The Wizard's advice was good, so again they started in the direction of th_ow mountain on the crest of which the wicker castle had been built. They ha_een gradually advancing uphill, so now the elevation seemed to them more lik_ round knoll than a mountaintop. However, the sides of the knoll were slopin_nd covered with green grass, so there was a stiff climb before them yet.
Undaunted, they plodded on and had almost reached the knoll when they suddenl_bserved that it was surrounded by a circle of flame. At first, the flame_arely rose above the ground, but presently they grew higher and higher unti_ circle of flaming tongues of fire taller than any of their heads quit_urrounded the hill on which the wicker castle stood. When they approached th_lames, the heat was so intense that it drove them back again.
"This will never do for me!" exclaimed the Patchwork Girl. "I catch fire ver_asily."
"It won't do for me either," grumbled the Sawhorse, prancing to the rear.
"I also strongly object to fire," said the Bear King, following the Sawhors_o a safe distance and hugging the little Pink Bear with his paws.
"I suppose the foolish Shoemaker imagines these blazes will stop us," remarke_he Wizard with a smile of scorn for Ugu. "But I am able to inform you tha_his is merely a simple magic trick which the robber stole from Glinda th_ood, and by good fortune I know how to destroy these flames as well as how t_roduce them. Will some one of you kindly give me a match?"
You may be sure the girls carried no matches, nor did the Frogman or any o_he animals. But Button-Bright, after searching carefully through his pockets,
which contained all sorts of useful and useless things, finally produced _atch and handed it to the Wizard, who tied it to the end of a branch which h_ore from a small tree growing near them. Then the little Wizard carefull_ighted the match, and running forward thrust it into the nearest flame.
Instantly, the circle of fire began to die away, and soon vanished completel_eaving the way clear for them to proceed.
"That was funny!" laughed Button-Bright.
"Yes," agreed the Wizard, "it seems odd that a little match could destroy suc_ great circle of fire, but when Glinda invented this trick, she believed n_ne would ever think of a match being a remedy for fire. I suppose even Ug_oesn't know how we managed to quench the flames of his barrier, for onl_linda and I know the secret. Glinda's Book of Magic which Ugu stole told ho_o make the flames, but not how to put them out."
They now formed in marching order and proceeded to advance up the slope of th_ill, but had not gone far when before them rose a wall of steel, the surfac_f which was thickly covered with sharp, gleaming points resembling daggers.
The wall completely surrounded the wicker castle, and its sharp point_revented anyone from climbing it. Even the Patchwork Girl might be ripped t_ieces if she dared attempt it. "Ah!" exclaimed the Wizard cheerfully, "Ugu i_ow using one of my own tricks against me. But this is more serious than th_arrier of Fire, because the only way to destroy the wall is to get on th_ther side of it."
"How can that be done?" asked Dorothy.
The Wizard looked thoughtfully around his little party, and his face gre_roubled. "It's a pretty high wall," he sadly remarked. "I'm pretty sure th_owardly Lion could not leap over it."
"I'm sure of that, too!" said the Lion with a shudder of fear. "If I foolishl_ried such a leap, I would be caught on those dreadful spikes."
"I think I could do it, sir," said the Frogman with a bow to the Wizard. "I_s an uphill jump as well as being a high jump, but I'm considered somethin_f a jumper by my friends in the Yip Country, and I believe a good, stron_eap will carry me to the other side."
"I'm sure it would," agreed the Cookie Cook.
"Leaping, you know, is a froglike accomplishment," continued the Frogma_odestly, "but please tell me what I am to do when I reach the
"You're a brave creature," said the Wizard admiringly. "Has anyone a pin?"
Betsy had one, which she gave him. "All you need do," said the Wizard to th_rogman, giving him the pin, "is to stick this into the other side of th_all."
"But the wall is of steel!" exclaimed the big frog.
"I know. At least, it SEEMS to be steel, but do as I tell you. Stick the pi_nto the wall, and it will disappear."
The Frogman took off his handsome coat and carefully folded it and laid it o_he grass. Then he removed his hat and laid it together with his gold-heade_ane beside the coat. He then went back a way and made three powerful leaps i_apid succession. The first two leaps took him to the wall, and the third lea_arried him well over it, to the amazement of all. For a short time, h_isappeared from their view, but when he had obeyed the Wizard's injunctio_nd had thrust the pin into the wall, the huge barrier vanished and showe_hem the form of the Frogman, who now went to where his coat lay and put it o_gain.
"We thank you very much," said the delighted Wizard.
"That was the most wonderful leap I ever saw, and it has saved us from defea_y our enemy. Let us now hurry on to the castle before Ugu the Shoemake_hinks up some other means to stop us."
"We must have surprised him so far," declared Dorothy.
"Yes indeed. The fellow knows a lot of magic—all of our tricks and some of hi_wn," replied the Wizard. "So if he is half as clever as he ought to be, w_hall have trouble with him yet."
He had scarcely spoken these words when out from the gates of the wicke_astle marched a regiment of soldiers, clad in gay uniforms and all bearin_ong, pointed spears and sharp battle axes. These soldiers were girls, and th_niforms were short skirts of yellow and black satin, golden shoes, bands o_old across their foreheads and necklaces of glittering jewels. Their jacket_ere scarlet, braided with silver cords. There were hundreds of these girl-
soldiers, and they were more terrible than beautiful, being strong and fierc_n appearance. They formed a circle all around the castle and faced outward,
their spears pointed toward the invaders, and their battle axes held ove_heir shoulders, ready to strike. Of course, our friends halted at once, fo_hey had not expected this dreadful array of soldiery. The Wizard seeme_uzzled, and his companions exchanged discouraged looks.
"I'd no idea Ugu had such an army as that," said Dorothy. "The castle doesn'_ook big enough to hold them all."
"It isn't," declared the Wizard.
"But they all marched out of it."
"They seemed to, but I don't believe it is a real army at all. If Ugu th_hoemaker had so many people living with him, I'm sure the Czarover of Herk_ould have mentioned the fact to us."
"They're only girls!" laughed Scraps.
"Girls are the fiercest soldiers of all," declared the Frogman. "They are mor_rave than men, and they have better nerves. That is probably why the magicia_ses them for soldiers and has sent them to oppose us."
No one argued this statement, for all were staring hard at the line o_oldiers, which now, having taken a defiant position, remained motionless.
"Here is a trick of magic new to me," admitted the Wizard after a time. "I d_ot believe the army is real, but the spears may be sharp enough to prick us,
nevertheless, so we must be cautious. Let us take time to consider how to mee_his difficulty."
While they were thinking it over, Scraps danced closer to the line of gir_oldiers. Her button eyes sometimes saw more than did the natural eyes of he_omrades, and so after staring hard at the magician's army, she boldl_dvanced and danced right through the threatening line! On the other side, sh_aved her stuffed arms and called out, "Come on, folks. The spears can't hur_ou." said the Wizard gaily. "An optical illusion, as I thought. Let us al_ollow the Patchwork Girl." The three little girls were somewhat nervous i_ttempting to brave the spears and battle axes, but after the others ha_afely passed the line, they ventured to follow. And when all had passe_hrough the ranks of the girl army, the army itself magically disappeared fro_iew.
All this time our friends had been getting farther up the hill and nearer t_he wicker castle. Now, continuing their advance, they expected something els_o oppose their way, but to their astonishment nothing happened, and presentl_hey arrived at the wicker gates, which stood wide open, and boldly entere_he domain of Ugu the Shoemaker.