FictionForest

Chapter 5

L. Frank BaumJul 20, 2016'Command+D' Bookmark this page

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The words of the cold and moist vegetable Prince were not very
comforting, and as he spoke them he turned away and left the
enclosure. The children, feeling sad and despondent, were about to
follow him when the Wizard touched Dorothy softly on her shoulder.

“Wait!” he whispered.

“What for?” asked the girl.

“Suppose we pick the Royal Princess,” said the Wizard. “I’m quite
sure she’s ripe, and as soon as she comes to life she will be the
Ruler, and may treat us better than that heartless Prince intends to.”

“All right!” exclaimed Dorothy, eagerly. “Let’s pick her while we
have the chance, before the man with the star comes back.”

So together they leaned over the great bush and each of them seized
one hand of the lovely Princess.

“Pull!” cried Dorothy, and as they did so the royal lady leaned toward
them and the stems snapped and separated from her feet. She was not
at all heavy, so the Wizard and Dorothy managed to lift her gently to
the ground.

The beautiful creature passed her hands over her eyes an instant,
tucked in a stray lock of hair that had become disarranged, and after
a look around the garden made those present a gracious bow and said,
in a sweet but even toned voice:

“I thank you very much.”

“We salute your Royal Highness!” cried the Wizard, kneeling and
kissing her hand.

Just then the voice of the Prince was heard calling upon them to
hasten, and a moment later he returned to the enclosure, followed by a
number of his people.

Instantly the Princess turned and faced him, and when he saw that she
was picked the Prince stood still and began to tremble.

“Sir,” said the Royal Lady, with much dignity, “you have wronged me
greatly, and would have wronged me still more had not these strangers
come to my rescue. I have been ready for picking all the past week,
but because you were selfish and desired to continue your unlawful
rule, you left me to stand silent upon my bush.”

“I did not know that you were ripe,” answered the Prince, in a low voice.

“Give me the Star of Royalty!” she commanded.

Slowly he took the shining star from his own brow and placed it upon
that of the Princess. Then all the people bowed low to her, and the
Prince turned and walked away alone. What became of him afterward our
friends never knew.

The people of Mangaboo now formed themselves into a procession and
marched toward the glass city to escort their new ruler to her palace
and to perform those ceremonies proper to the occasion. But while the
people in the procession walked upon the ground the Princess walked in
the air just above their heads, to show that she was a superior being
and more exalted than her subjects.

No one now seemed to pay any attention to the strangers, so Dorothy
and Zeb and the Wizard let the train pass on and then wandered by
themselves into the vegetable gardens. They did not bother to cross
the bridges over the brooks, but when they came to a stream they
stepped high and walked in the air to the other side. This was a very
interesting experience to them, and Dorothy said:

“I wonder why it is that we can walk so easily in the air.”

“Perhaps,” answered the Wizard, “it is because we are close to the
center of the earth, where the attraction of gravitation is very slight.
But I’ve noticed that many queer things happen in fairy countries.”

“Is this a fairy country?” asked the boy.

“Of course it is,” returned Dorothy promptly. “Only a fairy country
could have veg’table people; and only in a fairy country could Eureka
and Jim talk as we do.”

“That’s true,” said Zeb, thoughtfully.

In the vegetable gardens they found the strawberries and melons, and
several other unknown but delicious fruits, of which they ate
heartily. But the kitten bothered them constantly by demanding milk
or meat, and called the Wizard names because he could not bring her a
dish of milk by means of his magical arts.

As they sat upon the grass watching Jim, who was still busily eating,
Eureka said:

“I don’t believe you are a Wizard at all!”

“No,” answered the little man, “you are quite right. In the strict
sense of the word I am not a Wizard, but only a humbug.”

“The Wizard of Oz has always been a humbug,” agreed Dorothy. “I’ve
known him for a long time.”

“If that is so,” said the boy, “how could he do that wonderful trick
with the nine tiny piglets?”

“Don’t know,” said Dorothy, “but it must have been humbug.”

“Very true,” declared the Wizard, nodding at her. “It was necessary
to deceive that ugly Sorcerer and the Prince, as well as their stupid
people; but I don’t mind telling you, who are my friends, that the
thing was only a trick.”

“But I saw the little pigs with my own eyes!” exclaimed Zeb.

“So did I,” purred the kitten.

“To be sure,” answered the Wizard. “You saw them because they were
there. They are in my inside pocket now. But the pulling of them
apart and pushing them together again was only a sleight-of-hand trick.”

“Let’s see the pigs,” said Eureka, eagerly.

The little man felt carefully in his pocket and pulled out the tiny
piglets, setting them upon the grass one by one, where they ran around
and nibbled the tender blades.

“They’re hungry, too,” he said.

“Oh, what cunning things!” cried Dorothy, catching up one and petting it.

“Be careful!” said the piglet, with a squeal, “you’re squeezing me!”

“Dear me!” murmured the Wizard, looking at his pets in astonishment.
“They can actually talk!”

“May I eat one of them?” asked the kitten, in a pleading voice. “I’m
awfully hungry.”

“Why, Eureka,” said Dorothy, reproachfully, “what a cruel question!
It would be dreadful to eat these dear little things.”

“I should say so!” grunted another of the piglets, looking uneasily at
the kitten; “cats are cruel things.”

“I’m not cruel,” replied the kitten, yawning. “I’m just hungry.”

“You cannot eat my piglets, even if you are starving,” declared the
little man, in a stern voice. “They are the only things I have to
prove I’m a wizard.”

“How did they happen to be so little?” asked Dorothy. “I never saw
such small pigs before.”

“They are from the Island of Teenty-Weent,” said the Wizard, “where
everything is small because it’s a small island. A sailor brought
them to Los Angeles and I gave him nine tickets to the circus for them.”

“But what am I going to eat?” wailed the kitten, sitting in front of
Dorothy and looking pleadingly into her face. “There are no cows here
to give milk; or any mice, or even grasshoppers. And if I can’t eat
the piglets you may as well plant me at once and raise catsup.”

“I have an idea,” said the Wizard, “that there are fishes in these
brooks. Do you like fish?”

“Fish!” cried the kitten. “Do I like fish? Why, they’re better than
piglets–or even milk!”

“Then I’ll try to catch you some,” said he.

“But won’t they be veg’table, like everything else here?” asked the kitten.

“I think not. Fishes are not animals, and they are as cold and moist
as the vegetables themselves. There is no reason, that I can see, why
they may not exist in the waters of this strange country.”

Then the Wizard bent a pin for a hook and took a long piece of string
from his pocket for a fish-line. The only bait he could find was a
bright red blossom from a flower; but he knew fishes are easy to fool
if anything bright attracts their attention, so he decided to try the
blossom. Having thrown the end of his line in the water of a nearby
brook he soon felt a sharp tug that told him a fish had bitten and was
caught on the bent pin; so the little man drew in the string and, sure
enough, the fish came with it and was landed safely on the shore,
where it began to flop around in great excitement.

The fish was fat and round, and its scales glistened like beautifully
cut jewels set close together; but there was no time to examine it
closely, for Eureka made a jump and caught it between her claws, and
in a few moments it had entirely disappeared.

“Oh, Eureka!” cried Dorothy, “did you eat the bones?”

“If it had any bones, I ate them,” replied the kitten, composedly, as
it washed its face after the meal. “But I don’t think that fish had
any bones, because I didn’t feel them scratch my throat.”

“You were very greedy,” said the girl.

“I was very hungry,” replied the kitten.

The little pigs had stood huddled in a group, watching this scene with
frightened eyes.

“Cats are dreadful creatures!” said one of them.

“I’m glad we are not fishes!” said another.

“Don’t worry,” Dorothy murmured, soothingly, “I’ll not let the
kitten hurt you.”

Then she happened to remember that in a corner of her suit-case were
one or two crackers that were left over from her luncheon on the
train, and she went to the buggy and brought them. Eureka stuck up
her nose at such food, but the tiny piglets squealed delightedly at
the sight of the crackers and ate them up in a jiffy.

“Now let us go back to the city,” suggested the Wizard. “That is, if
Jim has had enough of the pink grass.”

The cab-horse, who was browsing near, lifted his head with a sigh.

“I’ve tried to eat a lot while I had the chance,” said he, “for it’s
likely to be a long while between meals in this strange country. But
I’m ready to go, now, at any time you wish.”

So, after the Wizard had put the piglets back into his inside pocket,
where they cuddled up and went to sleep, the three climbed into the
buggy and Jim started back to the town.

“Where shall we stay?” asked the girl.

“I think I shall take possession of the House of the Sorcerer,”
replied the Wizard; “for the Prince said in the presence of his people
that he would keep me until they picked another Sorcerer, and the new
Princess won’t know but that we belong there.”

They agreed to this plan, and when they reached the great square Jim
drew the buggy into the big door of the domed hall.

“It doesn’t look very homelike,” said Dorothy, gazing around at the
bare room. “But it’s a place to stay, anyhow.”

“What are those holes up there?” enquired the boy, pointing to some
openings that appeared near the top of the dome.

“They look like doorways,” said Dorothy; “only there are no stairs to
get to them.”

“You forget that stairs are unnecessary,” observed the Wizard. “Let
us walk up, and see where the doors lead to.”

With this he began walking in the air toward the high openings, and
Dorothy and Zeb followed him. It was the same sort of climb one
experiences when walking up a hill, and they were nearly out of breath
when they came to the row of openings, which they perceived to be
doorways leading into halls in the upper part of the house. Following
these halls they discovered many small rooms opening from them, and
some were furnished with glass benches, tables and chairs. But there
were no beds at all.

“I wonder if these people never sleep,” said the girl.

“Why, there seems to be no night at all in this country,” Zeb replied.
“Those colored suns are exactly in the same place they were when we
came, and if there is no sunset there can be no night.”

“Very true,” agreed the Wizard. “But it is a long time since I have
had any sleep, and I’m tired. So I think I shall lie down upon one of
these hard glass benches and take a nap.”

“I will, too,” said Dorothy, and chose a little room at the end
of the hall.

Zeb walked down again to unharness Jim, who, when he found himself
free, rolled over a few times and then settled down to sleep, with
Eureka nestling comfortably beside his big, boney body. Then the boy
returned to one of the upper rooms, and in spite of the hardness of
the glass bench was soon deep in slumberland.

 

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