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Tik-Tok of Oz

20. Quox Quietly Quits
When the chief nomes assembled before their new King they joyfully saluted him and
promised to obey his commands. But, when Kaliko questioned them, none knew the way
to the Metal Forest, although all had assisted in its making. So the King instructed them
to search carefully for one of the passages and to bring him the news as soon as they had
found it.
Meantime Quox had managed to back out of the rocky corridor and so regain the open air
and his old station on the mountain-side, and there he lay upon the rocks, sound asleep,
until the next day. The others of the party were all given as good rooms as the caverns of
the nomes afforded, for King Kaliko felt that he was indebted to them for his promotion
and was anxious to be as hospitable as he could.
Much wonderment had been caused by the absolute disappearance of the sixteen officers
of Oogaboo and their Queen. Not a nome had seen them, nor were they discovered during
the search for the passages leading to the Metal Forest. Perhaps no one was unhappy over
their loss, but all were curious to know what had become of them.
On the next day, when our friends went to visit the dragon, Quox said to them: "I must
now bid you good-bye, for my mission here is finished and I must depart for the other
side of the world, where I belong."
"Will you go through the Tube again?" asked Betsy.
"To be sure. But it will be a lonely trip this time, with no one to talk to, and I cannot
invite any of you to go with me. Therefore, as soon as I slide into the hole I shall go to
sleep, and when I pop out at the other end I will wake up at home."
They thanked the dragon for befriending them and wished him a pleasant journey. Also
they sent their thanks to the great Jinjin, whose just condemnation of Ruggedo had served
their interests so well. Then Quox yawned and stretched himself and ambled over to the
Tube, into which he slid headforemost and disappeared.
They really felt as if they had lost a friend, for the dragon had been both kind and
sociable during their brief acquaintance with him; but they knew it was his duty to return
to his own country. So they went back to the caverns to renew the search for the hidden
passages that led to the forest, but for three days all efforts to find them proved in vain.
It was Polychrome's custom to go every day to the mountain and watch for her father, the
Rainbow, for she was growing tired with wandering upon the earth and longed to rejoin
her sisters in their sky palaces. And on the third day, while she sat motionless upon a
point of rock, whom should she see slyly creeping up the mountain but Ruggedo!
The former King looked very forlorn. His clothes were soiled and torn and he had no
sandals upon his feet or hat upon his head. Having left his crown and sceptre behind
when he fled, the old nome no longer seemed kingly, but more like a beggerman.