FictionForest

Chapter 8 – The Mysterious City

L. Frank BaumOct 05, 2016'Command+D' Bookmark this page

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There they sat upon the grass, their heads still swimming from their
dizzy flights, and looked at one another in silent bewilderment. But
presently, when assured that no one was injured, they grew more calm
and collected, and the Lion said with a sigh of relief, “Who would
have thought those Merry-Go-Round Mountains were made of rubber?”

“Are they really rubber?” asked Trot.

“They must be,” replied the Lion, “for otherwise we would not have
bounded so swiftly from one to another without getting hurt.”

“That is all guesswork,” declared the Wizard, unwinding the blankets
from his body, “for none of us stayed long enough on the mountains to
discover what they are made of. But where are we?”

“That’s guesswork,” said Scraps. “The shepherd said the
Thistle-Eaters live this side of the mountains and are waited on by
giants.”

“Oh no,” said Dorothy, “it’s the Herkus who have giant slaves, and the
Thistle-Eaters hitch dragons to their chariots.”

“How could they do that?” asked the Woozy. “Dragons have long tails,
which would get in the way of the chariot wheels.”

“And if the Herkus have conquered the giants,” said Trot, “they must
be at least twice the size of giants. P’raps the Herkus are the
biggest people in all the world!”

“Perhaps they are,” assented the Wizard in a thoughtful tone of voice.
“And perhaps the shepherd didn’t know what he was talking about. Let
us travel on toward the west and discover for ourselves what the
people of this country are like.”

It seemed a pleasant enough country, and it was quite still and
peaceful when they turned their eyes away from the silently whirling
mountains. There were trees here and there and green bushes, while
throughout the thick grass were scattered brilliantly colored flowers.
About a mile away was a low hill that hid from them all the country
beyond it, so they realized they could not tell much about the country
until they had crossed the hill. The Red Wagon having been left
behind, it was now necessary to make other arrangements for traveling.
The Lion told Dorothy she could ride upon his back as she had often
done before, and the Woozy said he could easily carry both Trot and
the Patchwork Girl. Betsy still had her mule, Hank, and Button-Bright
and the Wizard could sit together upon the long, thin back of the
Sawhorse, but they took care to soften their seat with a pad of
blankets before they started. Thus mounted, the adventurers started
for the hill, which was reached after a brief journey.

As they mounted the crest and gazed beyond the hill, they discovered
not far away a walled city, from the towers and spires of which gay
banners were flying. It was not a very big city, indeed, but its
walls were very high and thick, and it appeared that the people who
lived there must have feared attack by a powerful enemy, else they
would not have surrounded their dwellings with so strong a barrier.
There was no path leading from the mountains to the city, and this
proved that the people seldom or never visited the whirling hills, but
our friends found the grass soft and agreeable to travel over, and
with the city before them they could not well lose their way. When
they drew nearer to the walls, the breeze carried to their ears the
sound of music–dim at first, but growing louder as they advanced.

“That doesn’t seem like a very terr’ble place,” remarked Dorothy.

“Well, it LOOKS all right,” replied Trot from her seat on the Woozy,
“but looks can’t always be trusted.”

“MY looks can,” said Scraps. “I LOOK patchwork, and I AM patchwork,
and no one but a blind owl could ever doubt that I’m the Patchwork
Girl.” Saying which, she turned a somersault off the Woozy and,
alighting on her feet, began wildly dancing about.

“Are owls ever blind?” asked Trot.

“Always, in the daytime,” said Button-Bright. “But Scraps can see
with her button eyes both day and night. Isn’t it queer?”

“It’s queer that buttons can see at all,” answered Trot. “But good
gracious! What’s become of the city?”

“I was going to ask that myself,” said Dorothy. “It’s
gone!”

“It’s gone!”

The animals came to a sudden halt, for the city had really
disappeared, walls and all, and before them lay the clear, unbroken
sweep of the country. “Dear me!” exclaimed the Wizard. “This is
rather disagreeable. It is annoying to travel almost to a place and
then find it is not there.”

“Where can it be, then?” asked Dorothy. “It cert’nly was there a
minute ago.”

“I can hear the music yet,” declared Button-Bright, and when they all
listened, the strains of music could plainly be heard.

“Oh! There’s the city over at the left,” called Scraps, and turning
their eyes, they saw the walls and towers and fluttering banners far
to the left of them.

“We must have lost our way,” suggested Dorothy.

“Nonsense,” said the Lion.

“I, and all the other animals, have been
tramping straight toward the city ever since we first saw it.”

“Then how does it happen–”

“Never mind,” interrupted the Wizard, “we are no farther from it than
we were before. It is in a different direction, that’s all, so let us
hurry and get there before it again escapes us.”

So on they went directly toward the city, which seemed only a couple
of miles distant. But when they had traveled less than a mile, it
suddenly disappeared again. Once more they paused, somewhat
discouraged, but in a moment the button eyes of Scraps again
discovered the city, only this time it was just behind them in the
direction from which they had come. “Goodness gracious!” cried
Dorothy. “There’s surely something wrong with that city. Do you
s’pose it’s on wheels, Wizard?”

“It may not be a city at all,” he replied, looking toward it with a
speculative glance.

“What COULD it be, then?”

“Just an illusion.”

“What’s that?” asked Trot.

“Something you think you see and don’t see.”

“I can’t believe that,” said Button-Bright. “If we only saw it, we
might be mistaken, but if we can see it and hear it, too, it must be
there.”

“Where?” asked the Patchwork Girl.

“Somewhere near us,” he insisted.

We will have to go back, I suppose,” said the Woozy with a sigh.

So back they turned and headed for the walled city until it
disappeared again, only to reappear at the right of them. They were
constantly getting nearer to it, however, so they kept their faces
turned toward it as it flitted here and there to all points of the
compass. Presently the Lion, who was leading the procession, halted
abruptly and cried out, “Ouch!”

“What’s the matter?” asked Dorothy.

“Ouch — Ouch!~ repeated the Lion, and leaped
backward so suddenly that Dorothy nearly tumbled from
his back. At the same time Hank the Mule yelled “Ouch!”

“Ouch! Ouch!” repeated the Lion and leaped backward so suddenly that
Dorothy nearly tumbled from his back. At the same time, Hank the Mule
yelled “Ouch!” almost as loudly as the Lion had done, and he also
pranced backward a few paces.

“It’s the thistles,” said Betsy.

“They prick their legs.”

Hearing this, all looked down, and sure enough the ground was thick
with thistles, which covered the plain from the point where they stood
way up to the walls of the mysterious city. No pathways through them
could be seen at all; here the soft grass ended and the growth of
thistles began. “They’re the prickliest thistles I ever felt,”
grumbled the Lion. “My legs smart yet from their stings, though I
jumped out of them as quickly as I could.”

“Here is a new difficulty,” remarked the Wizard in a grieved tone.
“The city has stopped hopping around, it is true, but how are we to
get to it over this mass of prickers?”

“They can’t hurt ME,” said the thick-skinned Woozy, advancing
fearlessly and trampling among the thistles.

“Nor me,” said the Wooden Sawhorse.

“But the Lion and the Mule cannot stand the prickers,” asserted
Dorothy, “and we can’t leave them behind.”

“Must we all go back?” asked Trot.

“Course not!” replied Button-Bright scornfully.
“Always when there’s trouble, there’s a way out of it if you can find it.”

“I wish the Scarecrow was here,” said Scraps, standing on her head on
the Woozy’s square back. “His splendid brains would soon show us how
to conquer this field of thistles.”

“What’s the matter with YOUR brains?” asked the boy.

“Nothing,” she said, making a flip-flop into the thistles and dancing
among them without feeling their sharp points. “I could tell you in
half a minute how to get over the thistles if I wanted to.”

“Tell us, Scraps!” begged Dorothy.

“I don’t want to wear my brains out with overwork,” replied the
Patchwork Girl.

“Don’t you love Ozma? And don’t you want to find her?” asked Betsy
reproachfully.

“Yes indeed,” said Scraps, walking on her hands as an acrobat does at
the circus.

“Well, we can’t find Ozma unless we get past these thistles,” declared
Dorothy.

Scraps danced around them two or three times without reply. Then she
said, “Don’t look at me, you stupid folks. Look at those blankets.”

The Wizard’s face brightened at once.

“Why didn’t we think of those blankets before?”

“Because you haven’t magic brains,” laughed Scraps.
“Such brains as you have are of the common sort that grow in your heads,
like weeds in a garden. I’m sorry for you people who have to be born in order to be
alive.”

But the Wizard was not listening to her. He quickly removed the
blankets from the back of the Sawhorse and spread one of them upon the
thistles, just next the grass. The thick cloth rendered the prickers
harmless, so the Wizard walked over this first blanket and spread the
second one farther on, in the direction of the phantom city. “These
blankets,” said he, “are for the Lion and the Mule to walk upon. The
Sawhorse and the Woozy can walk on the thistles.”

So the Lion and the Mule walked over the first blanket and stood upon
the second one until the Wizard had picked up the one they had passed
over and spread it in front of them, when they advanced to that one
and waited while the one behind them was again spread in front. “This
is slow work,” said the Wizard, “but it will get us to the city after
a while.”

“The city is a good half mile away yet,” announced Button-Bright.

“And this is awful hard work for the Wizard,” added Trot.

“Why couldn’t the Lion ride on the Woozy’s back?”
asked Dorothy.”it’s a big, flat back, and the Woozy’s mighty strong.
Perhaps the Lion wouldn’t fall off.”

“You may try it if you like,” said the Woozy to the Lion. “I can take
you to the city in a jiffy and then come back for Hank.”

“I’m–I’m afraid,” said the Cowardly Lion. He was twice as big as the
Woozy.

“Try it,” pleaded Dorothy.

“And take a tumble among the thistles?”asked the Lion reproachfully.
But when the Woozy came close to him, the big beast suddenly bounded
upon its back and managed to balance himself there, although forced to
hold his four legs so close together that he was in danger of toppling
over. The great weight of the monster Lion did not seem to affect the
Woozy, who called to his rider, “Hold on tight!” and ran swiftly over
the thistles toward the city. The others stood on the blanket and
watched the strange sight anxiously. Of course, the Lion couldn’t
“hold on tight” because there was nothing to hold to, and he swayed
from side to side as if likely to fall off any moment. Still, he
managed to stick to the Woozy’s back until they were close to the
walls of the city, when he leaped to the ground. Next moment the
Woozy came dashing back at full speed.

“There’s a little strip of ground next the wall where there are no
thistles,” he told them when he had reached the adventurers once more.
“Now then, friend Hank, see if you can ride as well as the Lion did.”

“Take the others first,” proposed the Mule. So the Sawhorse and the
Woozy made a couple of trips over the thistles to the city walls and
carried all the people in safety, Dorothy holding little Toto in her
arms. The travelers then sat in a group on a little hillock just
outside the wall and looked at the great blocks of gray stone and
waited for the Woozy to bring Hank to them. The Mule was very
awkward, and his legs trembled so badly that more than once they
thought he would tumble off, but finally he reached them in safety,
and the entire party was now reunited. More than that, they had
reached the city that had eluded them for so long and in so strange a
manner.

“The gates must be around the other side,” said the Wizard. “Let us
follow the curve of the wall until we reach an opening in it.”

“Which way?” asked Dorothy.

“We must guess that,” he replied. “Suppose we go to the left. One
direction is as good as another.” They formed in marching order and
went around the city wall to the left. It wasn’t a big city, as I
have said, but to go way around it outside the high wall was quite a
walk, as they became aware. But around it our adventurers went
without finding any sign of a gateway or other opening. When they had
returned to the little mound from which they had started, they
dismounted from the animals and again seated themselves on the grassy
mound.

“It’s mighty queer, isn’t it?” asked Button-Bright.

“There must be SOME way for the people to get out and in,” declared
Dorothy. “Do you s’pose they have flying machines, Wizard?”

“No,” he replied, “for in that case they would be flying all over the
Land of Oz, and we know they have not done that. Flying machines are
unknown here. I think it more likely that the people use ladders to
get over the walls.”

“It would be an awful climb over that high stone wall,” said Betsy.

“Stone, is it?” Scraps, who was again dancing wildly around, for
she never tired and could never keep still for long.

“Course it’s stone,” answered Betsy scornfully.
“Can’t you see?”

“Yes,” said Scraps, going closer. “I can SEE the wall, but I can’t
FEEL it.” And then, with her arms outstretched, she did a very queer
thing. She walked right into the wall and disappeared.

“For goodness sake!” Dorothy, amazed, as indeed they all were.

 

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