FictionForest

Chapter 25 – They Bribe the Lazy Quadling

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

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“Now,” said Dorothy, as they stood on the mountain
path, having left behind them the cave in which
dwelt the Hoppers and the Horners, “I think we
must find a road into the Country of the Winkies,
for there is where Ojo wants to go next.”

“Is there such a road?” asked the Scarecrow.

“I don’t know,” she replied. “I s’pose we can go
back the way we came, to Jack Pumpkinhead’s house,
and then turn into the Winkie Country; but that
seems like running ’round a haystack, doesn’t it?”

“Yes,” said the Scarecrow. “What is the next
thing Ojo must get?”

“A yellow butterfly,” answered the boy.

“That means the Winkie Country, all right,
for it’s the yellow country of Oz,” remarked
Dorothy. “I think, Scarecrow, we ought to take
him to the Tin Woodman, for he’s the Emp’ror
of the Winkies and will help us to find what
Ojo wants.”

“Of course,” replied the Scarecrow, brightening
at the suggestion. “The Tin Woodman will do
anything we ask him, for he’s one of my dearest
friends. I believe we can take a crosscut into his
country and so get to his castle a day sooner
than if we travel back the way we came.”

“I think so, too,” said the girl; “and that means
we must keep to the left.”

They were obliged to go down the mountain before
they found any path that led in the direction they
wanted to go, but among the tumbled rocks at the
foot of the mountain was a faint trail which they
decided to follow. Two or three hours walk along
this trail brought them to a clear, level country,
where there were a few farms and some scattered
houses. But they knew they were still in the
Country of the Quadlings, because everything had a
bright red color. Not that the trees and grasses
were red, but the fences and houses were painted
that color and all the wild-flowers that bloomed
by the wayside had red blossoms. This part of the
Quadling Country seemed peaceful and prosperous,
if rather lonely, and the road was more distinct
and easier to follow.

But just as they were congratulating themselves
upon the progress they had made they came upon a
broad river which swept along between high banks,
and here the road ended and there was no bridge of
any sort to allow them to cross.

“This is queer,” mused Dorothy, looking at
the water reflectively. “Why should there be
any road, if the river stops everyone walking
along it?”

“Wow!” said Toto, gazing earnestly into her
face.

“That’s the best answer you’ll get,” declared
the Scarecrow, with his comical smile, “for no
one knows any more than Toto about this road.”

Said Scraps:

“Ev’ry time I see a river,
I have chills that make me shiver,
For I never can forget
All the water’s very wet.
If my patches get a soak
It will be a sorry joke;
So to swim I’ll never try
Till I find the water dry.”

“Try to control yourself, Scraps,” said Ojo;
you re getting crazy again. No one intends to swim
that river.”

“No,” decided Dorothy, “we couldn’t swim it
if we tried. It’s too big a river, and the water
moves awful fast.”

“There ought to be a ferryman with a boat,”
said the Scarecrow; “but I don’t see any.”

“Couldn’t we make a raft?” suggested Ojo.

“There’s nothing to make one of,” answered
Dorothy.

“Wow!” said Toto again, and Dorothy saw he
was looking along the bank of the river.

“Why, he sees a house over there!” cried the
little girl. “I wonder we didn’t notice it
ourselves. Let’s go and ask the people how to
get ‘cross the river.”

A quarter of a mile along the bank stood a
small, round house, painted bright red, and as
it was on their side of the river they hurried
toward it. A chubby little man, dressed all in
red, came out to greet them, and with him were
two children, also in red costumes. The man’s
eyes were big and staring as he examined the
Scarecrow and the Patchwork Girl, and the
children shyly hid behind him and peeked
timidly at Toto.

“Do you live here, my good man?” asked the
Scarecrow.

“I think I do, Most Mighty Magician,” replied
the Quadling, bowing low; “but whether I’m awake
or dreaming I can’t be positive, so I’m not sure
where I live. If you’ll kindly pinch me I’ll find
out all about it!’

“You’re awake,” said Dorothy, “and this is no
magician, but just the Scarecrow.”

“But he’s alive,” protested the man, “and he
oughtn’t to be, you know. And that other dreadful
person–the girl who is all patches–seems to be
alive, too.”

“Very much so,” declared Scraps, making a
face at him. “But that isn’t your affair, you
know.”

“I’ve a right to be surprised, haven’t I?” asked
the man meekly.

“I’m not sure; but anyhow you’ve no right to say
I’m dreadful. The Scarecrow, who is a gentleman of
great wisdom, thinks I’m beautiful,” retorted
Scraps.

“Never mind all that,” said Dorothy. “Tell us,
good Quadling, how we can get across the river.”

“I don’t know,” replied the Quadling.

“Don’t you ever cross it?” asked the girl.

“Never.”

“Don’t travelers cross it?”

“Not to my knowledge,” said he.

They were much surprised to hear this, and
the man added: “It’s a pretty big river, and the
current is strong. I know a man who lives on
the opposite bank, for I’ve seen him there a good
many years; but we’ve never spoken because
neither of us has ever crossed over.”

“That’s queer,” said the Scarecrow. “Don’t you
own a boat?”

The man shook his head.

“Nor a raft?”

“Where does this river go to?” asked Dorothy.

“That way,” answered the man, pointing with
one hand, “it goes into the Country of the
Winkies, which is ruled by the Tin Emperor,
who must be a mighty magician because he’s
all made of tin, and yet he’s alive. And that
way,” pointing with the other hand, “the river
runs between two mountains where dangerous
people dwell.”

The Scarecrow looked at the water before them.

“The current flows toward the Winkie Country”‘
said he; “and so, if we had a boat, or a raft, the
river would float us there more quickly and more
easily than we could walk.”

“That is true,” agreed Dorothy; and then they
all looked thoughtful and wondered what could
be done.

“Why can’t the man make us a raft?” asked Ojo.

“Will you?” inquired Dorothy, turning to the
Quadling.

The chubby man shook his head.

“I’m too lazy,” he said. “My wife says I’m the
laziest man in all Oz, and she is a truthful
woman. I hate work of any kind, and making a raft
is hard work.”

“I’ll give you my em’rald ring,” promised the
girl.

“No; I don’t care for emeralds. If it were a
ruby, which is the color I like best, I might work
a little while.”

“I’ve got some Square Meal Tablets,” said the
Scarecrow. “Each one is the same as a dish of
soup, a fried fish, a mutton pot-pie, lobster
salad, charlotte russe and lemon jelly–all made
into one little tablet that you can swallow
without trouble.”

“Without trouble!” exclaimed the Quadling,
much interested; “then those tablets would be
fine for a lazy man. It’s such hard work to chew
when you eat.”

“I’ll give you six of those tablets if you’ll
help us make a raft,” promised the Scarecrow.
“They’re a combination of food which people who
eat are very fond of. I never eat, you know, being
straw; but some of my friends eat regularly. What
do you say to my offer, Quadling?”

“I’ll do it,” decided the man. “I’ll help, and
you can do most of the work. But my wife has
gone fishing for red eels to-day, so some of you
will have to mind the children.”

Scraps promised to do that, and the children
were not so shy when the Patchwork Girl sat
down to play with them. They grew to like
Toto, too, and the little dog allowed them to
pat him on his head, which gave the little ones
much joy.

There were a number of fallen trees near the
house and the Quadling got his axe and chopped
them into logs of equal length. He took his wife’s
clothesline to bind these logs together, so that
they would form a raft, and Ojo found some strips
of wood and nailed them along the tops of the
logs, to render them more firm. The Scarecrow and
Dorothy helped roll the logs together and carry
the strips of wood, but it took so long to make
the raft that evening came just as it was
finished, and with evening the Quadling’s wife
returned from her fishing.

The woman proved to be cross and bad-tempered,
perhaps because she had only caught one red eel
during all the day. When she found that her
husband had used her clothesline, and the logs she
had wanted for firewood, and the boards she had
intended to mend the shed with, and a lot of gold
nails, she became very angry. Scraps wanted to
shake the woman, to make her behave, but Dorothy
talked to her in a gentle tone and told the
Quadling’s wife she was a Princess of Oz and a
friend of Ozma and that when she got back to the
Emerald City she would send them a lot of things
to repay them for the raft, including a new
clothesline. This promise pleased the woman and
she soon became more pleasant, saying they could
stay the night at her house and begin their voyage
on the river next morning.

This they did, spending a pleasant evening
with the Quadling family and being entertained
with such hospitality as the poor people were
able to offer them. The man groaned a good
deal and said he had overworked himself by
chopping the logs, but the Scarecrow gave him
two more tablets than he had promised, which
seemed to comfort the lazy fellow.

 

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