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THE ISLAND OF DEMONS
At last Peach-boy and his companions came to the sea. They looked off across the water in the direction which he told them the island lay whose demon inhabitants he and they were to destroy, and saw nothing but waves. The dog, the monkey, and the pheasant are all creatures that live on dry land, and though the steepest cliff and deepest valley could not frighten them, yet when they saw that endless stretch of rolling waves, they stood speechless and fearful.
Peach-boy observed this and said in a loud voice: “My vassals, why do you tremble? Does the ocean frighten you? It would have been better to have come alone than to have picked up such companions. But now I will dismiss you. Return!” They were much pained at hearing these reproaches, and they clung to him beseeching him not to send them away. Apparently they were plucking up courage, and he consented to retain them.
He had them help prepare a boat, and they set sail with the first favorable wind. The shore behind them was soon lost to sight, and for a while the animals were very unhappy. But they gradually became accustomed to the motion and presently stood on deck eagerly looking ahead to see the island as soon as it came into view. When they wearied of that they began to show their accomplishments. The dog sat up and begged, the monkey played tricks, and the pheasant sang a song.
Their performances greatly amused Peach-boy, and before he knew it the island was close at hand. On it he could see numerous flags fluttering above what seemed to be an impregnable fortress. This fortress had a heavy gate of iron, and inside were many closely-crowded. houses, all of which had iron roofs.
Peach-boy turned to the pheasant and said: “You have wings. Fly to the fortress and find out what those island demons are doing.”
The pheasant promptly obeyed his orders and found the demons, some of them red, some black, some blue, assembled on the iron roofs of their houses. “Listen, you island demons!” the pheasant cried. “A mighty warrior is coming with an army to destroy you. If you wish to save your lives, yield at once.”
“You vain pheasant!” the demons laughed, “it is you who will be destroyed — not us.”
So saying, they shook their horns at him, girded up their garments of tiger-skin, and seized their weapons. But that did not scare the pheasant. He swooped down and with one peck took off the head of a red demon.
Then began a fierce battle, and soon the gate burst open, and Peach-boy with the dog and monkey rushed in raging like lions. The demons, who thought that they only had to do with one bird, were much alarmed, yet they fought bravely, and even their children joined in the fray. The sound of their yells as it mingled with the sound of the waves beating on the shore was truly terrible.
In the end they got the worst of it. Some fell from the roofs of their houses, the walls of the fortress, and the wild cliffs, and some were killed by the irresistible onslaughts of Peach-boy, and of the dog, the monkey, and the pheasant.
When, at last, only the head demon remained alive, he threw away his weapons, and knelt in submission before Peach-boy with the tears streaming down his cheeks. “Great warrior,” he said, “spare my life! From today I shall reform. Spare me!”
Peach-boy laughed scornfully. “You villain!” he cried, “for many years you have persecuted and killed innocent people; and now that your own life is in danger you beg for mercy and promise to reform. You deserve no mercy, and shall receive none.”
So the head demon shared the fate of the rest of his tribe, and Peach-boy and his comrades loaded their boat with the hoarded island treasures. There were coral and tortoise and pearls, not to speak of magic hats sand coats that made their wearers invisible.
All these things they carried away, and great was the joy of the old man and old woman when they saw Peach-boy return victorious. After that he and they lived happily to the end of their days.