When they awoke, Zuzu and Lulu rubbed their eyes very hard, and looked around them in wonder; as, indeed, well they might. They were now not in the fairy palace at all, but once more alone, and at the top of the Golden Ladder, whose long lines they could see far, far below them, shining like the beams of the sun at evening or morning. Near by them rose the walls of the rocky pass in which lived Jankow, the Dragon, and near them was the end of the tail of the Dragon. They could hear its harsh voice coming to their ears very plainly.
“Do not be afraid,” said Zuzu to Lulu, “for I am sure that the Fairy Queen will protect us, even though we do not see her at the moment. We shall be quite safe, also, because I have the wooden leg of the Dragon; and here I have the shadow of the King, all straight and fine and new again; and you have the White Cricket in your pocket; so I am sure they will all be glad to see us back again when we tell them where we have been.”
At the same time, although Zuzu spoke boldly, both he and Lulu kept very close to the wall as they edged along the narrow opening from the top of the Golden Ladder to the front of the gorge where the head of the Dragon lay.
The Dragon was engaged in loud roaring as usual, but his voice was hoarse and weary. Instead of sitting up straight upon his front feet, he leaned over against the side of the rock-wall in a very sad sort of way.
“Oh, dear!” said the Dragon to himself—so loudly that they heard his words distinctly—”this is indeed terrible to have to go through life with but one leg in front. Some say that as a Dragon has a dozen legs, and a tail as well, he should not miss a leg here or there, but I am sure those who say this do not know the real truth. If only I could get back my leg, I would ask no questions, I am sure.”
“Good Dragon Jankow,” he said, “here then is your leg, as good as new. Let us pass, and we shall put back the leg, so that you can sit up again and see all that is going on; but we claim your promise, and you must ask no questions.”
The Dragon turned upon him one of its large eyes in which at first chiefly anger showed; but when its eye fell upon the wooden leg the Dragon’s mouth opened in a wide smile of joy.
“Is it a bargain?” asked Zuzu.
The Dragon nodded three times, which meant that it was a bargain; so Zuzu leaned the shadow of the King against a tree not far away, and, handing Lulu the Enchanted Banjo, he began at once to screw back in place the wooden leg of the Dragon.
When he had completed this act the Dragon wriggled all over with joy, sat up straight in front again, and gave a loud roar of pleasure.
“Now,” it said, “I am something like a Dragon once more; and let all persons beware of my might. Arrngh! Arrngh! Arrngh!”
“I am sure, my good friends,” he explained to them, “you can not understand how much I have missed that leg. Many persons will tell you that a wooden leg is a very poor one, but I can assure you that when you have been used to a wooden leg for several hundred years it is a very good leg indeed to have, and one that you miss very much when it is gone. As you go on toward the palace, my dear friends, I wish you would inform the King that his faithful Army is again quite ready for business, and will defend the Island against all intruders.”
Zuzu and Lulu now ran forward through the wood quite rapidly for a way, but as they approached the palace their steps began to lag. “Suppose mamma should want to punish us,” said Zuzu. This caused Lulu to think very hard for a moment.
“It may be that she will,” said she finally, “but perhaps, on the other hand, she too will be glad to have us back and no questions asked. It seems to me that the best thing we can do is to have the Banjo play for us. Perhaps they will forgive us without our asking it, but we would better ask the Banjo how we can tell about that.”
So again they placed the Banjo in position and once more it began to play; and it told how one can always tell whether or not one’s mother wants one.
THE WISE DANDELIONS
When dandelions have grown white Then they are wise as wise can be; Their fluff, all feathery and light, Holds messages for you and me. We ask: "Does mamma want me now?" Then puff our cheeks and blow and blow And when the fluff flies off, somehow, It means that homeward we must go. It's always true, no matter where You are, if you will try the spell And puff the fluff into the air, If mamma wants you, it will tell. But still, it's strange—you wonder why, And more and more your wonder grows When you see right before your eye How well the dandelion knows. Whene'er you take the ball of fluff And whisper to it soft and low And hold your breath, and then go "Puff!" Away the fluff is sure to go. And then if homeward you make speed You'll find the message was quite true For if you ask mamma, indeed, She'll say: "What? Want you? Yes, I do!"
Lulu picked up a big, white, fluffy dandelion, and blew and blew at the top until all the fluff was gone.
“Ah,” said she, “it is plain that mamma will be glad to see us back again.”