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Chapter One

Junipee and Stot

 

 

 

"Where are we, Junipee?" asked Stot.

"I don’t know," said Junipee once again.

"Well, I’m scared," said Stot.

"If you don’t know where you are, what’s there to be scared of?"

"Ig’n’rance!"

These were two children, Junipee and Stot, sister and brother. Juniperea was a little older than her brother, and Aristotle was quite a bit younger than his sister. Most of the time they got along famously, for Junipee had to be both sister and mother, and so the sister was a little bit wise and the mother was a little bit playful, and on the whole they tempered one another nicely.

They had now been in the sky, above the clouds, for two days. Or was it three? They were very hungry, for the candy bars in their pockets had long ago given out. They would have been very thirsty, too, but for some rain now and then, which had made a shallow puddle of sweet clear water about their feet, filling Chubby Cub’s bowl to a depth of about an inch.

Chubby Cub was a bear on the front of a cereal box, and the bowl he held between his round stubby paws was supposed to be full of cereal flakes. But the two children had made a game of kicking the styrofoam flakes overboard, which might have been a bad idea; for they had nothing to cover-up with during the chill night but their green winter jackets and the puffs of white breath from their mouths. So they became very cold and clung together shivvering.

Two—or perhaps three—days before, they had climbed a tall spreading tree to watch the big parade that came down the boulevard of the great city once every year, the parade of the big balloons. The balloons were as big as houses and were pulled along and guided by many strong men, and they were all in the shapes of different whimsical characters; especially those with something to sell—like Chubby Cub, who looked like a plump balloon even before he was one.

Now it seemed the wind had gotten up on the wrong side of the bed that morning. He was in an ornery mood and fit to be tied. So just as the Chubby Cub balloon passed the tree in which Junipee and Stot were hiding, he picked up the balloon and dashed it up against the tree. The children tumbled out, and it was a long way to the ground, which was covered with cement. They would have been hurt badly if the wind had not had a change of mood just then and pushed Chubby Cub’s enormous cereal bowl underneath them, which broke their fall instead of their fall breaking them.

Alas, the wind cannot manage to do a good deed without doing a bad one to make up for it. He pulled the balloon upward with such force that the men below had to let loose their cables, and the balloon floated free. It bobbed up into the grey-blue sky in a great hasty rush, scraping a skyscraper or two along the way and tossing the little girl and boy this way and that. Soon enough, though, everything was far below them.

They mounted high high up, up to where the air is a deep blue and the sun is white as a china plate. Up there it seemed to Junipee and Stot that they were perfectly still. But that is a trick the wind plays, for in reality they were moving along very quickly indeed.

For many hours they swept along over cities and towns, forests and fields, prairies and deserts and finally the shiny blue ocean. In the first hours they saw many signs of man down below, though the people themselves were too small to be seen. But the prairies and deserts seemed all but deserted, except for an occasional dark line that Junipee said was a highway. Over the ocean they saw nothing but empty water, not even a bird.

"Where are the airplanes?" Stot had asked.

"We saw lots of planes before," was the reply.

"But where are they now?" the boy had demanded, and Junipee had been forced to admit that she didn’t know.

There had been beautiful orange sunsets and pale golden sunrises. There had been nights of frosty stars crowded together so thickly that it was not possible to say where one star ended and another began. And there was cold rain, sometimes falling upward, whipped by the winds as lightning played tag all around them. On they flew, on and on; and Junipee told Stot she thought they were travelling to the south and the west.

"Both?" he whined.

One night—it might have been the third one—it seemed to both children, as they peered carefully over the edge of the cereal bowl, that they were no longer over water. Below them was a mushy darkness that reflected no light.

"Is it land?" asked Stot.

"I think so, Stot," responded Junipee doubtfully.

"You don’t know?"

"I’m not so sure," she said. "If it was land, we’d see the lights of cars and cities. But all I see is darkness."

"I know why!" chirped the boy. "They must all have gone to bed!"

When the dawn came, the sky was pearl-grey and the land below was pewter-grey as far as the eye could see.

Junipee sighed in disappointment. "It’s a desert."

"Junipee," said Stot, "I think we’re going to come down in it." In truth, Chubby Cub seemed to be flying lower than before—lower and lower.

They didn’t want to come down in the desert. The air felt hot, and smelled as though it had breakfasted on onions and radishes. And as the sun rose, the desert turned ugly shades of yellow and brown. But they were not being given any choice as to destination.

Then something happened, something unexpected, swift as the turning of a page in a book. Below them, in front of them, and on both sides of them, the ugly desert winked out and completely disappeared. It remained behind them—only there.

"Oh!" gasped Junipee in pleasure, while Stot could think of nothing to say at all.

Spread out before them was a strange and lovely countryside. There were low rounded hills and grassy meadows, and little square patches that might have been farms, with roads threading their ways between them. Ahead was a darker region, which looked like a woodlands; and strange to say, everything that they could see was tinted in purple. Sometimes the purple shading was bright and bold, sometimes deep, and sometimes so faint that the usual colors of things could be seen through it, like looking through a mist. There were shades of royal purple, of dark indigo, of violet tending toward red. But it was altogether a purple land, and even the sunlight was just a little bit touched with purple.

"What a funny kind of place!" giggled little Stot.

The Chubby Cub balloon dropped lower toward the ground and brushed the tops of some trees. Just beyond the trees was a meadow, where the two were gently dipped out of the bowl and sent somersaulting as Chubby Cub’s paws scraped the ground.

Emptied of its burden, the big balloon took to the sky again; and what became of it after that, I do not know.




 

Chapter Two

Purple Breakfast

 

 

Junipee and Stot sat in the meadow and watched the big balloon until it was lost to sight.

"I’ll miss him," said Stot very gravely.

"Let’s find someone who will give us something to eat," said his sister.

They rose and walked through the meadow in the gentle morning sunlight, back in the direction where they thought they had seen some farms from above. They passed through a stand of trees, and on the other side of the trees they found a road, a broad path worn into the grassy ground. And there on the road stood two peculiar persons.

The persons were men. In fact, they were farmers, it seemed, for one of them held a hoe, and the other held a sprig of alfalfa in his mouth. They were peculiar because they were dressed in odd, old-fashioned costumes, like people in a pageant. Their garments were of various shades of purple, and had many buckles and little buttons, and something like shoe-laces everywhere but on their shoes, which turned up at the toes. They wore pointed hats with wide flat brims, and little Stot found these very comical.

"Why is he laughing?" asked one of the men.

"Oh, he laughs at everything," Junipee replied.

The men both nodded. "How wise!" remarked the man with the hoe.

"I suppose," the girl agreed. "Do you know where we are?"

The farmer with the alfalfa in his mouth removed it. "Why yes," he said. "You are right there, for we can see you."

"You ought to look yourself before asking," added the other man. "It would save you breath, and others inconvenience."

"But what is the name of the place we’re at?" demanded Junipee.

"The name?" repeated the farmer with the hoe. "I don’t believe it has a name. Or if it does, it has never mentioned it. We call it ‘the road’."

"But—!" Junipee didn’t know how to untangle this jumbled conversation, and Stot just giggled.

"I am Ubb," said the man with the hoe, "and this is Genfa. What are you?"

Stot answered. "I’m Stot. She’s Junipee."

"Indeed," said Genfa; "but that was not the question. You are not Gillikins, for everyone here in the Country of the Gillikins is tinged with a purplish hue. You are not blue enough to be Munchkins, nor yellow enough to be Winkies, nor red enough to be Quadlings."

"And although your garments are shades of green, your skins are not," added Ubb; "and so you cannot be visitors from the City of Emeralds. But none of the countries in this Land of Oz favors the color of chocolate with milk. That is why I wondered what you were."

"You mean ever’body here is colored like crayons?" asked Stot, wide-eyed.

"We are colored like ourselves," Ubb declared.

"We’re African-Americans," said Junipee. "Haven’t you ever seen a black person?"

Genfa removed his tall hat and scratched his head. "Never at all."

"Is this Connetty-cut?" little Stot inquired.

"They just told us this place is called Oz," Junipee reproved. "Now hush." She turned again to the farmers. "I have never heard of Oz. Are we still in America?"

The farmers exchanged glances. "If there is more than one of you, little girl, then I suppose you may still be in America. But if there is only one of you at a time, then that one is here in Oz."

This was Ubb’s commentary. Genfa lay a cautioning hand upon the other’s arm. "Ubb, I wonder if they have come from the great outside world beyond the desert. They say it happens now and then."

Stot waved his hand for attention. "We went over the desert in the Chubby Cub balloon!"

"Then that accounts for it," said Ubb with satisfaction. "Well, small America-ites, you are in the Gillikin Country of the Land of Oz, the northmost and purplemost of its five principal regions. If that answers your question, we shall bid the two of you good morning; for we have not yet had breakfast."

"Neither have we," said Junipee, "and we’re mighty hungry."

Genfa nodded. "Then follow us."

They went down the road for a mile or so, and then turned off on a small winding path through fields where there were sheep and cows and pigs and chickens, all intermingled and strolling about casually.

Stot pointed. "Are they yours?"

"Oh, some of them are," Genfa said, not turning to look. "We don’t much care to remember who is whose; nor do the animals trouble themselves about it, as long as they are well fed and watered."

"It is the same with the corn and the wheat," Ubb added. "And I have never heard the watermelons complain."

At the end of the path was a farmhouse, which was rounded on top like a big bowler hat and had tall chimneys on either side. "In America the houses don’t look like that at all," remarked Junipee. "Some of them have roofs that slant together to a peak, and others are like boxes that go up and up into the sky."

"For miles!" exclaimed Stot.

"Most interesting," said Ubb with a yawn. He led them into the kitchen of the farmhouse and seated them at a simple wooden table with a pretty lavendar trim. Soon they were eating purple porridge, drinking purple orange juice, and munching purple bacon.

Stot asked Genfa if the bacon was from their own pigs. "No," the farmer responded. "We do not require the pigs to work for their bed and board, as their inherent beauty is a sufficient contribution to life. We harvest the bacon ourselves. Look!" He gestured at the counter, and the children beheld a large melon with layers of rind which could be pulled off in strips like the skin of an onion. "We like to think our baconouba melons are the most flavorful around."

Junipee sighed. This land of Oz was proving a most perplexing sort of place. "Is there a bus or a train that will take us back to New York?"

"I know nothing of ‘bus’ or ‘train’ or any York at all, old or new," was Ubb’s reply. "Can you not return the way you came?"

Junipee explained—or tried to—that they had lost their means of transport. Then she asked if the farmers had a telephone.

"I don’t think so," said Ubb hesitantly. "Is it something water comes out of?"

The children shook their heads.

"Can you sleep on it?" asked Genfa.

The children shook their heads.

"Is it a thing you pound nails with?" asked Ubb.

The children shook their heads.

"Ah!" Genfa exclaimed. "Then it must be the thing you dig post-holes with."

"Uh-uh," said Stot. "You talk on it."

This puzzled the two farmers greatly. After a time Ubb said, "It seems to me I vaguely recollect a hazy half-memory that someone mentioned a word like that once. But who was it? Why, I think it was the Pebble and Rock Man who said it."

Junipee stood up from her chair and drew her brother up to his feet as well. "We ought to go see him, then."

"He is easy enough to see," responded Genfa, "if you happen to be standing in the right place, and if it is not too dark. Just go back to the road, and turn right. Walk on a ways; and when you come to a fence that blocks the road, stop."

"And then what?" Junipee inquired.

"And then turn around and walk all the way back until you see a sign painted on a big boulder that directs you to the home of the Pebble and Rock Man."

Junipee frowned. "But why not just turn at the sign in the first place?"

"If you wanted to take the short-cut," Ubb replied with a patient smile, "you ought to have said so."

Junipee and Stot thanked the farmers for their hospitality and left as quickly as possible. And as they were in some haste, they did take the short-cut after all.




 

Chapter Three

The Pebble and Rock Man

 

 

The two children came to the sign on the boulder soon enough. It merely said what it needed to say—

THE PEBBLE AND ROCK MAN

IS THIS WAY

This was followed by an arrow pointing to a narrow dirt path that led off through the fields.

As Junipee stood reading the notice aloud to Stot, who could not yet read and had to be read-to, a nearby voice said:

"Ill-advised!"

They were startled and looked about right and left. There was no one to be seen. Then the voice came again:

"Be careful!"

And the children saw it issued from a fat lady turkey squatting contentedly on a patch of clover by the side of the road.

"Junipee!" gasped Stot. "The big bird talked!"

"Indeed," said the turkey, "it was I who spoke. Not that I wish to interfere in your affairs, and it surely is none of my business; but I perceive that you are starngers."

"How is it you talk?" demanded Junipee. "You’re not a parrot or a mynah bird."

"Pray tell, has there been a law passed, a royal decree issued, which restricts the right to speak one’s mind to those particular species?" the turkey responded with some asperity.

"In New York, birds can’t talk, generally," explained Stot. "They just chirp."

"Turkeys do not chirp, they gobble," said the bird in a friendlier tone. "And here you will find that we converse most piquantly upon many topics of interest."

Junipee approached the turkey and crouched down. "Why did you tell us to be careful? Is the Pebble and Rock Man a bad man?"

"I don’t choose to gossip," she replied after a moment. "But one might say he has something of a bad reputation. He is unfriendly and keeps to himself, which naturally lends itself to—suspicion."

"Well, we have to see him, in order to get home."

"As you like," said the turkey. "Follow the path and you will find him, or he will find you." So Junipee and Stot took to the little path. The turkey watched them go, and after a moment a dozen little chicks sprung forth from their hiding-places beneath her feathers and watched them as well.

The path twisted and turned, but most of all it became deeper, like a gash in the ground. As it tended downward, the sides became high and steep, and soon Junipee and Stot could no longer see the open fields around them. Finally the path came to the round mouth of a cave and continued straight on into darkness.

"I don’t like the dark, Junipee," whined Stot.

"I’ll hold your hand, if you’re going to be a baby about it," she responded; but her own voice was unsteady.

The walked on in—there was no bell to announce them—and after just a few steps the narrow hallway broadened out into a round room lined with many rocks fitted together so that there was no space between them. The only light came from the entrance; and as it had to squeeze by the two children, it was very dark.

"I can’t see!" Stot whispered.

"Course not," replied Junipee. "It’s dark in here. But you can see a little, can’t you?"

"Guess so. But there’s nothing to see."

Indeed, the room was just an empty space with no exit and no furnishings of any sort.

"The Pebble and Rock Man must be out," the girl declared. "I wonder if we should wait for him."

But Stot tugged on Junipee’s sleeve. "He’s not out," he breathed. "He’s sitting over there."

Junipee looked where her brother was pointing, but it took a good while before she could make out what he was pointing at. Then it occurred to her that some of the rocks in the far wall stood out from the others behind. And then she realized that they were not rocks at all, but the arms and legs and body and head of a man.

This little man, if you want to call him that, had a body that was fat and round and rather lumpy, though his arms and legs were quite spindly and looked as though they would snap like match-sticks if put to any use. His head was plump and fat-cheeked, and a long scraggly beard tumbled from his chin and obscured any neck he might have. The long hair on top of his head seemed to fall upward rather than down, curving together to a point. And much though it was hard to make out colors in the dimness, the man seemed to be mostly shades of tan, beige, brown, and grey—just like a pile of rocks: for on closer examination it was clear that although he resembled a person of flesh, his whole body (except his hair) was really a concoction of bits and pieces of rock, put together very smoothly and intricately. Altogether he looked like a combination of Santa Claus, a rockpile, and an onion.

At that moment the Pebble and Rock Man was smoking a long-stemmed pipe, the bowl of which glowed faintly like an ember. Upon his face he bore a calm, if somewhat sly, expression.

After several quiet puffs, he finally spoke in a deep and rather gravelly voice. "I won’t ask you what I can do to make you happy," said he. He then drew upon his pipe and fell silent again for a little time. Then he removed the pipe and said, "I have learnt by hard experience that you cannot make children happy no matter what you do, for they will not be satisfied." He put the pipe back in his mouth and was silent again.

"Are you the—the Man?" inquired Stot, forgetting what the man was called.

"I am."

"The farmers said you could help us," said Junipee.

The Rock Man blew a smoke ring. "I fear they wanted only to be rid of you, child, for I can help no one."

"They said you had a telephone," continued Junipee; "and if you do, we’d like to call the police—or somebody—and arrange to go back home to New York, where we live."

"The farmers have poor ears and misunderstood. I do not have a ‘telephone,’ but rather a tellus-stone."

"What’s that?" asked Stot, getting over his fear.

"It is a little flat stone with which you may tell things to anyone else who also has such a stone," the man answered. "That is why it is named ‘tell-us stone’." He smoked for a bit, thoughtfully. "I use the tellus-stone to keep in touch with some of my old compatriots."

"What’s that?" Of course it was Stot who spoke.

"Compatriots are fellow beings of one’s own kind," the Rock Man explained. "And before you ask: the kind they are, are Nomes. And so am I."

"I’ve never heard of Nomes," declared Junipee somewhat incautiously.

"Well," said the Rock Man, "you have now, haven’t you."

Junipee took a step closer, trying to see him more clearly. "Do they all look like you?"

"No indeed," he replied. "We all have our own looks which make us ourselves and not someone else. But I am the Nome King, you know, and all my subjects resemble me in this way or that. However, to preserve my royal dignity I take some care not to resemble them back."

"Goshee!" cried Stot in delight. "A king!"

"Well, to be precise—I was the Nome King," the Rock Man added reluctantly. "I, Ruggedo, His Mineralific Majesty, was deposed as Metal Monarch and King of the Nomes by a little girl and her army of meddlesome friends. My place was taken by my chamberlain Kaliko, who is not even of the royal vein. He occupies my throne yet, years and years later. Ah me, it is a brittle, crumblesome, sandstone life." With the long stem of his pipe he gestured toward one side of the room, which was really a little cavern, and when Junipee turned to look she found two flat-topped stones there which had certainly not been there before. "Do sit down," said the former Nome King.

"They don’t look very soft," Stot commented suspiciously.

"They are soft enough for you weak-bottomed mortals," Ruggedo retorted. "I have made them that way, for I have power over stones and rocks, metals and gems, and can cause them to be as I wish them to be." To demonstrate this he waved his free hand, and some of the stones in the ceiling began to glow with a pale amber light. The children sat down, to be polite, and found that the stones were soft as feather cushions.

Junipee arranged herself daintily and said, "Mr. Ruggedo, we don’t have Nomes in the United States of America, so you really ought to explain yourself."

"You are quite wrong," countered the Rock Man after a draw upon his pipe. "There are Nomes in your country—underneath it, anyway—just as there are everywhere else upon this wonderful world of ours. Who do you suppose breaks the solid earth into stones, the stones into rocks, and the rocks into pebbles? Who do you suppose labors unceasingly to stock your mines with useful metals and precious gems? Without my people, working in silence down beneath your feet, your civilization would fall to ruins, and your lovely ladies—like you, my child—would have nothing to hang from their ears."

Stot had by now lost all fear; and so he giggled. "You’re just silly!"

Ruggedo smiled a smile that could have meant anything. "Am I? Perhaps so, for it’s a habit of mine. But the young lady did ask."

"This whole country is a magic place, sure enough," Junipee said slowly. "Can ever’body here in Oz do magic?"

Ruggedo chuckled mildly. "No, no, not everyone—first of all, it is forbidden by our gracious dictatress, Ozma, for anyone to practice magic but those in her little circle. But even so, magic comes naturally only to fairy-folk, such as the elves and knooks and mer-people; and the Nomes, who rule the vast underground world. I used to be able to do much more, you know," he continued dreamily, "for I owned a magic wishing belt that was good for all sorts of common uses and conveniences, such as transportation and, especially, transformations. But that was long, long ago."

"Did its batteries wear out?" asked Stot.

"It was stolen from me!" replied Ruggedo sharply. "In fact, it was a little girl from America who stole it."

"Oh!" Junipee cried. "I wonder if I know her. Is she the one who dis-posed you?"

The former Nome King shook his head. "No, that was another meddlesome little girl from America named Betsy Bobbin. It was Dorothy, who is now a Princess of Oz, who first attacked me and stole the Magic Belt—Dorothy and Ozma herself—and a terrible chicken named Billina."

"Won’t they give it back?" Stot inquired.

"Of course not!" growled the Nome. "They are wicked, selfish, vindictive people, as are so many of you meat-people who swarm upon the chilly outer crust of the earth." Then he caught hold of his temper and puffed his pipe philosophically for a time. When he resumed speaking his tone was much milder. "Well, that is only my opinion, and I am often in the wrong. Perhaps I deserved the treatment I received. But here’s a thought!" he added brightly. "Why don’t I tell you my story, and let you judge for yourself?"

"All right," said Junipee; "just so long as it isn’t too long."




 

Chapter Four

The Pillar of Truth

 

 

"I was quite a pleasant and happy child, you know," began the former King of the Nomes. "I wandered among the stalagmites and stalactites in all innocence and purity, thinking only of what was kindly and generous."

"What are those?" interrupted Stot. "The mites and tights."

"They are like icicles of rock," Ruggedo answered. "The stalactites hang down from the ceiling, and the stalagmites rise up from the ground; and sometimes they meet right in the middle. Now then. When I was of a certain age, and my dear father Cavernonko grew weary of the duties of kingship and gave up the job, I took over—reluctantly—and was crowned King Roquat the Red. I begged everyone to call me ‘Red,’ as I didn’t wish to appear to have put on airs."

"Is Roquat your first name?" asked Junipee.

"Just so," said Ruggedo, "for it was the first one I had. I ruled my mineral kingdom wisely and peaceably for—eh, let us just say ‘for a very long time’." He smiled at the memory, and smoked for a while.

"Well," he resumed, "much to my eventual regret, I had some dealings with the surface people. I should never have done it, for it led to my ruin. In exchange for performing an extraordinary service, I was persuaded to accept ownership of the Royal Family of the Kingdom of Ev, which lies on the other side of the desert that surrounds this Land of Oz. I consented to the deal out of courtesy, for I knew them to be a very inferior group of royals who could not serve me at all."

Junipee frowned at the former Nome King. "I hope this was a long time ago, because now everyone knows that slavery is wrong and wicked."

"Oh yes indeed, very long ago, when it was considered quite the thing to do," said Ruggedo hastily. "At any rate, as they were no good at service, and I had the right to get some use from my investment, I used my Magic Belt to transform them into various pretty items of decoration."

"Like what?" Stot asked.

"Oh, vases and figurines and candy-dishes and so on. It didn’t bother them, you know: it was as though they were asleep. But I discovered—and here is a bit of free wisdom for you!—the world is full of busybodies who are convinced they know best."

"I’ve met some," declared Junipee.

"I’m not surprised. And so," continued the Nome, "it seems I had barely sat myself back upon my throne, but—here came Dorothy and Ozma and that chicken, along with a wind-up man named Tik-Tok, and an army of others from Oz, come to invade my underground kingdom and work their mischief, liberating my bric-a-brac. And what did I do?"

"What?" asked Stot, wide-eyed.

"Why, I gave ’em a chance to win what they desired in a pleasant manner, by means of a little game. But they cheated, cheated I say! They even threatened me with poison; and in the end they took my transformed decorations away with them, as well as my magic wishing belt, leaving the Underground Kingdom devastated."

"It sounds to me like these people freed the slaves," said Junipee, "which is just what you ought to have done yourself."

The former Nome King scowled at her. "As to that, you may think as you please; but it was surely excessive to deprive my people the Nomes of their Magic Belt—which, as it could hardly fit around the entire population, I wore upon my own person."

"Did you have your own person?" Stot asked in surprise.

"It was I myself, the Royal Me. Thus, as I say, the belt was stolen. Years later, thinking the belt might be glad to see me, I paid a visit to Princess Ozma in the Emerald City. You might think I would be greeted with a certain abashedness and apology; but you would be wrong. They used their magical arts to steal what little I had left to me—my memory—even my very name. I was let loose to wander about, picking up a new name, Ruggedo, along the way. Fortunately the enchantment wore off, though the name has stuck; and so I returned to my kingdom."

"You were still king, though," Junipee observed, "so it wasn’t as bad as it might have been."

Ruggedo nodded. "That is true, but even this small kindness was only temporary. Some years later another girl, Betsy, appeared in my kingdom along with a ferocious mule named Hank, and another army, and also Tik-Tok, who had been conspiring with the Oz people between-times. They kicked me out, they did, and gave my kingship to my dullwitted assistant Kaliko."

Junipee gave Ruggedo a look of skepticism, which came naturally to her. "If this Kaliko is still King of the Nomes, he must be a sight smarter than you’re letting on."

The former Nome King grew sulky. "Those Oz people gave him many unfair advantages. They stole my memories again, for one thing; and by the time the memories began to return, I was already established here in the pebble and rock business."

Stot laughed. "You can’t make money sellin’ stuff like that!"

"No, you can’t," conceded Ruggedo. "But fortunately money is not used in Oz, where people are free to do whatever they wish, so long as it is of some use. Many people can use pebbles and rocks—in a rock garden, for example, or to keep people off a bathing beach. But in conclusion, I ask you—have I not been treated most cruelly?"

"Very most!" Stot exclaimed. "If I see that Ozmer, I’ll hit her!"

"Thank you," sniffed the former Nome King.

"Now that we’ve listened to your story, won’t you help us, please?" asked Junipee. "It’s not that we like New York so much, but it’s the only home we remember; and even if the lady who takes care of us isn’t our mother, she’s someone."

Stot wrinkled up his forehead. "She makes us go to school!"

"Does she now?" exclaimed Ruggedo in sympathy. "My only schooling came in the School of Hard Rocks. That, and life in general."

"Please don’t change the subject, Mr. Ruggedo!" Junipee demanded. "If you’re not going to help us, we’ll just have to go on our way."

The former Nome King rose to his feet, delicately brushing pebbles from his round body as if they were bread crumbs. "I don’t know that I can help you, my dear," he said. "But if you’ll consent to stay a while, we might ask the Pillar of Truth."

"I don’t know," Junipee replied suspiciously. "What kind of a person is this ‘pillar’?"

Ruggedo shone forth his smile, which was hard as a band of polished metal. "The Pillar of Truth is not a person, but a thing—made all of stone. He lives underground, in a further branch of this very cave in which we stand. It was because I knew he resided somewhere hereabouts that I first came here to live these many years ago, and just this very morning I broke through into his hidden cavern. Follow me, and I will introduce you to him."

He didn’t wait for Junipee to agree, but turned about and marched across his round room to a part that was especially gloomy. There the children noticed for the first time a narrow crack in the wall that ran from floor to ceiling. The Nome King—so we shall call him—walked right up to the crack, and its sides seem to melt back so that he could just fit through it. "Come along, little clodlings," he called back to Junipee and Stot. Curious, they could not help but follow after him.

The crack continued for quite a ways, just exactly wide enough to walk through one by one. Then it open up into another cave, a wild one, that slanted downward. Junipee thought that it should have been perfectly dark, but it wasn’t, for some of the rocks here and there were giving forth a timid milky light, which their eyes grew accustomed to after a time. Ruggedo had left them on.

The three of them wound their way down and down, strolling along at a gentle pace. Presently the Nome King stopped. "There," said he. "There is the Pillar of Truth."

They were in a big, long open space which would have been shaped like a loaf of bread if it had been filled with bread instead of air. There were twisty fingers of rock all around, hanging down from the ceiling and rising up from the floor, all of them looking like ice cream cones of the sort only a Nome might enjoy. "Tights an’ mites!" whispered little Stot.

Before them in the middle of the space was a column of white stone which joined to both floor and ceiling and was very narrow in the middle. It had sparkly specks all over it, and places where it seemed the stone had run like wax on a candle. Just above the narrow part, a little higher than the Nome King’s head, the combination of ups and downs on the surface of the column seemed to look, in the dim light, very much like a face, the pinched face of an old old man. Where the eyes should have been there were set two colored gems of rough shape which had a glow to them. Above these crystalline eyes were jutting shards of rock which looked like eyelids; and as Junipee stared at them, the eyelids raised up with a dragging-rock sound and the eyes looked at her.

"Oh!" she cried out in surprise.

"You needn’t be afraid, child," said Ruggedo. "The Pillar of Truth cannot move about. He has stood there for a million million years, and there he will remain until the earth falls to pieces."

"Do you mind it?" asked Stot of the Pillar.

The Pillar of Truth creaked open a stone mouth, causing streams of dust to rain down upon the floor of the cave. "You ask, and I answer I do not mind it, for I do not have a mind to mind it with," the Pillar responded in a voice as hollow as an echo.

Stot smiled. "That’s good."

"These children of the surface world, who are called Stot and Junipee, wish to know how to return to a place called New York, in the United States of America," Ruggedo declared. "Will you answer their question?"

Said the Pillar, "You ask, and I answer I will, for I can do nothing but give true answers to whatever questions are posed to me."

Junipee waited, expecting more to come; but there was nothing more. She looked at the Nome King. "Do I have to do something to make him work?"

"You must ask your question," said Ruggedo. "I only asked if he would answer you, that’s all."

"All right." She faced the Pillar squarely. "Tell us how to get back to New York."

Still, there was only silence. Stot tugged on her sleeve. "Junipee, that wasn’t a question!"

"How will we get back to New York?" she asked.

"You ask and I answer, by travelling with the Nome King, for he knows the earth inside out and can lead you to any place lower than the sky," was the reply.

"Ah! Well!" cried the old Nome King in surprise. "I had not expected this!" Then he asked, "Tell me, Pillar of Truth, where shall I go from here in order to achieve my great design, which is to reclaim my rightful position in my underground dominions?"

The children turned to the Pillar of Truth expectantly. And it said: "You ask, and I answer, go down deep into the earth and take from the Queen of the Mangaboos her Colorless Gloves, for they will confer the power required."

"A Queen!" Stot cheered. "Goshowee-gosh!"




 

Chapter Five

In The Emerald Palace of Ozma

 

 

At the center of the Land of Oz, which is more or less of a rectangle in shape, lies the great Emerald City, the only real city in the whole of that favored country; and at the center of the Emerald City there rises the palace of the Rightful Ruler of Oz, Princess Ozma—whom the old Nome King liked to call a "dictatress." And in a sense the word was apt enough. Ozma is royalty of the old-fashioned sort; what she says, goes. But fortunately for the Ozites, her tyranny is a wise and benevolent one, for she herself knew what it was like to be treated as a slave. She hadn’t liked it.

The emerald palace of Ozma is a fine place. It looks as grand as can be, which is just as a palace ought to look. It has many high spires, visible for miles, upon which colorful banners flutter gaily in the breeze. At its center is a great round dome, which encloses Ozma’s huge throne room and chamber of audience; and a number of lesser domes spread out from this center all around. The palace building is surrounded by a green park, full of graceful trees and sparkling fountains, which is enclosed in turn by a low wall of green stonework.

A number of curious characters have made their homes within the grounds of the palace. There is a Patchwork Girl, a Shaggy Man, and (as has been mentioned) a clockwork metal man named Tik-Tok. There are also a number of notable personages of more common appearance, including Dorothy Gale of Kansas, a girl named Trot and her friend Cap’n Bill, and another little girl named Betsy Bobbin. And one cannot forebear mentioning yet another American, the little Wizard of Oz himself, who was born a long time ago in the state of Nebraska.

Some of the palace’s inhabitants are animals of one sort or another. Of the feline sort there are four examples, two large and two small. The large beasts are a Cowardly Lion and a Hungry Tiger. As to the smaller cats, one of them is Eureka the Pink Kitten, who is Dorothy’s pet. The other is made entirely of glass, except for her two emerald eyes, her hard ruby heart, and her brains, which are a little bunch of pink marbles that roll around amongst themselves when she bothers to think. This creature is the famous Glass Cat of Oz, and her personal name (much to her regret) is Bungle.

Now cats don’t generally get along as it is. So much the worse, then, when one is of meat and the other of the mineral kingdom—if you wish to call glass a kind of mineral. Eureka and Bungle did not exactly hate one another, for it is a very difficult thing to hate in the Land of Oz, and cats are notoriously lazy. But there was a rivalry between them. They liked to tease one another, and their cutting remarks illustrated the origin of the word "catty."

One morning both felines were present, ignoring one another, in the great Throne Room while the Wizard of Oz made a demonstration of a new invention of his—for he was quite a tinkerer.

"I call this my Little Wizard Patented Health Lamp," said the Wizard, gesturing grandly at the object he had placed upon a small round-topped table in the middle of the room. It looked like a big glass electric lightbulb, with a globe the size of a cantaloup.

"I wouldn’t ’zackly call it little, Wizard," remarked Dorothy, who was one of the onlookers.

"And mind you, I don’t know lawyer-talk," added Cap’n Bill, an old retired seaman with a wooden leg, "but it seems t’me you can’t call something patented unless you reg’ster it with the U.S. Patent Orfice—can you?"

"Ah well!" cried the Wizard in his theatrical way. "You have failed to distinguish between adjective and noun, my friends. ‘Little Wizard’ and ‘Patented’ are merely parts of its name, not of its description. They are traditional terms applied to new inventions of some use to mankind."

"Of what use is your Lamp, Wizard?" inquired Princess Ozma of Oz from her royal throne. "Our Emerald City is already equipped with electric lighting, and the lightbulbs never wear out."

"True," he replied. "But this is a Health Lamp, you see. Its inner filament, when animated by a current of pure wizardrous force, gives forth a marvelous light that heals all wounds, salves the broken heart, lifts the spirit, and induces an attractive sun-tan."

"Those are wonderful claims," said Ozma with a smile.

"And I am known as a wonderful wizard," said he. "And that is no humbug, these days."

"You always talk a dreadful amount, sir," said the Hungry Tiger, a great beast with a body as big as a horse’s. "But do hurry-up your demonstration, as it has been more than an hour since breakfast and I grow nervous and weak."

Dorothy held nestled in her arms a furry little bundle with a pointy snout, which now wiggled. "Mistress," said Toto quietly, "do you mind if I leave?"

"Oh Toto, don’t you want to see the Wizard’s show?"

"Not especially," said the dog. "And I have an appointment with one of the piglets to play a game of checkers."

Dorothy whispered in his ear, "But really, we shouldn’t disappoint the Wizard."

"Yes, I know," he whispered back with just the slightest whine. "But I can’t give any decent sort of applause, not with my padded paws. Besides, the two cats are here, and they are sure to start in caterwauling; and it makes me nervous." So she let him down, and he padded from the room.

The Wizard bowed to the tiger and his ever-present hunger, and then to Ozma; and then, smiling, he pointed a pudgy finger and dramatically speared a button on the table-top. But nothing happened.

"If that’s light," Dorothy said, "I sure couldn’t read by it."

"Maybe you forgot to plug it in," suggested little Betsy Bobbin.

"It does not require being plugged," the Wizard responded, "as it is not a bath-tub. I can’t understand—no, I have it!" He made a small adjustment at the porcelain base, which the bulb was screwed into. "Now to try again," he said, and, in an absent-minded way, tapped a finger against the globe.

The result of this tiny tap was catastrophic. The globe lit up brightly with a purple-and-green light, which swept across the throne room like a wave. Then the great bulb shattered into tiny pieces.

"Oh dear!" cried the Wizard, and everyone gasped—not because the invention was destroyed, but because of what was happening all around.

The people were shrinking! They were not shrinking too terribly fast, it is true, and—luckily—their clothing was shrinking too. But there was no doubt at all that they had commenced to become smaller, even the artificial people, namely Tik-Tok the Machine Man.

"Mizzen me tussle!" exclaimed Cap’n Bill. "Do somethin’, Wizard, afore I wind up smaller than my peg-leg!"

But the Wizard could only gesture helplessly toward the table, the top of which he could no longer reach. "I can’t reverse the effect, for the lamp is destroyed," he said. "And as for doing anything by wizardry, my bag of magical instruments is in my room."

"There is our help, I ob-serve," said Tik-Tok, pointing with his skinny metal arm. Ozma, who was now no bigger than a lap-dog, stood nobley upon the seat of her throne. In her hand she held the silver wand that she always kept upon her person, secreted in a special pocket in her gown. She made several passes with the wand, which responded to her own natural fairy-magic; and when the last gesture was completed, everyone could feel that some change had come over them. They were still shrinking, but not so rapidly now. The shrinking became slower, slower, and finally stopped altogether.

"Thank goodness!" cried Princess Dorothy.

"You may say ‘thank goodness’," complained the once-huge Cowardly Lion, "but look at us!" He was now about as big as a gnat, and those who had been of human size were no bigger than the tiny raspberry seeds that you pick out from between your teeth.

Ozma had walked over to the edge of her throne, which was quite a walk. She looked down at her much-reduced subjects as if from a high cliff. "I tried to restore you," she called down at the top of her lungs, "but it seems my magic has been diminished along with my size!" She stepped off the throne and, grasping the silver wand, drifted gently down to the polished floor.

"Al-though I am small-er," noted Tik-Tok in his mechanical monotone, "I am hap-py to say my think-ing works are o-ther-wise un-af-fect-ed."

"Then what do you think?" asked Tiny Trot, who now really was tiny.

"Some-one must go to Glin-da, whose sor-cer-y re-mains ver-y pow-er-ful," answered Tik-Tok. "I will go my-self if you wish, Your Ma-jes-ty."

"No," said Ozma, "for though you are steadfast, strong, and mechanically perfect, you are now so small that the journey would be weeks of walking."

"And my ac-tion will wind down be-fore I e-ven reached the ci-ty gates," Tik-Tok commented.

"My dear, perhaps you can contact Glinda by means of your wand," the Wizard urged.

"It’s better than a wireless," added the Shaggy Man, who knew something about radio.

"I have been trying, but the wand is now much too weak," Ozma said.

"I beg your pardon if I’ve overlooked something obvious; in which case I am prepared to be embarrassed," said the Shaggy Man. "But why couldn’t we send one of them with a message?"

The Shaggy Man was looking at the Glass Cat and the Pink Kitten. For some reason, yet unexplained, they were the only two creatures present who had not been affected by the Wizard’s Health Lamp.

The Glass Cat, who had flattened down upon the floor in order to hear the tiny people talk, now spoke. "That idea is plausible, at least," she said indifferently. "But you have not yet asked whether I would consent to this imposition upon my time. I had already made plans for this afternoon, you know, and it is rather much to expect me to rearrange my schedule at a moment’s notice."

"Aaa, you might as well give up on that Glass Cat," growled Cap’n Bill. "Nothin’ will do t’warm up that cold hard heart o’ hers."

"He’s right, Ozma," said Dorothy. "Eureka may be a little saucy now and then, but she knows how to mind—when she has to."

"Thank you, mistress," purred the Pink Kitten. "It is transparently true that Bungle, with her marble brains, is certain to botch any assignment given her."

At this comment the Glass Cat hissed like a punctured tire. "What cheek!" she muttered indignantly, stalking from the room.

"It is settled, then," said Princess Ozma.

After further discussion and instruction, Eureka set forth upon her mission, slinking her way through the corridors of the palace and out into the grounds. She was passing a tree, and beginning to pick up speed, when she was startled by a thud just behind her. Spinning about she beheld Bungle the Glass Cat standing with a vexed expression upon her face.

"What do you want?" asked Eureka impatiently. "I can’t be bothered with you now; I am on assignment."

"Don’t be high-tailed with me," said Bungle. "I am here to help you, you silly muncher of mice."

Eureka sniffed proudly. "I do not require help. This is a job for a true American-born cat, not a four-legged window-pane such as yourself."

"I suppose, then, you are going south, to the Quadling country, where Glinda’s castle is."

"Of course."

"Then it is you who will botch the assignment," said Bungle, licking her unmoveable glass fur with her glass tongue, which made a tinkling sound; "for I happen to know Glinda is not at home today."

The Pink Kitten’s eyes narrowed to slits. "Where is she, then?"

"Oh, now you wish to talk. Well, just this morning, during my patrol of the city, I happened upon the editor of the daily newspaper, who was engaged in informing his printing-press of the news of the day. I heard him mention that Glinda the Good had gone off in her swan-chariot to the Country of the Winkies to assist the Tin Woodman in his Tin Castle. You should be able to catch her there—if you hurry your little pink paws."

Eureka considered this in silent suspicion for a moment. Then, with a leap, she was off and away at top speed. Bungle noted, smugly, that she was heading west, toward the Winkie Country, not south to the land of the Quadlings. "Serves her right, gullible thing," said the Glass Cat to herself. Of course Bungle’s news had been a lie through and through. It was her plan—not very thoroughly thought-out—to win the praise of the others by carrying out the mission to Glinda the Good herself.

Off she ran, southward, easily scaling the high wall that surrounds the City of Emeralds and dashing across the fields of grass which in that central part of Oz were, strangely enough, green. She crossed the narrow stretch of farmland, and saw before her the red-hued meadows that announce the borders of the Quadling Country. That at least is what she expected to see and ought to have seen. But what she really saw, but did not pause to consider, was a great deal of purple—as if she had gone north and not south.

Suddenly, Bungle stopped running. Indeed, she stopped running so abruptly and completely that she flipped head-over-heels, rolling ten times in the long grass before she finally lay down flat, unable to wiggle a single glass toe.





 

Chapter Six

The Capture of a Cat

 

 

 

"Where is Mango-boo?" asked Junipee of the Nome King. "Couldn’t you just take us back to New York direct?"

Ruggedo smiled his smile, but shook his head. "Alas, I no longer have the power to travel such a distance, which would take us straight through the earth. I believe, though, that the Pillar of Truth is suggesting a means whereby I might regain my Magic Belt, which will not only allow me to return to the Underground Kingdom, but also to send you wherever you wish. Isn’t that right, Pillar?"

Said the Pillar of Truth, "You ask, and I answer Yes, that is right, for that is indeed what you believe."

"You see?" pronounced the Nome King. "And the Pillar of Truth cannot lie."

"All right, but what about that place and that queen?" Junipee persisted.

"Mangaboo?" Ruggedo scratched the side of his head with his hand, making a sound like two pieces of flint trying to strike a spark. "I’ve heard of it, for it is part of the underground world that I am in charge of, by rights. But I don’t recall the details, nor do I know in what direction it lies—except downward."

"I know!" piped Stot excitedly. "We can ask the big rock!" He approached the Pillar of Truth and asked, "How can we find that Magnanga place you talked about, the one with the queen?"

"You ask, and I answer, By being led by the cat Eureka, the pet of Princess Dorothy, for she once was in Mangaboo and knows the way back by instinct and memory."

The old Nome King did not like this answer. His dealings with Dorothy and her patroness Ozma had brought him nothing but trouble in his life. "I see," he said rather sourly. "There must be another way." But the Pillar was silent—as no question had been asked.

Ruggedo now was anxious to leave the presence of the Pillar of Truth, though there were many other questions that he might have found useful to ask. He quickly herded the children back up to his private cave-dwelling.

"It seems we are destined to be useful to one another, children," he said. "If I understand what the Pillar of Truth has so subtly implied, it is somehow necessary that I have you with me to get what I need from the Queen of the Mangaboos, just as my recapture of my belt is necessary to you, in order to send you home."

"We’ll go if we have to," replied Junipee. "But remember, we’re just people, not some of your Nomes. We can’t live underground—we need real air and food."

"Yes, yes," Ruggedo responded impatiently. "Let us not dilly-dally here with the Gillikins, for we must make our way to the Emerald City to find this fool cat of Dorothy’s."

"Have you met it?" inquired Stot.

"No, for she didn’t have it with her when she first came into my Dominions, only that horrible chicken, Billina." The Nome King pronounced chicken as if it were a curse. "I have been to the palace of Ozma on subsequent occasions, but don’t recall seeing a cat there."

Stot asked gravely, "Do you know what a cat looks like? We have them in New York, but they don’t live in the ground, like you do."

"Of course I know!" retorted Ruggedo with dignity. "They are like very large gophers, with tails that go back and forth."

"That’s not very good," said Junipee; "but I guess I can help you keep a look-out."

The three got underway immediately, heading southward toward the Emerald City. They walked along at an easy pace through most of three days. The Nome King proved a taciturn companion, saying very little and eyeing everything and everyone with an attitude of wariness and disdain. They walked between low hills, and through the Great Dark Gillikin Forest, following trails, some of which were paved, though most were not. There were no settlements of people along the way, but now and then they came upon a lonely farmhouse or forest dwelling, and the Gillikins within were courteous and glad to provide food, though Ruggedo could only eat of strange minerals and rocky things, which he had to sift out of the ground himself.

Finally came the morning upon which they rounded the bend of a forest trail and beheld, far ahead in the distance, a lovely green glow that seemed to fill the sky.

"I remember that," the Nome King remarked in a jovial tone. "The Emerald City is made of real emeralds of all sizes and shapes, and it is their reflection we see. We are getting near."

"What will we do when we get there?" asked Junipee, her breath somewhat taken away by the beauty of the shining sky. "Will we find Dorothy and ask to borrow her cat?"

"Bah! Certainly not; that is bad strategy, my girl," answered the Nome. "If we ask, she will turn us down, for she is wicked and hates me—and will surely hate the two of you as well, for being my companions. I have though of a different plan."

He withdrew from his vest pocket a small round stone, which was flat on opposite sides.

"Bet I know what that is!" Stot cried happily. "It’s your tell-us-stone!"

"No," the Nome King replied. "It is my spyglass: to be precise, my tell-on-scope."

"Do you mean a telescope?" Junipee asked.

"I mean exactly what I say, child," Ruggedo said brusquely. "It is an invention of the Nomes which tells on whoever you are thinking about, by showing them to you."

Stot nodded as if he understood. "Uh-huh—like a tattle-tale."

"Exactly like," Ruggedo confirmed. "For example, let us be fore-warned by looking in upon Ozma." He held the stone so Junipee and Stot could also see. On one of the flat sides they could make out the image of a beautiful young girl with raven-dark hair and a gleaming crown upon her head.

"She’s so pretty!" Stot declared.

"You may think so; but she has a wicked heart, which the tell-on-scope stone is powerless to reveal."

They looked in upon several others. Finally Ruggedo was satisfied that they were unaware of the presence of their old enemy. "They are all occupied with something," he commented. "Some nonsense of that Wizard fellow they esteem so highly, for they are gathered together around him. Perhaps we can sneak up on the palace undetected."

"But where is the cat, Eureka?" Junipee demanded. "We ought to find that out first, you know."

"I suppose you are right," the Nome King conceded with a scowl (for he did not like to be contradicted). "I have never heard of there being but one cat of the plain sort in all Oz, so if—" But he did not need to finish his sentence, for when he mentioned one cat, the image of a cat appeared in the stone. "Ah, there is our cat!"

"That’s not a real cat!" Stot laughed. Then he added soberly: "Is it?"

"It’s a glass statue," said Junipee. "But it’s moving!"

"That is the form cats take in this fairyland," observed the Nome King sagely, pretending he knew what he was talking about—which he did not. That cat was of course not Eureka the Pink Kitten at all, but Bungle the Glass Cat, and they were looking in upon her at the moment she was leaving the grounds of Ozma’s royal palace on her mission to Glinda the Good.

"Now this is a right fine development, children," said the Nome King with pleasure. "As the creature is made of glass, and thus part of the kingdom of crystals and minerals, she is mine to command; or at least her body is."

Junipee asked, "Can you bring her here to us?"

"I can indeed," Ruggedo said, putting his stone back in its pocket. "I cannot bring her quite all-at-once, for she is still some distance away. But I can give her many little pushes, each one too slight to be felt, which will steer her in our direction without arousing any resistance in her." His put his fingers up to the rocky outcropping of his brow and concentrated mightily for a good length of time. Then at last he said, "She is near! I feel it!"

They hid themselves behind some bushes, and soon caught a glimpse of sunlight on glass. Ruggedo concentrated again, and now that Bungle was very close-by his force was strong enough to freeze her glass muscles and bring her to a tumbling halt almost at their feet.

"That was cool!" Stot cried. "But I’m glad you can’t do it to people."

"Let us see what she has to say for herself," said the Nome King, smugly satisfied.

They walked over to where Bungle lay flat in the grass, and Ruggedo bent down low. "Good morning," said he, pleasantly.

"If it is good for you, congratulations," Bungle replied with a catlike growl. "As for me, I’d just as soon give it back. Something has tripped me up."

Ruggedo clucked his tongue. "Yes, I apologize for that. I am responsible. If you promise not to run off, I will let you up."

The Glass Cat snarled but said, "I promise."

"And do you promise to keep your promise?"

"I do." And immediately Bungle found herself able to stand and move again. She stretched as cats do, even glass ones, and said, "All right. What do you want, you human stonework?"

"The matter is of the gravest importance," said Ruggedo. "It can only be entrusted to someone of your renowned cleverness—for the whole world has heard of Princess Dorothy’s precious pet Eureka."

"Ah. Yes," purred Bungle, quite unable to resist continuing the mistake. "Well, as you have interrupted my morning run, and it cannot be undone, perhaps I shall hear you out."

"Why are you glass?" Stot blurted out.

This gave pause to Bungle, for she did not care to reveal that she was not the esteemed Eureka after all. "That makes for a nice story," she said. "I once was an ordinary sort of cat, you know—from America in the great outside world. But Princess Ozma made my mistress, Dorothy, a princess too; and so a plain fluffy cat just wouldn’t do for her. Ozma used a magical thing she owns, a belt, to transform me into what you see before you, an exalted being of fine crystal suitable to consort with royalty."

"What are those colored things inside you?" Junipee then inquired. "Something you ate for breakfast?"

"Indeed not," said Bungle scornfully. "The ruby item is my fine heart, and the collection of pink balls is in truth my brains. You can see ’em work, you know. I don’t mind if you stare."

"We have more important subjects of which to speak than your body-parts," the Nome King declared. "We are in need of a guide to show us the way to the underground kingdom of Mangaboo, and are informed that you, madam, are able to perform that necessary duty."

"I can indeed," lied the Glass Cat. "I know the way very well. But why should I assist you?"

"So we can get back home," Junipee said.

"Oh?" responded the cat. "Are you Mangaboos, then?"

"Nope!" giggled Stot. "We’re New Yorkers."

"The explanation is quite long and tiresome," said Ruggedo shrewdly. "There is no need for you to bother with it. Suffice it to say, our need is great and our cause is just."

Bungle snorted. "Just what?"

"Just just."

"You will help us, won’t you?" pled Junipee.

The Glass Cat looked away. "I may consider it—when I am back around these parts again."

"That won’t do, I fear." This pronouncement was Ruggedo’s, and his voice had become as ominous as a storm cloud. He picked up a rock from the ground, and set it upon a tree-stump nearby. "Do you see it?"

He raised his hand to his face and made an "O" with his thumb and forefinger. He held it before his right eye, and stared a fierce stare through the hole, looking directly at the rock.

There was a sharp sound like a shot, and the rock fell apart into two pieces.

"You might as well know now, madam cat, that I am Ruggedo the Nome King," he said. "Yes—and I have great power over the things of the ground, such as the crystalline substance making you up. If you do not grant the favor we have asked, I will shatter you. Of course, this being Oz, you will not be dead; but as a pile of pieces your enjoyment of life will be much impaired. Now, let us be off before your Dorothy and my nemesis Ozma come out to ruin things for me."

Bungle had no idea in which direction to go, for she had never heard of Mangaboo in her life. But the Nome King’s threat weighed upon her (especially her vanity), and so she darted off in a direction chosen for no reason at all.

"Halt!" cried Ruggedo. "Where are you going?"

The Glass Cat crept back and said, "I believe it is east."

"Little as I know of Mangaboo, I do know that it is close to, though well beneath, my own kingdom," the Nome said darkly. "And thus we must begin by going westward."

"I can see you know little of how to start a proper journey in Oz," retorted Bungle, her brains churning furiously. "One must take a few steps the opposite way, and then turn around: elsewise the route will become as circuitous as a corkscrew."

"That’s right!" Stot exclaimed. "The farmer wanted us to go in two directions to get to your hole, Mr. King."

Ruggedo looked doubtful indeed, but raised no protest as the little party zig-zagged and then commenced a trek to the west.

They left the green middle country of Oz very quickly, for it is of no great extent, and entered the Country of the Winkies, where the color yellow is favored. This unsettled Bungle, for she had no wish to run across the real Eureka, who no doubt would be put out with her. But there was no way around it.

They walked on for several hours, first through fields, then through forest. At noon they stopped at a Winkie cottage, and Junipee and Stot were given lunch while Ruggedo and the Glass Cat waited outside.

"I cannot stand to be still," said Bungle, "for it is contrary to my cat-nature. We must prowl about, except when we are dozing."

"Go, then; but if you are too long away—remember what I can do to you," was the Nome’s curt reply, as he gnawed a tart piece of fine granite.

Bungle slinked away into the underbrush. When she was out of sight, she began to hunt with her sharp emerald eyes, and soon enough she found what she was seeking, a tiny brown mouse. She caught it between her two paws, which—as they were perfectly clear—made it seem that the mouse was imprisoned in a glass jar.

"Good day, crystal thing," cried the mouse politely. "I like sport as much as anyone, but I have to tell you I am in something of a hurry just at present." He was not in the least afraid—for this was Oz, after all.

"I will let you go right away," said the cat. "But first, allow me to trouble you for some information."

"Of course."

"Good. It occurs to me that, as you are a mouse and have your ear to the ground even when standing up, you might be able to direct me to a certain place called Mangaboo."

"Mangaboo!" the mouse exclaimed with something like a laugh. "Why would anyone want to go there?"

"Kindly mind your business," snapped Bungle. "Do you know the way?"

The mouse nodded, his ears flopping. "I am acquainted with a family of earthworms, and they tell me of many things underground, in detail—too much detail, sometimes; it’s not as interesting as they suppose it to be, but you know what earthworms are like."

"And you remember the details?"

"Indeed," the other answered, "for I am a mouse, you know, and there is a reason why the scientists of the world choose us above all others to run their mazes. My memory is excellent. The question is whether you will remember all I say."

The Glass Cat sighed. She did not often sigh, for it was difficult for her, having no lungs and no hollow in her glass throat. "As a cat, I am lazy and languid, and I do not care for the effort of remembering. But if it is absolutely necessary, the pink brains, which you see before you, can retain almost anything. So go ahead."

The mouse then provided the directions. When he had finished, and was about to scurry off, he added: "By the way, I hope you know that all this is on the other side of the Deadly Desert. The earthworms are not bothered, for they can go beneath it. But the sands are destructive of life, and though you are not made of meat, you seem to be alive; so it might not go well for you."

"Another problem to occupy my mind," Bungle said in disgust. "Let old Ruggedo figure something out. But how I wish that foolish Pink Kitten had outsmarted me at the start!"





 

Chapter Seven

The Mouse Republic

 

 

 

The pink tail of Eureka the Pink Kitten had just whipped around the corner and out of view when Cap’n Bill lit his pipe and said: "Well, Trot, mighty fine kettle we’re in this time, eh?"

Trot nodded and smiled. "But we always get through our adventures all right—and we have Ozma and ever’one with us, so the good’s sure to outweigh the bad."

"Your confidence quite inspires me," remarked the little Wizard warmly. "Had I my Black Bag, I’m sure I could return us all to our customary magnitudities in the blink of an eye."

"And if I had my old Love Magnet in my pocket, we’d surely love this size that’s come upon us," the Shaggy Man added, his eyes a-twinkle. "But you don’t and I don’t, Wizard, so it seems we’ll just have to bear up under it."

"Why, it’s not so bad t’be a diff’rent size, you know," Dorothy declared. "It doesn’t seem to hurt at all."

"But there are some plain disadvantages, and—coward that I am—I cannot help but worry about them," said the Cowardly Lion. "We might trip over our own shadows, for example; for though a shadow’s thickness may be disregarded by a person of normal size, we are no bigger than a bug’s ear at present."

"It doesn’t really worry you, does it, Lion?" asked Dorothy with a dainty laugh.

"Not really," he admitted. "But only because my natural cowardice is as small as I am."

"I think we have no reason for concern," advised Ozma. "When Glinda hears of all this from the Pink Kitten, she will consult her books of magical recipes and put something together to restore us. Eureka can move swiftly; perhaps it will only be a few hours before she reaches Glinda’s castle."

At that moment the royal party, all gathered together at one spot on the floor before Ozma’s throne, heard a sound, then another, then another—like the boom of distant thunder. "What’s that?" cried Betsy Bobbin.

"I re-cog-nize those sounds," answered Tik-Tok, "for I have heard them ma-ny times, as have you all. It is on-ly the sound of foot-steps up-on the tiled floor of the throne room."

"Footsteps? Seems they ought to be attached to someone’s feet," Cap’n Bill commented. "I see no-one, though."

"But perhaps we are too small, and too close to the floor, to see off into the distance," the Wizard said. "The other side of the room is miles away, in a manner of speaking—for that is how it is for us."

The rhythmic booming continued, and made everyone nervous. "I do wish it would stop!" said Trot.

Tik-Tok, who had been attending carefully, now spoke up again. "My me-chan-i-cal eyes are all of brass and o-ther fine me-tals, and they func-tion ex-ceed-ing-ly well when I am pro-per-ly wound. I can make out that it is Jel-li-a Jamb who has en-tered this room."

"She has come in to clean, for it is that time of morning," Ozma said. "That may present a danger to us. She will go over the whole floor with her mop."

"I have always regarded an excess of cleanliness to be a grave danger indeed," remarked the Shaggy Man.

"Bein’ clean ain’t the danger s’much as bein’ squashed flat under her big feet, or swished away by her mop," said Cap’n Bill. "I say we cut anchor and find us a hidin’ place. Seems we haven’t a hope o’ makin’ contact with a little girl big as th’ Rock o’ Gibraltar."

The Hungry Tiger, who had padded away from the group for a minute in search of something to slake his ever-present hunger, now came bounding back, just in time to hear what Cap’n Bill was saying. "If what is needed is a place to hide, I’ve found one."

"What have you found?" asked Ozma.

"It’s a big ditch," he replied; "and I must say, Excellent Princess, I am rather surprised to find such a thing in your throne room."

They all hastened to follow the striped beast, as the menacing sounds of Jellia Jamb, and what might have been her mop, were growing nearer. Soon they came to the edge of a great furrow, about twelve feet wide and half as much deep (so it seemed to them), running off out of sight to the right and the left, in a straight line.

"My!" said Dorothy. "I’ve never noticed this before."

"But of course you have, Dorothy," admonished the Wizard indulgently. "I do believe it’s just one of the many cracks between the square tiles with which the floor is paved."

"Step off the edge, everyone, and my wand will help you down to the bottom," Ozma said.

Soon they were all standing in a row in the narrow flat space at the bottom of the crevice, between the sloping sides. "That’s better," observed Betsy. "Even if Jellia steps right on top of us, her shoes’ll just make a roof to the ditch."

"Now this is somethin’," said Cap’n Bill, taking the pipe from his mouth and bending over. "I’d say somethin’ has rubbed along the bottom of this crack. Along the sides, too." They all looked, and indeed it seemed that parts of the surface had been rubbed smooth by large objects passing along it, perhaps over and over.

"Oh, let’s follow the trail!" Trot exclaimed, and before anyone could reply she had run off. So there was nothing to do but follow after her.

They caught up with Trot soon enough but continued to stroll along single-file, for even Ozma and the fretful Cowardly Lion were anxious to discover if there were any secret inhabitants in the throne room.

"They’d have to be awful small, though," said Dorothy.

"We’re small ourselves, do remember," retorted the Shaggy Man. "They may be more than we can handle."

Ozma said, "I believe I still have enough magic to ward off danger—and there are the Lion and the Tiger as well. So I intend to go on; I think it’s my duty, you know."

"I al-so am a fierce fight-er," added Tik-Tok. "I am ne-ver trou-bled by me-tal fa-tigue."

They trekked on for more than an hour, passing a number of intersections where the edges of other tiles crossed their route. But the Wizard pointed out that these other cracks showed no sign of use, so the little expedition continued straight on.

Eventually Dorothy said, "Look, it’s all bright up ahead, just like when the sky is all filled up with white clouds."

"I’d venture that we are approaching the wall of the throne room," suggested the Shaggy Man.

"It’s not all bright, you know," Trot observed. "The crack is headin’ right at something dark." And so it was. The darkness was as big to them as a movie screen would be to us. It had fairly even, straight sides, and a rounded top like an arch.

"Why, it’s a mouse hole in the wall!" said little Dorothy. "Ozma, you should have set out some mousetraps."

"As if I would deliberately do such a thing to a poor tiny creature!" protested the dainty princess of Oz.

"But after all, they can’t die."

"Perhaps not," Ozma replied; "but it would annoy them. Remember, they are my subjects just as much as anyone. In fact, I ought to meet with them, to find out if there is anything I can do to make them happy, as we share houses, it seems."

"Worryin’ about the happiness o’ the mice!" grumbled Cap’n Bill. "That’s fairyland for you."

They marched on under the archway and into a deep darkness. Ozma withdrew her wand and caused it to produce a gentle emerald light, which was sufficient to allow them to see their way forward.

"I don’t believe I ever anticipated being shut up inside a wall," the Hungry Tiger muttered. "If there are fat babies here to be eaten, they will be mouse-babies, and that’s no delicacy to a tiger." But he kept his growly voice very low, for he knew Princess Ozma would never countenance the idea.

"Now it seems to me there is a further mystery about all this," commented the Wizard thoughtfully. "Mice are very small, but even the tiniest mouse could never have made his way along a crack between floor tiles."

"I’ve been having a thought on that matter myself," the Shaggy Man responded. "Perhaps it was just the very tips of their tails that dragged along inside the crack, which they must have used as a landmark to guide them home."

At that moment Ozma silenced them. "There is light up ahead!" She put out her wand, and they all could make out a faint white illumination which slowly grew brighter as they continued to walk. They passed through a space between some boards, which overhung above them like a great bridge, and found themselves looking out at a new wonder of the Land of Oz.

They beheld an open space that seemed (to them) to extend for miles; in fact, the further extent of it, even straight up above, was lost in shadow. Within this space was a city of tall buildings many stories in height, which seemed to be built of various odds and ends—twigs, bits of concrete, scraps of paper, tiny nails bigger than telephone poles, shreds of colored cloth, and all manner of cast-off things somehow fastened tightly together. The sides of the buildings had no windows: instead they were dotted by row after row of square doors, all of them uncovered. A ladder depended from each door, leading down to the ground.

The buildings were grouped about a sort of central square—though it was not so much square as round—and this square was crammed with thousands of people, people who happened to be mice, every one of them. Every other mouse appeared to be sitting down on the floor, the others standing between on their hind legs. The Wizard pointed out, in a low voice, that the seated mice all wore colorful scarves about their necks, while the standing mice wore little round collars, such as a dog might wear.

"They’re watching a show!" whispered Dorothy.

At the center of the public square was a raised platform strewn with banners, and on this platform stood two dignified mouse-men, waving their arms and exclaiming loudly—though it was not easy to make out the subjects—and now and then, it seemed, breaking into bits of song. The crowd of mice seemed to find this a moving performance altogether, as every now and then they broke into furies of applause, laughter, or cries of appreciation. The result was a continuous tumult.

"It is easy to guess what this is," commented the Wizard, "for I have seen many of them in my time. It is a political rally."

"Ah, yes indeedy," agreed the Shaggy Man; and Cap’n Bill was also seen to nod.

"It is e-vi-dent these pal-ace mice are or-gan-ized as a re-pub-lic, al-though they live un-der a mon-arch," Tik-Tok added. He then turned to Ozma and said, "They may not be hos-pi-ta-ble to o-ver-tures from Your High-ness."

"Nevertheless it is my duty to try," responded Ozma. "Let us see what happens as it happens, and not presume the worst."

"Mighty good advice, that," Cap’n Bill commented. "On t’other hand, I expect many a good ship has gone down in a storm, sailin’ under just that philosophy."





 

Chapter Eight

What the Ambassador Had to Say

 

 

 

Betsy Bobbin had been standing quite enthralled, gazing at the scene of mouse politics, but when she heard Ozma’s determination she spoke up right away. "No one could fault you for wanting to do your duty, Ozma," said she. "But it won’t be so easy as you think, cause we’re as small next to those mice as a mouse is next to a reg’lar sized person. I don’t expect they’ll be able to hear you; and even if you do get ’em to take some notice, they might just set on you with a broom, like people do when they see a mouse."

"A cheery thought!" said the Hungry Tiger sarcastically.

"I can face any broom, even a giant one, in defense of my friends and my princess," declared the Cowardly Lion. "I will be trembling with fear, of course; but I shall do my duty."

"No one will need to face a broom, I think," said Ozma with a smile, "for I have had an idea. Wizard, though I am powerless to make any of us larger—not even as large as these mice—I wonder if I might not be able to enlarge our shadows, and let them represent us."

"But what good’ll our shadows do?" inquired Dorothy.

"I propose to animate them, to allow them to walk about like living things, and speak our own thoughts to the mice. And then, when the mice reply, the shadows will hear them with their big shadow-ears; and it never fails but that whatever is heard by the ears of your shadow is also heard straightway by you yourself."

The Wizard stroked his chin and nodded, and the Shaggy Man said, "I think you may have something there, Princess."

Ozma grasped her wand and concentrated. The shadows of each member of the little group, which were spread out upon the floor behind them, began to rise, like awakening people getting up in the morning. And as they rose, they expanded as well, very rapidly.

It was President Harcheevchack who first noticed the shadows, strange chunks of darkness moving about beyond the edge of the Common Herd, as the ordinary mouse-citizens of the Republic of Eroveechkeevna were known. He said the rest of his prepared speech very quickly, then pointed. "Citizens, we are visited by most peculiar creatures!" There was a hubbub of fear and curiosity, and the police cleared an open way for the shadows to use in approaching the platform.

"Please do not be alarmed!" cried the dainty shadow of Princess Ozma. "We are only harmless shadows, here to confer with your leaders in a peaceable manner."

"Then it’s all right," said the other mouse, Sorgheefdrock, who was also a President of the mouse republic. "We shall postpone this debate for a brief time. But I caution you, Mr. President—do not take advantage of this interruption to get any fresh ideas."

"Such a thing would not occur to me, Mr. President," retorted President Harcheevchack, "though it appears to have occurred to you."

One by one the various shadows climbed the seven steps up to the top of the platform, where the shadow of Ozma said, "Now then, to whom shall I address myself?"

"I represent the people," stated President Harcheevchack.

"As for me, I represent the persons," declared President Sorgheefdrock.

"Oh dear!" murmured the shadow of Ozma. She consulted with the shadow of the Wizard for a moment. Then she said: "I shall speak with the both of you with even hands and an equal footing. Or do you mind?"

"I like the even hands," said one President.

"I like the equal footing," said the other.

"Very well. She who is my source and origin—she who casts me—is Princess Ozma of Oz. Perhaps you are unaware that your city here is a part of Oz, and indeed lies within Ozma’s own royal palace. But she is—"

"Yes, yes, Ozma, rightful ruler, Emerald City and all that," said one or the other impatiently.

"We are well aware of political conditions among the Colossicans," added a different one or the other.

"We’re humans—or Ozites—but I’m sure we’re not C’losticians," said Dorothy with some indignation.

"Ah, but you are," retorted a President. "For that is what we call you semi-hairless giants of the Oversized World. What you choose to call yourselves is none of our business."

"And how is it your shadows are as small as we are?" a President inquired.

"Let us just say that we are now offered at cut-rate," was the Wizard’s reply to this question. He did not think it wise to go into the details.

"Then do I take it you already know of affairs in the Land of Oz?" asked the Ozma-shadow.

"Surely we do," said Sorgheefdrock; "for are we not mice? Do we not go everywhere, and overhear everything?"

The Cowardly Lion now mustered up the shadow of a threatening growl. "If that is so, then how comes it to be that you have not presented yourselves to your royal sovereign over all these many years, nor to Oz the Great and Terrible, who once held the throne and whose shadow now stands here before you?"

"Yes!" exclaimed Cap’n Bill pugnaciously. "How come?"

"I hope you are not so benighted as to believe that we, citizens and leaders of this great Republic of Eroveechkeevna, would come to grovel before the tyrant ruler of a monarchy!" declared one of the Presidents. "No offense, ma’am," he added.

"If we are now asking questions, I have another," said the Shaggy Man. "Where does all this fine light come from? Do you have electricity down here?"

"Are we not mice?" cried President Harcheevchack. "Are we not of the race which first invented that humble but clever servant the electron, the race which first electified its living spaces?"

"I really think it came out of Edison," the shadow of Dorothy pronounced. "And he was not a mouse, you know."

"Let us strive for a peaceful harmony of nations, whatever our historical views," urged the President called Sorgheefdrock. "It may well be time to establish relations of a diplomatic sort. We only wish to know that Ozma, as one of the line of absolute tyrants derived from the Original Original appointed by the fairy Lurline, does not wish to conquer and enslave us."

"I would never do such a thing!" exclaimed the shadow of Ozma. "By ‘I’ I mean ‘she,’ of course."

"Well, your word is good enough for us," said Harcheevchack. "You are known to be kindly and honest, for a tyrant."

There now commenced a discussion of life in the Rodential Republic of Eroveechkeevna. It developed that the mice were democratic in spirit and held elections frequently to decide all sorts of things. At present the question before the Common Herd was whether the incumbent First President, Harcheevchack, would be permitted to continue in that office, or would be turned out in favor of Sorgheefdrock, who was at present the Premier President.

Dorothy asked Harcheevchack what would become of him if he were voted out. "That won’t happen, of course," responded the mouse. "But if it does, by our laws I take over the office vacated by my rival Sorgheefdrock. I would then be Premier President."

"But what is the diff’rence between First Pres’dent and Premier Pres’dent?" inquired Trot (who had already guessed the answer).

"Difference? There is no difference at all; they are exactly equal-stequal, as we say," replied one or the other of them. "If one office were better than the other, no sane person would wish to hold the lesser of them and the whole system would collapse."

"Aye, that’s so," commented Cap’n Bill with a wink in Trot’s direction. "But why have the election at all?"

"Because we like elections," said Sorgheefdrock.

"We find them most stimulating," continued his rival. "Besides, we think they build civic feeling and good character."

"I always thought you mice had kings and queens," remarked the shadow of Princess Dorothy. "A long time ago, I met the Queen of the Field Mice, who was a great help to me and my friends."

Harcheevchack nodded. "Yes; and it must have been quite a time ago. Since those days, democratic revolution has swept through all the nations of mousekind. All are republics now—on this continent, at least. That queen of yours is long since deposed."

"Oh!" cried Dorothy. "That’s a shame."

"You needn’t feel sad for her," continued the President. "The citizens of the field mouse nation immediately elected her to the new office of Supreme President-For-Life and granted her absolute authority over everything. Really, it is just a change of title."

"Your be-tailed race has evolved into politicians of the most thoroughgoing variety," the Wizard-shadow commented. "And I do know what politicians are like, for I am related to the famous Nebraska politician William Jennings Bryan."

"I’ve heard of him," the Dorothy-shadow said, speaking on behalf of the real Dorothy. "How are you related?"

"We are second-cousins on his gardener’s side."

The party of shadows talked some more with the two presidents, and when there was a brief pause in the flow of speech Tik-Tok—that is, his shadow—asked, "Per-haps you will sat-is-fy my cur-i-o-si-ty, which is built in-to my thin-king ac-tion. Why are some of your cit-i-zens seat-ed and wear-ing scarves, while the o-thers are stan-ding and wear-ing col-lars?"

The two presidents exchanged glances of surprise. "Do you not have eyes, ball-shaped being?" demanded Sorgheefdrock. "Can you not see plainly that those in scarves are our females, and those in collars our males?"

"I did not no-tice that," replied the clockwork shadow.

"Why are your women all seated upon the ground?" inquired the Shaggy Man. "There are those who would call it a bit unseemly."

"They are all seated because the men are all standing," was Harcheevchack’s answer. "And if the females were to stand up, the men would have to sit down."

"I see," said the Shaggy Man; though in fact he did not.

"My goodness, I don’t!" exclaimed the shadow of Tiny Trot.

Both presidents looked at Trot with an expression bordering on pity. "You are young; perhaps you do not yet understand the way of things," Harcheevchack said. "Male and female are different, and the difference is an entirely sensible and deliberate one, planned and instituted by Nature. It follows logically that male and female must continue to be different in all respects. When one stands, the other sits. When one smiles, the other frowns. When one speaks, the other must be silent—and vice versa."

"Do you understand now, small Collosican?" inquired Sorgheefdrock. Trot was about to make what would probably have been taken as a rude retort. But there was an unexpected interruption.

A brown mouse was scurrying his way through the crowd toward the platform. He mounted the platform and bowed low to the two presidents. "I apologize for my tardiness, Your Electivities," said he. "I was held back for a time in the Winkie Country by an odd catlike creature made of crystal, who wished to ask questions."

Said the shadow of Cap’n Bill, "Sounds to me as like you’ve met a mate of ours. Was the kitty made all o’ glass?"

"Yes, shadowed sir, now that you mention it."

"But what do you s’pose the Glass Cat was doing in the Winkie Country?" wondered the shadow of Trot.

President Sorgheefdrock gestured and said, "Shadows, I present the ambassador from the Republic of Beevboobrala, Torseechundo. We know him well in our city. Mr. Ambassador, I give you the shadow of the chief of the local Collosican monarchy, Ozma."

The ambassador bowed (though only halfway) and the shadow of Ozma nodded respectfully. "We shall have to make your acquaintance," she said.

"Did the Glass Cat happen to say what she was up to?" Trot persisted.

"Not definitely," responded the ambassador. "She asked after the route to the Vegetable Kingdom of the Mangaboos, and mentioned someone travelling with her, a certain Ruggedo."

"Ruggedo!" cried Dorothy in alarm. "Why would she be going around with that old Nome King?"

"Why indeed?" muttered the Shaggy Man with a sage look.

"It cannot be for the sake of friendship, for Bungle has no friends," the Wizard noted. "Her ruby heart will not permit any friendship to enter it."

"It seems most like-ly to me that the Glass Cat has been ab-duc-ted," declared the shadow of Tik-Tok. "Al-though Rug-ge-do has re-formed, he has al-rea-dy re-formed se-ver-al times and it has ne-ver stuck."

The Wizard puckered his brow. "And let it not escape our notice that the Vegetable Kingdom was mentioned. I still remember our visit to the Mangaboos—Dorothy, Eureka, and myself."

"My goodness, Wizard, that was so long ago," Dorothy commented. "Too me it’s pretty much a jumble."

The little Wizard smiled. "Yes, my dear, but as a charlatan and humbug—now reformed—it was necessary that I develop a very sharp memory, as my tricks depended on it."

"If Bungle has been kidnapped by the former Nome King, we may have to mount a rescue expedition," said Ozma’s shadow firmly. "I won’t have members of my court being stolen." The shadow of the princess curtseyed to the pair of presidents with great regal dignity and said, "I have done my duty here, but now it seems I must repair to the throne room of the Emerald Palace, there to consult with the sorceress Glinda and my other advisors. I hope you will forgive my hasty departure, men of mousehood."

"I’m sure we’ll forgive it, and quickly too," replied President Sorgheefdrock.

"Indeed, we ourselves were on the verge of suggesting it," added President Harcheevchack politely.





 

Chapter Nine

Beneath the Deadly Desert

 

 

"Well now," said Bungle the Glass Cat upon returning to the Nome King after her meeting with the brown mouse, "I am quite impatient for us to get along on this trip of ours."

Ruggedo gave her an amicable nod. "The two children are approaching even now. They have finished eating, and so have I. Do you ever eat, madam?"

"Hmmph!" she replied. "I am not built to eat. The only thing I could eat would be my words—and I never have to."

Having thanked the Winkie couple who had hosted them for lunch, Stot and Junipee rejoined Ruggedo and the Glass Cat, refreshed and ready to proceed.

"Do we really know where we’re going, Mr. King?" asked Stot.

"And why would you care, you fortunate youth?" returned the Nome King mildly. "Are you not happy in my presence?"

"Sure—now an’ then. But I get cranky if I don’t have my nap."

"He really does," Junipee confirmed.

"I will see that he gets his nap," declared the Nome King, "for I cannot abide crankiness." Of course, Ruggedo himself was always cranky; but as he could not abide even himself, his statement was true.

Off they went following Bungle, who now pattered along with renewed confidence and vanity, her tail in the air like a little flagpole of glass—for she knew where she was going. "I will leave the fate of those shrunken people in the paws of that powderpuff of a Pink Kitten," her thoughts murmured to her brain. "These people appreciate me, even if they don’t know that it is me whom they appreciate."

They travelled westward, on something of a northern slant. This was a longer distance than that from Ruggedo’s cave to the environs of the Emerald City, yet they completed it in less than half the time: for the directions provided by the brown mouse guided them away from all obstructions and difficult stretches. Stot had his nap on a bed of clover and dandelions, and around suppertime they came to a Winkie metropolis of three cottages gathered at a clearing in the woods, where they were given such food as they required, and a place to sleep the night.

By the early afternoon of the day following, the trek through the yellow Winkie Country came to its end. The foursome had left the Great Dark Winkie Forest some time earlier, and now were passing through a sort of prairie landscape sprinkled with low rounded hills. Finally they came out from the shadow of one such hill, and Junipee cried: "Look!"

A mile or so away the yellow grasses and amber shrubs faded out rather suddenly, as if at the edge of a shoreline. The earth sloped downward for a handful of yards to meet a great, ugly barrenness of brown and tan and especially gray.

"Ah! Now there is a pretty sight," exclaimed Ruggedo. "You children may not think so, for you are used to living among the garish-colored molds that infect the surface of the world—and I don’t care what you think of it, cat of glass—; but to a Nome, this vista is one of serenity and uplift."

"Is that your plan, Your Former Majesty?" inquired Junipee in a mocking tone; "to ‘uplift’ us over it? Cause if that’s the Deadly Desert, I hear tell nobody can so much as touch it and live."

Ruggedo’s eyes widened a bit (for as much as he disliked being contradicted, he liked being made fun of even less) but he remembered to keep his temper under control. "That is the Deadly Desert, little miss smarty-boots, and my mentioning my admiration for its appearance does not mean I fail to recognize its power. Nomes are living creatures too, you know."

"And don’t forget me," interjected the Glass Cat. "I was created by means of the wonderful Powder of Life, and I wouldn’t want to lose what it gave me."

"Eureka, you told us you were already alive when that Magic Belt turned you to glass," said Junipee in a suspicious tone.

"Precisely!" Bungle retorted, brains whirling. "But you don’t suppose life of the meat kind could continue on in a glass body, do you? Ozma had to use the Powder to make the glass alive."

"Well… whatever." Junipee turned back to the Nome King, who was watching this exchange with amusement. "So how are we supposed to get across this desert?"

"I know, I know!" shouted little Stot gleefully. "We can go across the same way Yoo-reeka did before!"

This answer worried the Glass Cat. The mouse had told her the exact route up to the desert, and how to continue on the other side. But she had no idea how to get across, and couldn’t recall the story of how Dorothy and Eureka had gotten across in the first place.

However, there was no need to worry, as Ruggedo had already taken the desert into account. "If you have paid attention while studying the history of Oz in school," he began; but then he stopped for Junipee and Stot were looking at him blankly. So he turned to the Glass Cat, whom he thought was Eureka.

"Don’t look at me," she said. "Cats don’t go to school. We are born wise."

This time Ruggedo’s eyes narrowed rather than widened, but he held his temper in check and said, "Yes, of course. Well then, some years ago—and ‘some’ in this case means ‘very many’—when I came to visit my Magic Belt in the Emerald City, I came by way of an underground tunnel."

The Glass Cat flashed Ruggedo an insolent smile. "As if there were such a thing as a tunnel not underground!"

The Nome King scowled and growled, but continued. "I came by tunnel, as I say, passing harmlessly beneath the desert. My Nomes dug it for me, running it straight as a line from my cavern capitol to the royal palace of Ozma. As I knew the four of us would be heading toward the land of the Mangaboos, which is approximately beneath my old dominions, I have anticipated that we would reach the edge of the Deadly Desert somewhere close to the place where the tunnel crosses—for it still exists."

"Does not!" said Bungle. "I was told by—that is, I happen to recall—that Princess Ozma used the Magic Belt to fill-in the tunnel after that visit of yours, which most people call an invasion, you know."

"Of that I am well aware," responded the Nome sourly. "Ozma has created a virtual industry of spreading false stories about the Nomes. But I know something no-one else knows. The transformations produced by the Magic Belt are not entirely permanent. After a span of ninety-one years, four months, three weeks, two days, eight hours, twelve minutes, and fifty-three and one-third seconds—approximately—the transformation wears off and must be re-applied. By my calculations the air within the tunnel, which was transformed by Ozma to stone and dirt, has now become air again."

"Then somebody could fall in at the end and get stuck," Stot pointed out with a little laugh. He found the image amusing.

"The last few feet, on the grounds of the palace, were filled-in immediately upon my departure, by hand. The Magic Belt handled the rest; and it is only that remainder that concerns us."

Junipee looked right and left, skeptically. "If your tunnel is underground, like a subway, just how do you plan to find out where it is?"

"My native abilities as a Nome allow me to feel the general layout of the underground regions," replied Ruggedo. "I can tell that the tunnel lies just a bit further north. When we are directly over it, I will cause the gravel and rocks beneath our feet to roll out of the way, which will also carry off some of the dirt. We will then have an opening through which to descend to the tunnel."

The foursome travelled northward along the edge of the Deadly Desert. A short time later the former Nome King stopped and announced, "Here!—we are over the tunnel." He then sank down upon his narrow, spidery knees and placed the palms of his hands flat upon the ground. After a minute, muffled noises and slight vibrations began to issue through the ground. A minute more, and a hole, like a well, yawned open.

"Are there lights?" asked Stot. "I don’t want to stumble. Besides, I don’t like the dark."

"He can make the rocks light up, Stot," Junipee admonished, "just like he did in his little cave."

"Indeed I can," confirmed Ruggedo. "Now then, down we go."

They all climbed down the hole, using big rocks sticking out of the sides as if they were stair-steps. Upon reaching the bottom, the Nome waved his arms and they were flooded with a soft light. The broad tunnel was revealed, stretching like a highway into the distance in both directions.

"It’s not so big as the Holland Tunnel, but I guess it’ll do," remarked Junipee. They commenced walking steadily in that portion of the tunnel that went toward the west. This part of the trip was very dull. Not much was happening underground, it seemed. Every now and then the Glass Cat spied an earthworm hurrying out of the way, and she recollected that her overall knowledge of how to get to Mangaboo came from such creatures. It felt like a great indignity.

Though there was no way to know when it was nighttime overhead, the two meat people knew when they were becoming sleepy, and even the rock person had to sleep at intervals. So they slept in the tunnel, Junipee and Stot sleeping upon stone mattresses made soft and springy by the Nome King’s magic.

But Bungle, being a conglomeration of crystal, had no need for sleep. She restlessly wandered ahead up the tunnel—for even a cat of glass is curious. She meandered along for a mile or more when her sharp emerald eyes caught a glint of something in the tunnel wall. A very large hazel-colored eye, about twice as big as a human person’s, was gazing at her steadily through a crack between two rocks.

"Hello," Bungle said indifferently, walking on; for though she was curious, she was too vain to show it.

After a few minutes she again saw a big eye staring through another crack, this time on the other side of the tunnel.

"Good evening," said she. There was no response, and she moved on.

A good deal further along, she paused to stretch herself from end to end, as cats do. During the course of this elaborate stretch she happen to look up at the tunnel ceiling; and there, looking down at her, was another one of the eyes.

"I don’t mind if you some out to look at me," Bungle said. "If you get closer you will see more easily that I am crystal-clear and a great pleasure to the eye. Even taken by themselves my brains are a marvel to observe; you can see ’em work."

"Can’t," said a voice as deep as a cavern, slightly muffled and seeming to come from all directions at once.

"That’s too bad," responded the Glass Cat. "I’m sure I would feel sorry for you if my heart were of some soft material." She noticed now that a dozen more eyes were looking at her from all sides. It was curiosity that caused her to say, "Couldn’t a few of you come out into the open?"

"Can’t," came the same voice; and more eyes appeared behind more cracks.

"Just how many of you are there?" demanded the cat.

"One."

Bungle could not help showing some surprise at this. "You mean to tell me there’s just one of you?"

"Truth," was the response, which Bungle took to mean, Yes.

"And all these different eyes go back to the same body?"

"Truth."

The Glass Cat considered this for a moment. She was not at all afraid, but her curiosity had been tuned to a high pitch by this peculiar situation. "Well," said said finally, "since there’s just one of you, what is your name?"

"Geodd."

"Sounds a bit foreign," she commented. "I am Bungle, the famous Glass Cat of Oz. There!—now you know. Perhaps, though, I shouldn’t have told you. Kindly refer to me as ‘Eureka’ when others are about, won’t you?"

"Eureka," repeated Geodd.

"Ha! Multiple syllables. Tell me, then, how long has there been just one of you?"

The answer was, "Always."

"And how long is that?"

"Always," said Geodd again.

"I take it you’re some sort of ignoramus," commented Bungle. "Perhaps you can’t help it. Do you live inside the ground?"

"Truth."

"And just what do you do there?"

"Nothing."

"Are you lonesome for company, perhaps?"

"No," said Geodd.

"Then I’ll be moving on," said the Glass Cat. "You don’t mind, do you?"

"Truth," was the reply, which Bungle understood to mean, No.

"Then goodbye." As there was no reply to this, Bungle turned and trotted back to where Stot and Junipee and the old Nome King were sleeping. One by one, the many eyes of Geodd, whatever strange sort of thing he was, withdrew from the cracks he had been looking through, leaving darkness behind.





 

Chapter Ten

The Rescue Expedition

 

 

 

When at last the royal party of Princesss Ozma had returned to the palace throne room, Jellia Jamb had finished her mopping and cleaning, and had gone on to other rooms. The throne room was empty and again safe for the tiny people to inhabit.

As the party rose out of the tile-crack with the assistance of Ozma’s silver wand, Princess Dorothy called out, "What’s that over there?" She could see a hazy form of green and pink resting upon the floor like a cloud low on the horizon. The huge form immediately began to move, and could be recognized as Eureka the Pink Kitten, who wore about her neck a collar of emerald green.

"Why Eureka! Are you back so soon?" exclaimed Betsy.

"Yes, I’ve returned; and if you want to know why, you must question that wicked Glass Cat who is kept around here for reasons that, I confess, I can’t comprehend," responded Eureka with the languid indignation typical of cats.

"The Glass Cat again!" snorted Cap’n Bill. "Seems she’s into ever’thing at once."

Eureka told how Bungle had misdirected her. "It was what we used to call in Kansas a wild duck chase, for when I got to the Tin Castle the Tin Woodman was there with the Scarecrow just like normal; and of course there was no sign of Glinda at all. I turned over in my mind whether to go on directly to Glinda’s castle down south; but I became anxious."

"Were you worried about us, dear?" asked Dorothy.

"No. I was anxious to see the Glass Cat punished."

"Bungle cannot be blamed for her attitude, for she is an artificial creature and acts in accord with how she is made," said Ozma to Eureka, gently. "But your heart is able to feel affection, and I know you feel some for the Glass Cat."

"Perhaps so," replied Eureka as she licked a paw. "But it must run very, very deep."

"And now, Princess, I think the ball is in your court," said the little Wizard of Oz. "If a rescue expedition is to be organized, it is you who must authorize it."

"The al-ter-na-tive is to a-wait the ar-ri-val of the sor-cer-ess Glin-da, and thus to re-gain our pro-per sta-tures," noted Tik-Tok, who was being carefully rewound by Trot even as he spoke these words.

"But we don’t actually know whether Glinda can assist us, or how long the process of reversal will take," Ozma said thoughtfully.

"She’s a whiz with magic and all," Cap’n Bill observed. "But this special reducing diet the Wizard has exposed us to strikes me as mostly scientific and mechanical, not s’much magical."

"That is a very excellent point," yawned the Hungry Tiger—for some people tend to yawn when they are hungry. "I suspect mechanics wasn’t much stressed during her education, hmm?"

"There is a further reason why I have decided we ought not wait for Glinda," said Ozma. "Perhaps the Pink Kitten is mistaken in supposing that what Bungle said she overheard is just so much mischief. It may prove to be the case that Glinda was indeed making a visit to the Tin Woodman, but simply had not yet arrived."

"Didn’t think of that," Eureka admitted. "I just went with the odds, you know."

"Then as you have made your decision, Your Highness, the next step is to name the members of your expedition, and to plan its actions," advised the Wizard.

"I appoint all of you," Ozma responded. "I know you all wish to go, and I know anyone left behind would feel disappointed."

They all bowed to their sovereign in one way or another, even the animals: though Tik-Tok’s bow was what some might term perfunctory and mechanical.

"I suppose I don’t mind going," mewed the Pink Kitten. "But I won’t have it gotten about that my purpose is to rescue that crazed article of rotten glass Bungle. I think Ruggedo the Nome King is the main danger, as he is not only wicked but smart; unlike Bungle, who is only wicked."

"Old Ruggedo surely is the main event," agreed Dorothy. "Ozma, maybe we ought to bring along a canteen of water from the Forbidden Fountain."

The Forbidden Fountain, on the grounds of the palace, was so named because of a sign attached to it forbidding anyone to drink of its inviting waters. These waters, the Waters of Oblivion, caused anyone who drank to forget everything about themselves and to become as a child.

"Those waters are a marvel and a miracle, without a doubt," observed the Shaggy Man. "But I can’t help saying that they’ve been more than a little over-sold in their time—like hair tonics. The Nome King himself took the gulp twice already, and all that really happened was that he changed his name."

"That’s so," conceded Ozma. "It seems the effect wears off over time, especially when one is exposed again to old surroundings and habits. A person might even become immune, eventually."

"Guess you’re right," Dorothy said. "But what’ll we do?"

Ozma plopped herself down on the floor, no longer affecting the airs of a royal princess but acting like the young girl she really was. "I don’t really know what to do," she said. "Ruggedo still has all the magical abilities of his race. We can hardly win by going up against him directly; not when we are so small in size."

"I am sometimes annoyed by tics, and have to scratch," remarked the Cowardly Lion after a long and silent moment. "Being the size we are, we might crawl up Ruggedo’s legs and bite him."

"We’re talkin’ about a fellow made all o’ rock," Cap’n Bill retorted scornfully. "I’d like t’ see even your big teeth bite into a hunk o’ granite, Lion."

"Well, I have some advice for our princess," said the Wizard, hastening to forestall a quarrel. "I think we ought to do what we must to get ourselves close to Ruggedo and Bungle—as close as possible. Along the way we might think of something; in any event, we will have to be close if we are to put any plan into operation."

"My clock-work men-tal-i-ty has come to the same con-clu-sion," Tik-Tok droned.

"Then that is just what we shall do," decreed the Rightful Ruler of Oz.

"We’ll need something to transport us, Ozma," Betsy Bobbin noted. "You know, with Eureka here as our go-between, we could speak to Hank and ask him to help us." Hank the Mule was Betsy’s personal friend among the palace livestock.

"Would not the Sawhorse be the better choice?" asked the Shaggy Man. "He is tireless and swift, which would be an advantage."

Dorothy thought of her Yellow Hen. "There’s Billina, too—and she can fly—a little bit—and lay eggs."

Ozma laughed sweetly at these many suggestions. "What a lot to choose from! But I don’t suppose any of them is as good at tracking scents as is our Pink Kitten here. And also, we must remember that Ruggedo seems to intend to visit Mangaboo, and we might not cross his path before then. Though Dorothy and the Wizard may happen to recall something of the way, Eureka has memories of the smell of the route, not just how it looks to the eye; and that does double-duty for us."

Dorothy walked over to her Pink Kitten as if to pet her, but of course that was not possible. She could only pat the end of Eureka’s toe-nail. "Do you remember Mangaboo, Eureka, and the way we took when we left there?"

"I have a scent-picture of it in my mind, to be sure," replied Eureka. "But I trust you remember that we never did reach the top of the ground at the end of our climb. Ozma transported us with that Magic Belt she has."

"That’s true enough," said Ozma, "but perhaps it is not as important as you think. I have studied Professor Wogglebug’s map of Oz and the surrounding countries a great deal over the years, and I know how to find that portion of the top of the earth that lies closest to the underground kingdom of Mangaboo. All that is needed is for Eureka to guide us the last little bit, when we go down into the earth."

"Well, if that’s all you require, Your Majesty, I suppose I can accommodate you," said Eureka. "But I’m no luxury liner. You’ll have to make yourselves as comfortable as possible on my back somewhere. And I’m warning you—anyone who chooses to act like a flea or a tic will be scratched away without hesitation; for I can’t help it." She said this with a meaningful glance toward the Cowardly Lion.

The matter was settled, then. Ozma’s silver wand conveyed the members of the expedition of rescue to a nice little valley that lay just behind Eureka’s shoulder blades, where, nudged up against the roots of the kitten’s pink fur, they could not easily be dislodged. The expeditioners consisted of the Wizard, Dorothy, Tik-Tok, Trot, Cap’n Bill, Betsy, the Shaggy Man, and the two once-great beasts the Cowardly Lion and the Hungry Tiger; with Princess Ozma, Rightful Ruler of Oz, their commander.

"All right!" bellowed the Cowardly Lion—for it was a long way to Eureka’s ears, and his was the most powerful voice. "Forward march!"

Having been given some general directions by Ozma, the Pink Kitten again departed the emerald palace, heading to the west.

Ozma’s army, whose name is Omby Amby, saw Eureka streak past as he stood at attention beside the gateway to the palace grounds. "There she goes again," he said to himself. "One wonders what a little pink kitten could have to do that could be of any importance at all."





 

Chapter Eleven

The Ship of the Sandamanders

 

 

After another solid day of monotonous walking through the old tunnel of the Nomes, the Glass Cat called a halt.

"Do remember, Your Supreme Boulder-Dash, that I can only be expected to lead you down a route that I myself have been over," said Bungle imperiously. "If this dreary hole-way leads to your former haunts, we shall have to get out of it beforehand."

Ruggedo reddened like molten lava. He was not accustomed to being addressed in this saucy a manner, and as he slowly became more and more his old self, he was growing accustomed to it even less. "You dare take such a tone with me, you transparently obtuse quasi-feline? Let me remind you—"

"Oh, stop it!" commanded Junipee with so much authority in her voice that both the Nome King and the Glass Cat were taken aback. "Ruggy, you need Eureka to get where you want to go, and it isn’t rocket science to figure that you should give her some slack. As for you, cat—"

"What about me?" demanded Bungle.

Junipee had no ready response, for she had not thought ahead, and so she was glad when Stot chortled, "Carry on, Yoo-reeka!"

They trudged on again, and when Ruggedo had calmed down he said, "Very well, madam. From what place on the surface does your trail begin?"

The Glass Cat recollected what the brown mouse had told her. "No doubt you know of a certain mountain shaped like the top of a pineapple?"

"I do," said Ruggedo. "It lies within the Land of the Phanfasms, just over the border from the Nome Dominions." He became rather nervous. "I hope you’re not suggesting that we must have some contact with those awful Phanfasms!"

"I doubt they’d give me any trouble," Bungled replied. "And ‘I don’t care’ what they do to you, rock-heap—to quote one of your memorable utterances. But in any event, we won’t be needing to stop and ask directions."

"They don’t sound nice," commented Stot. "Are they people?"

"Honestly, Stot!" remonstrated his sister. "Everyone is ‘people’!"

"Mr. King isn’t."

"Well, no," she admitted.

"And the cat is made of glass."

"That’s true. But there are different kinds of people, and these are just two more of the kinds."

"To give the child his answer, the Phanfasms are a kind of fairy-people called erbs," Ruggedo explained. "They are quite selfish beings of an evil nature, and their sorcery is powerful indeed. We would do well to avoid them and their dwelling place atop Mount Phantastico."

Stot sighed. "Couldn’t we ask them to do just a few tricks?"

"We could not," replied the Nome King.

They travelled along for a few more hours. Then Ruggedo announced that he could sense that they were no longer beneath the Deadly Desert and had in fact crossed beneath the border of his old dominions, where it would be safe to come to the surface.

"About time!" grumbled the Glass Cat, and the other two surface-dwellers did not disagree. Ruggedo created another of his up-and-down holes, and in minutes they were again standing in the open air, gazing at the sun, which was low and red.

"Now then," Ruggedo said. "If we walk due south along the edge of the desert, I rather think we shall arrive at Eureka’s mountain by no later than the middle of tomorrow."

Junipee shook her head. "I rather think we won’t. We have to sleep, and we have to eat." The Winkies had given them some sandwiches to eat, and some water-lillies to drink from; but by now they were all used up.

Ruggedo scowled, but said only, "Very well."

Just to be disagreeable, Bungle interjected: "So you may say, but it’s not so well unless you find some human food for these two."

"How trying it must be to be a meat-person. Look about you." The Nome King gestured grandly, indicating the barren rocky landscape that constituted the upper shell of his former domain. "My nose twitches from the delicious aroma of no less than four hundred varieties of tasty minerals, sumptuous gems, and rich metals. They lie about your feet; but you are unable to partake of them."

"Is there any rock-candy?" inquired Stot with enthusiasm.

"Why of course, child!" responded the Nome. "There is a whole canyon of sweet blue pumice chips not far from—"

"Stot, he doesn’t talk like normal people do; don’t pay him any attention, and don’t eat anything that he picks off the ground!" ordered Junipee in her most motherly tone.

"I think, Stonework Santa, you’d do well to concentrate on digging up some meat and potatoes," purred the Glass Cat.

Very few meat-people dwelt upon the surface of the Nome Dominions. It was not that the Nomes were particularly unfriendly to them; but the underground creatures were naturally taciturn, and the land itself was dry and unfertile—quite the opposite of the Land of Oz. There was another difference, too. This land beyond the desert was subject to extremes of heat and cold which were unknown to the Ozites. All the more reason to find shelter as well as food for Junipee and Stot; but the old Nome King had no idea where to seek after it.

"I daren’t take you into the Nome caverns beneath us," he observed, "for the Nomes would tell Kaliko, and we’d all be in the stew for it."

As they had been talking the sun had been sinking lower, and now it was mostly behind the distant high mountains. The sky was becoming dark and starry.

"My keen emerald eyesight has detected something," declared Bungle presently. "Perhaps you’d care to know what it is."

"What?" asked Junipee.

"Straight ahead is a light, which just now came on. It may be coming from a house."

"I hope it’s a restaurant," Stot declared.

Junipee frowned, for she had picked up some fright from Ruggedo: fear can be caught just like a cold. "It’s not—those Fantasmagores—is it?"

"How should I know?" demanded the Glass Cat. "I only see a light, not the plaque over the door-bell."

"We will approach with due caution," said Ruggedo in a low voice. "But we are still very far from Mount Phantastico." He said this mostly to reassure himself, for he was very much afraid of the evil Phanfasms.

They all crept toward the light, each in his own way. Junipee simply walked as softly as she could. Stot simply walked; he knew nothing of being quiet, except that it involved not talking. The Nome King made a comical figure, tiptoeing on his sticklike legs and twiglike feet, his round body hovering above them like a tethered balloon. As for Bungle she continued as always, for creeping is what cats do by right of birth.

The light turned out to be a good deal further away than they had supposed. When they drew near at long last, what they found was not a camp fire, nor a house, nor a restaurant.

"A pirate ship!" squeeled Stot in delight, causing Junipee to shush him.

"Is that what a pirate is shipped in, Your Mud-jesty?" asked the Glass Cat of Ruggedo, who glared back in silence.

Whether or not it was a pirate ship, it most surely was some sort of ship. Its high curving sides were made of wooden planks, it had a pointed prow and a squared-off stern, and a sort of wooden filligree all around the flat top, which was evidently a deck. Two tall masts rose from this deck, cloth sails rigged upon each, and at the top of each mast was a long banner. The light they had seen emanated from a single lantern that hung from a hook low down on the forward mast.

But the most notable thing about this old-fashioned ship was the fact that there was no water anywhere for it to float in. Instead it rested upon huge spoked wheels like those of a wagon, two on each side. Each of the wheels was at least twenty feet across, and the bottom-beam of the ship was lifted by them to several feet above the ground.

"Do you know what it is, Ruggedo?" asked Junipee. "It looks like a Spanish galleon, or a frigate—or something."

"Well that narrows it down, eh?" the Nome King responded with sarcasm.

Their voices evidently carried, for several dark silhouettes suddenly appeared at the railings on the deck, and a voice cried out: "Who? Who? Who goes there?"

"Oh, we’re not going just yet," Junipee called back. "We’re just out for a walk and wondered if you could spare a bite to eat."

As if in answer a rope ladder shot out from the deck and unrolled down the side of the ship.

"That’s neat!" laughed little Stot. "The pirates like us!"

"That is a hasty assumption," warned Bungle. "But I don’t suppose they can do anything to me, and I am inclined to indulge my curiosity." She leapt up upon the bottom of the ladder and swiftly struggled her way to the top, assisted by her sharp glass claws.

Seeing nothing else to do, the other three climbed the rope ladder to the deck; and then Stot commenced to giggle, for he found the appearance of his new hosts amusing indeed.

They were surrounded by a crowd of men and women whose forms were most unusual—at least, the two children had never run across anything like them. The men were handsome and square-jawed, and they wore upon their heads peculiar hats that resembled baby bonnets, with long plumes, like those of a peacock, stuck on. The women were fair of face, and wore no hats; there wouldn’t have been room enough for hats, for their hair was piled-up in a variety of exotic and decorous style, adorned also with more of the bright-colored plumes.

This was perhaps enough to bring on Stot’s fit of glee. But in case it wasn’t, from the neck down the creatures had the bodies of lobsters, complete with big claws. At the bottom they had legs like kangaroos or rabbits, with long flat feet. They were clothed in garments of soft cloth wrapped about them criss-cross fashion, and they all wore leather boots.

One man stepped forward and said in a commanding voice, "I am The Admiral Whose Name Shall Not Be Pronounced, and these are my crew." He motioned one of the women to come to his side. "This is my wife, She Who Must Not Be Obeyed."

Junipee rolled her eyes. "Do we really need to meet more weird-folk?" she asked, looking reproachfully at Ruggedo.

"It is you who simply had to have food!" he retorted. He then nodded at the Admiral. "I am Ruggedo, King of the Nomes and All Subsidiary Veins, Pockets, and Dominions." (You will notice he neglected to include the word former.) "May I see your papers, if you please?"

"We do not please, for we have no papers," replied the Admiral.

"I see, I see. Then you are breaking the law; for my word is law, and I tell you you must have papers to be here in my country."

"What sort of papers?" asked the Admiral.

"I have not decided yet," said the Nome King.

"Then perhaps while you are deciding, you and your companions will accept our hospitality." The Admiral turned to Junipee. "Was it you who spoke of food?"

Junipee nodded, but it was Stot who replied aloud, saying, "I don’t like lobster!"

"Neither do we," said the Admiral with a smile; "we don’t care to eat it, for we are it."

"Not all of you," the Glass Cat pointed out. "But most of you is—the majority by a good percent, I’d say. You’re each quite a compilation."

"We are Sandamanders," said She Who, with a pleasant smile. "All of our people look just as you see."

Junipee glanced about. "Are these here everybody?"

The Admiral chuckled at this. "No, not at all. There are many thousands of us. We live beneath the sands of the desert, which are quite transparent to our sort of eyes."

"The Deadly Desert?" Stot repeated in surprise. "I thought it was poison!"

"Not to Sandamanders," She Who responded. "We call it the Desert of the Sands of Life."

"Then you ought to have stayed there!" snapped the Nome King peevishly. "You are treading your sands upon my precious ground, and I didn’t say you could. It is my law that no one in this country can do anything without asking."

"But you see, we are explorers," the man continued. "We wish to see what we can of this upper world, where none of us can survive without wrapping ourselves in packages of our lifegiving sands. Our first explorers discovered wood, which we used to construct this wheelship of ours. It took a great many years to complete it, and to perfect the great cloth panels of propulsion you see above you."

"They’re called sails," Stot said.

"When the movement of the atmospheric envelope fills them—"

"The wind," commented Bungle.

"—it causes the wheelship to roll forward," concluded the Admiral.

As there was a pause, Junipee asked, "Why can’t anyone pronounce your name?"

"Because it consists of thirteen syllables, with no vowels," he said. "That is the case with all our names; which is why we use what we call ‘gnick-gnames’ to refer to one another."

"My curiosity is more than satisfied," declared the Glass Cat. "In fact, it is satiated. If you have any human food, do serve it up."

"We won’t have to eat sand, will we?" It was Stot, of course, who had to ask this.

The wife of the Admiral shook her head, causing the plumes in her hair to waggle about. "No indeed. We have used our overhearing-tubes to listen to you of the upper world for a good many years, though we could not see you. In that way we learned what you queer clawless creatures like to eat. We brought human foods along with us, as signs of friendship, and we will be glad to let you eat as much of it as you like."

A table was set for Junipee and Stot upon the deck, and several of the Sandamanders went below to fetch the food.

"I hope you have a ’fridge so the food didn’t spoil," Junipee commented.

"We don’t require such a thing," a young Sandamander replied, whose name was Minor Character of Little Importance. "Our sands confer the gift of eternity upon all things. Time is made to stand still for such things as food, and thus they cannot go bad." Minor quickly added that the sands, which would have been deadly to the children if touched, had been carefully plucked away from the edibles and the plates upon which they would be served.

The foodstuffs turned out to be slices of different kinds of pie, all of them equally fresh and delicious; fruit pies, meat pies, vegetable pies, even ice cream pies. The children were filled up and then given comfortable bunks to sleep in, for which they were grateful.

The Nome King and the Glass Cat lingered above deck, talking in low tones to the Admiral.

"You are not very far from the edge of the desert here," said Bungle.

"No. This is as far as we got. I’m afraid we are becalmed," responded the Admiral. "But we anticipate moving along any time now—perhaps tomorrow."

"How long has your ship been stuck here?" inquired Bungle’s curiosity.

"How long? Let me see." The Admiral thought for a moment, as if counting things up in his head. "As of this noon, it was three-hundred and nineteen years."

"A long time to be waiting for a breeze," Ruggedo said, puffing on his long-stemmed rock pipe.

"Do you think so?" returned the Sandamander. "Time means nothing to us. And tomorrow may solve all our problems; so we find it best to be content."





 

Chapter Twelve

Across Under Inside

 

 

The Pink Kitten may not have been a "luxury liner," but to travel upon her back turned out to be surprisingly pleasant nonetheless, for cats are able to slink along smoothly and gracefully even at running speed—when they want to. There was a fairly gentle, continuous rolling motion from side to side, and it proved easy for the reduced Ozites to converse with one another, securely wedged between the roots of Eureka’s hairs.

"Y’know, Wizard, I’ve been thinking," said Princess Dorothy.

"Very brave of you, my dear," rejoined the little Wizard, who happed to have the hair next to her.

Dorothy smiled. "When I first went to Mangaboo with Eureka and cousin Zeb—he’s my second-cousin, you know—and his horse Jim—"

"I remember them," said the Wizard.

"We got to the Mangaboo city when we fell down a big crack during an earthquake. It swallered-up the whole buggy, horse and all."

"Yes; and I descended into a similar crack in my demonstration balloon, which is how we came together down below."

"But here’s the thing, Wizard," Dorothy said very seriously. "I came down from California, and you came down from Nebraska, which is halfway across the United States, and we both ended up in the same place right in the middle of the earth. Then we climbed up out of there, and it wasn’t so very long before we came to that place where we could see sunlight up above—so we were near the surface."

"Go on," said the Wizard.

"Well you must see it too, don’t you? We just couldn’t have climbed up to the surface so quickly as all that. The world is pretty big, and it must be hundreds of miles from the center to the outside."

"Your logic is quite impeccable, Dorothy," chuckled the Wizard, his eyes twinkling merrily. "But you might as well wonder how there could be a hollow deep down in the earth at all; or how a cyclone could carry your old house all the way to Oz—which is nearer Australia than Kansas."

"Then what’s the answer?"

The Wizard laughed gently at little Dorothy’s earnestness. "Ah, the answer, my dear, is that as soon as you and I went deeply into the ground, we passed beyond the confines of our common, ordinary earth and entered fairyland; or perhaps I should say, the fairy-earth, for it seems a very big place, doesn’t it?"

"Ozma brought me from Kansas to Oz more than once," said the little girl. "But she used her Magic Belt to do it. All you and I did was fall down a hole."

"That’s true," agreed the Wizard. "But I have come to realize that our globe isn’t really ours after all—just a thin little bit of it covering most of the outside, like the skin of an apple. Go down or up very far and you find secret pockets of magic that lead you to fairy-places like Oz, or Mangaboo. That is what I think happened to us, dear Dorothy, and that is why we mustn’t be too surprised if even the distances from one place to another refuse to settle down in an ordinary way."

The girl nodded as if she understood; which indeed she almost did. And she knew that even the parts she didn’t quite understand were full of wisdom.

Eureka ran on in her dedicated way, stopping now and then for food, drink, or rest when she needed it. When night came, she was careful to sleep with her chin resting on her paws, never endangering those who were camped upon her back by rolling over.

At dawn the westward trek began anew. It was easy to lose track of time there upon the back of the Pink Kitten, and Dorothy must have dozed off; for it seemed that little time had passed when she felt a gentle paw touching the top of her head.

"Wake up, little princess," murmured the Cowardly Lion. "I am afraid to say that we have stopped."

"Why’re you afraid?"

"First, because I am the Cowardly Lion and am always afraid. But more importantly, because we have come to the western borders of Oz at the desert, and the desert is a dangerous place."

The party all climbed down to the ground by way of Eureka’s right foreleg. As they were out in the open and not upon a tiled floor, the ground was very uneven, which seemed to our travellers like a landscape of hills and boulders, with clumps of yellow grass here and there like tall trees.

"Can you see the desert, cat?" called Cap’n Bill in a bellow. "I can’t see a blame thing from here next t’ the ground."

Came the distant, somewhat thunderous reply, "Within two more steps the grass and plants stop, and there is a slope that ends in gray desert sands. What do you want me to do now, Your Highness?"

"Do you see any sign of the Glass Cat, or of the old Nome King?" Ozma inquired, speaking into the tip of the silver wand, which conveyed her voice to Eureka’s pink ears.

"I see neither a sign, nor the individuals themselves," said Eureka.

"Seems it’s just as you thought, Ozma," the Shaggy Man remarked. "If we are to run into those two, it will have to be by going down the hole to that underground kingdom of the Mango-boogles."

"First we must get to the other side of the Deadly Desert without losing our lives; for the protective enchantment of Oz does not extend beyond its borders," said Ozma.

"It is my o-pin-ion that if a-ny of you li-ving be-ings were to lose your lives it would de-feat our purpose, for you would be in a bad po-si-tion to find them a-gain," Tik-Tok pronounced.

"Why Tik-Tok, you could walk across the sands yourself!" Dorothy noted excitedly. "The sands won’t hurt you, for you’re not alive in the first place, and they couldn’t do anything to metal. You could carry us across, one by one."

"A mo-ment of clear re-flec-tion will dis-a-buse you of that no-tion," the clockwork man responded. "I would sink deep-ly in-to this great sand trap."

Ozma wafted herself to the top of a pebble so that she could be easily seen and heard by all, and there she sat herself down. Said she, "I was hoping that by now a safe means of crossing the desert would have occurred to me; but it hasn’t. What of the rest of you?—for you are all my royal advisors."

"It might be well to review all the ways we know whereby our enemy the desert has been conquered in the past," suggested the Wizard, doffing his old-fashioned top hat. "I, of course, have specialized in balloon trips."

"But we have no balloon," Ozma said.

"Very true," admitted the former ruler of the land.

"Let me see, how was it Hank and I came over to Oz?" asked Betsy Bobbin of herself. "Oh, I remember! The Wizard did a bit of his magic, and it moved us clear ’cross the desert without touching it."

"It would carry us all in the other direction with ease," noted Ozma. "Unfortunately, it requires several magical instruments and powders, all of which are locked up in the Wizard’s bag in the palace."

"As for us, Ozma, Trot ’n I came by air," declared Cap’n Bill.

"We were carried by a funny sort of bird called an Ork," continued his little comrade. "He had a tail that spun ’round, like a propeller. But I don’t s’pose you have a way to get a message to the land of the Orks, do you, Princess?"

"I’m afraid not," she replied.

Now Dorothy spoke up. "Well, I guess I’ve been back and forth the most of any of us. First I came with my whole house in a cyclone. Then I went back to Kansas on the Silver Shoes. Next I came back across the desert on that magic carpet you had, Ozma—the one that rolls out in front of you and rolls back up behind. After that it was the Magic Belt that did it, the one that used to belong to the Nome King."

"You are indeed the most seasoned traveller amongst us, Dorothy," said Ozma with a warm smile. "But there are no cyclones forecast for the Country of the Winkies, the carpet is tucked away in the royal closet, and even all of us together would not be able to wear the Magic Belt around us to make it work."

"What about those shoes?" yawned the Hungry Tiger. "The silver models?"

"They won’t do, for they fell off when they took me back home, and nobody knows just where they are now," Dorothy explained.

Ozma sighed a royal sigh. "I myself crossed over the deadly sands on the flying Gump long ago."

Trot asked, "Can Gumps fly? I thought they were like mooses."

"The Gump in question was just a Gump’s head mounted on a plaque, which we attached to a thrown-together contraption made of sofas, palm leaves, and a broom. It was brought to life by a powder. Alas, the Gump was taken apart again, and we have no more of the powder to create a new one, or anything like it."

"Then, to use an old seaman’s turn o’ phrase, I’d say we’re sunk," declared Cap’n Bill.

The great rumbly voice of the Pink Kitten now was heard. "I don’t know if it matters, but something is going on a ways out in the desert."

"What sort of thing?" asked Ozma.

"I’m sure I wouldn’t know what sort it is," responded Eureka. "To my eyes it’s just a cloud of sand and dust and so on."

"Must be one of those desert whirlwinds they call a ‘dust devil’," commented the Shaggy Man. "I’ve seen a few of them in my life."

But Eureka disagreed. "It’s not whirling, it’s spouting—like a fountain. And I do believe it’s coming closer. If you want to climb on again, people, I will carry you away to some safer spot."

"No!" commanded Princess Ozma. "I still retain my fairy intuitions, and they tell me that this is somehow a good turn of fortune for us."

So the Pink Kitten remained where she was, with the minute Oz people crowded close to her. The spout of dust and sand grew and shrank in spurts, but in general was approaching the border. Suddenly a large and bulky form rose up from the desert sands beneath the spout. It was a living creature, and the plume of dust was squirting up from a hole in the middle of the creature’s back.

"It’s rounded, and stretches out behind in a tail with a couple of things that curve to a point, which flap back and forth in the sand," said Eureka, knowing that the others could not see it.

"Aye then! Sounds like a whale t’me," cried Cap’n Bill. "But it’s lost its way pretty badly if it’s flounderin’ around in the desert."

The sand-whale came to rest right at the downslope that rose from the desert and became the Country of the Winkies. It let out a great deep breath and seemed to deflate a bit; then it opened an eye—a blue one—and calmly regarded the Pink Kitten, who was a very tiny thing by comparison.

"If that color is meant to impress me," it said in a squishy and not terribly pleasant voice, "you might as well turn it off, little thing, for I do not impress easily."

"It isn’t meant for you at all," the cat replied. "And if your plan is to be smart or insolent, I will do you the favor of informing you that I am a member of the court of Princess Ozma of Oz, and it is her country that you are rubbing your nose against."

"Accept my apologies," said the creature. "Had I known you were of any importance, I would have spoken more carefully."

"Who and what are you, anyway?"

"Who and what—that is two questions—let me see now." He was silent for a time. He might have scratched his head, if he had had hands. "My name is Oot; so that is who I am. As to what I am, I am a kwokkle."

Eureka remembered Cap’n Bill’s comment and said, "You appear to be a whale of some kind and degree."

"That illustrates the maxim that appearances can be deceiving," Oot responded. "A kwokkle has no more to do with whales than with butterflies. Whales are mammals that live in the oceans; kwokkles are voiptiggs that live in the sands of enchanted deserts."

"How is it that you can stay alive in this desert?" inquired the Pink Kitten. "Its sands destroy all life and turn living substance to dust; or didn’t you know?"

"I didn’t. I wish you hadn’t told me, for now I suppose I'm obligated to die." There was a pause, which was just long enough for Eureka to realize that Oot was speaking in terms of heavy irony. Then he said, "The enchantment is only meant to affect ordinary surface life, not those who cannot exist for long in this outer air of yours. We kwokkles swim through the sands and dust with ease; we even breathe it."

The Pink Kitten licked her paw in a calculated show of feline bravado. "Must be a rather dull sort of life down there."

"Not at all," the kwokkle replied. "I have my friends, you know—or perhaps you don’t—and I have my work, too; for we are bred to serve the people who live as we do within the desert, the Sandamanders. We pull their wagons and provide transportation."

Now Ozma and the others had been attending to this conversation with great interest, though they could not see the kwokkle, as to them he was too large and distant. When Oot pronounced the word "transportation" the Princess of Oz brightened and whispered something into Eureka’s ear.

"The Rightful Ruler desires to cross the Deadly Desert and, of course, she cannot touch its sands," explained the cat. "So I am commanded to ask you, kwokkle, if you would be willing to carry Ozma and her party to the other side."

"How many?" Oot inquired.

"Oh—a handful," said Eureka.

"And shall I be paid for my services?"

This was a complication Eureka had not anticipated. "No; for money is not used in this Land of Oz at all."

"Good enough," responded Oot. "If you had offered money I would have refused to do anything for you, as it is insulting; but I’m glad to do a favor for free. However," he went on, "you cannot ride upon my back, for I must submerge now and then to remain alive, and the sands would destroy you."

When Ozma heard this she frowned, but the Wizard spoke up and said, "Have Eureka ask the creature if he has ever heard of Jonah and the whale."

This Eureka did, and Oot answered, "Of course. I am well-educated. Jonah was the mortal human who set up housekeeping inside a whale for some length of time. Now, is that an idea? It might be." Oot shut his eye, and the Pink Kitten wondered if he had drifted off to sleep. But he was only thinking. "I suppose it would work," he said at last. "I can hold a small number of persons in my mouth, if there are not too many. There will be air inside, and the sands can’t enter; and I shall refrain from swallowing."

"The royal party is rather on the small side today, and if you can accommodate me, they will present no additional trouble," said Eureka.

While Oot was scouring out every last grain of sand from his cavernous mouth, using his tongue (which was the size of a bedsheet), the Ozites climbed back upon the Pink Kitten and made themselves comfortable. Then the kwokkle opened wide and Eureka jumped in, with a gulp that she hoped Oot would not imitate.

The kwokkle snapped shut his huge mouth. It was dark, but not completely so: a deep reddish light shone from deep within the creature’s throat.

"He must be flame-powered," observed the Wizard.

"Mayhaps driven by coal and a boiler," Cap’n Bill suggested. "Though sails full o’ wind are what I like, I’ve been on many a steamship in my time, and I can’t say much bad about ’em."

The Shaggy Man, who knew a bit about machines, then joined in; and so the journey of the expedition of rescue, across the desert under its surface within the mouth of a sand-whale, was launched amid a lively discussion.

Oot angled down at first as he dove deep into the sands, and the Pink Kitten had to hold on to his tongue with her sharp claws, which seemed not to bother the kwokkle in the least. Presently he leveled off, and the only sensation felt by his passengers was a steady weaving back and forth as the beast swung his muscular tail from side to side. They went on like this for hours. Their forward motion must have been swift indeed, for the same journey that took up a couple days for Ruggedo and his party was accomplished in half of a single day.

Finally there was another feeling of slanting, this time upward; and then a little bump as Oot came to a stop. He opened his mouth, admitting daylight, and Eureka said to those riding upon her, "We’ve arrived somewhere; and that’s more than good enough to me." For no cat enjoys being held captive in another creature’s mouth.





 

Chapter Thirteen

On A Mysterious Mountain

 

 

 

The former Nome King was most anxious to resume the road to the Land of the Mangaboos, knowing as he did that only a certain article owned by the Mangaboo Queen would allow him to regain his precious Magic Belt.

He aimed to steal that article. It is safe to say that old Ruggedo had become very much his old self and resumed his former ways and habits. He had lived for a great many years in the purple Country of the Gillikins in Oz, and that had been long enough to wear away most of the effects of the Forbidden Fountain. Year by year a bit of his memory had come back to him, and by the time he had met Junipee and Stot he could recall every detail of every slight and indignity visited upon him by Dorothy and Ozma and their varied comrades.

Still and all, it was not until Ruggedo actually left the Land of Oz completely, while he was walking through the tunnel under the desert, that the good in him was really snuffed out. The lovely and loving fairyland of Oz has been subject to a wonderful enchantment for many centuries of years, which has preserved the innocence of its inhabitants. As long as a Rightful Ruler of Oz is rightfully ruling, true evil cannot show its face in anyone. And Ozma has been Rightful Ruler for a good long time. But now the former King of the Nomes was free of the Land of Oz and its enchantments.

That is not to say that the Nome’s personal evils were especially bad. It was more the case that Ruggedo was like a selfish and mischievous child who always had to have his way, and felt ever so much aggrieved if he didn’t get it. And besides, truth to tell, he had too much time on his hands in Oz. There is nothing worse than a wicked person who is bored.

At dawn, which is very gray and dismal in the barren wastes above the caverns of the Nomes, even when the sky is clear, Ruggedo insisted that Bungle go to awaken the two children.

"We must begin walking right away," he grumbled. "We must reach that pineapple-shaped mountain for our real journey to commence."

"Your moaning and groaning is a great annoyance to those around you, rugged-rock," commented the Glass Cat haughtily. "If I were you I should look into having myself demolished."

"If I care for your opinion, I’ll read about it in the Sunday paper," snapped Ruggedo in angry reply. He made an ominous circle with his thumb and forefinger, which stirred Bungle’s vanity enough to cause her to slink away to do as he had commanded.

Junipee insisted that the children have a breakfast, and take some food away with them in some of the little sealed containers that the Sandamanders made available. "At least Stot and I won’t suffer along the way," said she.

"Except from the sound of old Ruggedo’s voice," retorted the Glass Cat, who was still pretending to be Eureka.

"I kind of like Ruggy-doo," said Stot. "He’s silly and—"

"And what?" asked his sister.

"And round like a ball."

Bidding the Sandamanders farewell, the four climbed down to the ground and headed off in the direction where Ruggedo thought the pineapple-top mountain lay. For hours they walked along steadily with little that you could call real conversation—just occasional muttered complaints from Ruggedo, replies from Bungle, and giggles from Stot at the both of them.

The pale gray sun rose high, paused, and began creeping down again very slowly across a dull cardboard-colored sky.

Finally Junipee said, "Just how long will it be before we get to anyplace at all?"

"I thought we would be able to see the mountain by now," admitted the Nome King. "Could I be mis-remembering? If so, blame it on the Oz people and their evil fount of forgetfulness."

"But what shall we do?" persisted the girl. "We can’t just keep walking."

"My metal content is fairly high, and I have a good deal of endurance," Ruggedo said. "But I suppose I oughtn’t forget the limitations of you lesser creatures. And what would you advise, little meat-girl?"

"We should ask directions," was her reply.

"An incisive plan indeed," said Ruggedo; "lacking only one ingredient for success, a person we could ask directions of."

"We’re people!" cried Stot. "We could ask each other." But no one cared for the little boy’s suggestion.

They now entered a flat, featureless plain that stretched on for many miles. By good fortune it wasn’t hot, just mildly warm, but without even a slight breeze to refreshen them.

"I’m getting tired, Juney," said Stot after a time.

"I know," Junipee replied. "You haven’t had your nap. But I’m tired, too."

"Your flesh must be wearing out prematurely," was Ruggedo’s comment. "We are walking along on as level a place as I’ve ever seen, and at no great speed at all, for your sakes; and still you complain."

"And you complain of their complaints, which is a complaint-squared," Bungle added. "I have no muscles inside, as you can all easily see. Nothing makes me tired, except the rest of you."

But the two children were not inspired by this, and trudged on more and more slowly. Even the Nome King found that he was slowing down with every step. "It is this infernal flatness," he declared. "It’s unnatural."

The Glass Cat was also affected, though not in quite the same way. She found herself hearing thngs she could not account for. Now and then there seemed to be faint whispers, or the beginnings of soft words suddenly broken-off. And there were sounds like scuffings, jostlings, and rustlings in her sharp little ears. Sometimes they made her glance about. But there never was anything to be seen.

"It strikes me that you have forgotten something, Ruggedo," said the cat at last.

"And what might that be?"

"The thing you warned us about," Bungle continued. "You know, the—" But she could not go further, for she could not think of the word.

"What?" asked Ruggedo irritably.

"Oh, you know, Eureka means the—" That was how Junipee began, but her beginning never found an end.

The former Nome King looked very cross, as he thought he was being made fun of. "What?" he demanded.

"It was what you said before, Mr. King," laughed little Stot. "About those—" Then he stopped laughing and looked puzzled. "It’s on my tongue but it won’t jump off!" Stot finished.

"What is?" thundered Ruggedo. "Are you referring to the—" Alas, he was dead-ended as well. "Sulphur and silicates! There was something we were supposed to be very careful of! Now what was it, eh?" All he could do was yank on his beard in irritation.

The foursome had come to a dead stop. Now they fell completely silent. When they had stopped walking, a flat gray plain surrounded them all about; but when they stopped talking, they were no longer in the plain at all but in the middle of a strange little village, on the cut-off top of a mountain, high up in the air.

"Ah!" breathed the Nome King. "Now I recall—the Phanfasms!"

The village consisted of many little huts of mud and wood-bark, scattered haphazardly on all sides of the round open space in which they stood. There was no sign of people, and all was silent.

"How did we get here?" breathed Junipee in fear. She was more afraid than any of the others, for she had to be afraid for Stot as well as herself.

"How indeed?" came a soft and mocking voice from somewhere. But try as they would, they could see not a soul anywhere about.

"A well-behaved populace should be seen and not heard," the Glass Cat pronounced; "but these people have it backwards."

"I think—I really think—the Phanfasms are all around us," said Ruggedo, his voice raised to a nervous whisper and his knees shaking beneath him. "They are masters of sorcery, and can appear in whatever form they desire."

Stot’s eyebrows flew up with delight. "You mean those houses are people, Mr. King?"

"Could be," came another voice.

Bungle, ever curious, tried to examine the huts. But they refused to cooperate. When she approached a hut, it seemed to melt away and slide backwards, as the rainbow does. Furthermore, at the corner of her eye she seemed to glimpse the sight of high, beautiful habitations; yet whenever she would look at them directly, they were just poor hovels. "These Phanfasms are wonderful tricksters," said she. "But they don’t yet realize that I am made of glass and especially good at seeing through such things."

Instantly as she said this, the whole scene changed around the four travellers. Now the huts were like small-sized palaces of gleaming gold or silver, dotted with all manner of precious gems. And now there was a crowd around them—a crowd of Glass Cats standing up upon their hind legs, their arms crossed smugly.

"Perhaps you like this better?" inquired one of the cats.

Then the cats changed into boys and girls, the boys all looking like Stot and the girls all looking like Junipee.

"Or do you like this?" asked one of the Junipees.

All at once there were no more boys and girls, only Ruggedos all around them by the dozens and dozens. "Or this?" inquired one of them.

"You can stop there," Ruggedo said. But the Phanfasms did not stop, but changed into winged wolves, and then into huge owls with fangs. Finally—perhaps they were becoming bored—they presented themselves as sweet-faced toddlers in flame-colored jump-suits, and all of eight feet tall.

"Stop trying to scare us!" demanded Junipee.

"We’re not merely trying; we are succeeding," retorted one of the tots, who seemed to be the leader of them. "And that makes us happy indeed, for we relish fear and disappointment and other such things, as long as they are in people other than ourselves."

"It was rude to bring us here," Bungle said calmly. "I belong to the court of a powerful fairy, Princess Ozma of Oz, and she will not take kindly your treatment of me."

The crowd all laughed, and the leader said, "We didn’t bring you here; you brought yourselves. It was you who climbed the winding trail to the top of Mount Phantastico on your own two, or four, legs."

"We didn’t know it was a trail," Junipee objected. "You disguised it."

"So we did," laughed the leader; "and that was a fine bit of work to be sure. Now you are here, and now you will learn the penalty for those who allow themselves to be fooled by the Phanfasms."

"I don’t want to play," Stot said. "It’s not fair."

The leader said, "That is the only kind of game we like."

Stot absorbed this and replied, "Okay." If he were afraid at all, he didn’t show it. This seemed to unsettle the Phanfasms a bit.

"Do not bother to hide your shaking and quivering," advised the leading Phanfasm. "It will all come out soon enough, when you learn of the terrible things we plan to do."

"Okay," said Stot again, indifferently. "What’s your name?"

A mutter ran through the crowd on padded little feet. "I am the First and Foremost Phanfasm of Phantastico," the leader said in reply, no longer smiling with wicked delight.

Stot giggled. "That’s not a name!"

"No," the Phanfasm conceded. "But it is what I am called."

"Don’t you have a real name?"

"Of course I do!" said the First and Foremost with rattled dignity. "It’s—um…" He glanced at the female Phanfasm standing next to him, who shrugged.

"No doubt it’s been a few years since anyone bothered to call you by name," commented the Glass Cat. "It’s slipped your mind, I see."

"Our names are all expressions of sorrow and pain," called out a scowling Phanfasm three rows back. "My name is Urgh."

This made Stot giggle again.

"And I am called Owooo," a girl Phanfasm declared, which made Stot chortle.

"As for me—Hyeek!" was a contribution from near the back. Soon every Phanfasm in the crowd was giving his or her name, one by one; and by the finish of this report Stot was almost weak with helpless laughter.

"That’s good!" he choked gleefully. "Tell me those silly names again!"

"We won’t!" said the First and Foremost (who never had managed to recall his personal name). "We have brought you to our city to stricken you with terror, not to be a bother to us. Is this any way for a guest to behave?"

"Oh, he’s young," said Bungle, winding her way betwixt and between the legs of the crowd. "He doesn’t know enough to use ettiquette, or even to be ‘stricken.’ The girl is too practical-minded to fool around with something so useless as fear, and old Ruggedo here is just a decrepit Nome—even you, F and F, can’t be so stupid as to expect to instill terror in a rock-collection."

"I see," said the leading Phanfasm in disappointment. "What about you, crystalline feline? No doubt you feel a twinge or two, eh?"

Bungle paused and shook her head. "Sorry, but I’m made of glass almost all the way through, as I trust you’ve realized by now. Glass may shake when a milk-truck goes past, or in an earthquake: that’s about it. Glass has no emotions—though I’ve heard it said that I am a tad self-regarding. I’d say you’ve come up dry, as far as finding good candidates for your fear-factory up here."

One of the Phanfasms, who had given his name as Gugnarsh, had assumed a particularly fierce expression, which was directed at the First and Foremost. "Why did you disturb us with this nonsense?" he demanded. "It’s not as if you have such a great work-load, as the only duty of the First and Foremost is to bring us victims for our amusement."

"If you think you can do better, you’re welcome to the job," sulked the leader.

"Now, now, wicked ones, these petty quarrels will get you no-where," chided the Glass Cat. "I have an idea for you. But I cannot announce it aloud; it is for the ears of the First and Foremost alone."

The First and Foremost stepped closer and leaned down—quite a long way down. "Whisper it to me."

Bungle whispered, and the First and Foremost smiled. He then stood upright again and made a grand mysterious gesture of the magical kind.

And by the time the gesture was completed, every trace of Mount Phantastico and the frightful Phanfasms had vanished like a popped soap-bubble. The four travellers were standing again in the dull, craggy wilderness above the caverns of the Nomes.

"Great plutonic puffery!" cried Ruggedo. "Where’d they go?"

"Betcha they’re just fooling us," said Stot.

"No," responded Bungle. "That king of theirs sent us away."

"Now why would he do that?" demanded Junipee. "What did you say to him?"

"Only something clever," the Glass Cat replied. "I pointed out that if he could not enjoy filling his captives with fear, he might nevertheless get something out of the deal by annoying and disappointing his subjects. So I suggested he whisk us away, depriving the Phanfasms of whatever sport they might have planned for us. And then he could take credit for it, which would only help his reputation among those ridiculous people."





 

Chapter Fourteen

Through the Magnifying Glass

 

 

 

When Eureka, the real one, had leapt from the mouth of Oot the Kwokkle and onto the safety of the land that bordered the Deadly Desert on the other side, Ozma asked her to inquire of Oot precisely where they were.

"Couldn’t say," he said. "Geography was never a strong subject for me. I was at my best studying Latin, and making pottery. Now, good day to you." And the great sand-whale laboriously turned about and slithered away into the desert.

"It seems there are many more ways across the desert than we have supposed," remarked the Wizard of Oz. "I wonder, Your Highness, if we ought not pay a bit more attention to national defense."

"I shall consider the matter," said Ozma.

"No ’fense, but I’d just as soon we put off worrying about that till tomorrow," Trot declared. "I’m getting pretty tired of living like a flea."

Cap’n Bill chuckled but nodded. "Aye t’ that, Trot. I’d hate to have any of my old ship-mates see me like this."

"I am of much the same opinion," was the Cowardly Lion’s comment. "The only reason my comrade the Hungry Tiger and I would not be the laughingstock of the forest is that we are too small to be seen."

"I am not em-bar-assed to be of such com-pact sta-ture," said Tik-Tok. "I am gi-ven to un-der-stand that the out-er world re-gards the min-i-a-tur-i-za-tion of ma-chin-er-y to be a great ac-com-plish-ment."

Dorothy cast a look at the Wizard that was both chiding and imploring. "Oh, Wiz, what a fix you’ve got us all into! Do you s’pose the effect of that health lamp will just wear off? It’s not guaranteed, is it?"

"No, my dear," replied the Wizard. "And even if it were, I’m afraid such guarantees are not worth the paper they are written on."

"I once partook of a lotion that was supposed to make me young and handsome, and as energetic as a bull," said the Shaggy Man with a gentle smile. "Alas, it seemed to wear off as the years passed; and now it is too late to get my money back."

"I’m surprised at all of you," Ozma remonstrated, wearing her sternest royal expression. "Our first duty is to rescue the Glass Cat from Ruggedo. Then we will have the leisure to worry about restoring our proper heights." She now spoke into her wand, so that her words would reach the ears of the Pink Kitten. "Eureka, what sort of country has the Kwokkle let us off in?"

The Pink Kitten was already looking about, even before being asked. "It seems like a nice enough country, Princess. There are mouse-plants everywhere."

"You mean house-plants," corrected Ozma.

"Are house-plants usually shaped like mice?"

"Not in my experience."

"Then I think my word for it was the better one," Eureka declared. "All around I see bunches of wriggling mice tied together by their tails, hanging from bushes like flowers."

"That is most pe-cu-li-ar," Tik-Tok observed. "I know some-thing of the lands that sur-round Oz, but I have ne-ver heard of such a thing."

"Well, Tik-Tok, it has been quite a few years since you’ve been over," said Dorothy Gale. "Things do change, you know."

"I do not dis-a-gree," was the response. "I hope we will have the time to learn how this came a-bout."

The Meadow of Mice—that was how Eureka thought of it—started at the very edge of the Deadly Desert and stretched off to the horizon as far as the eye could see. The ground itself was covered with soft green clover and otherwise fairly flat, but one could not go for more than a few yards without running across a mouse-plant. The mouse-buds themselves were in a great variety of sizes and colors, every one of them alive, wiggling, and (now that Eureka came to notice it) squeeking like mice of the usual type.

"It sounds perfectly disgusting!" exclaimed Betsy Bobbin when the Pink Kitten had provided a further description. "I’m ever so glad I don’t have to walk around it it."

"That is because you are a human and not a cat, I should imagine," retorted the Hungry Tiger. "Of course these little mouselings would be nothing but appetizers to one such as I. But to an ordinary American housecat, as Eureka is, they are a dream come true."

"I’d like to see them," said the Wizard. He withdrew from a voluminous pocket in his old-timey coat a little round magnifying glass and held it up to his right eye. The charm of the glass was not affected by being smaller, and with its assistance the Wizard was able to look over their surroundings as well as could Eureka.

"Eureka," he said after a moment, directing his voice at the silver wand (as he was quite an accomplished ventriloquist), "didn’t you say there were mouse-plants all around us?"

"They go on for miles and miles, and they make a delicious sight," Eureka replied. "Don’t you think so?"

"Why, I don’t see a one of them," pronounced the Wizard.

"What do you see?" Ozma inquired.

"I see a grassy park, with winding walkways and benches, and graceful pavilions next to pretty fountains made of cut-glass. There is a little orchestra seated in a bandstand not far away, playing a lively tune—surely you can all hear it now, can’t you? The girls are all wearing gowns of bright colors, and the boys are handsome youths in striped jackets and straw hats."

He lowered the magnifying glass and took note of the blank expressions upon the faces of those all around him. "I remember that tune, I think—from many years back, in Omaha."

"I don’t hear a thing," snorted the Hungry Tiger.

"Nor do I, and my hearing is very acute," said the Cowardly Lion.

"Still, it’s sure the sort o’ thing a person might like t’ see and hear," observed Cap’n Bill. "A certain sort o’ person, anyways. Mind if I take a look-see, Wizard?"

The Wizard handed Bill the glass. He looked through it for quite a while, turning first one way then another. When he lowered it, there was a satisfied smile upon his face.

"Guess you’re the tie-breaker, Bill," Trot said. "Is it the meadow or the park?"

The old captain shook his head thoughtfully. "Not neither. We’re on what half-educated people like me call a spit, a little strip o’ land. On the one side is the desert, on the other the sea, with a right fine sandy beach runnin’ along it, too. Looks like a bit o’ wind coming up, too—you can feel the touch of it in your hair. That salt breeze!—sure do miss it now and then."

"Is your instrument in proper working order, Wizard?" asked Ozma, quite perplexed. "We now have three different reports of the very same countryside."

One by one, the others pressed forward to take a look. Betsy saw a sort of outdoor theater in which a play of some kind was being performed. The Shaggy Man declared they were at the edge of a vast apple orchard, with hammocks slung from every tree and swaying in the breeze. The lion saw a peaceful wooded scene, dappled with sun and flowers, but with no trace of man or beast anywhere. Trot observed many boys and girls of her own age, playing games or reading books. Ozma then took the glass in hand, and studied what it revealed very intently.

"What is it?" Dorothy asked her.

"I see myself," was Ozma’s reply.

"Like in a mirror?"

"No. I see many girls doing many sorts of pleasant things; and they all look just like me. I can hear their laughter and their song. But I can’t be out there, in multiple, for I am right here—singularly." The Princess of the Emerald City handed the glass to Dorothy. "Now tell me what you see."

"It’s awful strange," she responded. "It seems to me we’re right smack in the courtyard of the palace. There’s Jellia Jamb, and there’s the Patchwork Girl doing cartwheels—and Toto—and Aunt Em and Uncle Henry. I can hear what Scaps is saying, too; her usual rhyming nonsense. Oh, it’s so nice to be back!"

Then the Hungry Tiger looked through the Wizard’s lens, the Wizard holding it up to his great right eye as he had done for the Cowardly Lion. The tiger looked for a long while, and when the glass was removed he refused to describe what he had seen. But he was smiling contentedly, and drooling.

"Now, Tik-Tok, it is your turn," Ozma said.

"I do not re-quire a turn," said the wind-up man. "I will see no-thing of in-ter-est."

"Then you ought to look anyway, just to verify your prediction," observed the Shaggy Man.

"I had not thought of that. Al-low me to take the glass." Tik-Tok looked while slowly turning around. Then he handed the instrument back to the Wizard, who returned it to his pocket.

"Well then?" demanded Cap’n Bill.

"It was ex-act-ly as I told you."

"But blast me, how’d you know?"

"I knew be-cause my think-ing me-chan-ism is tight-ly wound and wor-king smooth-ly," said Tik-Tok. "I could see no-thing be-cause I am a ma-chine and am not de-signed to dream; and it is the Kingdom of Dreams that we have come to."





 

Chapter Fourteen

Down to Mangaboo

 

 

 

"You showed cleverness and cunning, cat. I am a big enough Nome to admit it," pronounced the former Nome King to Bungle.

"You’re smart," added little Stot. "Can I keep you?"

"Say ‘may I keep you’," Junipee admonished her brother. "We’ve been to school, and we know how to talk right."

"Then you ought to say ‘talk well,’ not ‘talk right’," commented Ruggedo; "unless you are talking out of the side of your mouth. But enough of this—we have a mountain to catch."

Now that the magical illusions of the Phanfasms no longer pressed upon him, Ruggedo was able to recognize where they were. "Look off there. That is the mountain shaped like the top of a pineapple."

"It does look that way, a little," agreed Junipee.

"Once we are there, I will guide you the rest of the way," said Bungle. "And unless that mountain is one of the moving kind, which we have in Oz, I’d say we should be there in an hour or three."

After a long trek, broken for Stot’s nap and a bite to eat of the Sandamanders’ food, the four journeyers stood at last next to the small mountain, which was curved like the top part of a pineapple, with a little crag at the peak that looked like a pineapple’s stem.

"Well, we couldn’t be more here if we tried," Junipee said. "So where do we go next, Eureka?"

"Will there be a lot of climbing?" inquired Stot.

"There will be no climbing at all," the false Eureka assured them; "for we shall be travelling in a downward direction, and ‘to climb’ means to go up. However, don’t blame me if there is a good deal of lowering and descending. I didn’t care to visit these Mangoos in the first place."

"What are they like?" asked Junipee.

"They are horrors," replied the Glass Cat. "No one in his right mind would ever wish to go there. To keep myself in my usual good spirits I try never to think of them, and I recommend the same to you."

"I wouldn’t pay a call on them myself if I could help it," Ruggedo said. "Though inhabiting the interior of the earth they consider themselves independent of the Nome Dominions and are a different sort of fairy folk entirely. I expect I’ll have to use a good deal of guile and treachery to get their queen to part with her gloves. But I don’t mind the work, provided I achieve my goal."

Remembering the mouse’s careful instructions, Bungle led the party around the base of the mountain to the far side, where there was a round valley shaped like a cup. In the middle of the floor of the valley was a round hole, where one might expect the drain in the bottom of a basin.

"Down there," commanded Bungle. They made their way down the side of the valley, which was not too steep, and soon enough they found themselves standing at the edge of the hole.

Junipee leaned over and looked into the depths. "It just goes down and down, and the walls are smooth. How are we to lower ourselves?"

"Have you forgotten who you are with, or what I can do?" demanded the former Nome King grandly. Squatting down on his bandy legs he grasped the edge of the hole with his right hand while making magical passes with his left. Bumps with flattened tops began to bulge out from the walls of the hole, and with each gesture they grew larger.

Stot cheered at the sight. "Stair-steps!"

"Indeed so. But there is no bannister, so keep away from the open side if you don’t relish falling all the way," Ruggedo said.

They began to descend, first the Glass Cat, then Junipee, then Stot, and finally old Ruggedo bringing up the rear. The stone steps were only wide enough to accommodate one person at a time, but as they were set close together the descent was easy and rapid, with Bungle leaping carelessly from step to step as if it were natural to her.

The hole was like a vertical tube or well, and the row of steps curved around and around it, heading ever downward. When the light falling from above became too dim to be useful, Ruggedo performed his trick of making the rocks in the walls become luminous.

"It goes down awful far," said Stot, looking over.

"Nonsense," responded the Nome King. "Not even ten miles down, I’d say: just a little pin-prick in the crust of our planet."

But as it happened they did not need to go down as far as all that, for within ten minutes they had arrived at a sort of landing—a downward-slanting cave which departed sideways from the shaft.

"It’s not healthful to spend so much time underground," Junipee commented. "A person needs sunlight to make vitamin D."

"You needn’t be concerned," said Ruggedo, who seemed more cheerful with every downward step. "I do not require any of the vitamins you meat people thrive upon. A little radium now and then, and some sulphur-water when my back-stone starts to ache, and I am content."

"I note you have no interest in others, old gravel-pit, and assume every comment has to do with you," the Glass Cat said. "It is an attractive feature, I must admit."

A gentle current of air was breezing upward through the cave from some source deep within the earth. Junipee noticed that it was surprisingly fresh and invigorating, though full of odd smells.

Ruggedo explained. "It comes from the great kitchens of the earth’s mantle, as the deeper parts of the ground are called. It is where all the rocks and ingots and gems are mixed and baked, to be inserted thereafter into the spaces that have been left for them."

"I like kitchens," Stot said. "I’d like to live in one."

"It would make you sick, Stot, and all the calories in the air would make you as fat as him," declared Junipee, nodding in Ruggedo’s direction. This made Stot burst out in gleeful laughter. On other occasions the impudence might have made the Nome King angry; but he was so enjoying the rockbound journey downward that he only smiled.

Suddenly Bungle paused on a step and exclaimed, "Whiskerfiddles!" (This is an exclamation of annoyance used by glass cats to annoy others.)

"What is it, Eureka?" Junipee asked in alarm.

"Look at my paws—my sides—anything about me!" Bungle cried. "I’m fogging up!" Indeed, her crystalline form had become cloaked in a dewy haze.

"Tha’s what glass does when it gets cold," Stot said. "You can see it on windows."

"Surely you don’t find this change of temperature cold!" the Nome King admonished. "It is well above the temperature at which granite begins to melt, you know."

"Well, it is getting a little cold at that," Junipee replied with a shivver. "I thought it got warmer as you went down into the earth."

"Ah, well," Ruggedo answered in a jovial tone, "that’s ordinarily the case, little miss. But I do believe we are descending down an ice volcano."

"There’s no such thing!" declared the girl.

"No? Then I trust you are not cold, and we are not going downward."

The Glass Cat now evinced a trace of worry. "See here, a volcano is hardly a place to get caught in. Glass melts, I hope you know."

The former Nome King rolled his eyes, which made a sound like two rocks rolling down a hillside. "I said ‘ice volcano.’ Nothing will harm you in here—unless it is your own sharp tongue."

They walked on, ever downward, and it grew quite cold indeed. A layer of white frost formed on the walls, and delicate icicles hung from the ceiling like the draping leaves of a weeping willow, forcing all but the Glass Cat to duck and crouch as they went along.

Finally Junipee demanded that they halt. "Ruggedo, we will be frozen meat-people if we go any further!" she cried, her panting breath forming little white clouds.

"And I can barely see, my eyes are so frosty," added Bungle.

"Can we make a snowman?" asked Stot.

"Perhaps we ought to sit down and think a bit," the Nome King conceded. He caused a large flat stone to rise up from the floor of the cave, about the size of a large sofa, and he softened the top of it so the children could rest upon it as on a cushion. Junipee and Stot sat themselves down gratefully, and Bungle jumped up beside them.

"Now then," began Ruggedo, lowering his rounded form on to the top of the boulder. But the Nome King was a heavy mass, like a boulder; and as soon as he took his weight off his feet and leaned back, the stone shifted under him and started to move.

"Oh!" cried Junipee. "We’re sliding!"

The Glass Cat yawned majestically, Stot whooped with excitement, and Ruggedo—Ruggedo didn’t know what to do, or indeed if anything ought to be done, so he merely leaned back on his elbows and advised the others to hold on.

They scooted along on the surface of ice that covered the inside of this branch of the ice volcano. As the cave slanted downward, the rocky sofa upon which they rode moved ever faster, smashing through forests of hanging icicles and jolting this way and that as it struck hard against stones and other irregularities in its course. The rough ride might have spun them off right away, but Ruggedo caused the sides of the boulder to rise up and the middle of its top to sink down, so that it ended up as a sort of canoe of rock.

The deeper they went into the volcano, the colder it became. This could have been hurtful to the two meat-children, whose green jackets were not suited to an arctic climate; but fortunately their speed became so great that the rush of air warmed them.

The rock-sled had passed almost immediately out of the area that Ruggedo had lit up with his magic luminence. For a time they were in a fearful darkness. Presently, though, the former Nome King thought to make the front of their boulder glow like a headlight; and this illuminated their path.

"Can’t you stop us?" cried Junipee to Ruggedo.

"I don’t know how," replied the Nome King, his long beard trailing out behind him in the air.

"This is fun!" Stot giggled. "But why are we goin’ up on the wall?"

It was true. They were no longer sliding on the floor of the cave, but halfway up the right-hand wall.

"My eyes, which are real gems, tell me plainly what is happening, now that they are not so fogged-over," said the Glass Cat, having to speak loudly over the whoosh of the wind. "We are riding up the wall because this cave is making a great curve, pushing us outward and upward as we travel."

Junipee looked carefully and saw that it was true. "Then we’ll go right around and end up where we started!"

"Hardly," retorted Bungle. "We are still slanting downwards even as we curve, describing a spiral course—the shape of a bedspring. If the curve is tightening up as we go along, which I think is the case, we will be going very fast indeed by the time we reach the end."

"If it’s a dead end that we reach, I think it won’t go so well for you delicate earth-children," Ruggedo said. "Nor for you, cat—your glass will break like an old clay pot. I will probably survive, though, as it is difficult to kill living rock."

They really didn’t have time to contemplate the future as they shot along faster and faster. They didn’t have time, and it seemed time didn’t have them, for the riders lost all track of it. Down, down, down they went through the curving tunnel, which must have been formed by veins of hard ice expanding through the volcano and shoving the rock and earth aside.

It may have been hours later when Stot suddenly called out, "I see lights, Junipee!"

"Where?"

"Now that is a foolish question," admonished the imperious Glass Cat. "There is only where we have been, and where we are going; and it can’t be where we have been or we would have passed it already. Therefore it must be up ahead."

Bungle was not only logical but correct. The cave abruptly opened-out wide, and the boulder hurtled into a sort of gallery that was about a mile wide, with its broad ceiling only a few yards above them. They were sliding down a shallow natural trough in the floor of this space—unless it was really a wall and not the floor—and heading toward an opening on the far side that ran the entire breadth of the gallery, somewhat like the opening at the front of a theater balcony.

A strange brilliance, blue in color, shone through this opening and fell upon them.

"Ruggy, your face is blue!" Stot laughed.

"Everything has turned blue," retorted the Nome. "That is a good sign, I think, for it means we are near one of the underground suns that illuminate the Vegetable Kingdom of Mangaboo."

"We may come very near indeed, for we are about to go over the edge," declared Bungle. She was very sober now, for she thought this might be the end of her.

The rock-sofa did shoot over the edge of the gallery, fast as a cannonball, and the four travellers found themselves gliding through an open space so vast they could not see the end of it.





 

Chapter Fifteen

An Out-of-Order King

 

 

 

Tik-tok’s announcement sparked many exclamations of curiosity, which Ozma had to quell to make herself heard.

"I know of the Kingdom of Dreams," said she, "for I have seen it for many years upon the map of Oz and her neighboring countries."

"Didn’t you use the Magic Picture to take a look at it?" asked Princess Dorothy of her friend. Ozma’s Magic Picture allowed the viewer to observe any spot in the wide world.

"I did. But all I could ever see was a bank of dense mist, completely obscuring the land beneath."

Tik-Tok now raised one of his mechanical hands and bade the others be silent. "I can tell you some-thing, for I was man-u-fac-tured in the Land of Ev and put to ser-vice there, and we knew more of the lands out-side the de-sert than do you of Oz."

"What can you tell us, then?" inquired the Wizard, his brow creased with interest.

"The King-dom of Dreams o-per-ates un-der a pe-cu-li-ar charm. Who-som-e-ver looks in-to its mists will find that the mists take the forms of things that are plea-sant to that per-son; and it is dif-fer-ent for ev-e-ry-one. The dreams are so-lid and com-plete-ly real to all the sen-ses."

"Why, that’s wonderful!" squeeled Betsy Bobbin. "Perhaps we could vacation there for a day or two."

"A-las, it is not won-der-ful," continued Tik-Tok. "The dreams are guar-an-teed to be pleas-ing on-ly while the sun is up. When it sets, you see your most fright-ful fears."

"And can they—can they hurt you?" quavered the Cowardly Lion.

"Yes," the clockwork man replied. "They are as real as an-y-thing to the person they be-long to. No one has e-ver sur-vived a full night in the King-dom of Dreams."

Cap’n Bill, having lit his tiny pipe, now placed it in his tiny mouth; which was a sign he was about to speak thoughtfully. "Seems we’d best avoid this place, Your Majesty. I’ll admit to likin’ what I saw, but I don’t think I’d care t’ meet my worst nightmares, thank ye very much."

Ozma nodded once, silently acknowledging that the old sailor’s recommendation was a wise one. "To get to the upper end of the route that Eureka, Dorothy, and our Wizard took in their escape from the Vegetable Kingdom so many years ago, we must come to the spot on the surface that is above it. That spot lies beyond the Kingdom of Dreams, and to get there by the shortest road we must travel straight forward. We cannot spare the time to go around."

"But it seems this dreamy kingdom will not spare us," observed the Shaggy Man. "Still, it is your decision, ma’am."

"I think it will not hurt us at all," the Wizard declared. "The dreams take shape only when one looks into the mists, as when we used the magnifying glass. But at our tiny size, with our tiny eyes, we cannot see anything of the larger world without assistance."

"But what of Eureka?" asked Ozma, full of kindly concern.

"I know!" cried Betsy. "We can put a handkerchief or a scarf, or something, over her eyes. She can go on instinc’ from there on, till we get all the way through."

The Shaggy Man laughed. "You’re remembering how we covered the face of my homely lost brother, aren’t you? But the Pink Kitten does not carry a handkerchief, and none of ours will be big enough to fit her."

"I’m afraid she will just have to shut her eyes very tightly," Princess Ozma pronounced soberly. "There is nothing else to be done."

The Hungry Tiger stretched and snorted. "I would not be afraid," he muttered in a low tone. "I am only afraid of starvation, not silly nightmares."

"And how I envy you, my dear comrade," said the Cowardly Lion. "I am as full of fear as you are full of hunger. If I were to eat you, which I am surely capable of doing, your impulsive bravado might be an antidote to my cowardice."

"If you also gained my hunger, you would feel as though you hadn’t eaten at all," retorted the tiger in a voice even more shrunk in size than his miniaturization required.

The lion showed his long teeth in a great grin. "Still, it is worth thinking about."

Ozma communicated her plan to Eureka, who replied: "Are you commanding me to do it, Princess?"

"Yes, for it is my duty to do so."

"Then it is my duty to obey, I suppose," the Pink Kitten said without enthusiasm. "But listen, with my eyes closed-up, how will I avoid running into trees and rocks and things?"

Tik-Tok gestured, and Ozma passed the silver wand to him. "You will have no pro-blem on that ac-count, Eu-re-ka, I as-sure you. I saw the lay of the land just as it re-al-ly is when I looked through the Wi-zard’s glass, and it is on-ly an ex-panse of dirt, as smooth as a dance floor. You need on-ly run in the pro-per di-rec-tion as fast as you can go."

With all her tiny passengers comfortably passenged, Eureka padded off in a direction slightly south of east. She did not need to close her eyes right away, for the sky was still brightly lit, and the endless stretch of mouse-plants made an appealing vista for the Pink Kitten to look upon.

Knowing that Ozma was listening, Eureka said: "Your Highness, I might make better speed if I stopped now and then to nibble a few mouse-bouquets."

"No, Eureka," came the response in her ear. "It would be real to you at the time, but I hardly think such dream-food could be very nutritious. Besides that, one shouldn’t encourage a bad habit."

The Pink Kitten kept on steadily one, two, three hours. The Kingdom of Dreams was an odd sort of place to travel through. Whenever Eureka would grow bored with the sight of the mouse-plants and turn her thoughts elsewhere, the plants would commence to fade from sight, becoming only colored wisps of mist. But this change attracted the Pink Kitten’s attention again, and immediately the mists would regain a solid form. The effect was a constant ebbing and flowing of the scenery.

A further and more serious complication was the absence of the sun. Perhaps because of the mists that enveloped the whole country, the sun’s disk could not be seen. The sky was simply a bright blankness spreading from horizon to horizon: and in consequence it was not possible to tell for sure how late in the day it was getting to be. When the night came, it came with surprising swiftness. The sky changed in a few heartbeats from bright to dark, as if a curtain of black lace had been pulled across it. In the dimness the surroundings began to change as well, in ways the Pink Kitten did not like at all. The central bushes of the mouse-plants began to shrink and melt-away toward the ground. At the same time, the mice themselves began to swell-up, their teeth growing longer and sharper, their eyes growing beadier and more menacing.

"They’re turning to rats!" yowled Eureka in fear—especially when she noted that their knotted tails were coming undone from one another.

"Shut your eyes! Hurry!" came Ozma’s voice.

Eureka complied with Ozma’s command, but the rhythm of her running was thrown off and she came to a stop. Then, eyes shut, she started off again. But she thought she might have gone off-course, so she halted. This starting-and-stopping happened a half-dozen times.

"Eureka, you must move forward steadily," Ozma said.

"I surely would if I could; but I can’t," replied the Pink Kitten. "I’m afraid I’ve lost my way. Can’t you direct me?"

This Ozma tried to do, with the help of the Wizard and Tik-Tok, who was holding the magnifying glass. But Eureka was in something of a state, not quite sure that the monster rats she had seen were only nightmares that had vanished when she had shut her eyes. Because she was afraid, she took direction poorly. It was soon impossible for anyone to determine whether she was headed the right way or just going in circles.

"This is very bad," Ozma declared. She turned to Princess Dorothy. "Dorothy dear, perhaps you should take the wand and speak to Eureka. She is your pet, after all, and your voice might calm her."

"I can try," replied the little girl from Kansas.

"Wait!" Tik-Tok interjected. "Eu-re-ka is com-ing to some-thing."

What he saw through the magnifying glass was a building shaped like a perfect cube and colored like the bare earth of the Kingdom of Dreams, which caused it to blend-in with the background until one came fairly close to it. The building, which was soon revealed to be very large indeed, had no windows and but one door, which was in the exact middle of one side and thus a good ways above the level of the ground.

"Who do you suppose lives there?" asked Trot.

"Oh, you can use your head on that one, Trot," said Cap’n Bill. "As we’re in the Kingdom o’ Dreams, I’d say that must be the place where the King hisself lives."

"Then he might be willing to give us directions," said Princess Ozma. With the help of Tik-Tok, she guided the Pink Kitten toward the side of the great structure that bore the doorway, which was open and uncovered.

Suddenly Tik-Tok signalled for Eureka to halt, which she did with such abruptness that her passengers almost fell over.

"There is a moat a-round the buil-ding," announced the mechanical man.

"Is it deep?" asked Dorothy.

Tik-Tok paused, holding the magnifying glass carefully. "Yes. It is as deep as the buil-ding is high."

"I cannot swim," came the deep echoey voice of Eureka.

"You will not have to," said Tik-Tok; "for it is a moat of air, with no wa-ter in it."

"Well and good, but I cannot swim in air any more than I can in water," was Eureka’s rejoinder. As she said this she ventured to open one eyelid just a slit, and through that slit she saw the side of the King’s house—if indeed that is what it was—with the little doorway in the middle of it. No sooner had she trained her eye upon the doorway than, with no warning and no reason at all, she found herself standing beneath the arch and looking down a long hall.

"How did that happen?" Eureka exclaimed in pure wonder.

"Just a part of being in a dream kingdom, I s’pose," responded little Dorothy. "But don’t mind it, Eureka dear."

The corridor was well lit, although no particular source of light was visible (which is usually the way it is in a dream). As the Pink Kitten advanced cautiously, she found that it curved smoothly in odd and unpredictable ways, to the right, to the left, even upwards and downwards. As a result she could only see a few yards ahead.

"This place makes no sense to me at all," she murmured under her breath. "You know, the walls are coming closer together as I go along, and I do believe the ceiling is getting lower. Pretty soon I’ll have to stop."

But just as the corridor became so narrow that Eureka’s shoulders brushed against the walls, and so low that the tips of her pink ears rubbed against the ceiling, a final turn revealed the end of it. Before her stood what seemed to be the sole inhabitant of the great cube-building.

He filled the corridor, which merely meant that the top of his head was on a level with Eureka’s, making him about the size of a doll. His arms and legs and body were made entirely of smooth round balls pressed together, and another ball on top gave him a head. He looked, in other words, a bit like a snowman. But he had no eyes of coal, nor even a carrot-nose: his head was perfectly featureless. Nor did he have any color of his own—the balls reflected like mirrors, and every color or detail one could see in him was a reflection of something in his surroundings. At present he was mostly pink, for it was the Pink Kitten he reflected, and her own face that she saw at the front of his round head.

Eureka reported all this to Ozma and the others. Then she noticed something further. "There’s lettering on the front of him, right where his nose should be." Having become well-educated during her many years in the Royal Palace, she was able to read-off the message, which was printed very neatly. It said:

Hello to you and welcome to my castle.

I am the Dream-King.

"You had better say something back to him," advised Ozma. "Though writing may be how he speaks, he may be able to hear all right."

Eureka bobbed her head in a slight bow—for though a cat is allowed to look at a king, she wasn’t too sure what other rules might apply—and said. "Hello, I am Eureka the famous Pink Kitten, of the court of Princess Ozma of Oz."

As she finished speaking, new lettering appeared on the face of the Dream-King. The message read:

Perfectly well.

As this seemed to have nothing to do with anything, Eureka asked, "Can you hear me, Your Polished Highness?" And the answer came back:

What does what mean?

"Hmmph!" snorted the Pink Kitten, who was beginning to feel that the creature was mocking her—and she had almost as much pride as the Glass Cat. "Now what does that mean?" To this the Dream-King responded:

As I am in my own kingdom, perhaps it is you who are.

"More nonsense," muttered Eureka. "I do believe this King is badly out of order." The reply read:

If I can, I shall. What do you wish?

"Well, that’s better," the cat remarked. "Now then, King, I’m here to ask if you’ll do me a favor, that’s all."

Please come back!

"I’ve about had my fill of this," said Eureka in disgust, backing away down the corridor. She half-turned when there was enough space to do so, and whispered to those riding upon her back, "Did you see all of that through your lens, folks? The man wouldn’t know a sensible conversation if it bit him!"

"Stop!" came the voice of the little Wizard of Oz. "I believe I have figured out this mystery. If you please, my dear, go back to the King and do two things, just as I tell you to."

"What are they?"

"First, pause for just a moment, so we can read the Dream-King’s message before it is replaced. And then say to him, ‘I beg your pardon, Your Highness, but do you happen to know, what is 2 plus 3?’. Do precisely as I say."

"Oh, all right," said Eureka. She returned to the presence of the monarch—who had remained as motionless as a statue, except for the lettering coming and going on his face—and stood still for a moment. The lettering spelled out one word:

Five.

Then the Pink Kitten said, "I beg your pardon, Your Highness, but do you happen to know, what is 2 plus 3?" The reply to this inquiry was:

Bless you.

"Bad as ever!" whispered Eureka. "I—I—" And then she sneezed, for there was a bit of dust in the air.

"Exactly as I surmised!" cried the Wizard in triumph. "You see, Eureka, the Dream-King is answering you in quite a sensible way after all; but he is not answering the question you just asked, but the next question that you are going to ask. We might have guessed that time would be a bit unstuck here, as time can pass in strange ways when one is dreaming."

"But what am I to do, then?" asked Eureka plaintively. "I can’t think in such a silly way."

"You must try," said the Wizard. "Just ask for his help, for that is why we are here."

The Pink Kitten now lifted her eyes to the Dream-King again, and saw his new message.

Run as fast as you can in any direction, and I will help you, it said.

"Much obliged," responded Eureka. "What we want is to get to a piece of land near your kingdom that is right over Mangaboo, which is underground, if you don’t know." As she finished the sentence, she realized that it had already been answered.

Good-bye. It was my pleasure, was the next message to appear—the very last, as it turned out.

"Thank you ever so, Your Majesty," said the Pink Kitten rather wearily, "and goodbye." She returned to the doorway, and as soon as she caught sight of the ground—which seemed to be swarming with huge, ferocious rats with eyes that burned in the darkness—she found herself down amongst them. But she shut her eyes tightly, and they were gone.

Eureka began to run, just as fast as she could manage. She could only keep it up for a minute or two. Then her little legs failed her; but instead of stumbling and falling to the ground, she felt as though she were sinking down and down into a soft feather pillow. In fact, she was falling asleep.

When the Pink Kitten opened her eyes, she was lying well-rested upon the ground of a new country entirely; for it seemed the Dream-King was as good as his word.





 

Chapter Sixteen

In The Vegetable Kingdom

 

 

 

The rock-sofa that Ruggedo had created was moving very rapidly through the underground air after its long slide down the ice volcano. Though not especially afraid (as it is hard for glass to feel fear), Bungle ducked down behind the raised edge of the sofa. She had no fear of being shattered, but didn’t look forward to it either.

Junipee felt like ducking down also, but she knew she ought to keep up a brave front for the good of Stot; though the little boy was not in the least concerned. He reasoned that nothing very bad had happened to them yet, and so—by little-boy logic—nothing would.

If there was any real fear on the rock-sofa, it belonged to Ruggedo. The former Nome King was quaking, and if the cat and the children had not been so preoccupied the rattling-clattering sound would probably have irritated them. Though made of rocks of all sizes and shapes, Ruggedo was not exactly what you would call a solid type of fellow. He was as self-centered as a child, and something of a bully when circumstances permitted: persons of that sort are very often cowards, unless they are too stupid to know when danger threatens. In this case the danger was obvious indeed, for they were gliding in the direction of a huge globe that glowed with a strange blue light. This was one of the several colored suns of the underground domain of the Mangaboos, and the Nome couldn’t be sure how it would affect him.

"Oooh!" cried Stot. "It’s pretty! Can we land on it, Mr. King?"

"I would prefer not to," responded Ruggedo in a gruff and distracted tone. "In any event, what happens has nothing to do with me."

"Well," said Bungle, "we can’t very well ask the sofa, now can we?"

The blue sun that they were approaching was not just huge, but really immense, as large straight-across as the Empire State Building is tall. Its light dazzled the eyes, and the travellers had to put their various hands in front of their several faces—though for the transparent Glass Cat this was a useless endeavor, of course. As they drew nearer to the big ball, which was suspended in mid-air by some unknown means, they could make out what looked like flames licking across its rounded surface. But they must not have been real flames, just as the blue sun was not a real sun, for they felt no heat at all.

At first it had seemed that the rock-sofa would crash into the sun, but this turned out to be a trick of the light, for they passed just beneath it. As it fell behind them, they saw for the first time the other colored suns of this strange world. There was a central sun, larger than the rest, which glowed white; and arranged evenly about it were five more suns of different colors. In addition to the blue sun, there was one of yellow, one of violet, one of orange, and one of rose-red. The white of the middle sun seemed to blend with these other colors, producing an overall pastel effect. As the five outer suns were slowly circling the one in the center, the mix of colors was constantly changing.

Their course was now angling away from the family of suns, which soon were definitely high above them.

"Aw, we’re slowin’ down," Stot observed in disappointment. It was as if a carnival ride were coming to an end.

"But what’s with this air?" exclaimed Junipee. The air about them was no longer soft and yeilding, like normal air, but felt thick and dense, almost as if they were moving through a gelatin. Yet they could see through it, and breathe without difficulty.

"I can explain that," said the Nome King, who had regained some of his composure. "As one goes more deeply into the hollow of the earth, the air becomes much thicker, because all the air that is piled above it squeezes the lower air together. And that is why the sides of this cavern-world don’t simply collapse—the thick air pushes back against them."

"Thank you for that unasked-for account," Bungle snipped. "Now explain this, Gravel-guts." She rose up on her four feet—and continued rising, floating into the air. Junipee was afraid the cat would keep going and be lost to them; but Bungle merely stretched out her paws and walked through the air, back to her place on the sofa.

"Can glass float?" inquired Stot.

"Not in my experience," the Glass Cat replied.

"It’s gravity, of course," declared Ruggedo. "As we’re down deep in the middle of the earth, she pulls on us from all directions; so we weigh very little."

Junipee had leaned over the raised edge of the rock-sofa to get a better view of what lay below. "We’re coming to something."

"I should expect so," said Bungle. "What sort of something?"

Junipee now sat upright again. "It’s flat ground, with trees and water, and there’s a city too."

"Ah, yes indeed!" exclaimed Ruggedo with satisfaction. "That will be the glass city of the Mangaboos, which means our journey is almost over."

"I hope you notice how expertly I have guided you there," the Glass Cat declared smugly. "I have even entertained you with some thrills along the way. You can credit my brains, which—as you can easily see if you bother to look—have been working vigorously at all times."

"You’re real good, Yoo-ree-ka," Stot pronounced. "You’re the best glass cat I ever knowed." This pleasured Bungle, even though she was not Eureka at all, but an impostor.

The rock-sofa was now moving downward very slowly, gently as a leaf falling from a tree. In a few minutes they bumped to an easy stop, coming to rest in the middle of a broad thoroughfare. The street was not made of concrete or asphalt or brick, or even plain dirt, but of glass; and every building, everything around them, was likewise made of glass.

"Window-washers must have a steady job around here," commented Junipee.

There were people in the boulevard, richly dressed and beautiful to behold, every one of them. They stood silently here and there, watching calmly; in fact they moved so little that they almost seemed like dolls or store-mannikins.

After a time one of the men bestirred himself and approached the rock-sofa. "Who are you, and what are you, and where do you come from, and why are you here?" he asked, all in one breath.

"Um—huh?" asked Stot. He had forgotten which questions came first.

"You’ll have to ask them one at a time if you expect an answer," declared the Nome Kind arrogantly. "That’s common courtesy, and I am visiting royalty." But the man only walked away, his face expressionless.

Soon a woman of mature years approached, dressed in an elegant gown and a cloak. "If you have come to the Vegetable Kingdom to do us harm," she said in a sweet voice, "then we shall have to regret your arrival."

"I have nothing to say in reply, madam," said Ruggedo, "for that is not even a question." The woman walked gracefully away.

Now a younger woman drew near, silvery curls framing her lovely little face. "You belong here," she said to Bungle, "for it is clear that you are made of the same substance as our Glass City."

"For such a young and pretty girl, that is very good thinking," Bungle replied.

"The rest of you do not belong here," continued the young woman, turning to the others. "Two of you are made of some unknown material, and you, sir, are made of rock and stone. So you must either leave us, or we shall have to go to the trouble to destroy you."

"Bah! See here, you little turnip," growled Ruggedo indignantly. "I am Ruggedo, King of the Nomes and Past-Master of their Subterranean Dominions, and I do not care for your tone, nor your choice of words—especially the word ‘destroy’."

"I can see you’re a whiz at making friends, Ruggy," the Glass Cat remarked. "But as these people seem to like me, I suppose you can get yourself into any hot water you choose."

The woman had now backed away. Stot turned to Bungle and said, "These people don’t look too scary after all, Yoo-Ree-Ka."

"They have improved their looks over the years, I’ll grant you," responded the cat. "On the other hand, they do wish to destroy you, so I won’t vouch for their character."

"Junee, I don’t wanna be ’stroyed," Stot pouted.

"I don’t want it either," she replied. "But I can’t wait to hear what our leader here plans to do about it."

"You needn’t be snippy, child," sniffed Ruggedo. "I can reduce their glass metropolis to rubble if need be."

The Mangaboos heard this comment and immediately backed away as if alarmed, though they showed nothing on their smooth pale faces. A man standing nearby called out, "We prefer you not to do that; for if you do that we will have no place to live until a new city is ripe."

"If you want us to behave, you had better treat us properly," retorted the Nome King.

"What sort of treatment is proper?" the man inquired.

"Well, as we are visitors—royal visitors—you might have the common sense to take us to whosomever is in charge of this place," said Ruggedo. "I believe you have a Queen, don’t you?"

"No, she has us, for we are her subjects and must do what she tells us. Do you wish to meet Queen Ssyr?"

"I do," replied the Nome. "Indeed, I demand it!"

"You will not have to go to the extra work of demanding it," the man said with a polite bow, "for we are willing to do it, if it is proper. Follow me, if you wish; or if you do not, you may wander aimlessly until you happen across her, whatever your custom may be."

"Oh, just take us to her," said Bungle. "This discourse is tedious, and you can only watch things change colors for so long, you know."





 

Chapter Seventeen

Eureka Finds The Trail

 

 

 

The Pink Kitten stretched and looked around, wondering for just a moment if she might still be dreaming. But things seemed very normal and very real. A rocky, jagged landscape extended in all directions, with low thickets of scraggly bushes here and there. The sun could now be seen once again high above. It seemed to be mid-morning.

"Are you all right, Eureka?" came the voice of Dorothy.

"Yes, I’m willing to say that I am," replied the cat. "In fact, I feel quite refreshed. And you?"

"Very well, thank you," responded the little Princess of Oz. "I think we all fell asleep when you did."

On Eureka’s back the much-reduced Ozites were all clustered together about Ozma, who held in her hand the silver wand that allowed them to speak to the Pink Kitten. "Anyone have a guess where we are?" inquired the Shaggy Man.

Tik-Tok handed him the magnifying glass, and he took a quick look around. "Mighty rough and barren country," said he. "No apple trees or hammocks to be seen, that’s for sure and certain."

"That is good news," said Princess Ozma; "for it means we are beyond the borders of the Kingdom of Dreams, just as the Dream-King promised."

"If it was a promise, and not somethin’ out of order and backwards," commented Trot. But as the glass was passed from hand to hand, it became apparent that all of them were seeing the same landscape once again.

"Beyond the Kingdom of Dreams lie several small countries that I have no wish to visit," Ozma said thoughtfully. "But my fairy-instincts are telling me that the Dream-King, who must be some sort of magician, has transported us over them in our sleep. I think we have arrived in that place on the map that says simply ‘Vegetable Kingdom.’ Of course the actual Vegetable Kingdom of Mangaboo lies in a great hollow deep underground, but this area above it is credited to them as a courtesy, though my investigations with the Magic Picture have shown that it is at present without inhabitants."

"That’s all well and good with me," said Cap’n Bill heartily, a sentiment echoed by the Cowardly Lion.

"I guess we’ve had more’n enough of inhabitants," added Betsy Bobbin.

Princess Ozma directed her attention to the wand. "Eureka, if you have refreshened enough, can you detect the way to the little opening that leads down to the underground world?"

"Oh, I suppose I do smell a little something at that," replied the Pink Kitten through a languid yawn. "Of course it has been a hundred years or so, Your Most Excellency."

"My wand is helping your memories," Ozma reassured her.

"Then that explains it," said Eureka; "for I now recall every detail of that silly trial you put me through when I was thought to have indulged my cat nature by eating one of the Wizard’s piglets—a thing for which I could hardly have been blamed, even if I had done it."

"But you didn’t do it, Eureka dear," said Dorothy in some haste. "And a good thing too, because you would have deprived yourself of a wonderful little playmate if you had eaten him."

"That’s true," conceded the kitten. "And refined people don’t play with their food, I’ve heard. Anyway, I’ll find the source of that old familiar scent."

The Pink Kitten trotted off to the south and, after a pause, a bit to the west.

"Not a very pleasant country we’re passing through now," commented the little Wizard of Oz as he gazed about through his magnifying glass. "I’m surely glad my balloon carried me to a lovely and pleasant land ’way back when, for if I had to live here like a hermit, I would hardly have cared to remain on earth at all."

"This quar-ter of the con-tin-ent of I-ma-gi-na-tion is dry and in-hos-pi-table," Tik-Tok said. "In the land a-bove the Nome Do-min-ions there are moun-tains, here there are on-ly low hills and rocks, and in the King-dom of Dreams just dry and le-vel dirt. On-ly e-vil pe-ople, ec-cen-tric pe-ople, and un-der-ground pe-ople choose to dwell here."

"My goodness, Tik-Tok, you sound just like a school lesson," laughed little Dorothy.

"My thin-king ac-tion in-cludes a ge-o-gra-phy op-tion," explained the wind-up man, who was always modest (as he could not help it).

Presently Eureka announced that the scent from underground had become very strong, and minutes later she came to a stop and carefully lay down upon her stomach. "We’re here," she said simply.

Before her the earth sloped down a little ways into a hollow, and at the bottom of the hollow, between several boulders, was a small dark opening, a crack in the ground. Taking a look through his glass, the Wizard said: "I remember that crack, Dorothy, and so should you and your kitten—though admittedly we only saw it from down below."

"Well, I can’t say I know one from t’other," declared Dorothy, having taken a glance. "But if you and Eureka will vouch for it, that’s good enough for me."

"Then please do let the kitten get on with it," urged the Hungry Tiger in plaintive tones. "There may be good food at the other end of it, and it seems I am wasting away to nothing."

"Now, friend tiger, we are all of us nearly nothing as it is, at this size," chuckled the Shaggy Man. "But you know, strange to say, I find I don’t feel particularly hungry or thirsty, though we haven’t eaten in more than a day—maybe two."

"Why, I expect that’s no mystery," observed Cap’n Bill. "We’re just as small as those midgey seamen you find on ships-in-bottles, an’ our bellies is small-sized too. We could live for a week on a drop o’ rain and a crumb from last Tuesday’s breakfast."

"Of what use is a bot-tle of ships?" inquired Tik-Tok; but Cap’n Bill could only gaze at him silently, wondering how to answer such a question.

"Anyway," said Dorothy, "our troubles aren’t over yet, you know. I remember that that crack is up in the ceiling of a big open space, and even Eureka couldn’t get at it. If she jumps on through it, she’ll just fall all the way."

"Nothing wrong with that, really, is there?" asked Betsy. "It’s not as if she could die or even really hurt herself, and that goes for the rest of us."

Ozma smiled at her little subject. "I wish that were true, Betsy, but it isn’t. It is only within the borders of the Land of Oz itself that the preserving spell of the fairy Lurline protects us. Here, though magic can work, we are pretty much left to our own devices, and we must be careful of illness, hurt, and death."

"Those who are a-ble to die might do so," agreed Tik-Tok. "Of course I am un-a-ble to die, as I have ne-ver been a-live."

Princess Ozma asked Eureka to approach the edge of the opening as closely as was safe, and look down through it. "What do you see?" she asked.

"Nothing," replied the Pink Kitten. "Indeed, quite a big boodle of nothing."

"I wish to try an experiment," said Ozma. "Push a pebble over the edge, and let us see how long it takes to reach the bottom of the cavern."

This Eureka did, and in a bare moment she reported, "I can’t say I saw how long it took, Princess, but I heard its clatter after just a second."

"That’s about right," the Wizard commented.

Ozma grasped her wand very firmly with eight fingers and two thumbs. "Now try it once more."

This time there was a very long pause. Finally Eureka muttered, "Well, I think I heard something, but it took quite a time."

"Good!" cried Ozma. "That means the silver wand is strong enough to slow the fall of things even if they are of normal size. You may go ahead and jump through, Eureka."

"Oh, may I?" responded the cat sarcastically. But she obeyed the royal command of her princess and hurled herself through the narrow hole. Darkness swallowed her up immediately, and for a good many seconds she floated downward like a little pink parachute, her four legs nervously stretched out in anticipation of meeting the ground. Finally she settled down upon a rocky, dusty floor with a harmless thump.

"The underground phase of our journey has begun," declared the Wizard.

"Trot an’ I’ve been under th’ ground afore," Cap’n Bill noted. "It’s no big thing, less’n you’re a gopher, or one o’ those Nomes."

Eureka was able to follow not only the faint and distant scent of the Mangaboo land, but the distinctive scents of the several other places she had passed through long before in trying to regain the surface of the earth. These faint smells, which to you or I would be quite undetectible, seemed to have accumulated on the rock walls over the ages.

As she walked along, slowly becoming used to seeing by means of the single ray of sunlight that fell through the crack from high above, she said: "I don’t have to just follow my nose right now, for there are marks on the ground in the dust."

"What sort of marks?" asked the Cowardly Lion nervously: for he was always inclined to suspect the worst.

"Just a pair of grooves running along side by side. Pretty old, I’d venture—so you can stop your fretting, Lion."

"Ah!" exclaimed the Wizard with pleasure. "I know precisely what they are—they are the tracks left by the buggy when we came this way before. We are indeed revisiting our old haunts."

The trail led downward into deeper and deeper darkness, zigging and zagging unpredictably. Suddenly there came a shock to those riding Eureka, tumbling all of them forward toward the head of their mount.

"Eoww!" squeeled the Pink Kitten. "I’ve bumped my nose!"

"Did the wall turn in front of you?" inquired Dorothy when she had picked herself up.

"Let’s see," Ozma said, causing her wand to act like a flashlight. With the aid of the magnifying glass, they saw that Eureka had run into a dead end, a bulging wall of stone that extended entirely acoss the corridor.

"That’s odd," murmured the Wizard. "We came this way before."

"Perhaps there’s been some construction work underground over the last century or so," suggested the Shaggy Man.

"No, I remember now," Dorothy said. "There was a big rock that turned around and around on its own and blocked our way half the time."

"Oh yes, I recall it myself. It ended up getting stuck in place after we had passed by it." The Wizard removed his top hat and scratched his bald head in thoughtful frustration. "We said then that we couldn’t go back even if we had wanted to; and now we want to, and we can’t."

But Cap’n Bill waved a finger in the air. "Now, now, Wizard. You may be Ozma’s chief adviser, but we’re all in the business this trip. I can see how we might get by it after all."

"How?"

"Didja fergit how small we’ve got to? Blamme if we couldn’t just slip single-file through the crack between the wall and the boulder, the way fleas an’ ants always do—when you don’t want ’em to."

But Dorothy frowned. "What about Eureka? She isn’t reduced at all, and we can’t just leave her behind."

If Cap’n Bill disagreed with that sentiment, he wisely kept his own counsel. He didn’t care much for cats.

"I suppose my fear of being stuck here under the earth is what puts the fire under my thinking, but I have an idea," pronounced the Cowardly Lion. "Perhaps while we work our way through beneath the boulder, we can find a way to free it so it can resume its turning motion. Then Eureka could pass through while it is no longer blocking the way."

"That is ad-mi-ra-ble rea-son-ing," Tik-Tok said. "In this in-stance you are as wise as the Scare-crow of Oz him-self."

With Eureka standing up close to the great boulder the group of travellers dismounted and began to expedition along the place where the face of the boulder met the cave floor. It was Trot, bounding merrily ahead, who discovered a minute crack there. It was no higher than a playing card is thick, but this was sufficient for even the Cowardly Lion and the Hungry Tiger to crawl their way through, while the others had but to duck low here and there.

"Look here!" cried Dorothy presently. She motioned for Ozma to direct her magical beam of light off to the left. "That must be the piece of hard rock that’s stuck in the works."

"Yes, you can see how it’s wedged in at the pivot point," the Shaggy Man observed. "But now, little girl, do tell me how we are to move it. It looks as solid as a steel girder to me."

There was a long silence as Ozma and her many advisers pondered this situation. But ultimately it was Ozma who advised herself. "Just as I was able to separate and animate our shadows in the Mouse Republic, I think I may be able to do the same thing with the strength of our strongest members, the Lion and the Tiger." She turned to these great beasts and said, "You two must lie all the way down, as if you are taking a nap; for if you move a single muscle, the spell will be broken."

"I will close my eyes, so as not to use my blinking muscle," the Cowardly Lion declared.

"As will I—and I will hold my breath as well," added the Hungry Tiger.

"I’m afraid there is a bit of danger," Ozma said soberly. "When the boulder is freed, it will begin to turn, and we will all have to be very nimble to keep out of its way."

The dainty Rightful Ruler of Oz prepared for her endeavor by using her wand to produce a stream of hot sparks that struck the piece of rock in several places, causing it to soften. As she did so there was a startling moment when the tiny rock shifted position, causing the big boulder to groan and move slightly—for all the time, and for a hundred years, it had been straining to resume its rotation. However, this amounted to little, and so the Tiger and the Lion took their places as Ozma had instructed them, lying absolutely flat and closing their eyes.

"Make ready," warned Princess Ozma, concentrating upon the silver wand.

What happened then was hard to describe, for it happened very quickly indeed. A sort of something, bright red in color, seemed to rise out of the prone bodies of the two beasts and flash toward the shard of rock. This was their strength, every bit of it. The Red Something threw itself against the side of the rock, and instantly, with a terrible scraping sound, the rock swung halfway around and shattered into a slew of small, jagged pieces. In less than a heartbest the Red Something bounded back into the bodies of the Lion and the Tiger, who groaned and sat up.

They sat up just in time, too. For now the great boulder was freed, and, very relieved, it began to turn again.

"Be care-ful!" cried Tik-Tok, as everyone beat a hasty retreat in the forward direction, avoiding the low-hanging parts of what seemed like a ceiling in rapid motion above them.

The silver wand helped propel them along until they had all reached safety and stood panting on the far side of the turning boulder, which seemed to them as big as a mountain.

When the boulder had turned on its pivot point about halfway, an opening appeared at one side between the boulder and the cave wall. A pinkish packet of fur came shooting through this opening, her charge ending with a somersault next to the others. Then, Eureka safe and the way clear for the moment, the expedition of rescue resumed its journey.





 

Chapter Eighteen

The Queen of the Mangaboos

 

 

The Mangaboo man led Ruggedo, Bungle, Junipee, and Stot through the glass streets of the Glass City at a moderately brisk pace. The glass of the buildings was clearer even than the sort of glass we use in our windows, almost as if the air itself had turned solid; and for this reason it was easy for the travellers from the surface world to observe much of life in the underground land that they had fallen into. Everywhere they looked they could see the stately men and women of Mangaboo moving about behind their transparent walls, sometimes pressing close against them to have a look at the four strange visitors from above. The inhabitants were of all ages—but not quite all: there were no infants or young children anywhere to be seen.

Finally they came to an open square in the middle of the city. On one side of the square was a beautiful glass palace with a round central dome and four high towers. On the other side was a long and narrow glass structure somewhat resembling a greenhouse. Ruggedo and the others naturally turned toward the palace, but their guide called out for them to stop.

"Do you not desire an audience with our ruler, Queen Ssyr?"

"We do," said the former Nome King. "Is that grand building not the royal palace?"

"No," replied the Mangaboo. "That is the Palace of the Sorcerer, whose name is Murch." He pointed in the opposite direction, to the small structure at the other side of the public square. "There is the dwelling of Queen Ssyr."

"That’s funny!" said Stot.

"Why do you find it peculiar?" asked the guide, who seemed not to know the other meaning of the word "funny."

"Cause where we come from, the more important you are, the bigger the house you have."

"That is an odd arrangement," the man commented. "The dignity of being the leader of an entire people is very great, and so to keep things fair and even, we give our royal toptypes houses that are no larger than they must be to accommodate those who come there on business."

"Then your sorcerer must be quite an inferior fellow, to live in that plus-sized palace," commented the Glass Cat.

"He is regarded as the least ferior of all of us," replied the Mangaboo man, "as his only purpose is to serve the needs of all the rest." He turned without further comment and continued on towards the dwelling of the Queen.

They entered the little house single-file, and found that it was really no more than a very long hallway leading to a single square room, where upon a glass throne sat a silver-haired woman in a long, gauzy gown, a star fixed in her hair just above her forehead.

"Well?" asked Queen Ssyr.

"For the most part," confirmed the man who had served as guide. "But I bring you these four, who ask to see you, and say it is the proper thing to do."

The Queen looked at each of the four surface-dwellers in turn. "Although the small creature seems to be made of glass, like our buildings, I perceive that none of you are Mangaboos. Therefore I deduce that you come from elsewhere."

"You are absolutely correct," said Ruggedo with a show of dignity.

"How did you come here?" she asked.

"Let us say that we dropped in, and leave it at that," Bungle replied.

"I do not understand," said Queen Ssyr; "but it is of no consequence, so long as you return to elsewhere immediately."

"Well, actually," began Junipee, "we had sort of a goal to accomplish first. Then we’ll leave in a hurry, you can bet."

"What goal?"

Ruggedo nudged the little girl, as he had not planned to be anything like honest with the Queen. But Junipee continued, "It’s sort of a scavenger hunt, Your Majesty. Do you happen to have something called ‘colorless gloves’?"

"I do."

"Then," Stot piped up, "we need ’em."

"But why?"

"Oh, I don’t know exactly," the boy went on. "I guess Mr. King needs to have them so he can get his belt."

The Queen nodded. "That I understand; for my Colorless Gloves, having no color at all, will go with any belt or other article of clothing. But they are national symbols, like the star upon my head, and cannot be lent out."

"Then there is no reason to hang around, and we’ll be on our way," said the Glass Cat.

"Just a moment!" put in Ruggedo in a commanding voice that he reserved for such occasions. "I am King of the Nomes, and have an enormous army at my disposal. You would be foolish to disregard my demands."

"I did not know that," Queen Ssyr replied. "It is improper for the royal head of a country to be foolish. Must I then consider your demands before turning them down?"

"I suppose that would be an improvement," the former Nome King responded, with a show of restrained impatience. "But in truth, speaking frankly as one royal personage to another, matters will not be completely square until you give me what I want."

Her expression remaining as earnest and dignified as an official portrait, Queen Ssyr nodded. "I understand, but what you ask presents grave difficulties. Only the Supreme Vegetative Monarch of Mangaboo has the authority to transfer possession of the Colorless Gloves to another; but by our sacred and inalterable laws, any person who would even contemplate doing so cannot be recognized as Monarch. Thus if I were to wish to give them to you, I couldn’t, and if I didn’t wish to give them to you, I wouldn’t. It is an insoluble problem of pure logic, and the laws of logic are even less amenable to change than the laws of Mangaboo."

This careful explanation left the old Nome King utterly nonplussed, as he was unable to follow it. "If you refuse my demand, I shall have fifty-thousand of my brave Nomes—no, fifty million—attacking your Glass City from all directions, including above and below. They are fierce fighters, and I warn you, there wouldn’t be much left when they finally bid you good-day."

The Mangaboo guide, who had remained close by, now spoke up. "If there were fifty millions of them present, they would get in each others’ way and be unable to do anything."

"Then I would call in another fifty million to replace them," declared Ruggedo.

"I see," said the man, whose name was Brome.

"In any event, what will be will be; for I can do nothing," the Queen concluded.

There was a silence, during which Stot, who was becoming bored and a bit cranky (for his nap was overdue), wandered off to one side of the royal chamber and began trying to write on the wall with his fingertip; while Bungle, who was not so much bored as merely uninterested, sat herself at the other side and began preening her crystaline fur. The Nome King was frowning fiercely and turning red as a volcano—the fiery kind, not the icy kind.

Finally Junipee spoke up and said, "Oh my goodness, if this isn’t the silliest thing! Your Majesty, ma’am, we’re not interested in just some every-day gloves that you call ‘the Colorless Gloves’ for some reason or other. We have to have real colorless gloves, which may be some other gloves entirely."

"But these are the only colorless gloves I am familiar with at all," Queen Ssyr retorted. She held forward her two arms for Junipee to see. "They extend from the ends of my fingers to my elbow, and as you can see, they cannot be seen."

"I’m just not sure," the girl said doubtfully, leaning closer and rubbing her fingers on the Queen’s forearm. "Seems to me I should be able to feel them, even if I can’t see them."

"Yes," Ssyr confirmed. "Can’t you?" When Junipee shook her head, the Queen added, "Just try a bit harder." So Junipee ran the tips of her fingers from the crook in each of Her Majesty’s arms all the way to the ends, pressing down firmly. But finally she took a step back and shrugged.

"Are you sure you haven’t lost them along the way somewhere?" she asked.

"This is most unsettling," responded Queen Ssyr; "for the fact is that I myself can no longer feel them pressing upon my forearms and hands. But in all known time of Mangaboo, they have never been known to fall off by themselves." She felt about on her lap and legs, and then stood up and ran her hands over the throne; then she knelt down and explored the floor around the throne, at some cost to her royal dignity. "Come help me, Citizen Brome," she called out. As the search expanded to a larger and larger area, more Mangaboo citizens were recruited to take part. Soon every inch of the throne room had been felt-over many times by many hands, and the four visitors from above were compelled to withdraw down the hallway.

When they were out of earshot, Ruggedo gave Junipee a sly and knowing look that was not lacking in admiration.

"So where did you put them?" he asked her.

"The zippered pocket inside my jacket," she replied.

"For a meat-person, and a young one at that, you are quite sharp," Ruggedo declared. "I would have suggested that course of action to you, but the stonework of my lips does not easily accommodate whispering."

"Stealing is wrong," Junipee said, looking sternly at her brother. "But perhaps this is only borrowing."

"It was the only solution to the logic problem posed by that foolish Queen, and as the dilemma is artificial and nonsensical in the first place, I wouldn’t waste a second worrying over how you solved it," commented Bungle. "You cut the—the—well, you cut something, I’d say." The Glass Cat couldn’t quite recall the story of the Gordian Knot, as it hadn’t interested her when she had heard it spoken of. But she got the point across.





 

Chapter Nineteen

Dragons, Gurgles, and Invisible Bears

 

 

"My nose still throbs," complained Eureka. "Perhaps no one cares about it, but you all might consider how it will affect our mission. It is hard to pick up a scent through a throbbing nose."

"I’m sure we all care about your nose, Eureka," responded Dorothy from her place on the Pink Kitten’s back, directing her words towards Ozma’s wand. "But really, there’s not much we can do about it."

The Pink Kitten was now travelling—cautiously—down a rough-hewn tunnel in the rock. They were going deeper and deeper into the earth, and the route would have been inky-black if Ozma had not provided some magical illumination. Sometimes the cave was broad, sometimes very narrow, and sometimes it dipped downward at a rather alarming angle.

Finally, after passing through a narrow opening that was almost like a slit in the rocks, Eureka found herself in a long cavern broken up by many boulders. "I just remembered this place," she said quietly, and with a bit of dread. "Can’t anyone else smell them?"

"Who?" asked Ozma.

"Dragons!" hissed the cat. "There is a whole brood of insolent little ones who call themselves Dragonettes, and a mother off somewhere. They are not particular what they eat, as long as there is a lot of it."

"I hope I never get to such a place in life," remarked the Hungry Tiger. "Desperate as I may be to slake my famishment, there are some items I simply will not abide."

"Come closer, please," called a voice. On all sides eyes as big as pie-plates began to open, slightly luminous from some inner source of light.

"Pardon me, but I believe I won’t," Eureka responded.

"Oh, it’s you again," another voice said. "Why did you return? Lose your way?"

Losing some of her dread, the Pink Kitten sniffed the air haughtily. "You’ve obviously mistaken me for someone else."

"Please!" said the Dragonette scornfully. "Do you suppose we’d forget you so soon? It’s been barely a century, you know. But what has become of the rest of your party, cat? Where is the horse, the buggy, and the several humans that were with you just now?"

"Tossed ’er over, I’d say!" snickered another Dragonette, which provoked a good deal of muttering and rustling.

"I don’t care to engage in this conversation, as it seems your mother has yet to teach you manners," declared Eureka.

"You won’t tell on us, will you?" quavered one of the reptilian children. "Mother doesn’t like for us to talk to strangers unless we eat them."

"Well, that tears it!" came a disgusted voice. "Now that you’ve warned her good, Vdoxo, she won’t come near, and we might as well go back to sleep."

"Oh, who wants to eat cat anyway!" groaned another Dragonette. One by one the voices faded out and the big eyes closed shut.

"It seems to me all these creatures are tied to boulders by their tails, just as they were before," said the Wizard as he examined the chamber with the magnifying glass. "You may proceed safely, Eureka—but stay clear of the big boulders."

She stayed very clear of the boulders, proceeding in a straight line down the middle of the chamber. She did not choose to run, however, as she felt it beneath her dignity to show the Dragonettes that they had aroused any anxiety in her.

Suddenly there came a scraping sound not far behind, followed by the pattering of great hard claws against rock.

"Run, run!" exclaimed the Wizard. "One of them has got loose!"

There are few things on earth faster than a frightened cat. Eureka shot toward an opening at the far end of the cave like an arrow in flight; but even so the loose Dragonette was almost nipping at her heels. Just beyond the opening was a wall of stone, where the tunnel turned sharply to one side. Perhaps it was the ache in her nose that inspired the Pink Kitten to land on this wall with all her paws ahead of her, allowing her to bound off it sideways as if she were a rubber ball. But the pursuing Dragonette was not cautious at all, and rammed himself right into the wall with a loud impact.

"Oh!" cried Ozma, her kind heart touched by sympathy for the poor creature. "Has he killed himself, Eureka?"

The Pink Kitten—already almost a block away—ground to a stop. "You’re not suggesting that I go back to check, are you?" she panted.

"No," Ozma said firmly. "I am commanding it."

Eureka wisely refrained from saying what she thought of this. She returned warily until she was but a few yards from the opening to the den of the dragons. A Dragonette, big as a truck, was crumpled halfway into the tunnel. He was boo-hooing and rubbing his forehead.

"I—I forgot about the wall!" he wept. "I hurt myself!"

"Your mother will punish you for having untied yourself," observed Eureka. "This will teach you to mind what you’re told." She spoke boldly, as she could see that the creature could not work himself any further into the rocky corridor.

"It’s all your fault," sulked the Dragonette.

"That’s the sign of a crybaby," commented the Pink Kitten. "Instead of blaming others, just go back inside and lie quietly for a few decades. I’m sure Mother will be home soon."

"Oh… oh—kay," the dragon said. As Eureka left, she could hear him squirming his way back inside.

The cave-corridor was now narrower and twistier than ever, though still proceeding downward in a general way. As there was nothing new to see, the passengers upon Eureka commenced to doze one by one, until only Tik-Tok—who never tired and needed no sleep—remained active. The Pink Kitten was becoming thirsty, but fortunately she came across a trickle of clear water crossing her path and was thus able to satisfy herself. But there was no food to be had anywhere along the route, and she knew she would soon need to eat.

Finally she came to a stop and awakened the others with a sharp whisper. "I have come to somewhere," she hissed, "and I can’t say I like it."

"No sense tellin’ us what you can’t say," remarked Cap’n Bill, who had been sleeping soundly.

"We are at the edge of a pe-cu-li-ar kind of coun-try," announced Tik-Tok, who had been given the magnifying glass to use while the others rested.

"I’ll bet it’s all made of wood, isn’t it?" Dorothy said. "It’s that horrid County of the Gurgles. I ’membered it was next in line."

"The word is ‘gargoyles’," the Wizard corrected her. "I suppose you recall them too, don’t you, Eureka?"

"I do," whispered the cat in reply. "I remember that they were ugly, and hostile, and no good for a sweet little thing like myself."

"Not all of us are sweet," the Shaggy Man pointed out; "though we surely are little. Perhaps the roughest and homeliest of us might open negotiations for safe passage, eh?"

The Wizard chuckled at this and said, "No, Shaggy, I’m afraid it would do no good. I’m not sure what sort of brains these creatures have, or even if they happen to be alive; and besides, they cannot seem to tolerate noise of any sort, so don’t count on being able to talk to them."

"But then what are we to do?" asked Trot. "Can we go around them?"

Ozma held out her hand for the magnifying glass. After looking through it for a time, she said, "The sky above this strange land is topped-off by a cottony material that glows like a fire-fly."

"Sounds like you have a plan in mind, Yer Excellentness," Cap’n Bill observed.

"I do," replied the Princess of Oz. "Haven’t you noticed, all of you, that the air around us has thickened as we’ve gone deeper under the ground?"

"I noticed it," said the Cowardly Lion. "I would have mentioned it long ago, but it made me nervous, so I preferred not to think about it."

"You can feel it when you swish your hands around," Betsy Bobbin said.

Ozma smiled confidently and said, "I believe I shall be able to cause Eureka to float in it, using my wand. And if I can draw enough of the sky-substance around her to cover her up, the inhabitants—the Gargoyles—will not see her at all as she passes over their heads."

This episode, which might have been the most dangerous of all their adventures, turned out to be quite the easiest. The cottony stuff that made up the vault of the sky was easily gathered by the silver wand, and in fact it was as sticky as cotton-candy, so it clung to Eureka’s fur with no difficulty at all. Presently Ozma said, "Eureka, walk forward upon the thick air, and the wand will keep you up."

"All right," the Pink Kitten responded. "Here I go!" She had been standing where the cave had come to an end, a square room cut into the rock that was entirely open on one side. Now she stepped forward into the air and found herself rising like a puff of smoke. Below her was spread out the great cavern-land of the Gargoyles (which is officially called the Land of Naught). There were trees and houses, pathways and lawns, all made of wood, wood-shavings, and sawdust. Passing through the air, though at a lower level, were many score of the queer Gargoyle creatures. They had short bodies shaped like rounded wooden gate-posts, with clawed bow-legs upon which they could hop or shuffle along when flying was inconvenient. They also had wings that looked a bit like wooden shutters, which were fastened to their bodies by wooden hinges held by hard wooden pegs pounded into place.

The heads of the Gargoyles were ugly and grotesque, at least by our standards—though to one another they were probably attractive. No two were alike: some had long curved noses, some had beaks like parrots or humming-birds, while others had broad toothy snouts like a crocodile. Some even looked like a poor attempt at representing a human face. And there were many that looked like nothing living at all, just a sort of ornamental wooden carving.

The entire population seemed preoccupied with some task or other, and if any one of them ever looked upward, Eureka did not notice it. Nor did they notice the Pink Kitten, whose frothy disguise caused her to blend-in with the sky above her.

The whole scene was lit by a dim light, somewhat silver-and-blue in color, and there was not a sound to be heard anywhere.

"This place is deader’n a graveyard, Bill," whispered Trot. "D’you suppose this is where the bad people go when they pass on?"

"Wouldn’t think so," answered the old seaman. "Not big enough by a long-shot."

Eureka’s sense of smell was not as impaired by her throbbing little nose as she had feared, and she quickly detetcted a trace in the air of the scent of Mangaboo-land. Following along as the scent became stronger, she finally spied a dark hole in the side of an outcropping of rock, a sort of pinnacle rising up to a point, that pierced the wooden floor of the Land of Naught near where the high cavern roof curved down to the ground. In a minute Ozma’s silver wand had carried Eureka through the opening and landed her on a cold flooring made up of smooth blocks of carved stone fitted neatly together.

"Guess we’ve made port," Cap’n Bill remarked.

"I hope you’ll give me a few minutes to scrape this sticky stuff off me and clean my fur," said Eureka. "I must be allowed an ounce of dignity, or I’m no good for anything."

"Go ahead," Ozma said through the wand. Then she turned to the Wizard and asked what he could see through the glass, and what they were to expect.

He answered, "The kitten has come to rest upon a narrow stone landing, which is really just the widened top step of a flight of stairs that circles downward around and around, in the form of a spiral. It was very hard, climbing up those stairs the first time. But this time we don’t have a horse-and-buggy to contend with; and besides, it is easier to go down than up."

"It’s the inside of Pyramid Mountain, Ozma," added Dorothy, "and at the bottom of the stairs is a pretty country called the Valley of Voe. But there’s invisible bears, you know, and Eureka will have to be careful not to eat what they call the dama-fruit, or she’ll go invis’ble herself."

"But it might not be such a bad thing to be invisible," observed the Cowardly Lion.

"I don’t think I’d care for it," Betsy Bobbin said. "I wouldn’t want to look in a mirror and not see anything at all. How could a girl straighten her hair?"

"Oh, Betsy!" Trot laughed. "If you can’t be seen at all, what difference would your hair make, anyways?"

"It’s just th’ principle of the thing," sniffed Betsy.

Now it isn’t as easy for a cat or other small animal to handle stairs as it is for a human, as the stairs are usually too large. But the thickened air made the Pink Kitten bouyant, like a bubble in water, so she was able to almost glide down, just barely touching the stone steps with the tips of her paws. In this way the cat and her crew made good time. There were landings at intervals, and at one such landing there was a window through which they could see fleecy clouds spread off into the far distance like a blanket.

"Seems the wooden Gargoyle country rests upon clouds," the Shaggy Man commented. "Peculiar; but no more so than the country itself, I suppose."

"I don’t believe we are seeing the underside of Naught at all," said Princess Ozma in response. "The Country of the Gargoyles must be in a great cavern on a higher level than this one."

Dorothy was just then holding the Wizard’s magnifying glass. "I know ’zackly where we are. We’re going down inside of Pyramid Mountain, and those are the clouds over Voe."

The journey now recommenced, and there was again nothing to see for a little while. Presently, however, the stair-well opened upon the floor of a broad open space, as if someone had taken a bite out of the side of Pyramid Mountain. It was like a half-cavern, completely open on one side; and through that huge opening the Pink Kitten could see another great hollow in the underworld. It was not Voe, which lay on the opposite side of the four-sided mountain, but a world of storm and tumult, with a black sea dashing and crashing far below them.

"I believe I remember this," declared the Wizard hesitantly. "Something occurred here, didn’t it, Dorothy?"

"Why, this is where the Braided Man lived," replied the spirited little Kansan.

"Oh, the lunatic!" Eureka said dismissively.

Ozma couldn’t help laughing at the cat’s bluntness. "Someday we will teach you to be kind, Eureka. But as for the Braided Man, I used the Magic Belt to transport the poor thing back to his original home many years ago, where I’m sure he has forgotten all about Oz and its inhabitants."

The Pink Kitten crossed the floor of the half-cavern quickly, for the gusts of wind that tossed the underground sea were very unpleasant. As she neared an arched doorway in the far wall, where the stairway continued downward, Tik-Tok said:

"I am keep-ing watch through the glass, and I see a cot-tage next to the door."

To call it a cottage was really a great kindness. It was simply a crude lean-to made of dead branches, balanced against the wall.

The Wizard took a look and pronounced, "I believe it is a cover to the small dug-out in which the Braided Man lived and worked. Of course, no-one lives there now."

Eureka paused, and her curiosity caused her to draw nearer. Abruptly she threw herself backwards in a fright, for a figure had appeared at the open end of the structure—the horrid figure of a Gargoyle.

"Oh no!" cried Trot, who was then holding the magnifying glass. "He’s the worst yet!"

Indeed, this Gargoyle was an unlovely specimen. His round post-like body was all warped and scratched up, its wood—evidently of an inferior grade—having many knots and imperfections in it. He was not wearing his wings at the moment, and his head was just a notched-up block of wood, with the merest suggestion of ears, eyes, nose, and mouth.

"Screech at him, Eureka," urged Dorothy into the wand after taking a look at the creature. "They can’t stand sound, and it makes ’em turn tail."

Eureka fixed her four legs firmly on the ground and let loose her loudest yeowl. The Gargoyle took a step back, and then said calmly:

"You are badly in need of tuning, whatever you are."

"Aren’t you frightened?" asked the cat.

"Should I be?"

"I was told you Garglers were allergic to noise. Matter of fact, I didn’t know you could speak at all."

"We learn at an early age to be silent, for our parents believe in stern discipline," responded the wooden creature. "The air of our native land, which is called Naught, is very thick; consequently it conveys sound as easily as a stream conveys water. And alas, nature has given us sensitive ears."

"But not yours?"

"Over the years I have become used to noise, such as the roaring of the sea and the howling of the wind."

Eureka’s face assumed a distracted expression. Then she continued: "I am supposed to ask you what your name is, and whether there is anything we can do for you."

The creature stood silently for a time. He may have been looking at Eureka, although it was hard to tell, as his carved eyes were very indistinct. "I don’t know what a ‘name’ is," he said at last.

The Pink Kitten explained, "It is what you call yourself."

"Then my name is ‘me.’ As to doing something for me, do you happen to have a means of making me uglier?"

Taken aback by this queer suggestion, Eureka wondered for a moment if the Gargoyle were pulling her leg. "Pardon my saying the obvious, but I don’t see how anything could make you any uglier."

"No, I suppose not," said he. "I must content myself with this lonely life of mine. As you might have guessed, I am one of those beings who is born by accident to be so much more beautiful than those around me that all who see me become discontented and wish to destroy themselves. For that reason I was exiled to this spot. But if I could manage to reduce the degree of my handsomeness, I would be allowed to return. Over the years I’ve tried to uglify myself. I’ve even tried battering myself against the rocks: but as you see, every imperfection only works to set off the perfections around it, producing an ever more pleasing effect."

The Pink Kitten did not comment on this, but said, "We—that is, I—am on a trip to Mangaboo by way of Voe. I suppose I ought to be getting along."

"I know nothing of this ‘Mangaboo’," responded the Gargoyle. "I have heard of Voe. But why do you wish to go there? It is a place of horror, made all of soft colored things—mostly green, if you can believe it. They say the creatures who live there are too ugly to bear looking at, but by good fortune they have mostly become invisible. Admittedly, you are of a rather disgusting form yourself. Of what sort of wood are you constructed?"

"I am made of flesh and lovely soft fur, formerly white, now pink," replied Eureka with haughty indignation. "I keep myself clean and spotless, which is obviously a lesson lost on you."

"If I could manage to look just a bit more like you, my brother Gargoyles would allow me back in, I’m certain," the wooden creature said wistfully. "Perhaps, if I keep splintering myself on the rocks, the day will yet come."

At Ozma’s behest the Pink Kitten bid the lonesome Gargoyle a firm, and not very fond, farewell, and resumed her descent of the stone stairs.

"That spot must be an asylum," she muttered in plain disgust. Her passengers, who had been able to hear most of the conversation, were doing all they could to stifle their laughter.

"Can’t say the kitty didn’t deserve t’be taken down a peg or two," chuckled Cap’n Bill.

"If she is wise, she has learned that beauty is just a relative thing," Ozma said.

Observed Tik-Tok, "In my o-pin-ion, she is not that wise."

It was not long at all before Eureka had at last descended all the circling stairs within Pyramid Mountain, and stood looking across the lovely Valley of Voe, a green vista almost as pretty as the nice country that surrounds the Emerald City.

"I am glad to revisit this place," the Wizard said. "We had our problems here, of course, but the view was worth it."

"What sort of problems?" asked the Cowardly Lion suspiciously.

"Oh, those invis’ble bears, mostly," answered Dorothy on the Wizard’s behalf. "They’re pretty fierce, but they don’t like water."

"No doubt these bears would find us not worth the dime, as they say," the Shaggy Man remarked. "We’re no bigger than gnats, and I’ve never seen a bear go chasing after a gnat."

"But they’d go after my poor Eureka," Dorothy protested.

"Aye, and I s’pose we need her to carry us the rest of the way. She’s not much good to us eaten." This was Cap’n Bill’s comment.

Betsy Bobbin approached Ozma and said, "Well here’s some advice from one of your royal advisers, Ozmy dear. Use the wand to float Eureka through the sky till we get to the road down to Mangy; that way the bears can’t get ’er."

The Princess thought this suggestion a good one, but she had no sooner explained this to Eureka than the Pink Kitten staged a rebellion. "I’m sorry, forgive me and all that," she said, "but I don’t think I can do anything unless I have something to eat. At this point, even dream-food would probably keep me going—but nothing can make me eat clouds, so you’ll have to let me prowl about on the ground for a little while at least."

"I should have realized," Ozma said. "Go ahead then. But be as quick as you can about it, for these invisible bears sound like a great danger."

The Hungry Tiger yawned—it seemed he had been doing little else but yawning for quite a while—and added: "Invisible bears may be reasoned with, or frightened off by a roar; but hunger won’t listen to anything."





 

Chapter Twenty

Around and About The Glass City

 

 

The search for the missing Colorless Gloves had become a vast enterprise, though not a frantic one: for the Mangaboos were vegetables, like potatoes or cabbages, and you have never seen a potato or a cabbage become excited about anything—not even being boiled. But Queen Ssyr brought more and more of her subjects into her modest palace to feel of the floor, walls, and ceiling, and finally there were so many Mangaboos present that the surface-worlders were forced out into the great square.

"Just as well," pronounced Ruggedo. "We don’t need any further contact with the Mangaboos, for now we have what we came for."

"What did we come for, Ruggy?" asked Stot.

"The Colorless Gloves, of course."

"Oh, I ’member now. Can I look at them?"

The former Nome King gave Stot a superior smile. "Why, I suppose you can look at them. But you won’t see anything, as they have no color and offer nothing to the eye."

"Oh," Stot said. "Okay."

"I’m getting hungry, and I think Stot is too," declared Junipee. "There’s nothing left of what the Sandamanders gave us, but if we look around we ought to be able to find a vegetable stand."

"No," snapped the Nome King with childish willfulness. "I’m tired of being led about by your need to eat. Give me the Colorless Gloves, and let us get on with it." His voice sounded as if it were stamping its feet.

Junipee smiled at him, her eyes full of mischief. "All right. I’ll give you the gloves if you answer one question, King Ruggedo."

"What is it?"

"It’s simple. Just tell me what a zipper is."

"A what? A zipper?" The Nome frowned deeply. "There is no such thing—you made up that word!"

"But of course there is," the Glass Cat put in (for she enjoyed annoying the stuffy old former King of the Nomes). "It’s much discussed in the Emerald City. Is it possible news of the zipper has yet to reach the Gillikin hinterlands?"

In an angry snarl, Ruggedo showed the rows of pointed milk-white crystals that were his teeth. "You are all making fun of me, I gather. Beware my anger!"

Retorted Bungle, "What’re you going to do, drop yourself on us?"

"Since you couldn’t answer my question, you don’t get the gloves just yet," said Junipee smugly. "They are in my secret pocket which is closed-up with a zipper; and now I know that you wouldn’t know how to work it even if you could find it."

Ruggedo’s mood changed abruptly. "You know," said he with a suave note to his rocky voice, "in your way you are really quite a charmer. What would you think of being Princess of my Nome Dominions, and thus my Royal Heiress-Apparent? I could easily transform you into a Nome once I have my Magic Belt around me. Then you would enjoy the life underground."

Junipee only smiled blandly at this repulsive idea. "I think Stot and I—and Eureka, if she wants—need some time away from you."

"Very well," grumped the Nome. "I suppose I ought to eat as well. I shall spend my precious time over there." He pointed across the square to a little park criss-crossed with pathways of ground-glass and gravel. All the trees were actually the giant stalks and fronds of leafy vegetables, like celery and radishes.

"I didn’t think you ate veg’tables, Mr. King," Stot remarked.

"I don’t, of course. I’ll nibble on a few of those rocky paths, as they look a bit tempting." The former Nome King wagged a finger in Junipee’s direction. "But don’t make me wait long, little one, and don’t try to escape me. If I find you missing, I’ll have my revenge, and you won’t like it."

"That must be some sort of quaint Nome expression—‘find you missing’ indeed!" remarked Bungle. "It’s one or the other, you know."

The children and the masquerading Glass Cat left Ruggedo behind and crossed the square in the opposite direction, turning onto a boulevard they had not seen before. This seemed as though it were the shopkeepers’ section of the Glass City. At least the buildings did not appear to be residences, though you couldn’t judge one way or the other by their having glass windows in front, as the whole city was nothing but one big glass window. There were no signs with words on them (it seemed the Mangaboos had no written language at all), but there were placards and billboards here and there with drawings of things for sale.

"Look at that sign!" cried Stot. "It shows people eating!" The children went inside, followed by the Glass Cat, who of course was barely noticeable. They were rewarded by the sight of tables and chairs, and a long glass counter, behind which stood a heavy (but still handsome) Mangaboo man wearing a sort of apron.

"Is this a restaurant?" Junipee asked the man.

"It is a café," he replied.

"That’s about the same," said Junipee. "We need to eat, but to tell you the truth, we don’t have any money."

"You would be wise to pick some, then," the man advised her. "There are money bushes all over the commercial district. But rather than put you to the inconvenience, I will give you some of mine, as I have a bit too much to fit in the till." He handed Junipee a number of rectangular bills, which seemed to be white in color (though the shifting colors of the suns made it difficult to judge). There were markings on the bills that looked, from a distance, like writing; but when Junipee examined them carefully, they were just streaks and splotches, as might be found on leaves.

"Aw, it’s just imitation money," Stot said in disappointment.

Junipee asked, "How much money is this?"

"Three ounces," answered the man. "Or, if you prefer, perhaps ten square feet laid out on the floor."

"Will this buy the two of us a good lunch?"

"That is the only kind I serve," he responded. "Now sit anywhere you like, and I will bring it to you."

The children took a corner table and waited for a time, watching the café slowly fill with patrons, who took seats without asking in groups of two or three, speaking softly amongst themselves.

"I can’t wait," whispered Junipee. "I’m really hungry, and my stomach is growling."

"You may be growling higher-up in a minute, for I suspect you are due for an unpleasant surprise," commented the Glass Cat. "And I pride myself on being rarely wrong when it comes to unpleasant surprises."

The man behind the counter seemed also to be the café’s only cook and waiter. He moved among the other tables with a little cart from which he dispensed various plates, bowls, and cups.

Stot said, "Junee, we were here first, so howcome we don’t get our food first?"

"Probably the same reason the lowliest person gets the best place to live," his sister replied. "It’s the way they do things."

Finally the counter-man came to their table and placed in front of each of them a large plate, a soup bowl, an ornately decorated drinking cup, and a set of oddly shaped implements.

"Enjoy," said the man.

"Enjoy what?" asked Stot. "There’s no food!"

"What do you mean, young sir?" was the man’s response. "Are the portions not large enough?"

Junipee touched the plate and the bowl, making sure they were not full of colorless food that could not be seen. But there was truly nothing there at all. "Mister," she said, "there’s nothing here but air."

"But what else is food but air served for eating purposes, while seated at a table?" The Mangaboo seemed quite baffled. "You will find my air quite moist and healthful. Ah!—but perhaps you are on a special diet?"

"Our diet requires that we eat real food," replied Junipee. "You know, meat and potatoes or spaghetti or noodle soup or even—if we have to—brussels-sprouts."

Stot raised his hand. "And a can of soda, please."

The counter-man rubbed his chin thoughtfully. "I am unfamiliar with some of those air-dishes, and the others are vegetables, which no one can eat."

The false Eureka jumped up from the floor onto one of the chairs, and from there onto the table-top. "You see, children, we are in a Vegetable Kingdom," she purred, satisfied that her prediction had come true. "My pink brains told me from the start that these creatures would not eat as you meat-people do. Look around you at the other diners." Junipee and Stot did look around, and Stot began to giggle. Though the other Mangaboos were going through the motions of eating, even making use of their utensils, nothing solid or liquid was visible, and the diners never opened their mouths.

"I guess they’re breathing your air through their noses," Junipee guessed.

"Why should they do that?" the cook inquired. "Air is taken-in through the skin."

"And it’s everywhere, anyway," declared the girl. "Why come here to your café?"

The man smiled. "For the atmosphere."

Further questioning of the man, whose name was Corje, gave the surface-worlders a fuller picture of life in Mangaboo. It developed that all the Mangaboo people were born with a sort of general, instinctive knowledge of everything they were to do at every moment of their lives to come, which usually lasted about five years. They went through the motions of eating and sleeping, talking, working, having a family, and taking in amusement, without a single thought as to the purpose of these activities, nor the slightest curiosity concerning them. Their lives and health were sustained by the thick moist air of their underground land, plus various nutritional lotions that they sometimes spread upon their skin which acted like fertilizer. The radiance of the colored suns also played its role; the Mangaboos would not be able to survive long in anything other than transparent dwellings.

"My fine pink brains—which you can see working—cannot imagine what it would be like to live without curiosity," remarked Bungle. "I cannot say I pity you vegetable folk, as glass is hard and can’t be moved by pity. But your situation is unusual."

"It is not unusual to us," was Corje’s calm rejoinder. "Am I to understand that you force bits of other living things into an opening in your bodies, and then down an interior tube into a holding-place?"

The Glass Cat pointed with the end of her tail toward Junipee and Stot. "I don’t, but they do."

"If you don’t have meat or vegetables here, how about some fruit?" implored Junipee, who was now dreadfully hungry and a little afraid she might end up starving to death.

"Well, I do have some bits of fruits," admitted Corje. "They release a moist essence into my air which makes it the talk of the town." He went and fetched them a plateful of bits of fruit, which fortunately were fresh. It was quite a mixture—mangoes, apples, pears, bananas, grapes, and many other kinds, including some the children did not recognize. But they were delicious and the meal was filling. Corje had never heard of ‘soft drinks,’ but he brought them fresh water from his air moisturizing apparatus, and that was satisfactory.

Junipee, Stot, and the Glass Cat had just left the café and reentered the street when a group of large-jawed men in shiny uniforms approached them. They carried in their hands stiff branches sporting long sharp thorns, which they brandished in front of them.

One of the men stepped forward and said loudly, "Outsiders, you are to come with us, immediately and without delay. I am Fegrole, High-Knob of the Branchmen, and you must do what I say without question."

"I wouldn’t dream of asking a question at this juncture," Bungle declared. "I will merely announce that I won’t go anywhere unless you can prove that you are who you say you are."

This puzzled High-Knob Fegrole and the others of his troop. "I do not know how to prove who I am," he said. "But I say I am who I am, and if I say something, it is true—how could it be otherwise?"

"Don’t you ever fib?" Stot asked in surprise.

"It seems not, as I do not know what that word means," Fegrole replied.

"Well, I don’t know what it means to give-in to foolish authority," said Bungle; and before the branchmen could even lower their thorn-branches—which would hardly have been effective against a creature of glass anyway—the cat had run away out of sight.



 

 

Chapter Twenty-One

The Magic of Murch

 

 

Eureka—the genuine article—made a gingerly climb down the slope in which the portal to the great stairwell was set, which was really just the broad base of Pyramid Mountain. At the bottom of this slope lay the Valley of Voe, with all its tranquil beauty.

"We won’t require the magnifying glass any further," announced the Wizard, placing that useful item back in his coat pocket. "It seems the thicker air down here has some effect upon light and sound, for we can see and hear almost as clearly as if we were our normal sizes again."

"Yes, and I don’t like it," said Trot. "It just reminds me of how much I’d like to be big again."

"We’re farther than ever from that," Betsy Bobbin observed. "Even if we rescue the Glass Cat, what shall we do then? How will we get all the way back to the Emerald City?"

"You must place your trust in our fine Princess Ozma," chided the Shaggy Man gently. "I don’t think she’s ever done us wrong. Not that there isn’t a first time for everything—for if a thing didn’t have a first time, it wouldn’t have any time at all—but sometimes it’s best to just eat your apples and let the tree take care of itself."

"For-give me for point-ing out that you are wor-ried with-out rea-son." The speaker was, of course, Tik-Tok. "No-thing bad has hap-pened to you for all the ma-ny mo-ments be-fore this one; and as this pre-sent mo-ment is too short to be coun-ted, the odds are ve-ry much a-gainst it be-ing a-ny dif-fer-ent." The wind-up man had a philosophy that was similar to little Stot’s in many respects.

"If it will reassure you and lift your spirits, please remember that Glinda the Good has her Great Book of Records, which she checks frequently to keep track of all the things of interest that are happening in the world," Ozma reminded them. "When she reads of our dilemma it will be no trouble for her to return us to Oz, and to our proper sizes."

"That’s assumin’ that nice big cyclopedia of hers considers us an interesting thing," retorted Cap’n Bill. "I can’t speak for ever’one, but I never did take much interest in the comings and goings of itty-bits the size of grains of salt an’ pepper."

"Cap’n Bill, you can be such a pess’mist sometimes," Trot admonished him. "I wish you’d take to saying something hopeful."

"Well then, I do hope we’ll soon get that glassy kitten, and back to our nat’rul selves."

Eureka herself was now engaged in grazing. Grazing is more for cattle and sheep, of course, but the Pink Kitten was now too hungry to be particular about her reputation; and besides she knew Ozma would not allow her to chase down mice or other small delicious animals. So she nibbled whatever she came across that smelled good to her. These were mostly roots and fruits and berries, but she did condescend to sample the grass of Voe, and found it to have a pleasant tuna-like flavor. There was also a river flowing nearby, and she drank of its cool pure water.

Her fellow-travellers were in mid-discussion when they all gasped as one. "Oh! What’s happened?" exclaimed Princess Dorothy.

"Someone has stolen the Pink Kitten right out from under us!" growled the great Lion—and it was the sort of growl that expressed his own dread. "My knees may shake, but give me the word, Your Majesty, and I will put what is left of the courage the Wizard gave me to good use tracking the culprit down."

"It seems that courage was not the only quality the Wizard ought to have supplied you, C.L.," remarked the Hungry Tiger drily, careful to have put some distance between himself and his friend. "You might take notice that we are still suspended several inches off the ground, and in fact can still feel Eureka’s hide beneath our paws."

Eureka herself now spoke, her thundrous voice chagrined. "It seems I’ve gone invisible. I can’t see my paw in front of my face."

"Eureka! You didn’t eat one of those dama-fruits, did you?" admonished Dorothy.

"I suppose it’s obvious that I did," replied the Pink Kitten. "There must have been some baby ones in amongst the berries."

Ozma said, "Perhaps it’s for the best after all. Now Eureka cannot be seen by either bird or beast, and she will be safer."

Just then a new voice was heard by all of them, a voice that was young and girlish, if somewhat gruff. "Mommy!" cried the voice. "There’s little tiny people over here—human people!"

"Now Poncha, what have I told you?" was the impatient rejoinder from some further distance away in the forest. "Be a good little cubette and let’s not play your games now. Mother is busy."

"But I can see ’em!" protested the unseen bear cub. "I can smell ’em too, Mommy—something smells pink."

"Haw haw!" came the overlapping voices of two little boy-bears. "Poncha’s being silly! Can we cuff her, Ma?"

"You two be good and leave your sister alone. Now Poncha, let’s say our colors. ‘Pink is for—’."

Poncha sighed in invisible resignation. "Pink is for Puma."

"Hee hee!" chortled the boys. "Puma!—it’s Pelican."

The Ozites never heard the end of this argument, for Ozma had taken out her silver wand and wafted the Pink Kitten skyward, far out of reach of the family of Invisible Bears. "Not a moment too soon," muttered Eureka. "I’m sure the father would have come by to settle things before I could have run away, and he would have been in a grumpy mood."

"Wouldn’t blame him for that," remarked Cap’n Bill. "I never could stand young ones bellerin’ back and forth."

Said Trot, "Least-ways it’s behind us now."

"No," corrected the Shaggy Man; "it’s below us."

The Wizard and Dorothy remembered in general where lay the cave by which they had entered the Valley of Voe so many years before, and were able to instruct Ozma on where to direct the swooping flight of the cat. Before too long Eureka declared that she had detected a clear scent of Mangaboo country up ahead, and in a minute or so she could see the dark mouth of the cave whence the scent emanated. "There is our goal," the Wizard said. "It should take us the last bit downward to the Vegetable Kingdom; unless it has been blocked or filled-in over the last hundred years."

"I can-not feel hope, nor can I cross my fin-gers, but it would be a good thing to reach where we are go-ing," added Tik-Tok. "My Think-ing Ac-tion tells me so."

Ozma sailed the bouyant Pink Kitten right into the dark mouth of the cave, and as soon as Eureka was no longer subject to the peculiar luminence of the Valley of Voe her invisibility fell away and she could be seen once more.

"Do you need to rest now, dear?" Ozma called out, no longer needing the silver wand to communicate.

"Whether or not I need to, I don’t wish to," answered Eureka brusquely. "This place reminds me of a bear cave, and I’d just as soon we get all the way through it and out into that queer colored-sun land. I’d much rather fight vegetables than invisible beasts."

So it was that Eureka trotted downward through the slanting cave, seeing her way by the magic light Ozma created for her.

"When we came through before we had to use oil lanterns, as I recall," chuckled the little Wizard of Oz. "This way seems much better, doesn’t it, Dorothy?"

"Surely does," replied the Princess. "Guess that’s progress for you."

They travelled down at a fast pace, and presently the Wizard called for a stop and asked Ozma to extinguish the glow from her wand. When this had been done, the Wizard closed his eyes tightly for a minute, then opened them again and looked about.

"Do you see something in the darkness, Wiz?" asked Betsy.

"I do," said he. "Light!" Indeed, the others were soon able to detect this faint, mysterious light as well—first Tik-Tok, with his well-crafted mechanical eyes, then the two sharp-eyed beasts, and then at last the rest of them.

"It’s a funny kind o’ light," Cap’n Bill commented. "Reminds me o’ what they call th’ Northern Lights. Where’s it coming from?"

"You will notice that it comes at us from all sides; even from beneath us," the Wizard pointed out. "It is as I suspected. We have finally crossed over into the great hollow that encloses the land of Mangaboo, and this part of the mountain we are passing through—which is really just a solid part of the earth itself—is composed of glass."

"Why, we must be seeing light from the Six Colored Suns, then," Dorothy observed with delight. "But I don’t remember them being so dim as all this."

"The problem is not with the colored suns, my dear. It’s just that the mountain is thick and we are seeing them through many, many layers of unpolished glass."

"Rather a nice effect," the Hungry Tiger said. "But I do have a question at this juncture."

"What?" asked the Wizard.

"How is it that we have passed into, through, and entirely out of the lovely Valley of Voe—and I have not yet had a thing to eat?"

No one had a satisfactory answer to the tiger’s sarcastic inquiry; so presently Ozma told Eureka to continue her journey.

But there was every indication that the trip was coming to an end. The light that filtered through to the cave, though still very faint, was nonetheless brightening, and after a time it was clear that the light was no longer falling upon them from all directions but only from above. Just then Eureka stopped and said, "Well, this is the end of the line, far as I go."

"Why is that?" inquired the Shaggy Man. "We’re not out in the open yet—if being in a big cavern counts as being ‘in the open’."

"No, but I have no desire to stub my poor nose again," was the Pink Kitten’s reply. "The cave comes to an end just a ways in front of me, in a large rounded chamber made of glass rocks; and if you wish to go any further you’ll have to tell me how to do it."

"That’s right," said Dorothy in disappointment. "How could we have forgotten? The Mangaboos sealed up their end of the cave, to trap us."

The Wizard smiled a smile that creased his face from side to side. "I hadn’t forgotten at all, Dorothy. After a hundred years it was not unlikely that the barrier of rock had been cleared away. But as it hasn’t been, no doubt Her Majesty here can use her wand to fix the deal, as she did with the revolving rock."

"I am studying the matter," said Princess Ozma. "But before there was only one small rock to be destroyed. Here it seems there is no ready-made opening for the kitten to pass through, nor do I even detect a tiny crack for the rest of us."

"Couldn’t you just turn loose our strengths and blast our way through to the other side?" suggested Tiny Trot.

"I’m sorry, dear, but it wouldn’t work. I can tell that even the combined force of all of us is too weak. Those rocks of glass have not merely been piled-up, but have somehow been caused to seal themselves onto one another."

Cap’n Bill now raised up his hand, which had his pipe in it. "We ought t’pay a little more attention to what’s a-goin’ on around us, port ’n starb’d, fore ’n aft. Look up here at my pipe-smoke." The smoke made a thin and hazy plume, like a trail in the air, heading back up the cave in the direction of Voe. "An’ what does that tell us?"

"It in-di-cates the flow of a cur-rent of air," pronounced Tik-Tok.

"I suppose we might’ve guessed that all along," contributed the Shaggy Man with a shaggy little laugh. "After all, if the smell of Mangaboo was reaching the Pink Kitten all the way up to the top of the ground, the air of Mangaboo must be getting through somehow."

They all smiled and nodded at one another (with the exception of the mechanical man, who was always smiling and whose metal neck was too stiff for proper nodding). Princess Ozma withdrew from within her gown a small golden compact studded with tiny emeralds.

"You don’t really need to fix up your make-up right now, Highness, pardon me for sayin’," said Cap’n Bill. But Ozma paid him no attention and opened the lid on the little compact, pursing her lips and blowing gently into it. A wisp of green puffed into the air and quickly grew into a small cloud, which rushed in a direction opposite that of the old seaman’s pipe-smoke.

"This expanding magic powder travels against the breeze rather than along with it," Ozma explained. "It will show us where the air-current is coming from."

The powder streamed toward the jagged pile that formed the wall blocking their way, and seemed to disappear into it halfway up to the ceiling of the cave. "There!" Ozma pronounced. "The rocks in that section don’t quite fit together, and a good amount of air is constantly leaking through."

Said the Shaggy Man, "Speaking mechanically and scientifically, that must mean that the air in Mangaboo is even thicker than the air in here, giving it a greater pressure."

"It must be so," commented Eureka; "for I recall that I was able to slink about in the air of the Vegetables without any kind of magical aid whatever."

"We all could," noted Dorothy. "Even Jim the horse."

"But we are still faced with a good-sized problem," declared the Wizard. "I don’t think a dime could squeeze through those little cracks, much less a Pink Kitten. Of course the rest of us are smaller than a dime, so it won’t be a difficulty for us."

"They say a dime doesn’t go as far as it used to, these days," was the Shaggy Man’s comment on the matter. "It seems they are right."

Tik-Tok now stepped forward and said to Ozma, "I pro-pose that I be com-mand-ed to un-der-take a mis-sion of re-con-nai-sance, Your Ma-jes-ty. Then per-haps we will have a bet-ter i-dea of what to do."

"Are you presently well-wound, Tik-Tok?" asked the Rightful Ruler of Oz.

"I am as wound as I have ev-er been."

"Then I so-command it." Ozma magically elevated the Pink Kitten until her back was just opposite one of the tiny openings, and then conveyed the machine-man into it in similar fashion. The crack entered upon a cave that was very uneven and very long—or so it appeared to Tik-Tok due to his small stature. There was also a powerful and constant wind pressing against him; yet his mechanical muscles were equal to the task and he clomped along without pause, turning this way and that. The light, which was mostly purple at the moment, grew ever more intense, and when it was almost as bright as real daylight upon the surface of the outer world Tik-Tok came to the end of the crack and found himself looking out upon the Vegetable Kingdom of Mangaboo.

Next to the pile of glass there was a road that curved gracefully downward, bridged a stream, and headed off toward the Glass City that glistened in the colored sunlight. But closer than any of those things was a Mangaboo man. His garment sparkled with small silver stars and other decorative symbols, which made it a good deal more imposing than the man himself; for this was one Mangaboo who was not especially handsome to look upon. He had a shrivelled appearance, with long thorns and eyes—of the potato sort—growing all over him.

As the man was leaning on the glass hillside very close to where Tik-Tok had emerged, the mechanical man ventured to try communication. "Hel-lo, ve-ge-ta-tive sir," boomed Tik-Tok in his loudest voice.

The sounds were well carried by the air of Mangaboo, which was almost as thick as molasses. The man stirred and looked about, as if not quite certain what he had heard.

"I am here!" Tik-Tok cried, waving his arms. After a good many tries the man took to examining closely the rocks near to him, and finally he discerned the tiny metallic figure.

"Be warned," said the man; "if you are a potato bug or anything of the kind, it is my duty to destroy you in the cause of the civic good."

"I am no kind of bug at all, but a me-chan-i-cal de-vice in the shape of a man," replied Ozma’s clockwork subject. "I am Tik-Tok."

The Mangaboo studied Tik-Tok, pressing upon the sides of his eyes—the ones he used for seeing—as if to adjust them like a microscope. "I am the Sorcerer of this country of Mangaboo, and my name is Murch. If you were a citizen of Mangaboo I would be required to do your bidding, as I am a public servant; but it seems that you are not."

"No. I am a ci-ti-zen of the Land of Oz."

"Is this ‘Oz’ somewhere beyond the Valley of Voe?"

"It is ve-ry far be-yond."

"Then I have no interest in it," Murch said. "The interest of a citizen extends no further than the place adjacent to his country. We are vegetables here, and we must keep the part of our bodies that we use for thinking clear of irrelevancies and trivia, or they will become full-up and useless."

"I un-der-stand," Tik-Tok responded. "But are you will-ing and a-ble to do ser-vi-ces for per-sons who are not ci-ti-zens?"

Murch thought a moment. Then he asked, "Is it proper to do so?"

"It is ve-ry pro-per and a mo-ral du-ty."

"I do not know what a ‘moral duty’ is, but if it is proper for me to assist you, I will. What do you wish?"

Replied the clockwork man, "If you would clear a-way this glass rock all the way to the cham-ber in-side, I would be much o-bliged."

"Your being obliged does not matter to me, but as you say it is proper for me to do it, it is what I will do." The Sorcerer of Mangaboo rubbed his palms together several times, which broke off some of the thorns on them, and commenced to make complicated passes as he stared fixedly at the side of the hill. There was a loud creaking sound, as a door-hinge makes when it needs oil, and all of a sudden the glass rocks fell back and seemed to dissolve into thin air—or rather, into thick air.

"I thank you," said Tik-Tok, who had walked through the air to the Sorcerer’s ear and no longer needed to shout. "And now there is a fur-ther ser-vice I shall ask you to per-form; a pro-per one in-deed."





 

Chapter Twenty-Two

The Colorless Gloves at Work

 

 

Fegrole and his troop of civic policemen watched the Glass Cat until she could no longer be seen. Then they turned again to Junipee and Stot.

"What caused the glass creature to do that?" the High-Knob asked Junipee.

"She wanted to get away, of course," the girl replied.

"Way away!" added Stot.

"For what reason?"

"Oh, it’s just the way cats are. She wanted to be free. Cats may lie around in one place all day long, but if you try to coop them up, they claw and hiss and run away."

The men looked at one another in puzzlement, and Fegrole said: "But did she not hear that she was to come along with us?"

"Mister, you can’t jus’ tell people what to do," piped Stot.

"Why not?"

"Because what if they don’t want to?"

One of the branchmen said, "Wanting is just doing what is proper to be done. Does the glass creature not know this?"

Junipee sighed. "Let’s not talk any more about Eureka. Where do you men want us to go?"

Fegrole and his men raised their thorn branches again, as it was part of their official routine. "You are to come with us to the Bin of Confinement, where you will be kept fresh," said the leader.

"You mean we’re ’rested? Goshowee!" cried Stot happily.

Junipee folded her arms as if to resist. "Aren’t you going to tell us why?"

"We don’t have to. It is not our job." Fegrole motioned with his branch. "Now, if you please—this way." Junipee and Stot were marched along one street after another until they reached the edge of the city, where they found a wide, flat, square building awaiting them. There was a small door in the middle of one side. Next to this door stood Citizen Brome, their former guide.

"Hi!" Stot exclaimed.

Brome looked at the boy and said placidly, "I greet you."

Asked Junipee, "Mr. Brome, what’s this all about?"

"Our Queen has decided that you are a civic nuisance, and has commanded that you be placed here, in the Bin of Confinement," he said in an official voice. Then he moved closer and spoke more softly, saying, "That is what I am instructed to say, though the real reason is otherwise."

Junipee gave the Mangaboo a shrewd look. "Bet this has to do with those missing gloves, doesn’t it?"

Brome again spoke loudly. "The Colorless Gloves have been found, and reside upon the royal forearms in the customary manner—so I say."

"Do not!" said Stot firmly. "We took ’em and we got ’em."

"Here I thought you vegetable people couldn’t lie," remarked Junipee drily.

"Ordinarily we cannot," Brome agreed. "Lying is a rare art known only to those descended from the root of the monarchy, passed down from one royal personage to another. It is only made use of on special occasions."

"But you can’t lie, can you? You can tell us what’s what."

"Certainly I can," he answered. "The gloves cannot be found anywhere, and Her Majesty has come to think that one of you strangers—from the unknown world far above the Colored Suns—has either taken them, or possibly is just a bringer of bad luck. Either way, she thinks it best to keep you in one place until she decides how to destroy you."

"I suppose she’s right, if you look at it that way," said Junipee.

The Mangaboo hesitated and then inquired, "Did I understand the small one to say that you do indeed have the Colorless Gloves?"

"Perhaps you did," was Junipee’s response. "But we’re what they call meat-people, not vegetable; so, you know, we can lie whenever we want."

Brome nodded. "Of course." He now reached over and opened up a cloth sack that was hanging from a peg next to the door. From this sack he removed a small pane of glass set in a silver frame. Junipee and Stot could see that the pane was etched-over with a complicated pattern of lines. "Now follow me to the Bin. I, Brome, have been appointed High-Knob and First Sprout of the Solarium of Justice by Queen Ssyr as of today; for she appointed by pointing, and I happened to be standing in front of her finger."

Junipee and Stot did not even attempt to run away, as it probably would have been useless to try to hide within a city made of glass. The doorway into the Solarium entered onto a hall that ran straight along the wall of the building and then, at the corner, turned to follow the adjacent wall. They walked most of the way along the four sides until they had almost circled (in a square manner) back to the door again. Then Brome, consulting the etched pane, guided them through an inward door into another corridor that led backwards a ways. This odd course continued for quite a number of zigs and zags, slowly bringing them closer to the center of the square Solarium.

"The Solarium of Justice has one-hundred and seven twists and turns to prevent those confined in the Bin from finding their own way out," Brome said in a lecturing manner. "Specifically, there are eighty-three twists and twenty-four turns."

"Junee, I know what this is," whispered Stot. "It’s like the puzzle in my coloring book."

"It’s called a maze, Stot. It’s made to be complicated."

A maze it was, a maze of clear polished glass all the way through, side to side and top to bottom. The children could see through to the center, where there was evidently a room, and within that room they could make out a small figure pacing back and forth. Long before they finally entered the Bin of Confinement they could tell that the figure belonged to Ruggedo, the former King of the Nomes, in a molten mood.

"Finally!" he grumbled as the children entered the Bin of Confinement, a glass room comfortably furnished with beds, easy chairs, and other conveniences—though not with privacy. "These vegetables are turning out to be even more of an annoyance than Ozma and Dorothy and that whole crowd. Imagine placing me, a King no less, under arrest!"

"In the case of this one, his being a nuisance is not a made-up thing, for he really is one," Brome commented, standing just outside the room.

"What did he do?" Junipee asked.

"He was discovered eating some of the gravel and paving-stones covering a walkway in one of our city parks. It is contrary to law to eat a public thoroughfare without permission."

"And who, may I ask, was I to get permission from?" demanded Ruggedo.

Brome answered, "The law does not specify anyone in particular. Had you asked one of your companions, it would have been all right. But someone’s permission must be gotten."

The former Nome King scowled a dreadful scowl, of the sort that could peel the paint off the side of a car. "Release me at once, or I shall use my power to shatter every pane of glass in this city!"

"You made that threat before, when you were arrested," Brome responded without a hint of emotion.

"As if I would do it there, and have the glass pieces fall on me." Ruggedo looked very smug in his royal indignation. "Not that glass could cut stone, but it is hardly a suitable situation for a royal personage representing his entire nation."

"Nor can you do it here, for the same reason," observed Brome. "And as you cannot do it anyplace you are, nor anyplace you are not, I think the citizens of Glass City need not pay you any attention." And with that he turned and began negotiating the long and complicated walk back to the entrance.

"He’s pretty cool," Stot said. "I like him."

"I make a practice of not liking jailers and executioners, when I am their victim," the old Nome declared. "But now that he is gone, I can cease posturing and pretending; for we possess the means to get out of this situation in an instant." He looked at Junipee with the smile of a conspirator.

"Oh, no," she said. "It’d be plain stupid to hand the gloves over to you, so you could use them to run out on us. If they’re going to be used, I’ll be he one to use them. You just tell me what to do, Ruggy."

"You’re right not to trust me," said he. "I’ll turn away; then you can disenchant that zip-thing and take the gloves out without my seeing how to work it."

Ruggedo turned around. In truth, he was hoping to be able to watch the reflection of Junipee in the glass wall. But she had figured this out, and had Stot stand so as to block the view.

"All right, I’ve put them on," she reported. "You can turn around. Now—what do I do?"

"How should I know?" grumped Ruggedo irritably. "You’re such a Little Miss Smarty, I’m sure you can work it out by yourself."

Stot’s face fell at these words. "Junee, don’t you have the directions?"

"No," she responded. "I’ll have to experiment. Using the gloves couldn’t be dangerous, or that Queen wouldn’t have worn them all the time." She looked at her arms—though there was nothing to see, of course—and said, "Gloves, I wish to be taken out of here."

But nothing happened. She tried again. "Gloves, please take me out of here."

"Hmmph!" muttered Ruggedo.

Nothing happened again (if you see what I mean). So Junipee said, "Gloves, make the walls of this place—oh, whatever it’s called—turn soft, so we can walk through them."

The Nome King rapped upon the glass wall. The wall wasn’t soft, and his rapping was sarcastic.

"Can you do any better?" demanded Junipee in frustration.

"Don’t mind me," replied Ruggedo mildly. "After all, I’m only the rightful aged-in-the-rock absolute ruler of millions of fairy-beings, you know."

Junipee made a dismissive gesture in his direction. But when she drew back her hand, little Stot cried out, "Look!"–for her hand was caked in mud.

The former Nome King came closer and sniffed at the mud. "Ah yes!" he said. "From the bottom of a lake in the continent of Africa, the name of which I shall not pronounce as you won’t have heard of it anyway."

The girl stretched out her other hand, and drew it back covered in dry white sand which sifted through her fingers and trickled down to the floor.

Ruggedo sniffed and said, "Gobi Desert. Not known for its fragrance, I’m afraid."

Now Junipee extended both arms in front of her as far as she could, and held them there.

"Can you feel anything?" asked Stot with wide eyes.

"Something cold and wet," she replied. And when she pulled her arms back they were dripping with water, and the mud and sand had been washed away.

"One of the oceans," commented the Nome King. "Not my territory."

"Can you get us a fish, Junee?"

"I’ll try," was her answer. And at her very next attempt she found her arms full of a large shiny fish that flopped about madly. So she immediately stretched out her arms again, and they came back dripping, with the fish having disappeared.

"I think I put him back where I took him from," Junipee said.

"And how do you know that?" asked Ruggedo arrogantly.

"I just do," she said. "It’s like a feeling. All I have to do is think of where I want the gloves to reach to, and they do it."

Ruggedo sat down in a chair, pulling on his long scraggly beard and sitting as proudly as if he were back on his old throne in the Nome Dominions. "It is all coming clear to me now, children; yes indeed. It was necessary for you to come with me to this Country of the Mangaboos, because only you could have succeeded in stealing the Colorless Gloves—because of that magical pocket you have, my girl. And with those gloves on, I can retrieve the Magic Belt from Ozma’s palace in the City of Emeralds."

"I’m not ready to give them to you just yet," said Junipee stubbornly. "First, I want to get us out of here. Then we’ll see."





 

Chapter Twenty-Three

Things Made Better But Not Quite Right

 

 

"I will do what you wish, if I have the ability," said the Sorcerer Murch to tiny Tik-Tok, who was standing in his ear.

"In the cave cham-ber a-head there is a Pink Kit-ten, and on her back are se-ver-al peo-ple as small as I am," Tik-Tok said. "They are not sup-posed to be so small, and I wish you to re-turn them to their pro-per con-di-tion."

Responded Murch, "As it is proper to do so, I will do it."

Again the Mangaboo made gestures and motions, as if drawing things in the air that no one could see. In the middle of this, Eureka came gliding through the air from within the cave, and landed blinking at the feet of the sorcerer, who then took several steps back to make room. Suddenly he snapped his fingers, all of them at the same time, which is something a meat-person could hardly have managed to do; and with a sharp whoosh of air—for the air was pushed aside—all the Ozites stood in the colored suns-light at their proper size and stature.

As the others all felt of themselves as if disbelieving, Princess Ozma stepped forward and curseyed to Murch with great dignity. "Sir, I thank you on behalf of the Kingdom of Oz."

Murch thought for a moment, and then returned the curtsey, causing nearly every one of the Ozites to suppress startled laughter. "On behalf of the Vegetable Kingdom of Mangaboo, I wouldn’t have done it if the small metal being had not asked me to do it."

"Oh—where is Tik-Tok?" inquired Dorothy. "Didn’t you make him big too?"

"That was not part of his request."

"Well then, I hereby request it."

"Is it then the proper thing to do?"

Ozma said, "It is proper. I tell you this as Rightful Ruler of Oz."

"Very well, then." Murch did his routine, and in a moment the clockwork man stood quietly ticking amongst his friends. He then gave an account to Ozma of what he had done on his mission, which had amounted to about twenty-two feet and thirty-three minutes.

"Seems you’ve saved the day for us, Tik!" exclaimed Trot happily.

"I de-serve no spe-cial re-cog-ni-tion," he responded. "I am in-tend-ed as a la-bor sa-ving de-vice."

The Pink Kitten had been contorting herself in the usual catlike way, for she felt a great desire to lick her back clean. "I hope no one will take this personally," she said between licks; "but I am glad to get you all off my back."

"I shouldn’t wonder," commented the Cowardly Lion. "It must have tickled something fierce."

"So now we are back in Mangaboo after all these years," the Wizard said with a glance at Dorothy. A thought struck him, and he turned to Murch. "Sir, might you be the official Sorcerer of this transparent metropolis?"

"That I am," he replied. "My name is Murch."

The Wizard nodded politely. "Very pleased to meet you. I am a brother worker of magic and miracles, some of them genuine, called the Wizard of Oz; formerly Oz the Great and Terrible, and before that Mr. O. Z. Diggs of Omaha, Nebraska. Perhaps you’ve heard of me, eh?" The Wizard raised an eyebrow, and Dorothy could tell her old friend had a reason for his inquiry.

Murch stared at him silently (for the Mangaboos do not frown when they are thinking) and finally said: "If we have met before, I do not now recall it."

"But perhaps you have read of me in your Mangaboo history books, for I paid a visit to your city once, long ago."

"I do not know what you mean by ‘books’," responded the Sorcerer. "As to history, we have none in Mangaboo."

"Well then, I wish I’d been born a vegetable," the Shaggy Man remarked, "for I never could make much of history lessons when I was a boy—all those names and battles and Greeks."

"But tell me," Ozma inquired, "do you know nothing of past times in your kingdom?"

"To the contrary, we know a good deal," answered the Mangaboo. "You see, after a length of time, we gradually cease to move and think, and our active lives are at an end. It is called ‘being dead.’ We are then planted in the ground, and soon a fresh new Mangaboo has grown from us who begins to think and move and speak when he is picked. But the new Mangaboo is still a little bit of the old one from whom he has sprouted, and even has some of his memories, though as a rule they are mixed and watered-down."

"Copy of a copy!" muttered Cap’n Bill sagely. "Always gets a little worse each time."

"What do you ’member of the old times, Mr. Murch?" Dorothy asked. It was perhaps not the wisest thing to ask about, but the little princess spoke on impulse.

There was a silence. "I recall now a great rain of stones; and then other things came down past the Six Suns. There was a small woman and a small man, and a black thing with legs that were round like saucers, and a large being with four legs and no arms."

"And a pretty little kitten," purred Eureka. "You surely recall that detail."

"Then," Murch continued, "something round like a huge melon came down past the Suns, very slowly, and attached beneath it was a sort of man with a shiny dark cylinder on the top of his head. He destroyed my great-great-great—(this continued for a time)—great-sproutfather, who was of course the Sorcerer of that time. His name was Gwig, and the stranger sliced him in half with a large knife."

"I wonder," said Oz with a smile, "if you might happen to recall the name of this stranger. The tale interests me."

"I know nothing else of that time," Murch replied.

"Just as well," the Wizard said with a wink in Dorothy’s direction. "It’s best to forget what you don’t remember."

At that moment everyone made a startled turn to one side, for the leafy vegetable bushes nearby were stirring and thrashing in a commotion. Then a small form burst through them and skidded to a stop—with an undignified tumble at the end—at the feet of the Hungry Tiger. The tiger spread his huge mouth in a toothy grin, thinking for just a moment that fate had brought him something to eat. But the grin collapsed right away.

"Oh, it’s you," he said sourly. "You are not even worth considering as a meal, unless one has a glass stomach."

"It’s Bungle!" exclaimed Betsy Bobbin.

"My name is Eure—" the Glass Cat started to say. But as she regained her footing, the first face she saw was that of the Pink Kitten, looking colder than glass and twice as cross. So she glanced about at the crowd, and trotted to the feet of Princess Ozma. "Your Majesty," Bungle said with as elaborate a bow as she could muster. "How nice to run into you."

"We came all the way here to rescue you, Bungle," said Ozma very soberly. "I hope you need rescuing, for if you don’t, we have all gone to a good deal of trouble for nothing."

"I see." Bungle nodded, and everyone could see that her pink brains were somersaulting around each other in a frenzy. "The fact is, your mission of rescue was not in vain, for I have been attempting to help two dear little children return to the United States of America; and if you do not intervene, I fear old Ruggedo will—will—"

"Will what?" demanded Cap’n Bill without the least twinge of sympathy in his voice.

"—will do the sort of mischief he always does," finished the Glass Cat.

"We shall postpone receiving a full account of your adventures for now," Ozma pronounced. "It seems we have a duty to aid these children and return them to their homes."

"And to check on what old Ruggs is up to," added the Shaggy Man, who had dealt with the former Nome King before.

"I was operating under-cover, as they say," Bungle continued with a slight smile upon her thin feline lips. "I adopted the false identity of our esteemed friend Eureka, as I had to use the name of someone nobody had ever heard of."

Eureka hissed loudly.

"All right, all right then," interrupted Cap’n Bill impatiently. "We’ll take up your yarn later on. Where’s these two kiddies now, and old rock-a-fellow?"

The Glass Cat replied, "I know where they were, but not precisely where they are. We were accosted by officials armed with thorn branches, and I made my escape."

Princess Ozma turned to Murch. "Sir, as this is your city, do you know where they might have been taken?"

"I do," responded the Sorcerer, "for the Law specifies that the Branchmen are only to be called out when an offender is to be put in the cooler for storage."

"Aha, the cooler!" exclaimed the Shaggy Man. "That’s the local pokey, you know—the jail."

"No," Murch said, "it is the Bin of Confinement in the Solarium of Justice, where a cooling moistness is maintained to keep fresh those who are confined there, so they will be at peak condition when they are destroyed."

"Destroyed!" cried Dorothy, Betsy, and Trot at the same time.

"We do not know these American children, and Ruggedo probably deserves to be destroyed," Ozma said. "But ours is an Expedition of Rescue, and I think we ought to continue it and rescue these persons from capitivity."

Murch now looked thoughtful in his placid way. "But is it proper for you to do so? They must have broken the Law of Glass City, and that is as serious a matter as breaking the glass itself. I know where the Solarium is, and could lead you there; but I won’t."

The Cowardly Lion made a deep muffled roar and crept closer to Murch. "I do not ordinarily eat vegetables larger than my paw, and my heart is pounding in fear of your sorcery, but if you do not obey our Princess you will not see another sunset."

"Our suns do not set," said the Sorcerer calmly.

"Now now, brother magic-maker," the Wizard said, taking Murch’s arm in a friendly manner. "You seem a clever fellow."

"I am," responded the wizened Mangaboo.

"Then surely there is a loophole in the Law somewhere? An out, if you see? Surely it is unjust to punish visitors who have no knowledge of your rules."

"Ignorance of the Law is an excuse," Murch said; "but it is specified that the excuse only applies to persons who are innocent. These strangers must be guilty, or they would have told the Branchmen otherwise."

"It is no use arguing with these vegetables," declared Bungle scornfully; "for despite all their efforts to moisturize, they are all dry and stiff as boards."

"It would not be right to break the laws of Mangaboo," admitted Princess Ozma. "But what my adviser the Wizard has said is wise—there may be a loophole that people are not aware of. I make sure to leave a secret loophole in all my royal decrees."

"I know!" Trot cried out suddenly. "Mr. Sorcerer, didn’t you say the ‘ignorance’ excuse works for innocent folk?"

"I did."

"And you think these people have got to be guilty, ’cause they didn’t tell those police that they weren’t?"

"I do."

"Well then!" Trot exclaimed in triumph. "What if those Branchers forgot to ask?"

This caused Murch to stare at her silently. During the silence, the Glass Cat said, "I was there, you know; and I hereby declare that Fegrole and his boys never asked about guilt or innocence at all. Never passed their lips."

Added the little Wizard, "You Mangoobles do forget things—you told us yourself just a while ago."

"These are new considerations," the Sorcerer said at last. "It may be entirely proper for your friends to be taken out of the cooler after all, in which case I am required to assist you." He now turned to Princess Ozma. "Your Ripeness, you and your associates must follow me immediately; and as this in an emergency matter, we shall go by air."

Murch now set off into the air with a brisk step, Ozma and the rest of the Expedition of Rescue—and the Glass Cat—following behind like the long long train of a bridal gown. They passed over the road, and over many gardens where newly-sprouted Mangaboos were growing, and over the city limits, which was marked on the ground with a thick dark line.

"Look, Wizard, there’s the city square where your balloon came down," said Dorothy softly.

"Yes," he answered. "And the round dome of the Sorcerer’s palace, where I subdivided old Gwig to keep him from taking my breath away."

"I would rather not think of those days, thank you," pronounced Eureka. "I was an innocent little white kitten then. Now I am still a kitten, but wiser and more worldly, and pink with experience."

Ozma used her silver wand, which was now full-sized again, to hurry them all along. In minutes they had come down on the flat roof of the Solarium.

"We are here," Murch said simply. "There is no attendant on guard, as the Solarium is inescapable, and in any event escape is not allowed. But my sorcery will be sufficient to open a hole in the roof."

"Or if it isn’t, my wand will do so," Ozma declared.

But meanwhile Betsy Bobbin had been standing in the center of the roof looking down into the Bin of Confinement, her feet spread apart so they would not be in the way of her gaze. "I think before you do anything, you should take a look here."

"Look at what, Betsy?" asked the Shaggy Man.

"Look at nothing," Betsy replied. "There’s nobody there!"





 

Chapter Twenty-Three

The Magic Belt

 

 

When Junipee announced that she would not allow Ruggedo to wear the Colorless Gloves just yet, the Nome King went fairly wild in anger and frustration. He pounded a rocky fist against his rocky head, breaking off little stone chips that clattered to the floor. Of course this display made Stot laugh, and of course Stot’s laughter made Ruggedo all the more enraged.

"You’re not seting a good example for my little brother," Junipee commented. "You’re old enough not to have a temper tantrum when you don’t get your way."

"Great bubbling basalt!" rumbled Ruggedo. "I’m King of the Nomes! I can have a tantrum any time I please!"

"I can see that," said Junipee. "But meanwhile, I think I’ll get us out of jail." She stretched out her arms in the direction of the cloth sack hanging by the outside door to the Solarium. They could all see that sack clearly, despite the many glass walls that intervened, and they could also discern a little bump in the bottom of the sack that was caused by the inscribed pane within. Junipee moved a wrist and the distant sack twitched in response. "I can feel that glass map between my fingers," she said.

Now she pulled back her arms, and at a certain point the little framed pane appeared out of nothingness between her hands. At that exact moment, the sack by the door went limp—for now it was empty.

Ruggedo had stopped hitting himself. But he gave Junipee a balefull glare that suggested she was no longer under consideration as his heir to the underground throne. "Well, go ahead, lead us out. I suppose you’d leave me behind if you could, ungrateful surface-dweller."

"If I could," repeated the girl. "But I can’t." She led Stot and Ruggedo out the door of the Bin of Confinement and down one hallway after another, around and around the maze until at last they stepped through the building entrance into the open air.

"I’m tired of glass," said Stot earnestly.

Junipee smiled. "Me too."

"Well," said the former Nome King, "you’d better get used to it, for I don’t see you getting out of Mangaboo without my using the Magic Belt, and you won’t be able to get the Belt without my cooperation."

Stot put a hand on one of Ruggedo’s outcroppings—that is to say, an arm. "Mr. King, won’t you c’operate a little, please?"

Now it was his turn to be stubborn. "No, not a bit—unless I get to wear the Colorless Gloves." Ruggedo enjoyed being stubborn.

Junipee’s pretty face was heavy with thought for a minute. Then she said: "Tell you what—we’ll compromise."

"I don’t like compromise," sniffed the Nome King, "as it means I don’t get exactly what I want, and I regard that as a tragedy. But I am willing to listen to you."

She passed her right hand down her left forearm, starting just below the elbow and going all the way to her fingertips. "There. I’ll give you one of the Colorless Gloves to wear. Then we can both reach for that Belt, and we’ll both be holding on to it when it comes. That’s fair."

"Which is merely another way of saying that I don’t get my way," Ruggedo commented sourly. "But very well."

He took the invisible glove, and after fumbling with it for quite a while, and having to turn it inside out, he was finally able to work it onto his skinny left arm.

"Don’t rip it!" advised Stot. "The magic might leak!"

"It’s perfectly fine." Ruggedo turned to Junipee. "Now then. When we were near the Emerald City, I used the tell-on-scope to determine that the Magic Belt was resting upon the top of Ozma’s dresser next to the royal bed."

"What does the belt look like?" asked Junipee.

"Oh, it’s round like a hoop and rather broad—more like a girdle than a real belt, with many folds in it—as I recall."

"The better I know what I’m reaching for, the better I can get it," Junipee explained. "So let’s do it, on the count of three."

The Nome King didn’t wait until the count of three. But Junipee knew he would cheat, and was prepared to reach out at the same time whenever it came. "I feel the top of the dresser," she said.

"So do I," agreed Ruggedo. "And there!—that’s the Magic Belt itself."

He pulled back his left hand and Junippee pulled back her right, and between them stretched the Magic Belt.

Ruggedo was overcome with emotion. "This is a great day for the race of Nomes," he said finally. "We have recovered one of our national treasures."

Stot looked at the belt and declared, "You can’t both wear it."

"It’s too small for you to wear even by yourself, Ruggy," said Junipee with a glance at Ruggedo’s formidable equator. "You must’ve bulked-out over the years."

"Nonsense," replied the former Nome King. "That Ozma has had it altered to fit her. She’s a tiny thing."

"Then I guess I’ll have to be the one to wear it," said the girl. Ruggedo, seeing that there was no other way, let go of it. "What do I do to make it work?"

"Just make a wish; and if the belt understands what you want, and it isn’t too vain or ridiculous, it will come true." Then he added very hastily, "However, should you wish anything hurtful to a Nome, the belt will destroy you. It’s a safety feature." This was all untrue, but Ruggedo wanted the children to believe it.

Not seeing a buckle, Junipee pulled the belt down over her shoulders to her midsection, wearing it over her long green jacket. Then she said very seriously, "I wish for the Colorless Gloves to be back on Queen Ssyr’s arms."

"And there they go," grumbled Ruggedo. "Now why inside the world did you do that?"

"To show Stot we were only borrowing them," she replied. "Just as I said."

"You’ve made your point, then," the Nome pronounced. "Now kindly wish the three of us into my throne room in the Nome Dominions."

"Uh-uh!" interjected little Stot. "Don’t forget Yoo-ree-ka!"

"We’ll get her in a second," said Junipee. She gathered her thoughts and said aloud, "I wish us three to be in Princess Ozma’s bedroom, where the belt was."

"No—not—" was the beginning of Ruggedo’s angry protest. He never uttered the rest of it, for suddenly he and Junipee and Stot were standing in the royal bedchamber in Ozma’s palace, right next to her dresser.

"Ohhh my!" cried Junipee, overwhelmed by the dazzling emerald beauty of the big room. Stot covered his eyes with his fingers, and then peeked between them.

But Ruggedo the Nome King was not easily dazzled and had kept his wits about him. He knew something about the belt that was not obvious to the casual observer, namely that there was a secret catch on the side of it ingeniously contrived so that when it was flipped open, the whole belt would come free of whoever was wearing it. His fingers darted forth, and in a half second he was holding the Magic Belt in his hand.

"I might have known you would betray me to my enemies, child," he smoldered. "Now I have the belt!" But Junipee did not waste a second. She yanked the belt from Ruggedo’s grasp and ran across the room with it.

"Give it!" demanded Ruggedo in fury, and the game was on. Stot bounced across Ozma’s mattress, and as the Nome King neared Junipee, she tossed the belt to her brother, who was giggling. On the next pass Ruggedo managed to snag the belt in mid-air, but Stot swang on it like a rope from a tree-limb, and it slipped from Ruggedo’s fingers. The Magic Belt was tossed back and forth twenty times, until Stot was almost helpless with laughter, Junipee was beginning to giggle, and even old Ruggedo was starting to smile (for the enchantment of the Land of Oz was beginning to affect him).

At length the Nome King had the belt long enough to snap it around the top of his head, like the silliest-looking crown on earth. He instantly blurted out, "I wish those two to be rooted in place!" Immediately Junipee and Stot found that the soles of their shoes were fixed firmly to the floor, and they could no longer move in any direction.

"There, much better," said Ruggedo. "Now I can think. Most of the world’s trouble comes from insufficient thinking, you know." Think he did, for several minutes.

"You could just send us home, before you wish yourself back to Nome Land," suggested Junipee.

"No, that doesn’t appeal to me," he replied. "I’ve suffered a good deal over the years, and even you two meat-children have offended my royal dignity by not allowing me to trick you as I was intending. So it would hardly be proper for you to end up with what you wanted, eh?" He thought some more, pacing a bit, and then he sat down on the edge of Ozma’s bed (which the Princess had neglected to make on the morning of the Wizard’s fateful demonstration). "No, I’ve changed my plan a bit, as one ought to be flexible and open to opportunity. I don’t think I would be content just being the Nome King again."

"You could be king of everything!" was Stot’s suggestion.

Ruggedo nodded pleasantly. "I suppose I could. But that strikes me as a lot of responsibility and worry. No, I think I’ll just take over this Land of Oz and make it a colony of the Nome Dominions. But first, the pleasant task of conquering my enemies." He leaned back with insolent laziness and said, "Bring Ozma here before me, along with—well—whoever happens to be of particular service to her at this present time." Ruggedo couldn’t remember the names of all the members of Ozma’s court, and didn’t want to leave anyone out.

Now those who were presently of particular service to Ozma were, of course, those Ozites gathered with her on the roof of the Solarium of Justice, who were just at that moment discovering the absence of Junipee and Stot from the Bin. So every one of them popped into the space between the end of Ozma’s bed and the wall—that is, Ozma herself, Dorothy, the Shaggy Man, the Wizard, both the small cats and both the big ones, Betsy, Trot, Cap’n Bill, and Tik-Tok. As Ruggedo had only Ozma’s court in mind, the Sorcerer Murch was not included: so he went home.

"Oh, and let them be completely unable to move or speak," he added as an afterthought; and it was so.

"It’s Yoo-ree-ka!" cheered Stot, looking at Bungle. "But who’re all these other people, Mr. King?"

"The tyranical rulerette of Oz, Ozma, and her sycophantic followers," replied the Nome King, leaning back further on his hand.

"What’s that—sick-fannick?" asked the boy.

"You needn’t concern yourself with it," Ruggedo said; "and besides, I have no idea. The point is that now these horrible humans are entirely at my mercy. But let’s see, there’s also the chicken named Billina, that feathered engine of destruction. I must make sure to attend to her."

"Uh-huh!" uttered Junipee with scorn. "The big bad Nome King is afraid of a little chicken! Is it a phobia?"

Ruggedo shook his head. "I can’t expect you to sympathize. The fact is, chickens lay eggs, and eggs are destructive to Nomes—even fresh eggs. Eggs of any sort have to do with animal life and the surface world, and we Nomes have a different sort of life entirely. Reptile eggs and insect eggs are harmless, and duck eggs are not too bad, but chicken eggs—!" He shuddered in horror, rattling his rocks all the way through.

"It must be just an old wives’ tale," observed Junipee. "They don’t seem to be hurting you any."

The Nome King frowned. "What do you mean?"

Junipee raised her eyebrows and smiled sweetly and mischievously. "Just look at your hand, Ruggy. You put it down on Ozma’s plate, and I’d guess she had scrambled eggs for breakfast."



 

 

Chapter Twenty-Four

Oz or Otherwise?

 

 

The shriek of the former Metal Monarch and King of the Nomes was a frightening thing to hear. He leapt off the bed like a freed balloon—much like the Chubby Cub balloon, in fact. Ozma’s plate, which had been sitting innocently on top of the covers (for Jellia Jamb was not permitted to enter the royal bedchamber to straighten and clean without permission from the Princess herself) bounced up and flipped several times, sending Ozma’s rather elderly breakfast in all directions.

"Eggs! Eggs!" screeched Ruggedo. "I’m poisoned!"

"You still look alive, Mr. King," said Stot.

"It won’t last," moaned the Nome. "And the Magic Belt has no effect on egg-poisoning, or I would have made myself immune years ago." He tried to calm himself and think. "Ozma! Ozma is a fairy with powers of magic." In a trembling voice, he commanded: "Belt, release the Princess. Make her normal, completely normal—better than normal!"

And it was so. The Rightful Ruler of Oz stepped forward and extended her hand. "Give me the Magic Belt."

"But my dear, the Belt has no power to—"

"Just hand it over, if you want me to help you." Knees knocking—for he was quite literally quaking—Ruggedo complied. "Thank you," she said, fitting it about her waist. She then said, "Let everyone—including those two children—be returned to normal, and be able to move again."

It happened in an instant, and everyone began to rush forward as if to attack old Ruggedo, who cowered back.

"No, stop," commanded Princess Ozma. "I have the Magic Belt now, and Ruggedo can do nothing."

"Aye-aye," said Cap’n Bill skeptically; "and how many times have we heard that over the years?"

Ruggedo fell to his spindly knees dramatically. "Your Highness, Your Royal Highness—egg-poisoning is a terrible way to die, and provides a fearful sight for these two delicate children. If your fairy magic should provide a means of sparing my worthless life—worthless to everyone else, that is, but not to me—it would be a monumental—"

"Oh, do stop your pitiful yammering," growled the Hungry Tiger (though the growl might have come from his stomach). "Ozma, I’d advise you to use the belt to transform Ruggedo into a piece of bric-a-brac."

"How about a polished stone paperweight?" suggested Princess Dorothy. "Then he’d be useful for a change."

"It would be fit-ting for Rug-ge-do to stand for e-ter-ni-ty on the front lawn of the pa-lace as a gar-den Gnome," offered Tik-Tok. "That is what they call those lit-tle de-co-ra-tive sta-tues."

"With water coming out of his ears," Betsy Bobbin added. "I remember how he treated Hank and me and all the Oogaboo people."

"And I have something of a grudge against him for the way he kept my poor ugly brother in captivity," said the Shaggy Man with as much of a frown as he had ever frowned (which wasn’t much of one). "Your Majesty, my recommendation is to make him a gopher hole and drop him over by the front gate. The gophers would like it, and I’d enjoy seeing him day in and day out."

"Are there any other suggestions from my advisers?" inquired Ozma, looking right and left. "I had thought of transforming him into an egg custard and feeding him to Toto, but I am open to other ideas."

"Are you really goin’ to do all that to Mr. King?" asked Stot in some alarm.

Ozma gave him a kindly look. "Don’t you want us to?"

"Nope!" he exclaimed. "He’s a lot of fun, and we had some nice rides, and—"

"And what?"

"He’s round like a ball!"

"While you stand idly debating my fate, fate is deciding my fate for you!" cried Ruggedo. "I have touched egg—not just a chicken or an egg-shell, mind you, but the awful insides!"

The Wizard turned to Ozma and bowed slightly. "May I?"

Ozma nodded back and said, "If you please."

He turned to the Nome King and gave him a look of stern reproach for a long moment. Then he said, "Ruggedo, about how long does a Nome survive after contact with the deadly egg?"

"Seconds—mere seconds!" replied the Nome.

"Yet you are still with us, loudly, and it has been several minutes, I believe. How do you account for such a thing?"

Ruggedo considered this. "Was it, perhaps, not a plate of scrambled eggs after all?"

Ozma shook her head. "They were eggs, all right, courtesy of our own Billina."

Ruggedo thought again. "Perhaps I failed to actually touch them?"

"You’ve still got a mess of ’em between your fingers," Trot pointed out.

Ruggedo looked and wiped his hand on the royal carpet. "Then I am forced to the obvious conclusion that I am not Ruggedo after all," he declared. "Is that it?"

"Oh no, there’s no way out of that," said the little Wizard. "If anyone is Ruggedo the Nome—if anyone has ever been Ruggedo the Nome—you most surely are he."

"Sir, I feel you are mocking a dying King," huffed Ruggedo, rising to his feet.

"Oh, Ruggedo!" remonstrated Dorothy. "Don’t you even know where you are?"

He looked around sharply. "Why, I’m in the great palace in the Emerald City—am I not?"

Ozma laughed the dainty laugh of a fairy princess. "You are indeed, and the Emerald City is in Oz—where no one is able to die or become sick. Did you forget?"

The Nome King fumed. Tiny wisps of flame appeared in the corners of his eyes, and a thin haze of smoke rose from his ears. "Do you mean—do you mean to stand there and tell me—that here in this Land of Oz of yours, even eggs cannot harm me?"

The entire court of Ozma nodded—even Tik-Tok in his way.

"And I revitalized you Ozites, and turned over the Magic Belt without a murmur—all for nothing?"

They all nodded again.

Ruggedo sighed. "That’s too bad," said he.

"Aren’t you gonna get mad?" Stot asked him. "It’s funny when you do."

"No," he answered. "I am able to change moods quickly—that’s what comes of being made largely of metamorphic rock. It is much too late for anger to serve any purpose."

Said Ozma, "You feel that we have ill-used you over the years, do you not?"

Ruggedo nodded. "If you will look at the facts, madam, I hardly think you could blame me."

"I try never to blame anyone for their true nature; as after all, they did not give it to themselves." She paused, and then said seriously, "But you are to blame for having been lazy, and not having tried harder to restrain the wickedness within you."

"But consider this, Princess," he responded. "The enchantment of Oz acts to suppress wickedness on its own, so I was deprived the exercise of fighting against it."

"A most clever argument," pronounced the Wizard. "You ought to go into lawyering, Ruggedo."

"I say, get rid of him," the Glass Cat urged. "He’s foolish and a liar, and if you could see his brains—as you see mine—I’m sure you would find that they whirl and tumble only in the cause of mischief."

Said the Shaggy Man, "You’ve done your share of mischief over the years, Bungle."

"I don’t deny it," she replied smoothly. "But I am a cat, and it is expected."

Ozma addressed Ruggedo and said, "I would return you to your underground kingdom right now, and let Kaliko look after you; but it occurs to me that putting you out of Oz would destroy you."

"Why’s that, Ozma?" asked Dorothy.

"Because then he would be outside the enchantment, and perhaps he would be destroyed after all by the eggs he touched here."

"She’s talkin’ about a d’layed reaction, Trot," whispered Cap’n Bill to his little friend.

"Couldn’t you just wish the wickedness out of him, with the Magic Belt?" Betsy suggested.

"I beg you not to do that," plead the old Nome. "I wouldn’t be the same person—I might as well be destroyed."

"I do believe I have the answer," said the Wizard suddenly. He approached Ozma and whispered in her ear. She brightened immediately.

"Come forward, Ruggedo," Ozma commanded. The former Nome King stepped forward meekly, and she continued. "My chief adviser, who was once the King of Oz and is now its premier Wizard, has recommended a unique course of action that I don’t imagine I would have thought of on my own. Ruggedo, I hereby royally dub you my personal ambassador to the underground Dominions of the Nomes, and decree that the Ozite Embassy shall be whatever patch of ground you are standing on. As the grounds of an embassy are considered the soil of the nation sending the ambassador, the enchantments of Oz will continue to protect you there."

"Dipl’matical immunity," whispered Cap’n Bill. "Heard of it all around the world."

"And furthermore," Ozma continued, "the enchantments will keep you from becoming too wicked for your own good, and ours. Do you accept this decree of mine?"

"Will I have to do any particular work?" asked Ruggedo skeptically.

"None that you would notice."

"Then it’s all right," he responded. "I accept."

The Nome King nodded goodbye to Junipee and Stot, frowned at the Glass Cat, and then—at the end of a long and complicated wish by Ozma—vanished.

"Whooop!" exclaimed little Stot.

"Well said," commented the Cowardly Lion. "Whenever Ruggedo is in Oz I can’t help feeling a twinge, for I assume he’s up to something."

"And usually he is," Dorothy agreed. "But now, Ozma dear, here are these two from the United States."

"I wondered when you’d get around to us," said Junipee, who, you may have noticed, had been watching in silence.

"Those who find their way to Oz usually come here for a reason," Princess Ozma noted. "Otherwise the barrier of invisibility that surrounds us would not have opened to you in the first place."

"I expect we’ve learned some things, my brother and I," Junipee replied. "And I suppose we’ve had a good time—mostly."

Ozma asked, "I grant you the choice to remain in Oz, if you wish, or to return home. If you stay, I will make it that no one will miss you; if you go back, my wish will cause everyone to think you’ve been there all along."

"So it’s really just whatever you want," Dorothy declared.

Junipee thought for a while, and said, "I don’t suppose I care too much one way or the other. I’ll let Stot decide for us both."

Stot came close to his sister and whispered in her ear. She smiled at him affectionately and said to Ozma, "I guess it’s back to New York we go, Princess." They said goodbye to the Glass Cat with real regret, for she had been their companion for a long time and they didn’t mind having been tricked by her (as no one had told them about it). Junipee whispered something to Bungle; then she gave a polite nod to the others and said to Ozma, "Go ahead."

In just a moment they were gone.

"I’m curious as a cat," remarked Dorothy. "Why did that sweet little boy not want to stay here in Oz?"

"I wonder what he whispered to his sister," Ozma said. "Did anyone overhear?"

"I did not have to overhear, for it was told to me directly," pronounced Bungle condescendingly. "I take it as a sign that they recognized my importance here, and my fine pink brains."

"What was it?" demanded Cap’n Bill. "What’d he tell his sister?"

"He whispered four words," replied the Glass Cat—who naturally was enjoying the attention. "He whispered ‘They don’t have television!’."

 

The End