Книга Ozma of Oz. Содержание - 9. The Royal Family of Ev

“Very well, Billina,” said Dorothy. “We won’t talk about it any more.”

Soon they came to the Cowardly Lion and the Hungry Tiger to whom the girl introduced the Yellow Hen.

“Glad to meet any friend of Dorothy’s,” said the Lion, politely. “To judge by your present appearance, you are not a coward, as I am.”

“Your present appearance makes my mouth water,” said the Tiger, looking at Billina greedily. “My, my! how good you would taste if I could only crunch you between my jaws. But don’t worry. You would only appease my appetite for a moment; so it isn’t worth while to eat you.”

“Thank you,” said the hen, nestling closer in Dorothy’s arms.

“Besides, it wouldn’t be right,” continued the Tiger, looking steadily at Billina and clicking his jaws together.

“Of course not,” cried Dorothy, hastily. “Billina is my friend, and you mustn’t ever eat her under any circ’mstances.”

“I’ll try to remember that,” said the Tiger; “but I’m a little absent-minded, at times.”

Then Dorothy carried her pet into the drawing-room of the palace, where Tiktok, being invited to do so by Ozma, had seated himself between the Scarecrow and the Tin Woodman. Opposite to them sat Ozma herself and the Princess Langwidere, and beside them there was a vacant chair for Dorothy.

Around this important group was ranged the Army of Oz, and as Dorothy looked at the handsome uniforms of the Twenty-Seven she said:

“Why, they seem to be all officers.”

“They are, all except one,” answered the Tin Woodman. “I have in my Army eight Generals, six Colonels, seven Majors and five Captains, besides one private for them to command. I’d like to promote the private, for I believe no private should ever be in public life; and I’ve also noticed that officers usually fight better and are more reliable than common soldiers. Besides, the officers are more important looking, and lend dignity to our army.”

“No doubt you are right,” said Dorothy, seating herself beside Ozma.

“And now,” announced the girlish Ruler of Oz, “we will hold a solemn conference to decide the best manner of liberating the royal family of this fair Land of Ev from their long imprisonment.”

9. The Royal Family of Ev

The Tin Woodman was the first to address the meeting.

“To begin with,” said he, “word came to our noble and illustrious Ruler, Ozma of Oz, that the wife and ten children – five boys and five girls – of the former King of Ev, by name Evoldo, have been enslaved by the Nome King and are held prisoners in his underground palace. Also that there was no one in Ev powerful enough to release them. Naturally our Ozma wished to undertake the adventure of liberating the poor prisoners; but for a long time she could find no way to cross the great desert between the two countries. Finally she went to a friendly sorceress of our land named Glinda the Good, who heard the story and at once presented Ozma a magic carpet, which would continually unroll beneath our feet and so make a comfortable path for us to cross the desert. As soon as she had received the carpet our gracious Ruler ordered me to assemble our army, which I did. You behold in these bold warriors the pick of all the finest soldiers of Oz; and, if we are obliged to fight the Nome King, every officer as well as the private, will battle fiercely unto death.”

Then Tiktok spoke.

“Why should you fight the Nome King?” he asked. “He has done no wrong.”

“No wrong!” cried Dorothy. “Isn’t it wrong to imprison a queen mother and her ten children?”

“They were sold to the Nome King by King Ev-ol-do,” replied Tiktok. “It was the King of Ev who did wrong, and when he re-al-ized what he had done he jumped in-to the sea and drowned him-self.”

“This is news to me,” said Ozma, thoughtfully. “I had supposed the Nome King was all to blame in the matter. But, in any case, he must be made to liberate the prisoners.”

“My uncle Evoldo was a very wicked man,” declared the Princess Langwidere. “If he had drowned himself before he sold his family, no one would have cared. But he sold them to the powerful Nome King in exchange for a long life, and afterward destroyed the life by jumping into the sea.”

“Then,” said Ozma, “he did not get the long life, and the Nome King must give up the prisoners. Where are they confined?”

“No one knows, exactly,” replied the Princess. “For the king, whose name is Roquat of the Rocks, owns a splendid palace underneath the great mountain which is at the north end of this kingdom, and he has transformed the queen and her children into ornaments and bric-a-brac with which to decorate his rooms.”

“I’d like to know,” said Dorothy, “who this Nome King is?”

“I will tell you,” replied Ozma. “He is said to be the Ruler of the Underground World, and commands the rocks and all that the rocks contain. Under his rule are many thousands of the Nomes, who are queerly shaped but powerful sprites that labor at the furnaces and forges of their king, making gold and silver and other metals which they conceal in the crevices of the rocks, so that those living upon the earth’s surface can only find them with great difficulty. Also they make diamonds and rubies and emeralds, which they hide in the ground; so that the kingdom of the Nomes is wonderfully rich, and all we have of precious stones and silver and gold is what we take from the earth and rocks where the Nome King has hidden them.”

“I understand,” said Dorothy, nodding her little head wisely.

“For the reason that we often steal his treasures,” continued Ozma, “the Ruler of the Underground World is not fond of those who live upon the earth’s surface, and never appears among us. If we wish to see King Roquat of the Rocks, we must visit his own country, where he is all powerful, and therefore it will be a dangerous undertaking.”

“But, for the sake of the poor prisoners,” said Dorothy, “we ought to do it.”

“We shall do it,” replied the Scarecrow, “although it requires a lot of courage for me to go near to the furnaces of the Nome King. For I am only stuffed with straw, and a single spark of fire might destroy me entirely.”

“The furnaces may also melt my tin,” said the Tin Woodman; “but I am going.”

“I can’t bear heat,” remarked the Princess Langwidere, yawning lazily, “so I shall stay at home. But I wish you may have success in your undertaking, for I am heartily tired of ruling this stupid kingdom, and I need more leisure in which to admire my beautiful heads.”

“We do not need you,” said Ozma. “For, if with the aid of my brave followers I cannot accomplish my purpose, then it would be useless for you to undertake the journey.”

“Quite true,” sighed the Princess. “So, if you’ll excuse me, I will now retire to my cabinet. I’ve worn this head quite awhile, and I want to change it for another.”

When she had left them (and you may be sure no one was sorry to see her go) Ozma said to Tiktok:

“Will you join our party?”

“I am the slave of the girl Dor-oth-y, who rescued me from pris-on,” replied the machine. “Where she goes I will go.”

“Oh, I am going with my friends, of course,” said Dorothy, quickly. “I wouldn’t miss the fun for anything. Will you go, too, Billina?”

“To be sure,” said Billina in a careless tone. She was smoothing down the feathers of her back and not paying much attention.

“Heat is just in her line,” remarked the Scarecrow. “If she is nicely roasted, she will be better than ever.”

“Then” said Ozma, “we will arrange to start for the Kingdom of the Nomes at daybreak tomorrow. And, in the meantime, we will rest and prepare ourselves for the journey.”

Although Princess Langwidere did not again appear to her guests, the palace servants waited upon the strangers from Oz and did everything in their power to make the party comfortable. There were many vacant rooms at their disposal, and the brave Army of twenty-seven was easily provided for and liberally feasted.

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