John Dough and the Cherub
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Not daring to walk farther upon his mushy feet, John got down on his hands and knees and began crawling toward the farther end of the tunnel. He made slow progress, in that position; but soon he heard a noise of machinery, and felt the warm air of a furnace coming to meet him. That gave him courage to proceed, and he crawled onward until he had reached a large, circular chamber, where a tall man with whiskers that resembled those of a billy-goat was busily working among a number of machines.
"Hello!" this personage exclaimed, as he saw the gingerbread man. "What have we here?"
The voice and eyes were alike kindly; so John told the man his story and asked permission to dry his feet at the glowing furnace.
"Make yourself at home," said the man, and turned to his work again.
The place was lighted by electricity, and was warm and comfortable. John put his feet as near to the furnace as he dared, and soon felt the heat drying up his soaked feet. It was not long, indeed, before his entire body was as crisp and solid as ever; and then our hero stood upon his feet and found that the damage to his heel would not interfere much with his walking.
"What are you doing?" he asked the man.
"Making diamonds," replied the other, calmly. "I suppose I am the only one in the world who ever succeeded in making real diamonds; but people did not believe in me, you see, so they sent me to the Isle of Phreex. Here I have manufactured the finest diamonds the world has ever known, for no one interferes with my work. Look at these."
He threw back the lid of a large tin box, and John saw that it was full to the brim with sparkling gems of a clear white color.
"Take some," said the man, offering him a handful. "They are of no use to me here, because I cannot dispose of them. But I have the satisfaction of making them, just the same. Help yourself!"
"No, thank you," said John. "I have no use for diamonds, any more than you have."
"But the time may come when riches will be a great help to you," said the man, and picking out three very big stones he began pressing them into John Dough's gingerbread body, one after the other.
"There!" he exclaimed. "They are now safely concealed, and if you ever need them you can dig them out and sell them. Those three stones would be worth several thousand dollars if you ever get into the world again, where diamonds are valued."
"You are very generous," said John.
"Oh, not at all, I assure you!" said the man, wagging his goatlike beard with every word he spoke. "In this curious island there is no value to anything whatever, not even to life. All I can do with my diamonds here is to stick them into the kinglet's crown and sceptre; so I'm getting a big stock of them laid by. Very soon I shall begin studding the roof of the throne-room with diamonds, and it will be a pretty sight to see them glittering in one mass."
"Well," said our hero, "if it has stopped raining, I believe I'll bid you good-by."
"Never mind the rain," answered the man."Here is a winding staircase that leads directly upward into the castle. If you go that way, the rain cannot reach you. The tunnel through which you entered is only used for ventilation."
John thanked the good-natured diamond-maker and started to climb the stairs. There were a good many steps, but after a while he came to a gallery of the castle, and had little difficulty in finding the passage that led to his own room.
As he walked along he heard the sound of a piano, and paused at an open door to peer within the room, for he imagined some one was pounding upon the keys of the piano with a sledge-hammer. But immediately a fluffy-haired man looked up and saw him, and the next instant pounced upon the gingerbread man in much the same way that a cat would pounce upon a rat, and seized him fast, drew him into the room, and closed and locked the door.
John was astonished, but the fluffy-haired musician began pacing up and down the room, swinging his arms and shouting:
"I have it! I have it at last! I am great! I am magnificent! I am better than Vogner himself!" He paused to glare upon John. "Why don't you shout, you baked idiot? Why don't you weep with joy?" he cried. "It is great, I tell you! It is great!"
"What is great?" asked John.
"The symphonie! The divine symphonie, you heartless molasses-cake, or devil's food, or whatever you are! And I composed it —I– Tietjamus Toips! I am greater than Vogner!"
"I didn't hear it," said the gingerbread man.
The musician threw himself upon the piano, and produced a succession of such remarkable sounds that John was surprised.
"Did you understand it?" demanded the fluffy-haired one, jumping up again.
"No," said John.
"No! Of course not! No one can understand it. It is genius! It will be played at all the great concerts. The critics will write columns in praise of it. Some folks can understand Vogner a little. No one can understand me at all! I am wonderful! I am superb!"
"Well," said John, "I'm not a judge. It seemed to me like awful discord."
The musician threw himself upon his knees and burst into tears.
"Thank you, my friend! – my dear friend!" said he, between the sobs. "Such praise gladdens my heart and makes me very happy! Ah! glorious moment, in which I produce music that is not understood and sounds like discord!"
John left the musician still shedding tears of happiness, and walked to his room.
"The people of this island are certainly peculiar," he reflected; "and I am very glad indeed that I am an ordinary gingerbread man, and not a crank."
He found the bald-headed inventor of the power of repulsion awaiting him in the room.
"Well, how did the tube please you? Is it not wonderful?" he inquired.
"It's wonderful enough when it works," said John; "but it suddenly quit working, and nearly ruined me."
"Ah, the power became exhausted," returned the man, calmly. "But that is nothing. It can be easily renewed."
"However," John remarked, "I think that whenever any one uses your tube as a protection from the rain, he should also carry an umbrella to use in case of accident."
"An umbrella! Bah!" cried the inventor, and left the room in a rage, slamming the door behind him.
The Lady Executioner
Presently Chick returned, looking bright and happy as ever; but when the child heard the tale of John's wanderings in the rain he received a sound scolding for being so careless.
"You mustn't pay any attention to the inventors," said the Cherub. "This Isle is full of 'em, and most of their inventions won't work."
"I've discovered that," said John.
"But they're good fun, if you don't take 'em in earnest," continued the Baby; "and as it's going to rain all the afternoon I'll take you around the castle to make some calls on some of the cranks that are harmless."
John readily agreed to this proposal; so Chick took his hand and led him through some of the wide halls, stopping frequently to call upon the different inventors and scientific discoverers who inhabited the various rooms. They were all glad to see the pretty child and welcomed John Dough almost as cordially.
One personage presented the gingerbread man with a smokeless cigar that he had recently invented. Another wanted him to listen to a noiseless music-box, and was delighted when John declared he could hear nothing at all. A third wanted him to try a dish of hot ice-cream made in a glowing freezer, and was grieved because the gingerbread man was constructed in such a way that it was impossible for him to eat.
"Really," said John, "I don't see the use of these things."
"Oh, they're not useful at all," replied Chick, laughing; "but these folks are all trying to do something queer, and most of them are doing it. Now we'll climb this tower, and I'll show you what I call a really fine invention."
So up they climbed to the top of one of the turrets, winding round and round a narrow staircase until they came upon a broad platform. And on this platform rested a queer machine that somewhat resembled a bird, for it had two great wings and a big body that glittered as brightly as if it were made of silver.
While they stood looking at this odd contrivance a door in the body of the bird opened and a young man stepped out and greeted them.
John thought him quite the most agreeable person, in looks and manner, that he had yet met in the Isle of Phreex; excepting, of course, his friend Chick. The young man had a sad face, but his eyes were pleasant and intelligent and his brow thoughtful. In a few polite and well-chosen words he welcomed his guests.
"This is Imar," said Chick, introducing John; "and he has invented a real flying-machine."
"One that will fly?" asked John, curiously.
"Of course," said the Baby. "I've had many a ride in it – haven't I, Imar?"
"To be sure," replied the young man. "I have often taken Chick to ride as far as forty yards from the tower. If it did not rain, just now, nothing would give me more pleasure than to prove to you that my invention will work perfectly."
"I see you have made it resemble a bird," remarked John, who was quite interested in the machine.
"Yes," said the dreamy Imar, "and the reason I have succeeded in my invention is because I have kept close to Nature's own design. Every muscle of a bird's wings is duplicated in this machine. But instead of being animated by life, I have found it necessary to employ electric batteries and motors. Perhaps the bird isn't exactly as good as a real bird, but it will fly all right, as you shall see when I take you for a ride in it."
He then allowed John to enter the tiny room in the body of the bird, which was just big enough to allow two to sit close together. And in front of the seat were various push-buttons and a silver lever, by means of which the flight of the machine was controlled.
"It is very simple," said Imar, proudly. "Even Chick could guide the machine, if properly instructed. The only fault of the invention is that the wings are too light to be strong, and that is why I do not take very long trips in it."
"I understand," answered John. "It's quite a distance to the ground, if anything happened to break."
"True," acknowledged Imar, sadly; "and I do not wish to break my neck before I am able to make a bigger and better machine."
"That is not to be wondered at," said John. Then he thanked the inventor and followed Chick down the winding stairs and through the halls until they again reached their own room, where they sat and talked until darkness came and drove the Incubator Baby to its snowy couch. As for the gingerbread man, he never required sleep or rest; so he sat quietly in a chair and thought of many things until a new day dawned.
By morning the rain had ceased and the sun arose in a blue sky and flooded the Isle with its warm and brilliant rays. The Incubator Baby was so happy this pleasant day that it fairly danced away to get its regular breakfast of milk and oatmeal.
But John Dough's little friend was back at his side before long, and together they went hand in hand through the halls of the castle to the throne-room of the kinglet.
They found his Majesty already seated in the throne, with the fat Nebbie asleep at one side of him and the girl executioner carefully sharpening her sword on the other side.
"This is my busy day," said the kinglet, nodding graciously to Chick and the gingerbread man. "There are too many useless people in my kingdom, and I'm going to kill off some of them. Sit down and watch the flash of the executioner's sword."
Then he turned to his guards and commanded:
"Bring in the General."
Immediately they ushered before the kinglet a soldierly man clothed in a gorgeous uniform. His head was erect and his countenance calm and set. The eyes seemed dull and listless, and he walked stiffly, as if his limbs were rheumatic.
"Sire, I salute you!" the General exclaimed, in a hollow voice. "Why am I brought before you as a prisoner – I, the hero of a hundred battles?"
"You are accused of being foolish," said the kinglet, with a broad grin upon his freckled face.
"Sire, at the battle of Waterloo – "
"Never mind the battle of Waterloo," interrupted his Majesty. "I am told you are scattered all over the world, as the result of your foolishness."
"To an extent, Sire, I am scattered. But it is the result of bravery, not foolishness." He unstrapped his left arm and tossed it on the floor before the throne. "I lost that at Bull Run," he said. Then he unhooked his right leg and cast it down. "That, Sire, was blown off at Sedan." Then he suddenly lifted his right arm, seized his hair firmly, and lifted the head from his shoulders. "It is true I lost my head at Santiago," he said, "but I could not help it."
John was astonished. The old general seemed to come to pieces very easily. He had tucked the head under his right elbow, and now stood before the kinglet on one foot, presenting a remarkably strange appearance.
His Majesty seemed interested.
"What is your head made of?" he asked.
"Wax, your Majesty."
"And what are your legs made of?" continued the kinglet.
"One is cork, Sire, and the other – the one I am now standing on – is basswood."
"And your arms?"
"Rubber, my kinglet."
"You may go, General. There is no doubt you were very unwise to get so broken up; but there is nothing left for the Royal Executioner to do."
The girl sighed and felt the edge of her blade; and the old general replaced his head, had his leg and arm again strapped to his body by the guards, and hobbled away after making a low bow before the throne.
Just then a great noise of quarrelling and fighting was heard near the doorway, and while all eyes were turned toward the sound, a wooden Indian sprang into the hall, waving a wooden tomahawk over his head, and uttering terrible war-whoops.
Following him came a number of the Brotherhood of Failings, trying to capture the Indian. The Awkward tripped up and fell flat on his face; the Unlucky got in the way of the tomahawk and received a crack on the head that laid him low; the Blunderer was kicked on the shin so violently that he howled and limped away to a safe distance. But just before the throne the Disagreeable, the Bad-Tempered, and the Ugly managed to throw a rope about the Indian's arms and bind them fast to his body, so that he ceased to struggle.
"What's the trouble?" asked the kinglet.
"Sir," said the Indian, proudly; "once I had the honor to be a beautiful sign in front of a cigar store, and now these miserable Failings dare to insult me."
"He claims his name is Wart-on-the-Nose," answered the Disagreeable, "and any one can see there is no wart at all on his nose."
"So we decided to fight him," added the Ugly.
"And he dared to resist," said the Bad-Tempered.
"I am a great chief," the Indian declared, scowling fiercely. "I am made of oak, and my paint is the best ready-mixed that can be purchased!"
"But why do you claim your name is Wart-on-the-Nose?" asked the kinglet.
"I have a right to call myself what I please," answered the Indian, sulkily. "Are not white girls called Rose and Violet when they have not that color? John Brown was white and Mary Green was white. If the white people deceive us about their names, I also have a right to deceive."
"Now, by my – my – my – " The kinglet jabbed the fat man with his sceptre.
"Halidom!" yelled Nebbie, with a jump.
"By my halidom!" said the kinglet, "I will allow no one in my kingdom to tell an untruth. There being no wart on your nose, you must die the death! Executioner, do your duty!"
The Failings tripped up the Indian so that he fell upon his face, and then the girl advanced solemnly with her sword.
Three times she swung the glittering blade around her head, and then she glanced at the kinglet and said:
"Well, what?" asked his Majesty.
"Isn't it time to change your mind?"
"I'm not going to change my mind in this case," said the kinglet. "Chop off his head!"
At this the girl screamed and drew back.
"Do you really mean it?"
"Oh, your Majesty, I couldn't hurt the poor thing!" sobbed the Executioner. "It would be simply awful! Please change your mind, as you always have done."
"I won't," said the kinglet, sternly. "You do as I tell you, Maria Simpson, or I'll have you executed next!"
The girl hesitated. Then she took the sword in both her hands, shut her eyes, and struck downward with all her might. The blade fell upon the Indian's neck and shivered into several pieces.
"He's wood, your Majesty," said the Executioner. "I simply can't cut his head off."
"Get a meat cleaver!" cried the kinglet. "Do you suppose I'll allow Wart-on-the-Nose to live when he hasn't any wart on his nose? Get the cleaver instantly!"
So the girl brought a big meat cleaver, and lifting it high in the air, struck the Indian's neck as hard as she could.
The cleaver stuck fast in the wood; but it didn't cut far enough to do much harm to the victim. Indeed, Wart-on-the-Nose even laughed, and then he said:
"There's a knot in that neck – a good oak knot. You couldn't chop my head off in a thousand years!"
The kinglet was annoyed.
"Pull out that cleaver," he commanded.
The girl tried to obey, but the cleaver stuck fast. Then the Failings tried, one after another; but it wouldn't budge.
"Never mind, leave it there," said the Indian, rolling over and then getting upon his feet. "It won't bother me in the least. In fact, it will make a curious ornament."
"Look here, Sir John Dough," said the kinglet, turning to the gingerbread man; "what am I going to do? I've said the Indian must die, because he has no wart on his nose. And I find I can't kill him. Now, you must either tell me how to get out of this scrape or I'll cut your head off! And it won't be as hard to cut gingerbread as it is wood, I promise you."
This speech rather frightened John, for he knew he was in great danger. But after thinking a moment he replied:
"Why, it seems to me very easy to get out of the difficulty, your Majesty. The Indian's only offense is that he has no wart on his nose."
"But that is a great offense!" cried the kinglet.
"Well, let us whittle a wart on his nose," said John, "and then all will be well."
The kinglet looked at him in astonishment.
"Can that be done?" he asked.
"Certainly, your Majesty. It is only necessary to carve away some of the wood of his nose, and leave a wart."
"I'll do it!" shouted the kinglet, in great delight. And he at once sent for the Royal Carpenter and had the man whittle the Indian's nose until a beautiful wart showed plainly on the very end.
"Good!" said the King.
"Good!" echoed the Indian, proudly. "Now none of those miserable Failings dare say my name is not suitable!"
"I'm very sorry about that cleaver," remarked the kinglet. "You'll have to carry it around wherever you go."
"That's all right. I'll add to my name and call myself Wart-on-the-Nose-and-Cleaver-in-the-Neck. That will be a fine Indian name, and no one can prove it is not correct."
Saying this, the wooden Indian bowed to the kinglet, gave a furious war-whoop, and stalked stiffly from the room.
"Bring on the next prisoner!" shouted the kinglet, and both Chick and John gave a gasp of surprise as Imar was brought into the room. The inventor of the flying-machine, however, did not seem the least bit frightened, and bowed calmly before the throne.
"What's the charge against this man?" inquired the kinglet.
"He's accused of being a successful inventor," said one of the guards. "The other inventors claim no one who succeeds has a right to live in the Isle of Phreex."
"Quite correct," replied his Majesty. "Cut off his head, Maria."
"Alas, Sire! my sword is broken!" she exclaimed.
"Then get another."
"But I have no other sword that is sharpened," she protested.
"Then sharpen one!" retorted the kinglet, frowning.
"Certainly, your Majesty. But a sword cannot be properly sharpened in a minute. It will take until to-morrow, at least, to get it ready."
"Then," said the kinglet, "I'll postpone the execution until to-morrow morning at nine o'clock. If you're not ready by that time I'll get a new Royal Executioner and you'll lose your job."
"I shall be ready," said the girl, and walked away arm in arm with the sad young man, on whom she smiled sweetly.
"It's all right," whispered Chick to John. "Imar won't get hurt, for the kinglet will forget all about him by to-morrow."
"And now, my guards," said his Majesty, stretching his arms and yawning, "bring hither my two-legged horse, that I may take a ride around my kingdom."
So presently the guards led in a big, raw-boned nag that had two legs instead of four, and these two set in the middle of its body. It seemed rather frisky and pranced around in a nervous manner, so that the kinglet had great difficulty in mounting the horse's back, whereon was a saddle made of purple velvet and cloth of gold.
"Hold still, can't you?" cried the kinglet.
"I can; but I won't," said the horse, in a cross tone, for it appeared the animal was able to talk.
"I'll thrash you soundly, if you don't behave!" screamed the kinglet.
"I'll kick you in the ribs, if you dare to threaten me!" returned the horse, laying back its ears. "Why, you miserable little freckle-faced kinglet, I could run away with you and break your neck, if I wanted to!"
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