FictionForest

Chapter 12 – The Giant Porcupine

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

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Next morning they started out bright and early to
follow the road of yellow bricks toward the
Emerald City. The little Munchkin boy was
beginning to feel tired from the long walk, and he
had a great many things to think of and consider
besides the events of the journey. At the
wonderful Emerald City, which he would presently
reach, were so many strange and curious people
that he was half afraid of meeting them and
wondered if they would prove friendly and kind.
Above all else, he could not drive from his mind
the important errand on which he had come, and he
was determined to devote every energy to finding
the things that were necessary to prepare
the magic recipe. He believed that until dear
Unc Nunkie was restored to life he could feel
no joy in anything, and often he wished that
Unc could be with him, to see all the astonishing
things Ojo was seeing. But alas Unc Nunkie was now
a marble statue in the house of the Crooked
Magician and Ojo must not falter in his efforts to
save him.

The country through which they were passing was
still rocky and deserted, with here and there a
bush or a tree to break the dreary landscape. Ojo
noticed one tree, especially, because it had such
long, silky leaves and was so beautiful in shape.
As he approached it he studied the tree earnestly,
wondering if any fruit grew on it or if it bore
pretty flowers.

Suddenly he became aware that he had been
looking at that tree a long time–at least for
five minutes–and it had remained in the same
position, although the boy had continued to
walk steadily on. So he stopped short. and when
he stopped, the tree and all the landscape, as
well as his companions, moved on before him
and left him far behind.

Ojo uttered such a cry of astonishment that
it aroused the Shaggy Man, who also halted.
The others then stopped, too, and walked back
to the boy.

“What’s wrong?” asked the Shaggy Man.

“Why, we’re not moving forward a bit, no
matter how fast we walk,” declared Ojo. “Now
that we have stopped, we are moving backward!
Can’t you see? Just notice that rock.”

Scraps looked down at her feet and said:
“The yellow bricks are not moving.”

“But the whole road is,” answered Ojo.

“True; quite true,” agreed the Shaggy Man.
“I know all about the tricks of this road, but I
have been thinking of something else and didn’t
realize where we were.”

“It will carry us back to where we started
from,” predicted Ojo, beginning to be nervous.

“No,” replied the Shaggy Man; “it won’t do
that, for I know a trick to beat this tricky road.
I’ve traveled this way before, you know. Turn
around, all of you, and walk backward.”

“What good will that do?” asked the cat.

“You’ll find out, if you obey me,” said the
Shaggy Man.

So they all turned their backs to the direction
in which they wished to go and began walking
backward. In an instant Ojo noticed they were
gaining ground and as they proceeded in this
curious way they soon passed the tree which had
first attracted his attention to their difficulty.

“How long must we keep this up, Shags?”
asked Scraps, who was constantly tripping and
tumbling down, only to get up again with a
laugh at her mishap.

“Just a little way farther,” replied the Shaggy
Man.

A few minutes later he called to them to turn
about quickly and step forward, and as they
obeyed the order they found themselves treading
solid ground.

“That task is well over,” observed the Shaggy
Man. “It’s a little tiresome to walk backward, but
that is the only way to pass this part of the
road, which has a trick of sliding back and
carrying with it anyone who is walking upon it.”

With new courage and energy they now
trudged forward and after a time came to a
place where the road cut through a low hill,
leaving high banks on either side of it. They
were traveling along this cut, talking together,
when the Shaggy Man seized Scraps with one
arm and Ojo with another and shouted: “Stop!”

“What’s wrong now?” asked the Patchwork Girl.

“See there!” answered the Shaggy Man, pointing
with his finger.

Directly in the center of the road lay a
motionless object that bristled all over with
sharp quills, which resembled arrows. The body was
as big as a ten-bushel basket, but the projecting
quills made it appear to be four times bigger.

“Well, what of it?” asked Scraps.

“That is Chiss, who causes a lot of trouble
along this road,” was the reply.

“Chiss! What is Chiss?

“I think it is merely an overgrown porcupine,
but here in Oz they consider Chiss an evil spirit.
He’s different from a reg’lar porcupine, because
he can throw his quills in any direction, which
an American porcupine cannot do. That’s what
makes old Chiss so dangerous. If we get too
near, he’ll fire those quills at us and hurt us
badly.”

“Then we will be foolish to get too near,
said Scraps.

“I’m not afraid,” declared the Woozy. “The Chiss
is cowardly, I’m sure, and if it ever heard my
awful, terrible, frightful growl, it would be
scared stiff.”

“Oh; can you growl?” asked the Shaggy Man.

“That is the only ferocious thing about me,”
asserted the Woozy with evident pride. “My growl
makes an earthquake blush and the thunder ashamed
of itself. If I growled at that creature you call
Chiss, it would immediately think the world had
cracked in two and bumped against the sun and
moon, and that would cause the monster to run as
far and as fast as its legs could carry it.”

“In that case,” said the Shaggy Man, “you are
now able to do us all a great favor. Please
growl.”

“But you forget,” returned the Woozy; “my
tremendous growl would also frighten you, and
if you happen to have heart disease you might
expire.”

“True; but we must take that risk,” decided
the Shaggy Man, bravely. “Being warned of
what is to occur we must try to bear the terrific
noise of your growl; but Chiss won’t expect it,
and it will scare him away.”

The Woozy hesitated.

“I’m fond of you all, and I hate to shock you,”
it said.

“Never mind,” said Ojo.

“You may be made deaf.”

“If so, we will forgive you.

“Very well, then,” said the Woozy in a
determined voice, and advanced a few steps toward
the giant porcupine. Pausing to look back, it
asked: “All ready?”

“All ready!” they answered.

“Then cover up your ears and brace yourselves
firmly. Now, then–look out!”

The Woozy turned toward Chiss, opened wide its
mouth and said:

“Quee-ee-ee-eek.”

“Go ahead and growl,” said Scraps.

“Why, I–I did growl!” retorted the Woozy,
who seemed much astonished.

“What, that little squeak?” she cried.

“It is the most awful growl that ever was heard,
on land or sea, in caverns or in the sky,”
protested the Woozy. “I wonder you stood the shock
so well. Didn’t you feel the ground tremble? I
suppose Chiss is now quite dead with fright.”

The Shaggy Man laughed merrily.

“Poor Wooz!” said he; “your growl wouldn’t
scare a fly.”

The Woozy seemed to be humiliated and surprised.
It hung its head a moment, as if in shame or
sorrow, but then it said with renewed confidence:
“Anyhow, my eyes can flash fire; and good fire,
too; good enough to set fire to a fence!”

“That is true,” declared Scraps; “I saw it
done myself. But your ferocious growl isn’t as
loud as the tick of a beetle–or one of Ojo’s
snores when he’s fast asleep.”

“Perhaps,” said the Woozy, humbly, “I have
been mistaken about my growl. It has always
sounded very fearful to me, but that may, have
been because it was so close to my ears.”

“Never mind,” Ojo said soothingly; “it is a
great talent to be able to flash fire from your
eyes. No one else can do that.”

As they stood hesitating what to do Chiss
stirred and suddenly a shower of quills came
flying toward them, almost filling the air, they
were so many. Scraps realized in an instant that
they had gone too near to Chiss for safety, so
she sprang in front of Ojo and shielded him
from the darts, which stuck their points into her
own body until she resembled one of those
targets they shoot arrows at in archery games.
The Shaggy Man dropped flat on his face to
avoid the shower, but one quill struck him in
the leg and went far in. As for the Glass Cat,
the quills rattled off her body without making
even a scratch, and the skin of the Woozy was
so thick and tough that he was not hurt at all.

When the attack was over they all ran to the
Shaggy Man, who was moaning and groaning, and
Scraps promptly pulled the quill out of his leg.
Then up he jumped and ran over to Chiss, putting
his foot on the monster’s neck and holding it a
prisoner. The body of the great porcupine was now
as smooth as leather, except for the holes where
the quills had been, for it had shot every single
quill in that one wicked shower.

“Let me go!” it shouted angrily. “How dare
you put your foot on Chiss?”

“I’m going to do worse than that, old boy,”
replied the Shaggy Man. “You have annoyed
travelers on this road long enough, and now
I shall put an end to you.”

“You can’t!” returned Chiss. “Nothing can
kill me, as you know perfectly well.”

“Perhaps that is true,” said the Shaggy Man
in a tone of disappointment. “Seems to me I’ve
been told before that you can’t be killed. But if
I let you go, what will you do?”

“Pick up my quills again,” said Chiss in a
sulky voice.

“And then shoot them at more travelers? No;
that won’t do. You must promise me to stop
throwing quills at people.”

“I won’t promise anything of the sort,” declared
Chiss.

“Why not?”

“Because it is my nature to throw quills, and
every animal must do what Nature intends it
to do. It isn’t fair for you to blame me. If it were
wrong for me to throw quills, then I wouldn’t
be made with quills to throw. The proper thing
for you to do is to keep out of my way.

“Why, there’s some sense in that argument,
admitted the Shaggy Man, thoughtfully; “but
people who are strangers, and don’t know you
are here, won’t be able to keep out of your way.”

“Tell you what,” said Scraps, who was trying
to pull the quills out of her own body, “let’s
gather up all the quills and take them away with
us; then old Chiss won’t have any left to throw
at people.”

“Ah, that’s a clever idea. You and Ojo must
gather up the quills while I hold Chiss a
prisoner; for, if I let him go he will get some of
his quills and be able to throw them again.”

So Scraps and Ojo picked up all the quills
and tied them in a bundle so they might easily
be carried. After this the Shaggy Man released
Chiss and let him go, knowing that he was
harmless to injure anyone.

“It’s the meanest trick I ever heard of,”
muttered the porcupine gloomily. “How would you
like it, Shaggy Man, if I took all your shags away
from you?”

“If I threw my shags and hurt people, you would
be welcome to capture them,” was the reply.

Then they walked on and left Chiss standing in
the road sullen and disconsolate. The Shaggy Man
limped as he walked, for his wound still hurt him,
and Scraps was much annoyed be cause the quills
had left a number of small holes in her patches.

When they came to a flat stone by the roadside
the Shaggy Man sat down to rest, and then Ojo
opened his basket and took out the bundle of
charms the Crooked Magician had given him.

“I am Ojo the Unlucky,” he said, “or we would
never have met that dreadful porcupine. But I will
see if I can find anything among these charms
which will cure your leg.”

Soon he discovered that one of the charms
was labelled: “For flesh wounds,” and this the
boy separated from the others. It was only a bit
of dried root, taken from some unknown shrub,
but the boy rubbed it upon the wound made by
the quill and in a few moments the place was
healed entirely and the Shaggy Man’s leg was
as good as ever.

“Rub it on the holes in my patches,” suggested
Scraps, and Ojo tried it, but without any effect.

“The charm you need is a needle and thread,”
said the Shaggy Man. “But do not worry, my
dear; those holes do not look badly, at all.”

“They’ll let in the air, and I don’t want people
to think I’m airy, or that I’ve been stuck
up,” said the Patchwork Girl.

“You were certainly stuck up until we pulled
Out those quills,” observed Ojo, with a laugh.

So now they went on again and coming presently
to a pond of muddy water they tied a heavy stone
to the bundle of quills and sunk it to the bottom
of the pond, to avoid carrying it farther.

 

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