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Chapter 9 Facing the Scoodlers

  • 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?"
  • "Can't tell, Polly," replied Dorothy. "Let's ask 'em."
  • 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.