Trot rode with more comfort than she had expected, although the swing swaye_o much that she had to hold on tight with both hands. Cap'n Bill's bir_ollowed the Ork, and Trot came next, with Button-Bright trailing behind her.
It was quite an imposing procession, but unfortunately there was no one to se_t, for the Ork had headed straight for the great sandy desert and in a fe_inutes after starting they were flying high over the broad waste, where n_iving thing could exist.
The little girl thought this would be a bad place for the birds to los_trength, or for the cloth ropes to give way; but although she could not hel_eeling a trifle nervous and fidgety she had confidence in the huge an_rilliantly plumaged bird that bore her, as well as in Cap'n Bill's knowledg_f how to twist and fasten a rope so it would hold.
That was a remarkably big desert. There was nothing to relieve the monotony o_iew and every minute seemed an hour and every hour a day. Disagreeable fume_nd gases rose from the sands, which would have been deadly to the traveler_ad they not been so high in the air. As it was, Trot was beginning to fee_ick, when a breath of fresher air filled her nostrils and on looking ahea_he saw a great cloud of pink-tinted mist. Even while she wondered what i_ould be, the Ork plunged boldly into the mist and the other birds followed.
She could see nothing for a time, nor could the bird which carried her se_here the Ork had gone, but it kept flying as sturdily as ever and in a fe_oments the mist was passed and the girl saw a most beautiful landscape sprea_ut below her, extending as far as her eye could reach.
She saw bits of forest, verdure clothed hills, fields of waving grain, fountains, rivers and lakes; and throughout the scene were scattered groups o_retty houses and a few grand castles and palaces.
Over all this delightful landscape — which from Trot's high perch seemed lik_ magnificent painted picture — was a rosy glow such as we sometimes see i_he west at sunset. In this case, however, it was not in the west only, bu_verywhere.
No wonder the Ork paused to circle slowly over this lovely country. The othe_irds followed his action, all eyeing the place with equal delight. Then, a_ith one accord, the four formed a group and slowly sailed downward. Thi_rought them to that part of the newly- discovered land which bordered on th_esert's edge; but it was just as pretty here as anywhere, so the Ork and th_irds alighted and the three passengers at once got out of their swings.
"Oh, Cap'n Bill, isn't this fine an' dandy?" exclaimed Trot rapturously. "Ho_ucky we were to discover this beautiful country!"
"The country seems rather high class, I'll admit, Trot," replied the ol_ailor-man, looking around him, "but we don't know, as yet, what its peopl_re like."
"No one could live in such a country without being happy and good — I'm sur_f that," she said earnestly. "Don't you think so, Button-Bright?"
"I'm not thinking, just now," answered the little boy. "It tires me to think, and I never seem to gain anything by it. When we see the people who live her_e will know what they are like, and no 'mount of thinking will make them an_ifferent."
"That's true enough," said the Ork. "But now I want to make a proposal. Whil_ou are getting acquainted with this new country, which looks as if i_ontains everything to make one happy, I would like to fly along - - all b_yself — and see if I can find my home on the other side of the great desert.
If I do, I will stay there, of course. But if I fail to find Orkland I wil_eturn to you in a week, to see if I can do anything more to assist you."
They were sorry to lose their queer companion, but could offer no objection t_he plan; so the Ork bade them good-bye and rising swiftly in the air, he fle_ver the country and was soon lost to view in the distance.
The three birds which had carried our friends now begged permission to retur_y the way they had come, to their own homes, saying they were anxious to sho_heir families how big they had become. So Cap'n Bill and Trot and Button- Bright all thanked them gratefully for their assistance and soon the bird_egan their long flight toward the Land of Mo. Being now left to themselves i_his strange land, the three comrades selected a pretty pathway and bega_alking along it. They believed this path would lead them to a splendid castl_hich they espied in the distance, the turrets of which towered far above th_ops of the trees which surrounded it. It did not seem very far away, so the_auntered on slowly, admiring the beautiful ferns and flowers that lined th_athway and listening to the singing of the birds and the soft chirping of th_rasshoppers.
Presently the path wound over a little hill. In a valley that lay beyond th_ill was a tiny cottage surrounded by flower beds and fruit trees. On th_hady porch of the cottage they saw, as they approached, a pleasant face_oman sitting amidst a group of children, to whom she was telling stories. Th_hildren quickly discovered the strangers and ran toward them wit_xclamations of astonishment, so that Trot and her friends became the cente_f a curious group, all chattering excitedly. Cap'n Bill's wooden leg seeme_o arouse the wonder of the children, as they could not understand why he ha_ot two meat legs. This attention seemed to please the old sailor, who patte_he heads of the children kindly and then, raising his hat to the woman, h_nquired:
"Can you tell us, madam, just what country this is?"
She stared hard at all three of the strangers as she replied briefly:
"Oh!" exclaimed Cap'n Bill, with a puzzled look. "And where is Jinxland, please?"
"In the Quadling Country," said she.
"What!" cried Trot, in sudden excitement. "Do you mean to say this is th_uadling Country of the Land of Oz?"
"To be sure I do," the woman answered. "Every bit of land that is surrounde_y the great desert is the Land of Oz, as you ought to know as well as I do; but I'm sorry to say that Jinxland is separated from the rest of the Quadlin_ountry by that row of high mountains you see yonder, which have such stee_ides that no one can cross them. So we live here all by ourselves, and ar_uled by our own King, instead of by Ozma of Oz."
"I've been to the Land of Oz before," said Button- Bright, "but I've neve_een here."
"Did you ever hear of Jinxland before?" asked Trot.
"No," said Button-Bright.
"It is on the Map of Oz, though," asserted the woman, "and it's a fin_ountry, I assure you. If only," she added, and then paused to look around he_ith a frightened expression. "If only —" here she stopped again, as if no_aring to go on with her speech.
"If only what, ma'am?" asked Cap'n Bill.
The woman sent the children into the house. Then she came closer to th_trangers and whispered: "If only we had a different King, we would be ver_appy and contented."
"What's the matter with your King?" asked Trot, curiously. But the woma_eemed frightened to have said so much. She retreated to her porch, merel_aying:
"The King punishes severely any treason on the part of his subjects."
"What's treason?" asked Button-Bright.
"In this case," replied Cap'n Bill, "treason seems to consist of knockin' th_ing; but I guess we know his disposition now as well as if the lady had sai_ore."
"I wonder," said Trot, going up to the woman, "if you could spare us somethin_o eat. We haven't had anything but popcorn and lemonade for a long time."
"Bless your heart! Of course I can spare you some food," the woman answered, and entering her cottage she soon returned with a tray loaded with sandwiches, cakes and cheese. One of the children drew a bucket of clear, cold water fro_ spring and the three wanderers ate heartily and enjoyed the good thing_mmensely.
When Button-Bright could eat no more he filled the pockets of his jacket wit_akes and cheese, and not even the children objected to this. Indeed they al_eemed pleased to see the strangers eat, so Cap'n Bill decided that no matte_hat the King of Jinxland was like, the people would prove friendly an_ospitable.
"Whose castle is that, yonder, ma'am?" he asked, waving his hand toward th_owers that rose above the trees.
"It belongs to his Majesty, King Krewl." she said.
"Oh, indeed; and does he live there?"
"When he is not out hunting with his fierce courtiers and war captains," sh_eplied.
"Is he hunting now?" Trot inquired.
"I do not know, my dear. The less we know about the King's actions the safe_e are."
It was evident the woman did not like to talk about King Krewl and so, havin_inished their meal, they said good-bye and continued along the pathway.
"Don't you think we'd better keep away from that King's castle, Cap'n?" aske_rot.
"Well," said he, "King Krewl would find out, sooner or later, that we are i_is country, so we may as well face the music now. Perhaps he isn't quite s_ad as that woman thinks he is. Kings aren't always popular with their people, you know, even if they do the best they know how."
"Ozma is pop'lar," said Button-Bright.
"Ozma is diff'rent from any other Ruler, from all I've heard," remarked Tro_usingly, as she walked beside the boy. "And, after all, we are really in th_and of Oz, where Ozma rules ev'ry King and ev'rybody else. I never heard o_nybody getting hurt in her dominions, did you, Button-Bright?"
"Not when she knows about it," he replied. "But those birds landed us in jus_he wrong place, seems to me. They might have carried us right on, over tha_ow of mountains, to the Em'rald City."
"True enough," said Cap'n Bill; "but they didn't, an' so we must make the bes_f Jinxland. Let's try not to be afraid."
"Oh, I'm not very scared," said Button-Bright, pausing to look at a pin_abbit that popped its head out of a hole in the field near by.
"Nor am I," added Trot. "Really, Cap'n, I'm so glad to be anywhere at all i_he wonderful fairyland of Oz that I think I'm the luckiest girl in all th_orld. Dorothy lives in the Em'rald City, you know, and so does the Scarecro_nd the Tin Woodman and Tik-Tok and the Shaggy Man — and all the rest of 'e_hat we've heard so much about — not to mention Ozma, who must be the sweetes_nd loveliest girl in all the world!"
"Take your time, Trot," advised Button-Bright. "You don't have to say it al_n one breath, you know. And you haven't mentioned half of the curious peopl_n the Em'rald City."
"That 'ere Em'rald City," said Cap'n Bill impressively, "happens to be on th_ther side o' those mountains, that we're told no one is able to cross. _on't want to discourage of you, Trot, but we're a'most as much separated fro_our Ozma an' Dorothy as we were when we lived in Californy."
There was so much truth in this statement that they all walked on in silenc_or some time. Finally they reached the grove of stately trees that bordere_he grounds of the King's castle. They had gone halfway through it when th_ound of sobbing, as of someone in bitter distress, reached their ears an_aused them to halt abruptly.