Книга Ozma of Oz. Содержание - 18. The Fate of the Tin Woodman

“Well, well!” said the King, sitting up and looking surprised. “Why didn’t my magic belt work, I wonder?”

“The creature is made of wood,” replied the captain. “Your magic will not work on wood, you know.”

“Ah, I’d forgotten that,” said the King, getting up and limping to his throne. “Very well, let the girl alone. She can’t escape us, anyway.”

The warriors, who had been rather confused by these incidents, now formed their ranks again, and the Sawhorse pranced across the room to Dorothy and took a position beside the Hungry Tiger.

At that moment the doors that led to the palace flew open and the people of Ev and the people of Oz were disclosed to view. They paused, astonished, at sight of the warriors and the angry Nome King, seated in their midst.

“Surrender!” cried the King, in a loud voice. “You are my prisoners.”

“Go ’long!” answered Billina, from the Scarecrow’s shoulder. “You promised me that if I guessed correctly my friends and I might depart in safety. And you always keep your promises.”

“I said you might leave the palace in safety,” retorted the King; “and so you may, but you cannot leave my dominions. You are my prisoners, and I will hurl you all into my underground dungeons, where the volcanic fires glow and the molten lava flows in every direction, and the air is hotter than blue blazes.”

“That will be the end of me, all right,” said the Scarecrow, sorrowfully. “One small blaze, blue or green, is enough to reduce me to an ash-heap.”

“Do you surrender?” demanded the King.

Billina whispered something in the Scarecrow’s ear that made him smile and put his hands in his jacket pockets.

“No!” returned Ozma, boldly answering the King. Then she said to her army:

“Forward, my brave soldiers, and fight for your Ruler and yourselves, unto death!”

“Pardon me, Most Royal Ozma,” replied one of her generals; “but I find that I and my brother officers all suffer from heart disease, and the slightest excitement might kill us. If we fight we may get excited. Would it not be well for us to avoid this grave danger?”

“Soldiers should not have heart disease,” said Ozma.

“Private soldiers are not, I believe, afflicted that way,” declared another general, twirling his moustache thoughtfully. “If your Royal Highness desires, we will order our private to attack yonder warriors.”

“Do so,” replied Ozma.

“For-ward – march!” cried all the generals, with one voice. “For-ward – march!” yelled the colonels. “For-ward – march!” shouted the majors. “For-ward – march!” commanded the captains.

And at that the private leveled his spear and dashed furiously upon the foe.

The captain of the Nomes was so surprised by this sudden onslaught that he forgot to command his warriors to fight, so that the ten men in the first row, who stood in front of the private’s spear, fell over like so many toy soldiers. The spear could not go through their steel armor, however, so the warriors scrambled to their feet again, and by that time the private had knocked over another row of them.

Then the captain brought down his battle-axe with such a strong blow that the private’s spear was shattered and knocked from his grasp, and he was helpless to fight any longer.

The Nome King had left his throne and pressed through his warriors to the front ranks, so he could see what was going on; but as he faced Ozma and her friends the Scarecrow, as if aroused to action by the valor of the private, drew one of Billina’s eggs from his right jacket pocket and hurled it straight at the little monarch’s head.

It struck him squarely in his left eye, where the egg smashed and scattered, as eggs will, and covered his face and hair and beard with its sticky contents.

“Help, help!” screamed the King, clawing with his fingers at the egg, in a struggle to remove it.

“An egg! an egg! Run for your lives!” shouted the captain of the Nomes, in a voice of horror.

And how they DID run! The warriors fairly tumbled over one another in their efforts to escape the fatal poison of that awful egg, and those who could not rush down the winding stair fell off the balcony into the great cavern beneath, knocking over those who stood below them.

Even while the King was still yelling for help his throne room became emptied of every one of his warriors, and before the monarch had managed to clear the egg away from his left eye the Scarecrow threw the second egg against his right eye, where it smashed and blinded him entirely. The King was unable to flee because he could not see which way to run; so he stood still and howled and shouted and screamed in abject fear.

While this was going on, Billina flew over to Dorothy, and perching herself upon the Lion’s back the hen whispered eagerly to the girl:

“Get his belt! Get the Nome King’s jeweled belt! It unbuckles in the back. Quick, Dorothy – quick!”

18. The Fate of the Tin Woodman

Dorothy obeyed. She ran at once behind the Nome King, who was still trying to free his eyes from the egg, and in a twinkling she had unbuckled his splendid jeweled belt and carried it away with her to her place beside the Tiger and Lion, where, because she did not know what else to do with it, she fastened it around her own slim waist.

Just then the Chief Steward rushed in with a sponge and a bowl of water, and began mopping away the broken eggs from his master’s face. In a few minutes, and while all the party stood looking on, the King regained the use of his eyes, and the first thing he did was to glare wickedly upon the Scarecrow and exclaim:

“I’ll make you suffer for this, you hay-stuffed dummy! Don’t you know eggs are poison to Nomes?”

“Really,” said the Scarecrow, “they DON’T seem to agree with you, although I wonder why.”

“They were strictly fresh and above suspicion,” said Billina. “You ought to be glad to get them.”

“I’ll transform you all into scorpions!” cried the King, angrily, and began waving his arms and muttering magic words.

But none of the people became scorpions, so the King stopped and looked at them in surprise.

“What’s wrong?” he asked.

“Why, you are not wearing your magic belt,” replied the Chief Steward, after looking the King over carefully. “Where is it? What have you done with it?”

The Nome King clapped his hand to his waist, and his rock colored face turned white as chalk.

“It’s gone,” he cried, helplessly. “It’s gone, and I am ruined!”

Dorothy now stepped forward and said:

“Royal Ozma, and you, Queen of Ev, I welcome you and your people back to the land of the living. Billina has saved you from your troubles, and now we will leave this drea’ful place, and return to Ev as soon as poss’ble.”

While the child spoke they could all see that she wore the magic belt, and a great cheer went up from all her friends, which was led by the voices of the Scarecrow and the private. But the Nome King did not join them. He crept back onto his throne like a whipped dog, and lay there bitterly bemoaning his defeat.

“But we have not yet found my faithful follower, the Tin Woodman,” said Ozma to Dorothy, “and without him I do not wish to go away.”

“Nor I,” replied Dorothy, quickly. “Wasn’t he in the palace?”

“He must be there,” said Billina; “but I had no clue to guide me in guessing the Tin Woodman, so I must have missed him.”

“We will go back into the rooms,” said Dorothy. “This magic belt, I am sure, will help us to find our dear old friend.”

So she re-entered the palace, the doors of which still stood open, and everyone followed her except the Nome King, the Queen of Ev and Prince Evring. The mother had taken the little Prince in her lap and was fondling and kissing him lovingly, for he was her youngest born.

But the others went with Dorothy, and when she came to the middle of the first room the girl waved her hand, as she had seen the King do, and commanded the Tin Woodman, whatever form he might then have, to resume his proper shape. No result followed this attempt, so Dorothy went into another room and repeated it, and so through all the rooms of the palace. Yet the Tin Woodman did not appear to them, nor could they imagine which among the thousands of ornaments was their transformed friend.

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