FictionForest

Chapter 15

L. Frank BaumOct 04, 2016'Command+D' Bookmark this page

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It was a beautiful evening, so they drew their camp chairs in a circle
before one of the tents and began to tell stories to amuse themselves
and pass away the time before they went to bed.

Pretty soon a zebra was seen coming out of the forest, and he trotted
straight up to them and said politely:

“Good evening, people.”

The zebra was a sleek little animal and had a slender head, a stubby
mane and a paint-brush tail–very like a donkey’s. His neatly shaped
white body was covered with regular bars of dark brown, and his hoofs
were delicate as those of a deer.

“Good evening, friend Zebra,” said Omby Amby, in reply to the
creature’s greeting. “Can we do anything for you?”

“Yes,” answered the zebra. “I should like you to settle a dispute
that has long been a bother to me, as to whether there is more water
or land in the world.”

“Who are you disputing with?” asked the Wizard.

“With a soft-shell crab,” said the zebra. “He lives in a pool where I
go to drink every day, and he is a very impertinent crab, I assure
you. I have told him many times that the land is much greater in
extent than the water, but he will not be convinced. Even this very
evening, when I told him he was an insignificant creature who lived in
a small pool, he asserted that the water was greater and more
important than the land. So, seeing your camp, I decided to ask you to
settle the dispute for once and all, that I may not be further annoyed
by this ignorant crab.”

When they had listened to this explanation Dorothy inquired:

“Where is the soft-shell crab?”

“Not far away,” replied the zebra. “If you will agree to judge
between us I will run and get him.”

“Run along, then,” said the little girl.

So the animal pranced into the forest and soon came trotting back to
them. When he drew near they found a soft-shell crab clinging fast
to the stiff hair of the zebra’s head, where it held on by one claw.

“Now then, Mr. Crab,” said the zebra, “here are the people I told you
about; and they know more than you do, who lives in a pool, and more
than I do, who lives in a forest. For they have been travelers all
over the world, and know every part of it.”

“There is more of the world than Oz,” declared the crab,
in a stubborn voice.

“That is true,” said Dorothy; “but I used to live in Kansas, in the
United States, and I’ve been to California and to Australia and so
has Uncle Henry.”

“For my part,” added the Shaggy Man, “I’ve been to Mexico and Boston
and many other foreign countries.”

“And I,” said the Wizard, “have been to Europe and Ireland.”

“So you see,” continued the zebra, addressing the crab, “here are
people of real consequence, who know what they are talking about.”

“Then they know there’s more water in the world than there is land,”
asserted the crab, in a shrill, petulant voice.

“They know you are wrong to make such an absurd statement, and they will
probably think you are a lobster instead of a crab,” retorted the animal.

At this taunt the crab reached out its other claw and seized the
zebra’s ear, and the creature gave a cry of pain and began prancing up
and down, trying to shake off the crab, which clung fast.

“Stop pinching!” cried the zebra. “You promised not to pinch if I
would carry you here!”

“And you promised to treat me respectfully,” said the crab, letting go
the ear.

“Well, haven’t I?” demanded the zebra.

“No; you called me a lobster,” said the crab.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” continued the zebra, “please pardon my poor
friend, because he is ignorant and stupid, and does not understand.
Also the pinch of his claw is very annoying. So pray tell him that
the world contains more land than water, and when he has heard your
judgment I will carry him back and dump him into his pool, where I
hope he will be more modest in the future.”

“But we cannot tell him that,” said Dorothy, gravely, “because it
would not be true.”

“What!” exclaimed the zebra, in astonishment; “do I hear you aright?”

“The soft-shell crab is correct,” declared the Wizard. “There is
considerably more water than there is land in the world.”

“Impossible!” protested the zebra. “Why, I can run for days upon the
land, and find but little water.”

“Did you ever see an ocean?” asked Dorothy.

“Never,” admitted the zebra. “There is no such thing as an ocean in
the Land of Oz.”

“Well, there are several oceans in the world,” said Dorothy, “and
people sail in ships upon these oceans for weeks and weeks, and never
see a bit of land at all. And the joggerfys will tell you that all
the oceans put together are bigger than all the land put together.”

At this the crab began laughing in queer chuckles that reminded
Dorothy of the way Billina sometimes cackled.

“NOW will you give up, Mr. Zebra?” it cried, jeeringly; “now will
you give up?”

The zebra seemed much humbled.

“Of course I cannot read geographys,” he said.

“You could take one of the Wizard’s School Pills,” suggested Billina,
“and that would make you learned and wise without studying.”

The crab began laughing again, which so provoked the zebra that he
tried to shake the little creature off. This resulted in more
ear-pinching, and finally Dorothy told them that if they could not
behave they must go back to the forest.

“I’m sorry I asked you to decide this question,” said the zebra,
crossly. “So long as neither of us could prove we were right we
quite enjoyed the dispute; but now I can never drink at that pool
again without the soft-shell crab laughing at me. So I must find
another drinking place.”

“Do! Do, you ignoramus!” shouted the crab, as loudly as his little
voice would carry. “Rile some other pool with your clumsy hoofs,
and let your betters alone after this!”

Then the zebra trotted back to the forest, bearing the crab with him,
and disappeared amid the gloom of the trees. And as it was now getting
dark the travelers said good night to one another and went to bed.

Dorothy awoke just as the light was beginning to get strong next
morning, and not caring to sleep any later she quietly got out of
bed, dressed herself, and left the tent where Aunt Em was yet
peacefully slumbering.

Outside she noticed Billina busily pecking around to secure bugs or
other food for breakfast, but none of the men in the other tent seemed
awake. So the little girl decided to take a walk in the woods and try
to discover some path or road that they might follow when they again
started upon their journey.

She had reached the edge of the forest when the Yellow Hen came
fluttering along and asked where she was going.

“Just to take a walk, Billina; and maybe I’ll find some path,”
said Dorothy.

“Then I’ll go along,” decided Billina, and scarcely had she spoken
when Toto ran up and joined them.

Toto and the Yellow Hen had become quite friendly by this time,
although at first they did not get along well together. Billina had
been rather suspicious of dogs, and Toto had had an idea that it was
every dog’s duty to chase a hen on sight. But Dorothy had talked to
them and scolded them for not being agreeable to one another until
they grew better acquainted and became friends.

I won’t say they loved each other dearly, but at least they had
stopped quarreling and now managed to get on together very well.

The day was growing lighter every minute and driving the black shadows
out of the forest; so Dorothy found it very pleasant walking under the
trees. She went some distance in one direction, but not finding a
path, presently turned in a different direction. There was no path
here, either, although she advanced quite a way into the forest,
winding here and there among the trees and peering through the bushes
in an endeavor to find some beaten track.

“I think we’d better go back,” suggested the Yellow Hen, after a time.
“The people will all be up by this time and breakfast will be ready.”

“Very well,” agreed Dorothy. “Let’s see–the camp must be over this way.”

She had probably made a mistake about that, for after they had gone
far enough to have reached the camp they still found themselves in the
thick of the woods. So the little girl stopped short and looked
around her, and Toto glanced up into her face with his bright little
eyes and wagged his tail as if he knew something was wrong. He
couldn’t tell much about direction himself, because he had spent his
time prowling among the bushes and running here and there; nor had
Billina paid much attention to where they were going, being interested
in picking bugs from the moss as they passed along. The Yellow Hen
now turned one eye up toward the little girl and asked:

“Have you forgotten where the camp is, Dorothy?”

“Yes,” she admitted; “have you, Billina?”

“I didn’t try to remember,” returned Billina. “I’d no idea you would
get lost, Dorothy.”

“It’s the thing we don’t expect, Billina, that usually happens,”
observed the girl, thoughtfully. “But it’s no use standing here.
Let’s go in that direction,” pointing a finger at random. “It may be
we’ll get out of the forest over there.”

So on they went again, but this way the trees were closer together,
and the vines were so tangled that often they tripped Dorothy up.

Suddenly a voice cried sharply:

“Halt!”

At first, Dorothy could see nothing, although she looked around very
carefully. But Billina exclaimed:

“Well, I declare!”

“What is it?” asked the little girl: for Toto began barking at
something, and following his gaze she discovered what it was.

A row of spoons had surrounded the three, and these spoons stood
straight up on their handles and carried swords and muskets. Their
faces were outlined in the polished bowls and they looked very stern
and severe.

Dorothy laughed at the queer things.

“Who are you?” she asked.

“We’re the Spoon Brigade,” said one.

“In the service of his Majesty King Kleaver,” said another.

“And you are our prisoners,” said a third.

Dorothy sat down on an old stump and looked at them, her eyes
twinkling with amusement.

“What would happen,” she inquired, “if I should set my dog
on your Brigade?”

“He would die,” replied one of the spoons, sharply. “One shot from
our deadly muskets would kill him, big as he is.”

“Don’t risk it, Dorothy,” advised the Yellow Hen. “Remember this is
a fairy country, yet none of us three happens to be a fairy.”

Dorothy grew sober at this.

“P’raps you’re right, Billina,” she answered. “But how funny it is,
to be captured by a lot of spoons!”

“I do not see anything very funny about it,” declared a spoon. “We’re
the regular military brigade of the kingdom.”

“What kingdom?” she asked.

“Utensia,” said he.

“I never heard of it before,” asserted Dorothy. Then she added
thoughtfully, “I don’t believe Ozma ever heard of Utensia, either.
Tell me, are you not subjects of Ozma of Oz?”

“We have never heard of her,” retorted a spoon. “We are subjects of
King Kleaver, and obey only his orders, which are to bring all
prisoners to him as soon as they are captured. So step lively, my
girl, and march with us, or we may be tempted to cut off a few of your
toes with our swords.”

This threat made Dorothy laugh again. She did not believe she was in
any danger; but here was a new and interesting adventure, so she was
willing to be taken to Utensia that she might see what King Kleaver’s
kingdom was like.

 

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