FictionForest

Chapter 4 – The Loons of Loonville

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

Light off Small Medium Large

Toward evening, the travelers found there was no longer
a path to guide them, and the purple hues of the grass
and trees warned them that they were now in the Country
of the Gillikins, where strange peoples dwelt in places
that were quite unknown to the other inhabitants of Oz.
The fields were wild and uncultivated and there were no
houses of any sort to be seen. But our friends kept on
walking even after the sun went down, hoping to find a
good place for Woot the Wanderer to sleep; but when it
grew quite dark and the boy was weary with his long
walk, they halted right in the middle of a field and
allowed Woot to get his supper from the food he carried
in his knapsack. Then the Scarecrow laid himself down,
so that Woot could use his stuffed body as a pillow,
and the Tin Woodman stood up beside them all night, so
the dampness of the ground might not rust his joints or
dull his brilliant polish. Whenever the dew settled on
his body he carefully wiped it off with a cloth, and so
in the morning the Emperor shone as brightly as ever in
the rays of the rising sun.

They wakened the boy at daybreak, the Scarecrow
saying to him:

“We have discovered something queer, and therefore we
must counsel together what to do about it.”

“What have you discovered?” asked Woot, rubbing the
sleep from his eyes with his knuckles and giving three
wide yawns to prove he was fully awake.

“A Sign,” said the Tin Woodman. “A Sign, and another path.”

“What does the Sign say?” inquired the boy.

“It says that ‘All Strangers are Warned not to Follow
this Path to Loonville,'” answered the Scarecrow, who
could read very well when his eyes had been freshly
painted.

“In that case,” said the boy, opening his knapsack to
get some breakfast, “let us travel in some other
direction.”

But this did not seem to please either of his
companions.

“I’d like to see what Loonville looks like,” remarked
the Tin Woodman.

“When one travels, it is foolish to miss any
interesting sight,” added the Scarecrow.

“But a warning means danger,” protested Woot the
Wanderer, “and I believe it sensible to keep out of
danger whenever we can.”

They made no reply to this speech for a while. Then
said the Scarecrow:

“I have escaped so many dangers, during my lifetime,
that I am not much afraid of anything that can happen.”

“Nor am I!” exclaimed the Tin Woodman, swinging his
glittering axe around his tin head, in a series of
circles. “Few things can injure tin, and my axe is a
powerful weapon to use against a foe. But our boy
friend,” he continued, looking solemnly at Woot, “might
perhaps be injured if the people of Loonville are
really dangerous; so I propose he waits here while you
and I, Friend Scarecrow, visit the forbidden City of
Loonville.”

“Don’t worry about me,” advised Woot, calmly.
“Wherever you wish to go, I will go, and share your
dangers. During my wanderings I have found it more wise
to keep out of danger than to venture in, but at that
time I was alone, and now I have two powerful friends
to protect me.”

So, when he had finished his breakfast, they all set
out along the path that led to Loonville.

“It is a place I have never heard of before,”
remarked the Scarecrow, as they approached a dense
forest. “The inhabitants may be people, of some sort,
or they may be animals, but whatever they prove to be,
we will have an interesting story to relate to Dorothy
and Ozma on our return.”

The path led into the forest, but the big trees grew
so closely together and the vines and underbrush were
so thick and matted that they had to clear a path at
each step in order to proceed. In one or two places the
Tin Man, who went first to clear the way, cut the
branches with a blow of his axe. Woot followed next,
and last of the three came the Scarecrow, who could not
have kept the path at all had not his comrades broken
the way for his straw-stuffed body.

Presently the Tin Woodman pushed his way through some
heavy underbrush, and almost tumbled headlong into a
vast cleared space in the forest. The clearing was
circular, big and roomy, yet the top branches of the
tall trees reached over and formed a complete dome or
roof for it. Strangely enough, it was not dark in this
immense natural chamber in the woodland, for the place
glowed with a soft, white light that seemed to come
from some unseen source.

In the chamber were grouped dozens of queer
creatures, and these so astonished the Tin Man that
Woot had to push his metal body aside, that he might
see, too. And the Scarecrow pushed Woot aside, so that
the three travelers stood in a row, staring with all
their eyes.

The creatures they beheld were round and ball-like;
round in body, round in legs and arms, round in hands
and feet and round of head. The only exception to the
roundness was a slight hollow on the top of each head,
making it saucer-shaped instead of dome-shaped. They
wore no clothes on their puffy bodies, nor had they any
hair. Their skins were all of a light gray color, and
their eyes were mere purple spots. Their noses were as
puffy as the rest of them.

“Are they rubber, do you think?” asked the Scarecrow,
who noticed that the creatures bounded, as they moved,
and seemed almost as light as air.

“It is difficult to tell what they are,” answered
Woot, “they seem to be covered with warts.”

The Loons — for so these folks were called — had
been doing many things, some playing together, some
working at tasks and some gathered in groups to talk;
but at the sound of strange voices, which echoed rather
loudly through the clearing, all turned in the
direction of the intruders. Then, in a body, they all
rushed forward, running and bounding with tremendous
speed.

The Tin Woodman was so surprised by this sudden dash
that he had no time to raise his axe before the Loons
were on them. The creatures swung their puffy hands,
which looked like boxing-gloves, and pounded the three
travelers as hard as they could, on all sides. The
blows were quite soft and did not hurt our friends at
all, but the onslaught quite bewildered them, so that
in a brief period all three were knocked over and fell
flat upon the ground. Once down, many of the Loons
held them, to prevent their getting up again, while
others wound long tendrils of vines about them, binding
their arms and legs to their bodies and so rendering
them helpless.

“Aha!” cried the biggest Loon of all; “we’ve got ’em
safe; so let’s carry ’em to King Bal and have ’em
tried, and condemned and perforated!” They had to drag
their captives to the center of the domed chamber, for
their weight, as compared with that of the Loons,
prevented their being carried. Even the Scarecrow was
much heavier than the puffy Loons. But finally the
party halted before a raised platform, on which stood a
sort of throne, consisting of a big, wide chair with a
string tied to one arm of it. This string led upward to
the roof of the dome.

Arranged before the platform, the prisoners were
allowed to sit up, facing the empty throne.

“Good!” said the big Loon who had commanded the
party. “Now to get King Bal to judge these terrible
creatures we have so bravely captured.”

As he spoke he took hold of the string and began to
pull as hard as he could. One or two of the others
helped him and pretty soon, as they drew in the cord,
the leaves above them parted and a Loon appeared at the
other end of the string. It didn’t take long to draw
him down to the throne, where he seated himself and was
tied in, so he wouldn’t float upward again.

“Hello,” said the King, blinking his purple eyes at
his followers; “what’s up now!”

“Strangers, your Majesty — strangers and captives,”
replied the big Loon, pompously

“Dear me! I see ’em. I see ’em very plainly,”
exclaimed the King, his purple eyes bulging out as he
looked at the three prisoners. “What curious animals!
Are they dangerous, do you think, my good Panta?”

“I’m ‘fraid so, your Majesty. Of course, they may not
be dangerous, but we mustn’t take chances. Enough
accidents happen to us poor Loons as it is, and my
advice is to condemn and perforate ’em as quickly as
possible.”

“Keep your advice to yourself,” said the monarch, in
a peeved tone. “Who’s King here, anyhow? You or Me?”

“We made you our King because you have less common
sense than the rest of us,” answered Panta Loon,
indignantly. “I could have been King myself, had I
wanted to, but I didn’t care for the hard work and
responsibility.”

As he said this, the big Loon strutted back and forth
in the space between the throne of King Bal and the
prisoners, and the other Loons seemed much impressed by
his defiance. But suddenly there came a sharp report
and Panta Loon instantly disappeared, to the great
astonishment of the Scarecrow, the Tin Woodman and Woot
the Wanderer, who saw on the spot where the big fellow
had stood a little heap of flabby, wrinkled skin that
looked like a collapsed rubber balloon.

“There!” exclaimed the King; “I expected that would
happen. The conceited rascal wanted to puff himself up
until he was bigger than the rest of you, and this is
the result of his folly. Get the pump working, some of
you, and blow him up again.”

“We will have to mend the puncture first, your
Majesty,” suggested one of the Loons, and the prisoners
noticed that none of them seemed surprised or shocked
at the sad accident to Panta.

“All right,” grumbled the King. “Fetch Til to mend
him.”

One or two ran away and presently returned, followed
by a lady Loon wearing huge, puffed-up rubber skirts.
Also she had a purple feather fastened to a wart on the
top of her head, and around her waist was a sash of
fibre-like vines, dried and tough, that looked like
strings.

“Get to work, Til,” commanded King Bal. “Panta has
just exploded.”

The lady Loon picked up the bunch of skin and
examined it carefully until she discovered a hole in
one foot. Then she pulled a strand of string from her
sash, and drawing the edges of the hole together. she
tied them fast with the string, thus making one of
those curious warts which the strangers had noticed on
so many Loons. Having done this, Til Loon tossed the
bit of skin to the other Loons and was about to go away
when she noticed the prisoners and stopped to inspect
them.

“Dear me!” said Til; “what dreadful creatures. Where
did they come from?”

“We captured them,” replied one of the Loons.

“And what are we going to do with them?” inquired the
girl Loon.

“Perhaps we’ll condemn ’em and puncture ’em,”
answered the King.

“Well,” said she, still eyeing the “I’m not sure
they’ll puncture. Let’s try it, and see.”

One of the Loons ran to the forest’s edge and quickly
returned with a long, sharp thorn. He glanced at the
King, who nodded his head in assent, and then he rushed
forward and stuck the thorn into the leg of the
Scarecrow. The Scarecrow merely smiled and said
nothing, for the thorn didn’t hurt him at all.

Then the Loon tried to prick the Tin Woodman’s leg,
but the tin only blunted the point of the thorn.

“Just as I thought,” said Til, blinking her purple
eyes and shaking her puffy head; but just then the Loon
stuck the thorn into the leg of Woot the Wanderer, and
while it had been blunted somewhat, it was still sharp
enough to hurt.

“Ouch!” yelled Woot, and kicked out his leg with so
much energy that the frail bonds that tied him burst
apart. His foot caught the Loon — who was leaning over
him — full on his puffy stomach, and sent him shooting
up into the air. When he was high over their heads he
exploded with a loud “pop” and his skin fell to the
ground.

“I really believe,” said the King, rolling his
spotlike eyes in a frightened way, “that Panta was
right in claiming these prisoners are dangerous. Is
the pump ready?”

Some of the Loons had wheeled a big machine in front
of the throne and now took Panta’s skin and began to
pump air into it. Slowly it swelled out until the King
cried “Stop!”

“No, no!” yelled Panta, “I’m not big enough yet.”
“You’re as big as you’re going to be,” declared the
King. “Before you exploded you were bigger than the
rest of us, and that caused you to be proud and
overbearing. Now you’re a little smaller than the rest,
and you will last longer and be more humble.”

“Pump me up — pump me up!” wailed Panta “If you
don’t you’ll break my heart.”

“If we do we’ll break your skin,” replied the King.

So the Loons stopped pumping air into Panta, and
pushed him away from the pump. He was certainly more
humble than before his accident, for he crept into the
background and said nothing more.

“Now pump up the other one,” ordered the King. Til
had already mended him, and the Loons set to work to
pump him full of air.

During these last few moments none had paid much
attention to the prisoners, so Woot, finding his legs
free, crept over to the Tin Woodman and rubbed the
bonds that were still around his arms and body against
the sharp edge of the axe, which quickly cut them.

The boy was now free, and the thorn which the Loon
had stuck into his leg was lying unnoticed on the
ground, where the creature had dropped it when he
exploded. Woot leaned forward and picked up the thorn,
and while the Loons were busy watching the pump, the
boy sprang to his feet and suddenly rushed upon the
group.

“Pop” — “pop” — “pop!” went three of the Loons,
when the Wanderer pricked them with his thorn, and at
the sounds the others looked around and saw their
danger. With yells of fear they bounded away in all
directions, scattering about the clearing, with Woot
the Wanderer in full chase. While they could run much
faster than the boy, they often stumbled and fell, or
got in one another’s way, so he managed to catch
several and prick them with his thorn.

It astonished him to see how easily the Loons
exploded. When the air was let out of them they were
quite helpless. Til Loon was one of those who ran
against his thorn and many others suffered the same
fate. The creatures could not escape from the
enclosure, but in their fright many bounded upward and
caught branches of the trees, and then climbed out of
reach of the dreaded thorn.

Woot was getting pretty tired chasing them, so he
stopped and came over, panting, to where his friends
were sitting, still bound.

“Very well done, my Wanderer,” said the Tin Woodman.
“It is evident that we need fear these puffed-up
creatures no longer, so be kind enough to unfasten our
bonds and we will proceed upon our journey.”

Woot untied the bonds of the Scarecrow and helped him
to his feet. Then he freed the Tin Woodman, who got up
without help. Looking around them, they saw that the
only Loon now remaining within reach was Bal Loon, the
King, who had remained seated in his throne, watching
the punishment of his people with a bewildered look in
his purple eyes.

“Shall I puncture the King?” the boy asked his
companions.

King Bal must have overheard the question, for he
fumbled with the cord that fastened him to the throne
and managed to release it. Then he floated upward until
he reached the leafy dome, and parting the branches he
disappeared from sight. But the string that was tied to
his body was still connected with the arm of the
throne, and they knew they could pull his Majesty down
again, if they wanted to.

“Let him alone,” suggested the Scarecrow. “He seems a
good enough king for his peculiar people, and after we
are gone, the Loons will have something of a job to
pump up all those whom Woot has punctured.”

“Every one of them ought to be exploded,” declared
Woot, who was angry because his leg still hurt him.

“No,” said the Tin Woodman, “that would not be just
fair. They were quite right to capture us, because we
had no business to intrude here, having been warned to
keep away from Loonville. This is their country, not
ours, and since the poor things can’t get out of the
clearing, they can harm no one save those who venture
here out of curiosity, as we did.”

“Well said, my friend,” agreed tile Scarecrow. “We
really had no right to disturb their peace and comfort;
so let us go away.”

They easily found the place where they had forced
their way into the enclosure, so the Tin Woodman pushed
aside the underbrush and started first along the path.
The Scarecrow followed next and last came Woot, who
looked back and saw that the Loons were still clinging
to their perches on the trees and watching their former
captives with frightened eyes.

“I guess they’re glad to see the last of us,”
remarked the boy, and laughing at the happy ending of
the adventure, he followed his comrades along the path.

 

Leave a Reply