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Chapter 9 The Quarrelsome Dragons

  • The Green Monkey sank gently into the earth for a little way and then tumble_wiftly through space, landing on a rocky floor with a thump that astonishe_im. Then he sat up, found that no bones were broken, and gazed around him.
  • He seemed to be in a big underground cave, which was dimly lighted by dozen_f big round discs that looked like moons. They were not moons, however, a_oot discovered when he had examined the place more carefully. They were eyes.
  • The eyes were in the heads of enormous beasts whose bodies trailed far behin_hem. Each beast was bigger than an elephant, and three times as long, an_here were a dozen or more of the creatures scattered here and there about th_avern. On their bodies were big scales, as round as pie-plates, which wer_eautifully tinted in shades of green, purple and orange. On the ends of thei_ong tails were clusters of jewels. Around the great, moon-like eyes wer_ircles of diamonds which sparkled in the subdued light that glowed from th_yes.
  • Woot saw that the creatures had wide mouths and rows of terrible teeth and,
  • from tales he had heard of such beings, he knew he had fallen into a caver_nhabited by the great Dragons that had been driven from the surface of th_arth and were only allowed to come out once in a hundred years to search fo_ood. Of course he had never seen Dragons before, yet there was no mistakin_hem, for they were unlike any other living creatures.
  • Woot sat upon the floor where he had fallen, staring around, and the owners o_he big eyes returned his look, silently and motionless. Finally one of th_ragons which was farthest away from him asked, in a deep, grave voice:
  • "What was that?"
  • And the greatest Dragon of all, who was just in front of the Green Monkey,
  • answered in a still deeper voice:
  • "It is some foolish animal from Outside."
  • "Is it good to eat?" inquired a smaller Dragon beside the great one. "I'_ungry."
  • "Hungry!" exclaimed all the Dragons, in a reproachful chorus; and then th_reat one said chidingly: "Tut- tut, my son! You've no reason to be hungry a_his time."
  • "Why not?" asked the little Dragon. "I haven't eaten anything in eleve_ears."
  • "Eleven years is nothing," remarked another Dragon, sleepily opening an_losing his eyes; "I haven't feasted for eighty-seven years, and I dare no_et hungry for a dozen or so years to come. Children who eat between meal_hould be broken of the habit."
  • "All I had, eleven years ago, was a rhinoceros, and that's not a full meal a_ll," grumbled the young one. "And, before that, I had waited sixty-two year_o be fed; so it's no wonder I'm hungry."
  • "How old are you now?" asked Woot, forgetting his own dangerous position i_is interest in the conversation.
  • "Why, I'm — I'm — How old am I, Father?" asked the little Dragon.
  • "Goodness gracious! what a child to ask questions. Do you want to keep m_hinking all the time? Don't you know that thinking is very bad for Dragons?"
  • returned the big one, impatiently.
  • "How old am I, Father?" persisted the small Dragon.
  • "About six hundred and thirty, I believe. Ask your mother."
  • "No; don't!" said an old Dragon in the background; "haven't I enough worries,
  • what with being wakened in the middle of a nap, without being obliged to kee_rack of my children's ages?"
  • "You've been fast asleep for over sixty years, Mother," said the child Dragon.
  • "How long a nap do you wish?"
  • "I should have slept forty years longer. And this strange little green beas_hould be punished for falling into our cavern and disturbing us."
  • "I didn't know you were here, and I didn't know I was going to fall in,"
  • explained Woot.
  • "Nevertheless, here you are," said the great Dragon, "and you have carelessl_akened our entire tribe; so it stands to reason you must be punished."
  • "In what way?" inquired the Green Monkey, trembling a little.
  • "Give me time and I'll think of a way. You're in no hurry, are you?" asked th_reat Dragon.
  • "No, indeed," cried Woot. "Take your time. I'd much rather you'd all go t_leep again, and punish me when you wake up in a hundred years or so."
  • "Let me eat him!" pleaded the littlest Dragon.
  • "He is too small," said the father. "To eat this one Green Monkey would onl_erve to make you hungry for more, and there are no more."
  • "Quit this chatter and let me get to sleep," protested another Dragon, yawnin_n a fearful manner, for when he opened his mouth a sheet of flame leape_orth from it and made Woot jump back to get out of its way.
  • In his jump he bumped against the nose of a Dragon behind him, which opene_ts mouth to growl and shot another sheet of flame at him. The flame wa_right, but not very hot, yet Woot screamed with terror and sprang forwar_ith a great bound. This time he landed on the paw of the great Chief Dragon,
  • who angrily raised his other front paw and struck the Green Monkey a fierc_low. Woot went sailing through the air and fell sprawling upon the rock_loor far beyond the place where the Dragon Tribe was grouped.
  • All the great beasts were now thoroughly wakened and aroused, and they blame_he monkey for disturbing their quiet. The littlest Dragon darted after Woo_nd the others turned their unwieldy bodies in his direction and followed,
  • flashing from their eyes and mouths flames which lighted up the entire cavern.
  • Woot almost gave himself up for lost, at that moment, but he scrambled to hi_eet and dashed away to the farthest end of the cave, the Dragons followin_ore leisurely because they were too clumsy to move fast. Perhaps they though_here was no need of haste, as the monkey could not escape from the cave. But,
  • away up at the end of the place, the cavern floor was heaped with tumble_ocks, so Woot, with an agility born of fear, climbed from rock to rock unti_e found himself crouched against the cavern roof. There he waited, for h_ould go no farther, while on over the tumbled rocks slowly crept the Dragons
  • — the littlest one coming first because he was hungry as well as angry.
  • The beasts had almost reached him when Woot, remembering his lace apron — no_adly torn and soiled — recovered his wits and shouted: "Open!" At the cry _ole appeared in the roof of the cavern, just over his head, and through i_he sunlight streamed full upon the Green Monkey
  • The Dragons paused, astonished at the magic and blinking at the sunlight, an_his gave Woot time to climb through the opening. As soon as he reached th_urface of the earth the hole closed again, and the boy monkey realized, wit_ thrill of joy, that he had seen the last of the dangerous Dragon family
  • He sat upon the ground, still panting hard from his exertions, when the bushe_efore him parted and his former enemy, the Jaguar, appeared.
  • "Don't run," said the woodland beast, as Woot sprang up; "you are perfectl_afe, so far as I am concerned, for since you so mysteriously disappeared _ave had my breakfast. I am now on my way home to sleep the rest of the day."
  • "Oh, indeed!" returned the Green Monkey, in a tone both sorry and startled.
  • "Which of my friends did you manage to eat?"
  • "None of them," returned the Jaguar, with a sly grin had a dish of magi_crambled eggs-on toast — and it wasn't a bad feast, at all. There isn't roo_n me for even you, and I don't regret it because I judge, from your gree_olor, that you are not ripe, and would make an indifferent meal. We jaguar_ave to be careful of our digestions. Farewell, Friend Monkey. Follow the pat_ made through the bushes and you will find your friends."
  • With this the Jaguar marched on his way and Woot took his advice and followe_he trail he had made until he came to the place where the little Brown Bear,
  • and the Tin Owl, and the Canary were conferring together and wondering wha_ad become of their comrade, the Green Monkey.