When the Flatheads had gone away the Diamond Swan swam back to the boat an_ne of the young Skeezers named Ervic said to her eagerly:
"How can we get back to the island, your Majesty?"
"Am I not beautiful?" asked Coo-ee-oh, arching her neck gracefully an_preading her diamond-sprinkled wings. "I can see my reflection in the water, and I'm sure there is no bird nor beast, nor human as magnificent as I am!"
"How shall we get back to the island, your Majesty?" pleaded Ervic.
"When my fame spreads throughout the land, people will travel from all part_f this lake to look upon my loveliness," said Coo-ee-oh, shaking her feather_o make the diamonds glitter more brilliantly.
"But, your Majesty, we must go home and we do not know how to get there,"
"My eyes," remarked the Diamond Swan, "are wonderfully blue and bright an_ill charm all beholders."
"Tell us how to make the boat go—how to get back into the island," begge_rvic and the others cried just as earnestly: "Tell us, Coo-ee-oh; tell us!"
"I don't know," replied the Queen in a careless tone.
"You are a magic-worker, a sorceress, a witch!"
"I was, of course, when I was a girl," she said, bending her head over th_lear water to catch her reflection in it; "but now I've forgotten all suc_oolish things as magic. Swans are lovelier than girls, especially whe_hey're sprinkled with diamonds. Don't you think so?" And she gracefully swa_way, without seeming to care whether they answered or not.
Ervic and his companions were in despair. They saw plainly that Coo-ee-o_ould not or would not help them. The former Queen had no further thought fo_er island, her people, or her wonderful magic; she was only intent o_dmiring her own beauty.
"Truly," said Ervic, in a gloomy voice, "the Flatheads have conquered us!"
Some of these events had been witnessed by Ozma and Dorothy and Lady Aurex, who had left the house and gone close to the glass of the dome, in order t_ee what was going on. Many of the Skeezers had also crowded against the dome, wondering what would happen next. Although their vision was to an exten_lurred by the water and the necessity of looking upward at an angle, they ha_bserved the main points of the drama enacted above. They saw Queen Coo-ee- oh's submarine come to the surface and open; they saw the Queen standing erec_o throw her magic rope; they saw her sudden transformation into a Diamon_wan, and a cry of amazement went up from the Skeezers inside the dome.
"Good!" exclaimed Dorothy. "I hate that old Su-dic, but I'm glad Coo-ee-oh i_unished."
"This is a dreadful misfortune!" cried Lady Aurex, pressing her hands upon he_eart.
"Yes," agreed Ozma, nodding her head thoughtfully; "Coo-ee-oh's misfortun_ill prove a terrible blow to her people."
"What do you mean by that?" asked Dorothy in surprise. "Seems to me th_keezers are in luck to lose their cruel Queen."
"If that were all you would be right," responded Lady Aurex; "and if th_sland were above water it would not be so serious. But here we all are, a_he bottom of the lake, and fast prisoners in this dome."
"Can't you raise the island?" inquired Dorothy.
"No. Only Coo-ee-oh knew how to do that," was the answer.
"We can try," insisted Dorothy. "If it can be made to go down, it can be mad_o come up. The machinery is still here, I suppose."
"Yes; but the machinery works by magic, and Coo-ee-oh would never share he_ecret power with any one of us."
Dorothy's face grew grave; but she was thinking.
"Ozma knows a lot of magic," she said.
"But not that kind of magic," Ozma replied.
"Can't you learn how, by looking at the machinery?"
"I'm afraid not, my dear. It isn't fairy magic at all; it is witchcraft."
"Well," said Dorothy, turning to Lady Aurex, "you say there are other sub-sub- sinking boats. We can get in one of those, and shoot out to the top of th_ater, like Coo-ee-oh did, and so escape. And then we can help to rescue al_he Skeezers down here."
"No one knows how to work the under-water boats but the Queen," declared Lad_urex.
"Isn't there any door or window in this dome that we could open?"
"No; and, if there were, the water would rush in to flood the dome, and w_ould not get out."
"The Skeezers," said Ozma, "could not drown; they only get wet and soggy an_n that condition they would be very uncomfortable and unhappy. But you are _ortal girl, Dorothy, and if your Magic Belt protected you from death yo_ould have to lie forever at the bottom of the lake."
"No, I'd rather die quickly," asserted the little girl. "But there are door_n the basement that open—to let out the bridges and the boats—and that woul_ot flood the dome, you know."
"Those doors open by a magic word, and only Coo-ee-oh knows the word that mus_e uttered," said Lady Aurex.
"Dear me!" exclaimed Dorothy, "that dreadful Queen's witchcraft upsets all m_lans to escape. I guess I'll give it up, Ozma, and let you save us."
Ozma smiled, but her smile was not so cheerful as usual. The Princess of O_ound herself confronted with a serious problem, and although she had n_hought of despairing she realized that the Skeezers and their island, as wel_s Dorothy and herself, were in grave trouble and that unless she could find _eans to save them they would be lost to the Land of Oz for all future time.
"In such a dilemma," said she, musingly, "nothing is gained by haste. Carefu_hought may aid us, and so may the course of events. The unexpected is alway_ikely to happen, and cheerful patience is better than reckless action."
"All right," returned Dorothy; "take your time, Ozma; there's no hurry. Ho_bout some breakfast, Lady Aurex?"
Their hostess led them back to the house, where she ordered her tremblin_ervants to prepare and serve breakfast. All the Skeezers were frightened an_nxious over the transformation of their Queen into a swan. Coo-ee-oh wa_eared and hated, but they had depended on her magic to conquer the Flathead_nd she was the only one who could raise their island to the surface of th_ake again.
Before breakfast was over several of the leading Skeezers came to Aurex to as_er advice and to question Princess Ozma, of whom they knew nothing excep_hat she claimed to be a fairy and the Ruler of all the land, including th_ake of the Skeezers.
"If what you told Queen Coo-ee-oh was the truth," they said to her, "you ar_ur lawful mistress, and we may depend on you to get us out of ou_ifficulties."
"I will try to do that" Ozma graciously assured them, "but you must remembe_hat the powers of fairies are granted them to bring comfort and happiness t_ll who appeal to them. On the contrary, such magic as Coo-ee-oh knew an_racticed is unlawful witchcraft and her arts are such as no fairy woul_ondescend to use. However, it is sometimes necessary to consider evil i_rder to accomplish good, and perhaps by studying Coo-ee-oh's tools and charm_f witchcraft I may be able to save us. Do you promise to accept me as you_uler and to obey my commands?"
They promised willingly.
"Then," continued Ozma, "I will go to Coo-ee-oh's palace and take possessio_f it. Perhaps what I find there will be of use to me. In the meantime tel_ll the Skeezers to fear nothing, but have patience. Let them return to thei_omes and perform their daily tasks as usual. Coo-ee-oh's loss may not prove _isfortune, but rather a blessing."
This speech cheered the Skeezers amazingly. Really, they had no one now t_epend upon but Ozma, and in spite of their dangerous position their heart_ere lightened by the transformation and absence of their cruel Queen.
They got out their brass band and a grand procession escorted Ozma and Doroth_o the palace, where all of Coo-ee-oh's former servants were eager to wai_pon them. Ozma invited Lady Aurex to stay at the palace also, for she kne_ll about the Skeezers and their island and had also been a favorite of th_ormer Queen, so her advice and information were sure to prove valuable.
Ozma was somewhat disappointed in what she found in the palace. One room o_oo-ee-oh's private suite was entirely devoted to the practice of witchcraft, and here were countless queer instruments and jars of ointments and bottles o_otions labeled with queer names, and strange machines that Ozma could no_uess the use of, and pickled toads and snails and lizards, and a shelf o_ooks that were written in blood, but in a language which the Ruler of Oz di_ot know.
"I do not see," said Ozma to Dorothy, who accompanied her in her search, "ho_oo-ee-oh knew the use of the magic tools she stole from the three Adep_itches. Moreover, from all reports these Adepts practiced only goo_itchcraft, such as would be helpful to their people, while Coo-ee-o_erformed only evil."
"Perhaps she turned the good things to evil uses?" suggested Dorothy.
"Yes, and with the knowledge she gained Coo-ee-oh doubtless invented many evi_hings quite unknown to the good Adepts, who are now fishes," added Ozma. "I_s unfortunate for us that the Queen kept her secrets so closely guarded, fo_o one but herself could use any of these strange things gathered in thi_oom."
"Couldn't we capture the Diamond Swan and make her tell the secrets?" aske_orothy.
"No; even were we able to capture her, Coo-ee-oh now has forgotten all th_agic she ever knew. But until we ourselves escape from this dome we could no_apture the Swan, and were we to escape we would have no use for Coo-ee-oh'_agic."
"That's a fact," admitted Dorothy. "But—say, Ozma, here's a good idea!
Couldn't we capture the three fishes—the gold and silver and bronze ones, an_ouldn't you transform 'em back to their own shapes, and then couldn't th_hree Adepts get us out of here?"
"You are not very practical, Dorothy dear. It would be as hard for us t_apture the three fishes, from among all the other fishes in the lake, as t_apture the Swan."
"But if we could, it would be more help to us," persisted the little girl.
"That is true," answered Ozma, smiling at her friend's eagerness. "You find _ay to catch the fish, and I'll promise when they are caught to restore the_o their proper forms."
"I know you think I can't do it," replied Dorothy, "but I'm going to try."
She left the palace and went to a place where she could look through a clea_ane of the glass dome into the surrounding water. Immediately she becam_nterested in the queer sights that met her view.
The Lake of the Skeezers was inhabited by fishes of many kinds and many sizes.
The water was so transparent that the girl could see for a long distance an_he fishes came so close to the glass of the dome that sometimes they actuall_ouched it. On the white sands at the bottom of the lake were star-fish, lobsters, crabs and many shell fish of strange shapes and with shells o_orgeous hues. The water foliage was of brilliant colors and to Dorothy i_esembled a splendid garden.
But the fishes were the most interesting of all. Some were big and lazy, floating slowly along or lying at rest with just their fins waving. Many wit_ig round eyes looked full at the girl as she watched them and Doroth_ondered if they could hear her through the glass if she spoke to them. In Oz, where all the animals and birds can talk, many fishes are able to talk also, but usually they are more stupid than birds and animals because they thin_lowly and haven't much to talk about.
In the Lake of the Skeezers the fish of smaller size were more active than th_ig ones and darted quickly in and out among the swaying weeds, as if they ha_mportant business and were in a hurry. It was among the smaller varietie_hat Dorothy hoped to spy the gold and silver and bronze fishes. She had a_dea the three would keep together, being companions now as they were in thei_atural forms, but such a multitude of fishes constantly passed, the scen_hifting every moment, that she was not sure she would notice them even i_hey appeared in view. Her eyes couldn't look in all directions and the fishe_he sought might be on the other side of the dome, or far away in the lake.
"P'raps, because they were afraid of Coo-ee-oh, they've hid themselve_omewhere, and don't know their enemy has been transformed," she reflected.
She watched the fishes for a long time, until she became hungry and went bac_o the palace for lunch. But she was not discouraged.
"Anything new, Ozma?" she asked.
"No, dear. Did you discover the three fishes?"
"Not yet. But there isn't anything better for me to do, Ozma, so I guess I'l_o back and watch again."