by Roy Neal Grissom
Characters herein are © Walt Disney corporation. Distribute freely, but do not modify.
|DISCLAIMER--The following series of parodies is rated PG-13. The Rescue Rangers appear not as characters but as actors portraying characters in other stories. No disrespect, but rather much affection, is meant toward the Rangers. Also please note that this work was written solely to entertain and to amuse. No irreverence is intended, no "point" or ideology is advocated, and no hurt, offense, ridicule, or scorn is aimed at ANYONE. Please keep all the above in mind while reading.|
|Ti-yi! Tungalee!" cries the 'Munk cub
As he first bites the acorn's hide
For his teeth are the pride of the 'Munk cub
But its skin is the acorn's pride.
The boy stood on the burning deck
Want therefore shall not I
And hand in hand on the edge of the sand
An' the auld man flipt and deide.
--Nut gathering song of the Seonee tribe of City Park Chipmunks.
It was seven 'clock in the evening in the den of the two chipmunks. As he awakened Chipgheera stretched out all the toes on his paws to get the sleepiness out of them. "Arrah! Whoo!" he said, "It is time to gather nuts again!" Chipgheera shared this den with his friend Dhaleloo, the Lazy One, who often tried to sleep on and force Chipgheera to do all the nut gathering. But tonight Chipgheera would have none of it. "Up, there, friend!" he called in a friendly voice, for the Law of the Park is that unpleasantness is to be avoided at all costs, and if it cannot be avoided, well then, someone must die. And that could really be messy. Dhaleloo was apparently of a mind to play his old tricks, so Chipgheera bonked him on the noggin' just for the nonce. "Ow!" Dhaleloo exclaimed, rubbing his poor head, "Why didst thou burst my poor skull asunder just now? I wouldst have gotten up eventually." "Ye get up and ye do not get up," Chipgheera explained, making for even more confusion, "By the broken lock that freed me from that kid's cage with the treadmill, am I to be left to do all the nut-gathering, considering that we must gather for three these days?" And to this Dhaleloo had no reply, recalling the Law of the Park that when one cannot avoid saying something stupid, to keep your trap shut. Just as the two friends were about to exit their den the fading twilight was blocked out by a square face. It was Meppsaqui, the Stupid One. And all the Chipmunks despise Meppsaqui because he is stupid, he is always hungry, and because their mothers teach them to. "Greetings, O most glorious of Chipmunk households!" Meppsaqui exclaimed upon seeing them, delighting that it made them uncomfortable. "Truly most glorious and sharp are the incisors of the Seonee tribe, and most unfortunate are the nuts to be crushed therein. Indeed, I should have remembered that the Seonee Chipmunks have proceeded from the loins of many kings!" "What doest thou here?" Chipgheera asked, sure he would not like the answer, "Of a truth thou didst not pass by merely to greet us withall." "Very well," Meppsaqui answered him. "I wish to remind thee that Shere Khat, the Fat One, some years ago chased a small house mouse-cub into this Park which had been separated from its parents. At that time thou and thy friend didst have this mouse-cub entered into the Seonee Pack of Chipmunks, though it vexed my master greatly to have the Law of the Park so abused. Now that this mouse-cub has come of age it is no longer under thy protection, and he will now be coming to claim what is rightfully his. I have spoken." At this point Dhaleloo, who had been silent, jumped foreward in a rage that surprised his friend as much as it did their guest. "Out!" he exclaimed, "Out and hunt with thy master! What have we, the Nut-Log [the Chipmunk People] to do with thee? Thou hast befouled the air enough for one night with thy evil breath, and if thou dost not depart, then, by the Great Chipmunk who storeth the world in his cheek-pouches, I will do something that will most likely get me killed! Begone!" Chipgheera recalled at this point that his roommate wasn't too bright, either. But luckily Meppsaqui was too stupid to realize his advantage and began to leave. "I go," he said, "but know that tomorrow night my master will be here for the mouse. Ye can hear him caterwauling yonder." And with a nasty flash of his teeth he was gone. Chipgheera patted his friend's head. "Well spoken, Brother! But I fear that Shere Khat is very clever. For the Law of the Park stateth that whensoever one who is bought into the Seonee Tribe of Chipmunks who is not one born, then when the rotting carcass of the nut that was the price is eaten up by the termites and the ant-people the jig is up and it's every man for himself." And he shivered. Dhaleloo looked sadly at his friend. "What is then to be done?" he asked him. "I have an idea, but it ist only a chance," Chipgheera told him. "Quickly, go and call Gadgli to come straightway, for this affects her very life." Of course Dhaleloo knew that his friend was right and so called for their charge Gadgli, whom they had saved from Shere Khat's jaws at this very season a full summer and a rain and a fog and a drizzle ago. His chirrup was answered presently by the sound of small paws scurrying over the ground from outside. Now while Gadgli had been a house mouse, after Shere Khat had eaten her parents Chipgheera and Dhaleloo had brought her up as one of the open field, so that she was one with the pigeons and the deer flies and the ticks and the doodle bugs and the chiggers, and moreover had never worn shoes in her life. Soon their young charge had entered the den, her long flowing hair reaching to her feet. It was in fact the only covering she had for her body, for she had never known the standard coveralls and goggles of house mice, as she was raised as one of the wild peoples and thus, like this writer, had no shame. "Thou didst send for me, my brothers?" she asked her mentors upon arriving. Whereupon Chipgheera looked upon her and began calmly to explain, "Hominahominahominahominahomina!" "What is this, my brothers?" Gadgli asked in puzzlement, "Some new master word I have not yet been taught? I thought I knew all the speech of the urban wild folk, especially since that is what the brochure said that came with the record." Now Chipgheera recalled that since she had achieved puberty the mere presence of Gadgli made both him and Dhaleloo as stupid as little birds, and he loathed himself for his oversight. "Quickly brother," he said turning aside to Dhaleloo, "Fetch for me the blindfold that I may speak with Gadgli without being made as stupid as a little bird, and don't you dare bring that one of thine with the eye-hole poked in it. This is serious." "Homina!" Dhaleloo answered, saluting (for he also had been made stupid as a little bird) and at once left and returned with two blindfolds, one for each of them. Once each put his own (with Chipgheera insisting that Dhaleloo go first so there would be no monkey business) Chipgheera was able to deliver his grim news to their charge. "Gadgli," he bagan somewhat hesitantly, "rememberest thou how Dhaleloo and I have often warned thee to beware of Shere Khat, and never to wander from thy home in the park to enter the alleys or the pizza-joints lest he worst thee?" "Ay," she answered him, a grim look coming over her young face, "I have heard the tale of how he didst murder my parents and how thou and Dhaleloo didst save me from his jaws by purchasing my entrance into the Chipmunk tribe at the price of a fat acorn, newly plucked. I remember that he did swear to make a meal of me the first chance he got after I was out from under the protection of the Law of the Park. Ye have both told me that story for every rain and hurricane season until I have heard it as many times as there are fleas on us. But, my brothers, what has that to do with me?" Chipgheera slapped himself in the face in frustration. Sometimes Gadgli made herself as stupid as a little bird. "This is what it hath to do with thee!" Dhaleloo shouted a little more harshly than he intended, "Thy protection under the Law is expired and now that foul fat eater of lizards and table scraps is coming to make short work of thee! Arra! O Little Grub, seest thou not the danger that thou art in?" She thought for a moment. Then it hit. "Ti-yi! Tungalee!" she cried. "And is it now that he comes to make good his threat? He dareth do nothing but boast and threaten, for I am a house mouse (at least that's what all the little fascists in the pack keep saying about me) and none of the wild folk can look me in the eye. Let him come. For I am skilled with the knife and if need be will cut his mouth off and feed it to him." "Gadgli, that logic of thine will get thee eaten," Chipgheera murmered to himself. But Gadgli overheard and asked, "How can that be? How can he eat anything with his mouth cut off?" At this point Chipgheera turned in exasperation to his friend and said, "It is obvious that we are sorely in need of great wisdom to deal with this threat against our light-headed charge. Get thee quickly to Bangalore Bill, the ancient mouse who teacheth the Law of the Park to all the young chipmunk cubs; to Bangalore Bill, who knoweth all tongues of all urban wild folk; to Bangalore Bill, the fat, sleepy brown mouse who alone is accorded membership in the chipmunk tribe; to Bangalore Bill, who didst teach Gadgli all she needeth to know to live among the wild beasts (even though that apparently didn't work out very well); to Bangalore Bill, who . . . " "Chipgheera . . . I KNOW the guy. We play mah jongg with him every Wednesday, remember?" "Well then, stir thy lazy body and fetch him here straightway that he may enlighten us with his wisdom. And by the way, where are the tiles?" Chipgheera responded to this, a bit embarrassed. But not to worry, for the Law of the Park is that if any beast makes a fool of himself, you may remind him of his shame on his deathbed, which was much more delicious than momentary razzing at the time of the gaffe. So Dhaleoo prepared to go on the hotfoot but then paused and asked, "Chipgheera, why must I go? Why shouldest not thou?" "I fain must stay to protect Gadgli," he replied, though he didn't sound very convincing. "And why should not I be the one to stay and protect her?" he demanded. "Because thou wilt be going on the hotfoot to fetch Bangalore Bill and will not be here if needed," Chipgheera said authoritatively. "I have never been able to argue with thy logic," Dhaleloo said, convinced once again of his friend's great cleverness. "I go now. OOF!!!" "Brother, pull off thy blindfold, but cast no looks backward. The very life of our little Gadgli is at stake, and considering the malice and cleverness of our enemy, I know what I know. Evil comes here in a little while." "Ay, my brother. I go. Homina!" This last indicated that Dhaleloo had indeed put off his blindfold, and his vanishing footsteps showed that he was now embarked on his mission. "Fear not, Gadgli," Chipgheera said to their charge, "for thy teacher Bangalore Bill will have knowledge to pull thy life even from the gaping jaws of Shere Khat himself." "That's great," she said, "When's supper?" Dhaleloo headed at once through the wild tracts of the great urban parkland to the lair of the great teacher of Seonee chipmunk cubs. "Ay, perhaps Shere Khat could make short work of two chipmunks and a helpless mouse cub," he thought to himself, "but his mere brute strength will never prevail over the wisdom of the ages, transmitted from the dawn of time to Bangalore Bill. Arooa! Woo!" he cried aloud, and then suddenly exclaimed "URK!!!" For at that moment he felt himself seized by clever paws and carried higher and ever higher into the air. Time was of the essence, and now he had been captured. "By this and by that!" he exclaimed angrily as he flailed helplessly against the night air, "who and what art thou to use me in such a manner?" A female voice answered him. "I am Latifah, Queen of the Night! Well, actually my name ist Ida, but 'Latifah' soundeth so much more contempo, thinkest thou not?" "Who art thou!" the captive demanded once again. "I TOLD thee. I am Latifah, Queen of the Night, and I have chosen thee to be my consort and rule my people by my side! Is it not romantic, scrumptious one?" Looking up, Dhaleloo saw that he had been swooped up by one of the park bats, and she seemed to have matters with very definite adult themes on her mind. "Madam, what meaneth this?" he asked. "The bat people have no queen, due to very antiquated patriarchal notions of primogeniture and a nascent strain of anarchism. Thou art no queen. What meaneth this really? Wert thou sent by Shere Khat to worst me?" "Shere Khat, the Foul One?" his captor suddenly reacted with horror in her voice. "The evil and cunning killer of little helpless kibbles? Is he afoot in our park once again?" "Ay, that is he," Dhaleloo replied with earnestness, sure now that he would be set free, "and I go now on a mission to foil his designs on our young charge." "Nay, my delectable one!" she exclaimed, much to Dhaleloo's chagrin, "Shere Khat shall never have thee, for thou art my king! Together we will rule a mighty empire and do great things, just as the man-pack, and thou wilt never be the prey of any foul beast, for thou shalt enjoy diplomatic immunity as consort of the head of state of a member of the world community! By the way, snookums, by what name shall our new country be known? How doth 'The People's Republic of Bill' grab thee?" Now Dhaleloo knew that the bat-folk have no queen and that this was just a silly girl with nothing but a foolish thought in the vast emptiness of her noggin, though he could not fault her for her incredibly good taste in consorts. Still, while he ordinarily would not have been rude or cruel to such a sincere admirer, he could not afford to observe the amenities with Gadgli's life in danger and time growing so short before the daytime brought sleep to all the wild folk. So he began to struggle mightier than ever against his abductor's grasp and cried "Aroint!" "And just how do I go about doing that?" the confused girl sincerely wanted to know. Then her face showed a very naughty expression indeed and she said, "Ist that thy term for what taketh place after the wedding ceremony?" "No!" he shouted. "Then what meaneth it, my Only One?" "It meaneth release me, Umbrella Arms!" "U--umbrella arms?" she asked, coming to a hover as tears began to form in her eyes. "Aye! I have not time to spend pleasantries with thee, so let me go, Queen Catcher's-Mit-for-a-Tail!!!" It were better had Dhaleloo not said this, for nothing so riles the bat-folk as being reminded of the membrane that connects their hind feet to their tails. And sure enough, the would-be queen went from being broken-hearted to being livid with rage. "Ho ho! 'Catcher's-Mit-for-a-Tail,' eh? Well, we'll see about THAT, Toots! By this and by that, what have we, the Lincoln-Log [the Bat People] to do with ye foul eaters of nuts? Faugh on all chipmunks! Who art thou to worst me, Rudolph? Very foul-smelling, treacherous, evil things are ye indeed, Red of Nose and Buck of Tooth! By the Great Bat from whose guano the world was made, I don't have to take THIS! THAT for thy mission"--here she slung Dhaleloo from her grasp--"and may Shere Khat make a meal of thee, though he wilt probably need plenty of Ex-Lax afterwards! SHEESH!!!" Dhaleloo fell quite a distance, as his abductor had risen high into the sky by that point, but he used his vast survivalist skills as a wild creature and a "Soldier of Fortune" subscriber and pulled his legs to his body and formed a ball of himself, so that while he received many bruises upon landing he was yet able to arise at once, dust himself off, and resume his trek. It also didn't hurt that he fell on his head. Meanwhile, the angry and broken-hearted girl who had provided this little lacuna in his mission flew off in a huff, singing her song of triumph over the insults to which she had been subjected. * * * * * * * * * IDA/LATIFAH'S SONG This is the Song of Latifah Latifah, Queen of the Night The song that I made and sang at the injustice I endured At the paws of that male chauvinist pig! I, Latifah, awoke Awoke, as is my custom, at the setting of the sun And decided I was gonna find me a MAN, consarn it! And from the firmament of the sky I beheld him He who was my heart's desire I wouldst have shared a throne with him As soon as I got one, that is Our lives would have been sweeter than the honey That drippeth from the honeycomb In a paradise of pomegranates. Like the park birds I came early Like the water I sat down And Mister I called Hey mister But would he have any of it? NOOOOOOOOOO!!! He spurned me Just like Charlton Heston did to Ann Baxter In the movie of the same name Well, thou hast blown it, Toots! Ti-yi! Tungalee! That's the last time I--YOW!!! * * * * * * * * * This last word was not a bold Eliot-Poundian poetic innovation but came from the fact that while she was singing her song the poor girl forgot to echolocate and so flew into a tree. Such is the way of the world! But let us rejoin Dhaleloo on his mission to find the wise Bangalore Bill. Upon recovering his feet Dhaleloo saw that his abductress had indeed carried him even closer to his destination than had he been on foot, so she had in fact done him a favor. As he thought of this irony he felt tears of sorrow and regret stain his cheek because his keeping silent a few minutes longer would have saved him the entire rest of the journey. But he recalled the ancient saying of the Park that "when Ikki the Ichneuman meeteth Barney, all hell breaketh loose," and that comforted him a great deal. In a matter of a few more minutes he found himself at the tree deep in the heart of the lush city park which was the home of Bangalore Bill and his faithful teaching assistant (thanks to a Guggenheim Fellowship) Loincloth. "Arooa! Whoo!" Dhaleloo identified himself with the Master Word before entering the den, for Bangalore Bill was nearsighted with age but as strong as ever, and Loincloth was very protective, blowing and infecting anyone who came unbidden. "Enter then," came a gruff voice from within the tree. As he did so his host strained to make out the identity of the intruder, but it was Loincloth who finally told him who it was. "By this and by that!" he exclaimed, "Is it indeed one of my favorite pupils? Thou shouldst visit thy old teacher more often. And bring something when you come. What meaneth this unexpected pleasure?" "Bangalore Bill," Dhaleloo began gravely, "I am afraid pleasantries must await another moon at least, for thy favorite pupil of all is in mortal danger from her deadliest foe!" Bangalore's eyes widened considerably. He knew what that meant. He himself had participated in the ritual that initiated Gadgli into the chipmunk pack. "So the foul eater of helpless babes hath crept back into our corner of the park to make good on his threat, eh? And right at the moment that the Law loosens its protection." "Bangalore, I know the Law of the Park is wise beyond measure and has existed from the dawn of time, but I sometimes wish we could have that particular law amended to extend its protection indefinitely to those who are bought into the pack." "Ay. I myself have written our legislator many times, but you know these politicians. Well! Let us be off!" And he motioned for Loincloth to accompany them. "Thou hast perhaps an idea of how to vanquish this foul scourge?" Dhaleloo asked as the three of them hurried along the path to prepare for the baleful confrontation. "Yea. That do I," Bangalore replied and then made no more conversation but rather spent all his energy to arrive by the side of his favorite charge. It was getting over towards dawn and bedtime as the three finally arrived at the mouth of the den of Gadgli and her protectors. Dhaleloo bethought him to slip on his blindfold but his companions entered as they were. They found Chipgheera inside wandering about and banging his noggin on everything around, for he had had the presence of mind to keep his blindfold on so that he would not be made as stupid as a little bird. Upon Dhaleloo's announcement of his company's arrival Chipgheera breathed a sigh of relief and called to Gadgli, "Come, child, and meet one who perchance shall see thee through the next night in safety." Gadgli immediately entered to see what he could possibly be speaking about when she saw her old teacher and ran toward him and embraced him with joy. "Bangalore Bill, my teacher! Thou who didst teach me all that I, by birth a house mouse, have needed to know to survive in the Park! Thou who didst inculcate in me the knowledge of the Master Words of the shrew folk, the weasel folk, the fox folk, the bird folk, the mosquito folk, Seeger and Guthrie, ad infinitum! Thou who didst teach me to read the nuts of the tree, the leaves, the winds, the clouds, and the smells of the Park so that now no one can harm me! Ti-yi! Tungalee!" Bangalore fought back tears as he looked upon his old student and exclaimed, "Hominahominahominahominahomina!" Then he turned surprised to Loincloth and whispered, "Evidently my sight is better than I thought, for the sight of my beloved Gadgli has made me as stupid as a little bird. Fetch thou my blindfold and apply it for me, please." "Art thou sure?" Loincloth asked him, using all his will to keep his own eyes tightly shut, "Thou art surely entitled to more than mah jongg in thy declining years." "Ay! Quickly!" "The one with the eye hole?" Loincloth enquired, delighting in the mischief he was making. "Nay! Now cut out this kidding post-haste, for this be a matter of life and death!" Loincloth saluted his master and, as Bangalore was still embracing Gadgli, flew to his pocket and produced from it his blindfold and affixed it to him. (*After all,* he thought to himself, *who are we, the Rotten-Log [the Fly People], to argue with our "betters"? But by the Great Fly of whom we are but the foot stickum that enableth him to walk on the ceiling, I am going to go Union one day!*) Then, while he felt he personally didn't mind being made as stupid as a little bird, seeing that a life was at stake, he similarly protected his own eyes as well. "Yea, my favorite cub," Bangalore finally answered Gadgli in full sincerity. Chipgheera hated to interrupt the reunion but knew that he must. "Bangalore Bill, hath thy wisdom given thee a way to protect our Gadgli and end this threat permanently?" he asked. "Ay. That it has," he responded. At this there was a general sigh of relief among them all, as they had full confidence in Bangalore's ancient wisdom. "Then what is to be done?" Dhaleloo asked in puzzled but confident anticipation. "Gadgli," Bangalore addressed the object of their mutual concern, "knowest thou the red flower?" Her eyes showed recognition, though of course the others could not see this. "What is that, my teacher? The red flower, that blooms in the spring, tra-la? Ay, often have I heard thee mention the red flower. Thou didst teach me that that is a man-thing, and that I must avoid it at all hazards." "Ah, but this time thou must leave the Park and procure the red flower and bring it back hither!" he then said to the surprise of everyone. "What is this?" was Gadgli's very understandable response to this. "Leave the Park, my home? But thou hast taught me above all things to never leave its protection and to avoid all contact with the house mice and the man folk. And I have never disobeyed thee one time, nor do I intend to start now. This is some kind of test, isn't it? To see if I have indeed learned all thou didst teach me? That MUST be what this is! Never fear, my master, for I will show thee that I have learned well! I will NOT leave the safety of the Park, my masters and brothers, nor will I go near the red flower that blooms in the spring, tra-la. It is an accursed man thing, and thou hast taught me never to have anything to do with an accursed man thing. And the red flower is about as accursed a man thing as a man thing gets accursed. So," she added finally, "did I pass?" By this time Bangalore Bill had plucked almost all the hair from his body in frustration. "Nay, but thou mayest indeed pass out of the world if thou dost not now indeed procure the red flower, tra-la and all, from the man-pack and return it speedily hither!" "Art . . . art thou sure, then?" She asked on behalf of the chipmunks and the fly as well as herself, for none of them could believe what they were hearing. "I mean, this is not a trick to flunk me out or anything is it? Because if it is it's really unfair of thee to insist to the point of me actually doing it and . . . " "By the Great Mouse who chewed the holes in the toe of the sock that held the world in darkness!" Bangalore swore in frustration, "Who are we, the Cheese-Log [the Mouse People], to argue amongst ourselves? If thou wouldst die then do not as I say! But if thou wouldst live and slay thine enemy into the bargain then fetch hither the red flower, and do it quickly! The day grows near and when next we wake Shere Khat will be here to claim thee for his jaws! Now GO!!!!!" And his vehemence was such that without another word or moment's hesitation Gadgli departed swiftly and stealthily to leave the Park and seek out those mysterious beings called mice and men. "Was that outburst really necessary?" Chipgheera finally had the nerve to ask. Bangalore sighed. "Ay," he said. "Now I do recall that Gadgli did always tempt me to abandon my long-standing opposition to corporal punishment!" "Wast he anything like Sergeant Slaughter?" Dhaleloo asked. If they had not all been blindfolded at that moment it would have gone hard with him, but of course they could not see to bonk him. Dawn was indeed beginning to redden the eastern sky as Gadgli ran swifter than any house mouse to the edge of the park and then finally beyond it to a nearby alley. She here replaced speed with stealth, which she also had in abundance, for she knew that danger abounded here, especially from the cats and the superstitious house mice who told tales of the mysterious wild Park Mouse who wore no goggles or coveralls and was rumored to assume any shape she wished. She came before not too many minutes to the classic arch-shape (as seen in cartoons on TV) which indicated a home of the species. It was in behind an Italian restaurant, notorious for overweight orange cats, but she knew the hole itself would be safe from such a threat. Luckily, not everyone was awake. A young girl mouse was playing with a much younger girl mouse before a fire place in which a few coals glowed brightly. Almost instantly Gadgli entered, gave one stern look to the terrified children, and then scooped up a few coals into a clay pot that was conveniently available as a plot device. And then she was gone. "MOTHER!" the older girl cried as the younger one screamed with fright. A curtain parted and three mice hurriedly entered the room--two young boys and their mother, who wore a red cape. They all listened as the girl told of the terrible apparition. "Ti-yi! Tungalee!" the Mother exclaimed. "Were it one of thy brothers or Cynthia who said such a thing, I would not believe it, but thou, Teresa, I have always found truthful. Children, that does it! We are moving to Thorn Valley!" "YAY!" they answered in one voice. Gadgli headed home as quickly as she had come, blowing on the coals to keep them hot as she had seen the girl do, though I forgot to mention it. Soon she had re-entered the safety of the Park and at last came again to her home and friends. "I have returned!" she announced, "Very evil, smelly, noisy, and evil things are house mice, indeed! But arooa! Woo! This thing will die if I give it nothing to eat. What shall I do, my masters? "My little wise cub!" Bangalore exclaimed, arising from the game of blindfold mah jongg he was losing to the chipmunks. "I care not what thou feedest it, as long as it remaineth alive until after the next sunset. As it is, we have all had a long night and must needs get our rest before the great contest before us." The chipmunks and the fly all agreed, and Gadgli realized that she had not realized during her mission just how sleepy she was getting. So they all curled up on the floor (for the urban wild folk have no need of beds or blankets) and were soon asleep, though Gadgli made sure first to revive the coals with some of the ample amount of Bangalore's hair which she had inspired him earlier to pluck from himself. It seemed but a moment before Gadgli awakened, but though she was indeed tired, her steeled nerves did not allow her to oversleep. The same could be said of the other four--well, except that Dhaleloo had to be bonked awake by Chipgheera. But at any rate they breakfasted on a quick supper of nuts and cheese, fed the coals again to keep them awake, and prepared themselves for the contest before them--a contest that meant life or death for their beloved Gadgli. They all knew that either she or Shere Khat himself would die that very night. They waited for many hours with no Shere Khat, and they began to think that he had indeed thought better than to attempt to make good on his ancient threat. But at about midnight the moon rose, and soon the bright orb of the night was blocked out of the entrance to the den by a great square head. Shere Khat had indeed come! Of course only Gadgli could see him, for the others were careful to remain blindfolded, but the senses of the urban wild folk are indeed sharp, and they heard, smelt, and felt him approaching. And at his heels was his scavenging servant Meppsaqui, who had pointed out Gadgli's home by saying, "My lord, this is the place!" "RRROOOOOOOWRR!" roared Shere Khat in a roar that was one great roar (if that makes any sense), "Come out, house mouse! Thou wert my meat from the beginning, and to my jaws thou must now come! Come out and I may perchance spare the lives of thy miserable sponsors!" "Come in and get me!" she taunted him, much to the distress of the others. Shere Khat bared his great fangs (though they could not make out his face as the moon was behind him) and said, "Fool! Who art thou to worst me? Thinkest thou not that I could at any time enter into thy squirrel's den and devour each one of ye? I am the King of the Park! I kill at will! I offer thee the opportunity to give thine own life freely without the loss of thy friends, but perhaps I am over-generous! Who are we, the Val Lewton-Log [the Cat People], to be insulted by hors d'oevres? By the Great Cat who maketh the the moon his scratching post and the sun his ball of yarn (which bringeth to mind a really interesting aboriginal myth which I really must record for posterity some day), thou hast sealed thy fate AND that of thy friends! Behold, I come!" At this with a horrendous meow Shere Khat, followed by Meppsaqui, bounded into the den. But Gadgli's face yet showed only scorn and contempt, and no fear. Reaching out a hideously clawed paw, he took her into it and held her up to his face, and exclaimed wickedly: "Hominahominahominahominahomina!" He paused in confusion and then turned to Meppsaqui. "It seemeth that my prey hath grown up since last I saw her," he said, "and now the very sight of her maketh me as stupid as a little bird. Give me the blindfold, thou idiot!" "The one with the eye-hole?" asked Meppsaqui, too stupid to be made stupid. Shere Khat bared his fangs at him. "YES!" he exclaimed, for he was evil. It is then that something really marvelous and unexpected happened. Dhaleloo had been shivering in the far corner along with the others; indeed, he had always been the more cowardly and lazy of the two chipmunks. But at this point something snapped inside him as he thought of his beloved Gadgli being biochemically reduced to cat chow within the digestive system of the monster cat, especially in his . . . oh well, never mind. At any rate, he suddenly became a fury. Disregarding the power of his beloved Medusa, he boldly snatched off his blindfold and ran right up to Shere Khat and exclaimed, "Thou big bully! Leave her alone and pick on someone thine own size!" Shere Khat turned to face him with his bared fangs. "Like THEE, perhaps? Thou refugee from the Anthro Art Ring! Thou hast sealed thy doom!" And forgetting Gadgli for the moment, he swiped at Dhaleloo with his claws, knocking him back into the far wall and leaving several ugly scratches. However, in forgetting about Gadgli he had swiped Dhaleloo with the paw in which he had been holding her, which meant that he released her in his blow and she fell upon the floor. Without wasting an instant, and made even more determined and cunning by the ill treatment of her friend, she grasped the pot of embers, of which all urban wild folk are deathly afraid, and held it before Shere Khat's immobile and terrified gaze. Gadgli and the coals together were making him as stupid as two little birds, and that's sayin' something. "Foul slayer of helpless babes!" she shouted with fire leaping out of her eyes, "thou wilt never kill again, for with this red flower that blooms in the spring, tra-la, I drive thee from the Park forever!" And she flung the entire contents of the pot in Shere Khat's face. Imagine her astonishment then as the wicked cat began to shrink and fall away before her very eyes. "You cursed brat!" he cried, "Look what you've done! I'm melting! Melting! Who would have thought a little girl like you would put an end to my beautiful wickedness! Oh, what a world, what a world! Look out! Here I gooooooooooo . . . ." "I'm very sorry, indeed," said the little girl, quite frightened to see the cat melt away in front of her like brown sugar. Meppsaqui came up and pawed the mess that was all that was left of his master. He looked up at her and said "He's dead. You've keeled him." And thereupon he vanished without a trace from the rest of the story. Gadgli suddenly recalled poor Dhaleloo and ran to him. It was not a fatal wound, but he was terribly bruised and had several ugly scratches which had left dried blood stains. Her heart swelled up within her at his near sacrifice of himself and she suddenly realized what he meant to her. "Oh my poor injured Dhaleloo!" she said, beginning to cry, "How thy ribs are bruised on my account, and thy flesh torn on my account! I am heartily sorry to my tail's end that I have been the occasion of thy hurt! Here. Let me comfort thee!" Whereupon she enfolded the astonished chipmunk in her arms and held him close. "HOMINA!" was all the happy chipmunk could manage to exclaim. Now while Bangalore Bill and Loincloth durst not remove their blindfolds, the direction of Gadgli's and Dhaleloo's conversation (for lack of a better word) was too much for Chipgheera to bear. He tore off his blindfold and was horrified at the sight that met his eyes, of Gadgli embracing Dhaleloo. Looking about in desperation he espied a very sharp rock lying around on the floor of the den. In supreme relief he seized it, and then, turning over each wrist in turn, did a quick suicide job on himself. Then he scampered over to Gadgli and held out his arms so she could see what had been done. "What? And art thou also wounded?" she asked with the same concern that she had shown for the other chipmunk. "Homina blood! Spurting from homina wrists!" he cried joyfully, dancing before her in an ecstasy of anticipation. But Gadgli reacted with perfect horror. "Ti-yi! Tungalee!" she exclaimed, "My beloved master! If thou do not speedily remedy thy bleeding then thy life will be over in a very short time! Dhaleloo!" she called, turning back to him, "Quickly! Take thou our beloved friend and brother to the dirt-daubers that they might stop his bleeding at once! There is no time to loose! Go now!" Giving a quick salute Dhaleloo did as he was told, for he was also distraught about his oldest friend's fate. So he snatched Chipgheera up and began running with him as best he could. And all the while the bleeding chipmunk was crying "No! No! Not now! Not while I was so close to Homina Heaven!" Dhaleloo carried his friend as long as he was able, but he soon tired and had to put his friend down to accompany him as best he could. Chipgheera felt weak. His head was throbbing. His senses were swirling. He looked about him upon the beauty of the greenery in this woodland he had so long called home and listened to the song of the throstle-cock. And as it all hit home to him, he thought his heart would burst. "Dale Scarlet?" quoth he. "Aye, Robin Chip?" "I do bethink me that we two must be the two merriest souls throughout the length and breadth of merry England!" "Aye, that do I as well!" quoth Dale Scarlet, "methinks that even though we are but poor outlaws, verily our life is sweeter far than that of the great lords. They live in cold and dank stone castles, while we have all the beauty of Sherwood Park as our home, with the birds of the air as our minstrels and the lillies of the field as our banners. But still," quoth he, "I often wish that we did not have to live like hunted beasts, constantly pursued by the vile Normans who stole from us our own good land, which we stole fair and square from those uncivilized savage trouble-making commie indigenous Celtic peoples, with their left-wing nature-worshipping religion and all." "Aye," quoth Robin Chip, "I myself often yearn for my ancestral home at Locksley Oaktree, from which I was unfairly driven by the Norman scourge. But I look at it this way. This is probably going to be the last time Anglo-Saxons get to be poor left-wing oppressed people for a while, so I trieth to make the most of it." And to this Dale Scarlet could but agree. Soon the two Merry Munks came upon their hidden camp in the very deepest dingly dells of Sherwood Park, where it moreover was bosky and dosky withal. And there preparing a repast of goodly pasties, plover's eggs, and good stout acorn wine was the holy Friar Jack and his holy acolyte Drawstring. The merry foresters whistled within themselves as they gazed upon this feast, and they did bethink them that never king or lord had such fine victuals whereupon thereunto thereanent. Leastways. Drawstring first saw them approach and greeted them with a merry buzz as Friar Jack looked up from the pot of gravy he was preparing. "How now," quoth the jolly Friar, "wherefore are ye come on this merry Maytide morning, when Drawstring and I have spent so much time to prepare this merry feast withal?" "Aye," quoth Drawstring, "Ye both would fain play laggards in the greenwood while the two of us must fain do all the work!" And he winked one simple and one compound eye to show that he spake in jest. "Nay, speak not so flippantly," quoth Robin Chip, "but let us only make ourselves merry and I will tell ye what we have learned of the plans of our good friend, the Sheriff of Cattingham." And at this they spoke no further but used their teeth to better purpose, thrusting their hands deep into the pasties and pulling at their pottles of sack. This they followed with merry ballads of the olden time, when people rode those big-wheeled bicycles, looked at stereoscopics, went to magic lantern shows, and still had values. Moreover, in those days a nickel wast a nickel. And at last when each had eaten and drunk his fill and shed bitter tears at the disappearance of moustache cups, Friar Jack pushed away his plate as if to say "I want thee by me no more, good friend." "Now," quoth Drawstring, "let us e'en hear of our good Sheriff's plans withal." At this Robin Chip stretched and yawned in satisfaction and quoth, "It seemeth that our jolly Sheriff hath proclaimed a great shooting-match in Cattingham-town, the prize to be a beaten arrow of pure gold and four marks withal." "Aye," quoth Dale Scarlet, "but that be not the prize on which thy heart is set, I wot." "Thou wottest correctly," quoth Robin Chip, his eyes fixed on the image in his mind's eye. "Nay," quoth Dale Scarlet, "I wot not verily but by deeming." "Er, uh . . . wotever," quoth jolly Robin, "But verily thou hast spoken sooth, good Cousin Dale. Fain would I draw a bowstring for the bright eyes of the fair Maid Gadget." And he sighed here as he dwelt, as a lusty youth is wont to do at such a time, on the bright eyes of the lass that he loved best. "Marry, I blame thee not!" Friar Jack roared with good natured laughter, "Why, had I not taken vows to enter holy orders, I fain would wield bow and cudgel for the bright eyes of a sweet lass! And will she know what thou hast done?" "Aye, that will she, for she is to sit at the Sheriff's side, who beeth, unfortunately, of kin to her," quoth Robin, losing his misty expression at the thought. "And thou fearest not?" Drawstring inquired at the thought of his beloved master drawing bowstring before the Sheriff. Robin Chip and Dale Scarlett looked on each other with visages of mischief. "Watch ye!" they exclaimed in one voice, and then they each entered their respective dwellings among the trees. They remained but a few moments before they emerged again, and both Friar Jack and Drawstring looked on them both with amazement, for they had disguised themselves perfectly. The holy Friar made a long whistle at this feat, while Drawstring murmered "Mayhap merrily wherewithal!" "So ye see," quoth jolly Robin, "all has been prepared for. Now get ye into the disguises we have prepared for ye that we may count upon your buffets in the case of danger." But at this Friar Jack and Drawstring looked sideways at each other and the good Friar quoth, "Nay. I fear me that today we are to say vespers, for though we are outlaws to the Norman oppressors, we have never failed to perform our religous duties as good Christians and have always recited the holy office." At this Robin Chip was right sad, but though he liked not the cloth, yet the Friar and his acolyte were ever good Saxons and friends to the wronged and the poor, and so he sighed and quoth, "Far be it from me to prevent ye from fulfilling your vows, so Dale Scarlet and I wilt leave ye to say vespers and go alone to nock arrows for the bright eyes of Maid Gadget." And at this Robin Chip and good Dale Scarlet gathered their quivers, arrows, and bows and turned their heels to stride into the greenwood and begin their journey to merry Cattingham-town. The holy Friar and his acolyte gathered up the dishes and then, seeing that their companions had indeed left them, looked slyly at one another. "VESPERS!" they both said in one voice, and then retired to their respective hammocks for an after-meal nap. Meantime Robin Chip and Dale Scarlet walked with a merry step through the greenery of Sherwood Park in the bright afternoon sun. It was the merry Maytide, and Dame Nature herself seemed to be walking with them. The lark and the thrush sang their songs, the turtledove coo-rooed to his lady love, and the throstle-cock was cocking his throstle sho' 'nuff. The sweet smell of woodbine filled the air, and both chipmunks felt they had never been happier in their whole lives when there was a sound of a flapping of wings heard approaching them, and presently Dale Scarlet saw that it was his own sweet lass, buxom Foxglove of the Blue Bottle, who often passed much needed news to the jolly outlaws. She seemed to be in some agitation, and finally alighted panting beside her stout lad. "Hulloa thou, Foxglove!" quoth good Dale Scarlet, always glad to see the lass that he loved best, "Dost thou go with us to the merry shooting-match that I may draw bowstring for thy bright eyes withal?" "Nay!" she exclaimed when she had caught her breath, "But I am come to warn ye that ye must not go to this shooting-match, as ye both value your lives!" "How now!" quoth Robin Chip grimly, "and what meaneth this warning of thine, my good lass?" "Ye must know--" Foxglove began, and then wrapped her wings around good Dale, "--O my beloved, who art to me more than sevenscore fat moths on an August evening!--ye must know that the purpose of this shooting-match is to entrap ye, and for that reason ye must not go--O my love, thou art altogether lovely; thou hast dove's eyes!" And she kissed him right lustily at the very thought that he might sup that night in Paradise. "And how knowest thou this news, buxom Foxglove?" asked Dale Scarlet when he had sufficiently recovered. "Aye, I suppose I AM buxom, at that!" quoth she, smiling and blushing at the same time (for verily it was her proudest accomplishment). Then answered she, "O thou whose name is to me as ointment poured fourth, it is because last night I wast serving ale at the good Blue Bottle to a number of the Sheriff's rats, lizards, cats, and moles. And presently a murmer arose and went about the room until presently it came before me, even into mine ears." And here she began to cry. "Why criest thou about a murmer?" asked Dale, his good heart heavy at his love's sorrow. "Because . . . because it murmered against THEE, my love!" "Marry come up with a murrain!" quoth he. "What sayest this murmer of thine?" Robin Chip asked. "Oh good Robin!" quoth she, "There beeth no real tournament at Cattingham-town today, for all the other stout yeomen competing are verily the Sheriff's men. I mean, the Sheriff's rats, lizards, cats, and moles," she corrected, "and as soon as ye are recognized ye will be captured or slain!" But at this the two jolly foresters smiled and looked upon one another. "Wherefore do ye smile?" asked Foxglove. "Canst thou not see?" Dale Scarlet spake unto her triumphantly, "We will never be recognized because we are in disguise!" And here the chipmunks winked at one another right merrily. "Aye," quoth good Robin Chip, "and we are each disguised as someone the Sheriff knoweth right well by sight, so that we shall without fail fool him." Now forsooth Foxglove used her ears and echolocation skills more than her eyes, but she gazed upon them intently to see what scheme they might have to outwit the Sheriff. And then she started back and exclaimed in consternation, "But ye are disguised as each other!" The two chipmunks looked upon one another. "Thy point being?" Maid Foxglove realized that the jolly outlaws could not be persuaded to abandon the perilous path on which they had begun to tread. She sighed and looked at her stout lad, nodded in acquiescence and at last spoke. "O my love, my dove, my undefiled!" "Well . . . actually . . . " he spoke to himself beneath his breath. "If thou must needs put thy body in such dreadful peril then I have learned that there is little I can do to dissuade thee. Thou hast escaped danger before. Mayhap Dame Fortune will smile upon thee in this matter as well." "We would still be right glad if thou didst accompany us that Dale Scarlet might shoot for thy bright eyes," quoth good Robin Chip compassionately. "Yeah!" Dale Scarlet added, "I have just bethought me of something! MAID GADGET'S bright eyes . . . and THY bright eyes . . . together maketh . . . FOUR BRIGHT EYES! And shooting for FOUR BRIGHT EYES is so much better than . . . " "Dale. Shutteth up." quoth Robin Chip, and he bonketh him on the noggin. "Nay," the good lass answered them, "for I could never bring myself to see either one of thee in danger." And her eyes here lingered longer on Dale Scarlet than on his master. "Besides. Hast thou ever had a BOSS? And I'm late for work!" "Farewell, Maid Foxglove," quoth Robin. "Aye," quoth good Dale Scarlet, "Farewell my love. I shall draw bowstring for thy bright eyes nonetheless. And fear not. Thy lad is far too clever for the Sheriff! Besides," quoth he, thinking of his last statement, "Robin Chip will be there." And so the two stout chipmunks once more turned their heels and strode off toward jolly Cattingham-town. "Farewell my love, and thee, good Robin Chip!" quoth Foxglove, waving behind them as they left, "Farewell, and may all the blessings of Saints Linus, Cletus, Clement, Sixtus, Septimus, Octopus, Nonymous, Martin of Tours, Moses of Khoren, Gregory of Datev, Duke of Earl, Akond of Swat, Isidore the Farmer, Ephrem the Syrian, Basil the Bulgar Slayer, Mott the Hoople, Mack the Knife, Man from U.N.C.L.E., James, James, James, the other James, Hosea Bigelow, and the sevenscore holy martyrs who were trampled to death beneath the hooves of the horses of Hrullgar the Mad Tyrant of Franistan fall upon thine honest brows and protect ye from all harm!" Then she expired from lack of breath. In a short time the two merry companions were upon the outskirts of the town. Now whether or not the shooting-match was for real, there was certainly no intrigue behind the May Fair which took place upon the green before the city gate every five years. Robin and Dale looked about upon the booths, the banners, and the wares. Here they found the wrestlers' sawdust ring in which Eric o'Lincoln of great renown was struggling against some jobber (rumors among the smarts of a face turn was evidently a work by the pencils to generate heat among the marks); here they came upon a display before which one cried out, "FRRREEEEEAK- animalstheyrealiveyoucanhearembreathin!" But soon they came upon what was the end of their journey--the field set aside for the shooting contest. The field was decked in many colorful banners flying in the wind, and it was indeed a splendid sight. But it did look suspicious, for it was surrounded by the Sheriff's men who were armed to the teeth, yet appeared very empty in the center, which should have been peopled with jolly archers from across the length and breadth of merry England. At the head of this field sat the Sheriff of Cattingham himself on a raised dais. And at his right hand sat the one for whom they had taken this great risk upon themselves. Maid Gadget, the fairest lass in merry England, sat bedecked in splendid coveralls of linen decorated with trim of the finest Flemish lace, and perched upon her head were goggles of the purest silver. She evidently recognized them, for she smiled sweetly upon them, and it came to pass that she cast her two bright eyes upon them, whereupon they both were all to-shivered and their hearts brast. "Robin Chip?" "Aye, Dale Scarlet?" "THEM eyes is BRIGHT!" "Verily thou hast said a mouthfull!" Coming to themselves momentarily, they saw that they were shooting against only four "competitors," each of them from the Sheriff's own body guard. First was Sir Snout of Snout Hall, a fine figure of a Rat, but with a cruel streak withal. Next was Sir Wart of Worcestershire, a sinister skulking lizard. Then was Sir Mepps. The only explanation for his being among the guard at all was the rumored one that he was the Sheriff's own brother, and it was either this or Bedlam for him, as he had no brains in his head. And finally was Sir Mole of Mole End, a good-natured and merry soul withal, whose fur for some strange reason was often full of whitewash. At this situation the heart of Dale Scarlet sank at the thought of the danger to his master and himself, but before he could speak to his good cousin the Sheriff's herald, an arrogant duck in a mask and cape, stepped forward and proclaimed the rules of the game: "Ye archers shall each shoot at yon target. In turn nock ye yon arrows and draw yon bows, the archer whose arrow misseth yon mark--the one in yon target yonder--being eliminated from the next round. After the fourth round only two of yon archers shall be left to compete against each other, the winner to receive yon arrow of beaten gold, to be presented by yon fair maiden (Bodkins! THEM eyes is BRIGHT!). During the tournament, any of ye archers who overshoot into yon swimming pool of yon right worshipful Sheriff, shall be beheaded by yon jolly churl. And I am required by law to point out yon emergency exits in case of fire." It was a right pretty speech, but no one had heard it, as the herald had yonned so much throughout that all present had fallen on sleep. [RIMSHOT!] The Sheriff turned to the fair Maid Gadget and asked, "Well, my lass, seest thou any lads among these archers who striketh thy fancy?" though he of course had noticed the only two archers who were not among his own men. "Golly nay!" quoth she, though of course she had recognized her sweet lad and his cousin, and was praying fervently within herself to the good St. Withold to shelter them both within the palm of his fist. "What are we to do, good Master?" asked Dale Scarlet of his cousin. "For the time being we must lay low and shoot our turns, and deal with whatever problems as they develop," answered he. There is no need to trouble thee, jolly reader, with the details of all the rounds of shooting. Let it merely be said that Robin Chip was the greatest archer in all merry England, while stout Dale Scarlet was (conveniently) the second best. Of course the best strategy would have been to shoot miserably, but neither could bring himself to perform better than his best. And besides, the vile and cunning Sheriff had already recognized them. Thus they proceeded to shoot the tournament. During the first round there were two eliminations. First Sir Mepps defaulted when he looked at the bow in his hands and said, "Hey Boss, what is this thing?" And then poor Sir Mole, who failed miserably because he could not see his hand before his face. But the others shot well, with Dale and Robin Chip having the best shots among them. In the second round Sir Snout was eliminated, and then only Robin Chip, Dale Scarlet, and the sinister Sir Wart remained. The Sheriff was already licking his lips at the kill he was about to make when he asked Maid Gadget at this point, "Likest thou these fine lads, my dear?" "Golly. Aye," she answered, but without much heart. For she saw the large number of armed men present and the sparseness of the contestants (all but two the Sheriff's own men) and she thought within herself, *Golly ciphered right much. I do bethink me that this vile Sheriff hath used me to entrap my dear friends. I must bethink of a plan to help them escape withal.* "Dost any one of them particularly strike thy fancy?" the Sheriff asked next, playing with his whiskers in a most evil fashion. "Uh . . . not really," she answered, again without much heart. Thanks to Sir Mepps' forfit, It was only the third round that saw Sir Wart eliminated, leaving only our two heroes to face each other. They drew bowstring against each other somewhat reluctantly, but as Dale Scarlet knew on which side his bread was buttered, Robin Chip of course won the day, though their disguises had caused all to marvel throughout the day at Dale Scarlet's superior skill. The Sheriff grinned wickedly as he stepped from his dais to greet the winner, while Maid Gadget reluctantly and with much foreboding arose to present the arrow of beaten gold. "Right well hast thou shot today, good--Dale Scarlet is it?" quoth the Sheriff on meeting them. "Much thanks to your Worship," quoth jolly Robin, trying to sound like Dale. "And thou also, vile outlaw and sworn nemisis of mine, hast also shot well. I am surprised that thou didst not win today." "Thou winneth some; thou looseth some," Dale Scarlet answered, trying to sound like Robin Chip and failing miserably. "And so Robin Chip, the greatest archer in England, hath had a bad arrow day, hath he?" quoth the Sheriff. "In sooth I do believe that thou art none other than that vile varlet, Dale Scarlet!" and he reached out quickly and rubbed all the brown mud from off Dale Scarlet's nose. "And THOU, good 'Dale Scarlet,' I do believe to be none other than that rogue and traitor, Robin Chip!" quoth the Sheriff in a rage as he snatched off Robin's ingenious red rubber nose, or whatever material they used to make red rubber noses back then. Robin Chip glowered at the Sheriff. "I am no traitor!" quoth he, his eyes aflame. "Nevertheless," teased the Sheriff, "SEIZE THEM!" And his vast number of armed men, who had surrounded the entire field throughout the entire contest, moved in grimly to take them both prisoner for certain execution. Both Merry Munks reached back to their quivers, but found they had long ago used up all their own arrows and had in fact finished the contest with an extra quiver provided for just such a contingency. The two good friends looked helplessly at one another, fearing that this time the jig was pretty much up. But suddenly, all were surprised to hear the Sheriff's voice exclaim "STOP!" even more loudly than before. All paused and looked to see the Sheriff held in a very tight and intimate hug by Maid Gadget, with a look of grim determination upon her face that can only be described as absolutely savage. "Quickly!" she cried while the soldiers were temporarily distracted by their master's plight, "Flee ye now down Foss Way and get ye to the safety of Sherwood Park and good Friar Jack and Drawstring! Do it now, whilst I make this vile villain as stupid as a little bird!" And her two bright eyes flashed, showing that she meant business. The two chipmunks were sorry to leave Maid Gadget behind, but there was little choice in the matter. She had been their spy within the Sheriff's castle, but had now blown her cover in order to save them. The soldiers likewise realized that the "STOP!" had been addressed to their master's captress and immediately resumed their advance on the brave outlaws. "Wench!" cried the Sheriff, feeling himself becoming stupider and stupider, "Thou shalt pay for this! By the way," he thought to add, "there isn't anything between thee and my brother Mepps, is there? That could explain a great deal. DUH!" Why doth that never happen to ME?" quoth Robin Chip, as he and Dale Scarlet backed from the armed men approaching closer and closer from all directions. But suddenly their was an explosion, and a great amount of smoke as of a fire, and they found themselves joined by none other than the Sheriff's buffoonish herald. "Quickly!" he told them, "Flee from the field while my mistress Maid Gadget and I keep these knaves distracted!" "Whaddaya mean, 'MISTRESS?'" Robin Chip inquired testily, but good Dale Scarlet had the presence of mind to yank him from hence by his arm. They still had a few guards to deal with, but Maid Gadget was finally able to release the Sheriff and toss a sword to each of them, which she did right deftly. Robin and Dale thereupon struck skillfully with their good blades until they had caused enough of their opponents to think better of trying to take them that a path among the soldiers began to open for them as they ran for the exit. But when Maid Gadget had released the Sheriff in order to provide swords for her friends, that vile wretch began to regain his intelligence, and soon he sprung forth and cried, "Never mind the wench and that idiot duck! Get ye after those two rogues!" Whereupon the guards began to reorient themselves through the smoke and to set out after our heroes. The Sheriff himself seized a blade and shouted, "Forward!" intending himself to slay Robin Chip on the spot when he came upon him, but at that very moment, Sir Mole (who had been shooting on the practice range to ensure a better result in the next tournament) didst mistakenly slip his fingers as he fired an arrow, and that same arrow did fly into the area of the tumult and thrust itself clean through the body of the Sheriff. With a cry that evil rascal fell forward upon the ground, reddening the green grass with his heart's blood. "WHAT? I'm dying AGAIN?" quoth he in disbelief, "That doth not happen in THIS story! Leastways," he muttered under his breath. In the mean time, Robin Chip and Dale Scarlet had made it out of the archery range and then through the booths and tents of the May Fair. As they finally reached Foss Way they began to slow down and catch their breaths, for they thought the worst of the day's adventure was behind them. But speedily they heard cries of rage and vengeance behind them, and they looked to see what seemed to be the full force of the Sheriff's men coming after them, mounted upon swift steeds. "By the platter of good St. Swithin!" quoth Dale Scarlet in dismay, "Now how are we to escape?" "Save thy breath for running and SKEDADDLE!" commanded good Robin Chip, and the chase was on again. They ran at almost a supernatural pace out of sheer desperation and their thoughts of what would happen to them when they were inevitably overtaken by the fresh horses. On and on they ran, their lungs crying out for air, their tongues lolling from out their mouths, and their poor legs screaming with pain. But on and on came the unstoppable horde, their inhuman cries of victory already in the ears of the two brave outlaws. They heard the snorting of the steeds and the sound of their great hooves as the dust swirled up all about them. At last they could go no further. They simply stopped in the middle of the road as the rich dust filled their eyes and entered their nostrils, blinding and choking them. In dumb hopeless anticipation of what would soon happen Dale thrust his hands into the thick dust of the road he and his companion had been on for what seemed like such an unimaginably long time, brought them out again, and spoke to his life-long friend. "Ezra Chip?" "Yes, Nehemiah Dale?" "This be good Pennsylvania farm land." "Aye, that it be, Friend." These were the first words passed among them for some time, and you really could not blame them. For their leader, who picked the spouses of all the members of their tight-knit little community, had actually chosen them to be the husbands of his own two eldest daughters. This meant not only that their wives would be the most beautiful of all in the community (or so it was rumored; they were required to dress so modestly that no man really knew what they looked like), but it meant status as well. It was an indication that they would assume the leadership of the venerable elder after his passing. It was a strange mixture of both physical and spiritual fulfillment. "Ezra Chip?" "Yes, Nehemiah Dale?" "Which of the two daughters do you think he will choose for each of us?" "I do not know, Friend, but I believe he will give his eldest daughter to me." This would mean that Ezra Chip would in fact outrank him as leader of the Friends when the time came, and had not getting angry been against his strict religious beliefs, Nehemiah would have done so at that time. "Why does thee say that?" he asked, gritting his teeth. "Thee does not want to know," Ezra Chip answered matter-of-factly. Indeed, he would have said so smugly had not smugness been against his strict religious beliefs. "I does to!" Nehemiah Dale responded with some vehemence. "Very well," Ezra Chip said as the two of them came to a halt on the road, "The reason I will wed Jemima Gadget and thee will marry young Kezia Foxglove is because thee is voluptuous." "I is--I mean I am not!" he protested vehemently. "Thee is being voluptuous again," said Ezra Chip, "It is a good thing that we are forbidden by our strict religious beliefs to throw things in one another's faces, and that I am so strict about adhering to said beliefs." "Now thee is being prideful, which is also against our beliefs!" Nehemiah Dale retorted in satisfaction. "Oh yes? Well THEE is being a fault-finder!" Ezra Chip exclaimed, gritting his teeth, though being careful not to cross the line into gnashing. "And if there is a deplorable combination of vices it is being a voluptuous fault-finder! One day thee is going down the slippery slope and become a TALE-BEARER!" At this warning of ultimate transgression Nehemiah Dale lost all his hot blood and looked down upon the dust of the road, which they were all supposed to surpass in humility. "I--I'm sorry, Friend. I did not mean to degenerate into such a sewer of vice merely on the road to the house of Armageddon Jacob. Will thee forgive me?" And the look he gave his dear companion would have melted a stone. "Well . . . I suppose I HAVE to, seeing as how it is required by our strict religious beliefs," Ezra Chip answered, being sure not to sink into flippancy by smiling. "I tell thee, sometimes thee is so voluptuous that were I not a pacifist I would bonk thee on the noggin." "Oh, thank thee, Ezra Chip, for not so bonking me!" Nehemiah Dale said in a voice of true penitence and gratitude, "and I promise I will try to stop being so voluptuous if thee will guide me! I suppose it is just one of my sinful character traits. Thee has no idea how hard it is for me not to be voluptuous. I--I can't stop! HELP ME!!!" And he climbed onto his friend and forced him to fall backward upon the ground as he looked into his eyes with panic at the thought of being found wanting. After Ezra Chip had convinced his friend to get off him he (I must! I must! I've passed it up once before. But now the madness is too strong! TOO STRONG!!!!!) picked himself up, dusted himself off, and started all over again. (THERE! I've said it, and I'm GLAD!) Soon he was helping him remember always to step first with the right foot, to make only perpendicular ninety degree turns, and walk only in a straight line, in accordance with their strict religious beliefs. Thus in a little while they arrived at the farm of Armageddon Jacob. Though this worthy had led the community for forty years, his own farm was no larger than that of any of the other Friends. Moreover, it could never be said that he did not practice the virtues he demanded of the others. They were not sure where he might be this morning; he was usually working in the field, but he had set the time for this appointment. Ezra Chip and Nehemiah Dale walked up the steps of the modest cabin onto the front porch and knocked. For a while they heard nothing. "Perhaps he has forgotten and is in the fields," Ezra Chip said to his friend, "Let us sit out here on the chairs." "I want to sit in the swing!" Nehemiah Dale answered, his penitence of only a moment ago forgotten, "Why isn't there a swing?" Ezra Chip slapped his palm across his face in frustration. "There is no swing, Friend Dale, because swings are devices of vanity and mischief. I thought thee was sorry for being so voluptuous." "That is being VOLUPTUOUS?" Dale responded in shock. "If that be the case, then, I suppose I am." "SILENCE!" Ezra Chip exclaimed in horror, clapping his hand over Nehemiah Dale's mouth, "If he hears thee, that will be the end of our happy future with his fair daughters!" "Well, maybe it's not worth it." "HOW CAN THEE SAY THAT?!" Ezra Chip roared, forgetting the possibility of being overheard. "Well, I think that thee takes things too seriously. I think we should simply enjoy life and have fun," Nehemiah Dale declared frankly. It was a while before Ezra Chip could find his voice after that one. But when he did, he lost it. "BLASPHEMY!" he thundered, "What a life of sloth and vanity thee is suggesting! Has thee no aspirations? I have always wanted to lead a small band of do-gooders, so I suppose we have very little in common after all! Since thee is so lacking in ambition or devotion to our ways, why does thee not just leave our community?!" "Ah-HAAAAAAAA!!!" Nehemiah Dale exclaimed at being handed this trump card (except he would not have known to call it that; he might have been voluptuous, but not that much!), "so thee is AMBITIOUS, huh? I believe that little fault of thee's calls for SHUNNING!" Ezra Chip was here overcome by his own characteristic fault, and so he threatened, "If thee so much as INTIMATES to Armageddon Jacob that I am prone to that vice, then I will have nothing left to lose, and will thus be free to bonk thee on the noggin'! And I WILL, too! Just see if I don't!" And he clenched a fist forebodingly. "Thee and whose host?" Nehemiah Dale responded menacingly. At this point in the confrontation they were interrupted by a faint buzzing sound as the screen door flew open briefly and then again sprang shut. In embarrassment and anxiety they looked up to see that it was Armageddon Jacob's chief assistant, Most Chaste Fastener. "Uh, hi! We . . . we were just waxing wroth at the sinful habits of today's world!" Ezra Chip said quickly as sweat beaded up on his brow, "You know. Taking oaths and military service and . . . and voting and such like." "Yeah!" Nehemiah Dale agreed, "That's the ticket! Waxing wroth! Er . . . not a lottery ticket, you understand! Just . . . a ticket! But not one to a theater or a carnival or a circus or a Greyhound stagecoach or that secret cockfight every Saturday night at Obadiah Snout's or . . . " "Shutteth up, Friend!" Ezra Chip whispered to him from out the side of his mouth. "It's more like the ticket to the annual Shirley Jackson Memorial Lottery we have every June, and that's GOTTA be all right because without it . . . " "I take it that thee are here for thees' appointment with good Armageddon Jacob about his two eldest daughters," Most Chaste Fastener interrupted flatly, without indicating one way or another as to whether he had picked up any damning--well, not damning, but you know what I mean--information from the conversation of the two closet backsliders. They could only nod profusely in return. "Well then," MCF continued, "thee must both wait out here on the porch until Elder Armageddon returns from the field. He has not forgotten thees' appointment with him, but he may be delayed by his work." The two Chipmunks were only too glad to sit down in the chairs and do this. MCF likewise remained on the porch with them, and they all looked anxiously toward the field to see if they could make out the approaching form of their spiritual leader. The hot summer sun beat down on the three on the porch as they waited. Soon they were all sweating from the heat, but the two chipmunk Friends had the added conditions of nervousness and anxiety to deal with as well, so they had it much worse than the solemn fly. It was nearing noon and the two suitors were becoming progressively more nervous when suddenly they heard MCF exclaim, "Friends, I see him coming yonder!" They reacted to this with a mixture of relief and even greater agitation. At first it was a small speck on the dusty road coming from the field. Then as the speck came closer they could make out the long black cloak and hat, the moustache and long white beard, and finally the rather stout figure of the Elder. It was indeed pious Armageddon Jacob. Armageddon was a truly awesome figure, for he had led this little community, as I stated before, for forty years, yet his eye was not dimmed; neither was his natural force abated (whatever the Sam Hill that may mean). Armageddon never asked anyone to perform a task he would not willingly do himself. Even now he was covered with dust from his hard toil, for it was his custom to hitch himself to the plow and make his horse drive HIM. In no time the lively Elder stood before them just off the porch. His pious sweat streamed from his pious brow onto the pious ground, turning the pious dust into pious mud beneath his pious feet until it squished between his pious toes. At his glance the two suitors were terrified, for it seemed he could peer into one's very soul. They were also worried about MCF informing him of certain things he may have overheard. But the assistant spoke nothing, and finally Armageddon ascended onto the porch, opened the front door, and motioned with his head for them to follow him inside. As soon as the door closed behind them a swift blur dashed up to greet them. "Oh papa!" the little girl said, hugging the venerable elder, "lunch is almost ready and--who is THAT?" This was directed towards Chip. "These are the young brethren who are come to meet thee's sisters, my child," he answered, "Are they ready to be presented?" "Yes, Father," she said in a disappointed tone, "May I not wed THAT one? He's cute!" "Nay, my child," he answered her, "but never fear. Thee will wed a good respectable pious man when the time comes. Now go and fetch thee's sisters! That is Keren-happuch Tammy, my youngest," he explained to the chipmunks after the child had left in a little bit of a huff, "She has not yet attained the age when she must cover her face." At this point the two elder daughters entered the room. At least that is what the suitors assumed; they were so wrapped up in modest clothing that who or what they were was not really discernable. Armageddon then motioned for all present to be seated and for Keren-happuch Tammy to leave the room again, which she did reluctantly. The suitors sat in two chairs on one side of the room and the girls opposite them on the other side, with the venerable patriarch sitting against a perpendicular wall between the two couples, MCF on his shoulder. Ezra Chip and Nehemiah Dale could not for the life of them figure out if their prospective partners were nervous, but they were perfectly certain that they themselves were. After a very uncomfortable silence of several minutes Armageddon Jacob cleared his throat and began ticking down his list of theologically correct positions with which his sons-in-law had to agree, including opposition to such vices as taking oaths, performing military service, voting, capital punishment, eating meat, alcohol, dancing, bingo, cards, mah jongg, celebrating Christmas, pitching horse shoes, and secret societies. Both young munks held their breath as they waited for the hammer to fall, but Ezra Chip was relieved that ambition was never mentioned, and Nehemiah Dale felt the same at the omission of voluptuosity. When he had finished checking their orthodoxy Armageddon Jacob nodded in satisfaction and walked over to his daughters. Taking one by the hand he said, "Ezra Chip, to thee I give my eldest daughter Jemima Gadget." *Yes!* the aforesaid chipmunk said to himself, more out of the position this conferred than anything else. Continuing to the other daughter Armageddon took her by the hand and said, "And to thee, Friend Nehemiah Dale, I give my second daughter, Kezia Foxglove." "Fine by me" he responded, as he was not as needful of authority as his friend. "Then it is settled," Armageddon sighed in satisfaction. Both suitors got up to go to their respective future wives but Armageddon quickly cleared his throat and showed stern displeasure on his face. Ezra Chip and Nehemiah Dale both sat down hurriedly and even the daughters from beneath their bonnets and veils seemed somehow to indicate sadness and disappointment. After some moments of silence Armageddon Jacob finally spoke again. "Thee will court for ten years," he told them, "followed by a five year engagement while you build homes and farms for my daughters by the sweat of thees' brows. Thee may hold hands on the twenty-fifth wedding anniversary, with a kiss on the cheek on the fiftieth. And on the diamond jubilee, when my precious roses are sufficiently withered that they are no longer a snare unto the frail youths of our community, they may show thee their faces." Suddenly Keren-happuch Tammy bounded in. "Poppa, may I skip the veil and just go ahead and wither at age twelve?" she asked innocently. "Child!" her father said sternly to her, after which she again reluctantly withdrew. "Now," he continued to the assembled young people and to his assistant, "my daughters will serve us our food." At this the two arose eagerly to go into the pantry, and returned in less than no time with five bowls of something or other which they set on the simple wooden table in the corner. This was moved away from the wall sufficiently for the chairs to be placed around it, but they then left the room, apparently to eat by themselves in the kitchen so as not to immodestly reveal the snares that were their faces. Not to worry though, for Keren-happuch Tammy soon joined them and sat right next to Ezra Chip, much to his consternation and discomfort. She also cast him such looks (at which, oddly enough, her father only laughed in amusement) that he could hardly get his food down. Ezra Chip knew to keep his mouth shut, but his friend had this little problem with being voluptuous and eventually felt compelled to ask about the tasteless hard stuff. This was of course alarming to Ezra. "Do thee like thees' bowls of sticks?" their host asked. "There be some who would call them "grape nuts" and sell them to our fellowmen for a profit. Abominable! I was careful to include plenty of thorns in this batch for self-mortification. But do be careful to spit out the ants so as not to be cruel to animals." Finally Ezra Chip and Nehemiah Dale had had enough of this healthy natural dish (another of their secret vices was putting milk and sugar in theirs at home) and pushed their bowls to the center of the table. "Poppa, may I have what they have left?" Keren-happuch Tammy asked innocently. "No, my child," he answered her, "Thee must learn to eat in moderation, and this food will be put back for another day." Then to his guests he said, "Are thee done already? Thees' bowls are yet half full, and I notice that the ants are of a species with painful stings, and that is an excellent opportunity to gain practice in the holy virtue of dourness. Besides, King Solomon said 'Go to the ant, thou sluggard.'" "Uh, no thanks!" both chipmunks answered him. For a while they sat about the table in silence as their meals digested or (in the case of Ezra and Nehemiah) poked holes in their stomachs. Ezra Chip was very fearful that his light-headed friend might say something foolish and get them both in trouble, so he thought he had better get some conversation started on a safe topic. Looking nervously at Tammy, who was batting her eyelashes at him like Senator Ervin, he said, "Armageddon Jacob, thee has truly fine children. Where is their mother?" Suddenly the earth seemed to stop turning. Most Chaste Fastener had a look of horror on his face. Even little Keren-happuch Tammy dropped her spoon on the table and remained frozen and open-mouthed. As for their host, there was a look of absolute fury in his eyes that seemed totally contrary to his character. "NOW look who has goofed up!" Nehemiah Dale said sideways to the offending party, "It is Shun City for us, and THEE is supposed to be the smart one!" Armageddon was literally shaking all over by this time, but suddenly he stopped and resumed his former demeanor, with a very sad and forlorn look on his face. "Thee could not know," he told them, "and as thee are to marry my daughters I will tell thee the story, provided thee will solemnly AFFIRM (and that is a very important point) to tell no one." Considering the two suitors' terror of but a second before, this sounded very reasonable indeed. "Excuse us, my child," Armageddon said to his youngest daughter. "But Poppa! I want to . . . " "No! This is not for thee, my innocent flower of Eden!" he said sadly but resolutely, "Please join thee's sisters." "I will escort her," MCF volunteered. "Thank thee, old friend!" Armageddon said with relief. And so Tammy, accompanied by Most Chaste Fastener, went into the kitchen leaving the chipmunks alone with the imposing patriarch. "I know to thee I seem to be one who has never known young love," he told them at last, "but that is not so. Many years ago, before I became the leader of our community, I had a beautiful young wife who outshone the sun in the sky for splendor. She was French, of Huguenot extraction, and her name was Delilah Desiree." And here he sighed. "I thought she was content in our life here, and she seemed happy at the birth of the first two children, but . . . something was eating away at her. She was . . . ambitious." At this Ezra Chip swallowed hard and looked at his dear companion with almost fear, as Nehemiah Dale knew his secret fault. Armageddon Jacob resumed. "Well, thee must know tht Most Chaste Fastener was not my first assistant when we came here. My first was Eglon (now Eglon was a very fat cat). But when he was shunned for gluttony, I found a new assistant: Esau Errol. At first I thought I had chosen well, as he had appeared dedicated to our beliefs since he was a lad. But little did I know that he had a great hidden vice lurking in his soul. He was . . . he was . . . VOLUPTUOUS!" Now it was Nehemiah Dale's turn to cast an anxious look at his companion. "I could see that my dear wife was becoming very dissatisfied with our simple life here," he continued, "but Esau Errol I never suspected. Finally after young Keren-happuch Tammy was born ten years ago, they both disappeared, leaving me to raise three daughters on my own. That explains, I hope, why I have become so much stricter in my interpretation of our practices over the past decade. Anyway, their disappearance did not long remain a secret. For I found a note only a few days later, evidently written the very morning they left, in which they boasted of what they had done and then gave their reasons. They ADMITTED that she was ambitious and that he was voluptuous. And on learning this, I am afraid I did something terribly wrong. I . . . I swore an oath!" "NO!" both his listeners exclaimed in disbelief. "Yes. I did. And how long and how often I have repented it." "Er, uh . . . exactly what was this oath, Armageddon Jacob?" asked Nehemiah Dale. Armageddon looked straight through him. "I swore that if ever I came upon two people together again, one of whom was ambitious and the other voluptuous, I would stone them both with stones so that they die!" The gulp that followed was heard around the world. They tried to maintain their composure as they tugged at their collars and wiped sweat from their brows. "That's terrible, alright," Ezra Chip offered, "It's a good thing that our strict religious beliefs forbid the taking of oaths!" To which Nehemiah Dale added, "Yes sir-ee! A good thing!" "I am afraid the moral theology on this point is not quite that simple," Armageddon said to their dismay. "It is true, as thee say, that our strict religious beliefs forbid the taking of oaths. However, when once an oath is taken, those same strict religious beliefs demand that the oath be fulfilled as soon as possible, else the swearer has increased his transgression thirtyfold. Yes, that's right, thirtyfold." And he looked very thoughtful. "Well . . . well, look at the time!" Ezra Chip shouted nervously. "We've got to get back to do our chores!" "Yeah, that's right!" Nehemiah Dale said as he joined his friend in rising from the chair and beginning to back towards the door, "Chores! That's the ticket! Well, not a TICKET ticket, like to a skating rink or a . . . " "Shut up, dear friend!" Ezra Chip said between his smiling gritted teeth. Then Armageddon Jacob arose also and went over to them, a look on his face that seemed to indicate that he carried the burden of the world on his shoulders, a burden that he fain would have removed at long and dear last. "Do thee know of any such two people among us?" he asked them, his eyes at once indicating both innocence and a grim determination to do this fell deed. "Uh, no! Not at all! Er, does thee know of any voluptuous types running around loose amongst us, Friend Ezra?" "No! Certainly not! Uh, does thee know of any with ambition among us, Friend Nehemiah?" "Nary a one!" he answered. "Isn't that too bad? Well, we'll be going . . . !" "That is indeed too bad, too bad," Armageddon Jacob said, inclining his face to the floor in sadness, "That means only one thing. I have raised two daughters, who are now in thees' good and pious hands. I cannot raise sweet, innocent young Keren-happuch Tammy with this hanging over my impious head. So from this moment I am making it my whole task to SEEK OUT and DESTROY two such villains! Then, then I may depart this world in peace." Ezra Chip and Nehemiah Dale were fairly hugging each other for support in the face of this deadly threat, when suddenly a buzzing noise was heard again and all three looked up to again see Most Chaste Fastener, who appeared to be in some agitation. "Quickly, good Armageddon!" he shouted, "a grave threat to public morals has entered the camp!" "It wouldn't be an ambitious and a voluptuous person together, I don't suppose?" he inquired without much hope. "I am afraid not, Armageddon! A politician has come among us!" Armageddon seemed to wave the whole thing off. "Though his ways be different from ours, let us extend to him the right hand of hospitality. We need not emulate his sinful ways." "But he is handing out literature!" he added. "All the same. A stranger has come among us who does not know our ways. Let us offer him peace nonetheless." "For Van Buren!" "THE KINGDOM OF SATAN HAS COME AMONG US!" thundered Armageddon Jacob. "Where is this beast from the pit?" "He is at the well, and a great crowd is listening to him! Hurry, Armageddon!" the fly said in a voice of near panic. Armageddon Jacob flew out the front door, pulling off his coat (showing two still very muscular arms) and shouting "IT'S CLOBBERIN' TIME!" as he went. For according to the community's strict religious beliefs, Loco-Focos were the only exception to the prohibition of violence against any man. This news only worried the two chipmunks even more. "What's this world comin' to?" Nehemiah Dale asked. But before his friend could answer, MCF addressed them. "Hurry, friends! While he is distracted thee may both flee with thees' betrothed. A carriage is standing at ready and the maidens are waiting for thee. Hurry!" Ezra Chip and Nehemiah Dale were quite stunned at this turn of events, but they did not tarry over it. The fly led them into the kitchen where two practically mummified girls had all their baggage packed and ready. "Good-bye, my sisters!" said poor Keren-happuch Tammy, "Now get going before Pop comes back! I will join thee in freedom when it is time for me to put on a tow sack. Sheesh! No offense, but thee both look HIDEOUS in those get-ups! And Jemima," she added, casting a covetous eye toward Ezra Chip, "if thee doesn't like this one for any reason, he's MINE! Does thee hear me?" A muffled sound came from one of the bundles in response. "Well, just see that thee keeps thee's word, then! Now go!" And hear the precocious squirrel rushed to the front door to keep a look-out. Most Chaste Fastener then lead them outside to the back of the house where a horse-drawn carriage with a driver was waiting. "Of a truth I am sorry to so trick thees' father," he told the girls, "but I know life is too hard for thee here after that unfortunate episode with thees' mother. Go and be happy!" "But what will thee do when Armageddon Jacob returns?" Ezra Chip asked with genuine concern. "Not to worry," MCF answered, "Keren-happuch Tammy and I have a cheese all ready to distract him. That will put him under for a week, and when he comes to he shouldn't remember anything. Go!" The chipmunks held the door open and assisted the two bundled figures aboard, which was no easy task, and then tossed the luggage up to the driver. As soon as they had all entered and the doors were shut Most Chaste Fastener flew up to the driver. "Get out of this county as quickly as thee can!" he said, and then promptly bit both the horses on their tushes. The effect can well be imagined. Off they went, with the poor driver almost falling off, and soon the little settlement where they had all spent their entire lives vanished behind them in a cloud of dust. After they had ridden for some time they heard a muffled sound coming from one of the living clothes racks, at which point Ezra Chip told them, "Thee may both show thees' faces now." "Yeah! Let's see what kind of deal we got!" Nehemiah Dale agreed eagerly. Both maidens eventually were able to stick their arms through the tents they were wearing and then somewhat tentatively remove their head coverings. "Well?" they asked together when their faces were in full view for the first time sense puberty. "HominahominaHOMINA!" Ezra Chip reacted. "Lu-CEEEEEEELE!" Nehemiah Dale exclaimed. Both girls blushed appealingly. Jemima Gadget looked at Ezra Chip and said, "Is thee my husband-to-be? Please excuse me for saying this, but . . . golly. There! I've said it and I'm glad. Now please forgive me!" Kezia Foxglove, who seemed to be somewhat shy and unsure of herself by nature, took one look at Nehemiah Dale and lost it. "Hi-thee, cute stuff!" she said, batting her eyelashes at him while she giggled like one right taken. Nehemiah Dale blushed. "Does thee have any objections to marrying a voluptuous fellow?" he asked nervously. "Not at all," she answered, "I have a bit of a problem with being buxom, myself." "Do thee suppose we can all start talking normally now?" Jemima Gadget asked, "We've done this for three stories, and it's really starting to get to me." "Does thee thing we should?" Kezia Foxglove asked cautiously, "It could be a slippery slope from there. Thee never knows." Ezra Chip, wanting to impress his beautiful betrothed, and in truth to overshadow his companion, spoke up at last. "Well, I say let's give it a try! AHEM! Here goes. You!" And they all gasped while Ezra shielded himself from the bolt of lightning. But the bolt of lightning never came. "Well, whattaya know . . . ?" Jemima Gadget then said, gasping when she realized how she had said it. And after this they all started talking that way. "You know," Ezra Chip said to Nehemiah Dale as they both looked at their beautiful soon-to-be-wives, "I think this is the beginning of a beautiful life together for each of us!" They even voted that year. But not for Van Buren. They weren't that far gone. And they all lived in happiness and contentment for the rest of their lives.
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