Chapter 9 – The Quarrelsome Dragons

L. Frank Baum2016年10月05日'Command+D' Bookmark this page

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The Green Monkey sank gently into the earth for a
little way and then tumbled swiftly through space,
landing on a rocky floor with a thump that astonished
him. Then he sat up, found that no bones were broken,
and gazed around him.

He seemed to be in a big underground cave, which was
dimly lighted by dozens of big round discs that looked
like moons. They were not moons, however, as Woot
discovered when he had examined the place more
carefully. They were eyes. The eyes were in the heads
of enormous beasts whose bodies trailed far behind
them. Each beast was bigger than an elephant, and three
times as long, and there were a dozen or more of the
creatures scattered here and there about the cavern. On
their bodies were big scales, as round as pie-plates,
which were beautifully tinted in shades of green,
purple and orange. On the ends of their long tails were
clusters of jewels. Around the great, moon-like eyes
were circles of diamonds which sparkled in the subdued
light that glowed from the eyes.

Woot saw that the creatures had wide mouths and rows
of terrible teeth and, from tales he had heard of such
beings, he knew he had fallen into a cavern inhabited
by the great Dragons that had been driven from the
surface of the earth and were only allowed to come out
once in a hundred years to search for food. Of course
he had never seen Dragons before, yet there was no
mistaking them, for they were unlike any other living

Woot sat upon the floor where he had fallen, staring
around, and the owners of the big eyes returned his
look, silently and motionless. Finally one of the
Dragons which was farthest away from him asked, in a
deep, grave voice:

“What was that?”

And the greatest Dragon of all, who was just in front
of the Green Monkey, answered in a still deeper voice:

“It is some foolish animal from Outside.”

“Is it good to eat?” inquired a smaller Dragon beside
the great one. “I’m hungry.”

“Hungry!” exclaimed all the Dragons, in a reproachful
chorus; and then the great one said chidingly: “Tut-
tut, my son! You’ve no reason to be hungry at this

“Why not?” asked the little Dragon. “I haven’t eaten
anything in eleven years.”

“Eleven years is nothing,” remarked another Dragon,
sleepily opening and closing his eyes; “I haven’t
feasted for eighty-seven years, and I dare not get
hungry for a dozen or so years to come. Children who
eat between meals should be broken of the habit.”

“All I had, eleven years ago, was a rhinoceros, and
that’s not a full meal at all,” grumbled the young one.
“And, before that, I had waited sixty-two years to be
fed; so it’s no wonder I’m hungry.”

“How old are you now?” asked Woot, forgetting his own
dangerous position in his interest in the conversation.

“Why, I’m — I’m — How old am I, Father?” asked the
little Dragon.

“Goodness gracious! what a child to ask questions. Do
you want to keep me thinking all the time? Don’t you
know that thinking is very bad for Dragons?” returned
the big one, impatiently.

“How old am I, Father?” persisted the small Dragon.

“About six hundred and thirty, I believe. Ask your

“No; don’t!” said an old Dragon in the background;
“haven’t I enough worries, what with being wakened in
the middle of a nap, without being obliged to keep
track of my children’s ages?”

“You’ve been fast asleep for over sixty years,
Mother,” said the child Dragon. “How long a nap do you

“I should have slept forty years longer. And this
strange little green beast should be punished for
falling into our cavern and disturbing us.”

“I didn’t know you were here, and I didn’t know I was
going to fall in,” explained Woot.

“Nevertheless, here you are,” said the great Dragon,
“and you have carelessly wakened our entire tribe; so
it stands to reason you must be punished.”

“In what way?” inquired the Green Monkey, trembling a

“Give me time and I’ll think of a way. You’re in no
hurry, are you?” asked the great Dragon.

“No, indeed,” cried Woot. “Take your time. I’d much
rather you’d all go to sleep again, and punish me when
you wake up in a hundred years or so.”

“Let me eat him!” pleaded the littlest Dragon.

“He is too small,” said the father. “To eat this one
Green Monkey would only serve to make you hungry for
more, and there are no more.”

“Quit this chatter and let me get to sleep,”
protested another Dragon, yawning in a fearful manner,
for when he opened his mouth a sheet of flame leaped
forth from it and made Woot jump back to get out of its

In his jump he bumped against the nose of a Dragon
behind him, which opened its mouth to growl and shot
another sheet of flame at him. The flame was bright,
but not very hot, yet Woot screamed with terror and
sprang forward with a great bound. This time he landed
on the paw of the great Chief Dragon, who angrily
raised his other front paw and struck the Green Monkey
a fierce blow. Woot went sailing through the air and
fell sprawling upon the rocky floor far beyond the
place where the Dragon Tribe was grouped.

All the great beasts were now thoroughly wakened and
aroused, and they blamed the monkey for disturbing
their quiet. The littlest Dragon darted after Woot and
the others turned their unwieldy bodies in his
direction and followed, flashing from their eyes and
mouths flames which lighted up the entire cavern. Woot
almost gave himself up for lost, at that moment, but he
scrambled to his feet and dashed away to the farthest
end of the cave, the Dragons following more leisurely
because they were too clumsy to move fast. Perhaps they
thought there was no need of haste, as the monkey could
not escape from the cave. But, away up at the end of
the place, the cavern floor was heaped with tumbled
rocks, so Woot, with an agility born of fear, climbed
from rock to rock until he found himself crouched
against the cavern roof. There he waited, for he could
go no farther, while on over the tumbled rocks slowly
crept the Dragons — the littlest one coming first
because he was hungry as well as angry.

The beasts had almost reached him when Woot,
remembering his lace apron — now sadly torn and soiled
— recovered his wits and shouted: “Open!” At the cry a
hole appeared in the roof of the cavern, just over his
head, and through it the sunlight streamed full upon
the Green Monkey

The Dragons paused, astonished at the magic and
blinking at the sunlight, and this gave Woot time to
climb through the opening. As soon as he reached the
surface of the earth the hole closed again, and the boy
monkey realized, with a thrill of joy, that he had seen
the last of the dangerous Dragon family

He sat upon the ground, still panting hard from his
exertions, when the bushes before him parted and his
former enemy, the Jaguar, appeared.

“Don’t run,” said the woodland beast, as Woot sprang
up; “you are perfectly safe, so far as I am concerned,
for since you so mysteriously disappeared I have had my
breakfast. I am now on my way home to sleep the rest of
the day.”

“Oh, indeed!” returned the Green Monkey, in a tone
both sorry and startled. “Which of my friends did you
manage to eat?”

“None of them,” returned the Jaguar, with a sly grin
had a dish of magic scrambled eggs-on toast — and it
wasn’t a bad feast, at all. There isn’t room in me for
even you, and I don’t regret it because I judge, from
your green color, that you are not ripe, and would make
an indifferent meal. We jaguars have to be careful of
our digestions. Farewell, Friend Monkey. Follow the
path I made through the bushes and you will find your

With this the Jaguar marched on his way and Woot took
his advice and followed the trail he had made until he
came to the place where the little Brown Bear, and the
Tin Owl, and the Canary were conferring together and
wondering what had become of their comrade, the Green


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