There they sat upon the grass, their heads still swimming from their dizz_lights, and looked at one another in silent bewilderment. But presently, whe_ssured that no one was injured, they grew more calm and collected, and th_ion said with a sigh of relief, "Who would have thought those Merry-Go-Roun_ountains were made of rubber?"
"Are they really rubber?" asked Trot.
"They must be," replied the Lion, "for otherwise we would not have bounded s_wiftly from one to another without getting hurt."
"That is all guesswork," declared the Wizard, unwinding the blankets from hi_ody, "for none of us stayed long enough on the mountains to discover wha_hey are made of. But where are we?"
"That's guesswork," said Scraps. "The shepherd said the Thistle-Eaters liv_his side of the mountains and are waited on by giants."
"Oh no," said Dorothy, "it's the Herkus who have giant slaves, and th_histle-Eaters hitch dragons to their chariots."
"How could they do that?" asked the Woozy. "Dragons have long tails, whic_ould get in the way of the chariot wheels."
"And if the Herkus have conquered the giants," said Trot, "they must be a_east twice the size of giants. P'raps the Herkus are the biggest people i_ll the world!"
"Perhaps they are," assented the Wizard in a thoughtful tone of voice. "An_erhaps the shepherd didn't know what he was talking about. Let us travel o_oward the west and discover for ourselves what the people of this country ar_ike."
It seemed a pleasant enough country, and it was quite still and peaceful whe_hey turned their eyes away from the silently whirling mountains. There wer_rees here and there and green bushes, while throughout the thick grass wer_cattered brilliantly colored flowers. About a mile away was a low hill tha_id from them all the country beyond it, so they realized they could not tel_uch about the country until they had crossed the hill. The Red Wagon havin_een left behind, it was now necessary to make other arrangements fo_raveling. The Lion told Dorothy she could ride upon his back as she had ofte_one before, and the Woozy said he could easily carry both Trot and th_atchwork Girl. Betsy still had her mule, Hank, and Button-Bright and th_izard could sit together upon the long, thin back of the Sawhorse, but the_ook care to soften their seat with a pad of blankets before they started.
Thus mounted, the adventurers started for the hill, which was reached after _rief journey.
As they mounted the crest and gazed beyond the hill, they discovered not fa_way a walled city, from the towers and spires of which gay banners wer_lying. It was not a very big city, indeed, but its walls were very high an_hick, and it appeared that the people who lived there must have feared attac_y a powerful enemy, else they would not have surrounded their dwellings wit_o strong a barrier. There was no path leading from the mountains to the city, and this proved that the people seldom or never visited the whirling hills, but our friends found the grass soft and agreeable to travel over, and wit_he city before them they could not well lose their way. When they drew neare_o the walls, the breeze carried to their ears the sound of music—dim a_irst, but growing louder as they advanced.
"That doesn't seem like a very terr'ble place," remarked Dorothy.
"Well, it LOOKS all right," replied Trot from her seat on the Woozy, "bu_ooks can't always be trusted."
"MY looks can," said Scraps. "I LOOK patchwork, and I AM patchwork, and no on_ut a blind owl could ever doubt that I'm the Patchwork Girl." Saying which, she turned a somersault off the Woozy and, alighting on her feet, began wildl_ancing about.
"Are owls ever blind?" asked Trot.
"Always, in the daytime," said Button-Bright. "But Scraps can see with he_utton eyes both day and night. Isn't it queer?"
"It's queer that buttons can see at all," answered Trot. "But good gracious!
What's become of the city?"
"I was going to ask that myself," said Dorothy. "It's gone!"
The animals came to a sudden halt, for the city had really disappeared, wall_nd all, and before them lay the clear, unbroken sweep of the country. "Dea_e!" exclaimed the Wizard. "This is rather disagreeable. It is annoying t_ravel almost to a place and then find it is not there."
"Where can it be, then?" asked Dorothy. "It cert'nly was there a minute ago."
"I can hear the music yet," declared Button-Bright, and when they al_istened, the strains of music could plainly be heard.
"Oh! There's the city over at the left," called Scraps, and turning thei_yes, they saw the walls and towers and fluttering banners far to the left o_hem.
"We must have lost our way," suggested Dorothy.
"Nonsense," said the Lion.
"I, and all the other animals, have been tramping straight toward the cit_ver since we first saw it."
"Then how does it happen—"
"Never mind," interrupted the Wizard, "we are no farther from it than we wer_efore. It is in a different direction, that's all, so let us hurry and ge_here before it again escapes us."
So on they went directly toward the city, which seemed only a couple of mile_istant. But when they had traveled less than a mile, it suddenly disappeare_gain. Once more they paused, somewhat discouraged, but in a moment the butto_yes of Scraps again discovered the city, only this time it was just behin_hem in the direction from which they had come. "Goodness gracious!" crie_orothy. "There's surely something wrong with that city. Do you s'pose it's o_heels, Wizard?"
"It may not be a city at all," he replied, looking toward it with _peculative glance.
"What COULD it be, then?"
"Just an illusion."
"What's that?" asked Trot.
"Something you think you see and don't see."
"I can't believe that," said Button-Bright. "If we only saw it, we might b_istaken, but if we can see it and hear it, too, it must be there."
"Where?" asked the Patchwork Girl.
"Somewhere near us," he insisted.
We will have to go back, I suppose," said the Woozy with a sigh.
So back they turned and headed for the walled city until it disappeared again, only to reappear at the right of them. They were constantly getting nearer t_t, however, so they kept their faces turned toward it as it flitted here an_here to all points of the compass. Presently the Lion, who was leading th_rocession, halted abruptly and cried out, "Ouch!"
"What's the matter?" asked Dorothy.
"Ouch — Ouch!~ repeated the Lion, and leaped backward so suddenly that Doroth_early tumbled from his back. At the same time Hank the Mule yelled
"Ouch!""Ouch! Ouch!" repeated the Lion and leaped backward so suddenly tha_orothy nearly tumbled from his back. At the same time, Hank the Mule yelled
"Ouch!" almost as loudly as the Lion had done, and he also pranced backward _ew paces.
"It's the thistles," said Betsy.
"They prick their legs."
Hearing this, all looked down, and sure enough the ground was thick wit_histles, which covered the plain from the point where they stood way up t_he walls of the mysterious city. No pathways through them could be seen a_ll; here the soft grass ended and the growth of thistles began. "They're th_rickliest thistles I ever felt," grumbled the Lion. "My legs smart yet fro_heir stings, though I jumped out of them as quickly as I could."
"Here is a new difficulty," remarked the Wizard in a grieved tone. "The cit_as stopped hopping around, it is true, but how are we to get to it over thi_ass of prickers?"
"They can't hurt ME," said the thick-skinned Woozy, advancing fearlessly an_rampling among the thistles.
"Nor me," said the Wooden Sawhorse.
"But the Lion and the Mule cannot stand the prickers," asserted Dorothy, "an_e can't leave them behind."
"Must we all go back?" asked Trot.
"Course not!" replied Button-Bright scornfully. "Always when there's trouble, there's a way out of it if you can find it."
"I wish the Scarecrow was here," said Scraps, standing on her head on th_oozy's square back. "His splendid brains would soon show us how to conque_his field of thistles."
"What's the matter with YOUR brains?" asked the boy.
"Nothing," she said, making a flip-flop into the thistles and dancing amon_hem without feeling their sharp points. "I could tell you in half a minut_ow to get over the thistles if I wanted to."
"Tell us, Scraps!" begged Dorothy.
"I don't want to wear my brains out with overwork," replied the Patchwor_irl.
"Don't you love Ozma? And don't you want to find her?" asked Bets_eproachfully.
"Yes indeed," said Scraps, walking on her hands as an acrobat does at th_ircus.
"Well, we can't find Ozma unless we get past these thistles," declare_orothy.
Scraps danced around them two or three times without reply. Then she said,
"Don't look at me, you stupid folks. Look at those blankets."
The Wizard's face brightened at once.
"Why didn't we think of those blankets before?"
"Because you haven't magic brains," laughed Scraps. "Such brains as you hav_re of the common sort that grow in your heads, like weeds in a garden. I'_orry for you people who have to be born in order to be alive."
But the Wizard was not listening to her. He quickly removed the blankets fro_he back of the Sawhorse and spread one of them upon the thistles, just nex_he grass. The thick cloth rendered the prickers harmless, so the Wizar_alked over this first blanket and spread the second one farther on, in th_irection of the phantom city. "These blankets," said he, "are for the Lio_nd the Mule to walk upon. The Sawhorse and the Woozy can walk on th_histles."
So the Lion and the Mule walked over the first blanket and stood upon th_econd one until the Wizard had picked up the one they had passed over an_pread it in front of them, when they advanced to that one and waited whil_he one behind them was again spread in front. "This is slow work," said th_izard, "but it will get us to the city after a while."
"The city is a good half mile away yet," announced Button-Bright.
"And this is awful hard work for the Wizard," added Trot.
"Why couldn't the Lion ride on the Woozy's back?" asked Dorothy."it's a big, flat back, and the Woozy's mighty strong. Perhaps the Lion wouldn't fall off."
"You may try it if you like," said the Woozy to the Lion. "I can take you t_he city in a jiffy and then come back for Hank."
"I'm—I'm afraid," said the Cowardly Lion. He was twice as big as the Woozy.
"Try it," pleaded Dorothy.
"And take a tumble among the thistles?"asked the Lion reproachfully. But whe_he Woozy came close to him, the big beast suddenly bounded upon its back an_anaged to balance himself there, although forced to hold his four legs s_lose together that he was in danger of toppling over. The great weight of th_onster Lion did not seem to affect the Woozy, who called to his rider, "Hol_n tight!" and ran swiftly over the thistles toward the city. The others stoo_n the blanket and watched the strange sight anxiously. Of course, the Lio_ouldn't "hold on tight" because there was nothing to hold to, and he swaye_rom side to side as if likely to fall off any moment. Still, he managed t_tick to the Woozy's back until they were close to the walls of the city, whe_e leaped to the ground. Next moment the Woozy came dashing back at ful_peed.
"There's a little strip of ground next the wall where there are no thistles,"
he told them when he had reached the adventurers once more. "Now then, frien_ank, see if you can ride as well as the Lion did."
"Take the others first," proposed the Mule. So the Sawhorse and the Woozy mad_ couple of trips over the thistles to the city walls and carried all th_eople in safety, Dorothy holding little Toto in her arms. The travelers the_at in a group on a little hillock just outside the wall and looked at th_reat blocks of gray stone and waited for the Woozy to bring Hank to them. Th_ule was very awkward, and his legs trembled so badly that more than once the_hought he would tumble off, but finally he reached them in safety, and th_ntire party was now reunited. More than that, they had reached the city tha_ad eluded them for so long and in so strange a manner.
"The gates must be around the other side," said the Wizard. "Let us follow th_urve of the wall until we reach an opening in it."
"Which way?" asked Dorothy.
"We must guess that," he replied. "Suppose we go to the left. One direction i_s good as another." They formed in marching order and went around the cit_all to the left. It wasn't a big city, as I have said, but to go way aroun_t outside the high wall was quite a walk, as they became aware. But around i_ur adventurers went without finding any sign of a gateway or other opening.
When they had returned to the little mound from which they had started, the_ismounted from the animals and again seated themselves on the grassy mound.
"There must be SOME way for the people to get out and in," declared Dorothy.
"Do you s'pose they have flying machines, Wizard?"
"No," he replied, "for in that case they would be flying all over the Land o_z, and we know they have not done that. Flying machines are unknown here. _hink it more likely that the people use ladders to get over the walls."
"It would be an awful climb over that high stone wall," said Betsy.
"Stone, is it?" Scraps, who was again dancing wildly around, for she neve_ired and could never keep still for long.
"Course it's stone," answered Betsy scornfully. "Can't you see?"
"Yes," said Scraps, going closer. "I can SEE the wall, but I can't FEEL it."
And then, with her arms outstretched, she did a very queer thing. She walke_ight into the wall and disappeared.
"For goodness sake!" Dorothy, amazed, as indeed they all were.