DICK, MARJORIE AND FIDGE
A Search for the Wonderful Dodo
G. E. FARROW
Author of Adventures in Wallypug Land
With Many Illustrations by Allan Wright
A. L. Burt, Publisher, 52-58 Duane Street, New York
TO MY DEAR LITTLE FRIENDS.
Here is another book! I hope it will be as fortunate in pleasing you, as the others seem to have been, if I may judge from the many kind and gratifying letters which have reached me from boys and girls, of all ages and sizes, and from all parts of the world.
And in connection with these letters, which I always try (though the pleasurable task grows heavier year by year) to answer myself, I have had the misfortune to lose a large packet of unanswered ones; so if any of my little correspondents have written to me during the past year, and have not received a reply, will he or she write to me again, and give me an opportunity of repairing the omission?
I am getting quite proud of my gallery of photographs, which my little friends have sent me, and which, I think, please me almost more than anything else, if I may except a beautiful Persian kitten which has come as a present from a little girl at Hereford, and which is a prime favorite with every one here, including Dick, my little terrier, who—although he ought to know better at his age, being over eight—"galumphs" about in an absurdly clumsy manner, under the mistaken impression that he is playing with it. He only succeeds, however, in making himself ridiculous in the eyes of the kitten, who, despite his years, treats him with little or no respect, and does not hesitate to box his ears, and bite his tail whenever it feels so disposed.
But I see my space is nearly exhausted, so must conclude, with very best wishes, and hoping to hear again from all of my old friends, and as many new ones as care to write.
Believe me, Your affectionate friend, THE AUTHOR.
I. THE BEGINNING OF A MARVELLOUS JOURNEY 1 II. THE AMBASSADOR EXTRAORDINARY 12 III. THE SAGE IN THE ONION FIELD 24 IV. STORIES AND TAILS BY THE SAGE 35 V. THE KING OF THE FISHES 47 VI. IN THE KING'S PRESENCE 59 VII. THE HUMAN RACE 68 VIII. THE DODO AT LAST 80 IX. AT THE NORTH POLE 92 X. SOME NEW ACQUAINTANCES 102 XI. THE SKIPPER OF THE "ARGONAUT" 113 XII. THE ARCHAEOPTERYX 125 XIII. THE LITTLE PANJANDRUM'S BALLOON 135 XIV. THE DUFF AND DEM EXECUTIONER 145 XV. THE EXECUTION OF THE DODO 155 XVI. THE PREHISTORIC DOCTOR 165 XVII. WAITING FOR THE TRAIN 175 XVIII. A NIGHT IN THE TRAIN 185 XIX. AT THE CRYSTAL PALACE 195 XX. A DIFFICULTY WITH THE ROUNDABOUT 216 XXI. THE LITTLE PANJANDRUM AT LAST 217 XXII. TURNED TO STONE 228 XXIII. THE DODO'S LITTLE RUSE 236 XXIV. FIRST CLASS TO LONDON 245 XXV. THE DODO OBLIGES WITH A SONG 255 XXVI. THE DODO DEPARTS 263
DICK, MARJORIE AND FIDGE.
THE BEGINNING OF A MARVELOUS JOURNEY.
"Dick! Dick! Wake up, I want to tell you something." Marjorie stood outside the boy's bedroom door, and called in as loud a whisper as she dared, fearing lest she should awaken the rest of the household. There was a scuffle and a patter of bare feet inside, and Dick appeared at the door rubbing his eyes, evidently only half awake.
"What's up?" he demanded.
"Hush! don't make a noise. There's such a funny sound down-stairs—I believe it's burglars. Listen!"
"Pooh! this time in the morning. What nonsense."
"Well it's been going on for ever so long, anyhow, and hark, there's something keeps banging about like anything in the breakfast-room."
Dick ran to the top of the stairs and listened. Sure enough, there was a most mysterious noise going on below,—a dull banging at regular intervals, and a curious lapping sound, as though there was water in the lower part of the house.
"Let's go and see what's up!" said Dick promptly.
"Me too," said a shrill treble voice, and a little curly-headed apparition came running out of the bedroom, flourishing a wooden spade.
"No! you cut along into bed again, Fidge," cried Dick.
"Want to go and see the bur-ge-lers!" declared Fidge, pushing past them, and racing down the stairs.
"Come back, you scamp," cried Dick, running after him; but with a saucy and defiant laugh Fidge sped down to the first landing.
"Ooh!" he cried, looking over the banisters, "It's all drownded; look, Dick! quick!"
Dick and Marjorie hurried down and leaned over the banisters too.
"Hullo! what a lark!" exclaimed Dick. "There's been a high tide, and the house is flooded. Come on, this is ripping!" and the boy dashed down-stairs, followed by the others.
The breakfast-room door stood open, and, wading ankle deep in water, the children soon reached it. An extraordinary sight met their eyes.
The French windows were open, and the curtains were blowing about in the breeze, while the sea had risen so high that the white-capped waves were flowing quite into the room, in which the utmost confusion prevailed. Chairs and various light articles were strewn about in all directions, and the table, by some mysterious process, had been turned completely over, and was floating about with its legs sticking up in the air. It was evidently the noise which that had made, dashing against the door, which had awakened Marjorie.
The children stood silently regarding it for a moment, and then Fidge, with a delighted exclamation cried, "I want a ride in the boat," and began to scramble into the overturned table.
"Oh! yes, jolly!" cried Dick, following his example; and in a moment all three children were comfortably ensconced in the novel craft.
Dick found a stick floating about, which he used as a punting pole, and soon had the table through the window and out into the garden.
"I'll be captain," he cried, "and you and Fidge shall be passengers, Sis." The drawer of the table turned upside down made a capital upper deck, and Marjorie settled herself very comfortably upon it, after Dick had rigged up what he was pleased to call an awning with a little table-cloth, and a piece of string which he had in the pocket of his pyjamas.
Fidge, however, had no idea of remaining inactive, and insisted upon taking a part in the management of the craft, and so Dick made him the "Bosun," and set him to work rowing with his little wooden spade.
Out in the garden the water became deeper, and Captain Dick's pole would not reach the bottom; still, owing to some mysterious influence, their curious boat drifted merrily on, and the children did not puzzle themselves in the least as to the cause of their progress. It was quite enough for them to notice how strange and unnatural the gardens and all the familiar surroundings appeared in their present inundated state. The rosebushes and hedges looked so funny, growing out of the water, and there were such a lot of curious things floating about—a hen-coop, a wash-tub, and an old hamper had hurried past; and their boat had drifted as far as the gate leading out into the roadway, when Marjorie jumped up and pointed excitedly to something floating rapidly towards them.
"Look! Dick, look! there's an old turkey on a chair coming along."
As the object drew nearer, however, they could see that it was not a turkey, or, indeed, any bird with which they were familiar, but a most curious-looking creature. It had an oddly-shaped beak, webbed feet, and a funny great tuft of feathers for a tail.
"Why, the thing has gloves on!" cried Captain Dick.
"And a blue bow around its neck," chimed in Fidge, his eyes dancing with excitement.
"Ship ahoy!" shouted the bird, as it came close up to the table.
"Good gracious! Why it can talk," said Marjorie.
"Talk! Of course I can," answered the bird. "Why not, pray?"
"Well, birds don't generally talk, except parrots," added Marjorie, as an afterthought.
"Parrots!" exclaimed the bird, stamping furiously on the seat of the chair; "I hate 'em—nasty, showy, pretentious, ill-bred creatures; regular shrieking hypocrites, that's what I call 'em."
"What sort of a bird are you, then?" asked Dick.
"I'm a Dodo," said the creature, with a consequential air.
"Oh! then you are extinct," said Dick. "I read it in a natural history book."
"Yes, I am," admitted the Dodo. "It's lovely being extinct," he added, complacently. "Have you ever tried it?"
"Good gracious, no," cried Dick.
"What does it mean, Dick, dear?" whispered Marjorie, who didn't like to appear ignorant.
"Gone out, I think," explained Dick. "Anyhow, they say a volcano is extinct when it has gone out."
"Yes, that's quite right," explained the Dodo, with a wink. "Haven't you ever heard the vulgar expression, 'Does your mother know you're out?' Well, where I come from, we just say, 'Is your maternal relative aware of your extinction?' instead. It's the same thing, you know, and sounds ever so much better. Then, again, it's most convenient, if any one calls whom you don't wish to see, just to tell the servants to say that you are extinct, and there is an end of the matter. But I mustn't stop all day, I must be off to sea."
"Are you going to sea on that chair?" cried Marjorie.
"Well, it's as good as a table anyhow, as far as I can see," laughed the Dodo. "Yes, I've an appointment with an Ichthyosaurus at the Equator at noon, so I must be off. Good-by. Oh! while I think of it, though, if you do come across him, you might give him my love, and tell him that I'm extinct, will you please? Ha—ha—he will be amused!"
"Who do you mean?" called out Dick, as the Dodo floated away on his chair.
"The little Panjandrum," was the reply; "you are pretty sure to meet him sooner or later."
"Oh, we're going to see the Pan—jan—de—lum," announced Fidge, capering about in glee. "Hooray!"
In the meantime the table had drifted on till the house was quite out of sight, and had reached the base of the cliffs, where the smugglers' cave was. The children had been there ever so many times before, and knew of a little gap in the rocks where, if only their boat would drift near enough, they could land, and clamber up to the roadway again. The boat, however, passed the gap, and drifted straight underneath the cave, from whence came a confused babel of sounds.
The children looked up, and a moment afterwards a crowd of the funniest little people imaginable came to the edge and peered over.
"What rum little beggars!" cried Dick. "Just look at their eyes!"
"I do believe they are Brownies, or else Gnomes!" declared Marjorie, who had read a great many fairy stories.
"Nonsense!" said Dick, with a superior air; "there are no such things now-a-days."
"Who says so?" shrieked the little people from the cave. "Come up here, and we'll soon show you."
"Oh, yes, do!" cried Marjorie, clapping her hands; "I should love to see them."
"I don't see how we are going to get up there," said Dick, dubiously; "we haven't got a ladder."
"We have one," shouted the little people. "Shall we let it down?"
"Oh, yes, please," clamored Marjorie, and immediately afterwards a rope ladder was let down, and one or two of the little men hung over the ledge to steady it.
"Come along," cried Marjorie, leading the way, while Fidge followed next, repeating over and over, with a delighted chuckle, "We are going to see the Pan—jan—de—lum! We are going to see the Pan—jan—de—lum!"
THE AMBASSADOR EXTRAORDINARY.
At the top of the ladder the children found themselves in the midst of a crowd of curious little pigmies, dressed in all sorts of quaint and fantastic costumes.
They were the oddest little creatures that you can possibly imagine, with eyes and ears that seemed to be too big for their heads, and tiny little spindle legs that looked quite incapable of supporting their big bodies.
They spoke in a shrill, clear, bell-like voice, which, although they were such tiny creatures, could be heard distinctly.
"So you don't believe in fairies, eh!" they cried, clustering about the children.
"I do," declared Marjorie, stoutly.
"Yes, and me do, too," said Fidge, looking about him delightedly.
"But," objected Dick, "I've always been told that fairies, and elves, and gnomes, and things of that sort were merely myths, and existed only in the imagination of story-tellers."
"He—he—he," giggled the little people. "The same old story. They told you that to hide their ignorance, my child."
"I'm thirteen years old," declared Dick, haughtily, for he did not at all approve of being called a child.
"Oh, are you indeed!" was the reply, amid shouts of laughter. "I suppose you think yourself quite a man, and are consequently too old to believe in the fairies, who are more than thirteen thousand years old."
"You know you used to believe in them, Dick," interposed Marjorie. "Don't you remember how we used to enjoy that lovely fairy book Aunt May gave us, and dear old 'Alice in Wonderland,' and——"
"That was years ago," interrupted Dick, turning very red. "I've had it all explained to me since that, and I don't read those kind of books now."
"Do you read Shakespeare?" demanded one of the little folks.
"Some of it," replied Dick, doubtfully.
"Have you ever read 'Midsummer Night's Dream?'"
"Oh, yes! Jolly! Titania, and Oberon, and Puck, and all that lot, you know; and the jolly little chaps that——"
"Hullo! I thought you didn't believe in fairies," interrupted some one.
"Oh, well, that's different, you know; that's Shakespeare, and—and——"
"And what? I suppose you'll admit that he believed in them?"
"Well, I suppose so," said Dick, grudgingly; "but I——"
"But you imagine yourself to be cleverer than Shakespeare."
"Ha—ha—ha!" laughed a chorus of little people, derisively.
"Look here! I'll tell you what it is," said the first speaker, "you have evidently been taught by some of those wise old know-nothings, who have succeeded in making you as clever as themselves, and it is our intention to show you how ignorant you all are. I think you will believe in fairies before we have done with you. Now, we are gnomes, and have just completed a subterranean passage between here and the land of the little Panjandrum."
The word little was spoken so softly as to be quite indistinct. "The what!" cried Dick.
"Sh! the little Panjandrum," said the gnome, speaking the word almost inaudibly.
"What do you say it like that for?" asked the children.
"Well, you see, his Magnificence and Serene Importance is somewhat sensitive on the subject; there is the GRAND Panjandrum, you know."
"Oh, I see," said Dick, "and the other chap doesn't like to take a back seat, that's it, is it? Well, who is the Little Panjandrum, anyhow?"
"Sh! sh!" cried the gnomes, looking about them nervously. "You really mustn't say little as loudly as that. Supposing any one heard you?"
"Well, what if they did?" asked Dick.
"O! His Serene Importance would be terribly angry, and perhaps would——"
What the conclusion of the sentence was to have been the children never knew, for at that moment there was a loud clattering noise in the passage leading from the cave, and a moment afterwards four extraordinary figures came in sight.
They were mounted upon ostriches, and one of them, more richly caparisoned than the others, had a kind of canopy attached to his trappings, beneath which sat a stern-faced little man with an elaborate turban and head-dress. He wore also a very curious collar, from which depended a large gold ornament of curious design. He carried in one hand a long pipe, and with the other guided his strange steed.
The others of the party, who were evidently his attendants, each carried a banner emblazoned with mysterious signs and characters.
The silver bells attached to the head of the ostrich, and on the top of the canopy over the grandee, tinkled merrily as he came forward.
"In the name of the little Panjandrum," he shouted, in a loud voice, and immediately all the gnomes bowed respectfully almost down to the ground.
"His Serene Importance and Most Magnificent Greatness is grievously distressed."
The gnomes all brought forth little pocket-handkerchiefs, and began to cry.
"The Dodo presented to His Worshipful Gorgeousness by the Grand Panjandrum himself has escaped!"
The gnomes all threw up their hands in dismay.
"Why, we saw it," cried Marjorie, excitedly. "Didn't we, Dick?"
The little man on the ostrich turned around sharply, and after staring at the children for a moment, shouted—
"Who are you?"
"I am Dick Verrinder, sir, and this is my sister Marjorie, and our little brother Fidge," said Dick politely. "We are spending our summer holiday at Mrs. Lawrence's cottage on the other side of the cliff. The tide rose very high this morning, and we——"
"Don't tell me all that nonsense. What do you know about the Dodo?" said the little man, impatiently.
"Why, we met it floating about on a chair, and it told us that it was going to the Equator to meet a—a—er—a——"
"It was something with a very long name," stammered Dick; "I can't quite remember what."
"Look here," said the little man, bending forward excitedly, "that story won't do for me. I am the Ambassador Extraordinary of his Magnificence the little Panjandrum, and you tell me that you have seen the Dodo; that is enough. Now then! Where is it? It's no use telling me that it has gone off to keep an appointment with something with a long name. I say, where is the bird? If you don't instantly produce that Dodo I shall take you before the Court of Inquisitives, and let them deal with you."
"But I tell you," began Dick, while Marjorie clung to his arm in affright, and Fidge scowled angrily at hearing his idolized big brother spoken to in this peremptory manner, "I tell you that we only saw it for a——"
"That's quite enough. Don't argue the point. I shall give you one week from now, and if at the end of that time you do not appear at the Palace of the little Panjandrum with the Dodo, I shall apply to the Grand Panjandrum himself to have you subtransexdistricated, so there!"
"Not another word. Ink! Paper! Pens!" he commanded, getting off his ostrich and squatting down before a flat stone, while the little gnomes ran hither and thither, getting in each other's way, and tripping and stumbling about in all directions in their eagerness to do the Ambassador's bidding.
"Sit down!" he ordered, and the children sat down on the ground in front of him. There was a slight difficulty about the ink at this point, for the gnomes, not being quite strong enough to carry the inkstand, turned it over on its side to roll it forward, and of course spilled all the ink. They managed, however, to gather up some of it in their caps, and so kept the Ambassador supplied.
"Now then! Know all men by these presents," he began, writing the words down as he spake them.
"He's going to give us some presents," whispered Fidge, giving Dick a nudge. Dick shook his head reprovingly, and the little man continued—
"That whereas three children, named respectively—what did you say your name was?"
"Richard Greville Verrinder, Sir."
"Richard Greville Verrinder, and—what's your sister's name?"
"Marjorie Evelyn Verrinder."
"Marjorie Evelyn Verrinder, and——"
"Harold Ellis Verrinder," prompted Dick.
"Who's that?" inquired the Ambassador, sharply.
"My little brother," was the reply.
"You said his name was Fidge."
"Oh, yes, but that's his nickname, you know."
"I don't know anything of the sort. Now then, just keep quiet while I finish this document. There," he continued, when he had finished writing some mysterious-looking words on the paper, and had attached two enormous red seals to it—"that's your warrant for arresting the Dodo, when you have found him; and it is also an authority from the little Panjandrum for you at any time to become any size that you wish; to float through the air at will; and to live under water if necessary. So you have everything in your favor, and I shall expect the Dodo back in less than a week. Do you hear? Now I'm off."
The little man mounted his ostrich, and without saying a word more to any one, he and his followers rode off in the direction from whence they had come.
"Well, I never!" said Dick, picking up the scrawl which had fallen at his feet. "Here's a go! We've got to find that beastly old Dodo in less than a week, or be—what was it?"
"I don't know," said Marjorie, dolefully, "it was something very long, and sounded dreadful."
"But what's that he said about our being able to be any size that we wished? I'm sure I wish I was as tall as father."
"Me, too," said Fidge, emphatically.
"And I should love to float about in the air, I'm sure!" declared Marjorie.
The words were scarcely out of her mouth when she felt herself wafted gently off her feet, while at the same moment Dick, to Fidge's intense surprise, suddenly shot up to the height of over six feet, and looked so very ridiculous, that all three of them burst out into an uncontrollable fit of laughter.
THE SAGE IN THE ONION FIELD.
"How absurd," laughed Dick, as he looked down from the—to him—enormous height of six feet. "What a thin, lanky-looking creature, I am, to be sure—and Fidge, too; he looks perfectly ridiculous"—for Fidge, also, was growing amazingly.
"How did it happen, Dick, dear?" asked Marjorie, in an awe-stricken voice. "It seems so funny to be up here in the air, and yet I don't feel in the least frightened, do you?"
"Of course not," said Dick, contemptuously. "Why, we just said we wished to be as tall as the Pater, you know, and it happened."
"Oh, yes; and I said I should like to float in the air. I suppose we can always do what we want to now—how lovely! Like the 'Arabian Nights,' isn't it?"
"I don't want to be thin, like a walking-stick," said Fidge, in a dissatisfied voice.
"No, it's rather horrid," said Dick. "Let's see; we said as tall as the Pater, didn't we?—not as big. I wonder if that makes any difference."
"I want to be as fat as old Mrs. Mofflet," said Fidge, mischievously.
The words were no sooner out of his mouth than he dwindled down to his usual height, and spread out in girth till he exactly resembled, in appearance, what one looks like in a concave mirror—that is, he was about twice as wide as he was high.
"Oh, dear! Oh, dear! That's worse than ever!" laughed the children, while little Fidge waddled about in an absurd way.
The gnomes were highly amused, and cut the most extraordinary antics in their glee.
"I think perhaps the best thing to do for the present would be to wish ourselves as we were," said Dick. "I have no doubt it wi be very useful by and by to be any size we like, but just now it's rather awkward."
"Oh, let's be little, like the gnomes," cried Marjorie. "It will be such fun."
"All right," acquiesced Dick; "here goes—I wish I were as little as the gnomes."
"So do I," cried Marjorie.
"Me, too!" cried Fidge.
To their great surprise, nothing happened. They waited a moment or two, staring at each other expectantly, and then Marjorie cried in a troubled voice—
"Oh, dear! I don't believe it's going to work, and we shall have to stay like this forever."
"What nonsense!" cried Dick.
"I say! I want to be as small as the gnomes," he shouted.
There was no result, however, and the children remained as they were.
"Oh! I know," he cried; "I ought to have the paper that the Ambassador gave me in my hand. Where is it?"
There was a great whispering amongst the gnomes, and at last one of them shouted out—
"We've taken it away."
"What for?" demanded Dick. "It was given to us; you had better give it up at once. What do you mean by it?"
There was another whispered consultation, and then one of the gnomes said, "Let them have it for now," and the paper was put down upon the ground at Dick's feet.
Dick stooped down and picked it up, and immediately the children began to dwindle down till they became as small as the little people themselves.
They had no sooner done so than the paper which the Ambassador had given them was suddenly snatched from Dick's hand and a number of the gnomes surrounded them, dancing about, turning somersaults, playing leap-frog, and capering about in the maddest way.
"Well, you've done it now," said one of them, tauntingly.
"What do you mean?" inquired Dick.
"Why, we've got the paper, and you can't grow any bigger until we allow you to."
"What a mean trick!" cried Dick, in disgust.
"Well, we don't think it at all fair," said the gnomes, "that you should be able to grow any size that you want to, while we have to keep little, so we are going to keep you here for a little while, and teach you to believe in fairies, do you see?"
"But we've got to find the Dodo in a week," expostulated Dick, "and if you keep us here, however are we to do that?"
"Oh, please give us the paper back," begged Marjorie. "I'm sure the Pater will be so vexed if we never grow any bigger than this any more." And she began to cry a little.
You see, such a lot of very unusual things had happened that she was a little excited and nervous.
"Well, we'll think about it," said the gnomes, running away and hiding among the rocks.
"Don't cry, Marjorie," said Dick, bravely, though he too felt a little anxious himself; for, you see, eleven inches is not very tall for any one to be, and he didn't care to admit what would happen if he went back to school in his present state.
"Chappel Minor has always been cheeky," he thought, "and so have Martin and Foster, and if I keep this size they will think they can do just as they like with me, and probably will turn me out of the cricket eleven, while that little wretch of a Castleton is sure to sneak all my pencils—he does now when he gets a chance." However, he kept these doleful thoughts to himself, and devoted himself to the task of consoling his sister and Fidge, and had soon talked them into such a cheerful frame of mind, that they really began to think that it was rather an advantage than otherwise to have lost the paper.
"For one thing, we shall not have to hunt for that old Dodo," argued Dick, "because even the Grand Panjandrum himself, whoever he may be, could not expect us to go far away while we remain as little as this, and so we are not in such great danger of being—er—er—thingummybobbed—you know—what the Ambassador said we should be, if we didn't find the wretched thing."
"Supposing we try and find the Ambassador," suggested Marjorie. "I don't think he was really very cross, only a little abrupt, you know; and we could explain everything to him, and perhaps he would give us a new paper."
"All right," said Dick, leading the way. "At any rate, he will be able to make us grow bigger—that is, if we wish to," he added, with a fine affectation of unconcern.
The children walked on for some time in the direction in which the Ambassador and his followers had disappeared, and they soon found themselves out of the cave and in a kind of forest.
"What funny trees," said Fidge, looking up over his head.
The others followed his example, and found that he had good cause for his surprise; the long, smooth trunks, without any leaves, ended in a kind of ball, while at the roots a kind of enormous bulb appeared.
"Whatever can they be?" cried Marjorie, in amazement.
"Onions!" was the reply, spoken by a strange voice.
The children turned around, and beheld a curious little old man with a long flowing beard coming toward them.
"Have you any other questions to ask?" he inquired, pleasantly.
"It's very kind of you, Sir," said Dick, who was the first to recover from the surprise which they had all experienced at this sudden apparition. "Will you, please, tell us where we are?"
"Oh," said the little man, with a smile, "this is the Field of Onions. And I am the Sage with the snowy beard who dwells in the Field of Onions. And that is the Hut of curious build which belongs to the Sage with the snowy beard who dwells in the Field of Onions.
"Is there anything else I can tell you? If so, pray ask me. I like it."
"What a funny man," whispered Marjorie. "Do you think he is quite right in his head?"
"Hush!" said Dick. "Perhaps he can direct us to the Little Panjandrum's, and then we can find the Ambassador easily."
"Little Panjandrum's, certainly," said the Sage, answering exactly as though he had been spoken to himself—
"'Take the first to the right on Tuesday week, The second to the left on Monday; On Friday you'll not have far to seek, And be sure not to travel on Sunday!'
"But it's no use going at all till you've found the Dodo," he added.
"Good gracious! how did you know that we were looking for it," cried Dick.
"Oh, I know everything," said the Sage, complacently. "Did you ever know a Sage who didn't?"
"I'm afraid I've never known one at all before, Sir," said Dick; "but I should think it must be very useful to know such a lot, isn't it?"
"Yes, it isn't bad," admitted the Sage; "would you like to know how I became so clever?"
"Oh, yes, please," cried all the children at once.
Motioning them to a seat on an onion bulb, the little man struck an attitude, and began—
"I was brought up on Verbs of irregular kind, With a Pronoun or two as a treat, While a strict course of Logic, to strengthen my mind, My pastors and masters thought meet.
I had Lessons for breakfast, and Sums for my tea, Learnt to play the Arithmetic nicely, And gained all the prizes at School—don't you see, For construing Doggerel concisely.
They were Isms, and Ologies, Science, and Cram, Quadratic Equations, and Butter, The Pons asinorum, and Strawberry Jam, And the Cane, did I mumble or mutter."
STORIES AND TAILS BY THE SAGE.
"Do you mean to say," inquired Dick, when the Sage had finished, "that all those last things were prizes; because, if so, there isn't a single one of them that I should have cared for much, except the Strawberry Jam?"
"That only shows a great want of taste on your part," said the old Sage, severely. "Isms and Ologies, and things of that sort, are very tasty, when you become used to them."
"What are Isms and Ologies, if you please, Sir?" asked Marjorie.
"Oh, there are various kinds," was the reply. "There's Ge-Ology, for instance, which is lovely spread on bread-and-butter; and Zo-Ology, with Aphor-Ism sauce, is simply delicious."
"They don't sound very nice," said Marjorie, dubiously, making a wry face.
"You don't know anything at all about it, I'm afraid, my dear," said the little old man, decidedly. "You would probably prefer dolls and foolishness of that sort!"
"Yes, I think I should," admitted Marjorie, candidly.
"Do you know everything, please, Mr. Sage?" inquired Fidge, who had been very silent during this conversation, which he had not in the least been able to understand.
"Yes, my dear," said the Sage, smiling affably.
"Stories?" inquired Fidge, his eyes wide open with excitement and interest.
The old man nodded.
"Oh! do tell us one, please," begged the little boy. "The Three Bears, or Little Red Riding Hood, or something of that sort."
"Fidge, Fidge," cried Dick, rebukingly, "you mustn't bother the gentleman."
"Oh, I don't mind in the least," said the Sage, pleasantly. "I'll tell him some stories, if he likes."
"Oh! thanks, that's jolly!" cried Fidge, clapping his hands, and they all sat down again, while the old man began as follows:—
"It was on a dark winter's night, and the hot sun was pouring down upon the——"
"Oh!" interrupted Marjorie, "I beg your pardon, but haven't you made a mistake? It couldn't have been dark, you know, if the sun was shining."
The Sage frowned severely.
"Are you telling this story, or am I?" he asked, coldly.
"Oh, I beg your pardon," said Marjorie, "please go on."
"Was pouring down upon the ship," continued the Sage, "and almost freezing the poor soldiers, who had great difficulty as it was, in dragging the heavy cannon up the steep side of the mountain, upon which he was standing; still leaning over the side of the balloon, she peered down eagerly into the sky. There was not a soul in sight.
"Suddenly a cry of 'Fire!' rang through the town, and two or three of them hastily putting on their best clothes, joined the picnic party under the gnarled oak tree in the meadow, and their joyous laughter rang merrily down the old staircase, where the grandfather's clock stood, tick-tick-ticking, like the great volcano which yawned at their very feet, and into which the two boys plunged merrily, and were soon splashing about in the shallow water like a mahogany chest of drawers upon the sands of time."
The Sage paused.
"Do you like it?" he inquired, anxiously.
"Not much, I'm afraid," said Dick. "You see, we can't quite understand what it's all about."
"Well, neither do I," said the Sage, "because, you know, I'm making it up as I go along."
"Then it isn't true?" asked Marjorie.
"True? Nonsense! You wanted a story, didn't you? This is a real story; there isn't a particle of truth in it anywhere."
"Oh, we didn't mean that kind of story," explained Marjorie, "we meant a tale."
"What kind of a tale would you like—a Fishes' tale, a Birds' tale, or an Animals' tale?"
"A birds' tale, please," said Marjorie, after consulting the others.
"All right," said the Sage, "this is a lot of birds' tales all tied up together, and is called a fable——"
"Is it one of AEsop's?" asked Dick, who thought that it would look grand for him to have heard of AEsop's fables.
"No, it isn't," said the Sage, rather crossly; "it's one of my own! Now then, are you ready? I call it—"
"THE GOSSIPING GOOSE."
"A Crested Grebe, a Spoonbill, and a Goose, I beg to say, Met one fine day, And compliments were passed the most profuse.
'How very well you look, my dear,' said one, 'That shade of red Upon your head, So sweet; and how delightfully your hair is done.'
And each had gratifying things to say, With gushing smile, Upon the style Of all the others' holiday array.
Then Mrs. Goose, with most superior sneer, Said, 'Have you seen That dress of green That Mrs. Peacock's wearing now, my dear?
'She looks a perfect guy, and then—her feet And legs! Oh, lor! I never saw A bird so clumsy, or so indiscreet.
'I met her at the Concert Hall last week, A poor affair, I do declare, I wonder that the Songsters have such cheek.
'Miss Nightingale was singing far too loud; I never heard So harsh a bird, I wonder how she dared to face the crowd.
'Miss Thrush had quite a decent voice, I hear, Some years ago (A score or so), But now her voice is giving way, I fear.
'She sang as badly as did Mrs. Lark, Who all agreed, Had every need Of lessons, to bring her up to the mark.
'Miss Linnet had a really dreadful cough. As for the rest, They quite distressed The company. Well, good-by, dears. I'm off.'
And, while the Spoonbill and the other bird Went on their way, I heard one say, 'That Mrs. Goose is really most absurd.
'She talks about the Peacock's gaudy dress: If she prefers That gray of hers, I don't admire her taste, I must confess. 'And as for legs and feet—well, I declare, The pair she's got Are really not The kind that I'd be seen with anywhere.
'While as for singing, that she should complain Of other folk Is past a joke, I vow I'll not be friends with her again.'
'My dear,' the other said, 'remember this: A critic she Of high degree, For though she can't sing well, the goose can hiss.'"
The Sage had scarcely finished when a sound of weeping and wailing was heard, and presently a whole troop of gnomes appeared in the onion field. They were crying bitterly, and to the children's great surprise several of them had grown enormously tall and others equally stout.
They came straight up to the Sage's hut, and with tears streaming down their faces beseeched him to help them. They had foolishly been making use of the authority which the Little Panjandrum's Ambassador had given to the children; and although it acted one way, and made them the size that they wished to be, it would not turn them back again.
"And my wife and family refuse to have anything to do with me," said one ridiculously tall individual.
"And I can't squeeze into my own house, anyhow," wept the stout one.
"The only way," said the Sage, after a moment's thought, with his forehead wrinkled into deep furrows, "is to send the Ki-Wi to the Court of the Little Panjandrum for a fresh authority. It's no use your having this one back if it won't act properly, is it?" he inquired, turning to the children.
"Certainly not," said Dick; "but who is the Ki-Wi, please?"
"Oh, he's the Court Messenger," explained the Sage, "and is the only one here allowed to enter the Court of the Little Panjandrum without permission."
"Go and fetch him," he continued.
And the gnomes disappeared, returning presently with the Ki-Wi (who turned out to be a curious kind of bird), and the written authority, which had been taken from the children.
"Let me look at it," said the Sage, holding out his hand for the paper.
"Why, no wonder it won't act for the gnomes," he exclaimed, when he had read it.
"It mentions you all by name—just try it yourselves, will you?"
Dick took the paper from him, and said loudly, "We wish to be our own size again."
To their great delight the children at once found themselves their usual height, and the onions, which had looked before like huge trees, now only reached a little above their heads, while the Sage and the other gnomes looked the tiniest little creatures again.
"This is better," said Dick, shaking himself as though he had come out of the water.
"Yes, isn't it good to be ourselves once more," said Marjorie.
While Fidge jumped about delightedly, breaking down several of the onion plants, and almost treading on the Sage's hut.
"Don't caper about like a lot of lunatics," shouted the little man, angrily. "Come and sit down and talk business. The Ki-Wi has something to tell you."
All excitement to know what it could be, the children sat down again, and the Ki-Wi after fumbling about in his coat tail for some time, produced a large document and began to read.
THE KING OF THE FISHES.
"Um—ah—that is to say—er—notwithstanding, nevertheless, likewise also, and as is herein aforesaid," began the Ki-Wi, in an important voice.
"Hold on!" cried Dick. "We can't understand all that, you know. Why don't you say what you have to say in English?"
"It is English," declared the Ki-Wi, in an aggrieved voice, "and very good English too."
"Of course it is," chimed in the Sage.
"Well we don't understand it, anyhow," maintained Dick. "It doesn't seem to mean anything at all."
"Perhaps, Dick, dear," said Marjorie, "Mr. Sage will explain it to us. Let's see—it began——"
"'Notwithstanding, nevertheless, likewise, and as is herein aforesaid,'" repeated the Ki-Wi.
"Well, I'll explain it, if you wish with pleasure," said the Sage, "though I can't see in the least why it should be necessary. It seems to me to perfectly simple. To begin with—'Notwithstanding' describes our position just now—Not-with-standing, or not standing with the Ki-Wi. He is standing, while we are sitting down, you see; then 'nevertheless' means of course the same as always-the-greater, which exactly describes me. You see, my great learning and cleverness always makes me greater than the people I am speaking to, and consequently never-the-less. The next word is also descriptive of myself. 'Likewise,' or like a wise man, which, I am sure, you will all agree that I am; and 'herein' means that my brains are all in here," said the Sage, tapping his head. "While 'aforesaid'—the last word—means that I have a strong head, or a force-head, do you see?"
"Is the rest of the paper all about yourself, too, Sir?" asked Marjorie.
"Yes," was the complacent reply. "Go on, Ki-Wi."
"I'm afraid we can't stop," interrupted Dick.
"You see, we have got to hunt up that wretched Dodo, and perhaps we had better be going now."
"Yes, we must be going now," chimed in Fidge, jumping up eagerly, for all this rigmarole had been very uninteresting to him.
"Oh, I'm sorry you can't stay," said the Sage, in a disappointed voice. "I could have told you such a lot more about myself. You do think I'm clever though, don't you?" he asked, anxiously.
"Oh, immensely!" said the children, politely.
"Thanks!" said the Sage. "Will you take a few onions with you as a memento of your visit?"
"No thank you," said Marjorie, hurriedly.
"They would remind you of me," suggested the Sage, wistfully; "Sage and onions you know."
"No, thanks," said Dick, "I'm sure we shall remember you without."
"Now that's very kind of you," said the Sage, "and I'll do the best I can to help you in your search for the Dodo. Let's see, where did he say he was going to?"
"The Equator," said Dick; "but I'm sure we can't go all that way after him, and get back in a week."
"You could if you went by sea," said the Sage.
"What do you mean?" asked Dick.
"Why, I could give you an introduction to the King of the Fishes, you know, and he might lend you his dolphins; they travel at a rare pace, and would get you there in no time."
"Oh, yes," cried Marjorie, "of course we can go under the sea, don't you know, the paper says so. Wouldn't it be jolly, even if we didn't find the Dodo?"
"Don't want to be drownded, and get all deaded," objected Fidge.
"You wouldn't be, dear," said Marjorie. "Brother Dick wouldn't take us anywhere where we should come to any harm."
"How should we get there, I wonder?" asked Dick, thoughtfully.
"I'll show you—come along," said the Sage, getting up and leading the way.
The children followed, and the little gnomes, now all reduced to their proper size, came trooping along after them.
Presently they reached the edge of the cliff, and the sea, sparkling in the sunlight, lay at their feet some distance below.
The Sage, hastily scribbling a note with a piece of pencil, thrust it into Dick's hand, and crying, "This is the quickest way!" deliberately pushed the children, one after the other, over the cliff.
Before they had time to realize what had happened, or to become in the least alarmed, they found themselves slowly and comfortably sinking through the air; while a shriek of laughter from the gnomes caused them to look up to the edge of the cliffs, where they beheld all the little fellows leaning over and waving their pocket-handkerchiefs, while the Sage and the Ki-Wi stood in their midst.
"Oh!" cried Marjorie, as they descended, "isn't it fortunate we have the power to float in the air; it would have been an awful plunge otherwise, wouldn't it?"
"Yes," agreed Dick, reaching out his hand to Fidge, who looked just a little wee bit frightened. "I wonder what it will be like on the sea."
He had not to speculate long, however, for almost at that moment their feet touched the water, and they sank down, down, down through the clear green depths.
"Oh, look!" cried Fidge, excitedly. "Fishes! Fishes!" and he started off swimming after them quite naturally.
"One's got a hat on," he called out. "Look! look! there's another; oh, let's catch them!"
"If you don't behave yourself you'll be locked up," said a severe voice, and, turning around, the children beheld a very stern-looking fish, wearing a helmet, and carrying a truncheon.
"Now then, move on; don't obstruct the traffic!" he cried, angrily; and the children swimming off as hastily as they could, mentally put him down as a kind of sea policeman.
"You certainly mustn't try and catch any of the fishes, Fidge, or you will be getting us all into trouble," said Dick. And Fidge, overawed by the policeman fish, became quiet subdued, and contented himself with a quiet "Look! look!" when they passed anything particularly strange or interesting.
They had very nearly reached the bottom of the sea, when they noticed a singular-looking object floating some distance in front of them.
"It looks like a chair!" declared Marjorie. "Why, I believe," she continued, as they drew nearer, "that it's the very one the Dodo was floating upon when we saw him last."
"So it is!" cried Dick; "and look, there's a note on it—perhaps it's for us."
They swam towards it as quickly as they could, and had just reached the chair, as a curious-looking fish—with a very long nose, and wearing shoes on the end of his long tail, and a tall hat—swam past.
He looked at them inquisitively, and then stood a little way at the back of them, waiting till they should be disengaged.
"To all to whom it may concern," read Dick, after he had picked up the note from off the chair. "I suppose that means us as much as any one."
"Of course it does," agreed Marjorie. "It concerns us very much to find out where the Dodo is."
Dick hesitated no longer, but opened the note eagerly. His face fell, however, when he beheld the contents.
"Mind your own business!" he read, slowly. "What a sell! I believe the Dodo did write it, though, and intended it as a hint that we were not to try find and him. I'm half inclined to give it up."
"But Dick, dear, remember," said Marjorie, "we shall be—er—you know—what the Ambassador said—if we don't find him."
"Oh, ah," said Dick, "I'd forgotten that. Come on, then; let's see what can be done."
"Can I be of any assistance?" said the thin fish, coming forward with a polite bow. "Have you lost anything?"
"Oh, thanks," said Dick. "We're looking for a Dodo. Do you happen to have seen one about here?"
"A Dodo," said the fish, reflectively. "I don't think I have the pleasure of the gentleman's acquaintance. What kind of a fish is he?"
"Oh, he isn't a fish at all," explained Dick; "he is a kind of bird, you know."
"Ah! birds we don't encourage below the surface, as a rule," said the fish, smiling indulgently. "You are scarcely likely to meet with him here. Perhaps His Majesty the King of the Fishes would advise you."
"Oh, I have a letter of introduction to His Majesty," said Dick. "I'm afraid it's rather wet," he said, apologetically, drawing it from his pocket.
"It would be unacceptable to His Majesty were it not so," said the fish. "Well, now, I was going to a football match, it being a half-holiday; but under the circumstances, I will put it off, and escort you to the Palace. This way, please."
Sinking down to the sand at the bottom of the sea, the fish led the way through a beautiful forest of waving seaweed, of all the colors of the rainbow. Exquisite shells were strewn about, and brightly-colored anemones clung to the rocks on every side, while all kinds of oddly-shaped fishes swam about, peering at the children curiously as they passed.
Presently they came in sight of a kind of Palace, formed of quaintly-shaped pieces of coral, which, the fish explained, was where the King lived.
"Just stay here a moment, please," said he; and the children waited outside while he went into the Palace.
Fidge pulled aside a piece of seaweed, and they all peeped through a hole in the coral, and saw a large fish wearing a crown, and with a curious chain about his neck, to which was attached an enormous fish-hook, seated on a throne.
Officers of State stood round about, and the little thin fish that had been so polite to them was bowing and scraping in quite a courtly fashion.
He was evidently telling His Majesty all about them, for, after hearing what he had to say, the King of the Fishes nodded; and the thin fish came out, and informed them that they were to be admitted into the Presence.
IN THE KING'S PRESENCE.
"Do you understand fish-language?" whispered the little thin fish, hurriedly, as he was conducting them into the Presence Chamber.
"I'm afraid not," replied Dick.
"Then you must remain silent, for in the King's presence nothing but the fish-language is allowed to be spoken. I will interpret for you afterwards."
Pushing aside some curtains of brightly-colored seaweed he led them into the Presence Chamber.
The King received them very graciously, and held out one fin as they approached.
"I expect we ought to kneel on one knee, and kiss it, like they do at presentations," whispered Marjorie.
But Dick wasn't going to do anything of that sort, and just touched it lightly with one hand, while the others followed suit. The thin fish then motioned them to sit down on a kind of divan, upon which large sponges took the place of cushions, and which the children found to be most comfortable; and the audience began.
The most extraordinary part about it was that not the slightest sound could be heard. The little thin fish opened and shut his mouth in little, short, jerky gasps, to which the King replied by slowly opening and shutting his, rolling his eyes about meanwhile, just as you may have seen fishes do in an aquarium.
Then the little fish solemnly handed His Majesty the Sage's letter, which the King put on his gold-rimmed glasses to read.
Having done so, he turned to the children and smiled, at least that's what they afterwards found out he was doing; but, really and truly, he made such a curious grimace that poor little Fidge was frightened, and wanted to run away.
His Majesty then opened and shut his mouth very slowly three or four times, to which all the other fishes replied by swimming backwards three strokes, and then forward three strokes. Then the audience was at an end.
The little thin fish came and whispered to the children, "It is usual for mortals, when leaving the presence of the King, to turn three somersaults backwards. Do you think you can do that?"
"I'm afraid not," replied Dick, anxiously. "At least, I might be able to manage, but I don't know about Marjorie and Fidge."
"Oh, never mind, then; I'll ask His Majesty to be good enough to excuse you," said the fish, and, making a low bow to the King, he explained the situation in a few short gasps.
His Majesty thereupon left the audience chamber, having first graciously inclined his head towards the children.
As he swam away, two little fishes attached themselves to the tip of His Majesty's tail, while another held the crown down on his royal head, to prevent it from slipping off, the rest of the audience swimming behind at a respectful distance, forming a sort of procession.
"Well," began the thin fish, after the others had all gone, "I congratulate you. His Majesty had been good enough to place the Royal Dolphins at your disposal, and if the Dodo you are searching for is anywhere on, or in, the sea you ought to have no difficulty in finding him, for the Dolphins swim very quickly indeed, and can take you anywhere you like in a jiffy. Please follow me to the royal stables, and we will harness them."
The children passed out after their kind little friend, and followed him into the gardens of the Palace, which they had to cross in order to reach the stables.
Marjorie was enraptured at the sight of the beautifully-arranged gardens, in which brightly-colored anemones took the place of flowers.
On a lawn of the finest short green seaweed, a number of globe-shaped fishes, with striped bodies, were playing football, and the children stopped a few minutes to watch the game.
They were very much surprised to find that the football itself was a fish—a little round chap, just the shape of a football—who, on the players giving him a smart kick with their tail, shot up through the water and over the goal in no time.
"Doesn't he object?" said Dick, after they had watched this performance for some time; "I know I should."
"Oh, dear, no!" exclaimed their guide, "he enjoys it quite as much as the others do. You see, it's such a delightful sensation to be shot through the water without the effort of swimming; but, come along, we must be off if you are going to start to-day."
"There's one little piece of advice I should like to give you in your search for the Dodo," he continued, kindly, as they swam along. "If you don't succeed in catching him one way, try another. Remember the bear with a cold."
"What do you mean?" asked the children.
"Don't you know the story of the bear with a cold?" was the reply.
"No; do tell us!" they cried.
"Why, you see," said the fish, "there was once an old bear, who had a dreadful cold, and his friends all advised him to try different things to cure it. One said one thing, and one another, and although he tried them all, one after the other, he didn't get any better; but still he persevered, and kept trying all the remedies they suggested, and at last he was cured, and what do you think did it?"
"What?" inquired the children.
"Why, some one suggested putting his feet into hot mustard and water and drinking gruel—and he tried it several times with no effect; and at last he fortunately thought of reversing the process, so he put his feet into some thick gruel, and drank a lot of mustard and water, and now he's quite well, thanks. So don't you get discouraged if you don't find the Dodo at once; but, as I said before, if one way doesn't succeed, try another."
"Thanks!" said the children, "we'll remember."
Just then they found themselves before a kind of shed, built of coral, which the fish entered, returning shortly afterwards leading three curious-looking fishes by a simple sort of bridle.
"Here they are!" he announced; "you will find them quite docile. Just mount them and see how you like their pace."
The children needed no second invitation, and were soon astride their strange steeds.
With a whisk of their tails they were soon off, dashing through the water at such a rate that the little thin fish had the greatest difficulty in keeping up with them, even for a short distance.
"Oh! this is jolly!" cried Dick.
"Come on, Marjorie, let's have a race."
The Dolphins answered to the slightest pull at the reins, and the children hadn't the least fear; so, getting into a line, they waited for their friend the thin fish to come up and give them the signal to start.
THE HUMAN RACE.
The little thin fish seemed to be a long while catching them up, and, while they were waiting, Marjorie espied a curious figure poking about among the seaweed a short distance away from them.
"I wonder what it is!" she cried, and the children dismounted from the Dolphins, and, tying them by the reins to some coral stumps, so that they could not swim away, they half walked and half swam over to where Marjorie had first noticed the creature, whatever it was.
"Why, it's a man!" cried Dick, as they drew nearer, and could distinguish him more clearly.
He was a wretched-looking old fellow, with a heavy sack upon his back, and was clothed only in a ragged old garment, which scarcely reached to his knees.
"Poor man," said Marjorie, in a whisper, "how unhappy he looks; perhaps he has lost something."
The man glanced up nervously as the children approached, and, clutching at his bag jealously, he demanded—
"Who are you? What do you want?"
"Nothing, thank you, poor old man," began Marjorie; "we were only——"
The old man burst into a peal of hoarse laughter.
"Poor old man!" he exclaimed. "Do you know that I am the richest man in the world. Look!" he exclaimed, opening his bag before the children's astonished eyes. "Gold! jewels! riches! wealth! they are all mine—ha—ha—ha—ha!" and he laughed discordantly, and hugged the bag closely to himself again.
"Oh, come away!" cried Marjorie, catching at Dick's arm. "I'm so frightened."
"I'm the Old Man of the Sea," continued the man, "and all the treasures of the deep are mine. I have stacks of golden crowns and jewels without number, and each day I gather more—they are all mine—mine—mine!"
"But where do they all come from?" asked Dick.
"The bottom of the sea is strewn with riches," continued the old man, "and there is no one to reap the harvest but myself."
"You must be very happy if you are so rich," said Dick. "It must be lovely to have all those things."
"No, I am not happy," said the Old Man of the Sea. "I am very old, and very lonely, and there is no one here to admire my treasures but myself. The fishes will have nothing to do with me—they do not care for gold; it is valueless to them—and I may not go on land, so I am here alone with my riches, and every day I gather more and more. I have piled them high about my cave in a great circle, and some day, when it becomes top-heavy, it will fall over and crush me beneath it, and I shall be buried in a tomb of gold. No king, no emperor, had ever so grand a sepulchre as I shall have, but I am not happy—no—no—not happy, not happy."
And the old man shouldered his bag and moved away, muttering sorrowfully.
"Poor man, poor man," said Marjorie; "for he is poor, although he has so much wealth isn't he, Dick?"
"Yes, jolly poor, and miserable too. I wouldn't be him for something," said Dick. "Come on, it makes me wretched to think about him—let's get back to the Dolphins."
When they reached them, they found that little friend, the thin fish, had arrived at last.
"Hullo!" cried Dick. "What a jolly long while you have been catching us up. Wherever have you been to all this time?"
"Why," explained the fish, "I thought I heard you saying something about a race, and suddenly I remembered what a splendid opportunity your visit down here would afford us of witnessing a real human race—you are human, aren't you?" he asked, anxiously.
"Yes, I suppose so," replied Dick.
"That's right," said the fish. "Come on, the King is most anxious for the race to begin at once, and I promised to bring you back with me immediately."
"But what is a human race?" inquired Marjorie, as they mounted their Dolphins.
"Oh, you'll see when we get back," was the reply, and, the little fish hanging on to one of the Dolphins' tails they were soon flying through the water at a rare rate.
When they got back to the lawn by the King's Palace, the children were greatly astonished to see a big crowd of fishes drawn up in two lines, with a wide path between them. The King, on a shell throne, surrounded by his courtiers, was at one end, and several important-looking fishes were fussing about at the other, making a straight line with some little lumps of white chalk.
There was a cheer when the children arrived on their Dolphins, and a rush was made to assist them to alight.
"But what are we to do?" they inquired, rather dismayed at these elaborate preparations.
"Show us a human race," was the reply.
"Well, a human race is just like any other kind of race, I suppose," said Dick, "the one who reaches the goal first wins. If we are going to race, though, we shall have to be handicapped."
"What's that?" cried the fishes.
"Why, you see," explained Dick, "it wouldn't be fair for us all to start from the same line, for Fidge, of course, cannot run as quickly as Marjorie or me; and Marjorie, too, being only a girl, will have to have a start allowed her, and this is called handicapping."
"Very well, manage it your own way," was the reply. "When are you going to start?"
"Oh, as soon as you like," said Dick. "Where's the winning-post?"
"That white line up by the King's throne," said one of the fishes. And Dick, having given Fidge a very long start, and Marjorie a slight advantage, declared himself ready to begin.
"One, to make ready, Two, to be steady, Three, and—away!"
shouted one of the principal fishes, and off they scrambled. I say scrambled, because if you have ever tried to run under water you will know that it is a very difficult thing to do—the weight of the water prevents you from getting along at all quickly. The fishes watching the race became very excited, and, in their eagerness to urge them on, kept getting in the children's way, swimming about in front of them, and getting mixed up with their arms and legs in a most confusing manner. At length, however, this extraordinary race came to an end, and the children arrived at the winning-post in the same order in which they had started.
"Oh, I've won—I've won!" shouted Fidge, delightedly. "Haven't I, Dick?"
"Of course you have," said Dick, who had purposely been holding back to give the other two a chance.
"Shall I get a prize?" whispered the little boy, anxiously.
"Perhaps," answered Dick; "wait and see."
Their little friend, the thin fish, had gone up to the King, and was talking very earnestly to him, and presently returning said that His Majesty had decided to give them all a prize.
"Oh, I wonder what it will be!" said Marjorie, excitedly. "Fancy, having a prize from a real King!"
"He's only a fish," said Dick.
"Hush, dear, you'll hurt his feelings," whispered Marjorie, warningly.
Just then the thin fish put on his top hat—he was the only one allowed to wear one in the King's presence—and began a long speech. He spoke so very softly, though, that no one could hear a word that he said; but, at regular intervals, all the other fishes clapped their fins, and called out, "Hear, hear!" most enthusiastically.
"Whatever do you do that for?" inquired Dick, of one of them; "I'm sure you cannot hear a word of what he is saying."
"Oh, no, we can't," admitted the fish, quite candidly; "but it's the proper thing to do, you know, it encourages him so."
After the speech the children were called before the King to receive their prize.
His Majesty did not speak to them, but motioned majestically to a large branch of pink coral near the throne, and they were thus given to understand that it was intended for them as a prize.
Of course, they pretended to be highly gratified, though, in reality, they were greatly disappointed.
"Stupid old thing! it's not a bit of use, even if we could carry it," muttered Dick; and Fidge, too, was so cross that he nearly quarreled outright with a perky little fish who had been standing, hat in hand, near him, and who now came and sat down so close to him that his sharp scales scratched the little fellow's bare legs.
A moment afterwards, however, they had all forgotten their ill-humor in their amusement at what was happening, for the King having withdrawn, the rest of the fishes each took a partner, and began whirling round and round in a frantic way in a mad kind of dance, to the strains of some weird music, provided by one or two of their number blowing through some long shells, whilst others used some smaller flat ones as castanets.
"I suppose this is what is called a fish ball," said Dick, laughing heartily at the strange antics which the fishes were cutting.
And just as Marjorie was about to reply a dark shadow passing overhead caused all of the children to look up.
A pair of large webbed feet were seen slowly paddling above them, and beyond them the outline of a bird's body could be traced.
Marjorie seized Dick's arm excitedly. "Look! look!" she exclaimed, hastily, "the Dodo!"
THE DODO AT LAST.
"I really believe it is the Dodo," said Dick. "Only I'm not quite sure if his feet were webbed."
"Oh, I don't think they were," declared Marjorie. "Now don't you think," she continued, excitedly, "that it would be best for us just to swim quietly up to him, and catch hold of his legs; you see, he couldn't possibly get away then, and——"
"All right," interrupted Dick. "Come on—steady now, so as not to alarm him."
The feet above them were paddling leisurely along, and the children had no difficulty in quickly catching up to the bird, and, with a triumphant shout, Dick clutched hold of one leg, while Marjorie and Fidge hung on to the other.
There was immediately a great outcry from above the water.
"Help! Help! Fire! Police! Thieves!" cried a voice, and the feet began to kick so violently that the children had quite a difficulty to keep their hold.
In response to the cries a number of other birds came flying to the rescue, and "splush," "splash," sounded on all sides as they settled down on the water.
"What is the matter?" cried several voices at once.
"Oh!" cried the bird which the children had captured, beating his wings about violently, and creating a terrible confusion, "a crab or something has caught hold of my legs, and I am being killed—help!—save me!—save me!"
A confused sound of voices followed, and presently one or two heads appeared below the water; they were hastily withdrawn, however, and with an alarmed cry of "Sharks!" the other birds all flew away, leaving their luckless companion to his fate.
The bird, when he found himself deserted by his friends, made more frantic efforts than ever to escape; and the beating of his wings upon the water caused the whole party to move slowly along.
"What are we to do now?" whispered Marjorie; "we can't drag him underneath, or he'd be drowned, you know."
"Oh, let's hang on," cried Dick, "perhaps he will drag us along till we come to land somewhere. I say," he shouted, "are you the Dodo, or not?"
His voice could evidently not be heard above the water, for there was no reply from the bird, which continued making a terrific outcry, using every effort to get away from them.
Presently, just as Dick had suggested, some rocks came in sight, and the children could see that they were being gradually dragged tards the shore.
In a few minutes they had the satisfaction of being able to scramble out of the water, when they discovered, to their great dismay, that their captive was not the Dodo at all, but a great wild goose, who, when they hurriedly released his legs waddled awkwardly ashore, and gazed at them with reproachful eyes.
A little way inland the Dodo himself could be seen standing, surrounded by an excited group of birds, who, when they caught sight of the children emerging from the water, immediately took to flight, screaming in horrified tones—
"The Sharks! The Sharks! Here come the Sharks!"
The Dodo tried to follow their example, and for a moment it looked as though the children would lose him after all; but it soon became evident that the creature could not fly, for after wildly beating the air for awhile, with his little apologies for wings, the miserable bird fell squalling into the water, while his companions disappeared in the distance.
"Help! Help!" he screamed, as he struggled with the waves. "Don't you see that I'm drowning? Oh! Oh! Help! Help!"
"Swim ashore," cried the children.
"I can't," was the reply, in a faint voice. "I can't swim. Oh!—oh! there go my poor, dear gloves." This last as his wings, which he had been holding up out of the water, sank exhausted to his side.
Dick plunged in, and soon brought the bird to shore, where he stood for a moment or two, ruefully regarding his white kid gloves, which the salt water had completely ruined, while the bow of his necktie had slipped around to the back of his neck.
"A pretty figure I shall cut now at the Ichthyosaurus' At Home," he grumbled. "It's all your fault, too," he declared, ungratefully disregarding the fact that Dick had just rescued him from a watery grave. "What do you want with me, anyhow?"
"Why, you see," hastily explained Dick, "the Ambassador to the Little Panjandrum sent us in search of you, and if we don't take you back in less than a week we're to be—er—er—something with an awfully long name——"
"I know—Subtransexdistricated, that's it, isn't it?" said the Dodo. "They always threaten to do that to people. Ough! its perfectly horrible" he cried, shuddering.
"What's it like?" asked the children, in an awe-stricken whisper.
"Why," explained the Dodo, "you are mygrylaled in pslmsms till you saukle, and then you are taken out and gopheled on both sides for a fortnight. Ough! it's dreadful to think about, and I wouldn't dream of putting you to the risk of having it done to you. So I suppose I shall have to go back," he added, with a sigh. "It's jolly awkward, though! Oh, I hate him!" he said, stamping his claw violently.
"Who?" inquired the children.
"The Little Panjandrum," was the reply. "Nasty, consequential little prig! And who is he, I should like to know? Panjandrums are not to be mentioned in the same breath as Dodos—we are a much more ancient family than they are, and, besides, we are extinct," he said, proudly.
"Oh, yes, of course," agreed Dick, who did not care to go into the Dodo private grievances, and who certainly did not care to run the risk of being "gopheled on both sides," whatever that might mean; "but don't you think we had better be going now?"
"How are we going to get back?" demanded the Dodo, abruptly. "I can't swim and I can't fly. You'll have to carry me."
"Good gracious!" exclaimed Marjorie, in dismay. "I'm sure we can't do that! Why, you are as big as we are!"
"Well, I'm sure I don't know what is to be done," said the Dodo. "I won't get into the water again for any one, so there."
Just then, Fidge, who had been playing on the shore, ran back with the news that the little thin fish wanted to speak to them.
"Oh! Sorry to trouble you," he began, popping his head out of the water and raising his hat politely; "but His Majesty sent me to inquire how you were getting on. I see you have found him," he added, pointing to the Dodo.
"Yes; but now we are in another fix," cried the children; "we don't know how to get the creature home."
"Who are you calling a creature?" said the Dodo, sulkily.
"Well, what else are you?" demanded Dick. "You're an awful nuisance, anyhow, and I don't know how we are going to get you away from this place, I'm sure."
"There are the Dolphins," suggested the little fish.
"Why, yes, of course," cried Dick. "I had forgotten them. I suppose you can ride a Dolphin, can't you?" he inquired of the Dodo.
"Don't know. Never tried. Daresay I could," answered the bird, sullenly.
The fish disappeared, and returned a few minutes later with the three Dolphins in tow.
Fidge was more than delighted to see the "horses," as he called them, again, and lost no time in getting astride of one; the others followed more deliberately, Marjorie taking her seat beside Fidge on the same fish.
The Dodo cut a strange figure, and looked very nervous at first, as he clung to the slippery back of his strange steed.
He seemed to feel at ease after a time, however, and when the children had bade their kind little friend, the thin fish, "Good-by," the party started off at a fine pace.
"By the bye, have you any idea where we are going to?" remarked the Dodo, after they had been rushing along for some time.
"Good gracious, no!" exclaimed Dick. "I thought you were directing us."
"I haven't the remotest idea where we are," said the Dodo, coolly.
"Why, then, we're lost!" cried Marjorie, in dismay.
"Mother told me," said Fidge, solemnly, "that if I ever got lost, I was to ask a policeman to take me home."
"Yes, but I'm afraid there are no policemen about here," laughed the others.
"What we had better do," said Dick, "is to push on till we come to land somewhere, or a ship, and inquire the way back."
This was thought to be the best plan to pursue, and the children hurried along till Marjorie noticed that both the air and the water were growing fresher every moment, and she was just beginning to wonder what they were going to do if it grew much colder, when Dick cried out, in quite a nautical style—
"Land on the larboard side!"
"Hooroy!" shouted the others, "now we shall find out where we are," and they headed the Dolphins to where they could see a rough kind of landing-stage.
The country looked very bleak and bare, but a little hut was visible a short distance from the shore, and the children, having fastened up the Dolphins to one of the wooden piles, assisted the Dodo to alight, and made their way towards it.
At the entrance they saw a large Walrus with a pipe in his mouth, and on the ground beside him an Esquimaux dog, also smoking.
Dick and the others hurried forward, and bowed politely.
"Wie geths?" said the Walrus, taking the pipe from his mouth, and immediately putting it back again, while the little dog glanced at them inquisitively out of the corners of his eyes.
AT THE NORTH POLE.
"What does he mean?" asked Marjorie, staring blankly at her brother.
"I don't know," confessed Dick. "I beg your pardon," he went on, addressing the Walrus, "but I didn't quite hear what you said."
"Sprechen sie Deutsch?" inquired the Walrus, with an encouraging smile.
"I can't tell what the chap is talking about," said Dick, turning to the others in dismay.
"Dond't you undershtandt German, eh?" said the Walrus. "Ach! dat vos verry bad," and he shook his head reproachfully.
"I don't know," argued Dick. "I can't see that it matters much. We are not likely to go there, you know."
"Not?" said the Walrus, lifting his eyebrows. "Vell, dere vos some funny peoples in der vorld. Perhaps you dond't vant to go dere?"
"Not much," admitted Dick.
The Walrus shrugged his shoulders, and looked commiseratingly at the dog, who gave a sniff, and shrugged his shoulders too.
"What we want to know," said Dick, in a businesslike way, "is, Where are we now, and how are we to get back to England?"
"Vell, you vas in Germany now," said the Walrus.
"Germany!" exclaimed the children, in surprise. "Why, we're quite near to England, then."
"No," said the Walrus, shaking his head.
"But we must be," persisted Dick.
"No," repeated the Walrus. "Dis is not der Germany you mean, but id is Germany all der same—most of der vorld is Germany."
"What nonsense!" laughed Dick. "I'm sure it isn't. Why, there's heaps of places besides Germany. There's—er—Africa, for instance——"
"Thadt's Germany!" said the Walrus, nodding violently.
"Africa is?" cried Dick.
"Yah! das is so," said the Walrus. "Africa, und China, und alle der blaces—dey is all Germany."
"The chap is evidently a little wrong in the head," explained Dick to the others in a whisper. "Never mind; don't take any notice. Well, to come to the point, can you direct us home again, that is the question?" he asked, aloud.
"No," said the Walrus, shaking his head.
"Or to the Equator?" suggested the Dodo, smoothing out his gloves.
The Walrus stared for a moment, and then, pointing to the Dodo with the stem of his pipe, inquired, "Vat is dat ting?"
The Dodo drew himself up to his full height, and gave him a withering look. "How dare you?" he cried.
"Vell, vat is id, anyhow?" chuckled the Walrus. "I never saw somethings like id before, never!"
"Of course not," said the Dodo, with dignity, "Our family have been extinct for some time."
"Vell, und vy didn't you keep so?" asked the Walrus. "It vas der best ting vat you could do. Dere is no goot for such tings like you to be aboudt."
"Come along," said the Dodo, turning to the others; "let's go. I was never so insulted in all my life."
"Ach! don't ged in a demper," said the Walrus, complacently. "Dat is no goot also. Come, I show you der vay to der Equador—dat is Germany, too," he added, in parenthesis. "Bud you must haf some glothes first to vare," he cried, looking at the children's scanty garments. "Id is so gold dere."
"Cold at the Equator?" laughed Marjorie. "Why, I always thought that it was very hot."
"Ach! dat is so," said the Walrus. "But id is der gedding dere dat is so gold. Come, I gif you some oudtfids," and he led the way into the little hut, which was hung all around with clumsy-looking fur garments, which, however, when they had got into them, the children found to be exceedingly comfortable.
Besides the clothes, there were all kinds of stores piled up around the inside of the hut, and a quantity of snowshoes of various shapes, and little sleds, like those which Dick remembered having seen in pictures of Polar expeditions.
When the children had been accommodated with some garments, the Walrus turned to the Dodo, and said, "Veil, now, I egspecdt dat you vant some glothes, too, dond't id?"
"No, thank you," said the Dodo, proudly, settling his necktie and folding his wings primly. "I have my gloves; they are quite sufficient."
"Bud you haven't any ting on your body," said the Walrus. "You bedder haf some glothes, eh?" and he kindly brought forth some very large leather breeches, which the Dodo, after some hesitation, consented to put on.
Next the Walrus took down a rough, hairy coat, with mittens attached to the sleeves.
"Gom, put your arms in dis," he said, "and trow avay dose gloves you got on."
"What!" cried the Dodo, "take off my gloves? Never!"
And he wouldn't either; but put his wings (such as he had) into the coat sleeves with the gloves still on the end of them.
"Now you musdt haf some stores," said the Walrus, going to the cupboard, and bringing out some tins of sardines, some jam, and other things, which he carefully tied on to the sled.
"Now ve are ready to stardt," he said, when these preparations were completed; and after harnessing the little dog to the sled the party made a move.
"I haven't the least idea where we are going to," said Dick, as they walked along; "have you?"
"Not the slightest," said the Dodo. "I don't suppose it matters much, though, as long as we get somewhere or another."
The old Walrus was trudging along in front, leading Fidge (who seemed to have taken a violent fancy to him) by the hand; presently he stopped in front of a big round hole, and waited for the others to catch up to him.
"Here ve are," he said, pointing to the enormous hole, which looked like the crater of an extinct volcano lined with ice.
"Whatever is that?" asked Marjorie, peering over the edge curiously.
"Der North Bole," said the Walrus. "Id vas German, too," he added, emphatically.
"The North Pole!" exclaimed the children. "Why, there isn't any pole at all!"
"No," said the Walrus, "das is so, id vas meldted all avay."
"Good gracious!" cried Dick.
"Yah! id vas mit der lightning struck, und meldted all avay, und made a big hole in der ground all der vay trough der earth to der Equador. Id vas made in Germany, dat pole," he added.
The children gazed with wondering eyes into the deep, dark hole, and Marjorie clung to Dick's arm nervously. "How wonderful!" she exclaimed; "but I'm glad we've seen where it was, aren't you, Dick?"
But Dick was thinking deeply.
"Are you sure it went right through to the Equator?" he asked of the Walrus.
"Yah!" said that worthy, "for sure."
"Then if we slid through, we should come out at the other end?" said Dick.
"Yah! das is so," said the Walrus, nodding violently.
"Well, then, I think we'll do it," said Dick, boldly.
"Oh, Dick!" cried Marjorie, in alarm.
"Well, why not?" said Dick, for, really, so many strange things had happened that nothing seemed impossible to him now. "It would be rather jolly to see what it's like at the other end, and it's no use stopping here. Do you know your way from the Equator?" he added, turning to the Dodo.
"Yes," said the bird, who was quite ready to start on the perilous voyage, and, grasping Fidge by the hand, he gave a loud whoop, and began to slide down the steep incline.
"Well, good-by," cried Dick, hurriedly, shaking hands with the Walrus. "Thanks for all your kindness." And, jumping on the sled behind Marjorie, he pushed off, and they shot over the edge after the others.
They just caught a glimpse of the little dog throwing up his arms in surprise, and as they disappeared into space they heard the old Walrus crying, in an anxious voice—
"Gom back! gom back! I forgot to tell you somedings."
SOME NEW ACQUAINTANCES.
It was all very well for the Walrus to shout "Come back!" but that was a matter of utter impossibility, for down—and down—and down the children sped at a terrific rate, so quickly indeed that after a moment or two they must have lost their senses completely, for not one of them could remember anything about the marvelous journey through the center of the earth.
"It seemed," Dick explained afterwards, "as though we were falling through a big black hole for hours and hours, and then, all of a sudden, it was light again, and we shot out into the air at the other end."
The children were greatly relieved to find that they were not expected to walk on their heads, as they had vaguely feared might have been the case on the other side of the world. "But, of course," Marjorie explained, "we are not really quite on the other side, or we should be at the South Pole, and that would be as cold as where we came from, wouldn't it, Dick?"
"I suppose so," answered Dick, looking about him. "Well, this place is hot enough, anyhow, whew!" and he unbuttoned the heavy fur coat which he had been glad enough to put on a short time before.
"We are probably somewhere near the Equator," remarked the Dodo, pointing to the palms and other tropical plants to be seen on every side. "I've heard that this sort of thing grows there."
"In that case we have only to find out where the sea is, and wait on the shore for a passing ship to come and take us back to England," said Marjorie, who was as fond as her brother of reading books of adventure, and so knew exactly what to expect under the circumstances.
Fidge had divested himself of his snowshoes and heavy Arctic outfit, and was eagerly chasing some gaudy butterflies which were flitting about amongst the bright tropical flowers, and the others, feeling the heat very oppressive, were glad to follow his example, and get rid of their cumbersome clothing. Marjorie made a neat little bundle of them, and hid them behind a big stone, and then, calling Fidge to them, the party set out to explore the surrounding country.
They had not gone far before they heard a voice crying out in a peremptory way—
"Now then! move on, there!"
The Dodo was highly indignant at being addressed in this unceremonious way, particularly as he once more displayed his white kid gloves and his bright necktie, and consequently, imagined that he presented a dignified and imposing appearance.
"Who's that?" he cried, looking about him angrily.
"Now then, move on! Do you hear?" cried the voice again.
The children stared to the right and left, in front of them, and behind them, but no one was in sight.
"That's very strange!" exclaimed Dick. "Whoever can it be?"
"Will you move on, there?" shouted the voice, louder than ever, and, looking up into the trees, the children saw a huge green parrot, with a red tail, hanging down from one of the branches by one claw, while he shook the other at them menacingly.
"Bah! it's only a parrot," said the Dodo, in a contemptuous voice.
"What!" screamed the bird; "only a parrot, indeed. Who are you, I should like to know?"
"We're tourists," said the Dodo, importantly. "These—ahem—gentlemen, and this lady and myself, are on our way to visit the Ichthyosaurus, while you are merely a common or garden parrot, and not at all fit and proper person for us to be seen talking to. Come along," he added to the others, grandly, and started to walk off with his beak in the air.
"Hoity, toity! Not so fast," said the parrot. "I've no doubt you think yourself very grand with your kid gloves and your consequential airs; but allow me to inform you that I am some one of consequence in these parts, too. I am a police officer, and regulate the traffic, so move on, there, and don't block the way."
"Oh!" cried Marjorie, "if this—er—" (she was going to say "bird," but thought perhaps the parrot might be offended, and she certainly couldn't say "gentleman," so she got out of it this way)—"if this is a police officer, perhaps he could be kind enough to direct us to where the steamboats start for England."
"I daresay I could if I wanted to," said the parrot, ungraciously, "but I don't choose. Move on! You are stopping the traffic."
"What nonsense! you ridiculous bird; there is not any traffic," said Dick.
"Oh! isn't there? A lot you know about it," replied the parrot. "There's a vehicle coming along this way now."
The children turned around, and, sure enough, there was a something coming down the road, though what it was the children couldn't determine till it came a little closer. They waited and waited, but it scarcely seemed to move at all, and, at last, Dick, whose curiosity was greatly aroused, proposed going to meet it.
"Let's go and fetch the clothes the Walrus gave us first," suggested Marjorie, wisely, and so they ran off to the rock behind which they had hidden them.
To their great surprise, they found a party of apes and monkeys calmly trying the things on, and apparently enjoying themselves very much indeed. The snowshoes seemed to puzzle them considerably, however, and they were undecided whether to regard them as musical instruments or a novel form of headgear.
"Hi! Just you put those clothes down at once!" shouted Dick. "How dare you interfere with our things!"
"They're not yours," said one of the monkeys. "Findings keepings. We found them, and so they are ours."
"Indeed they are not. Give them back at once!" demanded Dick.
"Shan't!" screamed the monkeys, impudently, and, scampering up into the trees beyond the children's reach, they made grimaces at them, and openly defied them. Indeed, one of them went so far as to climb up into a cocoanut palm and began pelting the children with the nuts.
Fortunately, none of them reached the mark, however, and the children, hastily gathered one or two of the cocoanuts, abandoned the clothes, which, really, were not of much value to them now, and fled.
This little incident had almost driven from their mind the recollection of the vehicle which they had seen in the high-road, but a rumbling sound, as they neared the place where they had last seen it, reminded them of the fact, and they hurried up to the spot from whence the sounds proceeded.
To their great astonishment, they found a clumsy-looking cart, somewhat resembling the pictures which they had seen of the old Roman chariots, to the shafts of which a sleepy-looking sloth-bear was attached.
"Ha! ha! what a funny horse," laughed Fidge. "It is a horse, isn't it, Dick?"
"No," said Dick; "I don't think so."
"Horse! no, indeed," said the Dodo. "It's a kind of camel."
"I ain't," said the sloth-bear, with a yawn.
"You shouldn't say 'ain't,'" said the Dodo, rebukingly. "What are you, then?"
There was no answer, the creature had gone to sleep.
"Wake up! wake up!" cried the Dodo, shaking him violently. "The idea of dropping off to sleep when any one is talking to you!"
"I thought you were going to preach," explained the sloth-bear. "You began talking about something that I shouldn't do or say, and I always go to sleep when people talk to me like that—it's so stupid of them."
"Where are you going to?" asked the Dodo.
"I don't know," was the reply. "Where are you?"
"We want to get to the place where the steamers start for England," explained Marjorie.
"Jump in, then," said the sloth-bear, jerking his head in the direction of the cart; and the children, highly delighted at the prospect of a ride, all scrambled in.
Dick took the reins, and Marjorie made herself comfortable beside him, while Fidge dangled his legs over the back of the "chariot," the Dodo solemnly squatting down at his side, with his gloves carefully displayed, and his necktie properly adjusted.
"Now then," said Dick, shaking the reins, "we are ready to start. Go on, please."
There was no answer, and it transpired that the creature was asleep again.
"Good gracious!" said the Dodo, impatiently, "we shall never get anywhere at this rate. I say, do wake up," he cried, going up to the sloth-bear and giving him a good shake.
"Oh! are you ready?" said that individual, waking up slowly. "Come on, then!" and he took two or three steps forward, and then stopped to rest, his eyes gradually closing, and his head beginning to sink.
"Come, come!" said the Dodo, getting in front of him, grasping the reins, and pulling with all his might. "I shall get very angry with you in a minute. It's perfectly ridiculous going on in this way; however do you imagine we are to get to our destination if you waste time in this manner?"
The answer was a loud snore from the sloth-bear, who had once more fallen into a deep sleep.
THE SKIPPER OF THE ARGONAUT.
"Well, of all the stupid creatures," said the Dodo, "I think that this is the most remarkable. Here, I say! Wake up, will you!" and he gave the reins another sharp pull.
The sloth-bear blinked his eyes, sleepily, and muttered, "What's up?"
"Why, aren't you going to make a start?" inquired the Dodo, angrily; "how do you suppose we shall ever get to our destination if you go on like this?"
The sloth-bear, after staring vacantly awhile slowly shook his head. "Speed not to exceed quarter of a mile an hour, them's my orders," he said, "and four times nine is—er—ninety-nine, so you'll get there about next Thursday week. Y—ah—a—a—ow," and he gave another tremendous yawn, as his head sank between his knees again.
"Good gracious! what's to be done?" said Dick, getting down from the chariot. "It's not the slightest use our trying to go anywhere in this thing."
"What did he mean by saying four times nine were ninety-nine? They ain't," said Fidge, "'cos I know my 'four times,' and four nines are thirty-six."
"Perhaps it was something to do with the number of miles we shall have to travel before we reach the place where the ships start from," suggested Marjorie.
"Wake him up again, will you, please?" she said, turning to the Dodo. "Perhaps he will tell us."
"All right," said the Dodo, "I'll wake him up. Here!" he cried, going up to the sloth-bear, and giving him a good shake. "Wake up! Wake up!"
The creature slowly lifted his head, and, staring reproachfully at the Dodo, began to cry. "Boo—hoo—hoo! Boo—hoo—hoo!" he sobbed. "It's a shame, it is."
"What's the matter now, cry-baby?" asked the Dodo.
"Why can't you let me alone?" whined the sloth-bear. "I've never done nothing to you, have I? Why can't you let a poor beast sleep in peace?"
"Oh, for goodness' sake let the lazy old thing go to sleep if it wants to," said Dick, impatiently, while tender-hearted Marjorie went up to the creature and stroked and comforted it as best she could.
Her pity was wasted, however, for almost before the last words were out of its mouth the sloth-bear was snoring peacefully with a contented smirk on its face.
"Come on," said Dick, "let's try and find the way ourselves. Oh! I know," he exclaimed; "of course, why we've forgotten all about the power we have of floating in the air; we'll rise up above the trees, and then we shall soon see where the sea is."
No sooner said than done. The children just expressed the wish, and, as the Little Panjandrum's Ambassador had promised them, they found that they had the power of rising at will.
"Jolly, isn't it?" said Dick, as they floated upwards, leaving the Dodo gazing after them enviously.
"Like being in a b'loon," chuckled Fidge, clutching at the leaves of a tree as he passed through them. Fidge never would pronounce balloon properly.
"Oh! look!" cried Marjorie, as they passed above the trees, "there's the sea over there, and some houses, and people on the beach. I can see them quite distinctly. Oh, jolly, we can soon fly over there; come on."
"What about the Dodo?" asked Dick.
"Oh, of course. I'd forgotten him. Let's see, he can't fly, can he?"
"Judging by the exhibition he made of himself when we first saw him, I should say not," laughed Dick.
"Well, perhaps we could carry him between us," suggested Marjorie, "he doesn't look very heavy."
"All right, let's try," said her brother, and, having made quite sure of the direction in which the sea lay, they slowly descended to the ground again.
"Find out what you wanted to?" asked the Dodo, who had taken off his gloves, and was blowing into them to take out the creases.
"Yes," said Dick, "there are a few houses by the side of the sea about two miles to the left; do you think you could manage to fly as far as that?"
The Dodo smiled in a sickly sort of way. "I'm a little out of practise," he faltered.
"Well, do you think that if we each took hold of one of your—ahem—wings, we could get along that way?"
"You wouldn't crush my gloves?" asked the Dodo, anxiously.
"Oh, you could take them off, you know," said Dick, "and put them in your p——" (he was going to say pocket, but suddenly remembered that the Dodo hadn't one)—"in my pocket till we get there, if you like," he added.
"What!" cried the Dodo, indignantly, "travel without my gloves! Never! It wouldn't be respectable. I shouldn't think of doing such a thing!"
"Oh, well, come, on then; let's try this way," said Dick, putting his arm under one of the Dodo's wings, while Marjorie did the same to the other. "Now then—one—two—three."
Slowly, very slowly, the children rose, for the Dodo was rather heavy after all, as he dangled down clumsily and uncomfortably between them.
I think they would have managed, however, but just as they had reached the lower branches of the trees, they heard a voice scream furiously—