Table of Contents

+ Add to Library

Previous Next

Chapter 20 A Bashful Brother

  • With fast beating hearts they all rushed forward and, beyond a group o_tately metal trees, came full upon a most astonishing scene.
  • There was Ruggedo in the hands of the officers of Oogaboo, a dozen of who_ere clinging to the old nome and holding him fast in spite of his efforts t_scape. There also was Queen Ann, looking grimly upon the scene of strife; bu_hen she observed her former companions approaching she turned away in _hamefaced manner.
  • For Ann and her officers were indeed a sight to behold. Her Majesty'_lothing, once so rich and gorgeous, was now worn and torn into shreds by he_ong crawl through the tunnel, which, by the way, had led her directly int_he Metal Forest. It was, indeed, one of the three secret passages, and by fa_he most difficult of the three. Ann had not only torn her pretty skirt an_acket, but her crown had become bent and battered and even her shoes were s_ut and slashed that they were ready to fall from her feet.
  • The officers had fared somewhat worse than their leader, for holes were wor_n the knees of their trousers, while sharp points of rock in the roof an_ides of the tunnel had made rags of every inch of their once brillian_niforms. A more tattered and woeful army never came out of a battle, tha_hese harmless victims of the rocky passage. But it had seemed their onl_eans of escape from the cruel Nome King; so they had crawled on, regardles_f their sufferings.
  • When they reached the Metal Forest their eyes beheld more plunder than the_ad ever dreamed of; yet they were prisoners in this huge dome and could no_scape with the riches heaped about them. Perhaps a more unhappy and homesic_ot of "conquerors" never existed than this band from Oogaboo.
  • After several days of wandering in their marvelous prison they were frightene_y the discovery that Ruggedo had come among them. Rendered desperate by thei_ad condition, the officers exhibited courage for the first time since the_eft home and, ignorant of the fact that Ruggedo was no longer King of th_omes, they threw themselves upon him and had just succeeded in capturing hi_hen their fellow adventurers reached the spot.
  • "Goodness gracious!" cried Betsy. "What has happened to you all?"
  • Ann came forward to greet them, sorrowful and indignant.
  • "We were obliged to escape from the pit through a small tunnel, which wa_ined with sharp and jagged rocks," said she, "and not only was our clothin_orn to rags but our flesh is so bruised and sore that we are stiff and lam_n every joint. To add to our troubles we find we are still prisoners; but no_hat we have succeeded in capturing the wicked Metal Monarch we shall forc_im to grant us our liberty."
  • "Ruggedo is no longer Metal Monarch, or King of the nomes," Files informe_er. "He has been deposed and cast out of his kingdom by Quox; but here is th_ew King, whose name is Kaliko, and I am pleased to assure Your Majesty tha_e is our friend."
  • "Glad to meet Your Majesty, I'm sure," said Kaliko, bowing as courteously a_f the Queen still wore splendid raiment.
  • The officers, having heard this explanation, now set Ruggedo free; but, as h_ad no place to go, he stood by and faced his former servant, who was now Kin_n his place, in a humble and pleading manner.
  • "What are you doing here?" asked Kaliko sternly.
  • "Why, I was promised as much treasure as I could carry in my pockets," replie_uggedo; "so I came here to get it, not wishing to disturb Your Majesty."
  • "You were commanded to leave the country of the nomes forever!" declare_aliko.
  • "I know; and I'll go as soon as I have filled my pockets," said Ruggedo, meekly.
  • "Then fill them, and be gone," returned the new King.
  • Ruggedo obeyed. Stooping down, he began gathering up jewels by the handful an_tuffing them into his many pockets. They were heavy things, these diamond_nd rubies and emeralds and amethysts and the like, so before long Ruggedo wa_taggering with the weight he bore, while the pockets were not yet filled.
  • When he could no longer stoop over without falling, Betsy and Polychrome an_he Rose Princess came to his assistance, picking up the finest gems an_ucking them into his pockets.
  • At last these were all filled and Ruggedo presented a comical sight, fo_urely no man ever before had so many pockets, or any at all filled with suc_ choice collection of precious stones. He neglected to thank the young ladie_or their kindness, but gave them a surly nod of farewell and staggered dow_he path by the way he had come. They let him depart in silence, for with al_e had taken, the masses of jewels upon the ground seemed scarcely to hav_een disturbed, so numerous were they. Also they hoped they had seen the las_f the degraded King.
  • "I'm awful glad he's gone," said Betsy, sighing deeply. "If he doesn't ge_eckless and spend his wealth foolishly, he's got enough to start a bank whe_e gets to Oklahoma."
  • "But my brother—my dear brother! Where is he?" inquired Shaggy anxiously.
  • "Have you seen him, Queen Ann?"
  • "What does your brother look like?" asked the Queen.
  • Shaggy hesitated to reply, but Betsy said: "He's called the Ugly One. Perhap_ou'll know him by that."
  • "The only person we have seen in this cavern," said Ann, "has run away from u_henever we approached him. He hides over yonder, among the trees that are no_old, and we have never been able to catch sight of his face. So I can no_ell whether he is ugly or not."
  • "That must be my dear brother!" exclaimed Shaggy.
  • "Yes, it must be," assented Kaliko. "No one else inhabits this splendid dome, so there can be no mistake."
  • "But why does he hide among those green trees, instead of enjoying all thes_littery golden ones?" asked Betsy.
  • "Because he finds food among the natural trees," replied Kaliko, "and _emember that he has built a little house there, to sleep in. As for thes_littery golden trees, I will admit they are very pretty at first sight. On_annot fail to admire them, as well as the rich jewels scattered beneath them; but if one has to look at them always, they become pretty tame."
  • "I believe that is true," declared Shaggy. "My dear brother is very wise t_refer real trees to the imitation ones. But come; let us go there and fin_im."
  • Shaggy started for the green grove at once, and the others followed him, bein_urious to witness the final rescue of his long-sought, long-lost brother.
  • Not far from the edge of the grove they came upon a small hut, cleverly mad_f twigs and golden branches woven together. As they approached the place the_aught a glimpse of a form that darted into the hut and slammed the door tigh_hut after him.
  • Shaggy Man ran to the door and cried aloud:
  • "Brother! Brother!"
  • "Who calls," demanded a sad, hollow voice from within.
  • "It is Shaggy—your own loving brother—who has been searching for you a lon_ime and has now come to rescue you."
  • "Too late!" replied the gloomy voice. "No one can rescue me now."
  • "Oh, but you are mistaken about that," said Shaggy. "There is a new King o_he nomes, named Kaliko, in Ruggedo's place, and he has promised you shall g_ree."
  • "Free! I dare not go free!" said the Ugly One, in a voice of despair.
  • "Why not, Brother?" asked Shaggy, anxiously.
  • "Do you know what they have done to me?" came the answer through the close_oor.
  • "No. Tell me, Brother, what have they done?"
  • "When Ruggedo first captured me I was very handsome. Don't you remember, Shaggy?"
  • "Not very well, Brother; you were so young when I left home. But I remembe_hat mother thought you were beautiful."
  • "She was right! I am sure she was right," wailed the prisoner. "But Rugged_anted to injure me—to make me ugly in the eyes of all the world—so h_erformed a wicked enchantment. I went to bed beautiful—or you might sa_andsome—to be very modest I will merely claim that I was good-looking—and _akened the next morning the homeliest man in all the world! I am so repulsiv_hat when I look in a mirror I frighten myself."
  • "Poor Brother!" said Shaggy softly, and all the others were silent fro_ympathy.
  • "I was so ashamed of my looks," continued the voice of Shaggy's brother, "tha_ tried to hide; but the cruel King Ruggedo forced me to appear before all th_egion of nomes, to whom he said: 'Behold the Ugly One!' But when the nome_aw my face they all fell to laughing and jeering, which prevented them fro_orking at their tasks. Seeing this, Ruggedo became angry and pushed me into _unnel, closing the rock entrance so that I could not get out. I followed th_ength of the tunnel until I reached this huge dome, where the marvelous Meta_orest stands, and here I have remained ever since."
  • "Poor Brother!" repeated Shaggy. "But I beg you now to come forth and face us, who are your friends. None here will laugh or jeer, however unhandsome you ma_e."
  • "No, indeed," they all added pleadingly.
  • But the Ugly One refused the invitation.
  • "I cannot," said he; "indeed, I cannot face strangers, ugly as I am."
  • Shaggy Man turned to the group surrounding him.
  • "What shall I do?" he asked in sorrowful tones. "I cannot leave my dea_rother here, and he refuses to come out of that house and face us."
  • "I'll tell you," replied Betsy. "Let him put on a mask."
  • "The very idea I was seeking!" exclaimed Shaggy joyfully; and then he calle_ut: "Brother, put a mask over your face, and then none of us can see wha_our features are like."
  • "I have no mask," answered the Ugly One.
  • "Look here," said Betsy; "he can use my handkerchief."
  • Shaggy looked at the little square of cloth and shook his head.
  • "It isn't big enough," he objected; "I'm sure it isn't big enough to hide _an's face. But he can use mine."
  • Saying this he took from his pocket his own handkerchief and went to the doo_f the hut.
  • "Here, my Brother," he called, "take this handkerchief and make a mask of it.
  • I will also pass you my knife, so that you may cut holes for the eyes, an_hen you must tie it over your face."
  • The door slowly opened, just far enough for the Ugly One to thrust out hi_and and take the handkerchief and the knife. Then it closed again.
  • "Don't forget a hole for your nose," cried Betsy. "You must breathe, yo_now."
  • For a time there was silence. Queen Ann and her army sat down upon the groun_o rest. Betsy sat on Hank's back. Polychrome danced lightly up and down th_eweled paths while Files and the Princess wandered through the groves arm i_rm. Tik-Tok, who never tired, stood motionless.
  • By and by a noise sounded from within the hut.
  • "Are you ready?" asked Shaggy.
  • "Yes, Brother," came the reply and the door was thrown open to allow the Ugl_ne to step forth.
  • Betsy might have laughed aloud had she not remembered how sensitive t_idicule Shaggy's brother was, for the handkerchief with which he had maske_is features was a red one covered with big white polka dots. In this tw_oles had been cut—in front of the eyes—while two smaller ones before th_ostrils allowed the man to breathe freely. The cloth was then tightly draw_ver the Ugly One's face and knotted at the back of his neck.
  • He was dressed in clothes that had once been good, but now were sadly worn an_rayed. His silk stockings had holes in them, and his shoes were stub-toed an_eeded blackening. "But what can you expect," whispered Betsy, "when the poo_an has been a prisoner for so many years?"
  • Shaggy had darted forward, and embraced his newly found brother with both hi_rms. The brother also embraced Shaggy, who then led him forward an_ntroduced him to all the assembled company.
  • "This is the new Nome King," he said when he came to Kaliko. "He is ou_riend, and has granted you your freedom."
  • "That is a kindly deed," replied Ugly in a sad voice, "but I dread to go bac_o the world in this direful condition. Unless I remain forever masked, m_readful face would curdle all the milk and stop all the clocks."
  • "Can't the enchantment be broken in some way?" inquired Betsy.
  • Shaggy looked anxiously at Kaliko, who shook his head.
  • "I am sure I can't break the enchantment," he said. "Ruggedo was fond o_agic, and learned a good many enchantments that we nomes know nothing of."
  • "Perhaps Ruggedo himself might break his own enchantment," suggested Ann; "bu_nfortunately we have allowed the old King to escape."
  • "Never mind, my dear Brother," said Shaggy consolingly; "I am very happy t_ave found you again, although I may never see your face. So let us make th_ost of this joyful reunion."
  • The Ugly One was affected to tears by this tender speech, and the tears bega_o wet the red handkerchief; so Shaggy gently wiped them away with his coa_leeve.