"Great Kika-koo! If we disagree the High Ki must judge between us!" roared the twin Ki, excitedly.
"Quite so," answered the Ki-Ki. "The strangers shall die."
"They shall not die!" stormed the old men, with fierce gestures toward the others, while both pairs of black eyes flashed angrily.
"Then we disagree, and they must be taken to the High Ki," returned the blond musicians, beginning to play another tune.
The two Ki rose from their thrones, paced two steps to the right and three steps to the left, and then sat down again.
"Very well!" they said to the captains, who had listened unmoved to the quarrel of the rulers; "keep these half-men safe prisoners until to-morrow morning, and then the Ki-Ki and we ourselves will conduct them to the mighty High Ki."
At this command the twin captains bowed again to both pairs of rulers and led Prince Marvel and Nerle from the room. Then they were escorted along the streets to the twin houses of the captains, and here the officers paused and scratched their left ears with uncertain gestures.
"There being only half of each of you," they said, "we do not know how to lock each of you in double rooms."
"Oh, let us both occupy the same room," said Prince Marvel. "We prefer it."
"Very well," answered the captains; "we must transgress our usual customs in any event, so you may as well be lodged as you wish."
So Nerle and the prince were thrust into a large and pleasant room of one of the twin houses, the double doors were locked upon them by twin soldiers, and they were left to their own thoughts.
15. The High Ki of Twi
"Tell me, Prince, are we awake or asleep?" asked Nerle, as soon as they were alone.
"There is no question of our being awake," replied the prince, with a laugh. "But what a curious country it is--and what a funny people!"
"We can't call them odd or singular," said the esquire, "for everything is even in numbers and double in appearance. It makes me giddy to look at them, and I keep feeling of myself to make sure there is still only one of me."
"You are but half a boy!" laughed the prince--"at least so long as you remain in the Land of Twi."
"I'd like to get out of it in double-quick time," answered Nerle; "and we should even now be on the other side of the hedge were it not for that wicked pair of Ki-Ki, who are determined to kill us."
"It is strange," said the prince, thoughtfully, "that the fierce-looking old Ki should be our friends and the gentle Ki-Ki our enemies. How little one can tell from appearances what sort of heart beats in a person's body!"
Before Nerle could answer the two doors opened and two pairs of soldiers entered. They drew two small tables before the prince and two before Nerle, and then other pairs of twin soldiers came and spread cloths on the tables and set twin platters of meat and bread and fruit on each of the tables. When the meal had been arranged the prisoners saw that there was enough for four people instead of two; and the soldiers realized this also, for they turned puzzled looks first on the tables and then on the prisoners. Then they shook all their twin heads gravely and went away, locking the twin doors behind them.
"We have one advantage in being singular," said Nerle, cheerfully; "and that is we are not likely to starve to death. For we can eat the portions of our missing twins as well as our own."
"I should think you would enjoy starving," remarked the prince.
"No; I believe I have more exquisite suffering in store for me, since I have met that gentle pair of Ki-Ki," said Nerle.
While they were eating the two captains came in and sat down in two chairs. These captains seemed friendly fellows, and after watching the strangers for a while they remarked:
"We are glad to see you able to eat so heartily; for to-morrow you will probably die."
"That is by no means certain," replied Marvel, cutting a piece from one of the twin birds on a platter before him--to the extreme surprise of the captains, who had always before seen both birds carved alike at the same time.