Dorothy obeyed. She ran at once behind the Nome King, who was still trying t_ree his eyes from the egg, and in a twinkling she had unbuckled his splendi_eweled belt and carried it away with her to her place beside the Tiger an_ion, where, because she did not know what else to do with it, she fastened i_round her own slim waist.
Just then the Chief Steward rushed in with a sponge and a bowl of water, an_egan mopping away the broken eggs from his master's face. In a few minutes, and while all the party stood looking on, the King regained the use of hi_yes, and the first thing he did was to glare wickedly upon the Scarecrow an_xclaim:
"I'll make you suffer for this, you hay-stuffed dummy! Don't you know eggs ar_oison to Nomes?"
"Really," said the Scarecrow, "they DON'T seem to agree with you, although _onder why."
"They were strictly fresh and above suspicion," said Billina. "You ought to b_lad to get them."
"I'll transform you all into scorpions!" cried the King, angrily, and bega_aving his arms and muttering magic words.
But none of the people became scorpions, so the King stopped and looked a_hem in surprise.
"What's wrong?" he asked.
"Why, you are not wearing your magic belt," replied the Chief Steward, afte_ooking the King over carefully. "Where is it? What have you done with it?"
The Nome King clapped his hand to his waist, and his rock colored face turne_hite as chalk.
"It's gone," he cried, helplessly. "It's gone, and I am ruined!"
Dorothy now stepped forward and said:
"Royal Ozma, and you, Queen of Ev, I welcome you and your people back to th_and of the living. Billina has saved you from your troubles, and now we wil_eave this drea'ful place, and return to Ev as soon as poss'ble."
While the child spoke they could all see that she wore the magic belt, and _reat cheer went up from all her friends, which was led by the voices of th_carecrow and the private. But the Nome King did not join them. He crept bac_nto his throne like a whipped dog, and lay there bitterly bemoaning hi_efeat.
"But we have not yet found my faithful follower, the Tin Woodman," said Ozm_o Dorothy, "and without him I do not wish to go away."
"Nor I," replied Dorothy, quickly. "Wasn't he in the palace?"
"He must be there," said Billina; "but I had no clue to guide me in guessin_he Tin Woodman, so I must have missed him."
"We will go back into the rooms," said Dorothy. "This magic belt, I am sure, will help us to find our dear old friend."
So she re-entered the palace, the doors of which still stood open, an_veryone followed her except the Nome King, the Queen of Ev and Prince Evring.
The mother had taken the little Prince in her lap and was fondling and kissin_im lovingly, for he was her youngest born.
But the others went with Dorothy, and when she came to the middle of the firs_oom the girl waved her hand, as she had seen the King do, and commanded th_in Woodman, whatever form he might then have, to resume his proper shape. N_esult followed this attempt, so Dorothy went into another room and repeate_t, and so through all the rooms of the palace. Yet the Tin Woodman did no_ppear to them, nor could they imagine which among the thousands of ornament_as their transformed friend.
Sadly they returned to the throne room, where the King, seeing that they ha_et with failure, jeered at Dorothy, saying:
"You do not know how to use my belt, so it is of no use to you. Give it bac_o me and I will let you go free—you and all the people who came with you. A_or the royal family of Ev, they are my slaves, and shall remain here."
"I shall keep the belt," said Dorothy.
"But how can you escape, without my consent?" asked the King.
"Easily enough," answered the girl. "All we need to do is to walk out the wa_hat we came in."
"Oh, that's all, is it?" sneered the King. "Well, where is the passage throug_hich you entered this room?"
They all looked around, but could not discover the place, for it had lon_ince been closed. Dorothy, however, would not be dismayed. She waved her han_oward the seemingly solid wall of the cavern and said:
"I command the passage to open!"
Instantly the order was obeyed; the opening appeared and the passage la_lainly before them.
The King was amazed, and all the others overjoyed.
"Why, then, if the belt obeys you, were we unable to discover the Ti_oodman?" asked Ozma.
"I can't imagine," said Dorothy.
"See here, girl," proposed the King, eagerly; "give me the belt, and I wil_ell you what shape the Tin Woodman was changed into, and then you can easil_ind him."
Dorothy hesitated, but Billina cried out:
"Don't you do it! If the Nome King gets the belt again he will make every on_f us prisoners, for we will be in his power. Only by keeping the belt, Dorothy, will you ever be able to leave this place in safety."
"I think that is true," said the Scarecrow. "But I have another idea, due t_y excellent brains. Let Dorothy transform the King into a goose-egg unless h_grees to go into the palace and bring out to us the ornament which is ou_riend Nick Chopper, the Tin Woodman."
"A goose-egg!" echoed the horrified King. "How dreadful!"
"Well, a goose-egg you will be unless you go and fetch us the ornament w_ant," declared Billina, with a joyful chuckle.
"You can see for yourself that Dorothy is able to use the magic belt al_ight," added the Scarecrow.
The Nome King thought it over and finally consented, for he did not want to b_ goose-egg. So he went into the palace to get the ornament which was th_ransformation of the Tin Woodman, and they all awaited his return wit_onsiderable impatience, for they were anxious to leave this undergroun_avern and see the sunshine once more. But when the Nome King came back h_rought nothing with him except a puzzled and anxious expression upon hi_ace.
"He's gone!" he said. "The Tin Woodman is nowhere in the palace."
"Are you sure?" asked Ozma, sternly.
"I'm very sure," answered the King, trembling, "for I know just what _ransformed him into, and exactly where he stood. But he is not there, an_lease don't change me into a goose-egg, because I've done the best I could."
They were all silent for a time, and then Dorothy said:
"There is no use punishing the Nome King any more, and I'm 'fraid we'll hav_o go away without our friend."
"If he is not here, we cannot rescue him," agreed the Scarecrow, sadly. "Poo_ick! I wonder what has become of him."
"And he owed me six weeks back pay!" said one of the generals, wiping th_ears from his eyes with his gold-laced coat sleeve.
Very sorrowfully they determined to return to the upper world without thei_ormer companion, and so Ozma gave the order to begin the march through th_assage.
The army went first, and then the royal family of Ev, and afterward cam_orothy, Ozma, Billina, the Scarecrow and Tiktok.
They left the Nome King scowling at them from his throne, and had no though_f danger until Ozma chanced to look back and saw a large number of th_arriors following them in full chase, with their swords and spears and axe_aised to strike down the fugitives as soon as they drew near enough.
Evidently the Nome King had made this last attempt to prevent their escapin_im; but it did him no good, for when Dorothy saw the danger they were in sh_topped and waved her hand and whispered a command to the magic belt.
Instantly the foremost warriors became eggs, which rolled upon the floor o_he cavern in such numbers that those behind could not advance withou_tepping upon them. But, when they saw the eggs, all desire to advanc_eparted from the warriors, and they turned and fled madly into the cavern, and refused to go back again.
Our friends had no further trouble in reaching the end of the passage, an_oon were standing in the outer air upon the gloomy path between the two hig_ountains. But the way to Ev lay plainly before them, and they fervently hope_hat they had seen the last of the Nome King and of his dreadful palace.
The cavalcade was led by Ozma, mounted on the Cowardly Lion, and the Queen o_v, who rode upon the back of the Tiger. The children of the Queen walke_ehind her, hand in hand. Dorothy rode the Sawhorse, while the Scarecro_alked and commanded the army in the absence of the Tin Woodman.
Presently the way began to lighten and more of the sunshine to come in betwee_he two mountains. And before long they heard the "thump! thump! thump!" o_he giant's hammer upon the road.
"How may we pass the monstrous man of iron?" asked the Queen, anxious for th_afety of her children. But Dorothy solved the problem by a word to the magi_elt.
The giant paused, with his hammer held motionless in the air, thus allowin_he entire party to pass between his cast-iron legs in safety.