FictionForest

Chapter 9

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

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The Glass Cat was a good guide and led Trot and Cap’n Bill by
straight and easy paths through all the settled part of the
Munchkin Country, and then into the north section where there
were few houses, and finally through a wild country where there
were no houses or paths at all. But the walking was not
difficult and at last they came to the edge of a forest and
stopped there to make camp and sleep until morning.

From branches of trees Cap’n Bill made a tiny house that was
just big enough for the little girl to crawl into and lie down.
But first they ate some of the food Trot had carried in the basket.

“Don’t you want some, too?” she asked the Glass Cat.

“No,” answered the creature.

“I suppose you’ll hunt around an’ catch a mouse,” remarked
Cap’n Bill.

“Me? Catch a mouse! Why should I do that?” inquired the Glass Cat.

“Why, then you could eat it,” said the sailor-man.

“I beg to inform you,” returned the crystal tabby, “that I do
not eat mice. Being transparent, so anyone can see through me,
I’d look nice, wouldn’t I, with a common mouse inside me? But
the fact is that I haven’t any stomach or other machinery that
would permit me to eat things. The careless magician who made me
didn’t think I’d need to eat, I suppose.”

“Don’t you ever get hungry or thirsty?” asked Trot.

“Never. I don’t complain, you know, at the way I’m made, for
I’ve never yet seen any living thing as beautiful as I am. I
have the handsomest brains in the world. They’re pink, and you
can see ’em work.”

“I wonder,” said Trot thoughtfully, as she ate her bread and
jam, “if MY brains whirl around in the same way yours do.”

“No; not the same way, surely,” returned the Glass Cat; “for,
in that case, they’d be as good as MY brains, except that they’re
hidden under a thick, boney skull.”

“Brains,” remarked Cap’n Bill, “is of all kinds and work
different ways. But I’ve noticed that them as thinks that their
brains is best is often mistook.”

Trot was a little disturbed by sounds from the forest, that
night, for many beasts seemed prowling among the trees, but she
was confident Cap’n Bill would protect her from harm. And in
fact, no beast ventured from the forest to attack them.

At daybreak they were up again, and after a simple breakfast
Cap’n Bill said to the Glass Cat:

“Up anchor, Mate, and let’s forge ahead. I don’t suppose we’re
far from that Magic Flower, are we?”

“Not far,” answered the transparent one, as it led the way into
the forest, “but it may take you some time to get to it.”

Before long they reached the bank of a river. It was not very
wide, at this place, but as they followed the banks in a
northerly direction it gradually broadened.

Suddenly the blue-green leaves of the trees changed to a purple
hue, and Trot noticed this and said:

“I wonder what made the colors change like that?”

“It’s because we have left the Munchkin Country and entered the
Gillikin Country,” explained the Glass Cat. “Also it’s a sign
our journey is nearly ended.”

The river made a sudden turn, and after the travelers had
passed around the bend, they saw that the stream had now become
as broad as a small lake, and in the center of the Lake they
beheld a little island, not more than fifty feet in extent,
either way. Something glittered in the middle of this tiny
island, and the Glass Cat paused on the bank and said:

“There is the gold flower-pot containing the Magic Flower,
which is very curious and beautiful. If you can get to the island,
your task is ended–except to carry the thing home with you.”

Cap’n Bill looked at the broad expanse of water and began to
whistle a low, quavering tune. Trot knew that the whistle meant
that Cap’n Bill was thinking, and the old sailor didn’t look at
the island as much as he looked at the trees upon the bank where
they stood. Presently he took from the big pocket of his coat an
axe-blade, wound in an old cloth to keep the sharp edge from
cutting his clothing. Then, with a large pocket knife, he cut a
small limb from a tree and whittled it into a handle for his axe.

“Sit down, Trot,” he advised the girl, as he worked. “I’ve got
quite a job ahead of me now, for I’ve got to build us a raft.”

“What do we need a raft for, Cap’n?”

“Why, to take us to the island. We can’t walk under water, in
the river bed, as the Glass Cat did, so we must float atop the water.”

“Can you make a raft, Cap’n Bill?”

“O’ course, Trot, if you give me time.”

The little girl sat down on a log and gazed at the Island of
the Magic Flower. Nothing else seemed to grow on the tiny isle.
There was no tree, no shrub, no grass, even, as far as she could
make out from that distance. But the gold pot glittered in the
rays of the sun, and Trot could catch glimpses of glowing colors
above it, as the Magic Flower changed from one sort to another.

“When I was here before,” remarked the Glass Cat, lazily
reclining at the girl’s feet, “I saw two Kalidahs on this very
bank, where they had come to drink.”

“What are Kalidahs?” asked the girl.

“The most powerful and ferocious beasts in all Oz. This forest
is their especial home, and so there are few other beasts to be
found except monkeys. The monkeys are spry enough to keep out of
the way of the fierce Kalidahs, which attack all other animals
and often fight among themselves.”

“Did they try to fight you when you saw ’em?” asked Trot,
getting very much excited.

“Yes. They sprang upon me in an instant; but I lay flat on the
ground, so I wouldn’t get my legs broken by the great weight of
the beasts, and when they tried to bite me I laughed at them and
jeered them until they were frantic with rage, for they nearly
broke their teeth on my hard glass. So, after a time, they
discovered they could not hurt me, and went away. It was great fun.”

“I hope they don’t come here again to drink,–not while we’re
here, anyhow,” returned the girl, “for I’m not made of glass, nor
is Cap’n Bill, and if those bad beasts bit us, we’d get hurt.”

Cap’n Bill was cutting from the trees some long stakes, making
them sharp at one end and leaving a crotch at the other end.
These were to bind the logs of his raft together. He had
fashioned several and was just finishing another when the Glass
Cat cried: “Look out! There’s a Kalidah coming toward us.”

Trot jumped up, greatly frightened, and looked at the terrible
animal as if fascinated by its fierce eyes, for the Kalidah was
looking at her, too, and its look wasn’t at all friendly. But
Cap’n Bill called to her: “Wade into the river, Trot, up to your
knees–an’ stay there!” and she obeyed him at once. The
sailor-man hobbled forward, the stake in one hand and his axe in
the other, and got between the girl and the beast, which sprang
upon him with a growl of defiance.

Cap’n Bill moved pretty slowly, sometimes, but now he was quick
as could be. As the Kalidah sprang toward him he stuck out his
wooden leg and the point of it struck the beast between the eyes
and sent it rolling upon the ground. Before it could get upon
its feet again the sailor pushed the sharp stake right through
its body and then with the flat side of the axe he hammered the
stake as far into the ground as it would go. By this means he
captured the great beast and made it harmless, for try as it
would, it could not get away from the stake that held it.

Cap’n Bill knew he could not kill the Kalidah, for no living
thing in Oz can be killed, so he stood back and watched the beast
wriggle and growl and paw the earth with its sharp claws, and
then, satisfied it could not escape, he told Trot to come out of
the water again and dry her wet shoes and stockings in the sun.

“Are you sure he can’t get away?” she asked.

“I’d bet a cookie on it,” said Cap’n Bill, so Trot came ashore
and took off her shoes and stockings and laid them on the log to
dry, while the sailor-man resumed his work on the raft.

The Kalidah, realizing after many struggles that it could not
escape, now became quiet, but it said in a harsh, snarling voice:

“I suppose you think you’re clever, to pin me to the ground in this
manner. But when my friends, the other Kalidahs, come here, they’ll
tear you to pieces for treating me this way.”

“P’raps,” remarked Cap’n Bill, coolly, as he chopped at the logs,
“an’ p’raps not. When are your folks comin’ here?”

“I don’t know,” admitted the Kalidah. “But when they DO come, you
can’t escape them.”

“If they hold off long enough, I’ll have my raft ready,” said Cap’n Bill.

“What are you going to do with a raft?” inquired the beast.

“We’re goin’ over to that island, to get the Magic Flower.”

The huge beast looked at him in surprise a moment, and then it began
to laugh. The laugh was a good deal like a roar, and it had a cruel
and derisive sound, but it was a laugh nevertheless.

“Good!” said the Kalidah. “Good! Very good! I’m glad you’re going
to get the Magic Flower. But what will you do with it?”

“We’re going to take it to Ozma, as a present on her birthday.”

The Kalidah laughed again; then it became sober. “If you get to the
land on your raft before my people can catch you,” it said, “you will
be safe from us. We can swim like ducks, so the girl couldn’t have
escaped me by getting into the water; but Kalidahs don’t go to that
island over there.”

“Why not?” asked Trot.

The beast was silent.

“Tell us the reason,” urged Cap’n Bill.

“Well, it’s the Isle of the Magic Flower,” answered the Kalidah,
“and we don’t care much for magic. If you hadn’t had a magic leg,
instead of a meat one, you couldn’t have knocked me over so easily and
stuck this wooden pin through me.”

“I’ve been to the Magic Isle,” said the Glass Cat, “and I’ve watched
the Magic Flower bloom, and I’m sure it’s too pretty to be left in
that lonely place where only beasts prowl around it and no else sees
it. So we’re going to take it away to the Emerald City.”

“I don’t care,” the beast replied in a surly tone. “We Kalidahs
would be just as contented if there wasn’t a flower in our forest.
What good are the things anyhow?”

“Don’t you like pretty things?” asked Trot.

“No.”

“You ought to admire my pink brains, anyhow,” declared the Glass
Cat. “They’re beautiful and you can see ’em work.”

The beast only growled in reply, and Cap’n Bill, having now cut all
his logs to a proper size, began to roll them to the water’s edge and
fasten them together.

 

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