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Ice dragon.

From The Book of Dragons by Edith Nesbit.

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The dwarfs did not see their danger till it was too late. Then they called for camphor and bitter apple and oil of lavender and yellow soap and borax; and some of the dwarfs even started to get these things, but long before any of them could get to the chemist's, all was over. The moths ate and ate and ate till the sealskin dwarfs, being sealskin throughout, even to the empty hearts of them, were eaten down to the very life--and they fell one by one on the snow and so came to their end. And all around the North Pole the snow was brown with their flat bare pelts. "Oh, thank you--thank you, darling Arctic moth," cried Jane. "You are good--I do hope you haven't eaten enough to disagree with you afterward!" Millions of moth voices answered, with laughter as soft as moth wings, "We should be a poor set of fellows if we couldn't over eat ourselves once in a while--to oblige a friend." And off they all fluttered, and the white grouse flew off, and the sealskin dwarfs were all dead, and the fires went out, and George and Jane were left alone in the dark with the dragon! "Oh, dear," said Jane, "this is the worst of all!" "We've no friends left to help us," said George. He never thought that the dragon himself might help them--but then that was an idea that would never have occurred to any boy. It grew colder and colder and colder, and even under the grouse feathers the children shivered. Then, when it was so cold that it could not manage to be any colder without breaking the thermometer, it stopped. And then the dragon uncurled himself from around the North Pole, and stretched his long, icy length over the snow, and said: "This is something like! How faint those fires did make me feel!"



The fact was, the sealskin dwarfs had gone the wrong way to work: The dragon had been frozen so long that now he was nothing but solid ice all through, and the fires only made him feel as if he were going to die. But when the fires were out he felt quite well, and very hungry. He looked around for something to eat. But he never noticed George and Jane, because they were frozen to his back. He moved slowly off, and the snow-wreaths that bound the children to the Pole gave way with a snap, and there was the dragon, crawling south--with Jane and George on his great, scaly, icy shining back. Of course the dragon had to go south if he went anywhere, because when you get to the North Pole there is no other way to go. The dragon rattled and tinkled as he went, exactly like the cut-glass chandelier when you touch it, as you are strictly forbidden to do. Of course there are a million ways of going south from the North Pole--so you will own that it was lucky for George and Jane when the dragon took the right way and suddenly got his heavy feet on the great slide. Off he went, full speed, between the starry lamps, toward Forest Hill and the Crystal Palace. "He's going to take us home," said Jane. "Oh, he is a good dragon. I _am_ glad!" George was rather glad too, though neither of the children felt at all sure of their welcome, especially as their feet were wet, and they were bringing a strange dragon home with them.



They went very fast, because dragons can go uphill as easily as down. You would not understand why if I told you--because you are only in long division at present; yet if you want me to tell you, so that you can show off to other children, I will. It is because dragons can get their tails into the fourth dimension and hold on there, and when you can do that everything else is easy. The dragon went very fast, only stopping to eat the collector and the sportsman, who were still struggling to go up the slide--vainly, because they had no tails, and had never even heard of the fourth dimension. When the dragon got to the end of the slide he crawled very slowly across the dark field beyond the field where there was a bonfire, next to the next-door garden at Forest Hill. * * * * * He went slower and slower, and in the bonfire field he stopped altogether, and because the Arctic regions had not got down so far as that, and because the bonfire was very hot, the dragon began to melt and melt and melt--and before the children knew what he was doing they found themselves sitting in a large pool of water, and their boots were as wet as wet, and there was not a bit of dragon left! So they went indoors. Of course some grown-up or other noticed at once that the boots of George and Jane were wet and muddy, and that they had both been sitting down in a very damp place, so they were sent to bed immediately. It was long past their time, anyhow. Now, if you are of an inquiring mind--not at all a nice thing in a little child who reads fairy tales--you will want to know how it is that since the sealskin dwarfs have all been killed, and the fires all been let out, the Aurora Borealis shines, on cold nights, as brightly as ever.



My dear, I do not know! I am not too proud to own that there are some things I know nothing about--and this is one of them. But I do know that whoever has lighted those fires again, it is certainly not the sealskin dwarfs. They were all eaten by moths--and motheaten things are of no use, even to light fires!

       



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