A Little Wild Man

“All hands on deck! Come on! Come _on_!” yelled Samuel Salt running
past Ato’s galley dragging on his clothes as he ran. “There’s an island
tuluward, you lubber.”

“Well, ’tain’t a flying island is it?” Ato stuck a very red face out
the door. “I guess it’ll stay there till I turn the bacon, won’t it? No
cause to burn the biscuits just ’cause an island’s sighted is there?”
But in spite of his pretended indifference, the ship’s cook shoved
all his pans on the back of the stove and hurried out on deck. “Rich
and jungly, this one,” he observed, resting his arms comfortably on
the rail, “and from what I can see a good place to grow bananas and
whiskers. Look, Sammy, even the trees have beards.”

“Moss,” muttered Samuel Salt striding over to the wheel. “Fly ashore
Roger and see whether there’s a good place to put in.”

Twittering with importance and curiosity, the Read Bird flung himself
into the air. In ten minutes he was back to report a wide river cutting
through the center of the island from end to end. The foliage was so
dense, Roger had not been able to discover any signs of habitation, but
after viewing the mouth of the river through his glasses, the Captain
decided to take a chance, and sail through.

“Now, Sammy, let’s not do anything hasty,” begged the ship’s cook
lifting his floury hands in warning, “nor try to conquer a country on
an empty stomach. This may be an important island, so after we eat, let
us put on our proper clothes and plant the Oz flags with dignity and
decorum.”

“Spoken like a King and a seaman,” approved Samuel Salt, “and if my eye
does not deceive me, I’ll have the ship in the river as soon as you
have the coffee in the pot. Then we’ll ride in with the tide, put on
our discovering togs and proceed with the business of the day.”

So while Ato returned to his galley and the Read Bird to his post in
the foremast, Samuel swung the _Crescent Moon_ in toward the island.
Each felt a slight twinge of uneasiness as the ship left the open sea
and began to slip rapidly up the broad new and unnavigated jungle
stream. Vine covered trees pressed close to the banks, and birds and
monkeys in the branches kept up an incessant screech and chattering. A
flock of greedy pelicans flopped comically after the ship and as they
penetrated deeper and deeper into the jungle it almost seemed as if
they were entering some dim green land of goblins.

“A fine target we make for anyone who cares to shoot at us,” moaned
Ato, as he waddled backward and forward between the cabin and galley
with cups and covered dishes. “Ugh!”

“Yes, I wouldn’t be surprised to feel an arrow in my back any minute
now,” assented Samuel Salt brightly, “though I must say I’d much prefer
a fried mackerel in my stomach.”

“Come on then,” shuddered Ato, in no wise cheered by Samuel’s remarks,
“breakfast’s ready and we may as well eat before we die.”

“Now never say die!” roared the Royal Explorer of Oz, touching the
buttons to furl sail and yelling to Roger to let go the anchor.
“Never say die–say dee–dee-scovery is our aim and purpose, Mates.
Dee-scovery with a _hi de di dide di dough_!” sang Samuel vociferously
to keep up his own spirits. Finally with the ship motionless amidstream
the three shipmates sat down to breakfast. Their nerves were tense and
their ears cocked for signs of approaching natives, but except for the
noise of the birds and monkeys and the occasional splash of some river
creature, there was no sound to indicate the ship had been sighted by
the islanders.

“Nobody’s home,” concluded Samuel, finishing off his third cup of
coffee at one toss and hurrying off to his cabin. Roger, having only
Oz flags and no shore togs to bother him, generously offered to clear
away the dishes and amused himself by throwing scraps and the rest of
the biscuits to the pelicans. He had just tossed over the last biscuit
when Ato appeared in a grand satin coat and breeches, long cape and
three-cornered hat. The elegance of his apparel was somewhat marred by
the bread board he had belted round his middle and the bread knife
and blunderbuss he had stuck through his sash.

“Ha, hah!” roared Samuel Salt, giving the bread board a resounding
whack. “Something to stay your stomach, EH?” Samuel himself was as
stylishly attired as the King, his three-cornered hat at a dashing
angle. Under his arm he had two pairs of tremendously long stilts. “No
need for us to get all grubby lowering the boat. We’ll wade ashore this
time,” explained Samuel as Ato’s eyes grew round and questioning. “Easy
as walking on crutches; just watch me, Mate.”

Now Samuel, it must be confessed, had been practicing stilting on Elbow
Island, so naturally it came easy to him. First he put his stilts over
the side, then vaulting the rail, he seized the tops and settled his
feet in the cross pieces at one jump and started walking calmly up and
down gleefully calling for Ato to follow. It all looked so simple, Ato
handed the basket of lunch he had packed to Roger, and seizing his
stilts began anxiously feeling around for the river bottom. Satisfied
that it was solid, he climbed boldly up on the rail.

“That’s it! That’s it!” applauded Samuel. “Now grab the tops, Mate, and
start coming.”

“Chee tree–tee–hee–!” screeched the monkeys derisively as Ato clung
precariously to the rail with one hand and maneuvered his stilts with
the other. By some miracle of balance the fat King actually managed
to mount and hold on to his perilous walking sticks. Then with a long
quivering breath he heaved one forward. He was about to take another
step when a desperate scream from Roger almost caused him to topple
over backwards.

“‘Gators!” croaked the Read Bird, beating his wings together violently.
“Watch out for those ‘gators.”

“Why bother him with gaiters at a time like this? They look perfectly
all right to me.” Samuel Salt frowned up at Roger.

“Not _his_ gaiters, river ‘gators, alligators, CROCODILES!” wailed
Roger, beginning to fly in agonized circles. “Crocodiles and WORSE.”

Samuel, eyeing what he had supposed to be a pile of rotten logs on the
river bank, saw dozens of the slimy saurians slide into the water and
come savagely toward them.

“Back to the ship! Back to the ship!” babbled the Read Bird, clutching
Ato’s collar with a frantic claw. But the King was too frightened to
move. The sight of the bleary-eyed river monsters made him tremble so
violently his stilts twittered and swayed like trees in a hurricane. He
could not for the life of him take a step in either direction. With a
loud cry Samuel started to help him, but a crocodile reached Ato first.
Its jaws closed with a vicious snap on the King’s left stilt and with a
heart-rending shriek Ato plunged into the slimy river.

“There, there! Now you’ve done it!” sobbed Roger. “Fed the kindest soul
who ever served a ship’s company to a parcel of crocodiles!” Dropping
the Oz flags and lunch basket, he made an unsuccessful grab for his
Master’s arm. But even if he had caught it, Ato’s great weight would
have pulled them both under, and now only a circle of bubbles showed
where the luckless explorer had disappeared. Firing his blunderbuss
to frighten off the rest of the crocodiles, Samuel, striking left and
right with his stilts, propelled himself forward, while Roger pecked
futilely at the monster that had felled his Master. But just as Samuel,
after boldly driving off the dragon-like creature, prepared to dive in
and save Ato or perish with him, a dripping head appeared above the
water.

“Thank you. Thank you very much!” murmured a mild voice. “I haven’t
had as nice a present as this since I was an itty bitty baby. Now what
can I do for YOU?” Neither Samuel nor Roger could speak a word, for
where the King had gone down, a tremendous hippopotamus was coming
up, the lunch basket hanging carelessly out of a corner of its mouth.
For a wild moment Samuel thought his enormous friend and shipmate had
been transformed by some witchcraft into this ponderous beast. He even
imagined he caught an expression of Ato’s in the monster’s moist eye.
But this gloomy idea was soon dispelled, for, as the creature rose
higher out of the water, they could see a desperate and bedraggled
figure sprawled across its slippery back.

“Ahoy, Mate!” choked Samuel, his heart thumping like a trip hammer. “Is
it really you? Are you safe, then?”

“Safe!” quavered the half-drowned and mud-covered King of the Octagon
Isle. “SAFE?” He peered dizzily at the churning crocodiles just a
boat’s length away, and his voice cracked and broke. “I never felt
safer in my life. What am I riding, a whale or an elephant?”

“A river horse,” explained the hippopotamus, looking kindly over her
shoulder. Then, as the crocodiles began to hiss and roar and come
rolling toward them, she gave a ferocious bellow and snort. “Away with
you! Be off, you river scum!” she squealed viciously. “These travelers
are MINE. Shoot your fire stick, Master Long Legs. That will fix them.”
For a moment the crocodiles held their post, then, as Samuel fired his
gun repeatedly, they began to slide sullenly across the river to the
opposite bank. “Hold fast, Master Short Legs, and I’ll soon have you
ashore,” wheezed the hippopotamus, speaking out of the corner of her
mouth so as not to drop the picnic basket.

“Yes, yes, but what then?” shuddered Ato, trying to get a finger hold
on the monster’s slippery neck.

“Why, then, we’ll both tell our stories, and after that I’ll eat,”
snorted the river horse, paddling joyously toward the bank.

“You’ll EAT!” groaned Ato, ready to roll back into the river. “Oh, my
father and mother and maiden aunts!”

“Did you hear that?” Dropping to Samuel’s shoulder, Roger whispered
fiercely. “Quick now, a shot behind the ear, before it gets any
further. Are you going to do nothing while this ravenous monster
carries off my poor Master?”

“Sh-hh!” warned Samuel, holding up his finger. “These creatures do
not eat meat or men. They’re herbivorous, my lad, and this one seems
uncommonly kind and friendly. But what puzzles me–” the Royal Explorer
looked intently into the face of the Read Bird. “What puzzles me is to
find this one talking our language. To my knowledge, only animals in
Oz, a few in Ev and you on the Octagon Isle have the gift of speech.
And I tell you, Mate, this is a valuable discovery, and a simply
splendid specimen of a pachydermatous talking aquatic.” Whether the
last few words in this sentence or a stone in the river bottom tripped
up the Captain, Roger never knew, but without any warning Samuel turned
a sudden back somersault into the river, going under as completely as
Ato had done.

“Ugh–gr–ugh!” he gurgled, coming up full of mud and disgust. “How did
that happen?”

“Stilts!” sniffed Roger, whose wings had saved him from going down with
Samuel. “A splendid way to get ashore, Master Salt, so neat and tidy.
And a fine Discoverer you look now.”

Sighing deeply, Samuel watched his stilts floating out of reach, then
shaking his head violently to get the water out of his eyes, he swam
thoughtfully after the hippopotamus. As he dragged himself up on the
bank, a monkey swinging by its tail from the lower branches of a tree
snatched his three-cornered hat and scittered all the way to the tree
top, at which all the other monkeys let out shrill hoots of mocking
merriment.

“Ah! The welcome committee!” sniffled Ato, rolling off the
hippopotamus. “Well, Sammy, wherever it is, here we are and a nice
mess you’ve made of the landing. Clothes ruined, weapons gone,” (Ato
felt his middle dejectedly for his bread knife and blunderbuss), then
hitching up the bread board at his waist looked long and accusingly at
the Leader of the Expedition.

“Now you mustn’t mind a little mud,” said the hippopotamus, setting
down the picnic basket and gazing from one to the other with frank
interest and curiosity. “Mud is beautiful and SO healthy.”

“Not for me,” frowned Samuel Salt, endeavoring to remove the thick
green slime from his hair and ears with his damp silk handkerchief.
“But I suppose we’ll dry off in time and–”

“Proceed with the business of the day,” finished Ato sarcastically,
as he squeezed the water out of his silk pantaloons and coat tails.
“But I hope you don’t mind my saying that a seaman should stick to
his boats, Samuel. If I had not fallen in with this kind and obliging
hippopotamus, I’d have been a crocodile’s lunch by this time.”

“Oh, I’d have got you out somehow,” muttered Samuel, smoothing back his
hair sulkily. “And those stilts really saved your life. Suppose that
animal had bitten your leg instead of your stilt? By the way, what’s
the name of this island, Mate?” Anxious to change the subject, Samuel
turned to Ato’s tremendous rescueress.

“Mate?” repeated the hippopotamus, wiggling her ears inquiringly, “What
may that mean?”

“It is what a seaman calls his crew and his friends,” explained Samuel,
grinning in spite of himself.

“Seaman? Mate?” mused the hippopotamus in a rapt voice. “How cozy, how
beautiful!” Overcome with emotion, the mighty monster leaned forward
and lapped up the picnic basket, Oz flags, lunch and everything.
“I shall remember this as long as I live,” she assured them with a
gulp as one of the flags went sideways down her throat. “Nikobo,
Little Daughter of the Biggenlittle River People, bids you welcome to
Patrippany Island.”

“Little daughter!” exclaimed Ato in a smothered voice. “Ha, ha!
Patrippany Island. Ho, ho! This is interesting. I knew there was a trip
in it somewhere, a wet trip for us, eh, Samuel?”

“But what I don’t understand,” said the Royal Explorer of Oz, briskly
massaging his beard with his handkerchief, “is how you happen to speak
our language. Do all the creatures on this Island talk? I don’t mean
that monkey chatter above.”

“No, none of the other creatures here speak the language of man,”
answered Nikobo solemnly. “I never knew I could speak it myself till
five moons ago last Herb Day.”

“Herb Day? Dear, dear and dear! How confusing it all grows,” sighed
Ato, emptying the water out of his hat which had somehow survived his
river ducking. “Do you suppose she means Thursday? Roger! ROGER! Keep
away from those monkeys. Do you wish to lose all your tail feathers?”

“Oh, it’s all very simple,” Nikobo rolled her eyes from side to side.
“One day I eat herbs and that is Herb Day. One day I eat twigs and that
is Twig Day, and one day I eat grass and that is Grass Day, and–”

“And one day you eat lunch baskets and Oz flags, and I suppose that
makes it Flag Day,” chuckled Roger, coming down from a little
excursion in the tree tops. “She’s swallowed the Oz flags, Skipper, and
if that doesn’t make her a citizen of Oz, I’ll eat my feathers.”

“Go ahead, if it will keep you any quieter,” said Samuel Salt, who did
not want this interesting conversation interrupted by Roger’s nonsense.
“So you only began to speak our language five moons ago last Herb Day?
What made you do that?”

“A boy,” confided Nikobo with a ponderous wag of her head.

“Ah, now we’re getting somewhere.” Feeling in his pocket, Samuel pulled
out a small note book and pencil, still damp but usable. “Was it a
native boy?” he asked eagerly.

“No, no, certainly NOT.” The hippopotamus panted a little at the very
idea of such a thing. “The Leopard Men speak a strange roaring language
I have never been able to make head or tail of. Besides, to speak to
them would not be safe nor desirable. The Leopard Men have long tusks
and spears and–”

“Leopard Men!” yelled Ato, flinging both arms round the trunk of a
tree. “Oh! Oh! and OH! I wish we were safely back at pirating, Sammy.
Here we are marooned on this miserable monkey island, inhabited by
Leopard Men, surrounded by crocodiles and no way of getting back to the
ship.”

“You forget me,” murmured the hippopotamus. Lumbering over to Ato, she
gave him a gentle nudge with her moist pink snout. “Nikobo, Little
Daughter of the Biggenlittle River People, will carry you anywhere you
wish to go.”

“Not yet, not yet,” protested Samuel Salt as Ato made a clumsy attempt
to mount the hippopotamus. “Why, we’ve only just come, Mate. We can’t
go without seeing these Leopard Men and this strange boy who speaks our
language.”

“Oh, CAN’T we?” Drawing in his breath, Ato made a flying leap at
Nikobo, and this time managing an ear hold, pulled himself determinedly
up on her moist, slippery back. “Goodbye, Samuel,” said the King with
a firm wave of his hand. “If you bring any Leopard Men back to the
_Crescent Moon_, you can discover yourself another cook. No Leopard
Men. Mind, now!”

“Oh, you needn’t worry about that.” The hippopotamus closed one eye and
smiled knowingly to herself. Thoroughly annoyed by the desertion of Ato
and the superior grin of the river horse, Samuel snatched a long rapier
from his belt and glowered belligerently around him.

“Shiver my timbers! You think I’m not strong enough nor smart enough to
fight these savages? HUWHERE are these Leopard Men?” roared the former
Pirate in such a reverberating voice the monkeys fled silently to the
tree tops, and even Roger put his head under his wing.

“Gone, all gone!” explained Nikobo as she started calmly down toward
the river bank.

“You mean there are no Leopard Men on this Island now?” Looking with
horror and aversion at the crocodile-infested river, Ato began tugging
at Nikobo’s ear. “Not so fast, my good creature! Wait a moment, my
buxom lass! Perhaps I’ll stay with Sammy after all.”

“Well, just as you say.” With scarcely a pause in her stride, the
hippopotamus turned round and waddled amiably back to the strip of sand
where Samuel Salt stood staring sternly into the jungle beyond.

“This is a great disappointment to me, Mates,” sighed the Captain of
the _Crescent Moon_ mournfully wringing out the lace ruffles of his
cuffs. “To have taken a Leopard Man back to the Court of Oz would have
been an achievement worth the whole voyage.”

“Now there’s where we’re different,” murmured Ato, settling into a more
comfortable position on the back of the river horse. “I myself would
rather be disappointed than speared by a savage, and I don’t care how
many Leopard Men I miss seeing. Rather be spared than speared, ha, ha!
Tee, HEE, HEE!” Ato chuckled from sheer relief.

“Shall I fly back to the ship for some more Oz flags?” Roger flapped
his wings inquiringly. “If the Leopard Men are really gone, then
Patrippany Island is ours without a spear thrown.”

“That’s so,” mused Samuel Salt, thrusting his rapier back into its
sheath and beginning to show a little interest in the island itself.
“Fly ahead, my Hearty.”

“And bring back some ship’s biscuit,” called Ato. “All this diving and
mud turtling has left me weak as a fish. And while we’re waiting for
Roger, perhaps Nikobo will tell us a little about these Islanders. Were
they little or big, black or brown?”

“Yellow,” answered the hippopotamus gravely. “Big and yellow with brown
spots all over their hides. They had brown hair, mane and eyes, and
rough snarling voices. They used neither huts nor shelter, but roamed
like the animals through the jungle, hunting, fishing and fighting.
They had hollowed out logs for use in the water and last Twig Day
every Leopard man, woman and child climbed into the long boats and
paddled out to sea. Shortly afterward–” Nikobo’s eyes grew round and
shiny at the mere memory, “shortly afterward a great hurricane arose
and my family and I, watching from the mouth of the Biggenlittle River,
saw the boats and men swept under the waves. Some of the logs floated
back to the islands, but the Leopard Men and women we never saw again.”

“Not even ONE?” exclaimed Samuel peevishly.

“Not even one,” Nikobo assured him solemnly. “And to tell the truth,”
the hippopotamus flashed a sudden and expansive sigh, “it is much
better and safer without them. The one problem is the boy, and I’ve
been feeding him myself.”

“Oh, yes, the boy who speaks our language,” mused Samuel, still lost in
bitter reflections of the Leopard Men he should never see face to face.

“What’ve you been feeding him?” asked Ato, suspiciously. “How would a
hippopotamus know what to feed a boy?”

“I do the best I can,” said Nikobo in a hurt voice. “Every day I
collect fresh roots, herbs and grasses for him.”

“Roots, herbs–grasses! Merciful Mustard! A boy’s being fed on roots,
herbs and grasses, Sammy. Did you ever hear of anything more ridiculous
in your life?”

“No worse than spinach,” mumbled Samuel Salt. “But SAY, look here–”
The Royal Explorer of Oz raised his arm imperiously. “What is a small
boy doing on this island? How’d he get here in the first place, and
where is he now?”

“Follow me,” directed Nikobo in a dignified voice. “Follow me and you
shall know all.” As Roger appeared at that moment with the Oz flags and
biscuits, the little procession immediately got under way, Ato calmly
riding behind.

On her many visits to the strange boy, Nikobo had worn a path through
the tangled growth of vines and bush. Tenuous trees dropped their
branches over this path and stretched out their gnarled roots to trip
the unwary traveler. Several times Roger let out hoarse squeals as a
huge snake coiled along the limb of a tree, thrust out its ugly head.
Gaudy flowers from the vines that closely entwined every tree, filled
the air with a damp sleepy fragrance, and Samuel Salt, darting his eyes
left and right, held his blunderbuss ready for any savage beast that
might spring upon them. But the jungle creatures, thinking the Leopard
Men had returned, slunk further and further into the green shadows and
without any mishaps or encounters, Nikobo brought the explorers to a
small clearing in the whispering tangle of green.

Here they were suddenly confronted by a stoutly built cage, its bars
constructed of saplings set scarcely an inch apart. On a heap of grass
in a corner of the cage crouched the lonely figure of a little boy
clothed in a single leopard skin.

“Well, goosewing my topsails!” panted Samuel Salt, deceived at first by
the leopard skin. “A little wild man, a Leopard boy, as I’m a salt sea
sailor!”

“It’s nothing of the kind,” Nikobo contradicted him sharply. “Can’t you
see he is white and has teeth as straight as your own instead of tusks?
He’s not like the Leopard Men at all.”

“But who put him in this cage? What’s he done, and what’s he doing
here?” Slipping off Nikobo’s back, Ato pressed his face close to the
bars of the strange prison.

“I am waiting for my people to come and rescue me,” stated the boy,
rising with great dignity from his bed of grass. Folding his arms, he
looked haughtily out at the explorers. “Who are these men, Nikobo?”
he inquired sternly. “Why have you brought them here?”

“Because they seemed friendly and speak your language,” puffed the
hippopotamus, beaming lovingly at her small charge. “Because I thought
they might break these bars and set you free. They have a hollow log
seventy times as large as the hollowed logs of the Leopard Men. In
this they could easily carry you over the waters and back to your own
people. I’ve tried to break this miserable hutch dozens of times,”
explained Nikobo, turning to Samuel Salt. “But the saplings are sunk so
deep, I’ve been afraid I’d crush Tandy as well as the cage if I pushed
too hard.”

“Quite likely,” said Samuel Salt, rapping the bars with his knuckles.
“We’ll have to fetch an ax from the ship. But who shut you up here,
little Lubber, and how long have you been prisoner on this island?”

“Five months and a half,” answered the boy after consulting one of the
bars in the corner of his cage. “I’ve made a nick in this bar with my
teeth for every day I have been here.”

“Well, that’s all over now, you poor child, you!” Ato’s voice shook
with indignation as he looked in at the little boy whose every rib
showed plainly under the skin. In fact, a heap of grass and dried roots
in the cage made the kind-hearted monarch shudder with distaste and
sympathy. “You shall come with us and eat like a King,” he promised,
nodding his head cheerfully, “and learn to be an able-bodied seaman
to boot.” Instead of looking grateful or pleased, the boy whom the
hippopotamus had called “Tandy” merely stood looking between the bars
of his cage.

“Why should I go with you?” he said finally and wearily. “You look wild
and dangerous to me, and far worse than the Leopard Men. Here, at least
I have Kobo to take care of me, and who knows what further perils and
hardships I should suffer at sea?”

“Ho! HO! And how do you like that, my lads?” Roger rocked backward and
forward on Samuel Salt’s shoulder. “The young one speaks truly. If you
could but see yourselves, my Hearties.” Now both Ato and Samuel had
forgotten their plunge in the river, but with their hair and clothing
still covered with mud and slime they looked the veriest rogues
and rascals. And while Ato regarded himself with embarrassment and
discomfiture, Samuel took a quick step forward.

“SO!” roared the great seaman angrily. “So, you don’t trust us, eh?
Well, stay here if you wish and grow up like a monkey. You look like a
little wild man already.”

“STOP!” Nikobo quivered all over with resentment. “You must not call
Tandy a wild man.”

“Don’t mind.” The boy drew the leopard skin around him with quiet
dignity. “I can bear it. I have borne far worse. I can bear anything. I
am a KING and the son of a King’s son! Tell them to go away, Kobo.”

“Now, Now, NOW! This is nothing but nonsense.” Ato clapped his hands
sharply. “However we look, my young squab, you are in good and royal
company. My mate here, Captain Salt, is Captain of the _Crescent Moon_,
Royal Explorer of Oz, and a Knight, besides. I, though at present
a ship’s cook, am King of the Octagon Isle, and Roger, here, is as
Royal a Read Bird as ever wagged a bill and wing. If you say you are
a King, we will have to believe you, though ’tis hardly credible.”
Ato stared with round eyes at the matted hair and dirty body of the
little prisoner. “If you say you are a King we must believe you, but in
return you must believe _us_, and stop all this hoity toity talk and
clishmaclatter.”

“He speaks the plain truth.” Nikobo pressed her huge snout close to the
bars. “Even I can detect the signs of royalty in this fat and goodly
person whom I just this morning helped out of the river. You must go
with them, Tandy, and they will carry you back to your own Kingdom.”

“But I tell you, I’d rather stay here with YOU,” wailed the little boy,
relaxing a moment from his kingly and overbearing attitude.

“Roger, fetch the AX.” Samuel Salt spoke so loud and sternly Nikobo
lapsed into a shocked silence and Tandy hastily drew back into a far
corner of his cage.

“Never argue with a sea-going man,” whispered Ato, winking solemnly as
Roger flew off to obey Samuel’s order. Having settled the matter in his
own mind, Samuel turned his back on Tandy and began to examine with
deep interest the fungus growth on one of the gnarled old trees. “So
you really are a King?” Leaning against the huge body of Nikobo, Ato
folded his hands comfortably on his stomach and regarded the boy in the
leopard skin earnestly. “Now what country do you hail from and what do
they call you at home?”

“I am Tazander Tazah of Ozamaland,” announced the boy proudly, “the
land of the creeping bird and flying reptile. Ozamaland on the long
continent of Tarara is my home.”

“OZAMALAND!” shouted Samuel Salt, swinging round like a teetotum. “So
there really IS such a place. I have always said so, Ato, but no one
would believe me. Lies to the east of here, doesn’t it, sonny, and is
twice as large as any known land bordering on the Nonestic?” Somewhat
impressed to find that Samuel Salt knew something of his homeland, the
little boy nodded. “And do you suppose we could snare one of those
creeping birds and flying reptiles if we managed to reach Ozamaland?”
Grasping the bars of the cage, Samuel peered anxiously into the young
King’s face.

“Do you suppose you ever could reach Ozamaland?” sighed Tazander,
returning Samuel’s eager look with gloomy aloofness. “Do you know that
a ship has never touched our shores?”

“Then the _Crescent Moon_ shall be the first!” cried Samuel Salt,
snapping his fingers joyfully. “Why, this will be tremendous and the
most momentous discovery in a thousand years! But how do you happen
to be so far from Ozamaland yourself?” asked Samuel Salt immediately
afterward. “Did you come by air or sea?”

“That I cannot tell.” Tazander seated himself soberly on a log before
he continued. “One night I was sleeping soundly in my tower in the
White City, next thing I remember I was here in this jungle. The
Leopard Men, wild and savage as they were, fed me when they remembered
on raw fish and chunks of hard, bitter bread they made from the roots
of the Brima Tree. But I could not understand their talk, nor they
mine, and till Kobo found me a month after my imprisonment I had no one
to talk to at all. But she has come every day to keep me company and
try to set me free, and since the Leopard Men were drowned she has fed
me, too. See, through this little door.” Tazander opened a small door
in the bars and stuck both hands through.

“But how did you learn the language?” asked Ato, turning round to gaze
up into Nikobo’s huge face.

“I don’t know,” said Nikobo with an excited gulp. “I just started to
say ‘Hello!’ and instead of saying it in hippopotamy, there I was
talking a strange language which I could understand as well as my
own. And in this language Tandy answered me, much to my delight and
pleasure.”

“Strange, very strange.” Ato shook his head in a puzzled manner.
“Well, all I say is, it was lucky for this small fellow that you
happened along, and once we have him aboard he’ll soon forget all these
hardships and unpleasant experiences.”

“I’ll never forget Kobo,” said the young King, backing stiffly away
from the outstretched arms of Ato.

“And Kobo’ll never forget YOU,” sniffed the hippopotamus. “The talk
of the river people seems dull and stupid since I’ve talked to Tandy.
None of the herd really need me and I don’t know what I’m going to
do–whoo–Hoo HOO WHOOO!” Rocking from side to side, Nikobo began
to sob as if her heart would break, so violently in fact, Samuel
Salt covered both ears and Ato, alarmed at the enormous grief of the
gigantic beast, tried to put his arms around her.

“Here, here!” begged the ship’s cook, thumping her hard upon the back.
Opening the bag of biscuits Roger had brought from the ship, Ato handed
two to Tandy and began shoving the rest as fast as he could down the
vast throat of the grief-stricken hippopotamus. After each biscuit,
Nikobo choked and sobbed to herself, but on the whole, they seemed
to comfort her, and when the Read Bird finally returned with the ax
she watched almost cheerfully as Samuel Salt, with well-aimed blows,
demolished Tandy’s jungle cage. As the last side crashed down and
without giving Tandy time to argue any further, Samuel Salt seized
the boy firmly in both arms and set him down on the back of the
hippopotamus. Then, giving Ato a hand up behind him, the Captain of
the _Crescent Moon_ sternly led the way to the edge of the island.
Roger, waving an Oz flag, flew ahead screaming defiantly to the monkeys
and parrots that infested the island, “WAY, WAY! Way for the Royal
Discoverer of Oz! Way for the King of the Octagon Isle! Way for Nikobo,
Little Daughter of the Biggenlittle River People. Way for Tazander
Tazah, King and son of a King’s son! WAY–ay–ayyyy!”

With no one to challenge their going but the birds and monkeys, the
little band made its way back to the sandy beach. Tandy, perhaps
because he had been so long pent up in the silent jungle and because he
was by nature a naturally sober and solemn little boy, said nothing.
Not even the _Crescent Moon_, riding so proudly at her anchor, seemed
to arouse any interest or enthusiasm in this strange young Ozamalander.

“Well, here we are!” exclaimed Ato, heartily thankful to be in sight
of the ship again. “And I hope you’ll not mind ferrying us out to the
boat, Nikobo; those crocodiles still look hungry and I’ve no notion of
being crocked for the rest of my life.”

“Any time you say,” grunted the hippopotamus, squeaking a listless
greeting to a company of her own relatives who were rolling lazily
about in the muddy river water.

“Avast and belay and what’s the hurry?” Leaning his ax against a tree,
Samuel moistened a finger and held it up. “The wind’s against us,
Mate, so we’ll have to wait for the tide. Not only that, but Roger and
I must survey the island and dig up some more interesting specimens
to take back to the ship.” After a long and rather quizzical look at
Tandy, Samuel turned and swung along the beach, the Read Bird flapping
joyously behind him.

“Run up and down a bit,” advised Ato, sliding down from Nikobo’s back.
“Your legs must need stretching. Wonder if there’s anything to eat
around here or hereabouts? Aha, those look like oranges, a wild orange
grove, as I’m a cook and a seaman. Come along, young one, and help me
gather a few.”

“A King and son of a King’s son does not come and go at another’s
bidding,” announced Tandy, stiffly, alighting from the hippopotamus.

“Merciful mothers! What’s this?” gasped Ato, blinking his eyes rapidly.
“As complete a case of ingrowing Royalitis as I’ve ever had the
misfortune to encounter. Well, since it’s every King for himself, then
I’ll be leaving you, sonny and son of a King’s sonny. Watch out for
him, Kobo, he’s probably real important to himself.”

“You should not speak like that,” reproved the hippopotamus as Ato
disappeared into the orange grove, “after all, the big and fat one is
himself a King.”

“Pooh, King of some potty little island,” sniffed Tandy, leaning
wearily against a palm. “Break me a cocoanut, Kobo, I’m thirsty.”
With a discouraged sigh Nikobo trod on one of the cocoanuts, cracking
it from end to end and then, because she was a generous and kindly
creature, she cracked several more for Ato when he should return.
Sitting back on her haunches, she anxiously watched while Tandy downed
the cocoanut milk, then, stretching out in the sand, fell unconcernedly
asleep. Thus Ato found them when he emerged from the orange grove an
hour later. His elegant explorer’s cape was knotted to form a sack
and bursting full of the small sweet fruit of the wild orange trees.

“These will make us a fine mess of marmalade when I get back to the
ship,” panted the perspiring monarch, settling down with his back
cozily to Nikobo’s. “How’s young Saucebox?”

“All right.” The hippopotamus nodded in Tandy’s direction. “He is so
small and tired,” she murmured worriedly, “and you must know he has
been exposed in an open cage in the jungle for five long months with
only a miserable hippopotamus for company.”

“Miserable hippopotamus,” snorted Ato indignantly. “You’re a very
superior animal, my girl. I’d consider it an honor to converse with
you any day. Did you crack these cocoanuts for me?” As Nikobo, trying
bashfully to conceal her pleasure at Ato’s praise, admitted she had,
the King took several long, satisfying draughts from the shells.
“Now, don’t you worry about that young sprout,” he advised kindly as
Nikobo continued to gaze mournfully at the sleeping boy. “We’ll make
allowances for his High and Mighty Littleness and set him down in his
own country. That is, if we ever manage to find it, though I must say
he’ll not be much use nor company for us. Ahoy! Here comes Sammy.
Wonder what he’s found?” As a matter of fact, the Royal Explorer of Oz
looked more like a walking window box than a seaman. Long vines hung
from his neck and trailed from his pockets. His arms were crammed with
spiked and prickly plants and on his head he balanced a package of sea
shells tied up in his shore-going coat.

“What you going to do, start a conservatory?” roared Ato as Roger
helped the Captain set his treasures on the ground.

“Rare and unusual, all of ’em,” said Samuel, dropping down beside Ato
and looking with complete satisfaction at his curious collection.

“Mind those yellow creepers,” warned Nikobo, wiggling her vast snout
warningly. “Those purple flowered plants in the middle are treacherous,
too. They are tumbleweeds, Master Long Legs, and ’tis from them
Patrippany Island gets its name. When the Leopard Men fought, they
would fling these weeds at one another, and I’ve seen them falling
about for hours, neither side being able to advance a step or even
stand up.”

“Tumbleweeds!” breathed Samuel ecstatically. “You don’t SAY! Why, these
might come in real handy if we ever get in a tight place. I’ll give a
few to the Wizard of Oz and to the Red Jinn when we get back from this
voyage. And what about the yellow creepers, Mate? Are they fighting
plants, too?”

“The creepers, if uprooted and thrown at an animal or man, will creep
rapidly after him, catching him no matter how fast he runs and tying
him up so tight he will not be able to move until the vine withers,”
explained Nikobo solemnly. “I happen to know from an experience I had
with one of these vines in my early youth.”

“Creeping vines,” shivered Ato, moving as far away from Samuel’s
collection as possible. “Just keep them away from me, Sammy. What right
have such things on a ship?”

“Oh, they’ll be harmless enough when they’re potted,” answered Samuel
easily. “And a splendid weapon they’ll make for some up and coming
country.”

“Better keep them for ourselves,” advised Roger, fluttering down to
Samuel’s shoulder. “Exploring’s a dangerous business, if you ask me,
Master Salt.”

“Well, you’ll have to admit that it’s been pretty safe and successful
so far,” said Samuel, clasping his hands behind his head and gazing
contentedly up at the waving fronds of the palm trees.

“SAFE!” The ship’s cook began to shake and quiver all over. “Ho, ho!
Safe? Especially sailing round that volcano and going swimming with the
crocodiles! Safe! You’ll be the death of me yet, Sam-u-el. Have you
planted your Oz flags and told the wild creatures in the jungle about
their new sovereign?”

Roger nodded his head importantly. “We’ve raised Oz flags on the
tallest trees on the East, South, West and North sides of the Island.
I flew across and got a bird’s eye view while the Captain walked clear
’round. We’ve discovered it’s bean shaped, King dear, the exact shape
of a kidney bean, and a fine fertile place for settlers and prospectors
from Oz.”

“Yes, all they have to do is cut down a million trees, drain the swamps
and train the wild beasts in the jungle to be as polite and considerate
as Nikobo here.”

“Well, what of it? That’s their problem.” Samuel stretched himself,
luxuriously snapping each finger to see that it was still working.
“And now, since our part is done, what do you say to waking this son
of a King’s son and getting aboard the ship? The tide’ll run out in a
couple of hours and carry us along.” Tazander had been awake for some
time listening to the conversation with closed eyes. Now sitting up, he
calmly spoke his mind.

“I’m not going with you,” he stated grandly. “I’m going to stay here
with Kobo till my own people come for me.”

“Hah! Mutiny!” Leaping to his feet, Samuel glared down at the puny
youngster with real anger and exasperation. “If you think I’m going to
leave you on this island to be devoured by wild animals when Nikobo’s
back is turned, you don’t know your pirates. CLIMB up on that animal.
Lively, now!” Samuel looked so fierce and threatening, Ato felt rather
sorry for the stubborn little King, but he was wasting his sympathy.

“I’m not going,” said Tandy, settling more determinedly down into the
sand. “And no one can make me.”

“Don’t say that! Don’t say that!” Blubbering with grief at the thought
of losing her small charge and shivering with anxiety lest he arouse to
further anger this tall sea captain, Nikobo lumbered to her feet and
began to whisper eagerly in Tandy’s ear. During this short conference
Samuel gathered up his specimens and Ato his oranges, and when both had
finished the hippopotamus edged nervously forward.

“I’ve decided to go with you,” she announced in a slightly shaken
voice. “If I go, Tandy’ll go, so I’ll just GO!”

“WHAT?” roared Samuel Salt, dropping his shells and clapping his hand
to his forehead. “Well, that practically solves everything!” Looking
wildly from the hippopotamus to the _Crescent Moon_, Samuel had a
dreadful vision of Nikobo rolling dangerously from side to side of his
cherished vessel.

“What’ll you eat?” demanded Roger, who was ever more practical than
polite. “How’ll we ever feed this enormous lady, Cook dear? Besides,
she’ll sink the ship.”

“I’ll be very quiet and stay wherever you put me,” murmured Nikobo in a
meek voice. “I’ll go on a diet and eat whatever is left.”

“Well, why couldn’t she go?” proposed Ato, who already had formed a
great liking for Tandy’s devoted guardian. “Why couldn’t she? Nice kind
motherly creature that she is!”

“But a hippopotamus needs fresh water and tons of food and–” Then
suddenly Samuel brought his hands together with a resounding smack.

“Have you thought of something?” asked Ato hopefully, shifting his
oranges from one shoulder to the other.

“Yes,” stated the former Pirate solemnly, “I have.” Samuel was secretly
delighted to have found a way to carry this superb herbivorous specimen
back to Oz. “I’ll build her a raft and tow her along after the ship.
We’ll stop at all the islands we come to for fresh water and grass, and
meanwhile she’ll have to do with salt baths and such food as we have in
the hold.”

“Oh, KOBO! Did you hear that?” Springing up with the first signs of
life or feeling he had yet shown, Tandy flung himself on his huge
champion and friend. “So you’re really going. Then I’ll go too.”

“Can’t be all bad, if he’s as fond of her as all that,” whispered Ato
in Samuel’s ear.

“Not bad, just a pest,” wheezed Samuel, reaching for his ax. “Needs a
taste of the rope, if you ask me.” Then, while Nikobo went for a last
swim in the Biggenlittle River and bade goodbye to her numerous and
wondering relatives, Samuel felled trees, split wood, and with nails
Roger fetched from the ship fashioned a splendid strong raft for their
new pet. Round the edge he built a sturdy railing to keep Nikobo from
sliding off in a rough sea. Ato and Roger, taking thought for the
evening meal, heaped one end of the raft with grass and twigs and all
the jungle roots they could gather. Without moving or offering to help,
Tandy sat watching, and just as the sun sank down behind the palms, a
strange procession started out for the _Crescent Moon_. Ahead with the
keg of nails soared Roger. Then came the hippopotamus moving like a
small dreadnought through the water. On her back sat Ato, the haughty
young King of Ozamaland, and Samuel Salt. Samuel rode last, holding in
his hand the long cable he had attached to the raft and with which he
meant to fasten it to the _Crescent Moon_.

Following his orders, Nikobo swam close to the side of the ship so
Tandy and Ato could climb the rope ladder, then she paddled round to
the stern where Samuel drew his cable through an iron ring in the
ship’s hull and made the raft fast. There was a runway at the back of
the raft and the rails on that side let down so that Nikobo had no
trouble clambering aboard. By pulling a rope with her teeth, she could
raise or lower the back of her pen and take a swim whenever she felt
the need of one. After giving her a bit of advice about voyaging, and
seeing her comfortably settled, Samuel climbed the cable and nimbly
pulled himself aboard his ship. Roger had already stowed their precious
specimens in the hold and rubbing his hands with brisk satisfaction,
the Captain of the _Crescent Moon_ weighed anchor and dropped with
the tide down the Biggenlittle River to the sea. Then touching the
automatic controls, he set his sails to catch the evening breeze,
adjusted his steering gear for a course east by sou’east and strode
happily into his cabin. The Salamander chirped cheerfully as he passed
her hot box and after tapping a cheerful greeting on the lid, the weary
explorer stripped off his ruined and muddy shore-going outfit, took a
shower and climbed thankfully back into his old sea clothes.

“Where’s the pest?” he called out as Roger flew past the open port.

“Well, since he was so small and important,” sniffed the Read Bird,
waving a claw, “I gave him a large cabin to himself. I didn’t think you
and Ato would want him in here.”

“Shiver my timbers, NO.” Samuel looked ruefully across at the small
berth the Philadelphia boy occupied on their last voyage. “He’ll never
be the seaman Peter was, nor the company either. He’d better keep out
of my way, HAH! or I’ll give him a taste of my belt.” Snatching up his
spyglass and looking as stern as a kind-hearted pirate well can, Samuel
hurried out on deck.

Meanwhile, in the cabin next to the Captain’s, Tandy stood regarding
himself mournfully in the small glass over his sea chest. He too had
taken a shower and at Roger’s suggestion had donned one of Peter’s old
pirate suits.

“I am a King and the son of a King’s son,” muttered Tandy, staring
sadly at the sallow reflection in the mirror. To tell the truth, the
suit was not in the least becoming to the skinny and sullen young
monarch.

“I am a King and son of a King’s son and can bear anything,” he
repeated dismally.

“Then bear a hand with the dinner,” yelled Roger, who had been peeking
at him through the port hole. “All who eat must work, and under the
hatches with lubbers!”

Pretending not to hear, Tandy sat resignedly on the side of his bunk,
though he really was curious to look around the ship and see what
Kobo was doing. From the galley came the cheerful rattle of pots and
pans and the huge voice of Ato singing as he prepared the dinner.
Gulls flew in excited circles all round the _Crescent Moon_, calling
out their hoarse challenge and farewell, and Samuel Salt, leaning
on the taffrail, gazed dreamily back at Patrippany Island. The Oz
flags fluttering from the tall palms gave it quite a gay and festive
appearance and in spite of not seeing the Leopard Men, Samuel felt he
had done a good day’s discovering.

“Ahoy, below! How you coming?” called Samuel, leaning down to look at
Nikobo. The hippopotamus wagged her huge head.

“Fine! Just fine, Mate,” she wheezed pleasantly.

“Hah! Good for you!” Samuel’s face broke into a broad grin as Kobo
remembered to call him “Mate.” “We’ll make an able-bodied seawoman of
you yet, my lass!”

Share