"You see," explained the Glass Cat, "that Magic Isle where Trot and Cap'n Bil_re stuck is also in this Gillikin Country—over at the east side of it, an_t's no farther to go across-lots from here than it is from here to th_merald City. So we'll save time by cutting across the mountains."
"Are you sure you know the way?" asked Dorothy.
"I know all the Land of Oz better than any other living creature knows it,"
asserted the Glass Cat.
"Go ahead, then, and guide us," said the Wizard. "We've left our poor friend_elpless too long already, and the sooner we rescue them the happier they'l_e."
"Are you sure you can get 'em out of their fix?" the little girl inquired.
"I've no doubt of it," the Wizard assured her. "But I can't tell what sort o_agic I must use until I get to the place and discover just how they ar_nchanted."
"I've heard of that Magic Isle where the Wonderful Flower grows," remarked th_owardly Lion. "Long ago, when I used to live in the forests, the beasts tol_tories about the Isle and how the Magic Flower was placed there to entra_trangers—men or beasts."
"Is the Flower really wonderful?" questioned Dorothy.
"I have heard it is the most beautiful plant in the world," answered the Lion.
"I have never seen it myself, but friendly beasts have told me that they hav_tood on the shore of the river and looked across at the plant in the gol_lower-pot and seen hundreds of flowers, of all sorts and sizes, blossom upo_t in quick succession. It is said that if one picks the flowers while the_re in bloom they will remain perfect for a long time, but if they are no_icked they soon disappear and are replaced by other flowers. That, in m_pinion, make the Magic Plant the most wonderful in existence."
"But these are only stories," said the girl. "Has any of your friends eve_icked a flower from the wonderful plant?"
"No," admitted the Cowardly Lion, "for if any living thing ventures upon th_agic Isle, where the golden flower-pot stands, that man or beast takes roo_n the soil and cannot get away again."
"What happens to them, then?" asked Dorothy.
"They grow smaller, hour by hour and day by day, and finally disappea_ntirely."
"Then," said the girl anxiously, "we must hurry up, or Cap'n Bill an' Tro_ill get too small to be comf'table."
They were proceeding at a rapid pace during this conversation, for the Hungr_iger and the Cowardly Lion were obliged to move swiftly in order to keep pac_ith the Glass Cat. After leaving the Forest of Gugu they crossed a mountai_ange, and then a broad plain, after which they reached another forest, muc_maller than that where Gugu ruled.
"The Magic Isle is in this forest," said the Glass Cat, "but the river is a_he other side of the forest. There is no path through the trees, but if w_eep going east, we will find the river, and then it will be easy to find th_agic Isle."
"Have you ever traveled this way before?" inquired the Wizard.
"Not exactly," admitted the Cat, "but I know we shall reach the river if we g_ast through the forest."
"Lead on, then," said the Wizard.
The Glass Cat started away, and at first it was easy to pass between th_rees; but before long the underbrush and vines became thick and tangled, an_fter pushing their way through these obstacles for a time, our travelers cam_o a place where even the Glass Cat could not push through.
"We'd better go back and find a path," suggested the Hungry Tiger.
"I'm s'prised at you," said Dorothy, eyeing the Glass Cat severely.
"I'm surprised, myself," replied the Cat. "But it's a long way around th_orest to where the river enters it, and I thought we could save time by goin_traight through."
"No one can blame you," said the Wizard, "and I think, instead of turnin_ack, I can make a path that will allow us to proceed."
He opened his black bag and after searching among his magic tools drew out _mall axe, made of some metal so highly polished that it glittered brightl_ven in the dark forest. The Wizard laid the little axe on the ground and sai_n a commanding voice:
"Chop, Little Axe, chop clean and true; A path for our feet you must quickl_ew. Chop till this tangle of jungle is passed; Chop to the east, Littl_xe—chop fast!" Then the little axe began to move and flashed its bright blad_ight and left, clearing a way through vine and brush and scattering th_angled barrier so quickly that the Lion and the Tiger, carrying Dorothy an_he Wizard and the cage of monkeys on their backs, were able to stride throug_he forest at a fast walk. The brush seemed to melt away before them and th_ittle axe chopped so fast that their eyes only saw a twinkling of the blade.
Then, suddenly, the forest was open again, and the little axe, having obeye_ts orders, lay still upon the ground.
The Wizard picked up the magic axe and after carefully wiping it with his sil_andkerchief put it away in his black bag. Then they went on and in a shor_ime reached the river.
"Let me see," said the Glass Cat, looking up and down the stream, "I think w_re below the Magic Isle; so we must go up the stream until we come to it."
So up the stream they traveled, walking comfortably on the river bank, an_fter a while the water broadened and a sharp bend appeared in the river, hiding all below from their view. They walked briskly along, however, and ha_early reached the bend when a voice cried warningly: "Look out!"
The travelers halted abruptly and the Wizard said: "Look out for what?"
"You almost stepped on my Diamond Palace," replied the voice, and a duck wit_orgeously colored feathers appeared before them. "Beasts and men are terribl_lumsy," continued the Duck in an irritated tone, "and you've no business o_his side of the River, anyway. What are you doing here?"
"We've come to rescue some friends of ours who are stuck fast on the Magi_sle in this river," explained Dorothy.
"I know 'em," said the Duck. "I've been to see 'em, and they're stuck fast, all right. You may as well go back home, for no power can save them."
"This is the Wonderful Wizard of Oz," said Dorothy, pointing to the littl_an.
"Well, I'm the Lonesome Duck," was the reply, as the fowl strutted up and dow_o show its feathers to best advantage. "I'm the great Forest Magician, as an_east can tell you, but even I have no power to destroy the dreadful charm o_he Magic Isle."
"Are you lonesome because you're a magician?" inquired Dorothy.
"No; I'm lonesome because I have no family and no friends. But I like to b_onesome, so please don't offer to be friendly with me. Go away, and try no_o step on my Diamond Palace."
"Where is it?" asked the girl.
"Behind this bush."
Dorothy hopped off the lion's back and ran around the bush to see the Diamon_alace of the Lonesome Duck, although the gaudy fowl protested in a series o_ow quacks. The girl found, indeed, a glistening dome formed of cleares_iamonds, neatly cemented together, with a doorway at the side just big enoug_o admit the duck.
"Where did you find so many diamonds?" asked Dorothy, wonderingly.
"I know a place in the mountains where they are thick as pebbles," said th_onesome Duck, "and I brought them here in my bill, one by one and put them i_he river and let the water run over them until they were brightly polished.
Then I built this palace, and I'm positive it's the only Diamond Palace in al_he world."
"It's the only one I know of," said the little girl; "but if you live in i_ll alone, I don't see why it's any better than a wooden palace, or one o_ricks or cobble-stones."
"You're not supposed to understand that," retorted the Lonesome Duck. "But _ight tell you, as a matter of education, that a home of any sort should b_eautiful to those who live in it, and should not be intended to pleas_trangers. The Diamond Palace is my home, and I like it. So I don't care _uack whether YOU like it or not."
"Oh, but I do!" exclaimed Dorothy. "It's lovely on the outside, but—" Then sh_topped speaking, for the Lonesome Duck had entered his palace through th_ittle door without even saying good-bye. So Dorothy returned to her friend_nd they resumed their journey.
"Do you think, Wizard, the Duck was right in saying no magic can rescue Tro_nd Cap'n Bill?" asked the girl in a worried tone of voice.
"No, I don't think the Lonesome Duck was right in saying that," answered th_izard, gravely, "but it is possible that their enchantment will be harder t_vercome than I expected. I'll do my best, of course, and no one can do mor_han his best."
That didn't entirely relieve Dorothy's anxiety, but she said nothing more, an_oon, on turning the bend in the river, they came in sight of the Magic Isle.
"There they are!" exclaimed Dorothy eagerly.
"Yes, I see them," replied the Wizard, nodding. "They are sitting on two bi_oadstools."
"That's queer," remarked the Glass Cat. "There were no toadstools there when _eft them."
"What a lovely flower!" cried Dorothy in rapture, as her gaze fell on th_agic Plant.
"Never mind the Flower, just now," advised the Wizard. "The most importan_hing is to rescue our friends."
By this time they had arrived at a place just opposite the Magic Isle, and no_oth Trot and Cap'n Bill saw the arrival of their friends and called to the_or help.
"How are you?" shouted the Wizard, putting his hands to his mouth so the_ould hear him better across the water.
"We're in hard luck," shouted Cap'n Bill, in reply. "We're anchored here an_an't move till you find a way to cut the hawser."
"What does he mean by that?" asked Dorothy.
"We can't move our feet a bit!" called Trot, speaking as loud as she could.
"Why not?" inquired Dorothy.
"They've got roots on 'em," explained Trot.
It was hard to talk from so great a distance, so the Wizard said to the Glas_at:
"Go to the island and tell our friends to be patient, for we have come to sav_hem. It may take a little time to release them, for the Magic of the Isle i_ew to me and I shall have to experiment. But tell them I'll hurry as fast a_ can."
So the Glass Cat walked across the river under the water to tell Trot an_ap'n Bill not to worry, and the Wizard at once opened his black bag and bega_o make his preparations.