FictionForest

Chapter 23 – Peace Is Declared

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

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“Come with me to my dwelling and I’ll introduce
you to my daughters,” said the Chief. “We’re
bringing them up according to a book of rules that
was written by one of our leading old bachelors,
and everyone says they’re a remarkable lot of girls.”

So Scraps accompanied him along the street to a
house that seemed on the outside exceptionally
grimy and dingy. The streets of this city were not
paved nor had any attempt been made to beautify
the houses or their surroundings, and having
noticed this condition Scraps was astonished when
the Chief ushered her into his home.

Here was nothing grimy or faded, indeed. On the
contrary, the room was of dazzling brilliance and
beauty, for it was lined throughout with an
exquisite metal that resembled translucent frosted
silver. The surface of this metal was highly
ornamented in raised designs representing men,
animals, flowers and trees, and from the metal
itself was radiated the soft light which flooded
the room. All the furniture was made of the same
glorious metal, and Scraps asked what it was.

“That’s radium,” answered the Chief. “We
Horners spend all our time digging radium from
the mines under this mountain, and we use it
to decorate our homes and make them pretty and
cosy. It is a medicine, too, and no one can ever
be sick who lives near radium.”

“Have you plenty of it?” asked the Patchwork
Girl.

“More than we can use. All the houses in this
city are decorated with it, just the same as mine
is.”

don’t you use it on your streets, then,
and the outside of your houses, to make them as
pretty as they are within?” she inquired.

“Outside? Who cares for the outside of
anything?” asked the Chief. “We Horners don’t live
on the outside of our homes; we live inside. Many
people are like those stupid Hoppers, who love to
make an outside show. I suppose you strangers
thought their city more beautiful than ours,
because you judged from appearances and they have
handsome marble houses and marble streets; but if
you entered one of their stiff dwellings you would
find it bare and uncomfortable, as all their show
is on the outside. They have an idea that what is
not seen by others is not important, but with us
the rooms we live in are our chief delight and
care, and we pay no attention to outside show.”

“Seems to me,” said Scraps, musingly, “it
would be better to make it all pretty–inside
and out.”

“Seems? Why, you’re all seams, my girl!” said
the Chief; and then he laughed heartily at his
latest joke and a chorus of small voices echoed
the chorus with “tee-hee-hee! ha, ha!”

Scraps turned around and found a row of
girls seated in radium chairs ranged along one
wall of the room. There were nineteen of them,
by actual count, and they were of all sizes from
a tiny child to one almost a grown woman. All
were neatly dressed in spotless white robes and
had brown skins, horns on their foreheads and
threecolored hair.

“These,” said the Chief, “are my sweet
daughters. My dears, I introduce to you Miss
Scraps Patchwork, a lady who is traveling in
foreign parts to increase her store of wisdom.”

The nineteen Horner girls all arose and made
a polite curtsey, after which they resumed their
seats and rearranged their robes properly.

“Why do they sit so still, and all in a row?”
asked Scraps.

“Because it is ladylike and proper,” replied the
Chief.

“But some are just children, poor things!
Don’t they ever run around and play and laugh,
and have a good time?”

“No, indeed,” said the Chief. “That would he
improper in young ladies, as well as in those who
will sometime become young ladies. My daughters
are being brought up according to the rules and
regulations laid down by a leading bachelor who
has given the subject much study and is himself a
man of taste and culture. Politeness is his great
hobby, and he claims that if a child is allowed to
do an impolite thing one cannot expect the grown
person to do anything better.”

“Is it impolite to romp and shout and be jolly?”
asked Scraps.

“Well, sometimes it is, and sometimes it isn’t,”
replied the Horner, after considering the
question. “By curbing such inclinations in my
daughters we keep on the safe side. Once in a
while I make a good joke, as you have heard, and
then I permit my daughters to laugh decorously;
but they are never allowed to make a joke
themselves.”

“That old bachelor who made the rules ought
to be skinned alive!” declared Scraps, and would
have said more on the subject had not the door
opened to admit a little Horner man whom the
Chief introduced as Diksey.

“What’s up, Chief?” asked Diksey, winking
nineteen times at the nineteen girls, who demurely
cast down their eyes because their father was
looking.

The Chief told the man that his joke had not
been understood by the dull Hoppers, who had
become so angry that they had declared war. So the
only way to avoid a terrible battle was to explain
the joke so they could understand it.

“All right,” replied Diksey, who seemed a good-
natured man; “I’ll go at once to the fence and
explain. I don’t want any war with the Hoppers,
for wars between nations always cause hard
feelings.”

So the Chief and Diksey and Scraps left the
house and went back to the marble picket fence.
The Scarecrow was still stuck on the top of his
picket but had now ceased to struggle. On the
other side of the fence were Dorothy and Ojo,
looking between the pickets; and there, also,
were the Champion and many other Hoppers.

Diksey went close to the fence and said:

“My good Hoppers, I wish to explain that
what I said about you was a joke. You have but
one leg each, and we have two legs each. Our
legs are under us, whether one or two, and we
stand on them. So, when I said you had less
understanding than we, I did not mean that you
had less understanding, you understand, but
that you had less standundering, so to speak.
Do you understand that?”

The Hoppers thought it over carefully. Then one
said:

“That is clear enough; but where does the joke
come in?'”

Dorothy laughed, for she couldn’t help it,
although all the others were solemn enough.

“I’ll tell you where the joke comes in,” she
said, and took the Hoppers away to a distance,
where the Horners could not hear them. “You know,”
she then explained, “those neighbors of yours are
not very bright, poor things, and what they think
is a joke isn’t a joke at all–it’s true, don’t
you see?”

“True that we have less understanding?” asked
the Champion.

“Yes; it’s true because you don’t understand
such a poor joke; if you did, you’d be no wiser
than they are.”

“Ah, yes; of course,” they answered, looking
very wise.

“So I’ll tell you what to do,” continued
Dorothy. “Laugh at their poor joke and tell ’em
it’s pretty good for a Horner. Then they won’t
dare say you have less understanding, because you
understand as much as they do.”

The Hoppers looked at one another questioningly
and blinked their eyes and tried to think what it
all meant; but they couldn’t figure it out.

“What do you think, Champion?” asked one of
them.

“I think it is dangerous to think of this thing
any more than we can help,” he replied. “Let us do
as this girl says and laugh with the Horners, so
as to make them believe we see the joke. Then
there will be peace again and no need to fight.”

They readily agreed to this and returned to
the fence laughing as loud and as hard as they
could, although they didn’t feel like laughing
a bit. The Horners were much surprised.

“That’s a fine joke–for a Horner–and we are
much pleased with it,” said the Champion, speaking
between the pickets. “But please don’t do it
again.”

“I won’t,” promised Diksey. “If I think of
another such joke I’ll try to forget it.”

“Good!” cried the Chief Horner. “The war is over
and peace is declared.”

There was much joyful shouting on both sides of
the fence and the gate was unlocked and thrown
wide open, so that Scraps was able to rejoin her
friends.

“What about the Scarecrow?” she asked Dorothy.

“We must get him down, somehow or other,” was
the reply.

“Perhaps the Horners can find a way,” suggested
Ojo. So they all went through the gate and Dorothy
asked the Chief Horner how they could get the
Scarecrow off the fence. The Chief didn’t know
how, but Diksey said:

“A ladder’s the thing.”

“Have you one?” asked Dorothy.

“To be sure. We use ladders in our mines,”
said he. Then he ran away to get the ladder,
and while he was gone the Horners gathered
around and welcomed the strangers to their
country, for through them a great war had been
avoided.

In a little while Diksey came back with a
tall ladder which he placed against the fence. Ojo
at once climbed to the top of the ladder and
Dorothy went about halfway up and Scraps stood at
the foot of it. Toto ran around it and barked.
Then Ojo pulled the Scarecrow away from the picket
and passed him down to Dorothy, who in turn
lowered him to the Patchwork Girl.

As soon as he was on his feet and standing
on solid ground the Scarecrow said:

“Much obliged. I feel much better. I’m not
stuck on that picket any more.”

The Horners began to laugh, thinking this
was a joke, but the Scarecrow shook himself and

patted his straw a little and said to Dorothy:
“Is there much of a hole in my back?”

The little girl examined him carefully.

“There’s quite a hole,” she said. “But I’ve got
a needle and thread in the knapsack and I’ll sew
you up again.”

“Do so,” he begged earnestly, and again the
Hoppers laughed, to the Scarecrow’s great
annoyance.

While Dorothy was sewing up the hole in
the straw man’s back Scraps examined the other
parts of him.

“One of his legs is ripped, too!” she exclaimed.

“Oho!” cried little Diksey; “that’s bad. Give
him the needle and thread and let him mend
his ways.”

“Ha, ha, ha!” laughed the Chief, and the
other Homers at once roared with laughter.

“What’s funny?” inquired the Scarecrow sternly.

“Don’t you see?” asked Diksey, who had
laughed even harder than the others. “That’s a
joke. It’s by odds the best joke I ever made.
You walk with your legs, and so that’s the way
you walk, and your legs are the ways. See? So,
when you mend your legs, you mend your ways.
Ho, ho, ho! hee, hee! I’d no idea I could make
such a fine joke!”

“Just wonderful!” echoed the Chief. “How do you
manage to do it, Diksey?”

“I don’t know,” said Diksey modestly. “Perhaps
it’s the radium, but I rather think it’s my
splendid intellect.”

If you don’t quit it,” the Scarecrow told him,
“there’ll be a worse war than the one you’ve
escaped from.”

Ojo had been deep in thought, and now he
asked the Chief: “Is there a dark well in any
part of your country?”

“A dark well? None that ever I heard of,” was
the answer.

“Oh, yes,” said Diksey, who overheard the
boy’s question. “There’s a very dark well down
in my radium mine.”

“Is there any water in it?” Ojo eagerly asked.

“Can’t say; I’ve never looked to see. But we
can find out.”

So, as soon as the Scarecrow was mended,
they decided to go with Diksey to the mine.
When Dorothy had patted the straw man into
shape again he declared he felt as good as new
and equal to further adventures.

“Still,” said he, “I prefer not to do picket
duty again. High life doesn’t seem to agree with
my constitution.” And then they hurried away
to escape the laughter of the Homers, who
thought this was another joke.

 

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