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     Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz, p.6

       L. Frank Baum / Fantasy
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CHAPTER 4.

THE VEGETABLE KINGDOM

After the Wizard had wiped the dampness from his sword and taken itapart and put the pieces into their leathern case again, the man withthe star ordered some of his people to carry the two halves of theSorcerer to the public gardens.

Jim pricked up his ears when he heard they were going to the gardens,and wanted to join the party, thinking he might find something proper toeat; so Zeb put down the top of the buggy and invited the Wizard to ridewith them. The seat was amply wide enough for the little man and the twochildren, and when Jim started to leave the hall the kitten jumped uponhis back and sat there quite contentedly.

So the procession moved through the streets, the bearers of the Sorcererfirst, the Prince next, then Jim drawing the buggy with the strangersinside of it, and last the crowd of vegetable people who had no heartsand could neither smile nor frown.

The glass city had several fine streets, for a good many people livedthere; but when the procession had passed through these it came upon abroad plain covered with gardens and watered by many pretty brooks thatflowed through it. There were paths through these gardens, and over someof the brooks were ornamental glass bridges.

Dorothy and Zeb now got out of the buggy and walked beside the Prince,so that they might see and examine the flowers and plants better.

”Who built these lovely bridges?” asked the little girl.

”No one built them,” answered the man with the star. ”They grow.”

”That's queer,” said she. ”Did the glass houses in your city grow, too?”

”Of course,” he replied. ”But it took a good many years for them to growas large and fine as they are now. That is why we are so angry when aRain of Stones comes to break our towers and crack our roofs.”

”Can't you mend them?” she enquired.

”No; but they will grow together again, in time, and we must wait untilthey do.”

They first passed through many beautiful gardens of flowers, which grewnearest the city; but Dorothy could hardly tell what kind of flowersthey were, because the colors were constantly changing under theshifting lights of the six suns. A flower would be pink one second,white the next, then blue or yellow; and it was the same way when theycame to the plants, which had broad leaves and grew close to the ground.

When they passed over a field of grass Jim immediately stretched downhis head and began to nibble.

”A nice country this is,” he grumbled, ”where a respectable horse has toeat pink grass!”

”It's violet,” said the Wizard, who was in the buggy.

”Now it's blue,” complained the horse. ”As a matter of fact, I'm eatingrainbow grass.”

”How does it taste?” asked the Wizard.

”Not bad at all,” said Jim. ”If they give me plenty of it I'll notcomplain about its color.”

By this time the party had reached a freshly plowed field, and thePrince said to Dorothy:

”This is our planting-ground.”

Several Mangaboos came forward with glass spades and dug a hole in theground. Then they put the two halves of the Sorcerer into it and coveredhim up. After that other people brought water from a brook and sprinkledthe earth.

”He will sprout very soon,” said the Prince, ”and grow into a largebush, from which we shall in time be able to pick several very goodsorcerers.”

”Do all your people grow on bushes?” asked the boy.

”Certainly,” was the reply. ”Do not all people grow upon bushes whereyou came from, on the outside of the earth.”

”Not that I ever heard of.”

”How strange! But if you will come with me to one of our folk gardens Iwill show you the way we grow in the Land of the Mangaboos.”

It appeared that these odd people, while they were able to walk throughthe air with ease, usually moved upon the ground in the ordinary way.There were no stairs in their houses, because they did not need them,but on a level surface they generally walked just as we do.

The little party of strangers now followed the Prince across a few moreof the glass bridges and along several paths until they came to a gardenenclosed by a high hedge. Jim had refused to leave the field of grass,where he was engaged in busily eating; so the Wizard got out of thebuggy and joined Zeb and Dorothy, and the kitten followed demurely attheir heels.

Inside the hedge they came upon row after row of large and handsomeplants with broad leaves gracefully curving until their points nearlyreached the ground. In the center of each plant grew a daintily dressedMangaboo, for the clothing of all these creatures grew upon them and wasattached to their bodies.

The growing Mangaboos were of all sizes, from the blossom that had justturned into a wee baby to the full-grown and almost ripe man or woman.On some of the bushes might be seen a bud, a blossom, a baby, ahalf-grown person and a ripe one; but even those ready to pluck weremotionless and silent, as if devoid of life. This sight explained toDorothy why she had seen no children among the Mangaboos, a thing shehad until now been unable to account for.

”Our people do not acquire their real life until they leave theirbushes,” said the Prince. ”You will notice they are all attached to theplants by the soles of their feet, and when they are quite ripe they areeasily separated from the stems and at once attain the powers of motionand speech. So while they grow they cannot be said to really live, andthey must be picked before they can become good citizens.”

”How long do you live, after you are picked?” asked Dorothy.

”That depends upon the care we take of ourselves,” he replied. ”If wekeep cool and moist, and meet with no accidents, we often live for fiveyears. I've been picked over six years, but our family is known to beespecially long lived.”

”Do you eat?” asked the boy.

”Eat! No, indeed. We are quite solid inside our bodies, and have no needto eat, any more than does a potato.”

”But the potatoes sometimes sprout,” said Zeb.

”And sometimes we do,” answered the Prince; ”but that is considered agreat misfortune, for then we must be planted at once.”

”Where did you grow?” asked the Wizard.

”I will show you,” was the reply. ”Step this way, please.”

He led them within another but smaller circle of hedge, where grew onelarge and beautiful bush.

”This,” said he, ”is the Royal Bush of the Mangaboos. All of our Princesand Rulers have grown upon this one bush from time immemorial.”

They stood before it in silent admiration. On the central stalk stoodpoised the figure of a girl so exquisitely formed and colored and solovely in the expression of her delicate features that Dorothy thoughtshe had never seen so sweet and adorable a creature in all her life.The maiden's gown was soft as satin and fell about her in ample folds,while dainty lace-like traceries trimmed the bodice and sleeves. Herflesh was fine and smooth as polished ivory, and her poise expressedboth dignity and grace.

”Who is this?” asked the Wizard, curiously.

The Prince had been staring hard at the girl on the bush. Now heanswered, with a touch of uneasiness in his cold tones:

”She is the Ruler destined to be my successor, for she is a RoyalPrincess. When she becomes fully ripe I must abandon the sovereignty ofthe Mangaboos to her.”

”Isn't she ripe now?” asked Dorothy.

He hesitated.

”Not quite,” said he, finally. ”It will be several days before she needsto be picked, or at least that is my judgment. I am in no hurry toresign my office and be planted, you may be sure.”

”Probably not,” declared the Wizard, nodding.

”This is one of the most unpleasant things about our vegetable lives,”continued the Prince, with a sigh, ”that while we are in our full primewe must give way to another, and be covered up in the ground to sproutand grow and give birth to other people.”

”I'm sure the Princess is ready to be picked,” asserted Dorothy, gazinghard at the beautiful girl on the bush. ”She's as perfect as she canbe.”

”Never mind,” answered the Prince, hastily, ”she will be all right for afew days longer, and it is best for me to rule until I can dispose ofyou strangers, who have come to our land uninvited and must be attendedto at once.”

”What are you going to do with us?” asked Zeb.

”That is a matter I have not quite decided upon,” was the reply. ”Ithink I shall keep this Wizard until a new Sorcerer is ready to pick,for he seems quite skillful and may be of use to us. But the rest of youmust be destroyed in some way, and you cannot be planted, because I donot wish horses and cats and meat people growing all over our country.”

”You needn't worry,” said Dorothy. ”We wouldn't grow under ground, I'msure.”

”But why destroy my friends?” asked the little Wizard. ”Why not let themlive?”

”They do not belong here,” returned the Prince. ”They have no right tobe inside the earth at all.”

”We didn't ask to come down here; we fell,” said Dorothy.

”That is no excuse,” declared the Prince, coldly.

The children looked at each other in perplexity, and the Wizard sighed.Eureka rubbed her paw on her face and said in her soft, purring voice:

”He won't need to destroy _me_, for if I don't get something to eatpretty soon I shall starve to death, and so save him the trouble.”

”If he planted you, he might grow some cat-tails,” suggested the Wizard.

”Oh, Eureka! perhaps we can find you some milk-weeds to eat,” said theboy.

”Phoo!” snarled the kitten; ”I wouldn't touch the nasty things!”

”You don't need milk, Eureka,” remarked Dorothy; ”you are big enough nowto eat any kind of food.”

”If I can get it,” added Eureka.

”I'm hungry myself,” said Zeb. ”But I noticed some strawberries growingin one of the gardens, and some melons in another place. These peopledon't eat such things, so perhaps on our way back they will let us getthem.”

”Never mind your hunger,” interrupted the Prince. ”I shall order youdestroyed in a few minutes, so you will have no need to ruin our prettymelon vines and berry bushes. Follow me, please, to meet your doom.”


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