FictionForest

Chapter 10 – Tommy Kwikstep

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

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“Our best plan,” said the Scarecrow Bear, when the
Green Monkey had related the story of his adventure
with the Dragons, “is to get out of this Gillikin
Country as soon as we can and try to find our way to
the castle of Glinda, the Good Sorceress. There are too
many dangers lurking here to suit me, and Glinda may be
able to restore us to our proper forms.”

“If we turn south now,” the Tin Owl replied, “we
might go straight into the Emerald City. That’s a place
I wish to avoid, for I’d hate to have my friends see me
in this sad plight,” and he blinked his eyes and
fluttered his tin wings mournfully.

“But I am certain we have passed beyond Emerald
City,” the Canary assured him, sailing lightly around
their heads. “So, should we turn south from here, we
would pass into the Munchkin Country, and continuing
south we would reach the Quadling Country where
Glinda’s castle is located.”

“Well, since you’re sure of that, let’s start right
away,” proposed the Bear. “It’s a long journey, at the
best, and I’m getting tired of walking on four legs.”

“I thought you never tired, being stuffed with
straw,” said Woot.

“I mean that it annoys me, to be obliged to go on all
fours, when two legs are my proper walking equipment,”
replied the Scarecrow. “I consider it beneath my
dignity. In other words, my remarkable brains can tire,
through humiliation, although my body cannot tire.”

“That is one of the penalties of having brains,”
remarked the Tin Owl with a sigh. “I have had no brains
since I was a man of meat, and so I never worry.
Nevertheless, I prefer my former manly form to this
owl’s shape and would be glad to break Mrs. Yoop’s
enchantment as soon as possible. I am so noisy, just
now, that I disturb myself,” and he fluttered his wings
with a clatter that echoed throughout the forest.

So, being all of one mind, they turned southward,
traveling steadily on until the woods were left behind
and the landscape turned from purple tints to blue
tints, which assured them they had entered the Country
of the Munchkins.

“Now I feel myself more safe,” said the Scarecrow
Bear. “I know this country pretty well, having been
made here by a Munchkin farmer and having wandered over
these lovely blue lands many times. Seems to me,
indeed, that I even remember that group of three tall
trees ahead of us; and, if I do, we are not far from
the home of my friend Jinjur.”

“Who is Jinjur?” asked Woot, the Green Monkey.

“Haven’t you heard of Jinjur?” exclaimed the
Scarecrow, in surprise.

“No,” said Woot. “Is Jinjur a man, a woman, a beast
or a bird?”

“Jinjur is a girl,” explained the Scarecrow Bear.
“She’s a fine girl, too, although a bit restless and
liable to get excited. Once, a long time ago, she
raised an army of girls and called herself ‘General
Jinjur.’ With her army she captured the Emerald City,
and drove me out of it, because I insisted that an army
in Oz was highly improper. But Ozma punished the rash
girl, and afterward Jinjur and I became fast friends.
Now Jinjur lives peacefully on a farm, near here, and
raises fields of cream-puffs, chocolate-caramels and
macaroons. They say she’s a pretty good farmer, and in
addition to that she’s an artist, and paints pictures
so perfect that one can scarcely tell them from nature.
She often repaints my face for me, when it gets worn or
mussy, and the lovely expression I wore when the
Giantess transformed me was painted by Jinjur only a
month or so ago.”

“It was certainly a pleasant expression,” agreed
Woot.

“Jinjur can paint anything,” continued the Scarecrow
Bear, with enthusiasm, as they walked along together.
“Once, when I came to her house, my straw was old and
crumpled, so that my body sagged dreadfully. I needed
new straw to replace the old, but Jinjur had no straw
on all her ranch and I was really unable to travel
farther until I had been restuffed. When I explained
this to Jinjur, the girl at once painted a straw-stack
which was so natural that I went to it and secured
enough straw to fill all my body. It was a good quality
of straw, too, and lasted me a long time.”

This seemed very wonderful to Woot, who knew that
such a thing could never happen in any place but a
fairy country like Oz.

The Munchkin Country was much nicer than the Gillikin
Country, and all the fields were separated by blue
fences, with grassy lanes and paths of blue ground, and
the land seemed well cultivated. They were on a little
hill looking down upon this favored country, but had
not quite reached the settled parts, when on turning a
bend in the path they were halted by a form that barred
their way

A more curious creature they had seldom seen, even in
the Land of Oz, where curious creatures abound. It had
the head of a young man — evidently a Munchkin — with
a pleasant face and hair neatly combed. But the body
was very long, for it had twenty legs — ten legs on
each side — and this caused the body to stretch out
and lie in a horizontal position, so that all the legs
could touch the ground and stand firm. From the
shoulders extended two small arms; at least, they
seemed small beside so many legs.

This odd creature was dressed in the regulation
clothing of the Munchkin people, a dark blue coat neatly
fitting the long body and each pair of legs having a
pair of sky-blue trousers, with blue-tinted stockings
and blue leather shoes turned up at the pointed toes.

“I wonder who you are?” said Polychrome the Canary,
fluttering above the strange creature, who had probably
been asleep on the path.

“I sometimes wonder, myself, who I am,” replied the
many-legged young man; “but, in reality, I am Tommy
Kwikstep, and I live in a hollow tree that fell to the
ground with age. I have polished the inside of it, and
made a door at each end, and that’s a very comfortable
residence for me because it just fits my shape.”

“How did you happen to have such a shape?” asked the
Scarecrow Bear, sitting on his haunches and regarding
Tommy Kwikstep with a serious look. “Is the shape
natural?”

“No; it was wished on me,” replied Tommy, with a
sigh. “I used to be very active and loved to run
errands for anyone who needed my services. That was how
I got my name of Tommy Kwikstep. I could run an errand
more quickly than any other boy, and so I was very
proud of myself. One day, however, I met an old lady
who was a fairy, or a witch, or something of the sort,
and she said if I would run an errand for her — to
carry some magic medicine to another old woman — she
would grant me just one Wish, whatever the Wish
happened to be. Of course I consented and, taking the
medicine, I hurried away. It was a long distance,
mostly up hill, and my legs began to grow weary.
Without thinking what I was doing I said aloud: ‘Dear
me; I wish I had twenty legs!’ and in an instant I
became the unusual creature you see beside you. Twenty
legs! Twenty on one man! You may count them, if you
doubt my word.”

“You’ve got ’em, all right,” said Woot the Monkey,
who had already counted them.

“After I had delivered the magic medicine to the old
woman, I returned and tried to find the witch, or
fairy, or whatever she was, who had given me the
unlucky wish, so she could take it away again. I’ve
been searching for her ever since, but never can I find
her,” continued poor Tommy Kwikstep, sadly “I suppose,
said the Tin Owl, blinking at him, “you can travel
very fast, with those twenty legs.”

“At first I was able to,” was the reply; “but I
traveled so much, searching for the fairy, or witch, or
whatever she was, that I soon got corns on my toes.
Now, a corn on one toe is not so bad, but when you have
a hundred toes — as I have — and get corns on most of
them, it is far from pleasant. Instead of running, I
now painfully crawl, and although I try not to be
discouraged I do hope I shall find that witch or fairy,
or whatever she was, before long.”

“I hope so, too,” said the Scarecrow. “But, after
all, you have the pleasure of knowing you are unusual,
and therefore remarkable among the people of Oz. To be
just like other persons is small credit to one, while
to be unlike others is a mark of distinction.”

“That sounds very pretty,” returned Tommy Kwikstep,
“but if you had to put on ten pair of trousers every
morning, and tie up twenty shoes, you would prefer not
to be so distinguished.”

“Was the witch, or fairy, or whatever she was, an old
person, with wrinkled skin and half her teeth gone?”
inquired the Tin Owl.

“No,” said Tommy Kwikstep.

“Then she wasn’t Old Mombi,” remarked the transformed
Emperor.

“I’m not interested in who it wasn’t, so much as I am
in who it was,” said the twenty-legged young man. “And,
whatever or whomsoever she was, she has managed to keep
out of my way.”

“If you found her, do you suppose she’d change you
back into a two-legged boy?” asked Woot.

“Perhaps so, if I could run another errand for her
and so earn another wish.”

“Would you really like to be as you were before?”
asked Polychrome the Canary, perching upon the Green
Monkey’s shoulder to observe Tommy Kwikstep more
attentively.

“I would, indeed,” was the earnest reply.

“Then I will see what I can do for you,” promised the
Rainbow’s Daughter, and flying to the ground she took a
small twig in her bill and with it made several mystic
figures on each side of Tommy Kwikstep.

“Are you a witch, or fairy, or something of the
sort?” he asked as he watched her wonderingly.

The Canary made no answer, for she was busy, but the
Scarecrow Bear replied: “Yes; she’s something of the
sort, and a bird of a magician.”

The twenty-legged boy’s transformation happened so
queerly that they were all surprised at its method.
First, Tommy Kwikstep’s last two legs disappeared; then
the next two, and the next, and as each pair of legs
vanished his body shortened. All this while Polychrome
was running around him and chirping mystical words, and
when all the young man’s legs had disappeared but two
he noticed that the Canary was still busy and cried out
in alarm:

“Stop — stop! Leave me two of my legs, or I shall be
worse off than before.”

“I know,” said the Canary. “I’m only removing with my
magic the corns from your last ten toes.”

“Thank you for being so thoughtful,” he said
gratefully, and now they noticed that Tommy Kwikstep
was quite a nice looking young fellow.

“What will you do now~” asked Woot the Monkey.

“First,” he answered, “I must deliver a note which
I’ve carried in my pocket ever since the witch, or
fairy, or whatever she was, granted my foolish wish.
And I am resolved never to speak again without taking
time to think carefully on what I am going to say, for
I realize that speech without thought is dangerous. And
after I’ve delivered the note, I shall run errands
again for anyone who needs my services.”

So he thanked Polychrome again and started away in a
different direction from their own, and that was the
last they saw of Tommy Kwikstep.

 

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