The country wasn't so pretty now. Before the travelers appeared a rocky plai_overed with hills on which grew nothing green. They were nearing some lo_ountains, too, and the road, which before had been smooth and pleasant t_alk upon, grew rough and uneven.
Button-Bright's little feet stumbled more than once, and Polychrome ceased he_ancing because the walking was now so difficult that she had no trouble t_eep warm.
It had become afternoon, yet there wasn't a thing for their luncheon excep_wo apples which the shaggy man had taken from the breakfast table. He divide_hese into four pieces and gave a portion to each of his companions. Doroth_nd Button-Bright were glad to get theirs; but Polly was satisfied with _mall bite, and Toto did not like apples.
"Do you know," asked the Rainbow's Daughter, "if this is the right road to th_merald City?"
"No, I don't," replied Dorothy, "but it's the only road in this part of th_ountry, so we may as well go to the end of it."
"It looks now as if it might end pretty soon," remarked the shaggy man; "an_hat shall we do if it does?"
"Don't know," said Button-Bright.
"If I had my Magic Belt," replied Dorothy, thoughtfully, "it could do us a lo_f good just now."
"What is your Magic Belt?" asked Polychrome.
"It's a thing I captured from the Nome King one day, and it can do 'most an_onderful thing. But I left it with Ozma, you know; 'cause magic won't work i_ansas, but only in fairy countries."
"Is this a fairy country?" asked Button-Bright.
"I should think you'd know," said the little girl, gravely. "If it wasn't _airy country you couldn't have a fox head and the shaggy man couldn't have _onkey head, and the Rainbow's Daughter would be invis'ble."
"What's that?" asked the boy.
"You don't seem to know anything, Button-Bright. Invis'ble is a thing yo_an't see."
"Then Toto's invis'ble," declared the boy, and Dorothy found he was right.
Toto had disappeared from view, but they could hear him barking furiousl_mong the heaps of grey rock ahead of them.
They moved forward a little faster to see what the dog was barking at, an_ound perched upon a point of rock by the roadside a curious creature. It ha_he form of a man, middle-sized and rather slender and graceful; but as it sa_ilent and motionless upon the peak they could see that its face was black a_nk, and it wore a black cloth costume made like a union suit and fittin_ight to its skin. Its hands were black, too, and its toes curled down, like _ird's. The creature was black all over except its hair, which was fine, an_ellow, banged in front across the black forehead and cut close at the sides.
The eyes, which were fixed steadily upon the barking dog, were small an_parkling and looked like the eyes of a weasel.
"What in the world do you s'pose that is?" asked Dorothy in a hushed voice, a_he little group of travelers stood watching the strange creature.
"Don't know," said Button-Bright.
The thing gave a jump and turned half around, sitting in the same place bu_ith the other side of its body facing them. Instead of being black, it wa_ow pure white, with a face like that of a clown in a circus and hair of _rilliant purple. The creature could bend either way, and its white toes no_urled the same way the black ones on the other side had done.
"It has a face both front and back," whispered Dorothy, wonderingly; "onl_here's no back at all, but two fronts."
Having made the turn, the being sat motionless as before, while Toto barke_ouder at the white man than he had done at the black one.
"Once," said the shaggy man, "I had a jumping jack like that, with two faces."
"Was it alive?" asked Button-Bright.
"No," replied the shaggy man; "it worked on strings and was made of wood."
"Wonder if this works with strings," said Dorothy; but Polychrome cried
"Look!" for another creature just like the first had suddenly appeared sittin_n another rock, its black side toward them. The two twisted their head_round and showed a black face on the white side of one and a white face o_he black side of the other.
"How curious," said Polychrome; "and how loose their heads seem to be! Ar_hey friendly to us, do you think?"
The creatures flopped first one way and then the other, showing black or whit_y turns; and now another joined them, appearing on another rock. Our friend_ad come to a little hollow in the hills, and the place where they now stoo_as surrounded by jagged peaks of rock, except where the road ran through.
"Now there are four of them," said the shaggy man.
"Five," declared Polychrome.
"Six," said Dorothy.
"Lots of 'em!" cried Button-Bright; and so there were—quite a row of the two- sided black and white creatures sitting on the rocks all around.
Toto stopped barking and ran between Dorothy's feet, where he crouched down a_f afraid. The creatures did not look pleasant or friendly, to be sure, an_he shaggy man's donkey face became solemn, indeed.
"Ask 'em who they are, and what they want," whispered Dorothy; so the shagg_an called out in a loud voice:
"Who are you?"
"Scoodlers!" they yelled in chorus, their voices sharp and shrill.
"What do you want?" called the shaggy man.
"You!" they yelled, pointing their thin fingers at the group; and they al_lopped around, so they were white, and then all flopped back again, so the_ere black.
"But what do you want us for?" asked the shaggy man, uneasily.
"Soup!" they all shouted, as if with one voice.
"Goodness me!" said Dorothy, trembling a little; "the Scoodlers must b_eg'lar cannibals."
"Don't want to be soup," protested Button-Bright, beginning to cry.
"Hush, dear," said the little girl, trying to comfort him; "we don't any of u_ant to be soup. But don't worry; the shaggy man will take care of us."
"Will he?" asked Polychrome, who did not like the Scoodlers at all, and kep_lose to Dorothy.
"I'll try," promised the shaggy man; but he looked worried.
Happening just then to feel the Love Magnet in his pocket, he said to th_reatures, with more confidence:
"Don't you love me?"
"Yes!" they shouted, all together.
"Then you mustn't harm me, or my friends," said the shaggy man, firmly.
"We love you in soup!" they yelled, and in a flash turned their white sides t_he front.
"How dreadful!" said Dorothy. "This is a time, Shaggy Man, when you get love_oo much."
"Don't want to be soup!" wailed Button-Bright again; and Toto began to whin_ismally, as if he didn't want to be soup, either.
"The only thing to do," said the shaggy man to his friends, in a low tone, "i_o get out of this pocket in the rocks as soon as we can, and leave th_coodlers behind us. Follow me, my dears, and don't pay any attention to wha_hey do or say."
With this, he began to march along the road to the opening in the rocks ahead, and the others kept close behind him. But the Scoodlers closed up in front, a_f to bar their way, and so the shaggy man stooped down and picked up a loos_tone, which he threw at the creatures to scare them from the path.
At this the Scoodlers raised a howl. Two of them picked their heads from thei_houlders and hurled them at the shaggy man with such force that he fell ove_n a heap, greatly astonished. The two now ran forward with swift leaps, caught up their heads, and put them on again, after which they sprang back t_heir positions on the rocks.