Sunny Mode   Night Mode

     Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz, p.3

       L. Frank Baum / Fantasy
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21


The train from 'Frisco was very late. It should have arrived at Hugson'ssiding at midnight, but it was already five o'clock and the gray dawnwas breaking in the east when the little train slowly rumbled up to theopen shed that served for the station-house. As it came to a stop theconductor called out in a loud voice:

”Hugson's Siding!”

At once a little girl rose from her seat and walked to the door of thecar, carrying a wicker suit-case in one hand and a round bird-cagecovered up with newspapers in the other, while a parasol was tuckedunder her arm. The conductor helped her off the car and then theengineer started his train again, so that it puffed and groaned andmoved slowly away up the track. The reason he was so late was becauseall through the night there were times when the solid earth shook andtrembled under him, and the engineer was afraid that at any moment therails might spread apart and an accident happen to his passengers. So hemoved the cars slowly and with caution.

The little girl stood still to watch until the train had disappearedaround a curve; then she turned to see where she was.

The shed at Hugson's Siding was bare save for an old wooden bench, anddid not look very inviting. As she peered through the soft gray lightnot a house of any sort was visible near the station, nor was any personin sight; but after a while the child discovered a horse and buggystanding near a group of trees a short distance away. She walked towardit and found the horse tied to a tree and standing motionless, with itshead hanging down almost to the ground. It was a big horse, tall andbony, with long legs and large knees and feet. She could count his ribseasily where they showed through the skin of his body, and his head waslong and seemed altogether too big for him, as if it did not fit. Histail was short and scraggly, and his harness had been broken in manyplaces and fastened together again with cords and bits of wire. Thebuggy seemed almost new, for it had a shiny top and side curtains.Getting around in front, so that she could look inside, the girl saw aboy curled up on the seat, fast asleep.

She set down the bird-cage and poked the boy with her parasol. Presentlyhe woke up, rose to a sitting position and rubbed his eyes briskly.

”Hello!” he said, seeing her, ”are you Dorothy Gale?”

”Yes,” she answered, looking gravely at his tousled hair and blinkinggray eyes. ”Have you come to take me to Hugson's Ranch?”

”Of course,” he answered. ”Train in?”

”I couldn't be here if it wasn't,” she said.

He laughed at that, and his laugh was merry and frank. Jumping out ofthe buggy he put Dorothy's suit-case under the seat and her bird-cage onthe floor in front.

”Canary-birds?” he asked.

”Oh, no; it's just Eureka, my kitten. I thought that was the best way tocarry her.”

The boy nodded.

”Eureka's a funny name for a cat,” he remarked.

”I named my kitten that because I found it,” she explained. ”Uncle Henrysays 'Eureka' means 'I have found it.'”

”All right; hop in.”

She climbed into the buggy and he followed her. Then the boy picked upthe reins, shook them, and said ”Gid-dap!”

The horse did not stir. Dorothy thought he just wiggled one of hisdrooping ears, but that was all.

”Gid-dap!” called the boy, again.

The horse stood still.

”Perhaps,” said Dorothy, ”if you untied him, he would go.”

The boy laughed cheerfully and jumped out.

”Guess I'm half asleep yet,” he said, untying the horse. ”But Jim knowshis business all right--don't you, Jim?” patting the long nose of theanimal.

Then he got into the buggy again and took the reins, and the horse atonce backed away from the tree, turned slowly around, and began to trotdown the sandy road which was just visible in the dim light.

”Thought that train would never come,” observed the boy. ”I've waited atthat station for five hours.”

”We had a lot of earthquakes,” said Dorothy. ”Didn't you feel the groundshake?”

”Yes; but we're used to such things in California,” he replied. ”Theydon't scare us much.”


”The conductor said it was the worst quake he ever knew.”

”Did he? Then it must have happened while I was asleep,” he said,thoughtfully.

”How is Uncle Henry?” she enquired, after a pause during which the horsecontinued to trot with long, regular strides.

”He's pretty well. He and Uncle Hugson have been having a fine visit.”

”Is Mr. Hugson your uncle?” she asked.

”Yes. Uncle Bill Hugson married your Uncle Henry's wife's sister; so wemust be second cousins,” said the boy, in an amused tone. ”I work forUncle Bill on his ranch, and he pays me six dollars a month and myboard.”

”Isn't that a great deal?” she asked, doubtfully.

”Why, it's a great deal for Uncle Hugson, but not for me. I'm a splendidworker. I work as well as I sleep,” he added, with a laugh.

”What is your name?” asked Dorothy, thinking she liked the boy's mannerand the cheery tone of his voice.

”Not a very pretty one,” he answered, as if a little ashamed. ”My wholename is Zebediah; but folks just call me 'Zeb.' You've been toAustralia, haven't you?”

”Yes; with Uncle Henry,” she answered. ”We got to San Francisco a weekago, and Uncle Henry went right on to Hugson's Ranch for a visit while Istayed a few days in the city with some friends we had met.”

”How long will you be with us?” he asked.

”Only a day. Tomorrow Uncle Henry and I must start back for Kansas.We've been away for a long time, you know, and so we're anxious to gethome again.”

The boy flicked the big, boney horse with his whip and lookedthoughtful. Then he started to say something to his little companion,but before he could speak the buggy began to sway dangerously from sideto side and the earth seemed to rise up before them. Next minute therewas a roar and a sharp crash, and at her side Dorothy saw the groundopen in a wide crack and then come together again.

”Goodness!” she cried, grasping the iron rail of the seat. ”What wasthat?”

”That was an awful big quake,” replied Zeb, with a white face. ”Italmost got us that time, Dorothy.”

The horse had stopped short, and stood firm as a rock. Zeb shook thereins and urged him to go, but Jim was stubborn. Then the boy crackedhis whip and touched the animal's flanks with it, and after a low moanof protest Jim stepped slowly along the road.

Neither the boy nor the girl spoke again for some minutes. There was abreath of danger in the very air, and every few moments the earth wouldshake violently. Jim's ears were standing erect upon his head and everymuscle of his big body was tense as he trotted toward home. He was notgoing very fast, but on his flanks specks of foam began to appear and attimes he would tremble like a leaf.

The sky had grown darker again and the wind made queer sobbing sounds asit swept over the valley.

Suddenly there was a rending, tearing sound, and the earth split intoanother great crack just beneath the spot where the horse was standing.With a wild neigh of terror the animal fell bodily into the pit, drawingthe buggy and its occupants after him.

Dorothy grabbed fast hold of the buggy top and the boy did the same. Thesudden rush into space confused them so that they could not think.

Blackness engulfed them on every side, and in breathless silence theywaited for the fall to end and crush them against jagged rocks or forthe earth to close in on them again and bury them forever in itsdreadful depths.

The horrible sensation of falling, the darkness and the terrifyingnoises, proved more than Dorothy could endure and for a few moments thelittle girl lost consciousness. Zeb, being a boy, did not faint, but hewas badly frightened, and clung to the buggy seat with a tight grip,expecting every moment would be his last.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21
Scroll Up
Add comment

Add comment