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Chapter 22 The Joking Horners

  • It was not long before they left the passage and came to a great cave, so hig_hat it must have reached nearly to the top of the mountain within which i_ay. It was a magnificent cave, illumined by the soft, invisible light, s_hat everything in it could be plainly seen. The walls were of polishe_arble, white with veins of delicate colors running through it, and the roo_as arched and fantastic and beautiful.
  • Built beneath this vast dome was a pretty village—not very large, for ther_eemed not more than fifty houses altogether—and the dwellings were of marbl_nd artistically designed. No grass nor flowers nor trees grew in this cave, so the yards surrounding the houses carved in designs both were smooth an_are and had low walls around them to mark their boundaries.
  • In the streets and the yards of the houses were many people all having one le_rowing below their bodies and all hopping here and there whenever they moved.
  • Even the children stood firmly upon their single legs and never lost thei_alance.
  • "All hail, Champion!" cried a man in the first group of Hoppers they met;
  • "whom have you captured?"
  • "No one," replied the Champion in a gloomy voice; "these strangers hav_aptured me."
  • "Then," said another, "we will rescue you, and capture them, for we ar_reater in number."
  • "No," answered the Champion, "I can't allow it. I've surrendered, and it isn'_olite to capture those you've surrendered to."
  • "Never mind that," said Dorothy. "We will give you your liberty and set yo_ree."
  • "Really?" asked the Champion in joyous tones.
  • "Yes," said the little girl; "your people may need you to help conquer th_orners."
  • At this all the Hoppers looked downcast and sad. Several more had joined th_roup by this time and quite a crowd of curious men, women and childre_urrounded the strangers.
  • "This war with our neighbors is a terrible thing," remarked one of the women.
  • "Some one is almost sure to get hurt."
  • "Why do you say that, madam?" inquired the Scarecrow.
  • "Because the horns of our enemies are sharp, and in battle they will try t_tick those horns into our warriors," she replied.
  • "How many horns do the Horners have?" asked Dorothy.
  • "Each has one horn in the center of his forehead," was the answer.
  • "Oh, then they're unicorns," declared the Scarecrow.
  • "No; they're Horners. We never go to war with them if we can help it, o_ccount of their dangerous horns; but this insult was so great and s_nprovoked that our brave men decided to fight, in order to be revenged," sai_he woman.
  • "What weapons do you fight with?" the Scarecrow asked.
  • "We have no weapons," explained the Champion. "Whenever we fight the Horners, our plan is to push them back, for our arms are longer than theirs."
  • "Then you are better armed," said Scraps.
  • "Yes; but they have those terrible horns, and unless we are careful they pric_s with the points," returned the Champion with a shudder. "That makes a wa_ith them dangerous, and a dangerous war cannot be a pleasant one."
  • "I see very clearly," remarked the Scarecrow, "that you are going to hav_rouble in conquering those Horners—unless we help you."
  • "Oh!" cried the Hoppers in a chorus; "can you help us? Please do! We will b_reatly obliged! It would please us very much!" and by these exclamations th_carecrow knew that his speech had met with favor.
  • "How far is it to the Horner Country?" he asked.
  • "Why, it's just the other side of the fence," they answered, and the Champio_dded:
  • "Come with me, please, and I'll show you the Horners."
  • So they followed the Champion and several others through the streets and jus_eyond the village came to a very high picket fence, built all of marble, which seemed to divide the great cave into two equal parts.
  • But the part inhabited by the Horners was in no way as grand in appearance a_hat of the Hoppers. Instead of being marble, the walls and roof were of dul_ray rock and the square houses were plainly made of the same material. But i_xtent the city was much larger than that of the Hoppers and the streets wer_hronged with numerous people who busied themselves in various ways.
  • Looking through the open pickets of the fence our friends watched the Horners, who did not know they were being watched by strangers, and found them ver_nusual in appearance. They were little folks in size and had bodies round a_alls and short legs and arms. Their heads were round, too, and they had long, pointed ears and a horn set in the center of the forehead. The horns did no_eem very terrible, for they were not more than six inches long; but they wer_vory white and sharp pointed, and no wonder the Hoppers feared them.
  • The skins of the Horners were light brown, but they wore snow-white robes an_ere bare-footed. Dorothy thought the most striking thing about them was thei_air, which grew in three distinct colors on each and every head—red, yello_nd green. The red was at the bottom and sometimes hung over their eyes; the_ame a broad circle of yellow and the green was at the top and formed a brush- shaped top-knot.
  • None of the Horners was yet aware of the presence of strangers, who watche_he little brown people for a time and then went to the big gate in the cente_f the dividing fence. It was locked on both sides and over the latch was _ign reading:
  • "WAR IS DECLARED"
  • "Can't we go through?" asked Dorothy.
  • "Not now," answered the Champion.
  • "I think," said the Scarecrow, "that if I could talk with those Horners the_ould apologize to you, and then there would be no need to fight."
  • "Can't you talk from this side?" asked the Champion.
  • "Not so well," replied the Scarecrow. "Do you suppose you could throw me ove_hat fence? It is high, but I am very light."
  • "We can try it," said the Hopper. "I am perhaps the strongest man in m_ountry, so I'll undertake to do the throwing. But I won't promise you wil_and on your feet."
  • "No matter about that," returned the Scarecrow. "Just toss me over and I'll b_atisfied."
  • So the Champion picked up the Scarecrow and balanced him a moment, to see ho_uch he weighed, and then with all his strength tossed him high into the air.
  • Perhaps if the Scarecrow had been a trifle heavier he would have been easie_o throw and would have gone a greater distance; but, as it was, instead o_oing over the fence he landed just on top of it, and one of the sharp picket_aught him in the middle of his back and held him fast prisoner. Had he bee_ace downward the Scarecrow might have managed to free himself, but lying o_is back on the picket his hands waved in the air of the Horner Country whil_is feet kicked the air of the Hopper Country; so there he was.
  • "Are you hurt?" called the Patchwork Girl anxiously.
  • "Course not," said Dorothy. "But if he wiggles that way he may tear hi_lothes. How can we get him down, Mr. Champion?"
  • The Champion shook his head.
  • "I don't know," he confessed. "If he could scare Horners as well as he doe_rows, it might be a good idea to leave him there."
  • "This is terrible," said Ojo, almost ready to cry. "I s'pose it's because I a_jo the Unlucky that everyone who tries to help me gets into trouble."
  • "You are lucky to have anyone to help you," declared Dorothy. "But don'_orry. We'll rescue the Scarecrow somehow."
  • "I know how," announced Scraps. "Here, Mr. Champion; just throw me up to th_carecrow. I'm nearly as light as he is, and when I'm on top the fence I'l_ull our friend off the picket and toss him down to you."
  • "All right," said the Champion, and he picked up the Patchwork Girl and thre_er in the same manner he had the Scarecrow. He must have used more strengt_his time, however, for Scraps sailed far over the top of the fence and, without being able to grab the Scarecrow at all, tumbled to the ground in th_orner Country, where her stuffed body knocked over two men and a woman an_ade a crowd that had collected there run like rabbits to get away from her.
  • Seeing the next moment that she was harmless, the people slowly returned an_athered around the Patchwork Girl, regarding her with astonishment. One o_hem wore a jeweled star in his hair, just above his horn, and this seemed _erson of importance. He spoke for the rest of his people, who treated hi_ith great respect.
  • "Who are you, Unknown Being?" he asked.
  • "Scraps," she said, rising to her feet and patting her cotton wadding smoot_here it had bunched up.
  • "And where did you come from?" he continued.
  • "Over the fence. Don't be silly. There's no other place I could have com_rom," she replied.
  • He looked at her thoughtfully.
  • "You are not a Hopper," said he, "for you have two legs. They're not very wel_haped, but they are two in number. And that strange creature on top th_ence—why doesn't he stop kicking?—must be your brother, or father, or son, for he also has two legs."
  • "You must have been to visit the Wise Donkey," said Scraps, laughing s_errily that the crowd smiled with her, in sympathy. "But that reminds me, Captain—or King—"
  • "I am Chief of the Horners, and my name is Jak."
  • "Of course; Little Jack Horner; I might have known it. But the reason _olplaned over the fence was so I could have a talk with you about th_oppers."
  • "What about the Hoppers?" asked the Chief, frowning.
  • "You've insulted them, and you'd better beg their pardon," said Scraps. "I_ou don't, they'll probably hop over here and conquer you."
  • "We're not afraid—as long as the gate is locked," declared the Chief. "And w_idn't insult them at all. One of us made a joke that the stupid Hopper_ouldn't see."
  • The Chief smiled as he said this and the smile made his face look quite jolly.
  • "What was the joke?" asked Scraps.
  • "A Horner said they have less understanding than we, because they've only on_eg. Ha, ha! You see the point, don't you? If you stand on your legs, and you_egs are under you, then—ha, ha, ha!— then your legs are your under-standing.
  • Hee, hee, hee! Ho, ho! My, but that's a fine joke. And the stupid Hopper_ouldn't see it! They couldn't see that with only one leg they must have les_nder-standing than we who have two legs. Ha, ha, ha! Hee, hee! Ho, ho!" Th_hief wiped the tears of laughter from his eyes with the bottom hem of hi_hite robe, and all the other Horners wiped their eyes on their robes, fo_hey had laughed just as heartily as their Chief at the absurd joke.
  • "Then," said Scraps, "their understanding of the understanding you meant le_o the misunderstanding."
  • "Exactly; and so there's no need for us to apologize," returned the Chief.
  • "No need for an apology, perhaps, but much need for an explanation," sai_craps decidedly. "You don't want war, do you?"
  • "Not if we can help it," admitted Jak Horner. "The question is, who's going t_xplain the joke to the Horners? You know it spoils any joke to be obliged t_xplain it, and this is the best joke I ever heard."
  • "Who made the joke?" asked Scraps.
  • "Diksey Horner. He is working in the mines, just now, but he'll be home befor_ong. Suppose we wait and talk with him about it? Maybe he'll be willing t_xplain his joke to the Hoppers."
  • "All right," said Scraps. "I'll wait, if Diksey isn't too long."
  • "No, he's short; he's shorter than I am. Ha, ha, ha! Say! that's a better jok_han Diksey's. He won't be too long, because he's short. Hee, hee, ho!"
  • The other Horners who were standing by roared with laughter and seemed to lik_heir Chief's joke as much as he did. Scraps thought it was odd that the_ould be so easily amused, but decided there could be little harm in peopl_ho laughed so merrily.