FictionForest

Chapter 10 – A Terrible Tumble Through a Tube

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

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I suppose that Polychrome, and perhaps Queen Ann
and her Army, might have been able to dispel the
enchantment of Ruggedo’s Chief Magician had they
known that danger lay in their pathway; for the
Rainbow’s Daughter was a fairy and as Oogaboo is
a part of the Land of Oz its inhabitants cannot
easily be deceived by such common magic as the
Nome King could command. But no one suspected any
especial danger until after they had entered
Ruggedo’s cavern, and so they were journeying
along in quite a contented manner when Tik-Tok,
who marched ahead, suddenly disappeared.

The officers thought he must have turned a
corner, so they kept on their way and all of them
likewise disappeared–one after another. Queen Ann
was rather surprised at this, and in hastening
forward to learn the reason she also vanished from
sight.

Betsy Bobbin had tired her feet by walking, so
she was now riding upon the back of the stout
little mule, facing backward and talking to Shaggy
and Polychrome, who were just behind. Suddenly
Hank pitched forward and began falling and Betsy
would have tumbled over his head had she not
grabbed the mule’s shaggy neck with both arms and
held on for dear life.

All around was darkness, and they were not
falling directly downward but seemed to be sliding
along a steep incline. Hank’s hoofs were resting
upon some smooth substance over which he slid with
the swiftness of the wind. Once Betsy’s heels flew
up and struck a similar substance overhead. They
were, indeed, descending the “Hollow Tube” that
led to the other side of the world.

“Stop, Hank-stop!” cried the girl; but Hank
only uttered a plaintive “Hee-haw!” for it was
impossible for him to obey.

After several minutes had passed and no harm had
befallen them, Betsy gained courage. She could see
nothing at all, nor could she hear anything except
the rush of air past her ears as they plunged
downward along the Tube. Whether she and Hank were
alone, or the others were with them, she could not
tell. But had some one been able to take a
flashlight photograph of the Tube at that time a
most curious picture would have resulted. There
was Tik-Tok, flat upon his back and sliding
headforemost down the incline. And there were the
Officers of the Army of Oogaboo, all tangled up in
a confused crowd, flapping their arms and trying
to shield their faces from the clanking swords,
which swung back and forth during the swift
journey and pommeled everyone within their reach.
Now followed Queen Ann, who had struck the Tube in
a sitting position and went flying along with a
dash and abandon that thoroughly bewildered the
poor lady, who had no idea what had happened to
her. Then, a little distance away, but unseen by
the others in the inky darkness, slid Betsy and
Hank, while behind them were Shaggy and Polychrome
and finally Files and the princess.

When first they tumbled into the Tube, all were
too dazed to think clearly, but the trip was a
long one, because the cavity led straight through
the earth to a place just opposite the Nome King’s
dominions, and long before the adventurers got to
the end they had begun to recover their wits.

“This is awful, Hank!” cried Betsy in a loud
voice, and Queen Ann heard her and called out:
“Are you safe, Betsy?”

“Mercy, no!” answered the little girl. “How
could anyone be safe when she’s going about
sixty miles a minute?” Then, after a pause, she
added: “But where do you s’pose we’re going
to, Your Maj’sty?”

“Don’t ask her that, please don’t!” said
Shaggy, who was not too far away to overhear
them. “And please don’t ask me why, either.”

“Why?” said Betsy.

“No one can tell where we are going until
we get there,” replied Shaggy, and then he
yelled “Ouch!” for Polychrome had overtaken
him and was now sitting on his head.

The Rainbow’s Daughter laughed merrily,
and so infectious was this joyous laugh that
Betsy echoed it and Hank said “Hee haw!” in a
mild and sympathetic tone of voice.

“I’d like to know where and when we’ll arrive,
just the same,” exclaimed the little girl.

“Be patient and you’ll find out, my dear,” said
Polychrome. “But isn’t this an odd experience?
Here am I, whose home is in the skies, making
a journey through the center of the earth–where
I never expected to be!”

“How do you know we’re in the center of the
earth?” asked Betsy, her voice trembling a little
through nervousness.

“Why, we can t be anywhere else,” replied
Polychrome. “I have often heard of this passage,
which was once built by a Magician who was a
great traveler. He thought it would save him the
bother of going around the earth’s surface, but
he tumbled through the Tube so fast that he
shot out at the other end and hit a star in the sky,
which at once exploded.”

“The star exploded?” asked Betsy wonderingly.

“Yes; the Magician hit it so hard.”

“And what became of the Magician?” inquired the
girl.

“No one knows that,” answered Polychrome. “But I
don’t think it matters much.”

“It matters a good deal, if we also hit the
stars when we come out,” said Queen Ann, with a
moan.

“Don’t worry,” advised Polychrome. “I believe
the Magician was going the other way, and probably
he went much faster than we are going.”

“It’s fast enough to suit me,” remarked
Shaggy, gently removing Polychrome’s heel
from his left eye. “Couldn’t you manage to fall
all by yourself, my dear?”

“I’ll try,” laughed the Rainbow’s Daughter.

All this time they were swiftly falling through
the Tube, and it was not so easy for them to talk
as you may imagine when you read their words. But
although they were so helpless and altogether in
the dark as to their fate, the fact that they were
able to converse at all cheered them,
considerably.

Files and Ozga were also conversing as they
clung tightly to one another, and the young
fellow bravely strove to reassure the Princess,
although he was terribly frightened, both on her
account and on his own.

An hour, under such trying circumstances, is
a very long time, and for more than an hour they
continued their fearful journey. Then, just as
they began to fear the Tube would never end,
Tik-Tok popped out into broad daylight and,
after making a graceful circle in the air, fell
with a splash into a great marble fountain.

Out came the officers, in quick succession,
tumbling heels over head and striking the
ground in many undignified attitudes.

“For the love of sassafras!” exclaimed a
Peculiar Person who was hoeing pink violets in a
garden. “What can all this mean?”

For answer, Queen Ann sailed up from the
Tube, took a ride through the air as high as the
treetops, and alighted squarely on top of the
Peculiar Person’s head, smashing a jeweled
crown over his eyes and tumbling him to the
ground.

The mule was heavier and had Betsy clinging to
his back, so he did not go so high up. Fortunately
for his little rider he struck the ground upon his
four feet. Betsy was jarred a trifle but not hurt
and when she looked around her she saw the Queen
and the Peculiar Person struggling together upon
the ground, where the man was trying to choke Ann
and she had both hands in his bushy hair and was
pulling with all her might. Some of the officers,
when they got upon their feet, hastened to
separate the combatants and sought to restrain the
Peculiar Person so that he could not attack their
Queen again.

By this time, Shaggy, Polychrome, Ozga and Files
had all arrived and were curiously examining the
strange country in which they found themselves and
which they knew to be exactly on the opposite side
of the world from the place where they had fallen
into the Tube. It was a lovely place, indeed, and
seemed to be the garden of some great Prince, for
through the vistas of trees and shrubbery could be
seen the towers of an immense castle. But as yet
the only inhabitant to greet them was the Peculiar
Person just mentioned, who had shaken off the
grasp of the officers without effort and was now
trying to pull the battered crown from off his
eyes.

Shaggy, who was always polite, helped him to
do this and when the man was free and could
see again he looked at his visitors with evident
amazement.

“Well, well, well!” he exclaimed. “Where did
you come from and how did you get here?”

Betsy tried to answer him, for Queen Ann was
surly and silent.

“I can’t say, exac’ly where we came from,
cause I don’t know the name of the place,” said
the girl, “but the way we got here was through
the Hollow Tube.”

“Don’t call it a ‘hollow’ Tube, please,”
exclaimed the Peculiar Person in an irritated tone
of voice. “If~it’s a tube, it’s sure to be
hollow.”

“Why?” asked Betsy.

“Because all tubes are made that way. But this
Tube is private property and everyone is forbidden
to fall into it.”

“We didn’t do it on purpose,” explained Betsy,
and Polychrome added: “I am quite sure that
Ruggedo, the Nome King, pushed us down that Tube.”

“Ha! Ruggedo! Did you say Ruggedo?” cried the
man, becoming much excited.

“That is what she said,” replied Shaggy, “and I
believe she is right. We were on our way to
conquer the Nome King when suddenly we fell into
the Tube.”

“Then you are enemies of Ruggedo?” inquired the
peculiar Person.

“Not exac’ly enemies,” said Betsy, a little
puzzled by the question, “’cause we don’t know him
at all; “but we started out to conquer him, which
isn’t as friendly as it might be.”

“True,” agreed the man. He looked thoughtfully
from one to another of them for a while and then
he turned his head over his shoulder and said:
“Never mind the fire and pincers, my good
brothers. It will be best to take these strangers
to the Private Citizen.”

“Very well, Tubekins,” responded a Voice,
deep and powerful, that seemed to come out of
the air, for the speaker was invisible.

All our friends gave a jump, at this. Even
Polychrome was so startled that her gauze
draperies fluttered like a banner in a breeze.
Shaggy shook his head and sighed; Queen Ann looked
very unhappy; the officers clung to each other,
trembling violently.

But soon they gained courage to look more
closely at the Peculiar Person. As he was a type
of all the inhabitants of this extraordinary land
whom they afterward met, I will try to tell you
what he looked like.

His face was beautiful, but lacked expression.
His eyes were large and blue in color and his
teeth finely formed and white as snow. His hair
was black and bushy and seemed inclined to curl at
the ends. So far no one could find any fault with
his appearance. He wore a robe of scarlet, which
did not cover his arms and extended no lower than
his bare knees. On the bosom of the robe was
embroidered a terrible dragon’s head, as horrible
to look at as the man was beautiful. His arms and
legs were left bare and the skin of one arm was
bright yellow and the skin of the other arm a
vivid green. He had one blue leg and one pink one,
while both his feet–which showed through the open
sandals he wore–were jet black.

Betsy could not decide whether these gorgeous
colors were dyes or the natural tints of the skin,
but while she was thinking it over the man who
had been called “Tubekins” said:

“Follow me to the Residence–all of you!”

But just then a Voice exclaimed: “Here’s another
of them, Tubekins, lying in the water of the
fountain.”

“Gracious!” cried Betsy; “it must be Tik-Tok,
and he’ll drown.”

“Water is a bad thing for his clockworks,
anyway,” agreed Shaggy, as with one accord they
all started for the fountain. But before they
could reach it, invisible hands raised Tik-Tok
from the marble basin and set him upon his feet
beside it, water dripping from every joint of his
copper body.

“Ma-ny tha-tha-tha-thanks!” he said; and
then his copper jaws clicked together and he
could say no more. He next made an attempt to
walk but after several awkward trials found he
could not move his joints.

Peals of jeering laughter from persons unseen
greeted Tik-Tok’s failure, and the new arrivals in
this strange land found it very uncomfortable to
realize that there were many creatures around them
who were invisible, yet could be heard plainly.

“Shall I wind him up?” asked Betsy, feeling very
sorry for Tik-Tok.

“I think his machinery is wound; but he needs
oiling,” replied Shaggy.

At once an oil-can appeared before him, held
on a level with his eyes by some unseen hand.
Shaggy took the can and tried to oil Tik-Tok’s
joints. As if to assist him, a strong current of
warm air was directed against the copper man
which quickly dried him. Soon he was able to
say “Ma-ny thanks!” quite smoothly and his
joints worked fairly well.

“Come!” commanded Tubekins, and turning his back
upon them he walked up the path toward the castle.

“Shall we go?” asked Queen Ann, uncertainly; but
just then she received a shove that almost pitched
her forward on her head; so she decided to go. The
officers who hesitated received several energetic
kicks, but could not see who delivered them;
therefore they also decided–very wisely–to go.
The others followed willingly enough, for unless
they ventured upon another terrible journey
through the Tube they must make the best of the
unknown country they were in, and the best seemed
to be to obey orders.

 

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