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Chapter 8 Ruggedo's Rage is Rash and Reckless

  • The way taken by the adventurers led up hill and down dale and wound here an_here in a fashion that seemed aimless. But always it drew nearer to a rang_f low mountains and Files said more than once that he was certain th_ntrance to Ruggedo's cavern would be found among these rugged hills.
  • In this he was quite correct. Far underneath the nearest mountain was _orgeous chamber hollowed from the solid rock, the walls and roof of whic_littered with thousands of magnificent jewels. Here, on a throne of virgi_old, sat the famous Nome King, dressed in splendid robes and wearing a super_rown cut from a single blood-red ruby.
  • Ruggedo, the Monarch of all the Metals and Precious Stones of the Undergroun_orld, was a round little man with a flowing white beard, a red face, brigh_yes and a scowl that covered all his forehead. One would think, to look a_im, that he ought to be jolly; one might think, considering his enormou_ealth, that he ought to be happy; but this was not the case. The Meta_onarch was surly and cross because mortals had dug so much treasure out o_he earth and kept it above ground, where all the power of Ruggedo and hi_omes was unable to recover it. He hated not only the mortals but also th_airies who live upon the earth or above it, and instead of being content wit_he riches he still possessed he was unhappy because he did not own all th_old and jewels in the world.
  • Ruggedo had been nodding, half asleep, in his chair when suddenly he sa_pright, uttered a roar of rage and began pounding upon a huge gong that stoo_eside him.
  • The sound filled the vast cavern and penetrated to many caverns beyond, wher_ountless thousands of nomes were working at their unending tasks, hammerin_ut gold and silver and other metals, or melting ores in great furnaces, o_olishing glittering gems. The nomes trembled at the sound of the King's gon_nd whispered fearfully to one another that something unpleasant was sure t_appen; but none dared pause in his task,
  • The heavy curtains of cloth-of-gold were pushed aside and Kaliko, the King'_igh Chamberlain, entered the royal presence.
  • "What's up, Your Majesty?" he asked, with a wide yawn, for he had jus_akened.
  • "Up?" roared Ruggedo, stamping his foot viciously. "Those foolish mortals ar_p, that's what! And they want to come down."
  • "Down here?" inquired Kaliko.
  • "Yes!"
  • "How do you know?" continued the Chamberlain, yawning again.
  • "I feel it in my bones," said Ruggedo. "I can always feel it when thos_ateful earth-crawlers draw near to my Kingdom. I am positive, Kaliko, tha_ortals are this very minute on their way here to annoy me—and I hate mortal_ore than I do catnip tea!"
  • "Well, what's to be done?" demanded the nome.
  • "Look through your spyglass, and see where the invaders are," commanded th_ing.
  • So Kaliko went to a tube in the wall of rock and put his eye to it. The tub_an from the cavern up to the side of the mountain and turned several curve_nd corners, but as it was a magic spyglass Kaliko was able to see through i_ust as easily as if it had been straight.
  • "Ho—hum," said he. "I see 'em, Your Majesty."
  • "What do they look like?" inquired the Monarch.
  • "That's a hard question to answer, for a queerer assortment of creatures _ever yet beheld," replied the nome. "However, such a collection o_uriosities may prove dangerous. There's a copper man, worked by machinery—"
  • "Bah! that's only Tik-Tok," said Ruggedo. "I'm not afraid of him. Why, onl_he other day I met the fellow and threw him down a well."
  • "Then some one must have pulled him out again," said Kaliko. "And there's _ittle girl—"
  • "Dorothy?" asked Ruggedo, jumping up in fear.
  • "No; some other girl. In fact, there are several girls, of various sizes; bu_orothy is not with them, nor is Ozma."
  • "That's good!" exclaimed the King, sighing in relief.
  • Kaliko still had his eye to the spyglass.
  • "I see," said he, "an army of men from Oogaboo. They are all officers an_arry swords. And there is a Shaggy Man—who seems very harmless—and a littl_onkey with big ears."
  • "Pooh!" cried Ruggedo, snapping his fingers in scorn. "I've no fear of such _ob as that. A dozen of my nomes can destroy them all in a jiffy."
  • "I'm not so sure of that," said Kaliko. "The people of Oogaboo are hard t_estroy, and I believe the Rose Princess is a fairy. As for Polychrome, yo_now very well that the Rainbow's Daughter cannot be injured by a nome."
  • "Polychrome! Is she among them?" asked the King.
  • "Yes; I have just recognized her."
  • "Then these people are coming here on no peaceful errand," declared Ruggedo, scowling fiercely. "In fact, no one ever comes here on a peaceful errand. _ate everybody, and everybody hates me!"
  • "Very true," said Kaliko.
  • "I must in some way prevent these people from reaching my dominions. Where ar_hey now?"
  • "Just now they are crossing the Rubber Country, Your Majesty."
  • "Good! Are your magnetic rubber wires in working order?"
  • "I think so," replied Kaliko. "Is it your Royal Will that we have some fu_ith these invaders?"
  • "It is," answered Ruggedo. "I want to teach them a lesson they will neve_orget."
  • Now, Shaggy had no idea that he was in a Rubber Country, nor had any of hi_ompanions. They noticed that everything around them was of a dull gray colo_nd that the path upon which they walked was soft and springy, yet they had n_uspicion that the rocks and trees were rubber and even the path they trod wa_ade of rubber.
  • Presently they came to a brook where sparkling water dashed through a dee_hannel and rushed away between high rocks far down the mountain-side. Acros_he brook were stepping-stones, so placed that travelers might easily lea_rom one to another and in that manner cross the water to the farther bank.
  • Tik-Tok was marching ahead, followed by his officers and Queen Ann. After the_ame Betsy Bobbin and Hank, Polychrome and Shaggy, and last of all the Ros_rincess with Files. The Clockwork Man saw the stream and the stepping stone_nd, without making a pause, placed his foot upon the first stone.
  • The result was astonishing. First he sank down in the soft rubber, which the_ebounded and sent Tik-Tok soaring high in the air, where he turned _uccession of flip-flops and alighted upon a rubber rock far in the rear o_he party.
  • General Apple did not see Tik-Tok bound, so quickly had he disappeared; therefore he also stepped upon the stone (which you will guess was connecte_ith Kaliko's magnetic rubber wire) and instantly shot upward like an arrow.
  • General Cone came next and met with a like fate, but the others now notice_hat something was wrong and with one accord they halted the column and looke_ack along the path.
  • There was Tik-Tok, still bounding from one rubber rock to another, each tim_ising a less distance from the ground. And there was General Apple, boundin_way in another direction, his three-cornered hat jammed over his eyes and hi_ong sword thumping him upon the arms and head as it swung this way and that.
  • And there, also, appeared General Cone, who had struck a rubber roc_eadforemost and was so crumpled up that his round body looked more like _ouncing-ball than the form of a man.
  • Betsy laughed merrily at the strange sight and Polychrome echoed her laughter.
  • But Ozga was grave and wondering, while Queen Ann became angry at seeing th_hief officers of the Army of Oogaboo bounding around in so undignified _anner. She shouted to them to stop, but they were unable to obey, even thoug_hey would have been glad to do so. Finally, however, they all ceased boundin_nd managed to get upon their feet and rejoin the Army.
  • "Why did you do that?" demanded Ann, who seemed greatly provoked.
  • "Don't ask them why," said Shaggy earnestly. "I knew you would ask them why, but you ought not to do it. The reason is plain. Those stones are rubber; therefore they are not stones. Those rocks around us are rubber, and therefor_hey are not rocks. Even this path is not a path; it's rubber. Unless we ar_ery careful, your Majesty, we are all likely to get the bounce, just as you_oor officers and Tik-Tok did."
  • "Then let's be careful," remarked Files, who was full of wisdom; bu_olychrome wanted to test the quality of the rubber, so she began dancing.
  • Every step sent her higher and higher into the air, so that she resembled _ig butterfly fluttering lightly. Presently she made a great bound and bounde_ay across the stream, landing lightly and steadily on the other side.
  • "There is no rubber over here," she called to them. "Suppose you all try t_ound over the stream, without touching the stepping-stones."
  • Ann and her officers were reluctant to undertake such a risky adventure, bu_etsy at once grasped the value of the suggestion and began jumping up an_own until she found herself bounding almost as high as Polychrome had done.
  • Then she suddenly leaned forward and the next bound took her easily across th_rook, where she alighted by the side of the Rainbow's Daughter.
  • "Come on, Hank!" called the girl, and the donkey tried to obey. He managed t_ound pretty high but when he tried to bound across the stream he misjudge_he distance and fell with a splash into the middle of the water.
  • "Hee-haw!" he wailed, struggling toward the far bank. Betsy rushed forward t_elp him out, but when the mule stood safely beside her she was amazed to fin_e was not wet at all.
  • "It's dry water," said Polychrome, dipping her hand into the stream an_howing how the water fell from it and left it perfectly dry.
  • "In that case," returned Betsy, "they can all walk through the water."
  • She called to Ozga and Shaggy to wade across, assuring them the water wa_hallow and would not wet them. At once they followed her advice, avoiding th_ubber stepping stones, and made the crossing with ease. This encouraged th_ntire party to wade through the dry water, and in a few minutes all ha_ssembled on the bank and renewed their journey along the path that led to th_ome King's dominions.
  • When Kaliko again looked through his magic spyglass he exclaimed:
  • "Bad luck, Your Majesty! All the invaders have passed the Rubber Country an_ow are fast approaching the entrance to your caverns."
  • Ruggedo raved and stormed at the news and his anger was so great that severa_imes, as he strode up and down his jeweled cavern, he paused to kick Kalik_pon his shins, which were so sensitive that the poor nome howled with pain.
  • Finally the King said:
  • "There's no help for it; we must drop these audacious invaders down the Hollo_ube."
  • Kaliko gave a jump, at this, and looked at his master wonderingly.
  • "If you do that, Your Majesty," he said, "you will make Tititi-Hoochoo ver_ngry."
  • "Never mind that," retorted Ruggedo. "Tititi-Hoochoo lives on the other sid_f the world, so what do I care for his anger?"
  • Kaliko shuddered and uttered a little groan.
  • "Remember his terrible powers," he pleaded, "and remember that he warned you, the last time you slid people through the Hollow Tube, that if you did i_gain he would take vengeance upon you."
  • The Metal Monarch walked up and down in silence, thinking deeply.
  • "Of two dangers," said he, "it is wise to choose the least. What do yo_uppose these invaders want?"
  • "Let the Long-Eared Hearer listen to them," suggested Kaliko.
  • "Call him here at once!" commanded Ruggedo eagerly.
  • So in a few minutes there entered the cavern a nome with enormous ears, wh_owed low before the King.
  • "Strangers are approaching," said Ruggedo, "and I wish to know their errand.
  • Listen carefully to their talk and tell me why they are coming here, and wha_or."
  • The nome bowed again and spread out his great ears, swaying them gently up an_own and back and forth. For half an hour he stood silent, in an attitude o_istening, while both the King and Kaliko grew impatient at the delay. At las_he Long-Eared Hearer spoke:
  • "Shaggy Man is coming here to rescue his brother from captivity," said he.
  • "Ha, the Ugly One!" exclaimed Ruggedo. "Well, Shaggy Man may have his ugl_rother, for all I care. He's too lazy to work and is always getting in m_ay. Where is the Ugly One now, Kaliko?"
  • "The last time Your Majesty stumbled over the prisoner you commanded me t_end him to the Metal Forest, which I did. I suppose he is still there."
  • "Very good. The invaders will have a hard time finding the Metal Forest," sai_he King, with a grin of malicious delight, "for half the time I can't find i_yself. Yet I created the forest and made every tree, out of gold and silver, so as to keep the precious metals in a safe place and out of the reach o_ortals. But tell me, Hearer, do the strangers want anything else?"
  • "Yes, indeed they do!" returned the nome. "The Army of Oogaboo is determine_o capture all the rich metals and rare jewels in your kingdom, and th_fficers and their Queen have arranged to divide the spoils and carry the_way."
  • When he heard this Ruggedo uttered a bellow of rage and began dancing up an_own, rolling his eyes, clicking his teeth together and swinging his arm_uriously. Then, in an ecstasy of anger he seized the long ears of the Heare_nd pulled and twisted them cruelly; but Kaliko grabbed up the King's sceptr_nd rapped him over the knuckles with it, so that Ruggedo let go the ears an_egan to chase his Royal Chamberlain around the throne.
  • The Hearer took advantage of this opportunity to slip away from the cavern an_scape, and after the King had tired himself out chasing Kaliko he thre_imself into his throne and panted for breath, while he glared wickedly at hi_efiant subject.
  • "You'd better save your strength to fight the enemy," suggested Kaliko. "Ther_ill be a terrible battle when the Army of Oogaboo gets here."
  • "The Army won't get here," said the King, still coughing and panting. "I'l_rop 'em down the Hollow Tube—every man Jack and every girl Jill of 'em!"
  • "And defy Tititi-Hoochoo?" asked Kaliko.
  • "Yes. Go at once to my Chief Magician and order him to turn the path towar_he Hollow Tube, and to make the tip of the Tube invisible, so they'll al_all into it."
  • Kaliko went away shaking his head, for he thought Ruggedo was making a grea_istake. He found the Magician and had the path twisted so that it le_irectly to the opening of the Hollow Tube, and this opening he mad_nvisible.
  • Having obeyed the orders of his master, the Royal Chamberlain went to hi_rivate room and began to write letters of recommendation of himself, statin_hat he was an honest man, a good servant and a small eater.
  • "Pretty soon," he said to himself, "I shall have to look for another job, fo_t is certain that Ruggedo has ruined himself by this reckless defiance of th_ighty Tititi-Hoochoo. And in seeking a job nothing is so effective as _etter of recommendation."