FictionForest

Chapter 2 – Ozma and Dorothy

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

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Residing in Ozma’s palace at this time was a live
Scarecrow, a most remarkable and intelligent creature
who had once ruled the Land of Oz for a brief period
and was much loved and respected by all the people.
Once a Munchkin farmer had stuffed an old suit of
clothes with straw and put stuffed boots on the feet
and used a pair of stuffed cotton gloves for hands. The
head of the Scarecrow was a stuffed sack fastened to
the body, with eyes, nose, mouth and ears painted on
the sack. When a hat had been put on the head, the
thing was a good imitation of a man. The farmer placed
the Scarecrow on a pole in his cornfield and it came to
life in a curious manner. Dorothy, who was passing by
the field, was hailed by the live Scarecrow and lifted
him off his pole. He then went with her to the Emerald
City, where the Wizard of Oz gave him some excellent
brains, and the Scarecrow soon became an important
personage.

Ozma considered the Scarecrow one of her best friends
and most loyal subjects, so the morning after her visit
to Glinda she asked him to take her place as Ruler of
the Land of Oz while she was absent on a journey, and
the Scarecrow at once consented without asking any
questions.

Ozma had warned Dorothy to keep their journey a
secret and say nothing to anyone about the Skeezers and
Flatheads until their return, and Dorothy promised to
obey. She longed to tell her girl friends, tiny Trot
and Betsy Bobbin, of the adventure they were
undertaking, but refrained from saying a word on the
subject although both these girls lived with her in
Ozma’s palace.

Indeed, only Glinda the Sorceress knew they were
going, until after they had gone, and even the
Sorceress didn’t know what their errand might be.

Princess Ozma took the Sawhorse and the Red Wagon,
although she was not sure there was a wagon road all
the way to the Lake of the Skeezers. The Land of Oz is
a pretty big place, surrounded on all sides by a Deadly
Desert which it is impossible to cross, and the Skeezer
Country, according to the map, was in the farthest
northwestern part of Oz, bordering on the north desert.
As the Emerald City was exactly in the center of Oz, it
was no small journey from there to the Skeezers.

Around the Emerald City the country is thickly
settled in every direction, but the farther away you
get from the city the fewer people there are, until
those parts that border on the desert have small
populations. Also those faraway sections are little
known to the Oz people, except in the south, where
Glinda lives and where Dorothy has often wandered on
trips of exploration.

The least known of all is the Gillikin Country, which
harbors many strange bands of people among its
mountains and valleys and forests and streams, and Ozma
was now bound for the most distant part of the Gillikin
Country.

“I am really sorry,” said Ozma to Dorothy, as they
rode away in the Red Wagon, “not to know more about the
wonderful Land I rule. It is my duty to be acquainted
with every tribe of people and every strange and hidden
country in all Oz, but I am kept so busy at my palace
making laws and planning for the comforts of those who
live near the Emerald City, that I do not often find
time to make long journeys.”

“Well,” replied Dorothy, “we’ll prob’bly find out a
lot on this trip, and we’ll learn all about the
Skeezers and Flatheads, anyhow. Time doesn’t make much
diff’rence in the Land of Oz, ’cause we don’t grow up,
or get old, or become sick and die, as they do other
places; so, if we explore one place at a time, we’ll
by-an’-by know all about every nook and corner in Oz.”

Dorothy wore around her waist the Nome King’s Magic
Belt, which protected her from harm, and the Magic Ring
which Glinda had given her was on her finger. Ozma had
merely slipped a small silver wand into the bosom of
her gown, for fairies do not use chemicals and herbs
and the tools of wizards and sorcerers to perform their
magic. The Silver Wand was Ozma’s one weapon of offense
and defense and by its use she could accomplish many
things.

They had left the Emerald City just at sunrise and
the Sawhorse traveled very swiftly over the roads
towards the north, but in a few hours the wooden animal
had to slacken his pace because the farm houses had
become few and far between and often there were no
paths at all in the direction they wished to follow. At
such times they crossed the fields, avoiding groups of
trees and fording the streams and rivulets whenever
they came to them. But finally they reached a broad
hillside closely covered with scrubby brush, through
which the wagon could not pass.

“It will be difficult even for you and me to get
through without tearing our dresses,” said Ozma, “so we
must leave the Sawhorse and the Wagon here until our
return.”

“That’s all right,” Dorothy replied, “I’m tired
riding, anyhow. Do you s’pose, Ozma, we’re anywhere
near the Skeezer Country?”

“I cannot tell, Dorothy dear, but I know we’ve been
going in the right direction, so we are sure to find it
in time.”

The scrubby brush was almost like a grove of small
trees, for it reached as high as the heads of the two
girls, neither of whom was very tall. They were obliged
to thread their way in and out, until Dorothy was
afraid they would get lost, and finally they were
halted by a curious thing that barred their further
progress. It was a huge web — as if woven by gigantic
spiders — and the delicate, lacy film was fastened
stoutly to the branches of the bushes and continued to
the right and left in the form of a half circle. The
threads of this web were of a brilliant purple color
and woven into numerous artistic patterns, but it
reached from the ground to branches above the heads of
the girls and formed a sort of fence that hedged them
in.

“It doesn’t look very strong, though,” said Dorothy.
“I wonder if we couldn’t break through.” She tried but
found the web stronger than it seemed. All her efforts
could not break a single thread.

“We must go back, I think, and try to get around this
peculiar web,” Ozma decided.

So they turned to the right and, following the web
found that it seemed to spread in a regular circle. On
and on they went until finally Ozma said they had
returned to the exact spot from which they had started.
“Here is a handkerchief you dropped when we were here
before,” she said to Dorothy.

“In that case, they must have built the web behind
us, after we walked into the trap,” exclaimed the
little girl.

“True,” agreed Ozma, “an enemy has tried to imprison
us.”

“And they did it, too,” said Dorothy. “I wonder who
it was.”

“It’s a spider-web, I’m quite sure,” returned Ozma,
“but it must be the work of enormous spiders.”

“Quite right!” cried a voice behind them. Turning
quickly around they beheld a huge purple spider sitting
not two yards away and regarding them with its small
bright eyes.

Then there crawled from the bushes a dozen more great
purple spiders, which saluted the first one and said:

“The web is finished, O King, and the strangers are
our prisoners.”

Dorothy did not like the looks of these spiders at
all. They had big heads, sharp claws, small eyes and
fuzzy hair all over their purple bodies.

“They look wicked,” she whispered to Ozma. “What
shall we do?”

Ozma gazed upon the spiders with a serious face.

“What is your object in making us prisoners?” she
inquired.

“We need someone to keep house for us,” answered the
Spider King. “There is sweeping and dusting to be done,
and polishing and washing of dishes, and that is work
my people dislike to do. So we decided that if any
strangers came our way we would capture them and make
them our servants.”

“I am Princess Ozma, Ruler of all Oz,” said the girl
with dignity.

“Well, I am King of all Spiders,” was the reply, “and
that makes me your master. Come with me to my palace
and I will instruct you in your work.”

“I won’t,” said Dorothy indignantly. “We won’t have
anything to do with you.”

“We’ll see about that,” returned the Spider in a
severe tone, and the next instant he made a dive
straight at Dorothy, opening the claws in his legs as
if to grab and pinch her with the sharp points. But the
girl was wearing her Magic Belt and was not harmed. The
Spider King could not even touch her. He turned swiftly
and made a dash at Ozma, but she held her Magic Wand
over his head and the monster recoiled as if it had
been struck.

“You’d better let us go,” Dorothy advised him, “for
you see you can’t hurt us.”

“So I see,” returned the Spider King angrily. “Your
magic is greater than mine. But I’ll not help you to
escape. If you can break the magic web my people have
woven you may go; if not you must stay here and
starve.” With that the Spider King uttered a peculiar
whistle and all the spiders disappeared.

“There is more magic in my fairyland than I dreamed
of,” remarked the beautiful Ozma, with a sigh of regret.
“It seems that my laws have not been obeyed, for even
these monstrous spiders defy me by means of Magic.”

“Never mind that now,” said Dorothy; “let’s see what
we can do to get out of this trap.”

They now examined the web with great care and were
amazed at its strength. Although finer than the finest
silken hairs, it resisted all their efforts to work
through, even though both girls threw all their weight
against it.

“We must find some instrument which will cut the
threads of the web,” said Ozma, finally. “Let us look
about for such a tool.”

So they wandered among the bushes and finally came to
a shallow pool of water, formed by a small bubbling
spring. Dorothy stooped to get a drink and discovered
in the water a green crab, about as big as her hand.
The crab had two big, sharp claws, and as soon as
Dorothy saw them she had an idea that those claws could
save them.

“Come out of the water,” she called to the crab; “I
want to talk to you.”

Rather lazily the crab rose to the surface and caught
hold of a bit of rock. With his head above the water he
said in a cross voice:

“What do you want?”

“We want you to cut the web of the purple spiders
with your claws, so we can get through it,” answered
Dorothy. “You can do that, can’t you?”

“I suppose so,” replied the crab. “But if I do what
will you give me?”

“What do you wish?” Ozma inquired.

“I wish to be white, instead of green,” said the
crab. “Green crabs are very common, and white ones are
rare; besides the purple spiders, which infest this
hillside, are afraid of white crabs. Could you make me
white if I should agree to cut the web for you?”

“Yes,” said Ozma, “I can do that easily. And, so you
may know I am speaking the truth, I will change your
color now.”

She waved her silver wand over the pool and the crab
instantly became snow-white — all except his eyes,
which remained black. The creature saw his reflection
in the water and was so delighted that he at once
climbed out of the pool and began moving slowly toward
the web, by backing away from the pool. He moved so
very slowly that Dorothy cried out impatiently: “Dear
me, this will never do!” Caching the crab in her hands
she ran with him to the web.

She had to hold him up even then, so he could reach
with his claws strand after strand of the filmy purple
web, which he was able to sever with one nip.

When enough of the web had been cut to allow them to
pass, Dorothy ran back to the pool and placed the white
crab in the water, after which she rejoined Ozma. They
were just in time to escape through the web, for
several of the purple spiders now appeared, having
discovered that their web had been cut, and had the
girls not rushed through the opening the spiders would
have quickly repaired the cuts and again imprisoned
them.

Ozma and Dorothy ran as fast as they could and
although the angry spiders threw a number of strands of
web after them, hoping to lasso them or entangle them
in the coils, they managed to escape and clamber to the
top of the hill.

 

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