FictionForest

Chapter 17

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

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After breakfast Ozma announced that she had ordered a holiday to be
observed throughout the Emerald City, in honor of her visitors. The
people had learned that their old Wizard had returned to them and all
were anxious to see him again, for he had always been a rare favorite.
So first there was to be a grand procession through the streets, after
which the little old man was requested to perform some of his
wizardries in the great Throne Room of the palace. In the afternoon
there were to be games and races.

The procession was very imposing. First came the Imperial Cornet Band
of Oz, dressed in emerald velvet uniforms with slashes of pea-green
satin and buttons of immense cut emeralds. They played the National
air called “The Oz Spangled Banner,” and behind them were the standard
bearers with the Royal flag. This flag was divided into four
quarters, one being colored sky-blue, another pink, a third lavender
and a fourth white. In the center was a large emerald-green star, and
all over the four quarters were sewn spangles that glittered
beautifully in the sunshine. The colors represented the four
countries of Oz, and the green star the Emerald City.

Just behind the royal standard-bearers came the Princess Ozma in her
royal chariot, which was of gold encrusted with emeralds and diamonds
set in exquisite designs. The chariot was drawn on this occasion by
the Cowardly Lion and the Hungry Tiger, who were decorated with
immense pink and blue bows. In the chariot rode Ozma and Dorothy, the
former in splendid raiment and wearing her royal coronet, while the
little Kansas girl wore around her waist the Magic Belt she had once
captured from the Nome King.

Following the chariot came the Scarecrow mounted on the Sawhorse, and
the people cheered him almost as loudly as they did their lovely
Ruler. Behind him stalked with regular, jerky steps, the famous
machine-man called Tik-tok, who had been wound up by Dorothy for the
occasion. Tik-tok moved by clockwork, and was made all of burnished
copper. He really belonged to the Kansas girl, who had much respect
for his thoughts after they had been properly wound and set going; but
as the copper man would be useless in any place but a fairy country
Dorothy had left him in charge of Ozma, who saw that he was suitably
cared for.

There followed another band after this, which was called the Royal
Court Band, because the members all lived in the palace. They wore
white uniforms with real diamond buttons and played “What is Oz
without Ozma” very sweetly.

Then came Professor Woggle-Bug, with a group of students from the
Royal College of Scientific Athletics. The boys wore long hair and
striped sweaters and yelled their college yell every other step they
took, to the great satisfaction of the populace, which was glad to
have this evidence that their lungs were in good condition.

The brilliantly polished Tin Woodman marched next, at the head of the
Royal Army of Oz which consisted of twenty-eight officers, from
Generals down to Captains. There were no privates in the army because
all were so courageous and skillful that they had been promoted one by
one until there were no privates left. Jim and the buggy followed,
the old cab-horse being driven by Zeb while the Wizard stood up on the
seat and bowed his bald head right and left in answer to the cheers of
the people, who crowded thick about him.

Taken altogether the procession was a grand success, and when it had
returned to the palace the citizens crowded into the great Throne Room
to see the Wizard perform his tricks.

The first thing the little humbug did was to produce a tiny white
piglet from underneath his hat and pretend to pull it apart, making
two. This act he repeated until all of the nine tiny piglets were
visible, and they were so glad to get out of his pocket that they ran
around in a very lively manner. The pretty little creatures would
have been a novelty anywhere, so the people were as amazed and
delighted at their appearance as even the Wizard could have desired.
When he had made them all disappear again Ozma declared she was sorry
they were gone, for she wanted one of them to pet and play with. So
the Wizard pretended to take one of the piglets out of the hair of the
Princess (while really he slyly took it from his inside pocket) and
Ozma smiled joyously as the creature nestled in her arms, and she
promised to have an emerald collar made for its fat neck and to keep
the little squealer always at hand to amuse her.

Afterward it was noticed that the Wizard always performed his famous
trick with eight piglets, but it seemed to please the people just as
well as if there had been nine of them.

In his little room back of the Throne Room the Wizard had found a lot
of things he had left behind him when he went away in the balloon, for
no one had occupied the apartment in his absence. There was enough
material there to enable him to prepare several new tricks which he
had learned from some of the jugglers in the circus, and he had passed
part of the night in getting them ready. So he followed the trick of
the nine tiny piglets with several other wonderful feats that greatly
delighted his audience and the people did not seem to care a bit
whether the little man was a humbug Wizard or not, so long as he
succeeded in amusing them. They applauded all his tricks and at the
end of the performance begged him earnestly not to go away again and
leave them.

“In that case,” said the little man, gravely, “I will cancel all of my
engagements before the crowned heads of Europe and America and devote
myself to the people of Oz, for I love you all so well that I can deny
you nothing.”

After the people had been dismissed with this promise our friends
joined Princess Ozma at an elaborate luncheon in the palace, where
even the Tiger and the Lion were sumptuously fed and Jim the Cab-horse
ate his oatmeal out of a golden bowl with seven rows of rubies,
sapphires and diamonds set around the rim of it.

In the afternoon they all went to a great field outside the city gates
where the games were to be held. There was a beautiful canopy for
Ozma and her guests to sit under and watch the people run races and
jump and wrestle. You may be sure the folks of Oz did their best with
such a distinguished company watching them, and finally Zeb offered to
wrestle with a little Munchkin who seemed to be the champion. In
appearance he was twice as old as Zeb, for he had long pointed
whiskers and wore a peaked hat with little bells all around the brim
of it, which tinkled gaily as he moved. But although the Munchkin was
hardly tall enough to come to Zeb’s shoulder he was so strong and
clever that he laid the boy three times on his back with apparent ease.

Zeb was greatly astonished at his defeat, and when the pretty Princess
joined her people in laughing at him he proposed a boxing-match with
the Munchkin, to which the little Ozite readily agreed. But the first
time that Zeb managed to give him a sharp box on the ears the Munchkin
sat down upon the ground and cried until the tears ran down his
whiskers, because he had been hurt. This made Zeb laugh, in turn, and
the boy felt comforted to find that Ozma laughed as merrily at her
weeping subject as she had at him.

Just then the Scarecrow proposed a race between the Sawhorse and the
Cab-horse; and although all the others were delighted at the
suggestion the Sawhorse drew back, saying:

“Such a race would not be fair.”

“Of course not,” added Jim, with a touch of scorn; “those little
wooden legs of yours are not half as long as my own.”

“It isn’t that,” said the Sawhorse, modestly; “but I never tire, and
you do.”

“Bah!” cried Jim, looking with great disdain at the other; “do you
imagine for an instant that such a shabby imitation of a horse as you
are can run as fast as I?”

“I don’t know, I’m sure,” replied the Sawhorse.

“That is what we are trying to find out,” remarked the Scarecrow.
“The object of a race is to see who can win it–or at least that is
what my excellent brains think.”

“Once, when I was young,” said Jim, “I was a race horse, and defeated
all who dared run against me. I was born in Kentucky, you know, where
all the best and most aristocratic horses come from.”

“But you’re old, now, Jim,” suggested Zeb.

“Old! Why, I feel like a colt today,” replied Jim. “I only wish
there was a real horse here for me to race with. I’d show the people
a fine sight, I can tell you.”

“Then why not race with the Sawhorse?” enquired the Scarecrow.

“He’s afraid,” said Jim.

“Oh, no,” answered the Sawhorse. “I merely said it wasn’t fair. But
if my friend the Real Horse is willing to undertake the race I am
quite ready.”

So they unharnessed Jim and took the saddle off the Sawhorse, and the
two queerly matched animals were stood side by side for the start.

“When I say ‘Go!'” Zeb called to them, “you must dig out and race
until you reach those three trees you see over yonder. Then circle
’round them and come back again. The first one that passes the place
where the Princess sits shall be named the winner. Are you ready?”

“I suppose I ought to give the wooden dummy a good start of me,”
growled Jim.

“Never mind that,” said the Sawhorse. “I’ll do the best I can.”

“Go!” cried Zeb; and at the word the two horses leaped forward and the
race was begun.

Jim’s big hoofs pounded away at a great rate, and although he did not
look very graceful he ran in a way to do credit to his Kentucky
breeding. But the Sawhorse was swifter than the wind. Its wooden
legs moved so fast that their twinkling could scarcely be seen, and
although so much smaller than the cab-horse it covered the ground much
faster. Before they had reached the trees the Sawhorse was far ahead,
and the wooden animal returned to the starting place as was being
lustily cheered by the Ozites before Jim came panting up to the canopy
where the Princess and her friends were seated.

I am sorry to record the fact that Jim was not only ashamed of his
defeat but for a moment lost control of his temper. As he looked at
the comical face of the Sawhorse he imagined that the creature was
laughing at him; so in a fit of unreasonable anger he turned around
and made a vicious kick that sent his rival tumbling head over heels
upon the ground, and broke off one of its legs and its left ear.

An instant later the Tiger crouched and launched its huge body through
the air swift and resistless as a ball from a cannon. The beast
struck Jim full on his shoulder and sent the astonished cab-horse
rolling over and over, amid shouts of delight from the spectators, who
had been horrified by the ungracious act he had been guilty of.

When Jim came to himself and sat upon his haunches he found the
Cowardly Lion crouched on one side of him and the Hungry Tiger on the
other, and their eyes were glowing like balls of fire.

“I beg your pardon, I’m sure,” said Jim, meekly. “I was wrong to kick
the Sawhorse, and I am sorry I became angry at him. He has won the
race, and won it fairly; but what can a horse of flesh do against a
tireless beast of wood?”

Hearing this apology the Tiger and the Lion stopped lashing their
tails and retreated with dignified steps to the side of the Princess.

“No one must injure one of our friends in our presence,” growled the
Lion; and Zeb ran to Jim and whispered that unless he controlled his
temper in the future he would probably be torn to pieces.

Then the Tin Woodman cut a straight and strong limb from a tree with
his gleaming axe and made a new leg and a new ear for the Sawhorse;
and when they had been securely fastened in place Princess Ozma took
the coronet from her own head and placed it upon that of the winner
of the race. Said she:

“My friend, I reward you for your swiftness by proclaiming you Prince
of Horses, whether of wood or of flesh; and hereafter all other
horses–in the Land of Oz, at least–must be considered imitations,
and you the real Champion of your race.”

There was more applause at this, and then Ozma had the jewelled saddle
replaced upon the Sawhorse and herself rode the victor back to the
city at the head of the grand procession.

“I ought to be a fairy,” grumbled Jim, as he slowly drew the buggy
home; “for to be just an ordinary horse in a fairy country is to be of
no account whatever. It’s no place for us, Zeb.”

“It’s lucky we got here, though,” said the boy; and Jim thought of the
dark cave, and agreed with him.

 

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