Книга Ozma of Oz. Содержание - 14. Dorothy Tries to be Brave

14. Dorothy Tries to be Brave

Meantime the Chief Steward had returned to the throne room, where he said to the King:

“You are a fool to waste so much time upon these people.”

“What!” cried his Majesty, in so enraged a voice that it awoke Billina, who was asleep under his throne. “How dare you call me a fool?”

“Because I like to speak the truth,” said the Steward. “Why didn’t you enchant them all at once, instead of allowing them to go one by one into the palace and guess which ornaments are the Queen of Ev and her children?”

“Why, you stupid rascal, it is more fun this way,” returned the King, “and it serves to keep me amused for a long time.”

“But suppose some of them happen to guess aright,” persisted the Steward; “then you would lose your old ornaments and these new ones, too.”

“There is no chance of their guessing aright,” replied the monarch, with a laugh. “How could they know that the Queen of Ev and her family are all ornaments of a royal purple color?”

“But there are no other purple ornaments in the palace,” said the Steward.

“There are many other colors, however, and the purple ones are scattered throughout the rooms, and are of many different shapes and sizes. Take my word for it, Steward, they will never think of choosing the purple ornaments.”

Billina, squatting under the throne, had listened carefully to all this talk, and now chuckled softly to herself as she heard the King disclose his secret.

“Still, you are acting foolishly by running the chance,” continued the Steward, roughly; “and it is still more foolish of you to transform all those people from Oz into green ornaments.”

“I did that because they came from the Emerald City,” replied the King; “and I had no green ornaments in my collection until now. I think they will look quite pretty, mixed with the others. Don’t you?”

The Steward gave an angry grunt.

“Have your own way, since you are the King,” he growled. “But if you come to grief through your carelessness, remember that I told you so. If I wore the magic belt which enables you to work all your transformations, and gives you so much other power, I am sure I would make a much wiser and better King than you are.”

“Oh, cease your tiresome chatter!” commanded the King, getting angry again. “Because you are my Chief Steward you have an idea you can scold me as much as you please. But the very next time you become impudent, I will send you to work in the furnaces, and get another Nome to fill your place. Now follow me to my chamber, for I am going to bed. And see that I am wakened early tomorrow morning. I want to enjoy the fun of transforming the rest of these people into ornaments.”

“What color will you make the Kansas girl?” asked the Steward.

“Gray, I think,” said his Majesty.

“And the Scarecrow and the machine man?”

“Oh, they shall be of solid gold, because they are so ugly in real life.”

Then the voices died away, and Billina knew that the King and his Steward had left the room. She fixed up some of her tail feathers that were not straight, and then tucked her head under her wing again and went to sleep.

In the morning Dorothy and the Lion and Tiger were given their breakfast in their rooms, and afterward joined the King in his throne room. The Tiger complained bitterly that he was half starved, and begged to go into the palace and become an ornament, so that he would no longer suffer the pangs of hunger.

“Haven’t you had your breakfast?” asked the Nome King.

“Oh, I had just a bite,” replied the beast. “But what good is a bite, to a hungry tiger?”

“He ate seventeen bowls of porridge, a platter full of fried sausages, eleven loaves of bread and twenty-one mince pies,” said the Steward.

“What more do you want?” demanded the King.

“A fat baby. I want a fat baby,” said the Hungry Tiger. “A nice, plump, juicy, tender, fat baby. But, of course, if I had one, my conscience would not allow me to eat it. So I’ll have to be an ornament and forget my hunger.”

“Impossible!” exclaimed the King. “I’ll have no clumsy beasts enter my palace, to overturn and break all my pretty nick-nacks. When the rest of your friends are transformed you can return to the upper world, and go about your business.”

“As for that, we have no business, when our friends are gone,” said the Lion. “So we do not care much what becomes of us.”

Dorothy begged to be allowed to go first into the palace, but Tiktok firmly maintained that the slave should face danger before the mistress. The Scarecrow agreed with him in that, so the Nome King opened the door for the machine man, who tramped into the palace to meet his fate. Then his Majesty returned to his throne and puffed his pipe so contentedly that a small cloud of smoke formed above his head.

Bye and bye he said:

“I’m sorry there are so few of you left. Very soon, now, my fun will be over, and then for amusement I shall have nothing to do but admire my new ornaments.”

“It seems to me,” said Dorothy, “that you are not so honest as you pretend to be.”

“How’s that?” asked the King.

“Why, you made us think it would be easy to guess what ornaments the people of Ev were changed into.”

“It IS easy,” declared the monarch, “if one is a good guesser. But it appears that the members of your party are all poor guessers.”

“What is Tiktok doing now?” asked the girl, uneasily.

“Nothing,” replied the King, with a frown. “He is standing perfectly still, in the middle of a room.”

“Oh, I expect he’s run down,” said Dorothy. “I forgot to wind him up this morning. How many guesses has he made?”

“All that he is allowed except one,” answered the King. “Suppose you go in and wind him up, and then you can stay there and make your own guesses.”

“All right,” said Dorothy.

“It is my turn next,” declared the Scarecrow.

“Why, you don’t want to go away and leave me all alone, do you?” asked the girl. “Besides, if I go now I can wind up Tiktok, so that he can make his last guess.”

“Very well, then,” said the Scarecrow, with a sigh. “Run along, little Dorothy, and may good luck go with you!”

So Dorothy, trying to be brave in spite of her fears, passed through the doorway into the gorgeous rooms of the palace. The stillness of the place awed her, at first, and the child drew short breaths, and pressed her hand to her heart, and looked all around with wondering eyes.

Yes, it was a beautiful place; but enchantments lurked in every nook and corner, and she had not yet grown accustomed to the wizardries of these fairy countries, so different from the quiet and sensible common-places of her own native land.

Slowly she passed through several rooms until she came upon Tiktok, standing motionless. It really seemed, then, that she had found a friend in this mysterious palace, so she hastened to wind up the machine man’s action and speech and thoughts.

“Thank you, Dor-oth-y,” were his first words. “I have now one more guess to make.”

“Oh, be very careful, Tiktok; won’t you?” cried the girl.

“Yes. But the Nome King has us in his power, and he has set a trap for us. I fear we are all lost.” he answered.

“I fear so, too,” said Dorothy, sadly.

“If Smith & Tin-ker had giv-en me a guess-ing clock-work at-tach-ment,” continued Tiktok, “I might have de-fied the Nome King. But my thoughts are plain and sim-ple, and are not of much use in this case.”

“Do the best you can,” said Dorothy, encouragingly, “and if you fail I will watch and see what shape you are changed into.”

So Tiktok touched a yellow glass vase that had daisies painted on one side, and he spoke at the same time the word “Ev.”

In a flash the machine man had disappeared, and although the girl looked quickly in every direction, she could not tell which of the many ornaments the room contained had a moment before been her faithful friend and servant.

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