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Frank Baum >> The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (page 13)


The next morning the soldier with the green whiskers led the Lion to the great Throne Room and bade him enter the presence of Oz.

The Lion at once passed through the door, and glancing around saw, to his surprise, that before the throne was a Ball of Fire, so fierce and glowing he could scarcely bear to gaze upon it. His first thought was that Oz had by accident caught on fire and was burning up; but when he tried to go nearer, the heat was so intense that it singed his whiskers, and he crept back tremblingly to a spot nearer the door.

Then a low, quiet voice came from the Ball of Fire, and these were the words it spoke:

''I am Oz, the Great and Terrible. Who are you, and why do you seek me?''

And the Lion answered, ''I am a Cowardly Lion, afraid of everything. I came to you to beg that you give me courage, so that in reality I may become the King of Beasts, as men call me.''

''Why should I give you courage?'' demanded Oz.

''Because of all Wizards you are the greatest, and alone have power to grant my request,'' answered the Lion.

The Ball of Fire burned fiercely for a time, and the voice said, ''Bring me proof that the Wicked Witch is dead, and that moment I will give you courage. But as long as the Witch lives, you must remain a coward.''

The Lion was angry at this speech, but could say nothing in reply, and while he stood silently gazing at the Ball of Fire it became so furiously hot that he turned tail and rushed from the room. He was glad to find his friends waiting for him, and told them of his terrible interview with the Wizard.

''What shall we do now?'' asked Dorothy sadly.

''There is only one thing we can do,'' returned the Lion, ''and that is to go to the land of the Winkies, seek out the Wicked Witch, and destroy her.''

''But suppose we cannot?'' said the girl.

''Then I shall never have courage,'' declared the Lion.

''And I shall never have brains,'' added the Scarecrow.

''And I shall never have a heart,'' spoke the Tin of Woodman.

''And I shall never see Aunt Em and Uncle Henry,'' said Dorothy, beginning to cry.

''Be careful!'' cried the green girl. ''The tears will fall on your green silk gown and spot it.''

So Dorothy dried her eyes and said, ''I suppose we must try it; but I am sure I do not want to kill anybody, even to see Aunt Em again.''

''I will go with you; but I'm too much of a coward to kill the Witch,'' said the Lion.

''I will go too,'' declared the Scarecrow; ''but I shall not be of much help to you, I am such a fool.''

''I haven't the heart to harm even a Witch,'' remarked the Tin Woodman; ''but if you go I certainly shall go with you.''

Therefore it was decided to start upon their journey the next morning, and the Woodman sharpened his axe on a green grindstone and had all his joints properly oiled. The Scarecrow stuffed himself with fresh straw and Dorothy put new paint on his eyes that he might see better. The green girl, who was very kind to them, filled Dorothy's basket with good things to eat, and fastened a little bell around Toto's neck with a green ribbon.

They went to bed quite early and slept soundly until daylight, when they were awakened by the crowing of a green cock that lived in the back yard of the Palace, and the cackling of a hen that had laid a green egg.

12. The Search for the Wicked Witch

The soldier with the green whiskers led them through the streets of the Emerald City until they reached the room where the Guardian of the Gates lived. This officer unlocked their spectacles to put them back in his great box, and then he politely opened the gate for our friends.

''Which road leads to the Wicked Witch of the West?'' asked Dorothy.

''There is no road,'' answered the Guardian of the Gates. ''No one ever wishes to go that way.''

''How, then, are we to find her?'' inquired the girl.

''That will be easy,'' replied the man, ''for when she knows you are in the country of the Winkies she will find you, and make you all her slaves.''

''Perhaps not,'' said the Scarecrow, ''for we mean to destroy her.''

''Oh, that is different,'' said the Guardian of the Gates. ''No one has ever destroyed her before, so I naturally thought she would make slaves of you, as she has of the rest. But take care; for she is wicked and fierce, and may not allow you to destroy her. Keep to the West, where the sun sets, and you cannot fail to find her.''

They thanked him and bade him Good-bye, and turned toward the West, walking over fields of soft grass dotted here and there with daisies and buttercups. Dorothy still wore the pretty silk dress she had put on in the palace, but now, to her surprise, she found it was no longer green, but pure white. The ribbon around Toto's neck had also lost its green color and was as white as Dorothy's dress.

The Emerald City was soon left far behind. As they advanced the ground became rougher and hillier, for there were no farms nor houses in this country of the West, and the ground was untilled.

In the afternoon the sun shone hot in their faces, for there were no trees to offer them shade; so that before night Dorothy and Toto and the Lion were tired, and lay down upon the grass and fell asleep, with the Woodman and the Scarecrow keeping watch.

Now the Wicked Witch of the West had but one eye, yet that was as powerful as a telescope, and could see everywhere. So, as she sat in the door of her castle, she happened to look around and saw Dorothy lying asleep, with her friends all about her. They were a long distance off, but the Wicked Witch was angry to find them in her country; so she blew upon a silver whistle that hung around her neck.

At once there came running to her from all directions a pack of great wolves. They had long legs and fierce eyes and sharp teeth.

''Go to those people,'' said the Witch, ''and tear them to pieces.''

''Are you not going to make them your slaves?'' asked the leader of the wolves.

''No,'' she answered, ''one is of tin, and one of straw; one is a girl and another a Lion. None of them is fit to work, so you may tear them into small pieces.''

''Very well,'' said the wolf, and he dashed away at full speed, followed by the others.

It was lucky the Scarecrow and the Woodman were wide awake and heard the wolves coming.

''This is my fight,'' said the Woodman, ''so get behind me and I will meet them as they come.''

He seized his axe, which he had made very sharp, and as the leader of the wolves came on the Tin Woodman swung his arm and chopped the wolf's head from its body, so that it immediately died. As soon as he could raise his axe another wolf came up, and he also fell under the sharp edge of the Tin Woodman's weapon. There were forty wolves, and forty times a wolf was killed, so that at last they all lay dead in a heap before the Woodman.

Then he put down his axe and sat beside the Scarecrow, who said, ''It was a good fight, friend.''

They waited until Dorothy awoke the next morning. The little girl was quite frightened when she saw the great pile of shaggy wolves, but the Tin Woodman told her all. She thanked him for saving them and sat down to breakfast, after which they started again upon their journey.

Now this same morning the Wicked Witch came to the door of her castle and looked out with her one eye that could see far off. She saw all her wolves lying dead, and the strangers still traveling through her country. This made her angrier than before, and she blew her silver whistle twice.

Straightway a great flock of wild crows came flying toward her, enough to darken the sky.

And the Wicked Witch said to the King Crow, ''Fly at once to the strangers; peck out their eyes and tear them to pieces.''

The wild crows flew in one great flock toward Dorothy and her companions. When the little girl saw them coming she was afraid.

But the Scarecrow said, ''This is my battle, so lie down beside me and you will not be harmed.''

So they all lay upon the ground except the Scarecrow, and he stood up and stretched out his arms. And when the crows saw him they were frightened, as these birds always are by scarecrows, and did not dare to come any nearer. But the King Crow said:

''It is only a stuffed man. I will peck his eyes out.''

The King Crow flew at the Scarecrow, who caught it by the head and twisted its neck until it died. And then another crow flew at him, and the Scarecrow twisted its neck also. There were forty crows, and forty times the Scarecrow twisted a neck, until at last all were lying dead beside him. Then he called to his companions to rise, and again they went upon their journey.

When the Wicked Witch looked out again and saw all her crows lying in a heap, she got into a terrible rage, and blew three times upon her silver whistle.

Title: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
Author: Frank Baum
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