So Prince Marvel followed one of the Ki up the steps and Nerle the other Ki, while the two Ki-Ki came behind them so they could not escape.

So to the top of the wall they climbed, where a pair of twin servants in yellow and green--which seemed to be the royal colors--welcomed them and drew up the pair of silver steps, afterward letting them down on the other side of the wall, side by side.

They descended in the same order as they had mounted to the top of the wall, and now Prince Marvel and Nerle found themselves in a most beautiful garden, filled with twin beds of twin flowers, with many pairs of rare shrubs. Also, there were several double statuettes on pedestals, and double fountains sending exactly the same sprays of water the same distance into the air.

Double walks ran in every direction through the garden, and in the center of the inclosure stood a magnificent twin palace, built of blocks of white marble exquisitely carved.

The Ki and the Ki-Ki at once led their prisoners toward the palace and entered at its large arched double doors, where several pairs of servants met them. These servants, they found, were all dumb, so that should they escape from the palace walls they could tell no tales of the High Ki.

The prisoners now proceeded through several pairs of halls, winding this way and that, and at last came to a pair of golden double doors leading into the throne-room of the mighty High Ki. Here they all paused, and the Ki-Ki both turned to the prince and Nerle and said:

"You are the only persons, excepting ourselves and the palace servants, who have ever been permitted to see the High Ki of Twi. As you are about to die, that does not matter; but should you by any chance be permitted to live, you must never breathe a word of what you are about to see, under penalty of a sure and horrible death."

The prisoners made no reply to this speech, and, after the two Ki-Ki had given them another mild look from their gentle blue eyes, these officials clapped their twin hands together and the doors of gold flew open.

A perfect silence greeted them, during which the double Ki and the double Ki-Ki bent their four bodies low and advanced into the throne-room, followed by Prince Marvel and Nerle.

In the center of the room stood two thrones of dainty filigree work in solid gold, and over them were canopies of yellow velvet, the folds of which were caught up and draped with bands of green ribbon. And on the thrones were seated two of the sweetest and fairest little maidens that mortal man had ever beheld. Their lovely hair was fine as a spider's web; their eyes were kind and smiling, their cheeks soft and dimpled, their mouths shapely as a cupid's bow and tinted like the petals of a rose. Upon their heads were set two crowns of fine spun gold, worked into fantastic shapes and set with glittering gems. Their robes were soft silks of pale yellow, with strings of sparkling emeralds for ornament.

Anything so lovely and fascinating as these little maids, who were precisely alike in every particular, neither Prince Marvel nor Nerle had ever dreamed could exist. They stood for a time spellbound and filled with admiration, while the two pairs of rulers bowed again and again before the dainty and lovable persons of their High Ki.

But it was hard for Nerle to keep quiet for long, and presently he exclaimed, in a voice loud enough to be heard by all present:

"By the Great Kika-koo of our friends the Ki, these darling High Ki of Twi are sweet enough to be kissed!"

16. The Rebellion of the High Ki

The bold speech of Nerle's made the two damsels laugh at the same time, and their sweet laughter sounded like rippling strains of harmonious music. But the two Ki-Ki frowned angrily, and the two Ki looked at the boy in surprise, as if wondering at his temerity.

"Who are these strangers?" asked the pretty High Ki, speaking together as all the twins of Twi did; "and why are they not mates, but only half of each other?"

"These questions, your Supreme Highnesses," said the blond-haired pair of Ki-Ki, "we are unable to answer."

"Perhaps, then, the strangers can answer themselves," said the little maids, smiling first upon the Ki-Ki and then upon the prisoners.

The Enchanted Island of Yew Page 34

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