Tik-Tok of Oz
14. The Long-Eared Hearer Learns by Listening
During this time Ruggedo, the Metal Monarch and King of the Nomes, was trying to
amuse himself in his splendid jeweled cavern. It was hard work for Ruggedo to find
amusement to-day, for all the nomes were behaving well and there was no one to scold or
to punish. The King had thrown his sceptre at Kaliko six times, without hitting him once.
Not that Kaliko had done anything wrong. On the contrary, he had obeyed the King in
every way but one: he would not stand still, when commanded to do so, and let the heavy
sceptre strike him.
We can hardly blame Kaliko for this, and even the cruel Ruggedo forgave him; for he
knew very well that if he mashed his Royal Chamberlain he could never find another so
intelligent and obedient. Kaliko could make the nomes work when their King could not,
for the nomes hated Ruggedo and there were so many thousands of the quaint little
underground people that they could easily have rebelled and defied the King had they
dared to do so. Sometimes, when Ruggedo abused them worse than usual, they grew
sullen and threw down their hammers and picks. Then, however hard the King scolded or
whipped them, they would not work until Kaliko came and begged them to. For Kaliko
was one of themselves and was as much abused by the King as any nome in the vast
series of caverns.
But to-day all the little people were working industriously at their tasks and Ruggedo,
having nothing to do, was greatly bored. He sent for the Long-Eared Hearer and asked
him to listen carefully and report what was going on in the big world.
"It seems," said the Hearer, after listening for awhile, "that the women in America have
"Are there spikes in them?" asked Ruggedo, yawning.
"I cannot hear any spikes, Your Majesty," was the reply.
"Then their clubs are not as good as my sceptre. What else do you hear?'
"There's a war.
"Bah! there's always a war. What else?"
For a time the Hearer was silent, bending forward and spreading out his big ears to catch
the slightest sound. Then suddenly he said:
"Here is an interesting thing, Your Majesty. These people are arguing as to who shall
conquer the Metal Monarch, seize his treasure and drive him from his dominions."
"What people?" demanded Ruggedo, sitting up straight in his throne.
"The ones you threw down the Hollow Tube."
"Where are they now?"
"In the same Tube, and coming back this way," said the Hearer.