Dorothy Gale lived on a farm in Kansas, with her Aunt Em and her Uncle
Henry. It was not a big farm, nor a very good one, because sometimes
the rain did not come when the crops needed it, and then everything
withered and dried up. Once a cyclone had carried away Uncle Henry’s
house, so that he was obliged to build another; and as he was a poor
man he had to mortgage his farm to get the money to pay for the new
house. Then his health became bad and he was too feeble to work.
The doctor ordered him to take a sea voyage and he went to Australia
and took Dorothy with him. That cost a lot of money, too.
Uncle Henry grew poorer every year, and the crops raised on the farm
only bought food for the family. Therefore the mortgage could not be
paid. At last the banker who had loaned him the money said that if he
did not pay on a certain day, his farm would be taken away from him.
This worried Uncle Henry a good deal, for without the farm he would
have no way to earn a living. He was a good man, and worked in the
field as hard as he could; and Aunt Em did all the housework, with
Dorothy’s help. Yet they did not seem to get along.
This little girl, Dorothy, was like dozens of little girls you know.
She was loving and usually sweet-tempered, and had a round rosy face
and earnest eyes. Life was a serious thing to Dorothy, and a
wonderful thing, too, for she had encountered more strange adventures
in her short life than many other girls of her age.
Aunt Em once said she thought the fairies must have marked Dorothy at
her birth, because she had wandered into strange places and had always
been protected by some unseen power. As for Uncle Henry, he thought
his little niece merely a dreamer, as her dead mother had been, for he
could not quite believe all the curious stories Dorothy told them of
the Land of Oz, which she had several times visited. He did not think
that she tried to deceive her uncle and aunt, but he imagined that she
had dreamed all of those astonishing adventures, and that the dreams
had been so real to her that she had come to believe them true.
Whatever the explanation might be, it was certain that Dorothy had
been absent from her Kansas home for several long periods, always
disappearing unexpectedly, yet always coming back safe and sound, with
amazing tales of where she had been and the unusual people she had
met. Her uncle and aunt listened to her stories eagerly and in spite
of their doubts began to feel that the little girl had gained a lot of
experience and wisdom that were unaccountable in this age, when
fairies are supposed no longer to exist.
Most of Dorothy’s stories were about the Land of Oz, with its
beautiful Emerald City and a lovely girl Ruler named Ozma, who was the
most faithful friend of the little Kansas girl. When Dorothy told
about the riches of this fairy country Uncle Henry would sigh, for he
knew that a single one of the great emeralds that were so common there
would pay all his debts and leave his farm free. But Dorothy never
brought any jewels home with her, so their poverty became greater
When the banker told Uncle Henry that he must pay the money in thirty
days or leave the farm, the poor man was in despair, as he knew he
could not possibly get the money. So he told his wife, Aunt Em, of
his trouble, and she first cried a little and then said that they must
be brave and do the best they could, and go away somewhere and try to
earn an honest living. But they were getting old and feeble and she
feared that they could not take care of Dorothy as well as they had
formerly done. Probably the little girl would also be obliged to go
They did not tell their niece the sad news for several days,
not wishing to make her unhappy; but one morning the little girl
found Aunt Em softly crying while Uncle Henry tried to comfort her.
Then Dorothy asked them to tell her what was the matter.
“We must give up the farm, my dear,” replied her uncle sadly, “and
wander away into the world to work for our living.”
The girl listened quite seriously, for she had not known before how
desperately poor they were.
“We don’t mind for ourselves,” said her aunt, stroking the little
girl’s head tenderly; “but we love you as if you were our own child,
and we are heart-broken to think that you must also endure poverty,
and work for a living before you have grown big and strong.”
“What could I do to earn money?” asked Dorothy.
“You might do housework for some one, dear, you are so handy; or
perhaps you could be a nurse-maid to little children. I’m sure I don’t
know exactly what you CAN do to earn money, but if your uncle and I
are able to support you we will do it willingly, and send you to
school. We fear, though, that we shall have much trouble in earning a
living for ourselves. No one wants to employ old people who are
broken down in health, as we are.”
“Wouldn’t it be funny,” she said, “for me to do housework in Kansas,
when I’m a Princess in the Land of Oz?”
“A Princess!” they both exclaimed, astonished.
“Yes; Ozma made me a Princess some time ago, and she has often begged
me to come and live always in the Emerald City,” said the child.
Her uncle and aunt looked at her in amazement. Then the man said:
“Do you suppose you could manage to return to your fairyland, my dear?”
“Oh yes,” replied Dorothy; “I could do that easily.”
“How?” asked Aunt Em.
“Ozma sees me every day at four o’clock, in her Magic Picture. She can
see me wherever I am, no matter what I am doing. And at that time, if
I make a certain secret sign, she will send for me by means of the
Magic Belt, which I once captured from the Nome King. Then, in the
wink of an eye, I shall be with Ozma in her palace.”
The elder people remained silent for some time after Dorothy had
spoken. Finally, Aunt Em said, with another sigh of regret:
“If that is the case, Dorothy, perhaps you’d better go and live in the
Emerald City. It will break our hearts to lose you from our lives,
but you will be so much better off with your fairy friends that it
seems wisest and best for you to go.”
“I’m not so sure about that,” remarked Uncle Henry, shaking his gray
head doubtfully. “These things all seem real to Dorothy, I know; but
I’m afraid our little girl won’t find her fairyland just what she had
dreamed it to be. It would make me very unhappy to think that she was
wandering among strangers who might be unkind to her.”
Dorothy laughed merrily at this speech, and then she became very sober
again, for she could see how all this trouble was worrying her aunt
and uncle, and knew that unless she found a way to help them their
future lives would be quite miserable and unhappy. She knew that she
COULD help them. She had thought of a way already. Yet she did not
tell them at once what it was, because she must ask Ozma’s consent
before she would be able to carry out her plans.
So she only said:
“If you will promise not to worry a bit about me, I’ll go to the Land
of Oz this very afternoon. And I’ll make a promise, too; that you shall
both see me again before the day comes when you must leave this farm.”
“The day isn’t far away, now,” her uncle sadly replied. “I did not
tell you of our trouble until I was obliged to, dear Dorothy, so the
evil time is near at hand. But if you are quite sure your fairy
friends will give you a home, it will be best for you to go to them,
as your aunt says.”
That was why Dorothy went to her little room in the attic that
afternoon, taking with her a small dog named Toto. The dog had curly
black hair and big brown eyes and loved Dorothy very dearly.
The child had kissed her uncle and aunt affectionately before she went
upstairs, and now she looked around her little room rather wistfully,
gazing at the simple trinkets and worn calico and gingham dresses, as
if they were old friends. She was tempted at first to make a bundle
of them, yet she knew very well that they would be of no use to her in
her future life.
She sat down upon a broken-backed chair–the only one the room
contained–and holding Toto in her arms waited patiently until the
clock struck four.
Then she made the secret signal that had been agreed upon between
her and Ozma.
Uncle Henry and Aunt Em waited downstairs. They were uneasy and a
good deal excited, for this is a practical humdrum world, and it
seemed to them quite impossible that their little niece could vanish
from her home and travel instantly to fairyland.
So they watched the stairs, which seemed to be the only way that Dorothy
could get out of the farmhouse, and they watched them a long time. They
heard the clock strike four but there was no sound from above.
Half-past four came, and now they were too impatient to wait
any longer. Softly, they crept up the stairs to the door of the
little girl’s room.
“Dorothy! Dorothy!” they called.
There was no answer.
They opened the door and looked in.
The room was empty.