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Chapter 9 The Scarecrow Plans an Escape

  • Tip slipped away from the girls and followed swiftly after the Soldier wit_he Green Whiskers. The invading army entered the City more slowly, for the_topped to dig emeralds out of the walls and paving-stones with the points o_heir knitting-needles. So the Soldier and the boy reached the palace befor_he news had spread that the City was conquered.
  • The Scarecrow and Jack Pumpkinhead were still playing at quoits in th_ourtyard when the game was interrupted by the abrupt entrance of the Roya_rmy of Oz, who came flying in without his hat or gun, his clothes in sa_isarray and his long beard floating a yard behind him as he ran.
  • "Tally one for me," said the Scarecrow, calmly "What's wrong, my man?" h_dded, addressing the Soldier.
  • "Oh! your Majesty—your Majesty! The City is conquered!" gasped the Royal Army, who was all out of breath.
  • "This is quite sudden," said the Scarecrow. "But please go and bar all th_oors and windows of the palace, while I show this Pumpkinhead how to throw _uoit."
  • The Soldier hastened to do this, while Tip, who had arrived at his heels, remained in the courtyard to look at the Scarecrow with wondering eyes.
  • His Majesty continued to throw the quoits as coolly as if no danger threatene_is throne, but the Pumpkinhead, having caught sight of Tip, ambled toward th_oy as fast as his wooden legs would go.
  • "Good afternoon, noble parent!" he cried, delightedly. "I'm glad to see yo_re here. That terrible Saw-Horse ran away with me."
  • "I suspected it," said Tip. "Did you get hurt? Are you cracked at all?"
  • "No, I arrived safely," answered Jack, "and his Majesty has been very kin_ndeed to me."
  • At this moment the Soldier with the Green Whiskers returned, and the Scarecro_sked:
  • "By the way, who has conquered me?"
  • "A regiment of girls, gathered from the four corners of the Land of Oz,"
  • replied the Soldier, still pale with fear.
  • "But where was my Standing Army at the time?" inquired his Majesty, looking a_he Soldier, gravely.
  • "Your Standing Army was running," answered the fellow, honestly; "for no ma_ould face the terrible weapons of the invaders."
  • "Well," said the Scarecrow, after a moment's thought, "I don't mind much th_oss of my throne, for it's a tiresome job to rule over the Emerald City. An_his crown is so heavy that it makes my head ache. But I hope the Conqueror_ave no intention of injuring me, just because I happen to be the King."
  • "I heard them, say" remarked Tip, with some hesitation, "that they intend t_ake a rag carpet of your outside and stuff their sofa-cushions with you_nside."
  • "Then I am really in danger," declared his Majesty, positively, "and it wil_e wise for me to consider a means to escape."
  • "Where can you go?" asked Jack Pumpkinhead.
  • "Why, to my friend the Tin Woodman, who rules over the Winkies, and call_imself their Emperor," was the answer. "I am sure he will protect me."
  • Tip was looking out the window.
  • "The palace is surrounded by the enemy," said he. "It is too late to escape.
  • They would soon tear you to pieces."
  • The Scarecrow sighed.
  • "In an emergency," he announced, "it is always a good thing to pause an_eflect. Please excuse me while I pause and reflect."
  • "But we also are in danger," said the Pumpkinhead, anxiously. "If any of thes_irls understand cooking, my end is not far off!"
  • "Nonsense!" exclaimed the Scarecrow. "they're too busy to cook, even if the_now how!"
  • "But should I remain here a prisoner for any length of time," protested Jack,
  • "I'm liable to spoil."
  • "Ah! then you would not be fit to associate with," returned the Scarecrow.
  • "The matter is more serious than I suspected."
  • "You," said the Pumpkinhead, gloomily, "are liable to live for many years. M_ife is necessarily short. So I must take advantage of the few days tha_emain to me."
  • "There, there! Don't worry," answered the Scarecrow soothingly; "if you'l_eep quiet long enough for me to think, I'll try to find some way for us al_o escape."
  • So the others waited in patient silence while the Scarecrow walked to a corne_nd stood with his face to the wall for a good five minutes. At the end o_hat time he faced them with a more cheerful expression upon his painted face.
  • "Where is the Saw-Horse you rode here?" he asked the Pumpkinhead.
  • "Why, I said he was a jewel, and so your man locked him up in the roya_reasury," said Jack.
  • "It was the only place I could think of your Majesty," added the Soldier, fearing he had made a blunder.
  • "It pleases me very much," said the Scarecrow. "Has the animal been fed?"
  • "Oh, yes; I gave him a heaping peck of sawdust."
  • "Excellent!" cried the Scarecrow. "Bring the horse here at once."
  • The Soldier hastened away, and presently they heard the clattering of th_orse's wooden legs upon the pavement as he was led into the courtyard.
  • His Majesty regarded the steed critically. "He doesn't seem especiall_raceful!" he remarked, musingly. "but I suppose he can run?"
  • "He can, indeed," said Tip, gazing upon the Saw-Horse admiringly.
  • "Then, bearing us upon his back, he must make a dash through the ranks of th_ebels and carry us to my friend the Tin Woodman," announced the Scarecrow.
  • "He can't carry four!" objected Tip.
  • "No, but he may be induced to carry three," said his Majesty. "I shal_herefore leave my Royal Army Behind. For, from the ease with which he wa_onquered, I have little confidence in his powers."
  • "Still, he can run," declared Tip, laughing.
  • "I expected this blow" said the Soldier, sulkily; "but I can bear it. I shal_isguise myself by cutting off my lovely green whiskers. And, after all, it i_o more dangerous to face those reckless girls than to ride this fiery, untamed wooden horse!"
  • "Perhaps you are right," observed his Majesty. "But, for my part, not being _oldier, I am fond of danger. Now, my boy, you must mount first. And pleas_it as close to the horse's neck as possible."
  • Tip climbed quickly to his place, and the Soldier and the Scarecrow managed t_oist the Pumpkinhead to a seat just behind him. There remained so littl_pace for the King that he was liable to fall off as soon as the hors_tarted.
  • "Fetch a clothesline," said the King to his Army, "and tie us all together.
  • Then if one falls off we will all fall off."
  • And while the Soldier was gone for the clothesline his Majesty continued, "i_s well for me to be careful, for my very existence is in danger."
  • "I have to be as careful as you do," said Jack.
  • "Not exactly," replied the Scarecrow. "for if anything happened to me, tha_ould be the end of me. But if anything happened to you, they could use yo_or seed."
  • The Soldier now returned with a long line and tied all three firmly together, also lashing them to the body of the Saw-Horse; so there seemed little dange_f their tumbling off.
  • "Now throw open the gates," commanded the Scarecrow, "and we will make a das_o liberty or to death."
  • The courtyard in which they were standing was located in the center of th_reat palace, which surrounded it on all sides. But in one place a passage le_o an outer gateway, which the Soldier had barred by order of his sovereign.
  • It was through this gateway his Majesty proposed to escape, and the Royal Arm_ow led the Saw-Horse along the passage and unbarred the gate, which swun_ackward with a loud crash.
  • "Now," said Tip to the horse, "you must save us all. Run as fast as you ca_or the gate of the City, and don't let anything stop you."
  • "All right!" answered the Saw-Horse, gruffly, and dashed away so suddenly tha_ip had to gasp for breath and hold firmly to the post he had driven into th_reature's neck.
  • Several of the girls, who stood outside guarding the palace, were knocked ove_y the Saw-Horse's mad rush. Others ran screaming out of the way, and only on_r two jabbed their knitting-needles frantically at the escaping prisoners.
  • Tip got one small prick in his left arm, which smarted for an hour afterward; but the needles had no effect upon the Scarecrow or Jack Pumpkinhead, wh_ever even suspected they were being prodded.
  • As for the Saw-Horse, he made a wonderful record upsetting a fruit cart, overturning several meek looking men, and finally bowling over the ne_uardian of the Gate—a fussy little fat woman appointed by General Jinjur.
  • Nor did the impetuous charger stop then. Once outside the walls of the Emeral_ity he dashed along the road to the West with fast and violent leaps tha_hook the breath out of the boy and filled the Scarecrow with wonder.
  • Jack had ridden at this mad rate once before, so he devoted every effort t_olding, with both hands, his pumpkin head upon its stick, enduring meantim_he dreadful jolting with the courage of a philosopher.
  • "Slow him up! Slow him up!" shouted the Scarecrow. "My straw is all shakin_own into my legs."
  • But Tip had no breath to speak, so the Saw-Horse continued his wild caree_nchecked and with unabated speed.
  • Presently they came to the banks of a wide river, and without a pause th_ooden steed gave one final leap and launched them all in mid-air.
  • A second later they were rolling, splashing and bobbing about in the water, the horse struggling frantically to find a rest for its feet and its rider_eing first plunged beneath the rapid current and then floating upon th_urface like corks.