FictionForest

Chapter 12 – The Diamond Swan

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

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When the Flatheads had gone away the Diamond Swan
swam back to the boat and one of the young Skeezers
named Ervic said to her eagerly:

“How can we get back to the island, your Majesty?”

“Am I not beautiful?” asked Coo-ee-oh, arching her
neck gracefully and spreading her diamond-sprinkled
wings. “I can see my reflection in the water, and I’m
sure there is no bird nor beast, nor human as
magnificent as I am!”

“How shall we get back to the island, your Majesty?”
pleaded Ervic.

“When my fame spreads throughout the land, people
will travel from all parts of this lake to look upon my
loveliness,” said Coo-ee-oh, shaking her feathers to
make the diamonds glitter more brilliantly.

“But, your Majesty, we must go home and we do not
know how to get there,” Ervic persisted.

“My eyes,” remarked the Diamond Swan, “are
wonderfully blue and bright and will charm all
beholders.”

“Tell us how to make the boat go — how to get back
into the island,” begged Ervic and the others cried
just as earnestly: “Tell us, Coo-ee-oh; tell us!”

“I don’t know,” replied the Queen in a careless tone.

“You are a magic-worker, a sorceress, a witch!”

“I was, of course, when I was a girl,” she said,
bending her head over the clear water to catch her
reflection in it; “but now I’ve forgotten all such
foolish things as magic. Swans are lovelier than girls,
especially when they’re sprinkled with diamonds. Don’t
you think so?” And she gracefully swam away, without
seeming to care whether they answered or not.

Ervic and his companions were in despair. They saw
plainly that Coo-ee-oh could not or would not help
them. The former Queen had no further thought for her
island, her people, or her wonderful magic; she was
only intent on admiring her own beauty.

“Truly,” said Ervic, in a gloomy voice, “the
Flatheads have conquered us!”

* * * * * * * *

Some of these events had been witnessed by Ozma
and Dorothy and Lady Aurex, who had left the house
and gone close to the glass of the dome, in order to see
what was going on. Many of the Skeezers had also
crowded against the dome, wondering what would
happen next. Although their vision was to an extent
blurred by the water and the necessity of looking
upward at an angle, they had observed the main points
of the drama enacted above. They saw Queen Coo-
ee-oh’s submarine come to the surface and open; they
saw the Queen standing erect to throw her magic rope;
they saw her sudden transformation into a Diamond
Swan, and a cry of amazement went up from the
Skeezers inside the dome.

“Good!” exclaimed Dorothy. “I hate that old Su-dic,
but I’m glad Coo-ee-oh is punished.”

“This is a dreadful misfortune!” cried Lady Aurex,
pressing her hands upon her heart.

“Yes,” agreed Ozma, nodding her head thoughtfully;
“Coo-ee-oh’s misfortune will prove a terrible blow to
her people.”

“What do you mean by that?” asked Dorothy in
surprise. “Seems to me the Skeezers are in luck to lose
their cruel Queen.”

“If that were all you would be right,” responded Lady
Aurex; “and if the island were above water it would not
be so serious. But here we all are, at the bottom of
the lake, and fast prisoners in this dome.”

“Can’t you raise the island?” inquired Dorothy.

“No. Only Coo-ee-oh knew how to do that,” was the
answer.

“We can try,” insisted Dorothy. “If it can be made to
go down, it can be made to come up. The machinery is
still here, I suppose.

“Yes; but the machinery works by magic, and Coo-ee-oh
would never share her secret power with any one of us.”

Dorothy’s face grew grave; but she was thinking.

“Ozma knows a lot of magic,” she said.

“But not that kind of magic,” Ozma replied.

“Can’t you learn how, by looking at the machinery?”

“I’m afraid not, my dear. It isn’t fairy magic at
all; it is witchcraft.”

“Well,” said Dorothy, turning to Lady Aurex, “you say
there are other sub-sub-sinking boats. We can get in
one of those, and shoot out to the top of the water,
like Coo-ee-oh did, and so escape. And then we can help
to rescue all the Skeezers down here.”

“No one knows how to work the under-water boats but
the Queen,” declared Lady Aurex.

“Isn’t there any door or window in this dome that we
could open?”

“No; and, if there were, the water would rush in
to flood the dome, and we could not get out.”

“The Skeezers,” said Ozma, “could not drown; they
only get wet and soggy and in that condition they would
be very uncomfortable and unhappy. But you are a mortal
girl, Dorothy, and if your Magic Belt protected you
from death you would have to lie forever at the bottom
of the lake.”

“No, I’d rather die quickly,” asserted the little
girl. “But there are doors in the basement that open —
to let out the bridges and the boats — and that would
not flood the dome, you know.”

“Those doors open by a magic word, and only Coo-ee-oh
knows the word that must be uttered,” said Lady Aurex.

“Dear me!” exclaimed Dorothy, “that dreadful Queen’s
witchcraft upsets all my plans to escape. I guess I’ll
give it up, Ozma, and let you save us.”

Ozma smiled, but her smile was not so cheerful as
usual. The Princess of Oz found herself confronted with
a serious problem, and although she had no thought of
despairing she realized that the Skeezers and their
island, as well as Dorothy and herself, were in grave
trouble and that unless she could find a means to save
them they would be lost to the Land of Oz for all
future time.

“In such a dilemma,” said she, musingly, “nothing is
gained by haste. Careful thought may aid us, and so may
the course of events. The unexpected is always likely
to happen, and cheerful patience is better than
reckless action.”

“All right,” returned Dorothy; “take your time, Ozma;
there’s no hurry. How about some breakfast, Lady
Aurex?”

Their hostess led them back to the house, where she
ordered her trembling servants to prepare and serve
breakfast. All the Skeezers were frightened and anxious
over the transformation of their Queen into a swan.
Coo-ee-oh was feared and hated, but they had depended
on her magic to conquer the Flatheads and she was the
only one who could raise their island to the surface of
the lake again.

Before breakfast was over several of the leading
Skeezers came to Aurex to ask her advice and to
question Princess Ozma, of whom they knew nothing
except that she claimed to be a fairy and the Ruler of
all the land, including the Lake of the Skeezers.

“If what you told Queen Coo-ee-oh was the truth,”
they said to her, “you are our lawful mistress, and we
may depend on you to get us out of our difficulties.”

“I will try to do that” Ozma graciously assured them,
“but you must remember that the powers of fairies are
granted them to bring comfort and happiness to all who
appeal to them. On the contrary, such magic as Coo-ee-
oh knew and practiced is unlawful witchcraft and her
arts are such as no fairy would condescend to use.
However, it is sometimes necessary to consider evil in
order to accomplish good, and perhaps by studying Coo-
ee-oh’s tools and charms of witchcraft I may be able to
save us. Do you promise to accept me as your Ruler and
to obey my commands?”

They promised willingly.

“Then,” continued Ozma, “I will go to Coo-ee-oh’s
palace and take possession of it. Perhaps what I find
there will be of use to me. In the meantime tell all
the Skeezers to fear nothing, but have patience. Let
them return to their homes and perform their daily
tasks as usual. Coo-ee-oh’s loss may not prove a
misfortune, but rather a blessing.”

This speech cheered the Skeezers amazingly. Really,
they had no one now to depend upon but Ozma, and in
spite of their dangerous position their hearts were
lightened by the transformation and absence of their
cruel Queen.

They got out their brass band and a grand procession
escorted Ozma and Dorothy to the palace, where all of
Coo-ee-oh’s former servants were eager to wait upon
them. Ozma invited Lady Aurex to stay at the palace
also, for she knew all about the Skeezers and their
island and had also been a favorite of the former
Queen, so her advice and information were sure to prove
valuable.

Ozma was somewhat disappointed in what she found in
the palace. One room of Coo-ee-oh’s private suite was
entirely devoted to the practice of witchcraft, and
here were countless queer instruments and jars of
ointments and bottles of potions labeled with queer
names, and strange machines that Ozma could not guess
the use of, and pickled toads and snails and lizards,
and a shelf of books that were written in blood, but in
a language which the Ruler of Oz did not know.

“I do not see,” said Ozma to Dorothy, who accompanied
her in her search, “how Coo-ee-oh knew the use of the
magic tools she stole from the three Adept Witches.
Moreover, from all reports these Adepts practiced only
good witchcraft, such as would be helpful to their
people, while Coo-ee-oh performed only evil.”

“Perhaps she turned the good things to evil uses?”
suggested Dorothy.

“Yes, and with the knowledge she gained Coo-ee-oh
doubtless invented many evil things quite unknown to
the good Adepts, who are now fishes,” added Ozma. “It
is unfortunate for us that the Queen kept her secrets
so closely guarded, for no one but herself could use
any of these strange things gathered in this room.”

“Couldn’t we capture the Diamond Swan and make her
tell the secrets?” asked Dorothy.

“No; even were we able to capture her, Coo-ee-oh now
has forgotten all the magic she ever knew. But until we
ourselves escape from this dome we could not capture
the Swan, and were we to escape we would have no use for
Coo-ee-oh’s magic.”

“That’s a fact,” admitted Dorothy. “But — say, Ozma,
here’s a good idea! Couldn’t we capture the three
fishes — the gold and silver and bronze ones, and
couldn’t you transform ’em back to their own shapes,
and then couldn’t the three Adepts get us out of here?”

“You are not very practical, Dorothy dear. It would
be as hard for us to capture the three fishes, from
among all the other fishes in the lake, as to capture
the Swan.”

“But if we could, it would be more help to us,”
persisted the little girl.

“That is true,” answered Ozma, smiling at her
friend’s eagerness. “You find a way to catch the fish,
and I’ll promise when they are caught to restore them
to their proper forms.”

“I know you think I can’t do it,” replied Dorothy,
“but I’m going to try.”

She left the palace and went to a place where she
could look through a clear pane of the glass dome into
the surrounding water. Immediately she became
interested in the queer sights that met her view.

The Lake of the Skeezers was inhabited by fishes of
many kinds and many sizes. The water was so transparent
that the girl could see for a long distance and the
fishes came so close to the glass of the dome that
sometimes they actually touched it. On the white sands
at the bottom of the lake were star-fish, lobsters,
crabs and many shell fish of strange shapes and with
shells of gorgeous hues. The water foliage was of
brilliant colors and to Dorothy it resembled a splendid
garden.

But the fishes were the most interesting of all. Some
were big and lazy, floating slowly along or lying at
rest with just their fins waving. Many with big round
eyes looked full at the girl as she watched them and
Dorothy wondered if they could hear her through the
glass if she spoke to them. In Oz, where all the
animals and birds can talk, many fishes are able to
talk also, but usually they are more stupid than birds
and animals because they think slowly and haven’t much
to talk about.

In the Lake of the Skeezers the fish of smaller size
were more active than the big ones and darted quickly
in and out among the swaying weeds, as if they had
important business and were in a hurry. It was among
the smaller varieties that Dorothy hoped to spy the
gold and silver and bronze fishes. She had an idea the
three would keep together, being companions now as they
were in their natural forms, but such a multitude of
fishes constantly passed, the scene shifting every
moment, that she was not sure she would notice them
even if they appeared in view. Her eyes couldn’t look
in all directions and the fishes she sought might be on
the other side of the dome, or far away in the lake.

“P’raps, because they were afraid of Coo-ee-oh,
they’ve hid themselves somewhere, and don’t know their
enemy has been transformed,” she reflected.

She watched the fishes for a long time, until she
became hungry and went back to the palace for lunch.
But she was not discouraged.

“Anything new, Ozma?” she asked.

“No, dear. Did you discover the three fishes?”

“Not yet. But there isn’t anything better for me to
do, Ozma, so I guess I’ll go back and watch again.”

 

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