FictionForest

Chapter 26 – The Trick River

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

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Next morning they pushed the raft into the water
and all got aboard. The Quadling man had to hold
the log craft fast while they took their places,
and the flow of the river was so powerful that it
nearly tore the raft from his hands. As soon as
they were all seated upon the logs he let go and
away it floated and the adventurers had begun
their voyage toward the Winkie Country.

The little house of the Quadlings was out of
sight almost before they had cried their good-
byes, and the Scarecrow said in a pleased voice:
“It won’t take us long to get to the Winkie
Country, at this rate.”

They had floated several miles down the stream
and were enjoying the ride when suddenly the raft
slowed up, stopped short, and then began to float
back the way it had come.

“Why, what’s wrong?” asked Dorothy, in
astonishment; but they were all just as bewildered
as she was and at first no one could answer the
question. Soon, however, they realized the truth:
that the current of the river had reversed and the
water was now flowing in the opposite direction–
toward the mountains.

They began to recognize the scenes they had
passed, and by and by they came in sight of the
little house of the Quadlings again. The man
was standing on the river bank and he called
to them:

“How do you do? Glad to see you again. I forgot
to tell you that the river changes its direction
every little while. Sometimes it flows one way,
and sometimes the other.”

They had no time to answer him, for the raft
was swept past the house and a long distance on
the other side of it.

“We’re going just the way we don’t want to
go,” said Dorothy, “and I guess the best thing
we can do is to get to land before we’re carried
any farther.”

But they could not get to land. They had
no oars, nor even a pole to guide the raft with.
The logs which bore them floated in the middle
of the stream and were held fast in that position
by the strong current.

So they sat still and waited and, even while
they were wondering what could be done, the raft
slowed down, stopped, and began drifting the other
way–in the direction it had first followed. After
a time they repassed the Quadling house and the
man was still standing on the bank. He cried out
to them:

“Good day! Glad to see you again. I expect
I shall see you a good many times, as you go
by, unless you happen to swim ashore.”

By that time they had left him behind and
were headed once more straight toward the
Winkie Country.

“This is pretty hard luck,” said Ojo in a
discouraged voice. “The Trick River keeps
changing, it seems, and here we must float back
and forward forever, unless we manage in some way
to get ashore.”

“Can you swim?” asked Dorothy.

“No; I’m Ojo the Unlucky.”

“Neither can I. Toto can swim a little, but
that won’t help us to get to shore.”

“I don’t know whether I could swim, or not,”
remarked Scraps; “but if I tried it I’d surely ruin
my lovely patches.”

“My straw would get soggy in the water and
I would sink,” said the Scarecrow.

So there seemed no way out of their dilemma
and being helpless they simply sat still. Ojo,
who was on the front of the raft, looked over
into the water and thought he saw some large
fishes swimming about. He found a loose end
of the clothesline which fastened the logs
together, and taking a gold nail from his pocket
he bent it nearly double, to form a hook, and
tied it to the end of the line. Having baited the
hook with some bread which he broke from his
loaf, he dropped the line into the water and
almost instantly it was seized by a great fish.

They knew it was a great fish, because it
pulled so hard on the line that it dragged the
raft forward even faster than the current of the
river had carried it. The fish was frightened,
and it was a strong swimmer. As the other end
of the clothesline was bound around the logs
he could not get it away, and as he had greedily
swallowed the gold hook at the first bite he
could not get rid of that, either.

When they reached the place where the current
had before changed, the fish was still swimming
ahead in its wild attempt to escape. The raft
slowed down, yet it did not stop, because the fish
would not let it. It continued to move in the same
direction it had been going. As the current
reversed and rushed backward on its course it
failed to drag the raft with it. Slowly, inch by
inch, they floated on, and the fish tugged and
tugged and kept them going.

“I hope he won’t give up,” said Ojo anxiously.
“If the fish can hold out until the current
changes again, we’ll be all right.”

The fish did not give up, but held the raft
bravely on its course, till at last the water in
the river shifted again and floated them the way
they wanted to go. But now the captive fish
found its strength failing. Seeking a refuge, it
began to drag the raft toward the shore. As they
did not wish to land in this place the boy cut
the rope with his pocket-knife and set the fish
free, just in time to prevent the raft from
grounding.

The next time the river backed up the Scarecrow
managed to seize the branch of a tree that
overhung the water and they all assisted him to
hold fast and prevent the raft from being carried
backward. While they waited here, Ojo spied a long
broken branch lying upon the bank, so he leaped
ashore and got it. When he had stripped off the
side shoots he believed he could use the branch as
a pole, to guide the raft in case of emergency.

They clung to the tree until they found the
water flowing the right way, when they let go
and permitted the raft to resume its voyage. In
spite of these pauses they were really making
good progress toward the Winkie Country and
having found a way to conquer the adverse
current their spirits rose considerably. They
could see little of the country through which
they were passing, because of the high banks,
and they met with no boats or other craft upon
the surface of the river.

Once more the trick river reversed its current,
but this time the Scarecrow was on guard and
used the pole to push the raft toward a big
rock which lay in the water. He believed the
rock would prevent their floating backward with
the current, and so it did. They clung to this
anchorage until the water resumed its proper
direction, when they allowed the raft to drift on.

Floating around a bend they saw ahead a high
bank of water, extending across the entire river,
and toward this they were being irresistibly
carried. There being no way to arrest the progress
of the raft they clung fast to the logs and let
the river sweep them on. Swiftly the raft climbed
the bank of water and slid down on the other side,
plunging its edge deep into the water and
drenching them all with spray.

As again the raft righted and drifted on,
Dorothy and Ojo laughed at the ducking they had
received; but Scraps was much dismayed and the
Scarecrow took out his handkerchief and wiped the
water off the Patchwork Girl’s patches as well as
he was able to. The sun soon dried her and the
colors of her patches proved good, for they did
not run together nor did they fade.

After passing the wall of water the current did
not change or flow backward any more but continued
to sweep them steadily forward. The banks of the
river grew lower, too, permitting them to see more
of the country, and presently they discovered
yellow buttercups and dandelions growing amongst
the grass, from which evidence they knew they had
reached the Winkie Country.

“Don’t you think we ought to land?” Dorothy
asked the Scarecrow.

“Pretty soon,” he replied. “The Tin Woodman’s
castle is in the southern part of the Winkie
Country, and so it can’t be a great way from
here.”

Fearing they might drift too far, Dorothy and
Ojo now stood up and raised the Scarecrow in
their arms, as high as they could, thus allowing
him a good view of the country. For a time he
saw nothing he recognized, but finally he cried:

“There it is! There it is!”

“What?” asked Dorothy.

“The Tin Woodman’s tin castle. I can see
its turrets glittering in the sun. It’s quite a way
off, but we’d better land as quickly as we can.”

They let him down and began to urge the raft
toward the shore by means of the pole. It obeyed
very well, for the current was more sluggish
now, and soon they had reached the bank and
landed safely.

The Winkie Country was really beautiful,
and across the fields they could see afar the
silvery sheen of the tin castle. With light hearts
they hurried toward it, being fully rested by
their long ride on the river.

By and by they began to cross an immense
field of splendid yellow lilies, the delicate
fragrance of which was very delightful.

“How beautiful they are!” cried Dorothy,
stopping to admire the perfection of these
exquisite flowers.

“Yes,” said the Scarecrow, reflectively, “but
we must be careful not to crush or injure any
of these lilies.”

“Why not?” asked Ojo.

“The Tin Woodman is very kind-hearted,”
was the reply, “and he hates to see any living
thing hurt in any way.

“Are flowers alive?” asked Scraps.

“Yes, of course. And these flowers belong to
the Tin Woodman. So, in order not to offend
him, we must not tread on a single blossom.”

“Once,” said Dorothy, “the Tin Woodman
stepped on a beetle and killed the little creature.
That made him very unhappy and he cried until
his tears rusted his joints, so he couldn’t move
’em.”

“What did he do then?” asked Ojo.

“Put oil on them, until the joints worked
smooth again.

“Oh!” exclaimed the boy, as if a great discovery
had flashed across his mind. But he did not tell
anybody what the discovery was and kept the idea
to himself.

It was a long walk, but a pleasant one, and
they did not mind it a bit. Late in the afternoon
they drew near to the wonderful tin castle of
the Emperor of the Winkies, and Ojo and
Scraps, who had never seen it before, were
filled with amazement.

Tin abounded in the Winkie Country and
the Winkies were said to be the most skillful
tinsmiths in all the world. So the Tin Woodman
had employed them in building his magnificent
castle, which was all of tin, from the ground to
the tallest turret, and so brightly polished that
it glittered in the sun’s rays more gorgeously
than silver. Around the grounds of the castle
ran a tin wall, with tin gates; but the gates stood
wide open because the Emperor had no enemies
to disturb him.

When they entered the spacious grounds our
travelers found more to admire. Tin fountains sent
sprays of clear water far into the air and there
were many beds of tin flowers, all as perfectly
formed as any natural flowers might be. There
were tin trees, too, and here and there shady
bowers of tin, with tin benches and chairs to sit
upon. Also, on the sides of the pathway leading up
to the front door of the castle, were rows of tin
statuary, very cleverly executed. Among these Ojo
recognized statues of Dorothy, Toto, the
Scarecrow, the Wizard, the Shaggy Man, Jack
Pumpkinhead and Ozma, all standing upon neat
pedestals of tin.

Toto was well acquainted with the residence of
the Tin Woodman and, being assured a joyful
welcome, he ran ahead and barked so loudly at the
front door that the Tin Woodman heard him and came
out in person to see if it were really his old
friend Toto. Next moment the tin man had clasped
the Scarecrow in a warm embrace and then turned
to hug Dorothy. But now his eye was arrested by
the strange sight of the Patchwork Girl, and he
gazed upon her in mingled wonder and admiration.

 

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