, and the soldiers who ha_rrested the prince had both torn their left coat-sleeves and had patches o_he same shape upon the seats of their trousers.
"How dare you stop us, fellows?" asked the prince, sternly.
The soldiers holding his horse both turned and looked inquiringly at th_oldiers holding Nerle's horse; and these turned to look at a double captai_ho came out of two doors in the wall and walked up to them.
"Such things were never before heard of!" said the two captains, thei_tartled eyes fixed upon the prisoners. "We must take them to the Ki and th_i-Ki."
"Why so?" asked Prince Marvel.
"Because," replied the officers, "they are our rulers, under grace of the Hig_i, and all unusual happenings must be brought to their notice. It is our law, you know—the law of the Kingdom of Twi."
"Very well," said Marvel, quietly; "take us where you will; but if any harm i_ntended us you will be made to regret it."
"The Ki and the Ki-Ki will decide," returned the captains gravely, their word_ounding at the same instant.
And then the two pairs of soldiers led the horses through the double streets, the captains marching ahead with drawn swords, and crowds of twin men and twi_omen coming from the double doors of the double houses to gaze upon th_trange sight of men and horses who were not double.
Presently they came upon a twin palace with twin turrets rising high into th_ir; and before the twin doors the prisoners dismounted. Marvel was escorte_hrough one door and Nerle through another, and then they saw each other goin_own a double hallway to a room with a double entrance.
Passing through this they found themselves in a large hall with two domes se_ide by side in the roof. The domes were formed of stained glass, and th_alls of the hall were ornamented by pictures in pairs, each pair showin_dentically the same scenes. This, was, of course, reasonable enough in such _and, where two people would always look at two pictures at the same time an_dmire them in the same way with the same thoughts.
Beneath one of the domes stood a double throne, on which sat the Ki of Twi—_air of gray-bearded and bald-headed men who were lean and lank and stoop- shouldered. They had small eyes, black and flashing, long hooked noses, grea_ointed ears, and they were smoking two pipes from which the smoke curled i_xactly the same circles and clouds.
Beneath the other dome sat the Ki-Ki of Twi, also on double thrones, simila_o those of the Ki. The Ki-Ki were two young men, and had golden hair combe_ver their brows and "banged" straight across; and their eyes were blue an_ild in expression, and their cheeks pink and soft. The Ki-Ki were playin_oftly upon a pair of musical instruments that resembled mandolins, and the_ere evidently trying to learn a new piece of music, for when one Ki-Ki struc_ false note the other Ki-Ki struck the same false note at the same time, an_he same expression of annoyance came over the two faces at the same moment.
When the prisoners entered, the pairs of captains and soldiers bowed low t_he two pairs of rulers, and the Ki exclaimed—both in the same voice o_urprise:
"Great Kika-koo! what have we here?"
"Most wonderful prisoners, your Highnesses," answered the captains. "We foun_hem at your cities' gates and brought them to you at once. They are, as you_ighnesses will see, each singular, and but half of what he should be."
"'Tis so!" cried the double Ki, in loud voices, and slapping their righ_highs with their right palms at the same time. "Most remarkable! Mos_emarkable!"
"I don't see anything remarkable about it," returned Prince Marvel, calmly.
"It is you, who are not singular, but double, that seem strange an_utlandish."
"Perhaps—perhaps!" said the two old men, thoughtfully. "It is what we are no_ccustomed to that seems to us remarkable. Eh, Ki-Ki?" they added, turning t_he other rulers.
The Ki-Ki, who had not spoken a word but continued to play softly, simpl_odded their blond heads carelessly; so the Ki looked again at the prisoner_nd asked:
"How did you get here?"
"We cut a hole through the prickly hedge," replied Prince Marvel.
"A hole through the hedge! Great Kika-koo!" cried the gray-bearded Ki; "i_here, then, anything or any place on the other side of the hedge?"
"Why, of course! The world is there," returned the prince, laughing.
The old men looked puzzled, and glanced sharply from their little black eye_t their prisoners.
"We thought nothing existed outside the hedge of Twi," they answered, simply.
"But your presence here proves we were wrong. Eh! Ki-Ki?"
This last was again directed toward the pair of musicians, who continued t_lay and only nodded quietly, as before.
"Now that you are here," said the twin Ki, stroking their two gray beards wit_heir two left hands in a nervous way, "it must be evident to you that you d_ot belong here. Therefore you must go back through the hedge again and sta_n the other side. Eh, Ki-Ki?"
The Ki-Ki still continued playing, but now spoke the first words the prisoner_ad heard from them.
"They must die," said the Ki-Ki, in soft and agreeable voices.
"Die!" echoed the twin Ki, "die? Great Kika-koo! And why so?"
"Because, if there is a world on the other side of the hedge, they would tel_n their return all about the Land of Twi, and others of their kind would com_hrough the hedge from curiosity and annoy us. We can not be annoyed. We ar_usy."
Having delivered this speech both the Ki-Ki went on playing the new tune, a_f the matter was settled.
"Nonsense!" retorted the old Ki, angrily. "You are getting more and mor_loodthirsty every day, our sweet and gentle Ki-Ki! But we are the Ki—and w_ay the prisoners shall not die!"
"We say they shall!" answered the youthful Ki-Ki, nodding their two heads a_he same time, with a positive motion. "You may be the Ki, but we are the Ki- Ki, and your superior."
"Not in this case," declared the old men. "Where life and death are concerne_e have equal powers with you."
"And if we disagree?" asked the players, gently.
"Great Kika-koo! If we disagree the High Ki must judge between us!" roared th_win Ki, excitedly.
"Quite so," answered the Ki-Ki. "The strangers shall die."
"They shall not die!" stormed the old men, with fierce gestures toward th_thers, while both pairs of black eyes flashed angrily.
"Then we disagree, and they must be taken to the High Ki," returned the blon_usicians, beginning to play another tune.
The two Ki rose from their thrones, paced two steps to the right and thre_teps to the left, and then sat down again.
"Very well!" they said to the captains, who had listened unmoved to th_uarrel of the rulers; "keep these half-men safe prisoners until to-morro_orning, and then the Ki-Ki and we ourselves will conduct them to the might_igh Ki."
At this command the twin captains bowed again to both pairs of rulers and le_rince Marvel and Nerle from the room. Then they were escorted along th_treets to the twin houses of the captains, and here the officers paused an_cratched their left ears with uncertain gestures.
"There being only half of each of you," they said, "we do not know how to loc_ach of you in double rooms."
"Oh, let us both occupy the same room," said Prince Marvel. "We prefer it."
"Very well," answered the captains; "we must transgress our usual customs i_ny event, so you may as well be lodged as you wish."
So Nerle and the prince were thrust into a large and pleasant room of one o_he twin houses, the double doors were locked upon them by twin soldiers, an_hey were left to their own thoughts.