FictionForest

Chapter 24

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

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The Tin Woodman received Princess Dorothy’s party with much grace and
cordiality, yet the little girl decided that something must be
worrying with her old friend, because he was not so merry as usual.

But at first she said nothing about this, for Uncle Henry and Aunt Em
were fairly bubbling over with admiration for the beautiful tin castle
and its polished tin owner. So her suspicion that something
unpleasant had happened was for a time forgotten.

“Where is the Scarecrow?” she asked, when they had all been ushered
into the big tin drawing-room of the castle, the Sawhorse being led
around to the tin stable in the rear.

“Why, our old friend has just moved into his new mansion,” explained
the Tin Woodman. “It has been a long time in building, although my
Winkies and many other people from all parts of the country have been
busily working upon it. At last, however, it is completed, and the
Scarecrow took possession of his new home just two days ago.”

“I hadn’t heard that he wanted a home of his own,” said Dorothy.
“Why doesn’t he live with Ozma in the Emerald City? He used to,
you know; and I thought he was happy there.”

“It seems,” said the Tin Woodman, “that our dear Scarecrow cannot be
contented with city life, however beautiful his surroundings might be.
Originally he was a farmer, for he passed his early life in a
cornfield, where he was supposed to frighten away the crows.”

“I know,” said Dorothy, nodding. “I found him, and lifted him down
from his pole.”

“So now, after a long residence in the Emerald City, his tastes have
turned to farm life again,” continued the Tin Man. “He feels that he
cannot be happy without a farm of his own, so Ozma gave him some land
and every one helped him build his mansion, and now he is settled
there for good.”

“Who designed his house?” asked the Shaggy Man.

“I believe it was Jack Pumpkinhead, who is also a farmer,”
was the reply.

They were now invited to enter the tin dining room, where luncheon
was served.

Aunt Em found, to her satisfaction, that Dorothy’s promise was
more than fulfilled; for, although the Tin Woodman had no appetite of
his own, he respected the appetites of his guests and saw that they
were bountifully fed.

They passed the afternoon in wandering through the beautiful gardens
and grounds of the palace. The walks were all paved with sheets of
tin, brightly polished, and there were tin fountains and tin statues
here and there among the trees. The flowers were mostly natural
flowers and grew in the regular way; but their host showed them one
flower bed which was his especial pride.

“You see, all common flowers fade and die in time,” he explained, “and
so there are seasons when the pretty blooms are scarce. Therefore I
decided to make one tin flower bed all of tin flowers, and my workmen
have created them with rare skill. Here you see tin camelias, tin
marigolds, tin carnations, tin poppies and tin hollyhocks growing as
naturally as if they were real.”

Indeed, they were a pretty sight, and glistened under the sunlight
like spun silver. “Isn’t this tin hollyhock going to seed?” asked the
Wizard, bending over the flowers.

“Why, I believe it is!” exclaimed the Tin Woodman, as if surprised. “I
hadn’t noticed that before. But I shall plant the tin seeds and raise
another bed of tin hollyhocks.”

In one corner of the gardens Nick Chopper had established a
fish-pond in which they saw swimming and disporting themselves
many pretty tin fishes.

“Would they bite on hooks?” asked Aunt Em, curiously.

The Tin Woodman seemed hurt at this question.

“Madam,” said he, “do you suppose I would allow anyone to catch my
beautiful fishes, even if they were foolish enough to bite on hooks?
No, indeed! Every created thing is safe from harm in my domain, and I
would as soon think of killing my little friend Dorothy as killing one
of my tin fishes.”

“The Emperor is very kind-hearted, ma’am,” explained the Wizard. “If
a fly happens to light upon his tin body he doesn’t rudely brush it
off, as some people might do; he asks it politely to find some other
resting place.”

“What does the fly do then?” enquired Aunt Em.

“Usually it begs his pardon and goes away,” said the Wizard, gravely.
“Flies like to be treated politely as well as other creatures, and
here in Oz they understand what we say to them, and behave very nicely.”

“Well,” said Aunt Em, “the flies in Kansas, where I came from, don’t
understand anything but a swat. You have to smash ’em to make ’em
behave; and it’s the same way with ‘skeeters. Do you have ‘skeeters
in Oz?”

“We have some very large mosquitoes here, which sing as beautifully as
song birds,” replied the Tin Woodman. “But they never bite or annoy
our people, because they are well fed and taken care of. The reason
they bite people in your country is because they are hungry–poor things!”

“Yes,” agreed Aunt Em; “they’re hungry, all right. An’ they ain’t
very particular who they feed on. I’m glad you’ve got the ‘skeeters
educated in Oz.”

That evening after dinner they were entertained by the Emperor’s Tin
Cornet Band, which played for them several sweet melodies. Also the
Wizard did a few sleight-of-hand tricks to amuse the company; after
which they all retired to their cozy tin bedrooms and slept soundly
until morning.

After breakfast Dorothy said to the Tin Woodman:

“If you’ll tell us which way to go we’ll visit the Scarecrow on
our way home.”

“I will go with you, and show you the way,” replied the Emperor;
“for I must journey to-day to the Emerald City.”

He looked so anxious, as he said this, that the little girl asked:

“There isn’t anything wrong with Ozma, is there?”

“Not yet,” said he; “but I’m afraid the time has come when I must
tell you some very bad news, little friend.”

“Oh, what is it?” cried Dorothy.

“Do you remember the Nome King?” asked the Tin Woodman.

“I remember him very well,” she replied.

“The Nome King has not a kind heart,” said the Emperor, sadly, “and he
has been harboring wicked thoughts of revenge, because we once defeated
him and liberated his slaves and you took away his Magic Belt. So he
has ordered his Nomes to dig a long tunnel underneath the deadly
desert, so that he may march his hosts right into the Emerald City.
When he gets there he intends to destroy our beautiful country.”

Dorothy was much surprised to hear this.

“How did Ozma find out about the tunnel?” she asked.

“She saw it in her Magic Picture.”

“Of course,” said Dorothy; “I might have known that. And what is she
going to do?”

“I cannot tell,” was the reply.

“Pooh!” cried the Yellow Hen. “We’re not afraid of the Nomes. If we
roll a few of our eggs down the tunnel they’ll run away back home as
fast as they can go.”

“Why, that’s true enough!” exclaimed Dorothy. “The Scarecrow once
conquered all the Nome King’s army with some of Billina’s eggs.”

“But you do not understand all of the dreadful plot,” continued the
Tin Woodman. “The Nome King is clever, and he knows his Nomes would
run from eggs; so he has bargained with many terrible creatures to
help him. These evil spirits are not afraid of eggs or anything else,
and they are very powerful. So the Nome King will send them through
the tunnel first, to conquer and destroy, and then the Nomes will
follow after to get their share of the plunder and slaves.”

They were all startled to hear this, and every face wore a troubled look.

“Is the tunnel all ready?” asked Dorothy.

“Ozma sent me word yesterday that the tunnel was all completed except
for a thin crust of earth at the end. When our enemies break through
this crust, they will be in the gardens of the royal palace, in the
heart of the Emerald City. I offered to arm all my Winkies and march
to Ozma’s assistance; but she said no.”

“I wonder why?” asked Dorothy.

“She answered that all the inhabitants of Oz, gathered together, were
not powerful enough to fight and overcome the evil forces of the Nome
King. Therefore she refuses to fight at all.”

“But they will capture and enslave us, and plunder and ruin all our
lovely land!” exclaimed the Wizard, greatly disturbed by this statement.

“I fear they will,” said the Tin Woodman, sorrowfully. “And I also
fear that those who are not fairies, such as the Wizard, and Dorothy,
and her uncle and aunt, as well as Toto and Billina, will be speedily
put to death by the conquerors.”

“What can be done?” asked Dorothy, shuddering a little at the prospect
of this awful fate.

“Nothing can be done!” gloomily replied the Emperor of the Winkies.
“But since Ozma refuses my army I will go myself to the Emerald City.
The least I may do is to perish beside my beloved Ruler.”

 

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