It would be impossible to describe the amazement of the people of Nole when the Roly-Rogues came upon them. Not only was the descent wholly unexpected, but the appearance of the invaders was queer enough to strike terror to the stoutest heart. Their round bodies were supported by short, strong legs having broad, flattened feet to keep them steady. Their arms were short, and the fingers of their hands, while not long, were very powerful.
But the heads were the most startling portions of these strange creatures. They were flat and thick on the top, with leathery rolls around their necks; so that, when the head was drawn in, its upper part rounded out the surface of the ball. In this peculiar head the Roly-Rogue had two big eyes as shiny as porcelain, a small, stubby nose, and a huge mouth. Their strange, leather-like clothing fitted their bodies closely and was of different colors -- green, yellow, red and brown.
Taken altogether, the Roly-Rogues were not pretty to look at, and although their big eyes gave them a startled or astonished expression, nothing seemed ever to startle or astonish them in the least. When they arrived in the valley of Nole, they scrambled to their feet, extended their long arms with the thorns clasped tight in their talon-like fingers, and rushed in a furious crowd and with loud cries upon the terror-stricken people.
The soldiers of Tollydob's brave army had not even time to seize their weapons, for such a foe coming upon them through the air had never been dreamed of. And the men of Nole, who might have resisted the enemy, were too much frightened to do more than tremble violently and gasp with open mouths. As for the women and children, they fled screaming into the houses and bolted or locked the doors, which was doubtless the wisest thing they could have done.
General Tollydob was asleep when the calamity of this invasion occurred, but hearing the shouts, he ran out of his mansion and met several of the Roly-Rogues face to face. Without hesitation the brave general rushed upon them, but two of the creatures promptly rolled themselves against him from opposite directions so that the ten-foot giant was crushed between them until there was not a particle of breath left in his body. No sooner did these release him than two other Roly-Rogues rolled toward him; but Tollydob was not to be caught twice, so he gave a mighty jump and jumped right over their heads, with the result that the balls crashed against each other.
This made the two Roly-Rogues so angry that they began to fight each other savagely, and the general started to run away. But other foes rolled after him, knocked him down and stuck their thorns into him until he yelled for mercy and promised to become their slave.
Tullydub, the chief counselor, watched all this from his window, and it frightened him so greatly that he crawled under his bed and hid, hoping the creatures would not find him. But their big, round eyes were sharp at discovering things, so the Roly-Rogues had not been in Tullydub's room two minutes before he was dragged from beneath his bed and prodded with thorns until he promised obedience to his conquerors.
The lord high pursebearer at the first alarm dug a hole in the garden of the royal palace and buried his purse so no one could find it but himself. But he might have saved himself this trouble, for the Roly-Rogues knew nothing of money or its uses, being accustomed to seizing whatever they desired without a thought of rendering payment for it. Having buried his purse, old Tillydib gave himself up to the invaders as their prisoner, and this saved him the indignity of being conquered.
The lord high executioner may really be credited with making the only serious fight of the day, for when the Roly-Rogues came upon him, Tellydeb seized his ax, and before the enemy could come near, he reached out his long arm and cleverly sliced the heads off several of their round bodies. The others paused for a moment, being unused to such warfare and not understanding how an arm could reach so far.
But seeing their heads were in danger, about a hundred of the creatures formed themselves into balls and rolled upon the executioner in a straight line, hoping to crush him. They could not see what happened after they began to roll, their heads being withdrawn, but Tellydeb watched them speed toward him and stepping aside, he aimed a strong blow with his ax at the body of the first Roly-Rogue that passed him. Instead of cutting the rubber-like body, the ax bounded back and flew from Tellydeb's hand into the air, falling farther away than the long arm of the executioner could reach. Therefore he was left helpless and was wise enough to surrender without further resistance.
Finding no one else to resist them, the Roly-Rogues contented themselves with bounding against the terrorized people, great and humble alike, and knocking them over, laughing boisterously at the figures sprawling in the mud of the streets. And then they would prick the bodies of the men with their sharp thorns, making them spring to their feet again with shrieks of fear, only to be bowled over again the next minute.
But the monsters soon grew weary of this amusement, for they were anxious to explore the city they had so successfully invaded. They flocked into the palace and public buildings and gazed eagerly at the many beautiful and, to them, novel things that were found. The mirrors delighted them, and they fought one another for the privilege of standing before the glasses to admire the reflections of their horrid bodies.
They could not sit in the chairs, for the round bodies would not fit them; neither could the Roly-Rogues understand the use of beds. For when they rested or slept, the creatures merely withdrew their limbs and heads, rolled over upon their backs, and slept soundly no matter where they might be.
The shops were all entered and robbed of their wares, the Roly-Rogues wantonly destroying all that they could not use. They were like ostriches in eating anything that looked attractive to them; one of the monsters swallowed several pretty glass beads, and some of the more inquisitive of them invaded the grocery shops and satisfied their curiosity by tasting of nearly everything in sight. It was funny to see their wry faces when they sampled the salt and vinegar.
Presently the entire city was under the dominion of the Roly-Rogues, who forced the unhappy people to wait upon them and amuse them; and if any hesitated to obey their commands, the monsters would bump against them, pull their hair, and make them suffer most miserably. Aunt Rivette was in her room at the top of the palace when the Roly-Rogues invaded the city of Nole. At first she was as much frightened as the others, but she soon remembered she could escape the creatures by flying, so she quietly watched them from the windows. By and by, as they explored the palace, they came to Aunt Rivette's room and broke in the door, but the old woman calmly stepped out of her window upon a little iron balcony, spread her great wings, and flew away before the Roly-Rogues could catch her.
Then she soared calmly through the air, and having remembered that Bud and Fluff had gone to the river on a picnic, she flew swiftly in that direction and before long came to where the children and old Tallydab were eating their luncheon, while the dog Ruffles, who was in good spirits, sang a comic song to amuse them.
They were much surprised to see Aunt Rivette flying toward them, but when she alighted and told Bud that his kingdom had been conquered by the Roly-Rogues and all his people enslaved, the little party was so astonished that they stared at one another in speechless amazement. "Oh, Bud, what shall we do?" finally asked Fluff in distress.
"Don't know," said Bud, struggling to swallow a large piece of sandwich that in his excitement had stuck fast in his throat.
"One thing is certain," remarked Aunt Rivette, helping herself to a slice of cake, "our happy lives are now ruined forever. We should be foolish to remain here, and the sooner we escape to some other country where the Roly-Rogues cannot find us, the safer we shall be."
"But why run away?" asked Bud. "Can't something else be done? Here, Tallydab, you're one of my counselors. What do you say about this affair?"
Now the lord high steward was a deliberate old fellow, and before he replied he dusted the crumbs from his lap, filled and lighted his long pipe, and smoked several whiffs in a thoughtful manner. "It strikes me," said he at last, "that by means of the Princess Fluff's magic cloak we can either destroy or scatter these rascally invaders and restore the kingdom to peace and prosperity."
"Sure enough!" replied Bud. "Why didn't we think of that before?"
"You will have to make the wish, Bud," said Fluff, "for all the rest of us have wished, and you have not made yours yet."
"All right," answered the king. "If I must, I must. But I'm sorry I have to do it now, for I was saving my wish for something else."
"But where's the cloak?" asked the dog, rudely breaking into the conversation. "You can't wish without the cloak."
"The cloak is locked up in a drawer in my room at the palace," said Fluff.
"And our enemies have possession of the palace," continued Tallydab gloomily. "Was there ever such ill luck!"
"Never mind," said Aunt Rivette. "I'll fly back and get it. That is, if the Roly-Rogues have not already broken open the drawer and discovered the cloak."
"Please go at once, then!" exclaimed Fluff. "Here is the key." And she unfastened it from the chain at her neck and handed it to her aunt. "But be careful, whatever you do, that those horrible creatures do not catch you."
"I'm not afraid," said Aunt Rivette confidently. And taking the key, the old lady at once flew away in the direction of the city of Nole, promising to return very soon.