Beneath one of the domes stood a double throne, on which sat the Ki of Twi--a pair of gray-bearded and bald-headed men who were lean and lank and stoop-shouldered. They had small eyes, black and flashing, long hooked noses, great pointed ears, and they were smoking two pipes from which the smoke curled in exactly the same circles and clouds.
Beneath the other dome sat the Ki-Ki of Twi, also on double thrones, similar to those of the Ki. The Ki-Ki were two young men, and had golden hair combed over their brows and "banged" straight across; and their eyes were blue and mild in expression, and their cheeks pink and soft. The Ki-Ki were playing softly upon a pair of musical instruments that resembled mandolins, and they were evidently trying to learn a new piece of music, for when one Ki-Ki struck a false note the other Ki-Ki struck the same false note at the same time, and the same expression of annoyance came over the two faces at the same moment.
When the prisoners entered, the pairs of captains and soldiers bowed low to the two pairs of rulers, and the Ki exclaimed--both in the same voice of surprise:
"Great Kika-koo! what have we here?"
"Most wonderful prisoners, your Highnesses," answered the captains. "We found them at your cities' gates and brought them to you at once. They are, as your Highnesses will see, each singular, and but half of what he should be."
"'Tis so!" cried the double Ki, in loud voices, and slapping their right thighs with their right palms at the same time. "Most remarkable! Most remarkable!"
"I don't see anything remarkable about it," returned Prince Marvel, calmly. "It is you, who are not singular, but double, that seem strange and outlandish."
"Perhaps--perhaps!" said the two old men, thoughtfully. "It is what we are not accustomed to that seems to us remarkable. Eh, Ki-Ki?" they added, turning to the other rulers.
The Ki-Ki, who had not spoken a word but continued to play softly, simply nodded their blond heads carelessly; so the Ki looked again at the prisoners and asked:
"How did you get here?"
"We cut a hole through the prickly hedge," replied Prince Marvel.
"A hole through the hedge! Great Kika-koo!" cried the gray-bearded Ki; "is there, then, anything or any place on the other side of the hedge?"
"Why, of course! The world is there," returned the prince, laughing.
The old men looked puzzled, and glanced sharply from their little black eyes at their prisoners.
"We thought nothing existed outside the hedge of Twi," they answered, simply. "But your presence here proves we were wrong. Eh! Ki-Ki?"
This last was again directed toward the pair of musicians, who continued to play and only nodded quietly, as before.
"Now that you are here," said the twin Ki, stroking their two gray beards with their two left hands in a nervous way, "it must be evident to you that you do not belong here. Therefore you must go back through the hedge again and stay on the other side. Eh, Ki-Ki?"
The Ki-Ki still continued playing, but now spoke the first words the prisoners had heard from them.
"They must die," said the Ki-Ki, in soft and agreeable voices.
"Die!" echoed the twin Ki, "die? Great Kika-koo! And why so?"
"Because, if there is a world on the other side of the hedge, they would tell on their return all about the Land of Twi, and others of their kind would come through the hedge from curiosity and annoy us. We can not be annoyed. We are busy."
Having delivered this speech both the Ki-Ki went on playing the new tune, as if the matter was settled.
"Nonsense!" retorted the old Ki, angrily. "You are getting more and more bloodthirsty every day, our sweet and gentle Ki-Ki! But we are the Ki--and we say the prisoners shall not die!"
"We say they shall!" answered the youthful Ki-Ki, nodding their two heads at the same time, with a positive motion. "You may be the Ki, but we are the Ki-Ki, and your superior."
"Not in this case," declared the old men. "Where life and death are concerned we have equal powers with you."
"And if we disagree?" asked the players, gently.