John Dough and the Cherub
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"Well, where are the other jewels?"
"You agreed to accept this one as our ransom," answered the gingerbread man.
"You misunderstood me. I said three," declared the pirate; and turning to his men he shouted: "Didn't I say three, boys?"
"You did! You said three sparklers!" cried the retired pirates and bandits, in a loud chorus. So John, with a sigh of regret, picked the other two diamonds out of his body and gave them to the chief.
"Now," said the pirate, "I will allow you to go. But where you can go to is a mystery to me, for you are on an island."
"Stop!" cried another man, as they turned to depart. "You've got to settle with me, now. I'm the bandit chief, and I also demand a ransom."
"I have given the pirate chief all the diamonds I had," said John.
"Then you shall surely boil in oil!" shouted the bandit, scowling fearfully. "Seize them, my men, and away with them to the fiery furnace."
But just then came a flutter of wings, and the four flamingoes flew down and sailed along just over the heads of the prisoners. Instantly the bear clutched the end of a cord and was drawn upward by one of the birds. John Dough grasped the foot of another flamingo with his right hand, and was also raised high above the heads of the astonished pirates and bandits, while Chick coolly sat within the loop of string dangling from the two remaining birds and sailed into the sky with admirable grace.
Meantime the robbers shook their fists and yelled at the escaped prisoners in a frenzy of helpless rage.
"Wait a minute!" Para Bruin called to the flamingo which was carrying him; for he observed that just beneath him was the form of the dreadful person who had called himself Sport. The bird obeyed, remaining poised in the air; and at once the bear curled himself into a ball, let go the cord, and fell downward toward the ground.
The ball of rubber, rapidly descending, struck the surprised Sport and smashed him flat upon the ground. Then up into the air bounded the bear again, and caught once more the cord that was attached to the flamingo's foot.
"Well done!" called the Cherub, while the pirates and bandits were rushing to assist the helpless Sport.
"That was a noble deed, my good Para!" said the gingerbread man.
"Oh, I'm a bouncer, all right!" answered the bear, proudly. "But now let us get away from this awful place as soon as possible."
So the flamingoes flew swiftly across the sea with them, and John Dough found that he sailed more easily while clutching the bird's foot than when the cord had been fastened around his body. Chick also rode with perfect comfort, but Para Bruin was obliged to wrap the cord several times around his fat paw, to prevent it from slipping out of his grasp.
Hiland and Loland
After a long and steady flight the birds reached another island, larger than the first, and much more beautiful. The adventurers looked down upon green valleys and vine-covered hills, patches of stately forest and fields of waving grain.But aside from the scattered farm-houses, they saw no cities or villages until they were over the exact center of the island, where a most curious sight met their view.
The island was divided into two halves by a high and strong wall of stone, that ran from ocean to ocean, passing exactly through the center of the land. In the middle of the island the dividing wall was broken by a great castle, which looked upon both sides of the wall, and had many imposing towers and turrets and spires stretching high into the air. Clustered near to the castle and upon the east side of the wall were many tall and narrow buildings, some of them rising to a height of three or four stories. The windows in these buildings were tall and narrow, and the doors were tall and narrow, and the chimneys were tall and narrow. It was quite a city in size, but the houses all looked as if they were set upon stilts, while the streets were also narrow.
On the west side of the wall, adjoining the castle, was also a city, but of a quite different sort. For the houses were low, none being of more than one story, and the windows and doors in them were so broad and low that they were wider than they were high. As for the streets, they were remarkably broad. The cities upon both sides of the wall were pretty and well built, and there were many beautiful parks and pleasure grounds scattered about.
Our friends had not much time to observe these things closely, for at John's request the flamingoes alighted upon the top of the great wall, near to an entrance of the castle.
"We must leave you now," said one of the birds, "for we are obliged to hurry home again. But I am sure you will be quite safe in this beautiful country."
"Good-by," said John, "and thank you very much for bringing us here."
Chick and the bear also thanked the kind flamingoes, and then the birds flew into the air and soon disappeared.
"What a lovely place to bounce!" said Para Bruin, leaning over the edge of the wall nearest to the tall houses and gazing downward into the street.
"It's a good way down," said Chick. "You'd better be careful."
"Nonsense!" replied the bear, scornfully. "The higher the wall the finer the bounce."
With that he made a ball of himself and rolled off the wall. John and Chick leaned over and saw the rubber bear strike the pavement far below and then bound upward again. When he was on a level with the top of the walls he reached out his paws, caught the edge of the stones, and drew himself up beside them.
"Great, – wasn't it?" he asked, proudly.
"Yes; but I advise you to be careful," said the gingerbread man. "We know nothing of the people who inhabit this country, and if you should chance to miss the wall when you bound upwards you would become a prisoner and be at the mercy of those who captured you."
"That's true," agreed the bear. "I'll be more careful until we get better acquainted. What shall we do now?"
"Let's try to find a way into the castle," suggested Chick. "It's the only way to get off this wall, for I can't bounce as you do, Para Bruin."
"Nor can I," added John. "How strange it is that the island should be divided by this great wall! And how queer to have everything short on one side and tall on the other! But perhaps the people in the castle can explain it all."
They walked along the broad wall toward the castle, and presently came to the large entrance gate, one of the wickets of which stood ajar, as if inviting them to enter.
"Shall we go in?" asked John, hesitating.
"Of course," decided Chick, promptly. "What's the use of staying outside, when the door's open?"
So they passed through the wicket and entered a lofty arched hall, built of blocks of exquisite marble, that gave it a grand and majestic appearance. There was a small stairway leading upward and a large stairway descending to the lower floors of the castle; but no one was in sight to greet them, so they decided to go down the stairs.
"Evidently they did not expect us," remarked Para Bruin.
"This must be the castle of the ruler, or king," replied John, "and perhaps the royal family is at dinner, or the king is holding court."
But at the foot of the stairs they found the hallways and rooms as deserted and empty as could be, and their footsteps echoed with a hollow sound upon the tiled floors.
The furniture of the castle was magnificent beyond description, and the draperies and pictures upon the walls were of exceptional beauty. Everything was in perfect order, yet the place seemed wholly deserted.
After inspecting the rooms on this floor of the castle they found another stairway, built of polished white marble, with elaborately carved marble balustrades. This they also descended, and discovered that the rooms on the lower floor were even more splendid than those they had already seen.
Occupying the entire central portion of the castle was a great marble hall, having a domed ceiling, and windows which looked upon the tall city to the east of the wall, as well as upon the low city to the west. There were also great entrance doors, admitting people from both sides of the wall; but these doors were closed.
They were not locked, however, and John said to his companions: "We know nothing of the owner of this castle, nor of the people inhabiting the opposite sides of the great wall. They may prove to be either our enemies or our friends, so I advise that we be cautious until we know what treatment we may expect from them. Two of us should remain here while the third boldly enters into the cities to make inquiries."
"I'll go," said Chick.
"No, indeed; you're too young and too small," objected Para Bruin.
"But I'm just a regular child, while you're a rubber bear and John Dough's a gingerbread man," said the Cherub. "They wouldn't think anything of my being here; but if either of you two go there's liable to be trouble."
"The Cherub is wise for one so young," observed John. "Therefore we will let the child visit the cities and report to us. Having found the castle deserted, we will take the liberty of occupying it until our little friend returns."
So they opened one of the great doors, and Chick walked boldly out into the main street of the high and narrow city to the eastward.
Pacing before the entrance, as if guarding the doorway from without, was a soldier who stood more than seven feet in height, but who was so exceedingly thin and slender that it really seemed as if some strange power had stretched him out lengthwise. But Chick noticed that all the people walking along the streets of this city were just as tall and slight as the soldier, and quickly understood why the doors and windows of their houses had been built so singularly tall and narrow.
The soldier seemed surprised when the Cherub emerged from the deserted castle, but he took off his tall hat and bowed politely. His uniform was of blue cloth, with brass buttons.
"What place is this?" asked Chick.
"This, beauteous stranger, is the great country of Hiland," answered the soldier, respectfully. "And this is the great city of Hie which you see before you; and the great people you observe are called Hilanders; and I do not suppose there is so great and wonderful a country, or city, or people anywhere else in all the world."
"What is the castle called?" asked the child.
"We call it the castle of Hilo," said the man. "It was the dwelling of the former King of Hilo, who ruled over our great nation as well as over the miserable creatures residing on the other side of the wall."
"But where is your King now?" inquired Chick. "The castle is empty."
"To be sure the castle is vacant at present, for our King is long since dead," the soldier replied. "But we are patiently awaiting the arrival of his successor. There is a prophecy that our next ruler will be a King who is wise and just, but not made of flesh and blood, and although this seems an impossible thing, our people hope that the prophecy will some day be fulfilled."
"But why don't you make one of your own people king?" asked Chick.
"Because the island is divided into two sections, and one king must rule both sides of the wall," replied the man. "Of course we would not allow one of the insignificant Loes to rule us, nor will they consent to allow one of our noble Hies to rule them. Therefore we must get along without a king until the arrival of the wise and just ruler who is neither flesh nor blood."
"Who are the Loes?" the child asked.
"I have never seen them, my dear, for the great wall divides them from our superior nation," said the soldier; "but they are said to be short and squat, and very disagreeable. They live on the other side of the island."
"Thank you for the information," said Chick, and then turned and re-entered the castle.
"What did you find out?" inquired John and Para Bruin, in the same breath.
The child carefully related the conversation with the Hie soldier, and then said:
"Now, I'll go into the other city, and find out what the people on that side of the wall have to say."
So John and Para opened the door at the opposite side of the arched hall, and the Cherub passed out and came upon another soldier, who seemed to be standing guard at the castle entrance. This one was dressed in a red uniform, with silver buttons, and was the shortest and fattest person Chick had ever beheld. But his broad face was smiling and good-natured in expression, and he tipped his low, flat hat gracefully to the pretty Incubator Baby.
"What country is this?" asked the child.
"This, most lovely one, is the superb and grand country of Loland," replied the man; "and this splendid city you behold is the city of Lo; and our magnificent people are called Lolanders."
"What is the castle called?" Chick inquired, curiously.
"It is the Castle of Lohi, inhabited by our King – when we have one – who also rules the poor barbarians who dwell outside of our paradise, on the other side of the wall."
"When do you expect to have another king?" asked the Cherub.
"Whenever one comes who is wise and just, and is not made of flesh and blood," replied the man. "We have a legend that such a king shall rule us, but for my part I do not believe there is a person of that description in all the world."
"Yet there may be," suggested Chick, who had been thinking that the description just fitted John Dough.
"Oh, of course there may be," agreed the man, cordially; "and if there is, and he comes to our island, every one on both sides the wall will hail him as king."
Looking along the streets of the city of Lo, Chick saw that all the people were as short and fat as this soldier, and that they waddled like ducks when they walked. But they seemed as busy as bees in a hive, and appeared to be happy and contented; so the child could not decide which was the finest country – that of the short people or that of the tall ones. Both cities seemed prosperous, and on both sides of the wall the island was charmingly beautiful.
It may appear strange to the reader that neither of the soldiers Chick had spoken with made any attempt to question the child. But afterward our friends found that one of the established laws of the island forbade any of the people to ask questions either of strangers or of those inhabiting the country on the opposite side of the wall. However, they were not forbidden to answer any questions properly addressed to them, and by nature both the tall people and the short people were extremely courteous and polite.
Chick decided this queer law was to blame for the misunderstanding between the two nations, for, as neither country knew anything at all about the other one, a feeling of mutual contempt and indifference had arisen between them.
King Dough and his Court
After the conversation with the soldier, Chick went back to the hall of the castle and told John Dough and Para Bruin what the man had said.
"They all expect a wise and just ruler, who is not made of flesh and blood," reported the little one; "so I guess it's up to you, John, to run this island."
"I'm surprised," said Para Bruin, "that they do not prefer a king who is made of pure rubber and can bounce. But if they want John Dough instead of me I'm willing to yield in his favor."
"You shall be my Chief Counselor," replied John; "only I reserve the right to act as I please in case I do not like your counsels."
"That is entirely fair and reasonable," declared Para Bruin, "and I thank you for the honor you have conferred upon me."
"I'm going to be Head Booleywag," said Chick, gravely.
"What's that?" asked John.
"It's the one that rules the ruler," said the smiling Cherub. "So just behave yourselves – you and your Chief Counselor – and you'll both find I know my business."
Thereupon the child led John Dough to the King's attiring-room, and hunted in the closets until a fine ermine robe and a crown and scepter were discovered. The crown was a little tarnished from lack of use, but the jewels in it still sparkled brightly; so the bear set it upon John's gingerbread head and put the scepter in his right hand. Chick folded the ermine robe around him in such a way that his missing left hand was not noticed, and then they led the gingerbread man to the great hall and placed him in the royal throne.
He might have looked more dignified had not his nose been badly chipped and his left glass eye so loose in its socket that it rolled every way but the right way; however, the robe concealed the fact that his shirt-front was soiled and cracked, and that several lozenge-buttons had broken off during his recent adventures. But kingly robes and a kingly crown cover many defects, and when Para Bruin and the Cherub stood back and took a critical look at their friend they felt quite proud of his regal appearance.
When all had been made ready and John was seated in the throne, Chick went to the west door of the castle hall and threw it open, and at the same time Para Bruin opened wide the east door. Then, together, they cried out to the people:
"The King has come! Enter his castle, all ye Hilanders and Lolanders, and greet the new ruler in a fitting manner!"
So the tall and slender people trooped in at one door and the short and fat people trooped in at the other; and all gazed with awe and reverence at the strange form of the gingerbread king, who was surely not flesh and blood, and might easily be a wise and just ruler.
There was no disputing the fulfillment of the prophecy; so all bowed humbly before John, whom Chick introduced to his subjects in a shrill, childish voice as "King Dough the First, ruler of the Twin Kingdoms of Hiland and Loland."
Afterward there was feasting and rejoicing in both cities, and John made a royal procession on both sides of the great wall, being everywhere received with shouts of enthusiastic joy.
The gingerbread man proved a very successful ruler; and as neither he nor Para Bruin ate anything and Chick returned to a diet of oatmeal and cream, the King's expenses were very light, and he was not obliged to tax his people to support his royal state.
One of the first laws he made was that no one in the two nations should eat gingerbread that was more than three days old, under pain of death; this prevented his ever being in danger when he traveled in either land.
Another thing he did was to engage a fat little woman of Loland to make and bake him a new gingerbread hand, having five excellent fingers at the end of it. Also she made gingerbread patches to fit his broken ear and his crumbled nose and his damaged heel, as well as some lovely new coattails; and when the hand and all these patches were placed where they belonged, John drank the cordial contained in the silver flask that the Beaver Fairy had given him, and at once the new gingerbread became a part of his body, and he was as perfect as the day he had left Monsieur Jules' bake-shop.
The woman also repaired his frosting and fastened some new lozenge-buttons to his waistcoat, after which John presented so neat and respectable an appearance that all his people were very proud of him.
Para Bruin also became a great favorite in the two cities, and the tall and short folks loved to watch him stand upon the high wall that divided the two nations, from which he would leap to the ground and immediately bound back again to his station on the wall. He was always good-natured and cheerful, quite winning the hearts of the Hilanders by poking fun at the Lolanders, and afterward delighting the Lolanders by jeering at the Hilanders.
So Para Bruin's life was a happy one, and for countless years he remained the close friend and companion of King Dough the First, the popular and worthy ruler of Hiland and Loland.
The Records of the Kingdom say very little of Chick's later history, merely mentioning the fact that the King's most valuable assistant was the Head Booleywag, who grew up to be the especial favorite of all the inhabitants of the island. But, curiously enough, the Records fail to state whether the Head Booleywag was a man or a woman.
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