John Dough and the Cherub
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Of course John Dough missed the pleasure of eating, but he had a good time listening to the music and watching the dancers; so he was quite content. Later he amused the company by telling the story of his adventures since he had come to life in the bake-shop. He spoke in the beaver language, so that all understood him; and even the Princess could understand most of his speech, for the portion of gingerbread she had eaten had conveyed to her some share of the powers of the Great Elixir. The Fairy Beavers were much interested, and loudly applauded the recital.
After dinner the girl was escorted by six pretty Beaver Fairies to a cosy little room decorated with pink and white shells, which were polished smooth as glass. There was no regular bed in the room, but the beavers heaped many of the soft cushions into a corner, and upon these the Princess lay down and slept very peacefully until the next morning. Chick had a room of blue and gold, in the four corners of which perfumed fountains shot their sprays into the air. The tinkling sounds of these fountains might have soothed any child to sleep, yet Chick could have slept as soundly in the open forest as within this luxurious room.
John Dough also was supplied with a room in the palace; but as he did not sleep he had no need to lie down, and so amused himself during the night by looking at the beautiful pictures that decorated the walls and ceiling. Most of these depicted the work of beavers engaged in building dams and houses; John found them very interesting, and therefore passed a pleasant night.
Soon after daybreak the Beaver King came to John and escorted him to the Observation Room, where he found Chick and the Princess – who had already risen and finished their breakfasts – gazing earnestly through the window of the black box. He also approached the box to gaze at the shifting pictures, and discovered that the forest had become as quiet as usual, the Arab and Black Ooboo having returned to the village in the clearing, and only a few of the Mifkets being left to wander along the sides of the brook and watch the waterfall at the dam of the beavers.
"Now," said the Fairy Beaver to the girl, "I can do one more thing to please you. Make a wish, Princess, and I will grant it."
"Thank you!" she cried, eagerly. "I wish to rejoin my dear father and mother, wherever they may be."
"Very well," returned the King; "come with me."
He led them through many passages, until they reached a sort of tunnel that brought them to a rocky cave under the river bank, some distance below the waterfall. The water of the river covered half the floor of the cave, and upon the sandy beach at its edge rested a large glass cylinder, which was pointed at both ends and had a door in the top. Harnessed to one end of the glass tube were twenty-four strong beavers, who sat motionless beside it.
"The boat in which your father and mother are still riding is far out in the ocean," said the King to the Princess; "but in this submarine boat you will be drawn by my swimming beavers so swiftly that the journey will not seem long to you."
"Are we not to go with the Princess?" asked the gingerbread man.
"There is room for only one more in the boat," replied the King, "so the Cherub and you must bid farewell to your friend, in order that she may safely rejoin the parents she so dearly loves."
"I'm sorry," said John, sadly.
"I'm sorry, too," declared the little Princess, "for you have been very good to me, John Dough.Yet my parents need me more than you do, and it is my duty to rejoin them."
"That is true," said John. "Good bye, little friend, and may your life be long and happy."
Chick said nothing, but hugged the little girl in a long and warm embrace and kissed both her pretty cheeks.
The King now opened the door in the top of the cylinder and the girl stepped inside. The space was just big enough to permit her to lie down comfortably, and the bottom of the cylinder had been thickly covered with soft cushions brought from the palace.
When the King had closed and fastened the door, he gave a signal to the four-and-twenty beavers, and at once they dashed into the water, drawing the glass submarine after them, and began swimming with powerful strokes down the river. They swam well under the surface of the water, and the glass boat followed them without either touching the bottom or rising to the top.
At first the Princess was much bewildered by her strange journey, for it seemed as if the water was pressing upon her from all sides. But presently she realized that she was quite safe in the glass tube, and began watching curiously the pretty weeds and water-flowers that grew at the bottom of the river, and the queer fishes that swam around her.
The speed of the swimming beavers was surprising. It was not long, indeed, before they reached the mouth of the river and swam boldly out into the sea. Jacquelin had no idea of the direction they took, but she trusted to the wisdom of her friend the Fairy Beaver, and was not at all frightened.
And now the sights that she saw were very strange indeed; for the seaweeds were of most gorgeous hues, and there were not only big and little fishes of every description, but brilliant sea-anemones and jelly-fish floating gracefully on all sides of her.
The journey was long, but not at all tiresome, and the girl had not realized how far she had been drawn through the waters of the ocean when a dark gray object appeared just overhead, and the beavers came to a halt.
Slowly the glass cylinder rose to the surface of the waves, and Jac saw just beside her the boat containing her parents. The girl's mother also saw, to her great surprise and joy, the form of her daughter lying in the glass case, and at once unfastened the door and assisted the child to crawl out and scramble into the boat.
The first act of the little Princess was to kiss her father and mother delightedly, and then she leaned over the side of the boat and refastened the door of the cylinder.
"Tell your King that I thank him!" she called to the beavers, trying to speak their own language; and the intelligent little creatures must have understood, for the glass cylinder sank swiftly beneath the water, and she saw it no more.
Many days the Princess and her parents rode in the boat, until one morning they came to another small island and ventured to land upon it. They found it to be a beautiful place, inhabited by no savage beasts of any sort, and containing a grove of trees that bore figs and bananas and dates and many other delicious fruits.
So they built themselves a cottage on this island, and lived there in peace and happiness for many years.
The Flight of the Flamingoes
After the Princess had left them, John Dough said to the King: "What is to become of Chick and of me? We cannot stay with you always."
"I hardly know," answered the Beaver Fairy. "Is there any place you especially desire to visit?"
"No special place is known to me," said the gingerbread man.
"It doesn't matter where we go, so long as we keep going," added the practical Chick.
"You have been very kind to us," continued John, "and we may rely upon your friendship. Since you possess such wonderful fairy powers, perhaps you will assist us to leave this island and get out into the world again, where we may seek new adventures."
"It shall be as you wish," promised the King. "But I must think of a way for you to leave my palace in perfect safety. Chick is in no great danger, but should Black Ooboo or the terrible Arab chance to capture you, they would cut your gingerbread to bits in no time, and you would be ruined. For this reason it will be best for you to leave this island as quickly as possible."
John readily agreed to this, and the King remained silent for several minutes, engaged in deep thought. Then he said:
"I believe I know a way to save you, John Dough. But I must have your permission to cut you into nine pieces."
"What good will I be when cut into pieces?" asked John, somewhat alarmed at the suggestion.
"Do not fear," said the beaver. "I promise to again restore you to your present form. The Mifkets have placed spies all about our dam, and if you attempted to walk away from here they would soon discover you. Therefore I will cut you into nine pieces, wrap each piece in a bit of cloth, and send the parcels by my beavers along different paths to the top of the hill where Para Bruin lives. There the bear and Chick can put you together again, for the child will have no trouble in reaching the bear's cage. After the nine parts are in place I will give you a magic cordial to drink; it will render your body as solid and substantial as it is now."
"But how can we escape from the island, once we have reached Para Bruin's cave?" asked John.
"The Flamingo people owe me many favors," answered the King. "You do not weigh much, so I will ask one of the flamingoes to fly with you to some other country. It will take two of the birds to carry Chick; but, if the child is not afraid, the journey will be perfectly safe."
"I'm not afraid," said Chick. "Anything suits me."
"I think your plan is an excellent one," declared John, "and we are both greatly obliged to your Majesty for your kindness."
So the King brought a great knife, and with the assistance of Chick, who was much interested in the operation, cut John Dough into nine pieces. These were wrapped into packages and eight beavers were summoned, who carried eight of the packages through secret passages to the forest and then up the mountain-side to the cave of Para Bruin. The ninth package, containing the head of John Dough, the King undertook to carry himself, and although the Mifket spies of Black Ooboo noticed the nine beavers carrying packages up the hillside, they paid little attention to them, never suspecting that in this queer fashion the gingerbread man was making his escape.
And Chick walked boldly along the river bank and up the hill to meet Para Bruin, who hugged the child joyfully in his rubber arms, and tried to lick the plump cheeks with his pink rubber tongue. The Mifkets were puzzled by Chick's appearance, and wondered where the little one had come from; but they did not offer to interfere with the child in any way.
It was not long before the Beaver King reached the bear's cave and laid the ninth package, containing John's head, beside the other eight, which had already arrived.
"What's all this?" asked Para Bruin, eying the packages with much surprise.
"Be patient and you will see," replied the King, and then unwrapped John's head. When the bear saw it he uttered a groan and exclaimed:
"Alas! my poor friend has come to a sad end!"
"Not so," answered John's head. "The Fairy Beaver has cut me apart, but he has promised to put me together again, so that I will be as good as new. And you must assist us, friend Para."
"Most willingly!" declared the bear.
Then, under the King's direction, Para Bruin and Chick set up John's legs, and placed the sections of his body upon them, and afterward perched his head upon the body. John expected to tumble down at any moment, for he was just like a house of blocks that a child builds, and every one knows how easily that falls apart; but he kept as still as possible, and at length all the nine parts of him were in their proper places.
Then the King handed a small silver flask to the child, and told Chick to pour the contents into John's mouth – just between the candy teeth. Chick, by standing on tiptoe, was able to do this, and John drank the cordial to the last drop. He seemed to feel it penetrate and spread through all his gingerbread body; and, as it did so, every one of the cut places became solid again, and presently John took a step forward, looked himself over, and found he was indeed as good as new.
"That cordial is great stuff," he said to the King. "It's almost as powerful as the Great Elixir itself."
"It is an excellent remedy for cuts," replied the King, "and as you are so crumbly and unsubstantial I will give you another bottle of it, so that if you ever meet with an accident you may drink the cordial and recover." He handed John another silver flask containing the wonderful liquid, which John accepted with much gratitude.
"Now I must leave you," said the King. "The flamingoes have promised to send her their strongest flyers to bear you and the Incubator Baby to another land, so I believe you will both live to encounter many further adventures."
Chick and John again thanked the kind beaver for all the favors they had received, and then the King and his people returned to their beautiful palace, and left the gingerbread man and the cheerful Cherub and Para Bruin alone upon the mountain-top.
"What has become of the Princess?" asked the bear.
John told him the story of her escape, and Para said:
"Well, I'm glad the dear child was able to rejoin her parents; but this island will be a dreary place without her. I wish I could leave it as easily as you and Chick can."
"Perhaps," said John, "the flamingoes will also carry you."
"Do you think so?" asked Para, eagerly.
"I'll ask them about it, for I understand their language," promised John; and this so delighted the rubber bear that he bounded up and down in glee.
Before long four great birds were seen approaching through the air, and soon they alighted upon the mountain close to where our friends stood.
"We were sent to carry a gingerbread man and a fair-haired child away from this island," said one of the birds, in a squeaky voice.
"I am the gingerbread man," replied John, speaking as the flamingoes did; "and here is the fair-haired child. But we also wish you to carry our friend Para Bruin with us. One of you can carry me, and two can carry Chick. That will leave the fourth to fly with Para Bruin, if you will kindly consent."
"What, that monstrous bear!" exclaimed one of the birds, indignantly.
"He's large, it is true," replied John; "but he's made of rubber, and is hollow inside; so he really doesn't weigh much more than I do."
"Well," said the flamingo, "if that is the case I do not object to carrying him."
John related this conversation to the bear, who was overjoyed at the thought of getting away from the island.
A stout cord had been tied to the feet of each of the flamingoes, and John now proceeded to fasten the loose end of one of the cords around his own body, tying it in a firm knot, so it would not come undone and let him drop. The cords hanging from the two birds that were to carry the Cherub were tied together in a hard knot, and thus formed a swing in which the child sat quite comfortably. Para Bruin now tied himself to the fourth flamingo, and the preparations were complete.
"Are you ready?" asked the leader of the flamingoes.
"Yes," said John.
"Where do you wish to be taken?"
"We don't much care," replied the gingerbread man. "Let us get to some island where there are no Mifkets. As for Ali Dubh, he will be obliged to stay here with his friend Black Ooboo, and once I am away from these shores I shall be sure he can never eat me."
So the big birds flew into the air, carrying with them the gingerbread man and the fair-haired child and the rubber bear, and so swift was their flight that in a few moments the island of the Mifkets had vanished from their view.
"Nice ride, isn't it?" Chick called to John.
"Rather nice," answered the gingerbread man. "But this cord is so tight it's wearing a crease in my body."
"What a pity you are not made of rubber, as I am!" said the bear, cheerfully. "Nothing ever injures me in the least. I'm practically indestructible."
"How are you getting on, Chick?" asked John.
"Fine!" answered the Cherub. "This knocks Imar's flying-machine into a cocked hat."
Then for a time they sailed on in silence, dangling from the ends of their cords, while the strong wings of the flamingoes beat the air with regular strokes just above their heads.
Sport of Pirate Island
The birds flew close together and made great speed, and in about three hours from the time they started an island appeared just ahead of them. Whereupon John said to the bird that bore him:
"Let us stop here, so we can examine the island and see how we like it. This cord is cutting into my gingerbread body, and I'd like to stop for a time, anyway."
"Very well," answered the bird; and when they were over the center of the island the flamingoes gradually descended and alighted upon the ground. John untied the cord from his waist, and also assisted Chick and Para Bruin to free themselves. The bear was not injured at all, but the cord had worn a straight line around John's body, although not very deep; and in some way the gingerbread man had lost another of his lozenge buttons.
The place where they had alighted was covered by grass and surrounded by groves of trees.
"This looks like a fine country," said Chick, gazing around.
"It's better than our old island, anyway," remarked Para Bruin.
But just as he spoke the flamingoes uttered shrill screams and flew quickly into the air, and our friends turned in time to see a most curious creature come from the grove and approach them.
It had somewhat the likeness of a man, yet was too queer ever to be mistaken for a human being, although it was certainly alive. Its body was a huge punching-bag, and its head was a foot-ball. For legs it had two of those golf-clubs called "putters," and one of its arms was a tennis-racket and the other a base-ball club. This was curious enough, in all conscience; but the face was more curious yet. For the eyes were golf balls, and the nose a square of billiard-chalk, and its mouth a mere slit in the foot-ball where the lacing had come undone. Taken altogether, this odd creature presented a most surprising appearance, and while John Dough and Para Bruin stared at it in amazement Chick boldly asked:
"Who are you?"
"Sport is my name, and sport my nature," answered the creature, winking one eye frightfully, and grinning until its queer mouth curled up at both corners of the slit.
"Sport," remarked the rubber bear, gravely, "is something amusing; so I am sure you are misnamed."
"Oh! you're a balloon," returned Sport, kicking at the bear with one of his golf-club feet; "the kid's a chucklehead and the other's a bun."
"I'm not a bun!" exclaimed John, indignantly.
"Yes, you are! Cross bun, too. Hot cross bun. Cool off, old chap, and look pleasant."
John was too angry to reply to this speech, but Chick said to the creature:
"If you're going to be so disagreeable, you'd better leave us. We don't care to associate with people of your sort."
"Ho, ho! ha, ha!" laughed Sport; "don't care to associate, eh? Do you know where you are?"
"No," said Chick, "and I don't care."
"Well, this island is inhabited by retired pirates and bandits, who make every one that lands here pay a heavy ransom, or else – "
"Or else what?" asked John, as Sport stopped short and gave another horrid wink.
"Or else they boil 'em in oil for three days," was the reply.
"Well," said the bear, "we can't pay a ransom, that's certain; but I'm not afraid of being boiled in oil. I'm practically indestructible."
"But I'm not!" cried John, much alarmed. "It would ruin my gingerbread to be boiled in oil, and Chick would certainly get overheated. I'm afraid it would melt your rubber, too, my dear Para."
"Would it?" asked the bear, with a start. "Then let us get away from this island at once!"
"By all means!" agreed John Dough.
"And the sooner the better," declared Chick.
But as they turned to look for the flamingoes, the creature who called himself Sport began pounding his punching-bag body with his tennis-racket arm, and at the sound a crowd of men ran out of groves of trees and quickly surrounded the rubber bear and Chick and the gingerbread man.
These men had heavy beards, hooked noses, and piercing black eyes; and they wore red sashes tied around their waists; and laced leggings, and blue flannel shirts open at the throats; and in their belts were stuck many daggers and knives and pistols.
"Whoop! whoo – o – o!" they screeched, yelling like Indians; and their leader, who was uglier looking than any of his followers, cried out:
"Avast, there, my hearties! Here's a chance for either a fine ransom or a pot of boiling oil!"
"Then it's the oil," said Para Bruin, despondently; "for we have no ransom."
"You may as well start the bonfire," remarked Chick.
But John Dough stepped up to the pirate chief and asked:
"How much ransom do you require?"
"Well," answered the chief, "you're not worth much, yourself, and the child's too small to count; but a fine rubber bear like that is worth ten pieces-of-eight or a sparkling jewel."
"I will give you a sparkling jewel for him, as a ransom," said John, "provided you will then permit us to depart in peace."
"All right," agreed the pirate; "hand over the sparkler and you may go."
So John borrowed a dagger from the chief and picked out of his body one of the three diamonds which the inventor had given him in the Isle of Phreex. It glittered most beautifully in the sunlight, and the eyes of the pirate also glittered with greed. For he had noticed two other scars on John's gingerbread body, similar to the one the diamond had been picked out of. Taking the diamond in his dirty hand he said:
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