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.