FictionForest

Chapter 17 – The Scarecrow Wins the Fight

L. Frank BaumJul 19, 2016'Command+D' Bookmark this page

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After Billina had entered the palace Dorothy and Evring sat down to
await the success or failure of her mission, and the Nome King
occupied his throne and smoked his long pipe for a while in a cheerful
and contented mood.

Then the bell above the throne, which sounded whenever an enchantment
was broken, began to ring, and the King gave a start of annoyance and
exclaimed, “Rocketty-ricketts!”

When the bell rang a second time the King shouted angrily, “Smudge and
blazes!” and at a third ring he screamed in a fury, “Hippikaloric!”
which must be a dreadful word because we don’t know what it means.

After that the bell went on ringing time after time; but the King was
now so violently enraged that he could not utter a word, but hopped
out of his throne and all around the room in a mad frenzy, so that he
reminded Dorothy of a jumping-jack.

The girl was, for her part, filled with joy at every peal of the bell,
for it announced the fact that Billina had transformed one more
ornament into a living person. Dorothy was also amazed at Billina’s
success, for she could not imagine how the yellow hen was able to
guess correctly from all the bewildering number of articles clustered
in the rooms of the palace. But after she had counted ten, and the
bell continued to ring, she knew that not only the royal family of Ev,
but Ozma and her followers also, were being restored to their natural
forms, and she was so delighted that the antics of the angry King only
made her laugh merrily.

Perhaps the little monarch could not be more furious than he was
before, but the girl’s laughter nearly drove him frantic, and he
roared at her like a savage beast. Then, as he found that all his
enchantments were likely to be dispelled and his victims every one set
free, he suddenly ran to the little door that opened upon the balcony
and gave the shrill whistle that summoned his warriors.

At once the army filed out of the gold and silver doors in great
numbers, and marched up a winding stairs and into the throne room, led
by a stern featured Nome who was their captain. When they had nearly
filled the throne room they formed ranks in the big underground cavern
below, and then stood still until they were told what to do next.

Dorothy had pressed back to one side of the cavern when the warriors
entered, and now she stood holding little Prince Evring’s hand while
the great Lion crouched upon one side and the enormous Tiger crouched
on the other side.

“Seize that girl!” shouted the King to his captain, and a group of
warriors sprang forward to obey. But both the Lion and Tiger snarled
so fiercely and bared their strong, sharp teeth so threateningly, that
the men drew back in alarm.

“Don’t mind them!” cried the Nome King; “they cannot leap beyond the
places where they now stand.”

“But they can bite those who attempt to touch the girl,” said the captain.

“I’ll fix that,” answered the King. “I’ll enchant them again, so that
they can’t open their jaws.”

He stepped out of the throne to do this, but just then the Sawhorse
ran up behind him and gave the fat monarch a powerful kick with both
his wooden hind legs.

“Ow! Murder! Treason!” yelled the King, who had been hurled against
several of his warriors and was considerably bruised. “Who did that?”

“I did,” growled the Sawhorse, viciously. “You let Dorothy alone, or
I’ll kick you again.”

“We’ll see about that,” replied the King, and at once he waved his
hand toward the Sawhorse and muttered a magical word. “Aha!” he
continued; “NOW let us see you move, you wooden mule!”

But in spite of the magic the Sawhorse moved; and he moved so quickly
toward the King, that the fat little man could not get out of his way.
Thump–BANG! came the wooden heels, right against his round body,
and the King flew into the air and fell upon the head of his captain,
who let him drop flat upon the ground.

“Well, well!” said the King, sitting up and looking surprised. “Why
didn’t my magic belt work, I wonder?”

“The creature is made of wood,” replied the captain. “Your magic will
not work on wood, you know.”

“Ah, I’d forgotten that,” said the King, getting up and limping to his
throne. “Very well, let the girl alone. She can’t escape us, anyway.”

The warriors, who had been rather confused by these incidents, now
formed their ranks again, and the Sawhorse pranced across the room to
Dorothy and took a position beside the Hungry Tiger.

At that moment the doors that led to the palace flew open and the
people of Ev and the people of Oz were disclosed to view. They
paused, astonished, at sight of the warriors and the angry Nome King,
seated in their midst.

“Surrender!” cried the King, in a loud voice. “You are my prisoners.”

“Go ‘long!” answered Billina, from the Scarecrow’s shoulder. “You
promised me that if I guessed correctly my friends and I might depart
in safety. And you always keep your promises.”

“I said you might leave the palace in safety,” retorted the King; “and
so you may, but you cannot leave my dominions. You are my prisoners,
and I will hurl you all into my underground dungeons, where the
volcanic fires glow and the molten lava flows in every direction, and
the air is hotter than blue blazes.”

“That will be the end of me, all right,” said the Scarecrow,
sorrowfully. “One small blaze, blue or green, is enough to reduce me
to an ash-heap.”

“Do you surrender?” demanded the King.

Billina whispered something in the Scarecrow’s ear that made him smile
and put his hands in his jacket pockets.

“No!” returned Ozma, boldly answering the King. Then she said to her army:

“Forward, my brave soldiers, and fight for your Ruler and yourselves,
unto death!”

“Pardon me, Most Royal Ozma,” replied one of her generals; “but I find
that I and my brother officers all suffer from heart disease, and the
slightest excitement might kill us. If we fight we may get excited.
Would it not be well for us to avoid this grave danger?”

“Soldiers should not have heart disease,” said Ozma.

“Private soldiers are not, I believe, afflicted that way,” declared
another general, twirling his moustache thoughtfully. “If your Royal
Highness desires, we will order our private to attack yonder warriors.”

“Do so,” replied Ozma.

“For-ward–march!” cried all the generals, with one voice.
“For-ward–march!” yelled the colonels. “For-ward–march!” shouted
the majors. “For-ward–march!” commanded the captains.

And at that the private leveled his spear and dashed furiously upon
the foe.

The captain of the Nomes was so surprised by this sudden onslaught
that he forgot to command his warriors to fight, so that the ten men
in the first row, who stood in front of the private’s spear, fell over
like so many toy soldiers. The spear could not go through their steel
armor, however, so the warriors scrambled to their feet again, and by
that time the private had knocked over another row of them.

Then the captain brought down his battle-axe with such a strong blow
that the private’s spear was shattered and knocked from his grasp, and
he was helpless to fight any longer.

The Nome King had left his throne and pressed through his warriors to
the front ranks, so he could see what was going on; but as he faced
Ozma and her friends the Scarecrow, as if aroused to action by the
valor of the private, drew one of Billina’s eggs from his right jacket
pocket and hurled it straight at the little monarch’s head.

It struck him squarely in his left eye, where the egg smashed and
scattered, as eggs will, and covered his face and hair and beard with
its sticky contents.

“Help, help!” screamed the King, clawing with his fingers at the egg,
in a struggle to remove it.

“An egg! an egg! Run for your lives!” shouted the captain of the
Nomes, in a voice of horror.

And how they DID run! The warriors fairly tumbled over one another in
their efforts to escape the fatal poison of that awful egg, and those
who could not rush down the winding stair fell off the balcony into
the great cavern beneath, knocking over those who stood below them.

Even while the King was still yelling for help his throne room became
emptied of every one of his warriors, and before the monarch had
managed to clear the egg away from his left eye the Scarecrow threw
the second egg against his right eye, where it smashed and blinded him
entirely. The King was unable to flee because he could not see which
way to run; so he stood still and howled and shouted and screamed in
abject fear.

While this was going on, Billina flew over to Dorothy, and perching
herself upon the Lion’s back the hen whispered eagerly to the girl:

“Get his belt! Get the Nome King’s jeweled belt! It unbuckles in the
back. Quick, Dorothy–quick!”

 

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