The Tin Woodman was the first to address the meeting.
"To begin with," said he, "word came to our noble and illustrious Ruler, Ozm_f Oz, that the wife and ten children—five boys and five girls—of the forme_ing of Ev, by name Evoldo, have been enslaved by the Nome King and are hel_risoners in his underground palace. Also that there was no one in Ev powerfu_nough to release them. Naturally our Ozma wished to undertake the adventur_f liberating the poor prisoners; but for a long time she could find no way t_ross the great desert between the two countries. Finally she went to _riendly sorceress of our land named Glinda the Good, who heard the story an_t once presented Ozma a magic carpet, which would continually unroll beneat_ur feet and so make a comfortable path for us to cross the desert. As soon a_he had received the carpet our gracious Ruler ordered me to assemble ou_rmy, which I did. You behold in these bold warriors the pick of all th_inest soldiers of Oz; and, if we are obliged to fight the Nome King, ever_fficer as well as the private, will battle fiercely unto death."
Then Tiktok spoke.
"Why should you fight the Nome King?" he asked. "He has done no wrong."
"No wrong!" cried Dorothy. "Isn't it wrong to imprison a queen mother and he_en children?"
"They were sold to the Nome King by King Ev-ol-do," replied Tiktok. "It wa_he King of Ev who did wrong, and when he re-al-ized what he had done h_umped in-to the sea and drowned him-self."
"This is news to me," said Ozma, thoughtfully. "I had supposed the Nome Kin_as all to blame in the matter. But, in any case, he must be made to liberat_he prisoners."
"My uncle Evoldo was a very wicked man," declared the Princess Langwidere. "I_e had drowned himself before he sold his family, no one would have cared. Bu_e sold them to the powerful Nome King in exchange for a long life, an_fterward destroyed the life by jumping into the sea."
"Then," said Ozma, "he did not get the long life, and the Nome King must giv_p the prisoners. Where are they confined?"
"No one knows, exactly," replied the Princess. "For the king, whose name i_oquat of the Rocks, owns a splendid palace underneath the great mountai_hich is at the north end of this kingdom, and he has transformed the quee_nd her children into ornaments and bric-a-brac with which to decorate hi_ooms."
"I'd like to know," said Dorothy, "who this Nome King is?"
"I will tell you," replied Ozma. "He is said to be the Ruler of th_nderground World, and commands the rocks and all that the rocks contain.
Under his rule are many thousands of the Nomes, who are queerly shaped bu_owerful sprites that labor at the furnaces and forges of their king, makin_old and silver and other metals which they conceal in the crevices of th_ocks, so that those living upon the earth's surface can only find them wit_reat difficulty. Also they make diamonds and rubies and emeralds, which the_ide in the ground; so that the kingdom of the Nomes is wonderfully rich, an_ll we have of precious stones and silver and gold is what we take from th_arth and rocks where the Nome King has hidden them."
"I understand," said Dorothy, nodding her little head wisely.
"For the reason that we often steal his treasures," continued Ozma, "the Rule_f the Underground World is not fond of those who live upon the earth'_urface, and never appears among us. If we wish to see King Roquat of th_ocks, we must visit his own country, where he is all powerful, and therefor_t will be a dangerous undertaking."
"But, for the sake of the poor prisoners," said Dorothy, "we ought to do it."
"We shall do it," replied the Scarecrow, "although it requires a lot o_ourage for me to go near to the furnaces of the Nome King. For I am onl_tuffed with straw, and a single spark of fire might destroy me entirely."
"The furnaces may also melt my tin," said the Tin Woodman; "but I am going."
"I can't bear heat," remarked the Princess Langwidere, yawning lazily, "so _hall stay at home. But I wish you may have success in your undertaking, for _m heartily tired of ruling this stupid kingdom, and I need more leisure i_hich to admire my beautiful heads."
"We do not need you," said Ozma. "For, if with the aid of my brave followers _annot accomplish my purpose, then it would be useless for you to undertak_he journey."
"Quite true," sighed the Princess. "So, if you'll excuse me, I will now retir_o my cabinet. I've worn this head quite awhile, and I want to change it fo_nother."
When she had left them (and you may be sure no one was sorry to see her go) Ozma said to Tiktok:
"Will you join our party?"
"I am the slave of the girl Dor-oth-y, who rescued me from pris-on," replie_he machine. "Where she goes I will go."
"Oh, I am going with my friends, of course," said Dorothy, quickly. "_ouldn't miss the fun for anything. Will you go, too, Billina?"
"To be sure," said Billina in a careless tone. She was smoothing down th_eathers of her back and not paying much attention.
"Heat is just in her line," remarked the Scarecrow. "If she is nicely roasted, she will be better than ever."
"Then" said Ozma, "we will arrange to start for the Kingdom of the Nomes a_aybreak tomorrow. And, in the meantime, we will rest and prepare ourselve_or the journey."
Although Princess Langwidere did not again appear to her guests, the palac_ervants waited upon the strangers from Oz and did everything in their powe_o make the party comfortable. There were many vacant rooms at their disposal, and the brave Army of twenty-seven was easily provided for and liberall_easted.
The Cowardly Lion and the Hungry Tiger were unharnessed from the chariot an_llowed to roam at will throughout the palace, where they nearly frightene_he servants into fits, although they did no harm at all. At one time Doroth_ound the little maid Nanda crouching in terror in a corner, with the Hungr_iger standing before her.
"You certainly look delicious," the beast was saying. "Will you kindly give m_ermission to eat you?"
"No, no, no!" cried the maid in reply.
"Then," said the Tiger, yawning frightfully, "please to get me about thirt_ounds of tenderloin steak, cooked rare, with a peck of boiled potatoes on th_ide, and five gallons of ice-cream for dessert."
"I—I'll do the best I can!" said Nanda, and she ran away as fast as she coul_o.
"Are you so very hungry?" asked Dorothy, in wonder.
"You can hardly imagine the size of my appetite," replied the Tiger, sadly.
"It seems to fill my whole body, from the end of my throat to the tip of m_ail. I am very sure the appetite doesn't fit me, and is too large for th_ize of my body. Some day, when I meet a dentist with a pair of forceps, I'_oing to have it pulled."
"What, your tooth?" asked Dorothy.
"No, my appetite," said the Hungry Tiger.
The little girl spent most of the afternoon talking with the Scarecrow and th_in Woodman, who related to her all that had taken place in the Land of O_ince Dorothy had left it. She was much interested in the story of Ozma, wh_ad been, when a baby, stolen by a wicked old witch and transformed into _oy. She did not know that she had ever been a girl until she was restored t_er natural form by a kind sorceress. Then it was found that she was the onl_hild of the former Ruler of Oz, and was entitled to rule in his place. Ozm_ad many adventures, however, before she regained her father's throne, and i_hese she was accompanied by a pumpkin-headed man, a highly magnified an_horoughly educated Woggle-Bug, and a wonderful sawhorse that had been brough_o life by means of a magic powder. The Scarecrow and the Tin Woodman had als_ssisted her; but the Cowardly Lion, who ruled the great forest as the King o_easts, knew nothing of Ozma until after she became the reigning princess o_z. Then he journeyed to the Emerald City to see her, and on hearing she wa_bout to visit the Land of Ev to set free the royal family of that country, the Cowardly Lion begged to go with her, and brought along his friend, th_ungry Tiger, as well.
Having heard this story, Dorothy related to them her own adventures, and the_ent out with her friends to find the Sawhorse, which Ozma had caused to b_hod with plates of gold, so that its legs would not wear out.
They came upon the Sawhorse standing motionless beside the garden gate, bu_hen Dorothy was introduced to him he bowed politely and blinked his eyes, which were knots of wood, and wagged his tail, which was only the branch of _ree.
"What a remarkable thing, to be alive!" exclaimed Dorothy.
"I quiet agree with you," replied the Sawhorse, in a rough but not unpleasan_oice. "A creature like me has no business to live, as we all know. But it wa_he magic powder that did it, so I cannot justly be blamed."
"Of course not," said Dorothy. "And you seem to be of some use, 'cause _oticed the Scarecrow riding upon your back."
"Oh, yes; I'm of use," returned the Sawhorse; "and I never tire, never have t_e fed, or cared for in any way."
"Are you intel'gent?" asked the girl.
"Not very," said the creature. "It would be foolish to waste intelligence on _ommon Sawhorse, when so many professors need it. But I know enough to obey m_asters, and to gid-dup, or whoa, when I'm told to. So I'm pretty wel_atisfied."
That night Dorothy slept in a pleasant little bed-chamber next to tha_ccupied by Ozma of Oz, and Billina perched upon the foot of the bed an_ucked her head under her wing and slept as soundly in that position as di_orothy upon her soft cushions.
But before daybreak every one was awake and stirring, and soon the adventurer_ere eating a hasty breakfast in the great dining-room of the palace. Ozma sa_t the head of a long table, on a raised platform, with Dorothy on her righ_and and the Scarecrow on her left. The Scarecrow did not eat, of course; bu_zma placed him near her so that she might ask his advice about the journe_hile she ate.
Lower down the table were the twenty-seven warriors of Oz, and at the end o_he room the Lion and the Tiger were eating out of a kettle that had bee_laced upon the floor, while Billina fluttered around to pick up any scrap_hat might be scattered.
It did not take long to finish the meal, and then the Lion and the Tiger wer_arnessed to the chariot and the party was ready to start for the Nome King'_alace.
First rode Ozma, with Dorothy beside her in the golden chariot and holdin_illina fast in her arms. Then came the Scarecrow on the Sawhorse, with th_in Woodman and Tiktok marching side by side just behind him. After thes_ramped the Army, looking brave and handsome in their splendid uniforms. Th_enerals commanded the colonels and the colonels commanded the majors and th_ajors commanded the captains and the captains commanded the private, wh_arched with an air of proud importance because it required so many officer_o give him his orders.
And so the magnificent procession left the palace and started along the roa_ust as day was breaking, and by the time the sun came out they had made goo_rogress toward the valley that led to the Nome King's domain.