Frank Baum >> The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (page 18)

''Exactly so!'' declared the little man, rubbing his hands together as if it pleased him. ''I am a humbug.''

''But this is terrible,'' said the Tin Woodman. ''How shall I ever get my heart?''

''Or I my courage?'' asked the Lion.

''Or I my brains?'' wailed the Scarecrow, wiping the tears from his eyes with his coat sleeve.

''My dear friends,'' said Oz, ''I pray you not to speak of these little things. Think of me, and the terrible trouble I'm in at being found out.''

''Doesn't anyone else know you're a humbug?'' asked Dorothy.

''No one knows it but you four - and myself,'' replied Oz. ''I have fooled everyone so long that I thought I should never be found out. It was a great mistake my ever letting you into the Throne Room. Usually I will not see even my subjects, and so they believe I am something terrible.''

''But, I don't understand,'' said Dorothy, in bewilderment. ''How was it that you appeared to me as a great Head?''

''That was one of my tricks,'' answered Oz. ''Step this way, please, and I will tell you all about it.''

He led the way to a small chamber in the rear of the Throne Room, and they all followed him. He pointed to one corner, in which lay the great Head, made out of many thicknesses of paper, and with a carefully painted face.

''This I hung from the ceiling by a wire,'' said Oz. ''I stood behind the screen and pulled a thread, to make the eyes move and the mouth open.''

''But how about the voice?'' she inquired.

''Oh, I am a ventriloquist,'' said the little man. ''I can throw the sound of my voice wherever I wish, so that you thought it was coming out of the Head. Here are the other things I used to deceive you.'' He showed the Scarecrow the dress and the mask he had worn when he seemed to be the lovely Lady. And the Tin Woodman saw that his terrible Beast was nothing but a lot of skins, sewn together, with slats to keep their sides out. As for the Ball of Fire, the false Wizard had hung that also from the ceiling. It was really a ball of cotton, but when oil was poured upon it the ball burned fiercely.

''Really,'' said the Scarecrow, ''you ought to be ashamed of yourself for being such a humbug.''

''I am - I certainly am,'' answered the little man sorrowfully; ''but it was the only thing I could do. Sit down, please, there are plenty of chairs; and I will tell you my story.''

So they sat down and listened while he told the following tale.

''I was born in Omaha - ''

''Why, that isn't very far from Kansas!'' cried Dorothy.

''No, but it's farther from here,'' he said, shaking his head at her sadly. ''When I grew up I became a ventriloquist, and at that I was very well trained by a great master. I can imitate any kind of a bird or beast. '' Here he mewed so like a kitten that Toto pricked up his ears and looked everywhere to see where she was. ''After a time,'' continued Oz, ''I tired of that, and became a balloonist.''

''What is that?'' asked Dorothy.

''A man who goes up in a balloon on circus day, so as to draw a crowd of people together and get them to pay to see the circus,'' he explained.

''Oh,'' she said, ''I know.''

''Well, one day I went up in a balloon and the ropes got twisted, so that I couldn't come down again. It went way up above the clouds, so far that a current of air struck it and carried it many, many miles away. For a day and a night I traveled through the air, and on the morning of the second day I awoke and found the balloon floating over a strange and beautiful country.

''It came down gradually, and I was not hurt a bit. But I found myself in the midst of a strange people, who, seeing me come from the clouds, thought I was a great Wizard. Of course I let them think so, because they were afraid of me, and promised to do anything I wished them to.

''Just to amuse myself, and keep the good people busy, I ordered them to build this City, and my Palace; and they did it all willingly and well. Then I thought, as the country was so green and beautiful, I would call it the Emerald City; and to make the name fit better I put green spectacles on all the people, so that everything they saw was green.''

''But isn't everything here green?'' asked Dorothy.

''No more than in any other city,'' replied Oz; ''but when you wear green spectacles, why of course everything you see looks green to you. The Emerald City was built a great many years ago, for I was a young man when the balloon brought me here, and I am a very old man now. But my people have worn green glasses on their eyes so long that most of them think it really is an Emerald City, and it certainly is a beautiful place, abounding in jewels and precious metals, and every good thing that is needed to make one happy. I have been good to the people, and they like me; but ever since this Palace was built, I have shut myself up and would not see any of them.

''One of my greatest fears was the Witches, for while I had no magical powers at all I soon found out that the Witches were really able to do wonderful things. There were four of them in this country, and they ruled the people who live in the North and South and East and West. Fortunately, the Witches of the North and South were good, and I knew they would do me no harm; but the Witches of the East and West were terribly wicked, and had they not thought I was more powerful than they themselves, they would surely have destroyed me. As it was, I lived in deadly fear of them for many years; so you can imagine how pleased I was when I heard your house had fallen on the Wicked Witch of the East. When you came to me, I was willing to promise anything if you would only do away with the other Witch; but, now that you have melted her, I am ashamed to say that I cannot keep my promises.''

''I think you are a very bad man,'' said Dorothy.

''Oh, no, my dear; I'm really a very good man, but I'm a very bad Wizard, I must admit.''

''Can't you give me brains?'' asked the Scarecrow.

''You don't need them. You are learning something every day. A baby has brains, but it doesn't know much. Experience is the only thing that brings knowledge, and the longer you are on earth the more experience you are sure to get.''

''That may all be true,'' said the Scarecrow, ''but I shall be very unhappy unless you give me brains.''

The false Wizard looked at him carefully.

''Well,'' he said with a sigh, ''I'm not much of a magician, as I said; but if you will come to me tomorrow morning, I will stuff your head with brains. I cannot tell you how to use them, however; you must find that out for yourself.''

''Oh, thank you - thank you!'' cried the Scarecrow. ''I'll find a way to use them, never fear!''

''But how about my courage?'' asked the Lion anxiously.

''You have plenty of courage, I am sure,'' answered Oz. ''All you need is confidence in yourself. There is no living thing that is not afraid when it faces danger. The True courage is in facing danger when you are afraid, and that kind of courage you have in plenty.''

''Perhaps I have, but I'm scared just the same,'' said the Lion. ''I shall really be very unhappy unless you give me the sort of courage that makes one forget he is afraid.''

''Very well, I will give you that sort of courage tomorrow,'' replied Oz.

''How about my heart?'' asked the Tin Woodman.

''Why, as for that,'' answered Oz, ''I think you are wrong to want a heart. It makes most people unhappy. If you only knew it, you are in luck not to have a heart.''

''That must be a matter of opinion,'' said the Tin Woodman. ''For my part, I will bear all the unhappiness without a murmur, if you will give me the heart.''

''Very well,'' answered Oz meekly. ''Come to me tomorrow and you shall have a heart. I have played Wizard for so many years that I may as well continue the part a little longer.''

''And now,'' said Dorothy, ''how am I to get back to Kansas?''

''We shall have to think about that,'' replied the little man. ''Give me two or three days to consider the matter and I'll try to find a way to carry you over the desert. In the meantime you shall all be treated as my guests, and while you live in the Palace my people will wait upon you and obey your slightest wish. There is only one thing I ask in return for my help - such as it is. You must keep my secret and tell no one I am a humbug. ''

They agreed to say nothing of what they had learned, and went back to their rooms in high spirits. Even Dorothy had hope that ''The Great and Terrible Humbug,'' as she called him, would find a way to send her back to Kansas, and if he did she was willing to forgive him everything.

Title: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
Author: Frank Baum
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