FictionForest

Chapter 15 – The Discovery of Oz, the Terrible

L. Frank BaumJul 03, 2016'Command+D' Bookmark this page

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The four travelers walked up to the great gate of Emerald City
and rang the bell. After ringing several times, it was opened by
the same Guardian of the Gates they had met before.

“What! are you back again?” he asked, in surprise.

“Do you not see us?” answered the Scarecrow.

“But I thought you had gone to visit the Wicked Witch of the West.”

“We did visit her,” said the Scarecrow.

“And she let you go again?” asked the man, in wonder.

“She could not help it, for she is melted,” explained the Scarecrow.

“Melted! Well, that is good news, indeed,” said the man.
“Who melted her?”

“It was Dorothy,” said the Lion gravely.

“Good gracious!” exclaimed the man, and he bowed very low indeed
before her.

Then he led them into his little room and locked the spectacles
from the great box on all their eyes, just as he had done before.
Afterward they passed on through the gate into the Emerald City.
When the people heard from the Guardian of the Gates that Dorothy
had melted the Wicked Witch of the West, they all gathered around
the travelers and followed them in a great crowd to the Palace of Oz.

The soldier with the green whiskers was still on guard before
the door, but he let them in at once, and they were again met by
the beautiful green girl, who showed each of them to their old
rooms at once, so they might rest until the Great Oz was ready to
receive them.

The soldier had the news carried straight to Oz that Dorothy
and the other travelers had come back again, after destroying the
Wicked Witch; but Oz made no reply. They thought the Great Wizard
would send for them at once, but he did not. They had no word
from him the next day, nor the next, nor the next. The waiting
was tiresome and wearing, and at last they grew vexed that Oz
should treat them in so poor a fashion, after sending them to
undergo hardships and slavery. So the Scarecrow at last asked the
green girl to take another message to Oz, saying if he did not
let them in to see him at once they would call the Winged Monkeys
to help them, and find out whether he kept his promises or not.
When the Wizard was given this message he was so frightened that he
sent word for them to come to the Throne Room at four minutes after
nine o’clock the next morning. He had once met the Winged Monkeys
in the Land of the West, and he did not wish to meet them again.

The four travelers passed a sleepless night, each thinking of the
gift Oz had promised to bestow on him. Dorothy fell asleep only once,
and then she dreamed she was in Kansas, where Aunt Em was telling her
how glad she was to have her little girl at home again.

Promptly at nine o’clock the next morning the green-whiskered
soldier came to them, and four minutes later they all went into
the Throne Room of the Great Oz.

Of course each one of them expected to see the Wizard in the shape
he had taken before, and all were greatly surprised when they looked
about and saw no one at all in the room. They kept close to the door
and closer to one another, for the stillness of the empty room was more
dreadful than any of the forms they had seen Oz take.

Presently they heard a solemn Voice, that seemed to come from
somewhere near the top of the great dome, and it said:

“I am Oz, the Great and Terrible. Why do you seek me?”

They looked again in every part of the room, and then, seeing
no one, Dorothy asked, “Where are you?”

“I am everywhere,” answered the Voice, “but to the eyes of
common mortals I am invisible. I will now seat myself upon my
throne, that you may converse with me.” Indeed, the Voice seemed
just then to come straight from the throne itself; so they walked
toward it and stood in a row while Dorothy said:

“We have come to claim our promise, O Oz.”

“What promise?” asked Oz.

“You promised to send me back to Kansas when the Wicked Witch
was destroyed,” said the girl.

“And you promised to give me brains,” said the Scarecrow.

“And you promised to give me a heart,” said the Tin Woodman.

“And you promised to give me courage,” said the Cowardly Lion.

“Is the Wicked Witch really destroyed?” asked the Voice,
and Dorothy thought it trembled a little.

“Yes,” she answered, “I melted her with a bucket of water.”

“Dear me,” said the Voice, “how sudden! Well, come to me
tomorrow, for I must have time to think it over.”

“You’ve had plenty of time already,” said the Tin Woodman angrily.

“We shan’t wait a day longer,” said the Scarecrow.

“You must keep your promises to us!” exclaimed Dorothy.

The Lion thought it might be as well to frighten the Wizard,
so he gave a large, loud roar, which was so fierce and dreadful
that Toto jumped away from him in alarm and tipped over the screen
that stood in a corner. As it fell with a crash they looked
that way, and the next moment all of them were filled with wonder.
For they saw, standing in just the spot the screen had hidden,
a little old man, with a bald head and a wrinkled face, who seemed
to be as much surprised as they were. The Tin Woodman, raising
his axe, rushed toward the little man and cried out, “Who are you?”

“I am Oz, the Great and Terrible,” said the little man, in a
trembling voice. “But don’t strike me–please don’t–and I’ll
do anything you want me to.”

Our friends looked at him in surprise and dismay.

“I thought Oz was a great Head,” said Dorothy.

“And I thought Oz was a lovely Lady,” said the Scarecrow.

“And I thought Oz was a terrible Beast,” said the Tin Woodman.

“And I thought Oz was a Ball of Fire,” exclaimed the Lion.

“No, you are all wrong,” said the little man meekly. “I have
been making believe.”

“Making believe!” cried Dorothy. “Are you not a Great Wizard?”

“Hush, my dear,” he said. “Don’t speak so loud, or you will be
overheard–and I should be ruined. I’m supposed to be a Great Wizard.”

“And aren’t you?” she asked.

“Not a bit of it, my dear; I’m just a common man.”

“You’re more than that,” said the Scarecrow, in a grieved tone;
“you’re a humbug.”

“Exactly so!” declared the little man, rubbing his hands
together as if it pleased him. “I am a humbug.”

“But this is terrible,” said the Tin Woodman. “How shall I
ever get my heart?”

“Or I my courage?” asked the Lion.

“Or I my brains?” wailed the Scarecrow, wiping the tears from
his eyes with his coat sleeve.

“My dear friends,” said Oz, “I pray you not to speak of these
little things. Think of me, and the terrible trouble I’m in at
being found out.”

“Doesn’t anyone else know you’re a humbug?” asked Dorothy.

“No one knows it but you four–and myself,” replied Oz. “I
have fooled everyone so long that I thought I should never be
found out. It was a great mistake my ever letting you into the
Throne Room. Usually I will not see even my subjects, and so they
believe I am something terrible.”

“But, I don’t understand,” said Dorothy, in bewilderment.
“How was it that you appeared to me as a great Head?”

“That was one of my tricks,” answered Oz. “Step this way,
please, and I will tell you all about it.”

He led the way to a small chamber in the rear of the Throne
Room, and they all followed him. He pointed to one corner, in
which lay the great Head, made out of many thicknesses of paper,
and with a carefully painted face.

“This I hung from the ceiling by a wire,” said Oz. “I stood
behind the screen and pulled a thread, to make the eyes move and
the mouth open.”

“But how about the voice?” she inquired.

“Oh, I am a ventriloquist,” said the little man. “I can throw
the sound of my voice wherever I wish, so that you thought it was
coming out of the Head. Here are the other things I used to
deceive you.” He showed the Scarecrow the dress and the mask he
had worn when he seemed to be the lovely Lady. And the Tin
Woodman saw that his terrible Beast was nothing but a lot of
skins, sewn together, with slats to keep their sides out. As for
the Ball of Fire, the false Wizard had hung that also from the
ceiling. It was really a ball of cotton, but when oil was poured
upon it the ball burned fiercely.

“Really,” said the Scarecrow, “you ought to be ashamed of
yourself for being such a humbug.”

“I am–I certainly am,” answered the little man sorrowfully;
“but it was the only thing I could do. Sit down, please, there
are plenty of chairs; and I will tell you my story.”

So they sat down and listened while he told the following tale.

“I was born in Omaha–”

“Why, that isn’t very far from Kansas!” cried Dorothy.

“No, but it’s farther from here,” he said, shaking his head at
her sadly. “When I grew up I became a ventriloquist, and at that
I was very well trained by a great master. I can imitate any kind
of a bird or beast.” Here he mewed so like a kitten that Toto
pricked up his ears and looked everywhere to see where she was.
“After a time,” continued Oz, “I tired of that, and became a
balloonist.”

“What is that?” asked Dorothy.

“A man who goes up in a balloon on circus day, so as to draw a
crowd of people together and get them to pay to see the circus,”
he explained.

“Oh,” she said, “I know.”

“Well, one day I went up in a balloon and the ropes got
twisted, so that I couldn’t come down again. It went way up above
the clouds, so far that a current of air struck it and carried it
many, many miles away. For a day and a night I traveled through
the air, and on the morning of the second day I awoke and found
the balloon floating over a strange and beautiful country.

“It came down gradually, and I was not hurt a bit. But I
found myself in the midst of a strange people, who, seeing me come
from the clouds, thought I was a great Wizard. Of course I let
them think so, because they were afraid of me, and promised to do
anything I wished them to.

“Just to amuse myself, and keep the good people busy, I
ordered them to build this City, and my Palace; and they did it
all willingly and well. Then I thought, as the country was so
green and beautiful, I would call it the Emerald City; and to make
the name fit better I put green spectacles on all the people, so
that everything they saw was green.”

“But isn’t everything here green?” asked Dorothy.

“No more than in any other city,” replied Oz; “but when you
wear green spectacles, why of course everything you see looks
green to you. The Emerald City was built a great many years ago,
for I was a young man when the balloon brought me here, and I am a
very old man now. But my people have worn green glasses on their
eyes so long that most of them think it really is an Emerald City,
and it certainly is a beautiful place, abounding in jewels and
precious metals, and every good thing that is needed to make
one happy. I have been good to the people, and they like me;
but ever since this Palace was built, I have shut myself up
and would not see any of them.

“One of my greatest fears was the Witches, for while I had no
magical powers at all I soon found out that the Witches were
really able to do wonderful things. There were four of them in
this country, and they ruled the people who live in the North and
South and East and West. Fortunately, the Witches of the North
and South were good, and I knew they would do me no harm; but the
Witches of the East and West were terribly wicked, and had they
not thought I was more powerful than they themselves, they would
surely have destroyed me. As it was, I lived in deadly fear of
them for many years; so you can imagine how pleased I was when
I heard your house had fallen on the Wicked Witch of the East.
When you came to me, I was willing to promise anything if you
would only do away with the other Witch; but, now that you have
melted her, I am ashamed to say that I cannot keep my promises.”

“I think you are a very bad man,” said Dorothy.

“Oh, no, my dear; I’m really a very good man, but I’m a very
bad Wizard, I must admit.”

“Can’t you give me brains?” asked the Scarecrow.

“You don’t need them. You are learning something every day.
A baby has brains, but it doesn’t know much. Experience is the
only thing that brings knowledge, and the longer you are on earth
the more experience you are sure to get.”

“That may all be true,” said the Scarecrow, “but I shall be
very unhappy unless you give me brains.”

The false Wizard looked at him carefully.

“Well,” he said with a sigh, “I’m not much of a magician,
as I said; but if you will come to me tomorrow morning, I will
stuff your head with brains. I cannot tell you how to use them,
however; you must find that out for yourself.”

“Oh, thank you–thank you!” cried the Scarecrow. “I’ll find
a way to use them, never fear!”

“But how about my courage?” asked the Lion anxiously.

“You have plenty of courage, I am sure,” answered Oz. “All you need
is confidence in yourself. There is no living thing that is not afraid
when it faces danger. The True courage is in facing danger when you are
afraid, and that kind of courage you have in plenty.”

“Perhaps I have, but I’m scared just the same,” said the Lion.
“I shall really be very unhappy unless you give me the sort of
courage that makes one forget he is afraid.”

“Very well, I will give you that sort of courage tomorrow,”
replied Oz.

“How about my heart?” asked the Tin Woodman.

“Why, as for that,” answered Oz, “I think you are wrong to
want a heart. It makes most people unhappy. If you only knew it,
you are in luck not to have a heart.”

“That must be a matter of opinion,” said the Tin Woodman.
“For my part, I will bear all the unhappiness without a murmur,
if you will give me the heart.”

“Very well,” answered Oz meekly. “Come to me tomorrow and you
shall have a heart. I have played Wizard for so many years that I
may as well continue the part a little longer.”

“And now,” said Dorothy, “how am I to get back to Kansas?”

“We shall have to think about that,” replied the little man.
“Give me two or three days to consider the matter and I’ll try to
find a way to carry you over the desert. In the meantime you
shall all be treated as my guests, and while you live in the Palace
my people will wait upon you and obey your slightest wish. There is
only one thing I ask in return for my help–such as it is. You must
keep my secret and tell no one I am a humbug.”

They agreed to say nothing of what they had learned, and went
back to their rooms in high spirits. Even Dorothy had hope that
“The Great and Terrible Humbug,” as she called him, would find a
way to send her back to Kansas, and if he did she was willing to
forgive him everything.

 

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