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,"
"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.