FictionForest

Chapter 9 – They Meet the Woozy

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

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“There seem to be very few houses around here,
after all,” remarked Ojo, after they had walked
for a time in silence.

“Never mind,” said Scraps; “we are not looking
for houses, but rather the road of yellow bricks.
Won’t it be funny to run across something yellow
in this dismal blue country?”

“There are worse colors than yellow in this
country,” asserted the Glass Cat, in a spiteful
tone.

“Oh; do you mean the pink pebbles you call
your brains, and your red heart and green eyes?”
asked the Patchwork Girl.

“No; I mean you, if you must know it,” growled
the cat.

“You’re jealous!” laughed Scraps. “You’d give
your whiskers for a lovely variegated complexion
like mine.”

“I wouldn’t!” retorted the cat. “I’ve the
clearest complexion in the world, and I don’t
employ a beauty-doctor, either.”

“I see you don’t,” said Scraps.

“Please don’t quarrel,” begged Ojo. “This is an
important journey, and quarreling makes me
discouraged. To be brave, one must be cheerful, so
I hope you will be as good-tempered as possible.”

They had traveled some distance when suddenly
they faced a high fence which barred any further
progress straight ahead. It ran directly across
the road and enclosed a small forest of tall
trees, set close together. When the group of
adventurers peered through the bars of the fence
they thought this forest looked more gloomy and
forbidding than any they had ever seen before.

They soon discovered that the path they had
been following now made a bend and passed
around the enclosure, but what made Ojo stop
and look thoughtful was a sign painted on the
fence which read:

“BEWARE OF THE WOOZY!”

“That means,” he said, “that there’s a Woozy
inside that fence, and the Woozy must be a
dangerous animal or they wouldn’t tell people
to beware of it.”

“Let’s keep out, then,” replied Scraps. “That
path is outside the fence, and Mr. Woozy may have
all his little forest to himself, for all we care.”

“But one of our errands is to find a Woozy,”
Ojo explained. “The Magician wants me to get
three hairs from the end of a Woozy’s tail.”

“Let’s go on and find some other Woozy,”
suggested the cat. “This one is ugly and
dangerous, or they wouldn’t cage him up. Maybe
we shall find another that is tame and gentle.”

“Perhaps there isn’t any other, at all,”
answered Ojo. “The sign doesn’t say: ‘Beware a
Woozy’; it says: ‘Beware the Woozy,’ which may,
mean there’s only one in all the Land of Oz.

“Then,” said Scraps, “suppose we go in and
find him? Very likely if we ask him politely to
let us pull three hairs out of the tip of his tail
he won’t hurt us.”

“It would hurt him, I’m sure, and that would
make him cross,” said the cat.

“You needn’t worry, Bungle,” remarked the
Patchwork Girl; “for if there is danger you can
climb a tree. Ojo and I are not afraid; are we,
Ojo?”

“I am, a little,” the boy admitted; “but this
danger must be faced, if we intend to save poor

Unc Nunkie. How shall we get over the fence?”

“Climb,” answered Scraps, and at once she began
climbing up the rows of bars. Ojo followed and
found it more easy than he had expected. When they
got to the top of the fence they began to get down
on the other side and soon were in the forest. The
Glass Cat, being small, crept between the lower
bars and joined them.

Here there was no path of any sort, so they
entered the woods, the boy leading the way,
and wandered through the trees until they were
nearly in the center of the forest. They now
came upon a clear space in which stood a rocky
cave.

So far they had met no living creature, but
when Ojo saw the cave he knew it must be the
den of the Woozy.

It is hard to face any savage beast without
a sinking of the heart, but still more terrifying
is it to face an unknown beast, which you have
never seen even a picture of. So there is little
wonder that the pulses of the Munchkin boy
beat fast as he and his companions stood facing
the cave. The opening was perfectly square,
and about big enough to admit a goat.

“I guess the Woozy is asleep,” said Scraps.
“Shall I throw in a stone, to waken him?”

“No; please don’t,” answered Ojo, his voice
trembling a little. “I’m in no hurry.”

But he had not long to wait, for the Woozy
heard the sound of voices and came trotting out
of his cave. As this is the only Woozy that has
ever lived, either in the Land of Oz or out of
it, I must describe it to you.

The creature was all squares and flat surfaces
and edges. Its head was an exact square, like
one of the building-blocks a child plays with;
therefore it had no ears, but heard sounds
through two openings in the upper corners. Its
nose, being in the center of a square surface,
was flat, while the mouth was formed by the
opening of the lower edge of the block. The
body of the Woozy was much larger than its
head, but was likewise block-shaped–being
twice as long as it was wide and high. The tail
was square and stubby and perfectly straight,
and the four legs were made in the same way,
each being four-sided. The animal was covered
with a thick, smooth skin and had no hair at all
except at the extreme end of its tail, where there
grew exactly three stiff, stubby hairs. The beast
was dark blue in color and his face was not
fierce nor ferocious in expression, but rather
good-humored and droll.

Seeing the strangers, the Woozy folded his
hind legs as if they Lad been hinged and sat
down to look his visitors over.

“Well, well,” he exclaimed; “what a queer lot
you are! at first I thought some of those
miserable Munchkin farmers had come to annoy me,
but I am relieved to find you in their stead. It
is plain to me that you are a remarkable group–as
remarkable in your way as I am in mine–and so you
are welcome to my domain. Nice place, isn’t it?
But lonesome-dreadfully lonesome.”

“Why did they shut you up here?” asked
Scraps, who was regarding the queer, square
creature with much curiosity.

“Because I eat up all the honey-bees which
the Munchkin farmers who live around here
keep to make them honey.”

“Are you fond of eating honey-bees?” inquired
the boy.

“Very. They are really delicious. But the
farmers did not like to lose their bees and so
they tried to destroy me. Of course they couldn’t
do that.”

“Why not?”

“My skin is so thick and tough that nothing can
get through it to hurt me. So, finding they could
not destroy me, they drove me into this forest and
built a fence around me. Unkind, wasn’t it?”

“But what do you eat now?” asked Ojo.

“Nothing at all. I’ve tried the leaves from the
trees and the mosses and creeping vines, but they
don’t seem to suit my taste. So, there being no
honey-bees here, I’ve eaten nothing for years.

“You must be awfully hungry,” said the boy.
“I’ve got some bread and cheese in my basket.
Would you like that kind of food?”

“Give me a nibble and I will try it; then I
can tell you better whether it is grateful to my
appetite,” returned the Woozy.

So the boy opened his basket and broke a
piece off the loaf of bread. He tossed it toward
the Woozy, who cleverly caught it in his mouth
and ate it in a twinkling.

“That’s rather good,” declared the animal.
“Any more?”

“Try some cheese,” said Ojo, and threw down a
piece.

The Woozy ate that, too, and smacked its long,
thin lips.

“That’s mighty good!” it exclaimed. “Any more?”

“Plenty,” replied Ojo. So he sat down on a Stump
and fed the Woozy bread and cheese for a long
time; for, no matter how much the boy broke off,
the loaf and the slice remained just as big.

“That’ll do,” said the Woozy, at last; “I’m
quite full. I hope the strange food won’t give
me indigestion.

“I hope not,” said Ojo. “It’s what I eat.”

“Well, I must say I’m much obliged, and
I’m glad you came,” announced the beast. “Is
there anything I can do in return for your
kindness?”

“Yes,” said Ojo earnestly, “you have it in
your power to do me a great favor, if you will.”

“What is it?” asked the Woozy. “Name the
favor and I will grant it.”

“I–I want three hairs from the tip of your
tail,” said Ojo, with some hesitation.

“Three hairs! Why, that’s all I have–on my
tail or anywhere else,” exclaimed the beast.

“I know; but I want them very much.”

“They are my sole ornaments, my prettiest
feature,” said the Woozy, uneasily. “If I give
up those three hairs I–I’m just a blockhead.”

“Yet I must have them,” insisted the boy,
firmly, and he then told the Woozy all about the
accident to Unc Nunkie and Margolotte, and how the
three hairs were to be a part of the magic charm
that would restore them to life. The beast
listened with attention and when Ojo had finished
the recital it said, with a sigh.

“I always keep my word, for I pride myself on
being square. So you may have the three hairs, and
welcome. I think, under such circumstances, it
would be selfish in me to refuse you.”

“Thank you! Thank you very much,” cried
the boy, joyfully. “May I pull out the hairs
now?”

“Any time you like,” answered the Woozy.

So Ojo went up to the queer creature and
taking hold of one of the hairs began to pull.
He pulled harder. He pulled with all his might;
but the hair remained fast.

“What’s the trouble?” asked the Woozy,
which Ojo had dragged here and there all
around the clearing in his endeavor to pull out
the hair.

“It won’t come,” said the boy, panting.

“I was afraid of that,” declared the beast.
“You’ll have to pull harder.”

“I’ll help you,” exclaimed Scraps, coming to
the boy’s side. “You pull the hair, and I’ll pull
you, and together we ought to get it out easily.”

“Wait a jiffy,” called the Woozy, and then
it went to a tree and hugged it with its front
paws, so that its body couldn’t be dragged
around by the pull. “All ready, now. Go ahead!”

Ojo grasped the hair with both hands and
pulled with all his strength, while Scraps seized
the boy around his waist and added her strength
to his. But the hair wouldn’t budge. Instead, it
slipped out of Ojo’s hands and he and Scraps
both rolled upon the ground in a heap and never
stopped until they bumped against the rocky
cave.

“Give it up,” advised the Glass Cat, as the
boy arose and assisted the Patchwork Girl to her
feet. “A dozen strong men couldn’t pull out
those Hairs. I believe they’re clinched on the
under side of the Woozy’s thick skin.”

“Then what shall I do?” asked the boy,
despairingly. “If on our return I fail to take
these three hairs to the Crooked Magician, the
other things I have come to seek will be of no
use at all, and we cannot restore Unc Nunkie
and Margolotte to life.”

“They’re goners, I guess,” said the Patchwork
Girl.

“Never mind,” added the cat. “I can’t see that
old Unc and Margolotte are worth all this trouble,
anyhow.”

But Ojo did not feel that way. He was so
disheartened that he sat down upon a stump and
began to cry.

The Woozy looked at the boy thoughtfully.

“Why don’t you take me with you?” asked the
beast. “Then, when at last you get to the
Magician’s house, he can surely find some way to
pull out those three hairs.”

Ojo was overjoyed at this suggestion.

“That’s it!” he cried, wiping away the tears
and springing to his feet with a smile. “If I take
the three hairs to the Magician, it won’t matter
if they are still in your body.”

“It can’t matter in the least,” agreed the
Woozy.

“Come on, then,” said the boy, picking up his
basket; “let us start at once. I have several other
things to find, you know.”

But the Class Cat gave a little laugh and
inquired in her scornful way:

“How do you intend to get the beast out of this
forest?”

That puzzled them all for a time.

“Let us go to the fence, and then we may find a
way,” suggested Scraps. So they walked through the
forest to the fence, reaching it at a point
exactly opposite that where they had entered the
enclosure.

“How did you get in?” asked the Woozy.

“We climbed over,” answered Ojo.

“I can’t do that,” said the beast. “I’m a very
swift runner, for I can overtake a honey-bee as
it flies; and I can jump very high, which is the
reason they made such a tall fence to keep me
in. But I can’t climb at all, and I’m too big to
squeeze between the bars of the fence.”

Ojo tried to think what to do.

“Can you dig?” he asked.

“No,” answered the Woozy, “for I have no
claws. My feet are quite flat on the bottom of
them. Nor can I gnaw away the boards, as I
have no teeth.”

“You’re not such a terrible creature, after all,”
remarked Scraps.

“You haven’t heard me growl, or you wouldn’t say
that,” declared the Woozy. “When I growl, the
sound echoes like thunder all through the valleys
and woodlands, and children tremble with fear, and
women cover their heads with their aprons, and big
men run and hide. I suppose there is nothing in
the world so terrible to listen to as the growl of
a Woosy.”

“Please don’t growl, then,” begged Ojo,
earnestly.

“There is no danger of my growling, for
I am not angry. Only when angry do I utter
my fearful, ear-splitting, soul-shuddering growl.
Also, when I am angry, my eyes flash fire,
whether I growl or not.”

“Real fire?” asked Ojo.

“Of course, real fire. Do you suppose they’d
flash imitation fire?” inquired the Woozy, in an
injured tone.

“In that case, I’ve solved the riddle,” cried
Scraps, dancing with glee. “Those fence-boards
are made of wood, and if the Woozy stands
close to the fence and lets his eyes flash fire,
they might set fire to the fence and burn it up.
Then he could walk away with us easily, being
free.”

“Ah, I have never thought of that plan, or I
would have been free long ago,” said the Woozy.
“But I cannot flash fire from my eyes unless I am
very angry.”

“Can’t you get angry ’bout something, please?”
asked Ojo.

“I’ll try. You just say ‘Krizzle-Kroo’ to me.”

“Will that make you angry?” inquired the boy~.

“Terribly angry.”

“What does it mean?” asked Scraps.

“I don’t know; that’s what makes me so angry,”
re-plied the Woozy.

He then stood close to the fence, with his
head near one of the boards, and Scraps called out
“Krizzle-Kroo!” Then Ojo said “Krizzle-Kroo!”
and the Glass Cat said “Krizzle-Kroo!” The Woozy
began to tremble with anger and small sparks
darted from his eyes. Seeing this, they all cried
“Krizzle-Kroo!” together, and that made the
beast’s eyes flash fire so fiercely that the
fence-board caught the sparks and began to smoke.
Then it burst into flame, and the Woozy stepped
back and said triumphantly:

“Aha! That did the business, all right. It was
a happy thought for you to yell all together, for
that made me as angry as I have ever been.
Fine sparks, weren’t they?”

“Reg’lar fireworks,” replied Scraps, admiringly.

In a few moments the board had burned to a
distance of several feet, leaving an opening big
enough for them all to pass through. Ojo broke
some branches from a tree and with them
whipped the fire until it was extinguished.

“We don’t want to burn the whole fence
down,” said he, “for the flames would attract
the attention of the Munchkin farmers, who
would then come and capture the Woozy again.
I guess they’ll be rather surprised when they
find he’s escaped.”

“So they will,” declared the Woozy, chuckling
gleefully. “When they find I’m gone the farmers
will be badly scared, for they’ll expect me to eat
up their honey-bees, as I did before.”

“That reminds me,” said the boy, “that you must
promise not to eat honey-bees while you are in our
company.”

“None at all?”

“Not a bee. You would get us all into trouble,
and we can’t afford to have any more trouble than
is necessary. I’ll feed you all the bread and
cheese you want, and that must satisfy you.”

“All right; I’ll promise,” said the Woozy,
cheerfully. “And when I promise anything you
can depend on it, ’cause I’m square.”

“I don’t see what difference that makes,”
observed the Patchwork Girl, as they found the
path and continued their journey. “The shape
doesn’t make a thing honest, does it?”

“Of course it does,” returned the Woozy, very
decidedly. “No one could trust that Crooked
Magician, for instance, just because he is
crooked; but a square Woozy couldn’t do anything
crooked if he wanted to.”

“I am neither square nor crooked,” said
Scraps, looking down at her plump body.

“No; you’re round, so you’re liable to do
anything,” asserted the Woozy. “Do not blame me,
Miss Gorgeous, if I regard you with suspicion.
Many a satin ribbon has a cotton back.”

Scraps didn’t understand this, but she had an
uneasy misgiving that she had a cotton back
herself. It would settle down, at times, and make
her squat and dumpy, and then she had to roll
herself in the road until her body stretched out again.

 

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