Книга The Patchwork Girl of Oz. Содержание - Chapter Twenty-Two The Joking Horners
"I'm not sure," she said with hesitation. "Have you any dark wells in your city?"
"I think not. We have wells, you know, but they're all well lighted, and a well lighted well cannot well be a dark well. But there may be such a thing as a very dark well in the Horner Country, which is a black spot on the face of the earth."
"Where is the Horner Country?" Ojo inquired.
"The other side of the mountain. There's a fence between the Hopper Country and the Horner Country, and a gate in the fence; but you can't pass through just now, because we are at war with the Horners."
"That's too bad," said the Scarecrow. "What seems to be the trouble?"
"Why, one of them made a very insulting remark about my people. He said we were lacking in understanding, because we had only one leg to a person. I can't see that legs have anything to do with understanding things. The Horners each have two legs, just as you have. That's one leg too many, it seems to me."
"No," declared Dorothy, "it's just the right number."
"You don't need them," argued the Hopper, obstinately. "You've only one head, and one body, and one nose and mouth. Two legs are quite unnecessary, and they spoil one's shape."
"But how can you walk, with only one leg?" asked Ojo.
"Walk! Who wants to walk?" exclaimed the man. "Walking is a terribly awkward way to travel. I hop, and so do all my people. It's so much more graceful and agreeable than walking."
"I don't agree with you," said the Scarecrow. "But tell me, is there any way to get to the Horner Country without going through the city of the Hoppers?"
"Yes; there is another path from the rocky lowlands, outside the mountain, that leads straight to the entrance of the Horner Country. But it's a long way around, so you'd better come with me. Perhaps they will allow you to go through the gate; but we expect to conquer them this afternoon, if we get time, and then you may go and come as you please."
They thought it best to take the Hopper's advice, and asked him to lead the way. This he did in a series of hops, and he moved so swiftly in this strange manner that those with two legs had to run to keep up with him.
The Joking Horners
It was not long before they left the passage and came to a great cave, so high that it must have reached nearly to the top of the mountain within which it lay. It was a magnificent cave, illumined by the soft, invisible light, so that everything in it could be plainly seen. The walls were of polished marble, white with veins of delicate colors running through it, and the roof was arched and fantastic and beautiful.
Built beneath this vast dome was a pretty village – not very large, for there seemed not more than fifty houses altogether – and the dwellings were of marble and artistically designed. No grass nor flowers nor trees grew in this cave, so the yards surrounding the houses carved in designs both were smooth and bare and had low walls around them to mark their boundaries.
In the streets and the yards of the houses were many people all having one leg growing below their bodies and all hopping here and there whenever they moved. Even the children stood firmly upon their single legs and never lost their balance.
"All hail, Champion!" cried a man in the first group of Hoppers they met; "whom have you captured?"
"No one," replied the Champion in a gloomy voice; "these strangers have captured me."
"Then," said another, "we will rescue you, and capture them, for we are greater in number."
"No," answered the Champion, "I can't allow it. I've surrendered, and it isn't polite to capture those you've surrendered to."
"Never mind that," said Dorothy. "We will give you your liberty and set you free."
"Really?" asked the Champion in joyous tones.
"Yes," said the little girl; "your people may need you to help conquer the Horners."
At this all the Hoppers looked downcast and sad. Several more had joined the group by this time and quite a crowd of curious men, women and children surrounded the strangers.
"This war with our neighbors is a terrible thing," remarked one of the women. "Some one is almost sure to get hurt."
"Why do you say that, madam?" inquired the Scarecrow.
"Because the horns of our enemies are sharp, and in battle they will try to stick those horns into our warriors," she replied.
"How many horns do the Horners have?" asked Dorothy.
"Each has one horn in the center of his forehead," was the answer.
"Oh, then they're unicorns," declared the Scarecrow.
"No; they're Horners. We never go to war with them if we can help it, on account of their dangerous horns; but this insult was so great and so unprovoked that our brave men decided to fight, in order to be revenged," said the woman.
"What weapons do you fight with?" the Scarecrow asked.
"We have no weapons," explained the Champion. "Whenever we fight the Horners, our plan is to push them back, for our arms are longer than theirs."
"Then you are better armed," said Scraps.
"Yes; but they have those terrible horns, and unless we are careful they prick us with the points," returned the Champion with a shudder. "That makes a war with them dangerous, and a dangerous war cannot be a pleasant one."
"I see very clearly," remarked the Scarecrow, "that you are going to have trouble in conquering those Horners – unless we help you."
"Oh!" cried the Hoppers in a chorus; "can you help us? Please do! We will be greatly obliged! It would please us very much!" and by these exclamations the Scarecrow knew that his speech had met with favor.
"How far is it to the Horner Country?" he asked.
"Why, it's just the other side of the fence," they answered, and the Champion added:
"Come with me, please, and I'll show you the Horners."
So they followed the Champion and several others through the streets and just beyond the village came to a very high picket fence, built all of marble, which seemed to divide the great cave into two equal parts.
But the part inhabited by the Horners was in no way as grand in appearance as that of the Hoppers. Instead of being marble, the walls and roof were of dull gray rock and the square houses were plainly made of the same material. But in extent the city was much larger than that of the Hoppers and the streets were thronged with numerous people who busied themselves in various ways.
Looking through the open pickets of the fence our friends watched the Horners, who did not know they were being watched by strangers, and found them very unusual in appearance. They were little folks in size and had bodies round as balls and short legs and arms. Their heads were round, too, and they had long, pointed ears and a horn set in the center of the forehead. The horns did not seem very terrible, for they were not more than six inches long; but they were ivory white and sharp pointed, and no wonder the Hoppers feared them.
The skins of the Horners were light brown, but they wore snow-white robes and were bare-footed. Dorothy thought the most striking thing about them was their hair, which grew in three distinct colors on each and every head – red, yellow and green. The red was at the bottom and sometimes hung over their eyes; then came a broad circle of yellow and the green was at the top and formed a brush-shaped top-knot.
None of the Horners was yet aware of the presence of strangers, who watched the little brown people for a time and then went to the big gate in the center of the dividing fence. It was locked on both sides and over the latch was a sign reading:
"WAR IS DECLARED"
"Can't we go through?" asked Dorothy.
"Not now," answered the Champion.
"I think," said the Scarecrow, "that if I could talk with those Horners they would apologize to you, and then there would be no need to fight."