FictionForest

Chapter 17

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

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“You see,” explained the Glass Cat, “that Magic Isle where Trot and
Cap’n Bill are stuck is also in this Gillikin Country–over at the
east side of it, and it’s no farther to go across-lots from here than
it is from here to the Emerald City. So we’ll save time by cutting
across the mountains.”

“Are you sure you know the way?” asked Dorothy.

“I know all the Land of Oz better than any other living creature
knows it,” asserted the Glass Cat.

“Go ahead, then, and guide us,” said the Wizard. “We’ve left our
poor friends helpless too long already, and the sooner we rescue them
the happier they’ll be.”

“Are you sure you can get ’em out of their fix?” the little girl inquired.

“I’ve no doubt of it,” the Wizard assured her. “But I can’t tell
what sort of magic I must use until I get to the place and discover
just how they are enchanted.”

“I’ve heard of that Magic Isle where the Wonderful Flower grows,”
remarked the Cowardly Lion. “Long ago, when I used to live in the
forests, the beasts told stories about the Isle and how the Magic
Flower was placed there to entrap strangers–men or beasts.”

“Is the Flower really wonderful?” questioned Dorothy.

“I have heard it is the most beautiful plant in the world,” answered
the Lion. “I have never seen it myself, but friendly beasts have told
me that they have stood on the shore of the river and looked across at
the plant in the gold flower-pot and seen hundreds of flowers, of all
sorts and sizes, blossom upon it in quick succession. It is said that
if one picks the flowers while they are in bloom they will remain
perfect for a long time, but if they are not picked they soon
disappear and are replaced by other flowers. That, in my opinion,
make the Magic Plant the most wonderful in existence.”

“But these are only stories,” said the girl. “Has any of your
friends ever picked a flower from the wonderful plant?”

“No,” admitted the Cowardly Lion, “for if any living thing ventures
upon the Magic Isle, where the golden flower-pot stands, that man or
beast takes root in the soil and cannot get away again.”

“What happens to them, then?” asked Dorothy.

“They grow smaller, hour by hour and day by day, and finally
disappear entirely.”

“Then,” said the girl anxiously, “we must hurry up, or Cap’n Bill
an’ Trot will get too small to be comf’table.”

They were proceeding at a rapid pace during this conversation, for
the Hungry Tiger and the Cowardly Lion were obliged to move swiftly in
order to keep pace with the Glass Cat. After leaving the Forest of Gugu
they crossed a mountain range, and then a broad plain, after which
they reached another forest, much smaller than that where Gugu ruled.

“The Magic Isle is in this forest,” said the Glass Cat, “but the
river is at the other side of the forest. There is no path through
the trees, but if we keep going east, we will find the river, and then
it will be easy to find the Magic Isle.”

“Have you ever traveled this way before?” inquired the Wizard.

“Not exactly,” admitted the Cat, “but I know we shall reach the
river if we go east through the forest.”

“Lead on, then,” said the Wizard.

The Glass Cat started away, and at first it was easy to pass between
the trees; but before long the underbrush and vines became thick and
tangled, and after pushing their way through these obstacles for a
time, our travelers came to a place where even the Glass Cat could not
push through.

“We’d better go back and find a path,” suggested the Hungry Tiger.

“I’m s’prised at you,” said Dorothy, eyeing the Glass Cat severely.

“I’m surprised, myself,” replied the Cat. “But it’s a long way
around the forest to where the river enters it, and I thought we could
save time by going straight through.”

“No one can blame you,” said the Wizard, “and I think, instead of
turning back, I can make a path that will allow us to proceed.”

He opened his black bag and after searching among his magic tools
drew out a small axe, made of some metal so highly polished that it
glittered brightly even in the dark forest. The Wizard laid the
little axe on the ground and said in a commanding voice:

“Chop, Little Axe, chop clean and true;
A path for our feet you must quickly hew.
Chop till this tangle of jungle is passed;
Chop to the east, Little Axe–chop fast!”

Then the little axe began to move and flashed its bright blade right
and left, clearing a way through vine and brush and scattering the
tangled barrier so quickly that the Lion and the Tiger, carrying
Dorothy and the Wizard and the cage of monkeys on their backs, were
able to stride through the forest at a fast walk. The brush seemed to
melt away before them and the little axe chopped so fast that their
eyes only saw a twinkling of the blade. Then, suddenly, the forest
was open again, and the little axe, having obeyed its orders, lay
still upon the ground.

The Wizard picked up the magic axe and after carefully wiping it
with his silk handkerchief put it away in his black bag. Then they
went on and in a short time reached the river.

“Let me see,” said the Glass Cat, looking up and down the stream, “I
think we are below the Magic Isle; so we must go up the stream until
we come to it.”

So up the stream they traveled, walking comfortably on the river
bank, and after a while the water broadened and a sharp bend appeared
in the river, hiding all below from their view. They walked briskly
along, however, and had nearly reached the bend when a voice cried
warningly: “Look out!”

The travelers halted abruptly and the Wizard said: “Look out for what?”

“You almost stepped on my Diamond Palace,” replied the voice, and a
duck with gorgeously colored feathers appeared before them. “Beasts
and men are terribly clumsy,” continued the Duck in an irritated tone,
“and you’ve no business on this side of the River, anyway. What are
you doing here?”

“We’ve come to rescue some friends of ours who are stuck fast on the
Magic Isle in this river,” explained Dorothy.

“I know ’em,” said the Duck. “I’ve been to see ’em, and they’re
stuck fast, all right. You may as well go back home, for no power can
save them.”

“This is the Wonderful Wizard of Oz,” said Dorothy, pointing to the
little man.

“Well, I’m the Lonesome Duck,” was the reply, as the fowl strutted
up and down to show its feathers to best advantage. “I’m the great
Forest Magician, as any beast can tell you, but even I have no power
to destroy the dreadful charm of the Magic Isle.”

“Are you lonesome because you’re a magician?” inquired Dorothy.

“No; I’m lonesome because I have no family and no friends. But I
like to be lonesome, so please don’t offer to be friendly with me. Go
away, and try not to step on my Diamond Palace.”

“Where is it?” asked the girl.

“Behind this bush.”

Dorothy hopped off the lion’s back and ran around the bush to see
the Diamond Palace of the Lonesome Duck, although the gaudy fowl
protested in a series of low quacks. The girl found, indeed, a
glistening dome formed of clearest diamonds, neatly cemented together,
with a doorway at the side just big enough to admit the duck.

“Where did you find so many diamonds?” asked Dorothy, wonderingly.

“I know a place in the mountains where they are thick as pebbles,”
said the Lonesome Duck, “and I brought them here in my bill, one by one
and put them in the river and let the water run over them until they
were brightly polished. Then I built this palace, and I’m positive
it’s the only Diamond Palace in all the world.”

“It’s the only one I know of,” said the little girl; “but if you
live in it all alone, I don’t see why it’s any better than a wooden
palace, or one of bricks or cobble-stones.”

“You’re not supposed to understand that,” retorted the Lonesome
Duck. “But I might tell you, as a matter of education, that a home of
any sort should be beautiful to those who live in it, and should not
be intended to please strangers. The Diamond Palace is my home, and I
like it. So I don’t care a quack whether YOU like it or not.”

“Oh, but I do!” exclaimed Dorothy. “It’s lovely on the outside,
but–” Then she stopped speaking, for the Lonesome Duck had entered
his palace through the little door without even saying good-bye. So
Dorothy returned to her friends and they resumed their journey.

“Do you think, Wizard, the Duck was right in saying no magic can
rescue Trot and Cap’n Bill?” asked the girl in a worried tone of voice.

“No, I don’t think the Lonesome Duck was right in saying that,”
answered the Wizard, gravely, “but it is possible that their
enchantment will be harder to overcome than I expected. I’ll do my
best, of course, and no one can do more than his best.”

That didn’t entirely relieve Dorothy’s anxiety, but she said nothing
more, and soon, on turning the bend in the river, they came in sight
of the Magic Isle.

“There they are!” exclaimed Dorothy eagerly.

“Yes, I see them,” replied the Wizard, nodding. “They are sitting
on two big toadstools.”

“That’s queer,” remarked the Glass Cat. “There were no toadstools
there when I left them.”

“What a lovely flower!” cried Dorothy in rapture, as her gaze fell
on the Magic Plant.

“Never mind the Flower, just now,” advised the Wizard. “The most
important thing is to rescue our friends.”

By this time they had arrived at a place just opposite the Magic
Isle, and now both Trot and Cap’n Bill saw the arrival of their
friends and called to them for help.

“How are you?” shouted the Wizard, putting his hands to his mouth
so they could hear him better across the water.

“We’re in hard luck,” shouted Cap’n Bill, in reply. “We’re anchored
here and can’t move till you find a way to cut the hawser.”

“What does he mean by that?” asked Dorothy.

“We can’t move our feet a bit!” called Trot, speaking as loud as she could.

“Why not?” inquired Dorothy.

“They’ve got roots on ’em,” explained Trot.

It was hard to talk from so great a distance, so the Wizard said to
the Glass Cat:

“Go to the island and tell our friends to be patient, for we have
come to save them. It may take a little time to release them, for the
Magic of the Isle is new to me and I shall have to experiment. But
tell them I’ll hurry as fast as I can.”

So the Glass Cat walked across the river under the water to tell Trot
and Cap’n Bill not to worry, and the Wizard at once opened his black
bag and began to make his preparations.

 

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