FictionForest

Chapter 19 – The Invisible Country

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

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They were proceeding so easily and comfortably on their
way to Mount Munch that Woot said in a serious tone of
voice:

“I’m afraid something is going to happen.”

“Why?” asked Polychrome, dancing around the group of
travelers.

“Because,” said the boy, thoughtfully, “I’ve noticed
that when we have the least reason for getting into
trouble, something is sure to go wrong. Just now the
weather is delightful; the grass is beautifully blue
and quite soft to our feet; the mountain we are seeking
shows clearly in the distance and there is no reason
anything should happen to delay us in getting there.
Our troubles all seem to be over, and — well, that’s
why I’m afraid,” he added, with a sigh.

“Dear me!” remarked the Scarecrow, “what unhappy
thoughts you have, to be sure. This is proof that born
brains cannot equal manufactured brains, for my brains
dwell only on facts and never borrow trouble. When
there is occasion for my brains to think, they think,
but I would be ashamed of my brains if they kept
shooting out thoughts that were merely fears and
imaginings, such as do no good, but are likely to do
harm.”

“For my part,” said the Tin Woodman, “I do not think
at all, but allow my velvet heart to guide me at all
times.”

“The tinsmith filled my hollow head with scraps and
clippings of tin,” said the Soldier, “and he told me
they would do nicely for brains, but when I begin to
think, the tin scraps rattle around and get so mixed
that I’m soon bewildered. So I try not to think. My tin
heart is almost as useless to me, for it is hard and
cold, so I’m sure the red velvet heart of my friend
Nick Chopper is a better guide.”

“Thoughtless people are not unusual,” observed the
Scarecrow, “but I consider them more fortunate than
those who have useless or wicked thoughts and do not
try to curb them. Your oil can, friend Woodman, is
filled with oil, but you only apply the oil to your
joints, drop by drop, as you need it, and do not keep
spilling it where it will do no good. Thoughts should
be restrained in the same way as your oil, and only
applied when necessary, and for a good purpose. If used
carefully, thoughts are good things to have.”

Polychrome laughed at him, for the Rainbow’s Daughter
knew more about thoughts than the Scarecrow did. But
the others were solemn, feeling they had been rebuked,
and tramped on in silence.

Suddenly Woot, who was in the lead, looked around and
found that all his comrades had mysteriously
disappeared. But where could they have gone to? The
broad plain was all about him and there were neither
trees nor bushes that could hide even a rabbit, nor any
hole for one to fall into. Yet there he stood, alone.

Surprise had caused him to halt, and with a
thoughtful and puzzled expression on his face he looked
down at his feet. It startled him anew to discover that
he had no feet. He reached out his hands, but he could
not see them. He could feel his hands and arms and
body; he stamped his feet on the grass and knew they
were there, but in some strange way they had become
invisible.

While Woot stood, wondering, a crash of metal sounded
in his ears and he heard two heavy bodies tumble to the
earth just beside him.

“Good gracious!” exclaimed the voice of the Tin
Woodman.

“Mercy me!” cried the voice of the Tin Soldier.

“Why didn’t you look where you were going?” asked the
Tin Woodman reproachfully.

“I did, but I couldn’t see you,” said the Tin
Soldier. “Something has happened to my tin eyes. I
can’t see you, even now, nor can I see anyone else!”

“It’s the same way with me,” admitted the Tin
Woodman.

Woot couldn’t see either of them, although he heard
them plainly, and just then something smashed against
him unexpectedly and knocked him over; but it was only
the straw-stuffed body of the Scarecrow that fell upon
him and while he could not see the Scarecrow he managed
to push him off and rose to his feet just as Polychrome
whirled against him and made him tumble again.

Sitting upon the ground, the boy asked:

“Can you see us, Poly?”

“No, indeed,” answered the Rainbow’s Daughter; “we’ve
all become invisible.”

“How did it happen, do you suppose?” inquired the
Scarecrow, lying where he had fallen.

“We have met with no enemy,” answered Poly-chrome,
“so it must be that this part of the country has the
magic quality of making people invisible –even fairies
falling under the charm. We can see the grass, and the
flowers, and the stretch of plain before us, and we can
still see Mount Munch in the distance; but we cannot
see ourselves or one another.”

“Well, what are we to do about it?” demanded Woot.

“I think this magic affects only a small part of the
plain,” replied Polychrome; “perhaps there is only a
streak of the country where an enchantment makes people
become invisible. So, if we get together and hold
hands, we can travel toward Mount Munch until the
enchanted streak is passed.”

“All right,” said Woot, jumping up, “give me your
hand, Polychrome. Where are you?”

“Here,” she answered. “Whistle, Woot, and keep
whistling until I come to you.”

So Woot whistled, and presently Polychrome found him
and grasped his hand.

“Someone must help me up,” said the Scarecrow, lying
near them; so they found the straw man and sat him upon
his feet, after which he held fast to Polychrome’s
other hand.

Nick Chopper and the Tin Soldier had managed to
scramble up without assistance, but it was awkward for
them and the Tin Woodman said:

“I don’t seem to stand straight, somehow. But my
joints all work, so I guess I can walk.”

Guided by his voice, they reached his side, where
Woot grasped his tin fingers so they might keep
together.

The Tin Soldier was standing near by and the
Scarecrow soon touched him and took hold of his arm.

“I hope you’re not wobbly,” said the straw man,
“for if two of us walk unsteadily we will be sure
to fall.”

“I’m not wobbly,” the Tin Soldier assured him, “but
I’m certain that one of my legs is shorter than the
other. I can’t see it, to tell what’s gone wrong, but
I’ll limp on with the rest of you until we are out of
this enchanted territory.”

They now formed a line, holding hands, and turning
their faces toward Mount Munch resumed their journey.
They had not gone far, however, when a terrible growl
saluted their ears. The sound seemed to come from a
place just in front of them, so they halted abruptly
and remained silent, listening with all their ears.

“I smell straw!” cried a hoarse, harsh voice, with
more growls and snarls. “I smell straw, and I’m a
Hip-po-gy-raf who loves straw and eats all he can find.
I want to eat this straw! Where is it? Where is it?”

The Scarecrow, hearing this, trembled but kept
silent. All the others were silent, too, hoping that
the invisible beast would be unable to find them. But
the creature sniffed the odor of the straw and drew
nearer and nearer to them until he reached the Tin
Woodman, on one end of the line. It was a big beast and
it smelled of the Tin Woodman and grated two rows of
enormous teeth against the Emperor’s tin body.

“Bah! that’s not straw,” said the harsh voice, and
the beast advanced along the line to Woot.

“Meat! Pooh, you’re no good! I can’t eat meat,”
grumbled the beast, and passed on to Polychrome.

“Sweetmeats and perfume — cobwebs and dew! Nothing
to eat in a fairy like you,” said the creature.

Now, the Scarecrow was next to Polychrome in the
line, and he realized if the beast devoured his straw
he would be helpless for a long time, because the last
farmhouse was far behind them and only grass covered
the vast expanse of plain. So in his fright he let go
of Polychrome’s hand and put the hand of the Tin
Soldier in that of the Rainbow’s Daughter. Then he
slipped back of the line and went to the other end,
where he silently seized the Tin Woodman’s hand.

Meantime, the beast had smelled the Tin Soldier and
found he was the last of the line.

“That’s funny!” growled the Hip-po-gy-raf; “I can
smell straw, but I can’t find it. Well, it’s here,
somewhere, and I must hunt around until I do find it,
for I’m hungry.”

His voice was now at the left of them, so they
started on, hoping to avoid him, and traveled as fast
as they could in the direction of Mount Munch.

“I don’t like this invisible country,” said Woot with
a shudder. “We can’t tell how many dreadful, invisible
beasts are roaming around us, or what danger we’ll come
to next.”

“Quit thinking about danger, please,” said the
Scarecrow, warningly.

“Why?” asked the boy.

“If you think of some dreadful thing, it’s liable to
happen, but if you don’t think of it, and no one else
thinks of it, it just can’t happen. Do you see?”

“No,” answered Woot. “I won’t be able to see much of
anything until we escape from this enchantment.”

But they got out of the invisible strip of country
as suddenly as they had entered it, and the instant
they got out they stopped short, for just before them
was a deep ditch, running at right angles as far as
their eyes could see and stopping all further progress
toward Mount Munch.

“It’s not so very wide,” said Woot, “but I’m sure
none of us can jump across it.”

Polychrome began to laugh, and the Scarecrow said:
“What’s the matter?”

“Look at the tin men!” she said, with another burst
of merry laughter.

Woot and the Scarecrow looked, and the tin men looked
at themselves.

“It was the collision,” said the Tin Woodman
regretfully. “I knew something was wrong with me, and
now I can see that my side is dented in so that I lean
over toward the left. It was the Soldier’s fault; he
shouldn’t have been so careless.”

“It is your fault that my right leg is bent, making
it shorter than the other, so that I limp badly,”
retorted the Soldier. “You shouldn’t have stood where I
was walking.”

“You shouldn’t have walked where I was standing,”
replied the Tin Woodman.

It was almost a quarrel, so Polychrome said
soothingly:

“Never mind, friends; as soon as we have time I am
sure we can straighten the Soldier’s leg and get the
dent out of the Woodman’s body. The Scarecrow needs
patting into shape, too, for he had a bad tumble, but
our first task is to get over this ditch.”

“Yes, the ditch is the most important thing, just
now,” added Woot

They were standing in a row, looking hard at the
unexpected barrier, when a fierce growl from behind
them made them all turn quickly. Out of the invisible
country marched a huge beast with a thick, leathery
skin and a surprisingly long neck. The head on the top
of this neck was broad and flat and the eyes and mouth
were very big and the nose and ears very small. When
the head was drawn down toward the beast’s shoulders,
the neck was all wrinkles, but the head could shoot up
very high indeed, if the creature wished it to.

“Dear me!” exclaimed the Scarecrow, “this must be the
Hip-po-gy-raf.”

“Quite right,” said the beast; “and you’re the straw
which I’m to eat for my dinner. Oh, how I love straw! I
hope you don’t resent my affectionate appetite?”

With its four great legs it advanced straight toward
the Scarecrow, but the Tin Woodman and the Tin Soldier
both sprang in front of their friend and flourished
their weapons.

“Keep off!” said the Tin Woodman, warningly, or I’ll
chop you with my axe.”

“Keep off!” said the Tin Soldier, “or I’ll cut you
with my sword.”

“Would you really do that?” asked the Hip-po-gy-raf,
in a disappointed voice.

“We would,” they both replied, and the Tin Woodman
added: “The Scarecrow is our friend, and he would be
useless without his straw stuffing. So, as we are
comrades, faithful and true, we will defend our
friend’s stuffing against all enemies.”

The Hip-po-gy-raf sat down and looked at them
sorrowfully.

“When one has made up his mind to have a meal of
delicious straw, and then finds he can’t have it, it is
certainly hard luck,” he said. “And what good is the
straw man to you, or to himself, when the ditch keeps
you from going any further?”

“Well, we can go back again,” suggested Woot.

“True,” said the Hip-po; “and if you do, you’ll be as
disappointed as I am. That’s some comfort, anyhow.”

The travelers looked at the beast, and then they
looked across the ditch at the level plain beyond. On
the other side the grass had grown tall, and the sun
had dried it, so there was a fine crop of hay that only
needed to be cut and stacked.

“Why don’t you cross over and eat hay?” the boy asked
the beast.

“I’m not fond of hay,” replied the Hip-po-gy-raf;
“straw is much more delicious, to my notion, and it’s
more scarce in this neighborhood, too. Also I must
confess that I can’t get across the ditch, for my body
is too heavy and clumsy for me to jump the distance. I
can stretch my neck across, though, and you will notice
that I’ve nibbled the hay on the farther edge — not
because I liked it, but because one must eat, and if
one can’t get the sort of food he desires, he must take
what is offered or go hungry.”

“Ah, I see you are a philosopher,” remarked the
Scarecrow.

“No, I’m just a Hip-po-gy-raf,” was the reply.

Polychrome was not afraid of the big beast. She
danced close to him and said:

“If you can stretch your neck across the ditch, why
not help us over? We can sit on your big head, one at a
time, and then you can lift us across.”

“Yes; I can, it is true,” answered the Hip-po; “but I
refuse to do it. Unless –” he added, and stopped
short.

“Unless what?” asked Polychrome.

“Unless you first allow me to eat the straw with
which the Scarecrow is stuffed.”

“No,” said the Rainbow’s Daughter, “that is too high
a price to pay. Our friend’s straw is nice and fresh,
for he was restuffed only a little while ago.”

“I know,” agreed the Hip-po-gy-raf. “That’s why I
want it. If it was old, musty straw, I wouldn’t care
for it.”

“Please lift us across,” pleaded Polychrome.

“No,” replied the beast; “since you refuse my
generous offer, I can be as stubborn as you are.”

After that they were all silent for a time, but then
the Scarecrow said bravely:

“Friends, let us agree to the beast’s terms. Give him
my straw, and carry the rest of me with you across the
ditch. Once on the other side, the Tin Soldier can cut
some of the hay with his sharp sword, and you can stuff
me with that material until we reach a place where
there is straw. It is true I have been stuffed with
straw all my life and it will be somewhat humiliating
to be filled with common hay, but I am willing to
sacrifice my pride in a good cause. Moreover, to
abandon our errand and so deprive the great Emperor of
the Winkies — or this noble Soldier — of his bride,
would be equally humiliating, if not more so.”

“You’re a very honest and clever man!” exclaimed the
Hip-po-gy-raf, admiringly. “When I have eaten your
head, perhaps I also will become clever.”

“You’re not to eat my head, you know,” returned the
Scarecrow hastily. “My head isn’t stuffed with straw
and I cannot part with it. When one loses his head he
loses his brains.”

“Very well, then; you may keep your head,” said the
beast.

The Scarecrow’s companions thanked him warmly for his
loyal sacrifice to their mutual good, and then he laid
down and permitted them to pull the straw from his
body. As fast as they did this, the Hip-po-gy-raf ate
up the straw, and when all was consumed Polychrome made
a neat bundle of the clothes and boots and gloves and
hat and said she would carry them, while Woot tucked
the Scarecrow’s head under his arm and promised to
guard its safety.

“Now, then,” said the Tin Woodman, “keep your
promise, Beast, and lift us over the ditch.”

“M-m-m-mum, but that was a fine dinner!” said the
Hip-po, smacking his thick lips in satisfaction, “and
I’m as good as my word. Sit on my head, one at a time,
and I’ll land you safely on the other side.”

He approached close to the edge of the ditch and
squatted down. Polychrome climbed over his big body and
sat herself lightly upon the flat head, holding the
bundle of the Scarecrow’s raiment in her hand. Slowly
the elastic neck stretched out until it reached the far
side of the ditch, when the beast lowered his head and
permitted the beautiful fairy to leap to the ground.

Woot made the queer journey next, and then the Tin
Soldier and the Tin Woodman went over, and all were
well pleased to have overcome this serious barrier to
their progress.

“Now, Soldier, cut the hay,” said the Scarecrow’s
head, which was still held by Woot the Wanderer.

“I’d like to, but I can’t stoop over, with my bent
leg, without falling,” replied Captain Fyter.

“What can we do about that leg, anyhow?” asked Woot,
appealing to Polychrome.

She danced around in a circle several times without
replying, and the boy feared she had not heard him; but
the Rainbow’s Daughter was merely thinking upon the
problem, and presently she paused beside the Tin
Soldier and said:

“I’ve been taught a little fairy magic, but I’ve
never before been asked to mend tin legs with it, so
I’m not sure I can help you. It all depends on the good
will of my unseen fairy guardians, so I’ll try, and if
I fail, you will be no worse off than you are now.”

She danced around the circle again, and then laid
both hands upon the twisted tin leg and sang in her
sweet voice:

“Fairy Powers, come to my aid!

This bent leg of tin is made;

Make it straight and strong and true,

And I’ll render thanks to you.”

“Ah!” murmured Captain Fyter in a glad voice, as she
withdrew her hands and danced away, and they saw he was
standing straight as ever, because his leg was as
shapely and strong as it had been before his accident.

The Tin Woodman had watched Polychrome with much
interest, and he now said:

“Please take the dent out of my side, Poly, for I am
more crippled than was the Soldier.”

So the Rainbow’s Daughter touched his side lightly
and sang:

“Here’s a dent by accident;
Such a thing was never meant.
Fairy Powers, so wondrous great,
Make our dear Tin Woodman straight!”

“Good!” cried the Emperor, again standing erect and
strutting around to show his fine figure. “Your fairy
magic may not be able to accomplish all things, sweet
Polychrome, but it works splendidly on tin. Thank you
very much.”

“The hay — the hay!” pleaded the Scarecrow’s head.

“Oh, yes; the hay,” said Woot. “What are you waiting
for, Captain Fyter?”

At once the Tin Soldier set to work cutting hay with
his sword and in a few minutes there was quite enough
with which to stuff the Scarecrow’s body. Woot and
Polychrome did this and it was no easy task because the
hay packed together more than straw and as they had
little experience in such work their job, when
completed, left the Scarecrow’s arms and legs rather
bunchy. Also there was a hump on his back which made
Woot laugh and say it reminded him of a camel, but it
was the best they could do and when the head was fastened
on to the body they asked the Scarecrow how he felt.

“A little heavy, and not quite natural,” he
cheerfully replied; “but I’ll get along somehow until
we reach a straw-stack. Don’t laugh at me, please,
because I’m a little ashamed of myself and I don’t want
to regret a good action.”

They started at once in the direction of Mount Munch,
and as the Scarecrow proved very clumsy in his
movements, Woot took one of his arms and the Tin
Woodman the other and so helped their friend to walk in
a straight line.

And the Rainbow’s Daughter, as before, danced ahead
of them and behind them and all around them, and they
never minded her odd ways, because to them she was like
a ray of sunshine.

 

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