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Tik-Tok of Oz

15. The Dragon Defies Danger
Although the journey through the Tube was longer, this time, than before, it was so much
more comfortable that none of our friends minded it at all. They talked together most of
the time and as they found the dragon good-natured and fond of the sound of his own
voice they soon became well acquainted with him and accepted him as a companion.
"You see," said Shaggy, in his frank way, "Quox is on our side, and therefore the dragon
is a good fellow. If he happened to be an enemy, instead of a friend, I am sure I should
dislike him very much, for his breath smells of brimstone, he is very conceited and he is
so strong and fierce that he would prove a dangerous foe."
"Yes, indeed," returned Quox, who had listened to this speech with pleasure; "I suppose I
am about as terrible as any living thing. I am glad you find me conceited, for that proves I
know my good qualities. As for my breath smelling of brimstone, I really can't help it,
and I once met a man whose breath smelled of onions, which I consider far worse."
"I don't," said Betsy; "I love onions.
"And I love brimstone," declared the dragon, "so don't let us quarrel over one another's
peculiarities."
Saying this, he breathed a long breath and shot a flame fifty feet from his mouth. The
brimstone made Betsy cough, but she remembered about the onions and said nothing.
They had no idea how far they had gone through the center of the earth, nor when to
expect the trip to end. At one time the little girl remarked:
"I wonder when we'll reach the bottom of this hole. And isn't it funny, Shaggy Man, that
what is the bottom to us now, was the top when we fell the other way?"
"What puzzles me," said Files, "is that we are able to fall both ways."
"That," announced Tik-Tok, "is be-cause the world is round."
"Exactly," responded Shaggy. "The machinery in your head is in fine working order, Tik-
Tok. You know, Betsy, that there is such a thing as the Attraction of Gravitation, which
draws everything toward the center of the earth. That is why we fall out of bed, and why
everything clings to the surface of the earth."
"Then why doesn't everyone go on down to the center of the earth?" inquired the little
girl.
"I was afraid you were going to ask me that," replied Shaggy in a sad tone. "The reason,
my dear, is that the earth is so solid that other solid things can't get through it. But when
there's a hole, as there is in this case, we drop right down to the center of the world."
"Why don't we stop there?" asked Betsy.
"Because we go so fast that we acquire speed enough to carry us right up to the other
end."
 
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