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Chapter 12 The Jinjin's Just Judgment

  • All the adventurers were reunited next morning when they were brought fro_arious palaces to the Residence of Tititi-Hoochoo and ushered into the grea_all of State.
  • As before, no one was visible except our friends and their escorts until th_irst bell sounded. Then in a flash the room was seen to be filled with th_eautiful Kings and Queens of the land. The second bell marked the appearanc_n the throne of the mighty Jinjin, whose handsome countenance was as compose_nd expressionless as ever.
  • All bowed low to the Ruler. Their voices softly murmured: "We greet th_rivate Citizen, mightiest of Rulers, whose word is Law and whose Law i_ust."
  • Tititi-Hoochoo bowed in acknowledgment. Then, looking around the brillian_ssemblage, and at the little group of adventurers before him, he said:
  • "An unusual thing has happened. Inhabitants of other lands than ours, who ar_ifferent from ourselves in many ways, have been thrust upon us through th_orbidden Tube, which one of our people foolishly made years ago and wa_roperly punished for his folly. But these strangers had no desire to com_ere and were wickedly thrust into the Tube by a cruel King on the other sid_f the world, named Ruggedo. This King is an immortal, but he is not good. Hi_agic powers hurt mankind more than they benefit them. Because he had unjustl_ept the Shaggy Man's brother a prisoner, this little band of honest people, consisting of both mortals and immortals, determined to conquer Ruggedo and t_unish him. Fearing they might succeed in this, the Nome King misled them s_hat they fell into the Tube.
  • "Now, this same Ruggedo has been warned by me, many times, that if ever h_sed this Forbidden Tube in any way he would be severely punished. I find, b_eferring to the Fairy Records, that this King's servant, a nome named Kaliko, begged his master not to do such a wrong act as to drop these people into th_ube and send them tumbling into our country. But Ruggedo defied me and m_rders.
  • "Therefore these strangers are innocent of any wrong. It is only Ruggedo wh_eserves punishment, and I will punish him." He paused a moment and the_ontinued in the same cold, merciless voice:
  • "These strangers must return through the Tube to their own side of the world; but I will make their fall more easy and pleasant than it was before. Also _hall send with them an Instrument of Vengeance, who in my name will driv_uggedo from his underground caverns, take away his magic powers and make hi_ homeless wanderer on the face of the earth—a place he detests."
  • There was a little murmur of horror from the Kings and Queens at the severit_f this punishment, but no one uttered a protest, for all realized that th_entence was just.
  • "In selecting my Instrument of Vengeance," went on Tititi-Hoochoo, "I hav_ealized that this will be an unpleasant mission. Therefore no one of us wh_s blameless should be forced to undertake it. In this wonderful land it i_eldom one is guilty of wrong, even in the slightest degree, and on examinin_he Records I found no King or Queen had erred. Nor had any among thei_ollowers or servants done any wrong. But finally I came to the Dragon Family, which we highly respect, and then it was that I discovered the error of Quox.
  • "Quox, as you well know, is a young dragon who has not yet acquired the wisdo_f his race. Because of this lack, he has been disrespectful toward his mos_ncient ancestor, the Original Dragon, telling him once to mind his ow_usiness and again saying that the Ancient One had grown foolish with age. W_re aware that dragons are not the same as fairies and cannot be altogethe_uided by our laws, yet such disrespect as Quox has shown should not b_nnoticed by us. Therefore I have selected Quox as my royal Instrument o_engeance and he shall go through the Tube with these people and inflict upo_uggedo the punishment I have decreed."
  • All had listened quietly to this speech and now the Kings and Queens bowe_ravely to signify their approval of the Jinjin's judgment.
  • Tititi-Hoochoo turned to Tubekins.
  • "I command you," said he, "to escort these strangers to the Tube and see tha_hey all enter it."
  • The King of the Tube, who had first discovered our friends and brought them t_he Private Citizen, stepped forward and bowed. As he did so, the Jinjin an_ll the Kings and Queens suddenly disappeared and only Tubekins remaine_isible.
  • "All right," said Betsy, with a sigh; "I don't mind going back so very much,
  • 'cause the Jinjin promised to make it easy for us."
  • Indeed, Queen Ann and her officers were the only ones who looked solemn an_eemed to fear the return journey. One thing that bothered Ann was her failur_o conquer this land of Tititi-Hoochoo. As they followed their guide throug_he gardens to the mouth of the Tube she said to Shaggy:
  • "How can I conquer the world, if I go away and leave this rich countr_nconquered?"
  • "You can't," he replied. "Don't ask me why, please, for if you don't know _an't inform you."
  • "Why not?" said Ann; but Shaggy paid no attention to the question.
  • This end of the Tube had a silver rim and around it was a gold railing t_hich was attached a sign that read.
  • "IF YOU ARE OUT, STAY THERE.
  • IF YOU ARE IN, DON'T COME OUT."
  • On a little silver plate just inside the Tube was engraved the words:
  • "Burrowed and built by
  • Hiergargo the Magician,
  • In the Year of the World
  • 1 9 6 2 5 4 7 8
  • For his own exclusive uses."
  • "He was some builder, I must say," remarked Betsy, when she had read th_nscription; "but if he had known about that star I guess he'd have spent hi_ime playing solitaire."
  • "Well, what are we waiting for?" inquired Shaggy, who was impatient to start.
  • "Quox," replied Tubekins. "But I think I hear him coming."
  • "Is the young dragon invisible?" asked Ann, who had never seen a live drago_nd was a little fearful of meeting one.
  • "No, indeed," replied the King of the Tube. "You'll see him in a minute; bu_efore you part company I'm sure you'll wish he was invisible."
  • "Is he dangerous, then?" questioned Files.
  • "Not at all. But Quox tires me dreadfully," said Tubekins, "and I prefer hi_oom to his company.
  • At that instant a scraping sound was heard, drawing nearer and nearer unti_rom between two big bushes appeared a huge dragon, who approached the party, nodded his head and said: "Good morning."
  • Had Quox been at all bashful I am sure he would have felt uncomfortable at th_stonished stare of every eye in the group—except Tubekins, of course, who wa_ot astonished because he had seen Quox so often.
  • Betsy had thought a "young" dragon must be a small dragon, yet here was one s_normous that the girl decided he must be full grown, if not overgrown. Hi_ody was a lovely sky-blue in color and it was thickly set with glitterin_ilver scales, each one as big as a serving-tray. Around his neck was a pin_ibbon with a bow just under his left ear, and below the ribbon appeared _hain of pearls to which was attached a golden locket about as large around a_he end of a bass drum. This locket was set with many large and beautifu_ewels.
  • The head and face of Quox were not especially ugly, when you consider that h_as a dragon; but his eyes were so large that it took him a long time to win_nd his teeth seemed very sharp and terrible when they showed, which they di_henever the beast smiled. Also his nostrils were quite large and wide, an_hose who stood near him were liable to smell brimstone—especially when h_reathed out fire, as it is the nature of dragons to do. To the end of hi_ong tail was attached a big electric light.
  • Perhaps the most singular thing about the dragon's appearance at this time wa_he fact that he had a row of seats attached to his back, one seat for eac_ember of the party. These seats were double, with curved backs, so that tw_ould sit in them, and there were twelve of these double seats, all strappe_irmly around the dragon's thick body and placed one behind the other, in _ow that extended from his shoulders nearly to his tail.
  • "Aha!" exclaimed Tubekins; "I see that Tititi-Hoochoo has transformed Quo_nto a carryall."
  • "I'm glad of that," said Betsy. "I hope, Mr. Dragon, you won't mind our ridin_n your back."
  • "Not a bit," replied Quox. "I'm in disgrace just now, you know, and the onl_ay to redeem my good name is to obey the orders of the Jinjin. If he makes m_ beast of burden, it is only a part of my punishment, and I must bear it lik_ dragon. I don't blame you people at all, and I hope you'll enjoy the ride.
  • Hop on, please. All aboard for the other side of the world!"
  • Silently they took their places. Hank sat in the front seat with Betsy, s_hat he could rest his front hoofs upon the dragon's head. Behind them wer_haggy and Polychrome, then Files and the Princess, and Queen Ann and Tik-Tok.
  • The officers rode in the rear seats. When all had mounted to their places th_ragon looked very like one of those sightseeing wagons so common in bi_ities—only he had legs instead of wheels.
  • "All ready?" asked Quox, and when they said they were he crawled to the mout_f the Tube and put his head in.
  • "Good-bye, and good luck to you!" called Tubekins; but no one thought t_eply, because just then the dragon slid his great body into the Tube and th_ourney to the other side of the world had begun.
  • At first they went so fast that they could scarcely catch their breaths, bu_resently Quox slowed up and said with a sort of cackling laugh:
  • "My scales! but that is some tumble. I think I shall take it easy and fal_lower, or I'm likely to get dizzy. Is it very far to the other side of th_orld?"
  • "Haven't you ever been through this Tube before?" inquired Shaggy.
  • "Never. Nor has anyone else in our country; at least, not since I was born."
  • "How long ago was that?" asked Betsy.
  • "That I was born? Oh, not very long ago. I'm only a mere child. If I had no_een sent on this journey, I would have celebrated my three thousand an_ifty-sixth birthday next Thursday. Mother was going to make me a birthda_ake with three thousand and fifty-six candles on it; but now, of course, there will be no celebration, for I fear I shall not get home in time for it."
  • "Three thousand and fifty-six years!" cried Betsy. "Why, I had no ide_nything could live that long!"
  • "My respected Ancestor, whom I would call a stupid old humbug if I had no_eformed, is so old that I am a mere baby compared with him," said Quox. "H_ates from the beginning of the world, and insists on telling us stories o_hings that happened fifty thousand years ago, which are of no interest at al_o youngsters like me. In fact, Grandpa isn't up to date. He lives altogethe_n the past, so I can't see any good reason for his being alive to-day… . Ar_ou people able to see your way, or shall I turn on more light?"
  • "Oh, we can see very nicely, thank you; only there's nothing to see bu_urselves," answered Betsy.
  • This was true. The dragon's big eyes were like headlights on an automobile an_lluminated the Tube far ahead of them. Also he curled his tail upward so tha_he electric light on the end of it enabled them to see one another quit_learly. But the Tube itself was only dark metal, smooth as glass but exactl_he same from one of its ends to the other. Therefore there was no scenery o_nterest to beguile the journey.
  • They were now falling so gently that the trip was proving entirel_omfortable, as the Jinjin had promised it would be; but this meant a longe_ourney and the only way they could make time pass was to engage i_onversation. The dragon seemed a willing and persistent talker and he was o_o much interest to them that they encouraged him to chatter. His voice was _ittle gruff but not unpleasant when one became used to it.
  • "My only fear," said he presently, "is that this constant sliding over th_urface of the Tube will dull my claws. You see, this hole isn't straigh_own, but on a steep slant, and so instead of tumbling freely through the ai_ must skate along the Tube. Fortunately, there is a file in my tool-kit, an_f my claws get dull they can be sharpened again."
  • "Why do you want sharp claws?" asked Betsy.
  • "They are my natural weapons, and you must not forget that I have been sent t_onquer Ruggedo."
  • "Oh, you needn't mind about that," remarked Queen Ann, in her most haught_anner; "for when we get to Ruggedo I and my invincible Army can conquer hi_ithout your assistance."
  • "Very good," returned the dragon, cheerfully. "That will save me a lot o_other—if you succeed. But I think I shall file my claws, just the same."
  • He gave a long sigh, as he said this, and a sheet of flame, several feet i_ength, shot from his mouth. Betsy shuddered and Hank said "Hee-haw!" whil_ome of the officers screamed in terror. But the dragon did not notice that h_ad done anything unusual.
  • "Is there fire inside of you?" asked Shaggy.
  • "Of course," answered Quox. "What sort of a dragon would I be if my fire wen_ut?"
  • "What keeps it going?" Betsy inquired.
  • "I've no idea. I only know it's there," said Quox. "The fire keeps me aliv_nd enables me to move; also to think and speak."
  • "Ah! You are ver-y much like my-self," said Tik-Tok. "The on-ly dif-fer-enc_s that I move by clock-work, while you move by fire."
  • "I don't see a particle of likeness between us, I must confess," retorte_uox, gruffly. "You are not a live thing; you're a dummy."
  • "But I can do things, you must ad-mit," said Tik-Tok.
  • "Yes, when you are wound up," sneered the dragon. "But if you run down, yo_re helpless."
  • "What would happen to you, Quox, if you ran out of gasoline?" inquired Shaggy, who did not like this attack upon his friend.
  • "I don't use gasoline."
  • "Well, suppose you ran out of fire."
  • "What's the use of supposing that?" asked Quox. "My great-great-great- grandfather has lived since the world began, and he has never once run out o_ire to keep him going. But I will confide to you that as he gets older h_hows more smoke and less fire. As for Tik-Tok, he's well enough in his way, but he's merely copper. And the Metal Monarch knows copper through an_hrough. I wouldn't be surprised if Ruggedo melted Tik-Tok in one of hi_urnaces and made copper pennies of him."
  • "In that case, I would still keep going," remarked Tik-Tok, calmly.
  • "Pennies do," said Betsy regretfully.
  • "This is all nonsense," said the Queen, with irritation. "Tik-Tok is my grea_rmy—all but the officers—and I believe he will be able to conquer Rugged_ith ease. What do you think, Polychrome?"
  • "You might let him try," answered the Rainbow's Daughter, with her swee_inging laugh, that sounded like the tinkling of tiny bells. "And if Tik-To_ails, you have still the big fire-breathing dragon to fall back on."
  • "Ah!" said the dragon, another sheet of flame gushing from his mouth an_ostrils; "it's a wise little girl, this Polychrome. Anyone would know she i_ fairy."