FictionForest

Chapter 17

L. Frank BaumAug 04, 2016'Command+D' Bookmark this page

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The neat yellow houses of the Winkies were now to be seen standing
here and there along the roadway, giving the country a more cheerful
and civilized look. They were farm-houses, though, and set far apart;
for in the Land of Oz there were no towns or villages except the
magnificent Emerald City in its center.

Hedges of evergreen or of yellow roses bordered the broad highway and
the farms showed the care of their industrious inhabitants. The
nearer the travelers came to the great city the more prosperous the
country became, and they crossed many bridges over the sparkling
streams and rivulets that watered the lands.

As they walked leisurely along the shaggy man said to the Tin Woodman:

“What sort of a Magic Powder was it that made your friend the
Pumpkinhead live?”

“It was called the Powder of Life,” was the answer; “and it was
invented by a crooked Sorcerer who lived in the mountains of the North
Country. A Witch named Mombi got some of this powder from the crooked
Sorcerer and took it home with her. Ozma lived with the Witch then,
for it was before she became our Princess, while Mombi had transformed
her into the shape of a boy. Well, while Mombi was gone to the
crooked Sorcerer’s, the boy made this pumpkin-headed man to amuse
himself, and also with the hope of frightening the Witch with it when
she returned. But Mombi was not scared, and she sprinkled the
Pumpkinhead with her Magic Powder of Life, to see if the Powder would
work. Ozma was watching, and saw the Pumpkinhead come to life; so that
night she took the pepper-box containing the Powder and ran away with
it and with Jack, in search of adventures.

“Next day they found a wooden Saw-Horse standing by the roadside, and
sprinkled it with the Powder. It came to life at once, and Jack
Pumpkinhead rode the Saw-Horse to the Emerald City.”

“What became of the Saw-Horse, afterward?” asked the shaggy man, much
interested in this story.

“Oh, it’s alive yet, and you will probably meet it presently in the
Emerald City. Afterward, Ozma used the last of the Powder to bring
the Flying Gump to life; but as soon as it had carried her away from
her enemies the Gump was taken apart, so it doesn’t exist any more.”

“It’s too bad the Powder of Life was all used up,” remarked the shaggy
man; “it would be a handy thing to have around.”

“I am not so sure of that, sir,” answered the Tin Woodman. “A while
ago the crooked Sorcerer who invented the Magic Powder fell down a
precipice and was killed. All his possessions went to a relative–an
old woman named Dyna, who lives in the Emerald City. She went to the
mountains where the Sorcerer had lived and brought away everything she
thought of value. Among them was a small bottle of the Powder of
Life; but of course Dyna didn’t know it was a Magic Powder, at all. It
happened she had once had a big blue bear for a pet; but the bear
choked to death on a fishbone one day, and she loved it so dearly
that Dyna made a rug of its skin, leaving the head and four paws on
the hide. She kept the rug on the floor of her front parlor.”

“I’ve seen rugs like that,” said the shaggy man, nodding, “but never
one made from a blue bear.”

“Well,” continued the Tin Woodman, “the old woman had an idea that the
Powder in the bottle must be moth-powder, because it smelled something
like moth-powder; so one day she sprinkled it on her bear rug to keep
the moths out of it. She said, looking lovingly at the skin: ‘I wish
my dear bear were alive again!’ To her horror, the bear rug at once
came to life, having been sprinkled with the Magic Powder; and now this
live bear rug is a great trial to her, and makes her a lot of trouble.”

“Why?” asked the shaggy man.

“Well, it stands up on its four feet and walks all around, and gets in
the way; and that spoils it for a rug. It can’t speak, although it is
alive; for, while its head might say words, it has no breath in a solid
body to push the words out of its mouth. It’s a very slimpsy affair
altogether, that bear rug, and the old woman is sorry it came to life.
Every day she has to scold it, and make it lie down flat on the parlor
floor to be walked upon; but sometimes when she goes to market the
rug will hump up its back skin, and stand on its four feet, and trot
along after her.”

“I should think Dyna would like that,” said Dorothy.

“Well, she doesn’t; because every one knows it isn’t a real bear, but
just a hollow skin, and so of no actual use in the world except for a
rug,” answered the Tin Woodman. “Therefore I believe it is a good
thing that all the Magic Powder of Life is now used up, as it can not
cause any more trouble.”

“Perhaps you’re right,” said the shaggy man, thoughtfully.

At noon they stopped at a farmhouse, where it delighted the farmer and
his wife to be able to give them a good luncheon. The farm people
knew Dorothy, having seen her when she was in the country before, and
they treated the little girl with as much respect as they did the
Emperor, because she was a friend of the powerful Princess Ozma.

They had not proceeded far after leaving this farm-house before coming
to a high bridge over a broad river. This river, the Tin Woodman
informed them, was the boundary between the Country of the Winkies and
the territory of the Emerald City. The city itself was still a long
way off, but all around it was a green meadow as pretty as a well-kept
lawn, and in this were neither houses nor farms to spoil the beauty of
the scene.

From the top of the high bridge they could see far away the
magnificent spires and splendid domes of the superb city, sparkling
like brilliant jewels as they towered above the emerald walls. The
shaggy man drew a deep breath of awe and amazement, for never had he
dreamed that such a grand and beautiful place could exist–even in the
fairyland of Oz.

Polly was so pleased that her violet eyes sparkled like amethysts, and
she danced away from her companions across the bridge and into a group
of feathery trees lining both the roadsides. These trees she stopped
to look at with pleasure and surprise, for their leaves were shaped
like ostrich plumes, their feather edges beautifully curled; and all
the plumes were tinted in the same dainty rainbow hues that appeared
in Polychrome’s own pretty gauze gown.

“Father ought to see these trees,” she murmured; “they are almost as
lovely as his own rainbows.”

Then she gave a start of terror, for beneath the trees came stalking
two great beasts, either one big enough to crush the little Daughter
of the Rainbow with one blow of his paws, or to eat her up with one
snap of his enormous jaws. One was a tawny lion, as tall as a horse,
nearly; the other a striped tiger almost the same size.

Polly was too frightened to scream or to stir; she stood still with a
wildly beating heart until Dorothy rushed past her and with a glad cry
threw her arms around the huge lion’s neck, hugging and kissing the
beast with evident joy.

“Oh, I’m SO glad to see you again!” cried the little Kansas girl.
“And the Hungry Tiger, too! How fine you’re both looking. Are you
well and happy?”

“We certainly are, Dorothy,” answered the Lion, in a deep voice that
sounded pleasant and kind; “and we are greatly pleased that you have
come to Ozma’s party. It’s going to be a grand affair, I promise you.”

“There will be lots of fat babies at the celebration, I hear,”
remarked the Hungry Tiger, yawning so that his mouth opened dreadfully
wide and showed all his big, sharp teeth; “but of course I can’t eat
any of ’em.”

“Is your Conscience still in good order?” asked Dorothy, anxiously.

“Yes; it rules me like a tyrant,” answered the Tiger, sorrowfully. “I
can imagine nothing more unpleasant than to own a Conscience,” and he
winked slyly at his friend the Lion.

“You’re fooling me!” said Dorothy, with a laugh. “I don’t b’lieve
you’d eat a baby if you lost your Conscience. Come here, Polly,” she
called, “and be introduced to my friends.”

Polly advanced rather shyly.

“You have some queer friends, Dorothy,” she said.

“The queerness doesn’t matter so long as they’re friends,” was the
answer. “This is the Cowardly Lion, who isn’t a coward at all, but
just thinks he is. The Wizard gave him some courage once, and he has
part of it left.”

The Lion bowed with great dignity to Polly.

“You are very lovely, my dear,” said he. “I hope we shall be friends
when we are better acquainted.”

“And this is the Hungry Tiger,” continued Dorothy. “He says he longs
to eat fat babies; but the truth is he is never hungry at all, ’cause
he gets plenty to eat; and I don’t s’pose he’d hurt anybody even if he
WAS hungry.”

“Hush, Dorothy,” whispered the Tiger; “you’ll ruin my reputation if
you are not more discreet. It isn’t what we are, but what folks think
we are, that counts in this world. And come to think of it Miss
Polly would make a fine variegated breakfast, I’m sure.”

 

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