FictionForest

Chapter 9 – Ruggedo’s Rage is Rash and Reckless

L. Frank BaumOct 04, 2016'Command+D' Bookmark this page

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The way taken by the adventurers led up hill and
down dale and wound here and there in a fashion
that seemed aimless. But always it drew nearer to
a range of low mountains and Files said more than
once that he was certain the entrance to
Ruggedo’s cavern would be found among these rugged
hills.

In this he was quite correct. Far underneath the
nearest mountain was a gorgeous chamber hollowed
from the solid rock, the walls and roof of which
glittered with thousands of magnificent jewels.
Here, on a throne of virgin gold, sat the famous
Nome King, dressed in splendid robes and wearing a
superb crown cut from a single blood-red ruby.

Ruggedo, the Monarch of all the Metals and
Precious Stones of the Underground World,
was a round little man with a flowing white
beard, a red face, bright eyes and a scowl that
covered all his forehead. One would think, to
look at him, that he ought to be jolly; one might
think, considering his enormous wealth, that he
ought to be happy; but this was not the case. The
Metal Monarch was surly and cross because
mortals had dug so much treasure out of the
earth and kept it above ground, where all the
power of Ruggedo and his nomes was unable to
recover it. He hated not only the mortals but
also the fairies who live upon the earth or above
it, and instead of being content with the riches
he still possessed he was unhappy because he did
not own all the gold and jewels in the world.

Ruggedo had been nodding, half asleep, in
his chair when suddenly he sat upright, uttered
a roar of rage and began pounding upon a huge
gong that stood beside him.

The sound filled the vast cavern and penetrated
to many caverns beyond, where countless thousands
of nomes were working at their unending tasks,
hammering out gold and silver and other metals, or
melting ores in great furnaces, or polishing
glittering gems. The nomes trembled at the sound
of the King’s gong and whispered fearfully to one
another that something unpleasant was sure to
happen; but none dared pause in his task,

The heavy curtains of cloth-of-gold were pushed
aside and Kaliko, the King’s High Chamberlain,
entered the royal presence.

“What’s up, Your Majesty?” he asked, with a wide
yawn, for he had just wakened.

“Up?” roared Ruggedo, stamping his foot
viciously. “Those foolish mortals are up, 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 those hateful earth-crawlers
draw near to my Kingdom. I am positive, Kaliko,
that mortals are this very minute on their way
here to annoy me–and I hate mortals more 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 the King.

So Kaliko went to a tube in the wall of rock
and put his eye to it. The tube ran from the
cavern up to the side of the mountain and turned
several curves and corners, but as it was a magic
spyglass Kaliko was able to see through it just
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 I never yet beheld,”
replied the nome. “However, such a collection of
curiosities 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, only the 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 a little girl–”

“Dorothy?” asked Ruggedo, jumping up in fear.

“No; some other girl. In fact, there are several
girls, of various sizes; but Dorothy 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 and carry swords. And there
is a Shaggy Man–who seems very harmless–and a
little donkey with big ears.”

“Pooh!” cried Ruggedo, snapping his fingers
in scorn. “I’ve no fear of such a mob 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 to destroy, and I
believe the Rose Princess is a fairy. As for
Polychrome, you know 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. I hate everybody, and everybody
hates me!”

“Very true,” said Kaliko.

“I must in some way prevent these people from
reaching my dominions. Where are they 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 fun with these invaders?”

“It is,” answered Ruggedo. “I want to teach
them a lesson they will never forget.”

Now, Shaggy had no idea that he was in a
Rubber Country, nor had any of his companions.
They noticed that everything around them was
of a dull gray color and that the path upon
which they walked was soft and springy, yet they
had no suspicion that the rocks and trees were
rubber and even the path they trod was made of
rubber.

Presently they came to a brook where sparkling
water dashed through a deep channel and rushed
away between high rocks far down the mountainside.
Across the brook were stepping-stones, so placed
that travelers might easily leap from 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 them came Betsy
Bobbin and Hank, Polychrome and Shaggy, and last
of all the Rose Princess with Files. The Clockwork
Man saw the stream and the stepping stones and,
without making a pause, placed his foot upon the
first stone.

The result was astonishing. First he sank
down in the soft rubber, which then rebounded
and sent Tik-Tok soaring high in the air, where
he turned a succession of flip-flops and alighted
upon a rubber rock far in the rear of the 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
connected with 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 noticed that something was wrong and with one
accord they halted the column and looked back
along the path.

There was Tik-Tok, still bounding from one
rubber rock to another, each time rising a less
distance from the ground. And there was General
Apple, bounding away in another direction, his
three-cornered hat jammed over his eyes and his
long 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
rock headforemost and was so crumpled up that his
round body looked more like a bouncing-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 the chief officers of the Army of
Oogaboo bounding around in so undignified a
manner. She shouted to them to stop, but they
were unable to obey, even though they would
have been glad to do so. Finally, however, they
all ceased bounding and 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 therefore they are not
rocks. Even this path is not a path; it’s rubber.
Unless we are very careful, your Majesty, we are
all likely to get the bounce, just as your poor
officers and Tik-Tok did.”

“Then let’s be careful,” remarked Files, who
was full of wisdom; but Polychrome 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 a big butterfly
fluttering lightly. Presently she made a great
bound and bounded way 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 to bound over the
stream, without touching the stepping-stones.”

Ann and her officers were reluctant to undertake
such a risky adventure, but Betsy at once grasped
the value of the suggestion and began jumping up
and down 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 the brook, 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 to bound
pretty high but when he tried to bound across
the stream he misjudged the distance and fell
with a splash into the middle of the water.

“Hee-haw!” he wailed, struggling toward the
far bank. Betsy rushed forward to help him out,
but when the mule stood safely beside her she
was amazed to find he was not wet at all.

“It’s dry water,” said Polychrome, dipping her
hand into the stream and showing 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 was shallow and would not
wet them. At once they followed her advice,
avoiding the rubber stepping stones, and made the
crossing with ease. This encouraged the entire
party to wade through the dry water, and in a few
minutes all had assembled on the bank and renewed
their journey along the path that led to the Nome
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 and now are fast
approaching the entrance to your caverns.”

Ruggedo raved and stormed at the news and his
anger was so great that several times, as he
strode up and down his jeweled cavern, he paused
to kick Kaliko upon 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 Hollow Tube.”

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 very angry.

“Never mind that,” retorted Ruggedo. “Tititi-
Hoochoo lives on the other side of 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 it again 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 you suppose 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, who bowed 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 what for.”

The nome bowed again and spread out his
great ears, swaying them gently up and down
and back and forth. For half an hour he stood
silent, in an attitude of listening, while both the
King and Kaliko grew impatient at the delay. At
last the 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 ugly brother, for all I
care. He’s too lazy to work and is always getting
in my way. Where is the Ugly One now, Kaliko?”

“The last time Your Majesty stumbled over
the prisoner you commanded me to send 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,” said the King,
with a grin of malicious delight, “for half the
time I can’t find it myself. 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 of mortals. But
tell me, Hearer, do the strangers want anything
else?”

“Yes, indeed they do!” returned the nome. “The
Army of Oogaboo is determined to capture all the
rich metals and rare jewels in your kingdom, and
the officers and their Queen have arranged to
divide the spoils and carry them away.”

When he heard this Ruggedo uttered a bellow of
rage and began dancing up and down, rolling his
eyes, clicking his teeth together and swinging his
arms furiously. Then, in an ecstasy of anger he
seized the long ears of the Hearer and pulled and
twisted them cruelly; but Kaliko grabbed up the
King’s sceptre and rapped him over the knuckles
with it, so that Ruggedo let go the ears and began
to chase his Royal Chamberlain around the throne.

The Hearer took advantage of this opportunity to
slip away from the cavern and escape, and after
the King had tired himself out chasing Kaliko he
threw himself into his throne and panted for
breath, while he glared wickedly at his defiant
subject.

“You’d better save your strength to fight the
enemy,” suggested Kaliko. “There will 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’ll drop ’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 toward the Hollow
Tube, and to make the tip of the Tube invisible,
so they’ll all fall into it.”

Kaliko went away shaking his head, for he
thought Ruggedo was making a great mistake, He
found the Magician and had the path twisted so
that it led directly to the opening of the Hollow
Tube, and this opening he made invisible.

Having obeyed the orders of his master, the
Royal Chamberlain went to his private room and
began to write letters of recommendation of
himself, stating that 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, for it is certain that
Ruggedo has ruined himself by this reckless
defiance of the mighty Tititi-Hoochoo. And in
seeking a job nothing is so effective as a letter
of recommendation.”

 

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