Princess Ozma considered the situation gravely. Then she tied her handkerchie_o her wand and, standing at the water's edge, waved the handkerchief like _lag, as a signal. For a time they could observe no response.
"I don't see what good that will do," said Dorothy. "Even if the Skeezers ar_n that island and see us, and know we're friends, they haven't any boats t_ome and get us."
But the Skeezers didn't need boats, as the girls soon discovered. For on _udden an opening appeared at the base of the palace and from the opening cam_ slender shaft of steel, reaching out slowly but steadily across the water i_he direction of the place where they stood. To the girls this stee_rrangement looked like a triangle, with the base nearest the water. It cam_oward them in the form of an arch, stretching out from the palace wall unti_ts end reached the bank and rested there, while the other end still remaine_n the island.
Then they saw that it was a bridge, consisting of a steel footway just broa_nough to walk on, and two slender guide rails, one on either side, which wer_onnected with the footway by steel bars. The bridge looked rather frail an_orothy feared it would not bear their weight, but Ozma at once called, "Com_n!" and started to walk across, holding fast to the rail on either side. S_orothy summoned her courage and followed after. Before Ozma had taken thre_teps she halted and so forced Dorothy to halt, for the bridge was agai_oving and returning to the island.
"We need not walk after all," said Ozma. So they stood still in their place_nd let the steel bridge draw them onward. Indeed, the bridge drew them wel_nto the glass-domed building which covered the island, and soon they foun_hemselves standing in a marble room where two handsomely dressed young me_tood on a platform to receive them.
Ozma at once stepped from the end of the bridge to the marble platform,
followed by Dorothy, and then the bridge disappeared with a slight clang o_teel and a marble slab covered the opening from which it had emerged.
The two young men bowed profoundly to Ozma, and one of them said:
"Queen Coo-ee-oh bids you welcome, O Strangers. Her Majesty is waiting t_eceive you in her palace."
"Lead on," replied Ozma with dignity.
But instead of "leading on," the platform of marble began to rise, carryin_hem upward through a square hole above which just fitted it. A moment late_hey found themselves within the great glass dome that covered almost all o_he island.
Within this dome was a little village, with houses, streets, gardens an_arks. The houses were of colored marbles, prettily designed, with man_tained-glass windows, and the streets and gardens seemed well cared for.
Exactly under the center of the lofty dome was a small park filled wit_rilliant flowers, with an elaborate fountain, and facing this park stood _uilding larger and more imposing than the others. Toward this building th_oung men escorted Ozma and Dorothy.
On the streets and in the doorways or open windows of the houses were men,
women and children, all richly dressed. These were much like other people i_ifferent parts of the Land of Oz, except that instead of seeming merry an_ontented they all wore expressions of much solemnity or of nervou_rritation. They had beautiful homes, splendid clothes, and ample food, bu_orothy at once decided something was wrong with their lives and that the_ere not happy. She said nothing, however, but looked curiously at th_keezers.
At the entrance of the palace Ozma and Dorothy were met by two other youn_en, in uniform and armed with queer weapons that seemed about halfway betwee_istols and guns, but were like neither. Their conductors bowed and left them,
and the two in uniforms led the girls into the palace.
In a beautiful throne room, surrounded by a dozen or more young men and women,
sat the Queen of the Skeezers, Coo-ee-oh. She was a girl who looked older tha_zma or Dorothy—fifteen or sixteen, at least —and although she was elaboratel_ressed as if she were going to a ball she was too thin and plain of featur_o be pretty. But evidently Queen Coo-ee-oh did not realize this fact, for he_ir and manner betrayed her as proud and haughty and with a high regard fo_er own importance. Dorothy at once decided she was "snippy" and that sh_ould not like Queen Coo-ee-oh as a companion.
The Queen's hair was as black as her skin was white and her eyes were black,
too. The eyes, as she calmly examined Ozma and Dorothy, had a suspicious an_nfriendly look in them, but she said quietly:
"I know who you are, for I have consulted my Magic Oracle, which told me tha_ne calls herself Princess Ozma, the Ruler of all the Land of Oz, and th_ther is Princess Dorothy of Oz, who came from a country called Kansas. I kno_othing of the Land of Oz, and I know nothing of Kansas."
"Why, this is the Land of Oz!" cried Dorothy. "It's a part of the Land of Oz,
anyhow, whether you know it or not."
"Oh, in-deed!" answered Queen Coo-ee-oh, scornfully. "I suppose you will clai_ext that this Princess Ozma, ruling the Land of Oz, rules me!"
"Of course," returned Dorothy. "There's no doubt of it."
The Queen turned to Ozma.
"Do you dare make such a claim?" she asked.
By this time Ozma had made up her mind as to the character of this haughty an_isdainful creature, whose self-pride evidently led her to believe hersel_uperior to all others.
"I did not come here to quarrel with your Majesty," said the girl Ruler of Oz,
quietly. "What and who I am is well established, and my authority comes fro_he Fairy Queen Lurline, of whose band I was a member when Lurline made all O_ Fairyland. There are several countries and several different peoples in thi_road land, each of which has its separate rulers, Kings, Emperors and Queens.
But all these render obedience to my laws and acknowledge me as the suprem_uler."
"If other Kings and Queens are fools that does not interest me in the least,"
replied Coo-ee-oh, disdainfully. "In the Land of the Skeezers I alone a_upreme. You are impudent to think I would defer to you—or to anyone else."
"Let us not speak of this now, please," answered Ozma. "Your island is i_anger, for a powerful foe is preparing to destroy it."
"Pah! The Flatheads. I do not fear them."
"Their Supreme Dictator is a Sorcerer."
"My magic is greater than his. Let the Flatheads come! They will never retur_o their barren mountain-top. I will see to that."
Ozma did not like this attitude, for it meant that the Skeezers were eager t_ight the Flatheads, and Ozma's object in coming here was to prevent fightin_nd induce the two quarrelsome neighbors to make peace. She was also greatl_isappointed in Coo-ee-oh, for the reports of Su-dic had led her to imagin_he Queen more just and honorable than were the Flatheads. Indeed Ozm_eflected that the girl might be better at heart than her self-pride an_verbearing manner indicated, and in any event it would be wise not t_ntagonize her but to try to win her friendship.
"I do not like wars, your Majesty," said Ozma. "In the Emerald City, where _ule thousands of people, and in the countries near to the Emerald City, wher_housands more acknowledge my rule, there is no army at all, because there i_o quarreling and no need to fight. If differences arise between my people,
they come to me and I judge the cases and award justice to all. So, when _earned there might be war between two faraway people of Oz, I came here t_ettle the dispute and adjust the quarrel."
"No one asked you to come," declared Queen Coo-ee-oh. "It is my business t_ettle this dispute, not yours. You say my island is a part of the Land of Oz,
which you rule, but that is all nonsense, for I've never heard of the Land o_z, nor of you. You say you are a fairy, and that fairies gave you comman_ver me. I don't believe it! What I do believe is that you are an impostor an_ave come here to stir up trouble among my people, who are already becomin_ifficult to manage. You two girls may even be spies of the vile Flatheads,
for all I know, and may be trying to trick me. But understand this," sh_dded, proudly rising from her jeweled throne to confront them, "I have magi_owers greater than any fairy possesses, and greater than any Flathea_ossesses. I am a Krumbic Witch—the only Krumbic Witch in the world—and I fea_he magic of no other creature that exists! You say you rule thousands. I rul_ne hundred and one Skeezers. But every one of them trembles at my word. No_hat Ozma of Oz and Princess Dorothy are here, I shall rule one hundred an_hree subjects, for you also shall bow before my power. More than that, i_uling you I also rule the thousands you say you rule."
Dorothy was very indignant at this speech.
"I've got a pink kitten that sometimes talks like that," she said, "but afte_ give her a good whipping she doesn't think she's so high and mighty afte_ll. If you only knew who Ozma is you'd be scared to death to talk to her lik_hat!"
Queen Coo-ee-oh gave the girl a supercilious look. Then she turned again t_zma.
"I happen to know," said she, "that the Flatheads intend to attack u_omorrow, but we are ready for them. Until the battle is over, I shall kee_ou two strangers prisoners on my island, from which there is no chance fo_ou to escape."
She turned and looked around the band of courtiers who stood silently aroun_er throne.
"Lady Aurex," she continued, singling out one of the young women, "take thes_hildren to your house and care for them, giving them food and lodging. Yo_ay allow them to wander anywhere under the Great Dome, for they are harmless.
After I have attended to the Flatheads I will consider what next to do wit_hese foolish girls."
She resumed her seat and the Lady Aurex bowed low and said in a humble manner:
"I obey your Majesty's commands." Then to Ozma and Dorothy she added, "Follo_e," and turned to leave the throne room.
Dorothy looked to see what Ozma would do. To her surprise and a little to he_isappointment Ozma turned and followed Lady Aurex. So Dorothy trailed afte_hem, but not without giving a parting, haughty look toward Queen Coo-ee-oh,
who had her face turned the other way and did not see the disapproving look.