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From The Book of Dragons by Edith Nesbit.
Start of Story
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
"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
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
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
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!