FictionForest

Chapter 7 – Polychrome’s Pitiful Plight

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

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The Rain King got too much water in his basin and
spilled some over the brim. That made it rain in a
certain part of the country–a real hard shower,
for a time–and sent the Rainbow scampering to the
place to show the gorgeous colors of his glorious
bow as soon as the mist of rain had passed and the
sky was clear.

The coming of the Rainbow is always a joyous
event to earth folk, yet few have ever seen it
close by. Usually the Rainbow is so far distant
that you can observe its splendid hues but dimly,
and that is why we seldom catch sight of the
dancing Daughters of the Rainbow.

In the barren country where the rain had
just fallen there appeared to be no human
beings at all; but the Rainbow appeared, just
the same, and dancing gayly upon its arch were
the Rainbow’s Daughters, led by the fairylike
Polychrome, who is so dainty and beautiful that
no girl has ever quite equalled her in loveliness.

Polychrome was in a merry mood and danced down
the arch of the bow to the ground, daring her
sisters to follow her. Laughing and gleeful, they
also touched the ground with their twinkling feet;
but all the Daughters of the Rainbow knew that
this was a dangerous pastime, so they quickly
climbed upon their bow again.

All but Polychrome. Though the sweetest and
merriest of them all, she was likewise the most
reckless. Moreover, it was an unusual sensation to
pat the cold, damp earth with her rosy toes.
Before she realized it the bow had lifted and
disappeared in the billowy blue sky, and here was
Polychrome standing helpless upon a rock, her
gauzy draperies floating about her like brilliant
cobwebs and not a soul–fairy or mortal–to help
her regain her lost bow!

“Dear me!” she exclaimed, a frown passing across
her pretty face, “I’m caught again. This is the
second time my carelessness has left me on earth
while my sisters returned to our Sky Palaces. The
first time I enjoyed some pleasant adventures, but
this is a lonely, forsaken country and I shall be
very unhappy until my Rainbow comes again and I
can climb aboard. Let me think what is best to be
done.”

She crouched low upon the flat rock, drew her
draperies about her and bowed her head.

It was in this position that Betsy Bobbin spied
Polychrome as she came along the stony path,
followed by Hank, the Princess and Shaggy. At once
the girl ran up to the radiant Daughter of the
Rainbow and exclaimed:

“Oh, what a lovely, lovely creature!”

Polychrome raised her golden head. There
were tears in her blue eyes.

“I’m the most miserable girl in the whole
world!” she sobbed.

The others gathered around her.

“Tell us your troubles, pretty one,” urged the
Princess.

“I–I’ve lost my bow!” wailed Polychrome.

“Take me, my dear,” said Shaggy Man in a
sympathetic tone, thinking she meant “beau”
instead of “bow.”

“I don’t want you!” cried Polychrome, stamping
her foot imperiously; “I want my Rainbow.”

“Oh; that’s different,” said Shaggy. “But try to
forget it. When I was young I used to cry for the
Rainbow myself, but I couldn’t have it. Looks as
if you couldn’t have it, either; so please don’t
cry.”

Polychrome looked at him reproachfully.

“I don’t like you,” she said.

“No?” replied Shaggy, drawing the Love Magnet
from his pocket; “not a little bit?–just a wee
speck of a like?”

“Yes, yes!” said Polychrome, clasping her
hands in ecstasy as she gazed at the enchanted
talisman; “I love you, Shaggy Man!”

“Of course you do,” said he calmly; “but I don’t
take any credit for it. It’s the Love Magnet’s
powerful charm. But you seem quite alone and
friendless, little Rainbow. Don’t you want to join
our party until you find your father and sisters
again?”

“Where are you going?” she asked.

“We don’t just know that,” said Betsy, taking
her hand; “but we’re trying to find Shaggy’s long-
lost brother, who has been captured by the
terrible Metal Monarch. Won’t you come with us,
and help us?”

Polychrome looked from one to another of the
queer party of travelers and a bewitching smile
suddenly lighted her face.

“A donkey, a mortal maid, a Rose Princess and a
Shaggy Man!” she exclaimed. “Surely you need help,
if you intend to face Ruggedo.”

“Do you know him, then?” inquired Betsy.

“No, indeed. Ruggedo’s caverns are beneath the
earth’s surface, where no Rainbow can ever
penetrate. But I’ve heard of the Metal Monarch. He
is also called the Nome King, you know, and he has
made trouble for a good many people –mortals and
fairies–in his time,” said Polychrome.

“Do you fear him, then?” asked the Princess,
anxiously.

“No one can harm a Daughter of the Rainbow,”
said Polychrome proudly. “I’m a sky fairy.”

“Then,” said Betsy, quickly, “you will be able
to tell us the way to Ruggedo’s cavern.”

“No,” returned Polychrome, shaking her head,
“that is one thing I cannot do. But I will gladly,,
go with you and help you search for the place.”

This promise delighted all the wanderers and
after the Shaggy Man had found the path again
they began moving along it in a more happy
mood. The Rainbow’s Daughter danced lightly
over the rocky trail, no longer sad, but with her
beautiful features wreathed in smiles. Shaggy
came next, walking steadily and now and then
supporting the Rose Princess, who followed him.
Betsy and Hank brought up the rear, and if she
tired with walking the girl got upon Hank’s back
and let the stout little donkey carry her for
a while.

At nightfall they came to some trees that grew
beside a tiny brook and here they made camp and
rested until morning. Then away they tramped,
finding berries and fruits here and there which
satisfied the hunger of Betsy, Shaggy and Hank,
so that they were well content with their lot.

It surprised Betsy to see the Rose Princess
partake of their food, for she considered her a
fairy; but when she mentioned this to Polychrome,
the Rainbow’s Daughter explained that when Ozga
was driven out of her Rose Kingdom she ceased to
be a fairy and would never again be more than a
mere mortal. Polychrome, however, was a fairy
wherever she happened to be, and if she sipped a
few dewdrops by moonlight for refreshment no one
ever saw her do it.

As they continued their wandering journey,
direction meant very little to them, for they were
hopelessly lost in this strange country. Shaggy
said it would be best to go toward the mountains,
as the natural entrance to Ruggedo’s underground
cavern was likely to be hidden in some rocky,
deserted place; but mountains seemed all around
them except in the one direction that they had
come from, which led to the Rose Kingdom and the
sea. Therefore it mattered little which way they
traveled.

By and by they espied a faint trail that looked
like a path and after following this for some time
they reached a crossroads. Here were many paths,
leading in various directions, and there was a
signpost so old that there were now no words upon
the sign. At one side was an old well, with a
chain windlass for drawing water, yet there was no
house or other building anywhere in sight.

While the party halted, puzzled which way
to proceed, the mule approached the well and
tried to look into it.

“He’s thirsty,” said Betsy.

“It’s a dry well,” remarked Shaggy. “Probably
there has been no water in it for many years. But,
come; let us decide which way to travel.”

No one seemed able to decide that. They sat
down in a group and tried to consider which
road might be the best to take. Hank, however,
could not keep away from the well and finally
he reared up on his hind legs, got his head over
the edge and uttered a loud “Hee-haw!” Betsy
watched her animal friend curiously.

“I wonder if he sees anything down there?” she
said.

At this, Shaggy rose and went over to the well
to investigate, and Betsy went with him. The
Princess and Polychrome, who had become fast
friends, linked arms and sauntered down one of the
roads, to find an easy path.

“Really,” said Shaggy, “there does seem to
be something at the bottom of this old well.”

“Can’t we pull it up, and see what it is?” asked
the girl.

There was no bucket at the end of the windlass
chain, but there was a big hook that at one time
was used to hold a bucket. Shaggy let down this
hook, dragged it around on the bottom and then
pulled it up. An old hoopskirt came with it, and
Betsy laughed and threw it away. The thing
frightened Hank, who had never seen a hoopskirt
before, and he kept a good distance away from it.

Several other objects the Shaggy Man captured
with the hook and drew up, but none of these was
important.

“This well seems to have been the dump for
all the old rubbish in the country,” he said,
letting down the hook once more. “I guess I’ve
captured everything now. No–the hook has caught
again. Help me, Betsy! Whatever this thing is,
it’s heavy.”

She ran up and helped him turn the windlass
and after much effort a confused mass of copper
came in sight.

“Good gracious!” exclaimed Shaggy. “Here is
a surprise, indeed!”

“What is it?” inquired Betsy, clinging to the
windlass and panting for breath.

For answer the Shaggy Man grasped the
bundle of copper and dumped it upon the
ground, free of the well. Then he turned it over
with his foot, spread it out, and to Betsy’s
astonishment the thing proved to be a copper
man.

“Just as I thought,” said Shaggy, looking hard
at the object. “But unless there are two copper
men in the world this is the most astonishing
thing I ever came across.”

At this moment the Rainbow’s Daughter and the
Rose Princess approached them, and Polychrome
said:

“What have you found, Shaggy One?”

“Either an old friend, or a stranger,” he
replied.

“Oh, here’s a sign on his back!” cried Betsy,
who had knelt down to examine the man. “Dear me;
how funny! Listen to this.”

Then she read the following words, engraved
upon the copper plates of the man’s body:

SMITH & TINKER’S
Patent Double-Action, Extra-Responsive,
Thought-Creating, Perfect-Talking

MECHANICAL MAN
Fitted with our Special Clockwork Attachment.
Thinks, Speaks, Acts, and Does Everything
but Live.

“Isn’t he wonderful!” exclaimed the Princess.

“Yes; but here’s more,” said Betsy, reading
from another engraved plate:

DIRECTIONS FOR USING:

For THINKING:–Wind the Clockwork

Man under his left arm, (marked No. 1).
For SPEAKING:–Wind the Clockwork
Man under his right arm, (marked No. 2).
For WALKING and ACTION:–Wind Clockwork Man
in the middle of his back, (marked No. 3).

N. B.–This Mechanism is guaranteed to
work perfectly for a thousand years.

“If he’s guaranteed for a thousand years,” said
Polychrome, “he ought to work yet.”

“Of course,” replied Shaggy. “Let’s wind him up.”

In order to do this they were obliged to set the
copper man upon his feet, in an upright position,
and this was no easy task. He was inclined to
topple over, and had to be propped again and
again. The girls assisted Shaggy, and at last Tik-
Tok seemed to be balanced and stood alone upon his
broad feet.

“Yes,” said Shaggy, looking at the copper man
carefully, “this must be, indeed, my old friend
Tik-Tok, whom I left ticking merrily in the
Land of Oz. But how he came to this lonely
place, and got into that old well, is surely a
mystery.”

“If we wind him, perhaps he will tell us,”
suggested Betsy. “Here’s the key, hanging to a
hook on his back. What part of him shall I wind up
first?”

“His thoughts, of course,” said Polychrome,
“for it requires thought to speak or move
intelligently.”

So Betsy wound him under his left arm, and
at once little flashes of light began to show in
the top of his head, which was proof that he had
begun to think.

“Now, then,” said Shaggy, “wind up his
phonograph.”

“What’s that?” she asked.

“Why, his talking-machine. His thoughts may
be interesting, but they don’t tell us anything.”

So Betsy wound the copper man under his right
arm, and then from the interior of his copper body
came in jerky tones the words: “Ma-ny thanks!”

“Hurrah!” cried Shaggy, joyfully, and he slapped
Tik-Tok upon the back in such a hearty manner that
the copper man lost his balance and tumbled to the
ground in a heap. But the clock-work that enabled
him to speak had been wound up and he kept saying:
“Pick-me-up! Pick-me-up! Pick-me-up!” until they
had again raised him and balanced him upon his
feet, when he added politely: “Ma-ny thanks!”

“He won’t be self-supporting until we wind
up his action,” remarked Shaggy; so Betsy
wound it, as tight as she could–for the key
turned rather hard–and then Tik-Tok lifted his
feet, marched around in a circle and ended by
stopping before the group and making them all
a low bow.

“How in the world did you happen to be in
that well, when I left you safe in Oz?” inquired
Shaggy.

“It is a long sto-ry,” replied Tik-Tok, “but
I’ll tell it in a few words. Af-ter you had gone
in search of your broth-er, Oz-ma saw you wander-
ing in strange lands when-ev-er she looked in her
mag-ic pic-ture, and she also saw your broth-er in
the Nome King’s cavern; so she sent me to tell you
where to find your broth-er and told me to help you
if I could. The Sor-cer-ess, Glin-da the Good,
trans-port-ed me to this place in the wink of an
eye; but here I met the Nome King him-self–old
Rug-ge-do, who is called in these parts the Met-al
Mon-arch. Rug-ge-do knew what I had come for, and
he was so an-gry that he threw me down the well.
Af-ter my works ran down I was help-less un-til you
came a-long and pulled me out a-gain. Ma-ny
thanks.”

“This is, indeed, good news,” said Shaggy. “I
suspected that my brother was the prisoner of
Ruggedo; but now I know it. Tell us, Tik-Tok, how
shall we get to the Nome King’s underground
cavern?”

“The best way is to walk,” said Tik-Tok. “We
might crawl, or jump, or roll o-ver and o-ver
until we get there; but the best way is to walk.”

“I know; but which road shall we take?”

“My ma-chin-er-y is-n’t made to tell that,”
replied Tik-Tok.

“There is more than one entrance to the
underground cavern,” said Polychrome; “but old
Ruggedo has cleverly concealed every opening, so
that earth dwellers can not intrude in his domain.
If we find our way underground at all, it will be
by chance.”

“Then,” said Betsy, “let us select any road,
haphazard, and see where it leads us.”

“That seems sensible,” declared the Princess.
“It may require a lot of time for us to find
Ruggedo, but we have more time than anything
else.”

“If you keep me wound up,” said Tik-Tok, “I
will last a thou-sand years.”

“Then the only question to decide is which
way to go,” added Shaggy, looking first at one
road and then at another.

But while they stood hesitating, a peculiar
sound reached their ears–a sound like the
tramping of many feet.

“What’s coming?” cried Betsy; and then she
ran to the left-hand road and glanced along the
path. “Why, it’s an army!” she exclaimed. “What
shall we do, hide or run?”

“Stand still,” commanded Shaggy. “I’m not afraid
of an army. If they prove to be friendly, they can
help us; if they are enemies, I’ll show them the
Love Magnet.”

 

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