"In selecting my Instrument of Vengeance," went on Tititi-Hoochoo, "I have realized that this will be an unpleasant mission. Therefore no one of us who is blameless should be forced to undertake it. In this wonderful land it is seldom one is guilty of wrong, even in the slightest degree, and on examining the Records I found no King or Queen had erred. Nor had any among their followers or servants done any wrong. But finally I came to the Dragon Family, which we highly respect, and then it was that I discovered the error of Quox.
"Quox, as you well know, is a young dragon who has not yet acquired the wisdom of his race. Because of this lack, he has been disrespectful toward his most ancient ancestor, the Original Dragon, telling him once to mind his own business and again saying that the Ancient One had grown foolish with age. We are aware that dragons are not the same as fairies and cannot be altogether guided by our laws, yet such disrespect as Quox has shown should not be unnoticed by us. Therefore I have selected Quox as my royal Instrument of Vengeance and he shall go through the Tube with these people and inflict upon Ruggedo the punishment I have decreed."
All had listened quietly to this speech and now the Kings and Queens bowed gravely to signify their approval of the Jinjin's judgment.
Tititi-Hoochoo turned to Tubekins.
"I command you," said he, "to escort these strangers to the Tube and see that they all enter it."
The King of the Tube, who had first discovered our friends and brought them to the Private Citizen, stepped forward and bowed. As he did so, the Jinjin and all the Kings and Queens suddenly disappeared and only Tubekins remained visible.
"All right," said Betsy, with a sigh; "I don't mind going back so very much, 'cause the Jinjin promised to make it easy for us."
Indeed, Queen Ann and her officers were the only ones who looked solemn and seemed to fear the return journey. One thing that bothered Ann was her failure to conquer this land of Tititi- Hoochoo. As they followed their guide through the gardens to the mouth of the Tube she said to Shaggy:
"How can I conquer the world, if I go away and leave this rich country unconquered?"
"You can't," he replied. "Don't ask me why, please, for if you don't know I can't inform you."
"Why not?" said Ann; but Shaggy paid no attention to the question.
This end of the Tube had a silver rim and around it was a gold railing to which was attached a sign that read.
"IF YOU ARE OUT, STAY THERE. IF YOU ARE IN, DON'T COME OUT."
On a little silver plate just inside the Tube was engraved the words:
"Burrowed and built by Hiergargo the Magician, In the Year of the World 1 9 6 2 5 4 7 8 For his own exclusive uses."
"He was some builder, I must say," remarked Betsy, when she had read the inscription; "but if he had known about that star I guess he'd have spent his time playing solitaire."
"Well, what are we waiting for?" inquired Shaggy, who was impatient to start.
"Quox," replied Tubekins. "But I think I hear him coming."
"Is the young dragon invisible?" asked Ann, who had never seen a live dragon and was a little fearful of meeting one.
"No, indeed," replied the King of the Tube. "You'll see him in a minute; but before you part company I'm sure you'll wish he was invisible."
"Is he dangerous, then?" questioned Files.
"Not at all. But Quox tires me dreadfully," said Tubekins, "and I prefer his room to his company.
At that instant a scraping sound was heard, drawing nearer and nearer until from between two big bushes appeared a huge dragon, who approached the party, nodded his head and said: "Good morning."
Had Quox been at all bashful I am sure he would have felt uncomfortable at the astonished stare of every eye in the group--except Tubekins, of course, who was not astonished because he had seen Quox so often.
Betsy had thought a "young" dragon must be a small dragon, yet here was one so enormous that the girl decided he must be full grown, if not overgrown.