FictionForest

Chapter 10 – Shaggy Man to the Rescue

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

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They had not gone very far before Bungle, who had
run on ahead, came bounding back to say that the
road of yellow bricks was just before them. At
once they hurried forward to see what this famous
road looked like.

It was a broad road, but not straight, for it
wandered over hill and dale and picked out the
easiest places to go. All its length and breadth
was paved with smooth bricks of a bright yellow
color, so it was smooth and level except in a few
places where the bricks had crumbled or been
removed, leaving holes that might cause the unwary
to stumble.

“I wonder,” said Ojo, looking up and down the
road, “which way to go.”

“Where are you bound for?” asked the Woozy.

“The Emerald City,” he replied.

“Then go west,” said the Woozy. “I know this
road pretty well, for I’ve chased many a honey-bee
over it.”

“Have you ever been to the Emerald City?”
asked Scraps.

“No. I am very shy by nature, as you may have
noticed, so I haven’t mingled much in society.”

“Are you afraid of men?” inquired the Patchwork
Girl.

“Me? With my heart-rending growl-my horrible,
shudderful growl? I should say not. I am not
afraid of anything,” declared the Woozy.

“I wish I could say the same,” sighed Ojo. “I
don’t think we need be afraid when we get to the
Emerald City, for Unc Nunkie has told me that
Ozma, our girl Ruler, is very lovely and kind, and
tries to help everyone who is in trouble. But they
say there are many dangers lurking on the road to
the great Fairy City, and so we must be very
careful.”

“I hope nothing will break me,” said the
Glass Cat, in a nervous voice. “I’m a little brittle,
you know, and can’t stand many hard knocks.”

“If anything should fade the colors of my lovely
patches it would break my heart,” said the
Patchwork Girl.

“I’m not sure you have a heart,” Ojo reminded
her.

“Then it would break my cotton,” persisted
Scraps. “Do you think they are all fast colors,
Ojo?” she asked anxiously.

“They seem fast enough when you run,” he
replied; and then, looking ahead of them, he
exclaimed: “Oh, what lovely trees!”

They were certainly pretty to look upon and
the travelers hurried forward to observe them
more closely.

“Why, they are not trees at all,” said Scraps;
“they are just monstrous plants.”

That is what they really were: masses of great
broad leaves which rose from the ground far into
the air, until they towered twice as high as the
top of the Patchwork Girl’s head, who was a little
taller than Ojo. The plants formed rows on both
sides of the road and from each plant rose a dozen
or more of the big broad leaves, which swayed
continually from side to side, although no wind
was blowing. But the most curious thing about the
swaying leaves was their color. They seemed to
have a general groundwork of blue, but here and
there other colors glinted at times through the
blue–gorgeous yellows, turning to pink, purple,
orange and scarlet, mingled with more sober browns
and grays–each appearing as a blotch or stripe
anywhere on a leaf and then disappearing, to be
replaced by some other color of a different shape.
The changeful coloring of the great leaves was
very beautiful, but it was bewildering, as well,
and the novelty of the scene drew our travelers
close to the line of plants, where they stood
watching them with rapt interest.

Suddenly a leaf bent lower than usual and
touched the Patchwork Girl. Swiftly it enveloped
her in its embrace, covering her completely in
its thick folds, and then it swayed back upon its
stem.

“Why, she’s gone!” gasped Ojo, in amazement, and
listening carefully he thought he could hear the
muffled screams of Scraps coming from the center
of the folded leaf. But, before he could think
what he ought to do to save her, another leaf bent
down and captured the Glass Cat, rolling around
the little creature until she was completely
hidden, and then straightening up again upon its
stem.

“Look out,” cried the Woozy. “Run! Run
fast, or you are lost.”

Ojo turned and saw the Woozy running
swiftly up the road. But the last leaf of the row
of plants seized the beast even as he ran and
instantly he disappeared from sight.

The boy had no chance to escape. Half a dozen of
the great leaves were bending toward him from
different directions and as he stood hesitating
one of them clutched him in its embrace. In a
flash he was in the dark. Then he felt himself
gently lifted until he was swaying in the air,
with the folds of the leaf hugging him on all
sides.

At first he struggled hard to escape, crying
out in anger: “Let me go! Let me go!” But
neither struggles nor protests had any effect
whatever. The leaf held him firmly and he was
a prisoner.”

Then Ojo quieted himself and tried to think.
Despair fell upon him when he remembered that all
his little party had been captured, even as he
was, and there was none to save them.

“I might have expected it,” he sobbed,
miserably. “I’m Ojo the Unlucky, and something
dreadful was sure to happen to me.”

He pushed against the leaf that held him and
found it to be soft, but thick and firm. It was
like a great bandage all around him and he
found it difficult to move his body or limbs in
order to change their position.

The minutes passed and became hours. Ojo
wondered how long one could live in such a
condition and if the leaf would gradually sap
his strength and even his life, in order to feed
itself. The little Munchkin boy had never heard
of any person dying in the Land of Oz, but he
knew one could suffer a great deal of pain. His
greatest fear at this time was that he would
always remain imprisoned in the beautiful leaf
and never see the light of day again.

No sound came to him through the leaf; all
around was intense silence. Ojo wondered if Scraps
had stopped screaming, or if the folds of the leaf
prevented his hearing her. By and by he thought he
heard a whistle, as of some one whistling a tune.
Yes; it really must be some one whistling, he
decided, for he could follow the strains of a
pretty Munchkin melody that Unc Nunkie used to
sing to him. The sounds were low and sweet and,
although they reached Ojo’s ears very faintly,
they were clear and harmonious.

Could the leaf whistle, Ojo wondered? Nearer and
nearer came the sounds and then they seemed to be
just the other side of the leaf that was hugging
him.

Suddenly the whole leaf toppled and fell,
carrying the boy with it, and while he sprawled at
full length the folds slowly relaxed and set him
free. He scrambled quickly to his feet and found
that a strange man was standing before him–a man
so curious in appearance that the boy stared with
round eyes.

He was a big man, with shaggy whiskers, shaggy
eyebrows, shaggy hair–but kindly blue eyes that
were gentle as those of a cow. On his head was a
green velvet hat with a jeweled band, which was
all shaggy around the brim. Rich but shaggy laces
were at his throat; a coat with shaggy edges was
decorated with diamond buttons; the velvet
breeches had jeweled buckles at the knees and
shags all around the bottoms. On his breast hung a
medallion bearing a picture of Princess Dorothy of
Oz, and in his hand, as he stood looking at Ojo,
was a sharp knife shaped like a dagger.

“Oh!” exclaimed Ojo, greatly astonished at the
sight of this stranger; and then he added: “Who
has saved me, sir?”

“Can’t you see?” replied the other, with a
smile; “I’m the Shaggy Man.”

“Yes; I can see that,” said the boy, nodding.
“Was it you who rescued me from the leaf?”

“None other, you may be sure. But take care,
or I shall have to rescue you again.”

Ojo gave a jump, for he saw several broad
leaves leaning toward him; but the Shaggy Man
began to whistle again, and at the sound the
leaves all straightened up on their stems and
kept still.

The man now took Ojo’s arm and led him
up the road, past the last of the great plants,
and not till he was safely beyond their reach did
he cease his whistling.

“You see, the music charms ’em,” said he.
“Singing or whistling–it doesn’t matter which–
makes ’em behave, and nothing else will. I always
whistle as I go by ’em and so they always let me
alone. Today as I went by, whistling, I saw a leaf
curled and knew there must be something inside it.
I cut down the leaf with my knife and–out you
popped. Lucky I passed by, wasn’t it?”

“You were very kind,” said Ojo, “and I thank
you. Will you please rescue my companions, also?”

“What companions?” asked the Shaggy Man.

“The leaves grabbed them all,” said the boy.
“There’s a Patchwork Girl and–”

“A what?”

“A girl made of patchwork, you know. She’s
alive and her name is Scraps. And there’s a
Glass Cat–”

“Glass?” asked the Shaggy Man.

“All glass.”

“And alive?”

“Yes,” said Ojo; “she has pink brains. And
there’s a Woozy–”

“What’s a Woozy?” inquired the Shaggy Man.

“Why, I–I–can’t describe it,” answered the
boy, greatly perplexed. “But it’s a queer animal
with three hairs on the tip of its tail that won’t
come out and–”

“What won’t come out?” asked the Shaggy Man;
“the tail?”

“The hairs won’t come out. But you’ll see the
Woozy, if you’ll please rescue it, and then you’ll
know just what it is.”

“Of course,” said the Shaggy Man, nodding his
shaggy head. And then he walked back among the
plants, still whistling, and found the three
leaves which were curled around Ojo’s traveling
companions. The first leaf he cut down released
Scraps, and on seeing her the Shaggy Man threw
back his shaggy head, opened wide his mouth and
laughed so shaggily and yet so merrily that Scraps
liked him at once. Then he took off his hat and
made her a low bow, saying:

“My dear, you’re a wonder. I must introduce
you to my friend the Scarecrow.”

When he cut down the second leaf he rescued the
Glass Cat, and Bungle was so frightened that she
scampered away like a streak and soon had joined
Ojo, when she sat beside him panting and
trembling. The last plant of all the row had
captured the Woozy, and a big bunch in the center
of the curled leaf showed plainly where he was.
With his sharp knife the Shaggy Man sliced off the
stem of the leaf and as it fell and unfolded out
trotted the Woozy and escaped beyond the reach of
any more of the dangerous plants.

 

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