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Chapter 4 The Vegetable Kingdom

  • After the Wizard had wiped the dampness from his sword and taken it apart an_ut the pieces into their leathern case again, the man with the star ordere_ome of his people to carry the two halves of the Sorcerer to the publi_ardens.
  • Jim pricked up his ears when he heard they were going to the gardens, an_anted to join the party, thinking he might find something proper to eat; s_eb put down the top of the buggy and invited the Wizard to ride with them.
  • The seat was amply wide enough for the little man and the two children, an_hen Jim started to leave the hall the kitten jumped upon his back and sa_here quite contentedly.
  • So the procession moved through the streets, the bearers of the Sorcere_irst, the Prince next, then Jim drawing the buggy with the strangers insid_f it, and last the crowd of vegetable people who had no hearts and coul_either smile nor frown.
  • The glass city had several fine streets, for a good many people lived there; but when the procession had passed through these it came upon a broad plai_overed with gardens and watered by many pretty brooks that flowed through it.
  • There were paths through these gardens, and over some of the brooks wer_rnamental glass bridges.
  • Dorothy and Zeb now got out of the buggy and walked beside the Prince, so tha_hey might see and examine the flowers and plants better.
  • "Who built these lovely bridges?" asked the little girl.
  • "No one built them," answered the man with the star. "They grow."
  • "That's queer," said she. "Did the glass houses in your city grow, too?"
  • "Of course," he replied. "But it took a good many years for them to grow a_arge and fine as they are now. That is why we are so angry when a Rain o_tones comes to break our towers and crack our roofs."
  • "Can't you mend them?" she enquired.
  • "No; but they will grow together again, in time, and we must wait until the_o."
  • They first passed through many beautiful gardens of flowers, which gre_earest the city; but Dorothy could hardly tell what kind of flowers the_ere, because the colors were constantly changing under the shifting lights o_he six suns. A flower would be pink one second, white the next, then blue o_ellow; and it was the same way when they came to the plants, which had broa_eaves and grew close to the ground.
  • When they passed over a field of grass Jim immediately stretched down his hea_nd began to nibble.
  • "A nice country this is," he grumbled, "where a respectable horse has to ea_ink grass!"
  • "It's violet," said the Wizard, who was in the buggy.
  • "Now it's blue," complained the horse. "As a matter of fact, I'm eatin_ainbow grass."
  • "How does it taste?" asked the Wizard.
  • "Not bad at all," said Jim. "If they give me plenty of it I'll not complai_bout its color."
  • By this time the party had reached a freshly plowed field, and the Prince sai_o Dorothy:
  • "This is our planting-ground."
  • Several Mangaboos came forward with glass spades and dug a hole in the ground.
  • Then they put the two halves of the Sorcerer into it and covered him up. Afte_hat other people brought water from a brook and sprinkled the earth.
  • "He will sprout very soon," said the Prince, "and grow into a large bush, fro_hich we shall in time be able to pick several very good sorcerers."
  • "Do all your people grow on bushes?" asked the boy.
  • "Certainly," was the reply. "Do not all people grow upon bushes where you cam_rom, on the outside of the earth?"
  • "Not that I ever hear of."
  • "How strange! But if you will come with me to one of our folk gardens I wil_how you the way we grow in the Land of the Mangaboos."
  • It appeared that these odd people, while they were able to walk through th_ir with ease, usually moved upon the ground in the ordinary way. There wer_o stairs in their houses, because they did not need them, but on a leve_urface they generally walked just as we do.
  • The little party of strangers now followed the Prince across a few more of th_lass bridges and along several paths until they came to a garden enclosed b_ high hedge. Jim had refused to leave the field of grass, where he wa_ngaged in busily eating; so the Wizard got out of the buggy and joined Ze_nd Dorothy, and the kitten followed demurely at their heels.
  • Inside the hedge they came upon row after row of large and handsome plant_ith broad leaves gracefully curving until their points nearly reached th_round. In the center of each plant grew a daintily dressed Mangaboo, for th_lothing of all these creatures grew upon them and was attached to thei_odies.
  • The growing Mangaboos were of all sizes, from the blossom that had just turne_nto a wee baby to the full-grown and almost ripe man or woman. On some of th_ushes might be seen a bud, a blossom, a baby, a half-grown person and a rip_ne; but even those ready to pluck were motionless and silent, as if devoid o_ife. This sight explained to Dorothy why she had seen no children among th_angaboos, a thing she had until now been unable to account for.
  • "Our people do not acquire their real life until they leave their bushes,"
  • said the Prince. "You will notice they are all attached to the plants by th_oles of their feet, and when they are quite ripe they are easily separate_rom the stems and at once attain the powers of motion and speech. So whil_hey grow they cannot be said to really live, and they must be picked befor_hey can become good citizens."
  • "How long do you live, after you are picked?" asked Dorothy.
  • "That depends upon the care we take of ourselves," he replied. "If we kee_ool and moist, and meet with no accidents, we often live for five years. I'v_een picked over six years, but our family is known to be especially lon_ived."
  • "Do you eat?" asked the boy.
  • "Eat! No, indeed. We are quite solid inside our bodies, and have no need t_at, any more than does a potato."
  • "But the potatoes sometimes sprout," said Zeb.
  • "And sometimes we do," answered the Prince; "but that is considered a grea_isfortune, for then we must be planted at once."
  • "Where did you grow?" asked the Wizard.
  • "I will show you," was the reply. "Step this way, please."
  • He led them within another but smaller circle of hedge, where grew one larg_nd beautiful bush.
  • "This," said he, "is the Royal Bush of the Mangaboos. All of our Princes an_ulers have grown upon this one bush from time immemorial."
  • They stood before it in silent admiration. On the central stalk stood poise_he figure of a girl so exquisitely formed and colored and so lovely in th_xpression of her delicate features that Dorothy thought she had never seen s_weet and adorable a creature in all her life. The maiden's gown was soft a_atin and fell about her in ample folds, while dainty lace-like tracerie_rimmed the bodice and sleeves. Her flesh was fine and smooth as polishe_vory, and her poise expressed both dignity and grace.
  • "Who is this?" asked the Wizard, curiously.
  • The Prince had been staring hard at the girl on the bush. Now he answered, with a touch of uneasiness in his cold tones:
  • "She is the Ruler destined to be my successor, for she is a Royal Princess.
  • When she becomes fully ripe I must abandon the sovereignty of the Mangaboos t_er."
  • "Isn't she ripe now?" asked Dorothy.
  • He hesitated.
  • "Not quite," said he, finally. "It will be several days before she needs to b_icked, or at least that is my judgment. I am in no hurry to resign my offic_nd be planted, you may be sure."
  • "Probably not," declared the Wizard, nodding.
  • "This is one of the most unpleasant things about our vegetable lives,"
  • continued the Prince, with a sigh, "that while we are in our full prime w_ust give way to another, and be covered up in the ground to sprout and gro_nd give birth to other people."
  • "I'm sure the Princess is ready to be picked," asserted Dorothy, gazing har_t the beautiful girl on the bush. "She's as perfect as she can be."
  • "Never mind," answered the Prince, hastily, "she will be all right for a fe_ays longer, and it is best for me to rule until I can dispose of yo_trangers, who have come to our land uninvited and must be attended to a_nce."
  • "What are you going to do with us?" asked Zeb.
  • "That is a matter I have not quite decided upon," was the reply. "I think _hall keep this Wizard until a new Sorcerer is ready to pick, for he seem_uite skillful and may be of use to us. But the rest of you must be destroye_n some way, and you cannot be planted, because I do not wish horses and cat_nd meat people growing all over our country."
  • "You needn't worry," said Dorothy. "We wouldn't grow under ground, I'm sure."
  • "But why destroy my friends?" asked the little Wizard. "Why not let the_ive?"
  • "They do not belong here," returned the Prince. "They have no right to b_nside the earth at all."
  • "We didn't ask to come down here; we fell," said Dorothy.
  • "That is no excuse," declared the Prince, coldly.
  • The children looked at each other in perplexity, and the Wizard sighed. Eurek_ubbed her paw on her face and said in her soft, purring voice:
  • "He won't need to destroy ME, for if I don't get something to eat pretty soo_ shall starve to death, and so save him the trouble."
  • "If he planted you, he might grow some cat-tails," suggested the Wizard.
  • "Oh, Eureka! perhaps we can find you some milk-weeds to eat," said the boy.
  • "Phoo!" snarled the kitten; "I wouldn't touch the nasty things!"
  • "You don't need milk, Eureka," remarked Dorothy; "you are big enough now t_at any kind of food."
  • "If I can get it," added Eureka.
  • "I'm hungry myself," said Zeb. "But I noticed some strawberries growing in on_f the gardens, and some melons in another place. These people don't eat suc_hings, so perhaps on our way back they will let us get them."
  • "Never mind your hunger," interrupted the Prince. "I shall order you destroye_n a few minutes, so you will have no need to ruin our pretty melon vines an_erry bushes. Follow me, please, to meet your doom."