FictionForest

Chapter 13 – The Jinjin’s Just Judgment

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

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All the adventurers were reunited next morning
when they were brought from various palaces to the
Residence of Tititi-Hoochoo and ushered into the
great Hall of State.

As before, no one was visible except our friends
and their escorts until the first bell sounded.
Then in a flash the room was seen to be filled
with the beautiful Kings and Queens of the land.
The second bell marked the appearance in the
throne of the mighty Jinjin, whose handsome
countenance was as composed and expressionless as
ever.

All bowed low to the Ruler. Their voices softly
murmured: “We greet the Private Citizen, mightiest
of Rulers, whose word is Law and whose Law is
just.”

Tititi-Hoochoo bowed in acknowledgment.
Then, looking around the brilliant assemblage,
and at the little group of adventurers before him,
he said:

“An unusual thing has happened. Inhabitants of
other lands than ours, who are different from
ourselves in many ways, have been thrust upon us
through the Forbidden Tube, which one of our
people foolishly made years ago and was properly
punished for his folly. But these strangers had no
desire to come here and were wickedly thrust into
the Tube by a cruel King on the other side of the
world, named Ruggedo. This King is an immortal,
but he is not good. His magic powers hurt mankind
more than they benefit them. Because he had
unjustly kept the Shaggy Man’s brother a prisoner,
this little band of honest people, consisting of
both mortals and immortals, determined to conquer
Ruggedo and to punish him. Fearing they might
succeed in this, the Nome King misled them so that
they fell into the Tube.

“Now, this same Ruggedo has been warned by me,
many times, that if ever he used this Forbidden
Tube in any way he would be severely punished. I
find, by referring to the Fairy Records, that this
King’s servant, a nome named Kaliko, begged his
master not to do such a wrong act as to drop these
people into the Tube and send them tumbling into
our country. But Ruggedo defied me and my orders.

“Therefore these strangers are innocent of any
wrong. It is only Ruggedo who deserves punishment,
and I will punish him.” He paused a moment and
then continued in the same cold, merciless voice:

“These strangers must return through the Tube to
their own side of the world; but I will make their
fall more easy and pleasant than it was before.
Also I shall send with them an Instrument of
Vengeance, who in my name will drive Ruggedo from
his underground caverns, take away his magic
powers and make him a homeless wanderer on the
face of the earth–a place he detests.”

There was a little murmur of horror from the
Kings and Queens at the severity of this
punishment, but no one uttered a protest, for all
realized that the sentence was just.

“In selecting my Instrument of Vengeance,” went
on Tititi-Hoochoo, “I have realized that this will
be an unpleasant mission. Therefore no one of us
who is blameless should be forced to undertake it.
In this wonderful land it is seldom one is guilty
of wrong, even in the slightest degree, and on
examining the Records I found no King or Queen had
erred. Nor had any among their followers or
servants done any wrong. But finally I came to the
Dragon Family, which we highly respect, and then
it was that I discovered the error of Quox.

“Quox, as you well know, is a young dragon who
has not yet acquired the wisdom of his race.
Because of this lack, he has been disrespectful
toward his most ancient ancestor, the Original
Dragon, telling him once to mind his own business
and again saying that the Ancient One had grown
foolish with age. We are aware that dragons are
not the same as fairies and cannot be altogether
guided by our laws, yet such disrespect as Quox
has shown should not be unnoticed by us. Therefore
I have selected Quox as my royal Instrument of
Vengeance and he shall go through the Tube with
these people and inflict upon Ruggedo the
punishment I have decreed.”

All had listened quietly to this speech and now
the Kings and Queens bowed gravely to signify
their approval of the Jinjin’s judgment.

Tititi-Hoochoo turned to Tubekins.

“I command you,” said he, “to escort these
strangers to the Tube and see that they all enter
it.”

The King of the Tube, who had first discovered
our friends and brought them to the Private
Citizen, stepped forward and bowed. As he did so,
the Jinjin and all the Kings and Queens suddenly
disappeared and only Tubekins remained visible.

“All right,” said Betsy, with a sigh; “I don’t
mind going back so very much, ’cause the Jinjin
promised to make it easy for us.”

Indeed, Queen Ann and her officers were the only
ones who looked solemn and seemed to fear the
return journey. One thing that bothered Ann was
her failure to conquer this land of Tititi-
Hoochoo. As they followed their guide through the
gardens to the mouth of the Tube she said to
Shaggy:

“How can I conquer the world, if I go away
and leave this rich country unconquered?”

“You can’t,” he replied. “Don’t ask me why,
please, for if you don’t know I can’t inform
you.”

“Why not?” said Ann; but Shaggy paid no
attention to the question.

This end of the Tube had a silver rim and around
it was a gold railing to which was attached a sign
that read.

“IF YOU ARE OUT, STAY THERE.
IF YOU ARE IN, DON’T COME OUT.”

On a little silver plate just inside the Tube
was engraved the words:

“Burrowed and built by
Hiergargo the Magician,
In the Year of the World
1 9 6 2 5 4 7 8
For his own exclusive uses.”

“He was some builder, I must say,” remarked
Betsy, when she had read the inscription; “but
if he had known about that star I guess he’d
have spent his time playing solitaire.”

“Well, what are we waiting for?” inquired
Shaggy, who was impatient to start.

“Quox,” replied Tubekins. “But I think I hear
him coming.”

“Is the young dragon invisible?” asked Ann,
who had never seen a live dragon and was a little
fearful of meeting one.

“No, indeed,” replied the King of the Tube.
“You’ll see him in a minute; but before you part
company I’m sure you’ll wish he was invisible.”

“Is he dangerous, then?” questioned Files.

“Not at all. But Quox tires me dreadfully,” said
Tubekins, “and I prefer his room to his company.

At that instant a scraping sound was heard,
drawing nearer and nearer until from between
two big bushes appeared a huge dragon, who
approached the party, nodded his head and said:
“Good morning.”

Had Quox been at all bashful I am sure he would
have felt uncomfortable at the astonished stare of
every eye in the group–except Tubekins, of
course, who was not astonished because he had seen
Quox so often.

Betsy had thought a “young” dragon must be a
small dragon, yet here was one so enormous that
the girl decided he must be full grown, if not
overgrown. His body was a lovely sky-blue in color
and it was thickly set with glittering silver
scales, each one as big as a serving-tray. Around
his neck was a pink ribbon with a bow just under
his left ear, and below the ribbon appeared a
chain of pearls to which was attached a golden
locket about as large around as the end of a bass
drum. This locket was set with many large and
beautiful jewels.

The head and face of Quox were not especially
ugly, when you consider that he was a dragon; but
his eyes were so large that it took him a long
time to wink and his teeth seemed very sharp and
terrible when they showed, which they did whenever
the beast smiled. Also his nostrils were quite
large and wide, and those who stood near him were
liable to smell brimstone–especially when he
breathed out fire, as it is the nature of dragons
to do. To the end of his long tail was attached a
big electric light.

Perhaps the most singular thing about the
dragon’s appearance at this time was the fact that
he had a row of seats attached to his back, one
seat for each member of the party. These seats
were double, with curved backs, so that two
could sit in them, and there were twelve of these
double seats, all strapped firmly around the
dragon’s thick body and placed one behind the
other, in a row that extended from his shoulders
nearly to his tail.

“Aha!” exclaimed Tubekins; “I see that Tititi-
Hoochoo has transformed Quox into a carryall.”

“I’m glad of that,” said Betsy. “I hope, Mr.
Dragon, you won’t mind our riding on your back.”

“Not a bit,” replied Quox. “I’m in disgrace just
now, you know, and the only way to redeem my good
name is to obey the orders of the Jinjin. If he
makes me a beast of burden, it is only a part of
my punishment, and I must bear it like a dragon. I
don’t blame you people at all, and I hope you’ll
enjoy the ride. Hop on, please. All aboard for the
other side of the world!”

Silently they took their places. Hank sat in the
front seat with Betsy, so that he could rest his
front hoofs upon the dragon’s head. Behind them
were Shaggy and Polychrome, then Files and the
Princess, and Queen Ann and Tik-Tok. The officers
rode in the rear seats. When all had mounted to
their places the dragon looked very like one of
those sightseeing wagons so common in big cities–
only he had legs instead of wheels.

“All ready?” asked Quox, and when they said they
were he crawled to the mouth of the Tube and put
his head in.

“Good-bye, and good luck to you!” called
Tubekins; but no one thought to reply, because
just then the dragon slid his great body into the
Tube and the journey to the other side of the
world had begun.

At first they went so fast that they could
scarcely catch their breaths, but presently Quox
slowed up and said with a sort of cackling laugh:

“My scales! but that is some tumble. I think I
shall take it easy and fall slower, or I’m likely to
get dizzy. Is it very far to the other side of the
world?”

“Haven’t you ever been through this Tube
before?” inquired Shaggy.

“Never. Nor has anyone else in our country;
at least, not since I was born.”

“How long ago was that?” asked Betsy.

“That I was born? Oh, not very long ago.
I’m only a mere child. If I had not been sent on
this journey, I would have celebrated my three
thousand and fifty-sixth birthday next Thursday.
Mother was going to make me a birthday cake
with three thousand and fifty-six candles on it;
but now, of course, there will be no celebration,
for I fear I shall not get home in time for it.”

“Three thousand and fifty-six years!” cried
Betsy. “Why, I had no idea anything could live
that long!”

“My respected Ancestor, whom I would call a
stupid old humbug if I had not reformed, is so old
that I am a mere baby compared with him,” said
Quox. “He dates from the beginning of the world,
and insists on telling us stories of things that
happened fifty thousand years ago, which are of no
interest at all to youngsters like me. In fact,
Grandpa isn’t up to date. He lives altogether in
the past, so I can’t see any good reason for his
being alive to-day…. Are you people able to see
your way, or shall I turn on more light?”

“Oh, we can see very nicely, thank you; only
there’s nothing to see but ourselves,” answered
Betsy.

This was true. The dragon’s big eyes were like
headlights on an automobile and illuminated the
Tube far ahead of them. Also he curled his tail
upward so that the electric light on the end of it
enabled them to see one another quite clearly. But
the Tube itself was only dark metal, smooth as
glass but exactly the same from one of its ends to
the other. Therefore there was no scenery of
interest to beguile the journey.

They were now falling so gently that the trip
was proving entirely comfortable, as the Jinjin
had promised it would be; but this meant a
longer journey and the only way they could
make time pass was to engage in conversation.
The dragon seemed a willing and persistent
talker and he was of so much interest to them
that they encouraged him to chatter. His voice
was a little gruff but not unpleasant when one
became used to it.

“My only fear,” said he presently, “is that this
constant sliding over the surface of the Tube will
dull my claws. You see, this hole isn’t straight
down, but on a steep slant, and so instead of
tumbling freely through the air I must skate along
the Tube. Fortunately, there is a file in my tool-
kit, and if my claws get dull they can be
sharpened again.”

“Why do you want sharp claws?” asked Betsy.

“They are my natural weapons, and you must not
forget that I have been sent to conquer Ruggedo.”

“Oh, you needn’t mind about that,” remarked
Queen Ann, in her most haughty manner; “for when
we get to Ruggedo I and my invincible Army can
conquer him without your assistance.”

“Very good,” returned the dragon, cheerfully.
“That will save me a lot of bother–if you
succeed. But I think I shall file my claws, just
the same.”

He gave a long sigh, as he said this, and a
sheet of flame, several feet in length, shot from
his mouth. Betsy shuddered and Hank said
“Hee-haw!” while some of the officers screamed
in terror. But the dragon did not notice that he
had done anything unusual.

“Is there fire inside of you?” asked Shaggy.

“Of course,” answered Quox. “What sort of a
dragon would I be if my fire went out?”

“What keeps it going?” Betsy inquired.

“I’ve no idea. I only know it’s there,” said
Quox. “The fire keeps me alive and enables me
to move; also to think and speak.”

“Ah! You are ver-y much like my-self,” said
Tik-Tok. “The on-ly dif-fer-ence is that I move
by clock-work, while you move by fire.”

“I don’t see a particle of likeness between us,
I must confess,” retorted Quox, gruffly. “You are
not a live thing; you’re a dummy.”

“But I can do things, you must ad-mit,” said
Tik-Tok.

“Yes, when you are wound up,” sneered the
dragon. “But if you run down, you are helpless.”

“What would happen to you, Quox, if you ran
out of gasoline?” inquired Shaggy, who did not
like this attack upon his friend.

“I don’t use gasoline.”

“Well, suppose you ran out of fire.”

“What’s the use of supposing that?” asked
Quox. “My great-great-great-grandfather has
lived since the world began, and he has never
once run out of fire to keep him going. But I
will confide to you that as he gets older he shows
more smoke and less fire. As for Tik-Tok, he’s
well enough in his way, but he’s merely copper.
And the Metal Monarch knows copper through
and through. I wouldn’t be surprised if Ruggedo
melted Tik-Tok in one of his furnaces and made
copper pennies of him.”

“In that case, I would still keep going,”
remarked Tik-Tok, calmly.

“Pennies do,” said Betsy regretfully.

“This is all nonsense,” said the Queen, with
irritation. “Tik-Tok is my great Army–all but the
officers–and I believe he will be able to conquer
Ruggedo with ease. What do you think, Polychrome?”

“You might let him try,” answered the Rainbow’s
Daughter, with her sweet ringing laugh, that
sounded like the tinkling of tiny bells. “And if
Tik-Tok fails, you have still the big fire-
breathing dragon to fall back on.”

“Ah!” said the dragon, another sheet of flame
gushing from his mouth and nostrils; “it’s a wise
little girl, this Polychrome. Anyone would know
she is a fairy.”

 

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