Hearing this condition imposed by the Nome King, Ozma became silent an_houghtful, and all her friends looked at her uneasily.
"Don't you do it!" exclaimed Dorothy. "If you guess wrong, you will b_nslaved yourself."
"But I shall have eleven guesses," answered Ozma. "Surely I ought to guess on_bject in eleven correctly; and, if I do, I shall rescue one of the roya_amily and be safe myself. Then the rest of you may attempt it, and soon w_hall free all those who are enslaved."
"What if we fail?" enquired the Scarecrow. "I'd look nice as a piece o_ric-a-brac, wouldn't I?"
"We must not fail!" cried Ozma, courageously. "Having come all this distanc_o free these poor people, it would be weak and cowardly in us to abandon th_dventure. Therefore I will accept the Nome King's offer, and go at once int_he royal palace."
"Come along, then, my dear," said the King, climbing down from his throne wit_ome difficulty, because he was so fat; "I'll show you the way."
He approached a wall of the cave and waved his hand. Instantly an openin_ppeared, through which Ozma, after a smiling farewell to her friends, boldl_assed.
She found herself in a splendid hall that was more beautiful and grand tha_nything she had ever beheld. The ceilings were composed of great arches tha_ose far above her head, and all the walls and floors were of polished marbl_xquisitely tinted in many colors. Thick velvet carpets were on the floor an_eavy silken draperies covered the arches leading to the various rooms of th_alace. The furniture was made of rare old woods richly carved and covere_ith delicate satins, and the entire palace was lighted by a mysterious ros_low that seemed to come from no particular place but flooded each apartmen_ith its soft and pleasing radiance.
Ozma passed from one room to another, greatly delighted by all she saw. Th_ovely palace had no other occupant, for the Nome King had left her at th_ntrance, which closed behind her, and in all the magnificent rooms ther_ppeared to be no other person.
Upon the mantels, and on many shelves and brackets and tables, were clustere_rnaments of every description, seemingly made out of all sorts of metals,
glass, china, stones and marbles. There were vases, and figures of men an_nimals, and graven platters and bowls, and mosaics of precious gems, and man_ther things. Pictures, too, were on the walls, and the underground palace wa_uite a museum of rare and curious and costly objects.
After her first hasty examination of the rooms Ozma began to wonder which o_ll the numerous ornaments they contained were the transformations of th_oyal family of Ev. There was nothing to guide her, for everything seeme_ithout a spark of life. So she must guess blindly; and for the first time th_irl came to realize how dangerous was her task, and how likely she was t_ose her own freedom in striving to free others from the bondage of the Nom_ing. No wonder the cunning monarch laughed good naturedly with his visitors,
when he knew how easily they might be entrapped.
But Ozma, having undertaken the venture, would not abandon it. She looked at _ilver candelabra that had ten branches, and thought: "This may be the Quee_f Ev and her ten children." So she touched it and uttered aloud the word
"Ev," as the Nome King had instructed her to do when she guessed. But th_andelabra remained as it was before.
Then she wandered into another room and touched a china lamb, thinking i_ight be one of the children she sought. But again she was unsuccessful. Thre_uesses; four guesses; five, six, seven, eight, nine and ten she made, an_till not one of them was right!
The girl shivered a little and grew pale even under the rosy light; for no_ut one guess remained, and her own fate depended upon the result.
She resolved not to be hasty, and strolled through all the rooms once more,
gazing earnestly upon the various ornaments and trying to decide which sh_ould touch. Finally, in despair, she decided to leave it entirely to chance.
She faced the doorway of a room, shut her eyes tightly, and then, thrustin_side the heavy draperies, she advanced blindly with her right ar_utstretched before her.
Slowly, softly she crept forward until her hand came in contact with an objec_pon a small round table. She did not know what it was, but in a low voice sh_ronounced the word "Ev."
The rooms were quite empty of life after that. The Nome King had gained a ne_rnament. For upon the edge of the table rested a pretty grasshopper, tha_eemed to have been formed from a single emerald. It was all that remained o_zma of Oz.
In the throne room just beyond the palace the Nome King suddenly looked up an_miled.
"Next!" he said, in his pleasant voice.
Dorothy, the Scarecrow, and the Tin Woodman, who had been sitting in anxiou_ilence, each gave a start of dismay and stared into one another's eyes.
"Has she failed?" asked Tiktok.
"So it seems," answered the little monarch, cheerfully. "But that is no reaso_ne of you should not succeed. The next may have twelve guesses, instead o_leven, for there are now twelve persons transformed into ornaments. Well,
well! Which of you goes next?"
"I'll go," said Dorothy.
"Not so," replied the Tin Woodman. "As commander of Ozma's army, it is m_rivilege to follow her and attempt her rescue."
"Away you go, then," said the Scarecrow. "But be careful, old friend."
"I will," promised the Tin Woodman; and then he followed the Nome King to th_ntrance to the palace and the rock closed behind him.