John Dough and the Cherub/Chapter 16
After the Princess had left them, John Dough said to the King: "What is to become of Chick and of me? We cannot stay with you always." "I hardly know," answered the Beaver Fairy. "Is there any place you especially desire to visit?" "No special place is known to me," said the gingerbread man. "It doesn't matter where we go, so long as we keep going," added the practical Chick. "You have been very kind to us," continued John, "and we may rely upon your friendship. Since you possess such wonderful fairy powers, perhaps you will assist us to leave this island and get out into the world again, where we may seek new adventures." "It shall be as you wish," promised the King. "But I must think of a way for you to leave my palace in perfect safety. Chick is in no great danger, but should Black Ooboo or the terrible Arab chance to capture you, they would cut your gingerbread to bits in no time, and you would be ruined. For this reason it will be best for you to leave this island as quickly as possible." John readily agreed to this, and the King remained silent for several minutes, engaged in deep thought. Then he said: "I believe I know a way to save you, John Dough. But I must have your permission to cut you into nine pieces." "What good will I be when cut into pieces?" asked John, somewhat alarmed at the suggestion. "Do not fear," said the beaver. "I promise to again restore you to your present form. The Mifkets have placed spies all about our dam, and if you attempted to walk away from here they would soon discover you. Therefore I will cut you into nine pieces, wrap each piece in a bit of cloth, and send the parcels by my beavers along different paths to the top of the hill where Para Bruin lives. There the bear and Chick can put you together again, for the child will have no trouble in reaching the bear's cave. After the nine parts are in place I will give you a magic cordial to drink; it will render your body as solid and substantial as it is now." "But how can we escape from the island, once we have reached Para Bruin's cave?" asked John. "The Flamingo people owe me many favors," answered the King. "You do not weigh much, so I will ask one of the flamingoes to fly with you to some other country. It will take two of the birds to carry Chick; but, if the child is not afraid, the journey will be perfectly safe." "I'm not afraid," said Chick. "Anything suits me." "I think your plan is an excellent one," declared John, "and we are both greatly obliged to your Majesty for your kindness." So the King brought a great knife, and with the assistance of Chick, who was much interested in the operation, cut John Dough into nine pieces. These were wrapped into packages and eight beavers were summoned, who carried eight of the packages through secret passages to the forest and then up the mountain-side to the cave of Para Bruin. The ninth package, containing the head of John Dough, the King undertook to carry himself, and although the Mifket spies of Black Ooboo noticed the nine beavers carrying packages up the hillside, they paid little attention to them, never suspecting that in this queer fashion the gingerbread man was making his escape. And Chick walked boldly along the river bank and up the hill to meet Para Bruin, who hugged the child joyfully in his rubber arms, and tried to lick the plump cheeks with his pink rubber tongue. The Mifkets were puzzled by Chick's appearance, and wondered where the little one had come from; but they did not offer to interfere with the child in any way. It was not long before the Beaver King reached the bear's cave and laid the ninth package, containing John's head, beside the other eight, which had already arrived. "What's all this?" asked Para Bruin, eying the packages with much surprise. "Be patient and you will see," replied the King, and then unwrapped John's head. When the bear saw it he uttered a groan and exclaimed: "Alas! my poor friend has come to a sad end!" "Not so," answered John's head. "The Fairy Beaver has cut me apart, but he has promised to put me together again, so that I will be as good as new. And you must assist us, friend Para." "Most willingly!" declared the bear. Then, under the King's direction, Para Bruin and Chick set up John's legs, and placed the sections of his body upon them, and afterward perched his head upon the body. John expected to tumble down at any moment, for he was just like a house of blocks that a child builds, and every one knows how easily that falls apart; but he kept as still as possible, and at length all the nine parts of him were in their proper places. Then the King handed a small silver flask to the child, and told Chick to pour the contents into John's mouth--just between the candy teeth. Chick, by standing on tiptoe, was able to do this, and John drank the cordial to the last drop. He seemed to feel it penetrate and spread through all his gingerbread body; and, as it did so, every one of the cut places became solid again, and presently John took a step forward, looked himself over, and found he was indeed as good as new. "That cordial is great stuff," he said to the King. "It's almost as powerful as the Great Elixir itself. "It is an excellent remedy for cuts," replied the King, "and as you are so crumbly and unsubstantial I will give you another bottle of it, so that if you ever meet with an accident you may drink the cordial and recover." He handed John another silver flask containing the wonderful liquid, which John accepted with much gratitude. "Now I must leave you," said the King. "The flamingoes have promised to send her their strongest flyers to bear you and the Incubator Baby to another land, so I believe you will both live to encounter many further adventures." Chick and John again thanked the kind beaver for all the favors they had received, and then the King and his people returned to their beautiful palace, and left the gingerbread man and the cheerful Cherub and Para Bruin alone upon the mountain-top. "What has become of the Princess?" asked the bear. John told him the story of her escape, and Para said: "Well, I'm glad the dear child was able to rejoin her parents; but this island will be a dreary place without her. I wish I could leave it as easily as you and Chick can." "Perhaps," said John, "the flamingoes will also carry you." "Do you think so?" asked Para, eagerly. "I'll ask them about it, for I understand their language," promised John; and this so delighted the rubber bear that he bounded up and down in glee. Before long four great birds were seen approaching through the air, and soon they alighted upon the mountain close to where our friends stood. "We were sent to carry a gingerbread man and a fair-haired child away from this island," said one of the birds, in a squeaky voice. "I am the gingerbread man," replied John, speaking as the flamingoes did; "and here is the fair-haired child. But we also wish you to carry our friend Para Bruin with us. One of you can carry me, and two can carry Chick. That will leave the fourth to fly with Para Bruin, if you will kindly consent." "What, that monstrous bear!" exclaimed one of the birds, indignantly. "He's large, it is true," replied John; "but he's made of rubber, and is hollow inside; so he really doesn't weight much more than I do." "Well," said the flamingo, "if that is the case I do not object to carrying him." John related this conversation to the bear, who was overjoyed at the thought of getting away from the island. A stout cord had been tied to the feet of each of the flamingoes, and John now proceeded to fasten the loose end of one of the cords around his own body, tying it in a firm knot, so it would not come undone and let him drop. The cords hanging from the two birds that were to carry the Cherub were tied together in a hard knot, and thus formed a swing in which the child sat quite comfortably. Para Bruin now tied himself to the fourth flamingo, and the preparations were complete. "Are you ready?" asked the leader of the flamingoes. "Yes," said John. "Where do you wish to be taken?" "We don't much care," replied the gingerbread man. "Let us get to some island where there are no Mifkets. As for Ali Dubh, he will be obliged to stay here with his friend Black Ooboo, and once I am away from these shores I shall be sure he can never eat me." So the big birds flew into the air, carrying with them the gingerbread man and the fair-haired child and the rubber bear, and so swift was their flight that in a few moments the island of the Mifkets had vanished from their view. "Nice ride," isn't it?" Chick called to John. "Rather nice," answered the gingerbread man. "But this cord is so tight it's wearing a crease in my body." "What a pity you are not made of rubber, as I am!" said the bear, cheerfully. "Nothing ever injures me in the least. I'm practically indestructible." "How are you getting on, Chick?" asked John. "Fine!" answered the Cherub. "This knocks Imar's flying-machine into a cocked hat." Then for a time they sailed on in silence, dangling from the ends of their cords, while the strong wings of the flamingoes beat the air with regular strokes just above their heads.