"Your gray-bearded old Ki say we shall not die."

"True," answered the captains. "But the Ki-Ki have declared you shall."

"Their powers seem to be equal," said Nerle, "and we are to be taken before the High Ki for judgment."

"Therein lies your danger," returned the captains, speaking in the same tones and with the same accents on their words. "For it is well known the Ki-Ki has more influence with the High Ki than the Ki has."

"Hold on!" cried Nerle; "you are making me dizzy again. I can't keep track of all these Kis."

"What is the High Ki like?" asked Prince Marvel, who was much interested in the conversation of the captains. But this question the officers seemed unable to answer. They shook their heads slowly and said:

"The High Ki are not visible to the people of Twi. Only in cases of the greatest importance are the High Ki ever bothered or even approached by the Ki and the Ki-Ki, who are supposed to rule the land according to their own judgment. But if they chance to disagree, then the matter is carried before the High Ki, who live in a palace surrounded by high walls, in which there are no gates. Only these rulers have ever seen the other side of the walls, or know what the High Ki are like."

"That is strange," said the prince. "But we, ourselves, it seems, are to see the High Ki to-morrow, and whoever they may chance to be, we hope to remain alive after the interview."

"That is a vain hope," answered the captains, "for it is well known that the High Ki usually decide in favor of the Ki-Ki, and against the wishes of the old Ki."

"That is certainly encouraging," said Nerle.

When the captains had gone and left them to themselves, the esquire confided to his master his expectations in the following speech:

"This High Ki sounds something terrible and fierce in my ears, and as they are doubtless a pair, they will be twice terrible and fierce. Perhaps his royal doublets will torture me most exquisitely before putting me to death, and then I shall feel that I have not lived in vain."

They slept in comfortable beds that night, although an empty twin bed stood beside each one they occupied. And in the morning they were served another excellent meal, after which the captains escorted them again to the twin palaces of the Ki and the Ki-Ki.

There the two pairs of rulers met them and headed the long procession of soldiers toward the palace of the High Ki. First came a band of music, in which many queer sorts of instruments were played in pairs by twin musicians; and it was amusing to Nerle to see the twin drummers roll their twin drums exactly at the same time and the twin trumpets peal out twin notes. After the band marched the double Ki-Ki and the double Ki, their four bodies side by side in a straight line. The Ki-Ki had left their musical instruments in the palace, and now wore yellow gloves with green stitching down the backs and swung gold-headed canes jauntily as they walked. The Ki stooped their aged shoulders and shuffled along with their hands in their pockets, and only once did they speak, and that was to roar "Great Kika-koo!" when the Ki-Ki jabbed their canes down on the Ki's toes.

Following the Ki-Ki and the Ki came the prince and Nerle, escorted by the twin captains, and then there were files of twin soldiers bringing up the rear.

Crowds of twin people, with many twin children amongst them, turned out to watch the unusual display, and many pairs of twin dogs barked together in unison and snapped at the heels of the marching twin soldiers.

By and by they reached the great wall surrounding the High Ki's palace, and, sure enough, there was never a gate in the wall by which any might enter. But when the Ki and the Ki-Ki had blown a shrill signal upon two pairs of whistles, they all beheld two flights of silver steps begin to descend from the top of the wall, and these came nearer and nearer the ground until at last they rested at the feet of the Ki. Then the old men began ascending the steps carefully and slowly, and the captains motioned to the prisoners to follow.

The Enchanted Island of Yew Page 33

L. Frank Baum Children's Books

Fairy Tales and Children's Books

Free Books in the public domain from the Classic Literature Library ©

Children's Books
Classic Literature Library

All Pages of This Book
Children's Picture Books