FictionForest

Chapter 14 – The Unhappy Ferryman

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

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Leaving the grove where they had slept, the Frogman and the Cookie
Cook turned to the east to seek another house, and after a short walk
came to one where the people received them very politely. The
children stared rather hard at the big, pompous Frogman, but the woman
of the house, when Cayke asked for something to eat, at once brought
them food and said they were welcome to it. “Few people in need of
help pass this way,” she remarked, “for the Winkies are all prosperous
and love to stay in their own homes. But perhaps you are not a
Winkie,” she added.

“No,” said Cayke, “I am a Yip, and my home is on a high mountain at
the southeast of your country.”

“And the Frogman, is he also a Yip?”

“I do not know what he is, other than a very remarkable and highly
educated creature,” replied the Cookie Cook. “But he has lived many
years among the Yips, who have found him so wise and intelligent that
they always go to him for advice.”

“May I ask why you have left your home and where you are going?” said
the Winkie woman.

Then Cayke told her of the diamond-studded gold dishpan and how it had
been mysteriously stolen from her house, after which she had
discovered that she could no longer cook good cookies. So she had
resolved to search until she found her dishpan again, because a Cookie
cook who cannot cook good cookies is not of much use. The Frogman,
who had wanted to see more of the world, had accompanied her to assist
in the search. When the woman had listened to this story, she asked,
“Then you have no idea as yet who has stolen your dishpan?”

“I only know it must have been some mischievous fairy, or a magician,
or some such powerful person, because none other could have climbed
the steep mountain to the Yip Country. And who else could have
carried away my beautiful magic dishpan without being seen?”

The woman thought about this during the time that Cayke and the
Frogman ate their breakfast. When they had finished, she said, “Where
are you going next?”

“We have not decided,” answered the Cookie cook.

“Our plan,” explained the Frogman in his important way, “is to travel
from place to place until we learn where the thief is located and then
to force him to return the dishpan to its proper owner.”

“The plan is all right,” agreed the woman, “but it may take you a long
time before you succeed, your method being sort of haphazard and
indefinite. However, I advise you to travel toward the east.”

“Why?” asked the Frogman.

“Because if you went west, you would soon come to the desert, and also
because in this part of the Winkie Country no one steals, so your time
here would be wasted. But toward the east, beyond the river, live
many strange people whose honesty I would not vouch for. Moreover, if
you journey far enough east and cross the river for a second time, you
will come to the Emerald City, where there is much magic and sorcery.
The Emerald City is ruled by a dear little girl called Ozma, who also
rules the Emperor of the Winkies and all the Land of Oz. So, as Ozma
is a fairy, she may be able to tell you just who has taken your
precious dishpan. Provided, of course, you do not find it before you
reach her.”

.”This seems to be to be excellent advice,” said the Frogman, and Cayke
agreed with him.

.”The most sensible thing for you to do,” continued the woman, “would
be to return to your home and use another dishpan, learn to cook
cookies as other people cook cookies, without the aid of magic. But
if you cannot be happy without the magic dishpan you have lost, you
are likely to learn more about it in the Emerald City than at any
other place in Oz.”

They thanked the good woman, and on leaving her house faced the east
and continued in that direction all the way. Toward evening they came
to the west branch of the Winkie River and there, on the riverbank,
found a ferryman who lived all alone in a little yellow house. This
ferryman was a Winkie with a very small head and a very large body.
He was sitting in his doorway as the travelers approached him and did
not even turn his head to look at them.

“Good evening,” said the Frogman.

The ferryman made no reply.

“We would like some supper and the privilege of sleeping in your house
until morning,” continued the Frogman. “At daybreak, we would like
some breakfast, and then we would like to have you row us across the
river.”

The ferryman neither moved nor spoke. He sat in his doorway and
looked straight ahead. “I think he must be deaf and dumb,” Cayke
whispered to her companion. Then she stood directly in front of the
ferryman, and putting her mouth close to his ear, she yelled as loudly
as she could, “Good evening!”

The ferryman scowled.

“Why do you yell at me, woman?” he asked.

“Can you hear what I say?” asked in her ordinary tone of voice.

“Of course,” replied the man.

“Then why didn’t you answer the Frogman?”
“Because,” said the ferryman, “I don’t understand the frog language.”

“He speaks the same words that I do and in the same way,” declared
Cayke.

“Perhaps,” replied the ferryman, “but to me his voice sounded like a
frog’s croak. I know that in the Land of Oz animals can speak our
language, and so can the birds and bugs and fishes; but in MY ears,
they sound merely like growls and chirps and croaks.”

“Why is that?” asked the Cookie Cook in surprise.

“Once, many years ago, I cut the tail off a fox which had taunted me,
and I stole some birds’ eggs from a nest to make an omelet with, and
also I pulled a fish from the river and left it lying on the bank to
gasp for lack of water until it died. I don’t know why I did those
wicked things, but I did them. So the Emperor of the Winkies–who is
the Tin Woodman and has a very tender tin heart–punished me by
denying me any communication with beasts, birds or fishes. I cannot
understand them when they speak to me, although I know that other
people can do so, nor can the creatures understand a word I say to
them. Every time I meet one of them, I am reminded of my former
cruelty, and it makes me very unhappy.”

“Really,” said Cayke, “I’m sorry for you, although the Tin Woodman is
not to blame for punishing you.”

“What is he mumbling about?” asked the Frogman.

“He is talking to me, but you don’t understand him,” she replied. And
then she told him of the ferryman’s punishment and afterward explained
to the ferryman that they wanted to stay all night with him and be
fed. He gave them some fruit and bread, which was the only sort of
food he had, and he allowed Cayke to sleep in a room of his cottage.
But the Frogman he refused to admit to his house, saying that the
frog’s presence made him miserable and unhappy. At no time would he
directly at the Frogman, or even toward him, fearing he would
shed tears if he did so; so the big frog slept on the riverbank where
he could hear little frogs croaking in the river all the night
through. But that did not keep him awake; it merely soothed him to
slumber, for he realized how much superior he was to them.

Just as the sun was rising on a new day, the ferryman rowed the two
travelers across the river–keeping his back to the Frogman all the
way–and then Cayke thanked him and bade him goodbye and the ferryman
rowed home again.

On this side of the river, there were no paths at
all, so it was evident they had reached a part of the country little
frequented by travelers. There was a marsh at the south of them,
sandhills at the north, and a growth of scrubby underbrush leading
toward a forest at the east. So the east was really the least
difficult way to go, and that direction was the one they had
determined to follow.

Now the Frogman, although he wore green patent-leather shoes with ruby
buttons, had very large and flat feet, and when he tramped through the
scrub, his weight crushed down the underbrush and made a path for
Cayke to follow him. Therefore they soon reached the forest, where
the tall trees were set far apart but were so leafy that they shaded
all the spaces between them with their branches. “There are no bushes
here,” said Cayke, much pleased, “so we can now travel faster and with
more comfort.”

 

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