John Dough and the Cherub/Chapter 17
The birds flew close together and made great speed, and in about three hours from the time they started an island appeared just ahead of them. Whereupon John said to the bird that bore him: "Let us stop here, so we can examine the island and see how we like it. This cord is cutting into my gingerbread body, and I'd like to stop for a time, anyway." "Very well," answered the bird; and when they were over the center of the island the flamingoes gradually descended and alighted upon the ground. John untied the cord from his waist, and also assisted Chick and Para Bruin to free themselves. The bear was not injured at all, but the cord had worn a straight line around John's body, although not very deep; and in some way the gingerbread man had lost another of his lozenge buttons. The place where they had alighted was covered by grass and surrounded by groves of trees. "This looks like a fine country," said Chick, gazing around. "It's better than our old island, anyway," remarked Para Bruin. But just as he spoke the flamingoes uttered shrill screams and flew quickly into the air, and our friends turned in time to see a most curious creature come from the grove and approach them. It had somewhat the likeness of a man, yet was too queer ever to be mistaken for a human being, although it was certainly alive. Its body was a huge punching-bag, and its head was a foot-ball. For legs it had two of those golf-clubs called "putters," and one of its arms was a tennis-racket and the other a base-ball club. This was curious enough, in all conscience; but the face was more curious yet. For the eyes were golf balls, and the nose a square of billiard-chalk, and its mouth a mere slit in the foot-ball where the lacing had come undone. Taken altogether, this odd creature presented a most surprising appearance, and while John Dough and Para Bruin stared at it in amazement Chick boldly asked: "Who are you?" "Sport is my name, and sport is my nature," answered the creature, winking one eye frightfully, and grinning until its queer mouth curled up at both corners of the slit. "Sport," remarked the rubber bear, gravely, "is something amusing; so I am sure you are misnamed." "Oh! you're a balloon," returned Sport, kicking at the bear with one of his golf-club feet; "the kid's a chucklehead and the other's a bun." "I'm not a bun!" exclaimed John, indignantly. "Yes, you are! Cross bun, too. Hot cross bun. Cool off, old chap, and look pleasant." John was too angry to reply to this speech, but Chick said to the creature: "If you're going to be so disagreeable, you'd better leave us. We don't care to associate with people of your sort." "Ho, ho! ha, ha!" laughed Sport; "don't care to associate, eh? Do you know where you are?" "No," said Chick, "and I don't care." "Well, this island is inhabited by retired pirates and bandits, who make every one that lands here pay a heavy ransom, or else--" "Or else what?" asked John, as Sport stopped short and gave another horrid wink. "Or else they boil 'em in oil for three days," was the reply. "Well," said the bear, "we can't pay a ransom, that's certain; but I'm not afraid of being boiled in oil. I'm practically indestructible." "But I'm not!" cried John, much alarmed. "It would ruin my gingerbread to be boiled in oil, and Chick would certainly get overheated. I'm afraid it would melt your rubber, too, my dear Para." "Would it?" asked the bear, with a start. "Then let us get away from this island at once!" "By all means!" agreed John Dough. "And the sooner the better," declared Chick. But as they turned to look for the flamingoes, the creature who called himself Sport began pounding his punching-bag body with his tennis-racket arm, and at the sound a crowd of men ran out of groves of trees and quickly surrounded the rubber bear and Chick and the gingerbread man. These men had heavy beards, hooked noses, and piercing black eyes; and they wore red sashes tied around their waists; and laced leggings, and blue flannel shirts open at the throats; and in their belts were stuck many daggers and knives and pistols. "Whoop! whoo--o--o!" they screeched, yelling like Indians; and their leader, who was uglier looking than any of his followers, cried out: "Avast, there, my hearties! Here's a chance for either a fine ransom or a pot of boiling oil!" "Then it's the oil," said Para Bruin, despondently; "for we have no ransom." "You may as well start the bonfire," remarked Chick. But John Dough stepped up to the pirate chief and asked: "How much ransom do you require?" "Well," answered the chief, "you're not worth much, yourself, and the child's too small to count; but a fine rubber bear like that is worth ten pieces-of-eight or a sparkling jewel." "I will give you a sparkling jewel for him, as a ransom," said John, "provided you will then permit us to depart in peace." "All right," agreed the pirate; "hand over the sparkler and you may go." So John borrowed a dagger from the chief and picked out of his body one of the three diamonds which the inventor had given him in the Isle of Phreex. It glittered most beautifully in the sunlight, and the eyes of the pirate also glittered with greed. For he had noticed two other scars on John's gingerbread body, similar to the one the diamond had been picked out of. Taking the diamond in his dirty hand he said: "Well, where are the other jewels?" "You agreed to accept this one as our ransom," answered the gingerbread man. "You misunderstood me. I said three," declared the pirate; and turning to his men he shouted: "Didn't I say three, boys?" "You did! You said three sparklers!" cried the retired pirates and bandits, in a loud chorus. So John, with a sigh of regret, picked the other two diamonds out of his body and gave them to the chief. "Now," said the pirate, "I will allow you to go. But where you can go to is a mystery to me, for you are on an island." "Stop!" cried another man, as they turned to depart. "You've got to settle with me, now. I'm the bandit chief, and I also demand a ransom." "I have given the pirate chief all the diamonds I had," said John. "Then you shall surely boil in oil!" shouted the bandit, scowling fearfully. "Seize them, my men, and away with them to the fiery furnace." But just then came a flutter of wings, and the four flamingoes flew down and sailed along just over the heads of the prisoners. Instantly the bear clutched the end of a cord and was drawn upward by one of the birds. John Dough grasped the foot of another flamingo with his right hand, and was also raised high above the heads of the astonished pirates and bandits, while Chick coolly sat within the loop of string dangling from the two remaining birds and sailed into the sky with admirable grace. Meantime the robbers shook their fists and yelled at the escaped prisoners in a frenzy of helpless rage. "Wait a minute!" Para Bruin called to the flamingo which was carrying him; for he observed that just beneath him was the form of the dreadful person who had called himself Sport. The bird obeyed, remaining poised in the air; and at once the bear curled himself into a ball, let go the cord, and fell downward toward the ground. The ball of rubber, rapidly descending, struck the surprised Sport and smashed him flat upon the ground. Then up into the air bounded the bear again, and caught once more the cord that was attached to the flamingo's foot. "Well done!" called the Cherub, while the pirates and bandits were rushing to assist the helpless Sport. "That was a noble deed, my good Para!" said the gingerbread man. "Oh, I'm a bouncer, all right!" answered the bear, proudly. "But now let us get away from this awful place as soon as possible." So the flamingoes flew swiftly across the sea with them, and John Dough found that he sailed more easily while clutching the bird's foot than when the cord had been fastened around his body. Chick also rode with perfect comfort, but Para Bruin was obliged to wrap the cord several times around his fat paw, to prevent it from slipping out of his grasp.