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Chapter 14 The Ki and the Ki-Ki

  • 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.