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Ice dragon.

From The Book of Dragons by Edith Nesbit.

Start of Story

"Oh, I couldn't!" cried Jane. And while George was explaining to the collector that they would really rather not, Jane opened the blue folds of the butterfly net, and asked the moth quietly if it would please step outside for a moment. And it did. When the collector saw that the moth was free, he seemed less angry than grieved. "Well, well," said he, "here's a whole Arctic expedition thrown away! I shall have to go home and fit out another. And that means a lot of writing to the papers and things. You seem to be a singularly thoughtless little girl." So they went on, leaving him too, trying to go uphill towards the Crystal Palace. When the great white Arctic moth had returned thanks in a suitable speech, George and Jane took a sideways slanting run and started sliding again, between the star-lamps along the great slide toward the North Pole. They went faster and faster, and the lights ahead grew brighter and brighter--so that they could not keep their eyes open, but had to blink and wink as they went--and then suddenly the great slide ended in an immense heap of snow, and George and Jane shot right into it because they could not stop themselves, and the snow was soft, so that they went in up to their very ears. When they had picked themselves out and thumped each other on the back to get rid of the snow, they shaded their eyes and looked, and there, right in front of them, was the wonder of wonders--the North Pole--towering high and white and glistening, like an ice-lighthouse, and it was quite, quite close, so that you had to put your head as far back as it would go, and farther, before you could see the high top of it. It was made entirely of ice. You will hear grown-up people talk a great deal of nonsense about the North Pole, and when you are grown up, it is even possible that you may talk nonsense about it yourself (the most unlikely things do happen) but deep down in your heart you must always remember that the North Pole is made of clear ice, and could not possibly, if you come to think of it, be made of anything else.

All around the Pole, making a bright ring about it, were hundreds of little fires, and the flames of them did not flicker and twist, but went up blue and green and rosy and straight like the stalks of dream lilies. Jane said so, but George said they were as straight as ramrods. And these flames were the Aurora Borealis, which the children had seen as far away as Forest Hill. The ground was quite flat, and covered with smooth, hard snow, which shone and sparkled like the top of a birthday cake that has been iced at home. The ones done at the shops do not shine and sparkle, because they mix flour with the icing sugar. "It is like a dream," said Jane. And George said, "It _is_ the North Pole. Just think of the fuss people always make about getting here--and it was no trouble at all, really." "I daresay lots of people have gotten here," said Jane, dismally. "It's not the getting _here_--I see that--it's the getting back again. Perhaps no one will ever know that _we_ have been here, and the robins will cover us with leaves and--" "Nonsense," said George. "There aren't any robins, and there aren't any leaves. It's just the North Pole, that's all, and I've found it; and now I shall try to climb up and plant the British flag on the top--my handkerchief will do; and if it really _is_ the North Pole, my pocket compass Uncle James gave me will spin around and around, and then I shall know. Come on."

So Jane came on; and when they got close to the clear, tall, beautiful flames they saw that there was a great, queer-shaped lump of ice all around the bottom of the Pole--clear, smooth, shining ice, that was deep, beautiful Prussian blue, like icebergs, in the thick parts, and all sorts of wonderful, glimmery, shimmery, changing colors in the thin parts, like the cut-glass chandelier in Grandmamma's house in London. "It is a very curious shape," said Jane. "It's almost like"--she moved back a step to get a better view of it--"it's almost like a dragon." "It's much more like the lampposts on the Thames Embankment," said George, who had noticed a curly thing like a tail that went twisting up the North Pole. "Oh, George," cried Jane, "it _is_ a dragon; I can see its wings. Whatever shall we do?" And, sure enough, it _was_ a dragon--a great, shining, winged, scaly, clawy, big-mouthed dragon--made of pure ice. It must have gone to sleep curled around the hole where the warm steam used to come up from the middle of the earth, and then when the earth got colder, and the column of steam froze and was turned into the North Pole, the dragon must have got frozen in his sleep--frozen too hard to move--and there he stayed. And though he was very terrible he was very beautiful too. Jane said so, but George said, "Oh, don't bother; I'm thinking how to get onto the Pole and try the compass without waking the brute."

The dragon certainly was beautiful, with his deep, clear Prussian blueness, and his rainbow-colored glitter. And rising from within the cold coil of the frozen dragon the North Pole shot up like a pillar made of one great diamond, and every now and then it cracked a little, from sheer cold. The sound of the cracking was the only thing that broke the great white silence in the midst of which the dragon lay like an enormous jewel, and the straight flames went up all around him like the stalks of tall lilies. And as the children stood there looking at the most wonderful sight their eyes had ever seen, there was a soft padding of feet and a hurry-scurry behind them, and from the outside darkness beyond the flame-stalks came a crowd of little brown creatures running, jumping, scrambling, tumbling head over heels and on all fours, and some even walking on their heads. They joined hands as they came near the fires and danced around in a ring. "It's bears," said Jane. "I know it is. Oh, how I wish we hadn't come; and my boots are so wet." The dancing-ring broke up suddenly, and the next moment hundreds of furry arms clutched at George and Jane, and they found themselves in the middle of a great, soft, heaving crowd of little fat people in brown fur dresses, and the white silence was quite gone. "Bears, indeed," cried a shrill voice. "You'll wish we were bears before you've done with us." This sounded so dreadful that Jane began to cry. Up to now the children had only seen the most beautiful and wondrous things, but now they began to be sorry they had done what they were told not to, and the difference between "lawn" and "grass" did not seem so great as it had at Forest Hill. Directly Jane began to cry, all the brown people started back. No one cries in the Arctic regions for fear of being struck by the frost. So that these people had never seen anyone cry before.


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