They had not gone very far before Bungle, who had run on ahead, came boundin_ack to say that the road of yellow bricks was just before them. At once the_urried forward to see what this famous road looked like.
It was a broad road, but not straight, for it wandered over hill and dale an_icked out the easiest places to go. All its length and breadth was paved wit_mooth bricks of a bright yellow color, so it was smooth and level except in _ew places where the bricks had crumbled or been removed, leaving holes tha_ight cause the unwary to stumble.
"I wonder," said Ojo, looking up and down the road, "which way to go."
"Where are you bound for?" asked the Woozy.
"The Emerald City," he replied.
"Then go west," said the Woozy. "I know this road pretty well, for I've chase_any a honey-bee over it."
"Have you ever been to the Emerald City?" asked Scraps.
"No. I am very shy by nature, as you may have noticed, so I haven't mingle_uch in society."
"Are you afraid of men?" inquired the Patchwork Girl.
"Me? With my heart-rending growl—my horrible, shudderful growl? I should sa_ot. I am not afraid of anything," declared the Woozy.
"I wish I could say the same," sighed Ojo. "I don't think we need be afrai_hen we get to the Emerald City, for Unc Nunkie has told me that Ozma, ou_irl Ruler, is very lovely and kind, and tries to help everyone who is i_rouble. But they say there are many dangers lurking on the road to the grea_airy City, and so we must be very careful."
"I hope nothing will break me," said the Glass Cat, in a nervous voice. "I'm _ittle brittle, you know, and can't stand many hard knocks."
"If anything should fade the colors of my lovely patches it would break m_eart," said the Patchwork Girl.
"I'm not sure you have a heart," Ojo reminded her.
"Then it would break my cotton," persisted Scraps. "Do you think they are al_ast colors, Ojo?" she asked anxiously.
"They seem fast enough when you run," he replied; and then, looking ahead o_hem, he exclaimed: "Oh, what lovely trees!"
They were certainly pretty to look upon and the travelers hurried forward t_bserve them more closely.
"Why, they are not trees at all," said Scraps; "they are just monstrou_lants."
That is what they really were: masses of great broad leaves which rose fro_he ground far into the air, until they towered twice as high as the top o_he Patchwork Girl's head, who was a little taller than Ojo. The plants forme_ows on both sides of the road and from each plant rose a dozen or more of th_ig broad leaves, which swayed continually from side to side, although no win_as blowing. But the most curious thing about the swaying leaves was thei_olor. They seemed to have a general groundwork of blue, but here and ther_ther colors glinted at times through the blue—gorgeous yellows, turning t_ink, purple, orange and scarlet, mingled with more sober browns an_rays—each appearing as a blotch or stripe anywhere on a leaf and the_isappearing, to be replaced by some other color of a different shape. Th_hangeful coloring of the great leaves was very beautiful, but it wa_ewildering, as well, and the novelty of the scene drew our travelers close t_he line of plants, where they stood watching them with rapt interest.
Suddenly a leaf bent lower than usual and touched the Patchwork Girl. Swiftl_t enveloped her in its embrace, covering her completely in its thick folds, and then it swayed back upon its stem.
"Why, she's gone!" gasped Ojo, in amazement, and listening carefully h_hought he could hear the muffled screams of Scraps coming from the center o_he folded leaf. But, before he could think what he ought to do to save her, another leaf bent down and captured the Glass Cat, rolling around the littl_reature until she was completely hidden, and then straightening up again upo_ts stem.
"Look out," cried the Woozy. "Run! Run fast, or you are lost."
Ojo turned and saw the Woozy running swiftly up the road. But the last leaf o_he row of plants seized the beast even as he ran and instantly he disappeare_rom sight.
The boy had no chance to escape. Half a dozen of the great leaves were bendin_oward him from different directions and as he stood hesitating one of the_lutched him in its embrace. In a flash he was in the dark. Then he fel_imself gently lifted until he was swaying in the air, with the folds of th_eaf hugging him on all sides.
At first he struggled hard to escape, crying out in anger: "Let me go! Let m_o!" But neither struggles nor protests had any effect whatever. The leaf hel_im firmly and he was a prisoner.
Then Ojo quieted himself and tried to think. Despair fell upon him when h_emembered that all his little party had been captured, even as he was, an_here was none to save them.
"I might have expected it," he sobbed, miserably. "I'm Ojo the Unlucky, an_omething dreadful was sure to happen to me."
He pushed against the leaf that held him and found it to be soft, but thic_nd firm. It was like a great bandage all around him and he found it difficul_o move his body or limbs in order to change their position.
The minutes passed and became hours. Ojo wondered how long one could live i_uch a condition and if the leaf would gradually sap his strength and even hi_ife, in order to feed itself. The little Munchkin boy had never heard of an_erson dying in the Land of Oz, but he knew one could suffer a great deal o_ain. His greatest fear at this time was that he would always remai_mprisoned in the beautiful leaf and never see the light of day again.
No sound came to him through the leaf; all around was intense silence. Oj_ondered if Scraps had stopped screaming, or if the folds of the lea_revented his hearing her. By and by he thought he heard a whistle, as of som_ne whistling a tune. Yes; it really must be some one whistling, he decided, for he could follow the strains of a pretty Munchkin melody that Unc Nunki_sed to sing to him. The sounds were low and sweet and, although they reache_jo's ears very faintly, they were clear and harmonious.
Could the leaf whistle, Ojo wondered? Nearer and nearer came the sounds an_hen they seemed to be just the other side of the leaf that was hugging him.
Suddenly the whole leaf toppled and fell, carrying the boy with it, and whil_e sprawled at full length the folds slowly relaxed and set him free. H_crambled quickly to his feet and found that a strange man was standing befor_im—a man so curious in appearance that the boy stared with round eyes.
He was a big man, with shaggy whiskers, shaggy eyebrows, shaggy hair—bu_indly blue eyes that were gentle as those of a cow. On his head was a gree_elvet hat with a jeweled band, which was all shaggy around the brim. Rich bu_haggy laces were at his throat; a coat with shaggy edges was decorated wit_iamond buttons; the velvet breeches had jeweled buckles at the knees an_hags all around the bottoms. On his breast hung a medallion bearing a pictur_f Princess Dorothy of Oz, and in his hand, as he stood looking at Ojo, was _harp knife shaped like a dagger.
"Oh!" exclaimed Ojo, greatly astonished at the sight of this stranger; an_hen he added: "Who has saved me, sir?"
"Can't you see?" replied the other, with a smile; "I'm the Shaggy Man."
"Yes; I can see that," said the boy, nodding. "Was it you who rescued me fro_he leaf?"
"None other, you may be sure. But take care, or I shall have to rescue yo_gain."
Ojo gave a jump, for he saw several broad leaves leaning toward him; but th_haggy Man began to whistle again, and at the sound the leaves al_traightened up on their stems and kept still.
The man now took Ojo's arm and led him up the road, past the last of the grea_lants, and not till he was safely beyond their reach did he cease hi_histling.
"You see, the music charms 'em," said he. "Singing or whistling—it doesn'_atter which— makes 'em behave, and nothing else will. I always whistle as _o by 'em and so they always let me alone. To-day as I went by, whistling, _aw a leaf curled and knew there must be something inside it. I cut down th_eaf with my knife and—out you popped. Lucky I passed by, wasn't it?"
"You were very kind," said Ojo, "and I thank you. Will you please rescue m_ompanions, also?"
"What companions?" asked the Shaggy Man.
"The leaves grabbed them all," said the boy. "There's a Patchwork Girl and—"
"A girl made of patchwork, you know. She's alive and her name is Scraps. An_here's a Glass Cat—"
"Glass?" asked the Shaggy Man.
"Yes," said Ojo; "she has pink brains. And there's a Woozy—"
"What's a Woozy?" inquired the Shaggy Man.
"Why, I—I—can't describe it," answered the boy, greatly perplexed. "But it's _ueer animal with three hairs on the tip of its tail that won't come out and—"
"What won't come out?" asked the Shaggy Man; "the tail?"
"The hairs won't come out. But you'll see the Woozy, if you'll please rescu_t, and then you'll know just what it is."
"Of course," said the Shaggy Man, nodding his shaggy head. And then he walke_ack among the plants, still whistling, and found the three leaves which wer_urled around Ojo's traveling companions. The first leaf he cut down release_craps, and on seeing her the Shaggy Man threw back his shaggy head, opene_ide his mouth and laughed so shaggily and yet so merrily that Scraps like_im at once. Then he took off his hat and made her a low bow, saying:
"My dear, you're a wonder. I must introduce you to my friend the Scarecrow."
When he cut down the second leaf he rescued the Glass Cat, and Bungle was s_rightened that she scampered away like a streak and soon had joined Ojo, whe_he sat beside him panting and trembling. The last plant of all the row ha_aptured the Woozy, and a big bunch in the center of the curled leaf showe_lainly where he was. With his sharp knife the Shaggy Man sliced off the ste_f the leaf and as it fell and unfolded out trotted the Woozy and escape_eyond the reach of any more of the dangerous plants.