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Chapter 9 They Fight the Invisible Bears

  • The strangers took their seats at the table willingly enough, for they wer_ll hungry and the platters were now heaped with good things to eat. In fron_f each place was a plate bearing one of the delicious dama-fruit, and th_erfume that rose from these was so enticing and sweet that they were sorel_empted to eat of them and become invisible.
  • But Dorothy satisfied her hunger with other things, and her companions di_ikewise, resisting the temptation.
  • "Why do you not eat the damas?" asked the woman's voice.
  • "We don't want to get invis'ble," answered the girl.
  • "But if you remain visible the bears will see you and devour you," said _irlish young voice, that belonged to one of the children. "We who live her_uch prefer to be invisible; for we can still hug and kiss one another, an_re quite safe from the bears."
  • "And we do not have to be so particular about our dress," remarked the man.
  • "And mama can't tell whether my face is dirty or not!" added the othe_hildish voice, gleefully.
  • "But I make you wash it, every time I think of it," said the mother; "for i_tands to reason your face is dirty, Ianu, whether I can see it or not."
  • Dorothy laughed and stretched out her hands.
  • "Come here, please—Ianu and your sister—and let me feel of you," sh_equested.
  • They came to her willingly, and Dorothy passed her hands over their faces an_orms and decided one was a girl of about her own age and the other a bo_omewhat smaller. The girl's hair was soft and fluffy and her skin as smoot_s satin. When Dorothy gently touched her nose and ears and lips they seeme_o be well and delicately formed.
  • "If I could see you I am sure you would be beautiful," she declared.
  • The girl laughed, and her mother said:
  • "We are not vain in the Valley of Voe, because we can not display our beauty, and good actions and pleasant ways are what make us lovely to our companions.
  • Yet we can see and appreciate the beauties of nature, the dainty flowers an_rees, the green fields and the clear blue of the sky."
  • "How about the birds and beasts and fishes?" asked Zeb.
  • "The birds we cannot see, because they love to eat of the damas as much as w_o; yet we hear their sweet songs and enjoy them. Neither can we see the crue_ears, for they also eat the fruit. But the fishes that swim in our brooks w_an see, and often we catch them to eat."
  • "It occurs to me you have a great deal to make you happy, even whil_nvisible," remarked the Wizard. "Nevertheless, we prefer to remain visibl_hile we are in your valley."
  • Just then Eureka came in, for she had been until now wandering outside wit_im; and when the kitten saw the table set with food she cried out:
  • "Now you must feed me, Dorothy, for I'm half starved."
  • The children were inclined to be frightened by the sight of the small animal, which reminded them of the bears; but Dorothy reassured them by explainin_hat Eureka was a pet and could do no harm even if she wished to. Then, as th_thers had by this time moved away from the table, the kitten sprang upon th_hair and put her paws upon the cloth to see what there was to eat. To he_urprise an unseen hand clutched her and held her suspended in the air. Eurek_as frantic with terror, and tried to scratch and bite, so the next moment sh_as dropped to the floor,
  • "Did you see that, Dorothy?" she gasped.
  • "Yes, dear," her mistress replied; "there are people living in this house, although we cannot see them. And you must have better manners, Eureka, o_omething worse will happen to you."
  • She placed a plate of food upon the floor and the kitten ate greedily.
  • "Give me that nice-smelling fruit I saw on the table," she begged, when sh_ad cleaned the plate.
  • "Those are damas," said Dorothy, "and you must never even taste them, Eureka, or you'll get invis'ble, and then we can't see you at all."
  • The kitten gazed wistfully at the forbidden fruit.
  • "Does it hurt to be invis'ble?" she asked.
  • "I don't know," Dorothy answered; "but it would hurt me dre'fully to los_ou."
  • "Very well, I won't touch it," decided the kitten; "but you must keep it awa_rom me, for the smell is very tempting."
  • "Can you tell us, sir or ma'am," said the Wizard, addressing the air becaus_e did not quite know where the unseen people stood, "if there is any way w_an get out of your beautiful Valley, and on top of the Earth again."
  • "Oh, one can leave the Valley easily enough," answered the man's voice; "bu_o do so you must enter a far less pleasant country. As for reaching the to_f the earth, I have never heard that it is possible to do that, and if yo_ucceeded in getting there you would probably fall off."
  • "Oh, no," said Dorothy, "we've been there, and we know."
  • "The Valley of Voe is certainly a charming place," resumed the Wizard; "but w_annot be contented in any other land than our own, for long. Even if w_hould come to unpleasant places on our way it is necessary, in order to reac_he earth's surface, to keep moving on toward it."
  • "In that case," said the man, "it will be best for you to cross our Valley an_ount the spiral staircase inside the Pyramid Mountain. The top of tha_ountain is lost in the clouds, and when you reach it you will be in the awfu_and of Naught, where the Gargoyles live."
  • "What are Gargoyles?" asked Zeb.
  • "I do not know, young sir. Our greatest Champion, Overman-Anu, once climbe_he spiral stairway and fought nine days with the Gargoyles before he coul_scape them and come back; but he could never be induced to describe th_readful creatures, and soon afterward a bear caught him and ate him up."
  • The wanders were rather discouraged by this gloomy report, but Dorothy sai_ith a sigh:
  • "If the only way to get home is to meet the Gurgles, then we've got to meet
  • 'em. They can't be worse than the Wicked Witch or the Nome King."
  • "But you must remember you had the Scarecrow and the Tin Woodman to help yo_onquer those enemies," suggested the Wizard. "Just now, my dear, there is no_ single warrior in your company."
  • "Oh, I guess Zeb could fight if he had to. Couldn't you, Zeb?" asked th_ittle girl.
  • "Perhaps; if I had to," answered Zeb, doubtfully.
  • "And you have the jointed sword that you chopped the veg'table Sorcerer in tw_ith," the girl said to the little man.
  • "True," he replied; "and in my satchel are other useful things to fight with."
  • "What the Gargoyles most dread is a noise," said the man's voice. "Ou_hampion told me that when he shouted his battle-cry the creatures shuddere_nd drew back, hesitating to continue the combat. But they were in grea_umbers, and the Champion could not shout much because he had to save hi_reath for fighting."
  • "Very good," said the Wizard; "we can all yell better than we can fight, so w_ught to defeat the Gargoyles."
  • "But tell me," said Dorothy, "how did such a brave Champion happen to let th_ears eat him? And if he was invis'ble, and the bears invis'ble, who know_hat they really ate him up?"
  • "The Champion had killed eleven bears in his time," returned the unseen man;
  • "and we know this is true because when any creature is dead the invisibl_harm of the dama-fruit ceases to be active, and the slain one can be plainl_een by all eyes. When the Champion killed a bear everyone could see it; an_hen the bears killed the Champion we all saw several pieces of him scattere_bout, which of course disappeared again when the bears devoured them."
  • They now bade farewell to the kind but unseen people of the cottage, and afte_he man had called their attention to a high, pyramid-shaped mountain on th_pposite side of the Valley, and told them how to travel in order to reach it, they again started upon their journey.
  • They followed the course of a broad stream and passed several more prett_ottages; but of course they saw no one, nor did any one speak to them. Fruit_nd flowers grew plentifully all about, and there were many of the deliciou_amas that the people of Voe were so fond of.
  • About noon they stopped to allow Jim to rest in the shade of a pretty orchard, and while they plucked and ate some of the cherries and plums that grew ther_ soft voice suddenly said to them:
  • "There are bears near by. Be careful."
  • The Wizard got out his sword at once, and Zeb grabbed the horse-whip. Doroth_limbed into the buggy, although Jim had been unharnessed from it and wa_razing some distance away.
  • The owner of the unseen voice laughed lightly and said:
  • "You cannot escape the bears that way."
  • "How CAN we 'scape?" asked Dorothy, nervously, for an unseen danger is alway_he hardest to face.
  • "You must take to the river," was the reply. "The bears will not venture upo_he water."
  • "But we would be drowned!" exclaimed the girl.
  • "Oh, there is no need of that," said the voice, which from its gentle tone_eemed to belong to a young girl. "You are strangers in the Valley of Voe, an_o not seem to know our ways; so I will try to save you."
  • The next moment a broad-leaved plant was jerked from the ground where it gre_nd held suspended in the air before the Wizard.
  • "Sir," said the voice, "you must rub these leaves upon the soles of all you_eet, and then you will be able to walk upon the water without sinking belo_he surface. It is a secret the bears do not know, and we people of Vo_sually walk upon the water when we travel, and so escape our enemies."
  • "Thank you!" cried the Wizard, joyfully, and at once rubbed a leaf upon th_oles of Dorothy's shoes and then upon his own. The girl took a leaf an_ubbed it upon the kitten's paws, and the rest of the plant was handed to Zeb, who, after applying it to his own feet, carefully rubbed it upon all four o_im's hoofs and then upon the tires of the buggy-wheels. He had nearl_inished this last task when a low growling was suddenly heard and the hors_egan to jump around and kick viciously with his heels.
  • "Quick! To the water or you are lost!" cried their unseen friend, and withou_esitation the Wizard drew the buggy down the bank and out upon the broa_iver, for Dorothy was still seated in it with Eureka in her arms. They di_ot sink at all, owing to the virtues of the strange plant they had used, an_hen the buggy was in the middle of the stream the Wizard returned to the ban_o assist Zeb and Jim.
  • The horse was plunging madly about, and two or three deep gashes appeared upo_ts flanks, from which the blood flowed freely.
  • "Run for the river!" shouted the Wizard, and Jim quickly freed himself fro_is unseen tormenters by a few vicious kicks and then obeyed. As soon as h_rotted out upon the surface of the river he found himself safe from pursuit, and Zeb was already running across the water toward Dorothy.
  • As the little Wizard turned to follow them he felt a hot breath against hi_heek and heard a low, fierce growl. At once he began stabbing at the air wit_is sword, and he knew that he had struck some substance because when he dre_ack the blade it was dripping with blood. The third time that he thrust ou_he weapon there was a loud roar and a fall, and suddenly at his feet appeare_he form of a great red bear, which was nearly as big as the horse and muc_tronger and fiercer. The beast was quite dead from the sword thrusts, an_fter a glance at its terrible claws and sharp teeth the little man turned i_ panic and rushed out upon the water, for other menacing growls told him mor_ears were near.
  • On the river, however, the adventurers seemed to be perfectly safe. Doroth_nd the buggy had floated slowly down stream with the current of the water, and the others made haste to join her. The Wizard opened his satchel and go_ut some sticking-plaster with which he mended the cuts Jim had received fro_he claws of the bears.
  • "I think we'd better stick to the river, after this," said Dorothy. "If ou_nknown friend hadn't warned us, and told us what to do, we would all be dea_y this time."
  • "That is true," agreed the Wizard, "and as the river seems to be flowing i_he direction of the Pyramid Mountain it will be the easiest way for us t_ravel."
  • Zeb hitched Jim to the buggy again, and the horse trotted along and drew the_apidly over the smooth water. The kitten was at first dreadfully afraid o_etting wet, but Dorothy let her down and soon Eureka was frisking alon_eside the buggy without being scared a bit. Once a little fish swam too nea_he surface, and the kitten grabbed it in her mouth and ate it up as quick a_ wink; but Dorothy cautioned her to be careful what she ate in this valley o_nchantments, and no more fishes were careless enough to swim within reach.
  • After a journey of several hours they came to a point where the river curved, and they found they must cross a mile or so of the Valley before they came t_he Pyramid Mountain. There were few houses in this part, and few orchards o_lowers; so our friends feared they might encounter more of the savage bears, which they had learned to dread with all their hearts.
  • "You'll have to make a dash, Jim," said the Wizard, "and run as fast as yo_an go."
  • "All right," answered the horse; "I'll do my best. But you must remember I'_ld, and my dashing days are past and gone."
  • All three got into the buggy and Zeb picked up the reins, though Jim needed n_uidance of any sort. The horse was still smarting from the sharp claws of th_nvisible bears, and as soon as he was on land and headed toward the mountai_he thought that more of those fearsome creatures might be near acted as _pur and sent him galloping along in a way that made Dorothy catch her breath.
  • Then Zeb, in a spirit of mischief, uttered a growl like that of the bears, an_im pricked up his ears and fairly flew. His boney legs moved so fast the_ould scarcely be seen, and the Wizard clung fast to the seat and yelled
  • "Whoa!" at the top of his voice.
  • "I—I'm 'fraid he's—he's running away!" gasped Dorothy.
  • "I KNOW he is," said Zeb; "but no bear can catch him if he keeps up tha_ait—and the harness or the buggy don't break."
  • Jim did not make a mile a minute; but almost before they were aware of it h_rew up at the foot of the mountain, so suddenly that the Wizard and Zeb bot_ailed over the dashboard and landed in the soft grass—where they rolled ove_everal times before they stopped. Dorothy nearly went with them, but she wa_olding fast to the iron rail of the seat, and that saved her. She squeeze_he kitten, though, until it screeched; and then the old cab-horse mad_everal curious sounds that led the little girl to suspect he was laughing a_hem all.