Tik-Tok of Oz/Chapter 6
This sudden arrival was a queer looking man, dressed all in garments so shaggy that Betsy at first thought he must be some animal. But the stranger ended his fall in a sitting position and then the girl saw it was really a man. He held an apple in his hand, which he had evidently been eating when he fell, and so little was he jarred or flustered by the accident that he continued to munch this apple as he calmly looked around him.
"Good gracious!" exclaimed Betsy, approaching him. "Who are you, and where did you come from?"
"Me? Oh, I'm Shaggy Man," said he, taking another bite of the apple. "Just dropped in for a short call. Excuse my seeming haste."
"Why, I s'pose you couldn't help the haste," said Betsy.
"No. I climbed an apple tree, outside; branch gave way and--here I am."
As he spoke the Shaggy Man finished his apple, gave the core to Hank--who ate it greedily --and then stood up to bow politely to Betsy and the Roses.
The Royal Gardener had been frightened nearly into fits by the crash of glass and the fall of the shaggy stranger into the bower of Roses, but now he peeped out from behind a bush and cried in his squeaky voice:
"You're breaking the Law! You're breaking the Law!"
Shaggy stared at him solemnly.
"Is the glass the Law in this country?" he asked.
"Breaking the glass is breaking the Law," squeaked the Gardener, angrily. "Also, to intrude in any part of the Rose Kingdom is breaking the Law."
"How do you know?" asked Shaggy.
"Why, it's printed in a book," said the Gardener, coming forward and taking a small book from his pocket. "Page thirteen. Here it is: 'If any stranger enters the Rose Kingdom he shall at once be condemned by the Ruler and put to death.' So you see, strangers," he continued triumphantly, "it's death for you all and your time has come!"
But just here Hank interposed. He had been stealthily backing toward the Royal Gardener, whom he disliked, and now the mule's heels shot out and struck the little man in the middle. He doubled up like the letter "U" and flew out of the door so swiftly--never touching the ground --that he was gone before Betsy had time to wink.
But the mule's attack frightened the girl.
"Come," she whispered, approaching the Shaggy Man and taking his hand; "let's go somewhere else. They'll surely kill us if we stay here!"
"Don't worry, my dear," replied Shaggy, patting the child's head. "I'm not afraid of anything, so long as I have the Love Magnet."
"The Love Magnet! Why, what is that?" asked Betsy.
"It's a charming little enchantment that wins the heart of everyone who looks upon it," was the reply. "The Love Magnet used to hang over the gateway to the Emerald City, in the Land of Oz; but when I started on this journey our beloved Ruler, Ozma of Oz, allowed me to take it with me."
"Oh!" cried Betsy, staring hard at him; "are you really from the wonderful Land of Oz?"
"Yes. Ever been there, my dear?"
"No; but I've heard about it. And do you know Princess Ozma?"
"Very well indeed."
"And--and Princess Dorothy?"
"Dorothy's an old chum of mine," declared Shaggy.
"Dear me!" exclaimed Betsy. "And why did you ever leave such a beautiful land as Oz?"
"On an errand," said Shaggy, looking sad and solemn. "I'm trying to find my dear little brother."
"Oh! Is he lost?" questioned Betsy, feeling very sorry for the poor man.
"Been lost these ten years," replied Shaggy, taking out a handkerchief and wiping a tear from his eye. "I didn't know it until lately, when I saw it recorded in the magic Record Book of the Sorceress Glinda, in the Land of Oz. So now I'm trying to find him."
"Where was he lost?" asked the girl sympathetically.
"Back in Colorado, where I used to live before I went to Oz. Brother was a miner, and dug gold out of a mine. One day he went into his mine and never came out. They searched for him, but he was not there. Disappeared entirely," Shaggy ended miserably.
"For goodness sake! What do you s'pose became of him?" she asked.
"There is only one explanation," replied Shaggy, taking another apple from his pocket and eating it to relieve his misery. "The Nome King probably got him."
"The Nome King! Who is he?"
"Why, he's sometimes called the Metal Monarch, and his name is Ruggedo. Lives in some underground cavern. Claims to own all the metals hidden in the earth. Don't ask me why."
"Cause I don't know. But this Ruggedo gets wild with anger if anyone digs gold out of the earth, and my private opinion is that he captured brother and carried him off to his underground kingdom. No--don't ask me why. I see you're dying to ask me why. But I don't know."
"But--dear me!--in that case you will never find your lost brother!" exclaimed the girl.
"Maybe not; but it's my duty to try," answered Shaggy. "I've wandered so far without finding him, but that only proves he is not where I've been looking. What I seek now is the hidden passage to the underground cavern of the terrible Metal Monarch."
"Well," said Betsy doubtfully, "it strikes me that if you ever manage to get there the Metal Monarch will make you, too, his prisoner."
"Nonsense!" answered Shaggy, carelessly. "You mustn't forget the Love Magnet."
"What about it?" she asked.
"When the fierce Metal Monarch sees the Love Magnet, he will love me dearly and do anything I ask."
"It must be wonderful," said Betsy, with awe.
"It is," the man assured her. "Shall I show it to you?"
"Oh, do!" she cried; so Shaggy searched in his shaggy pocket and drew out a small silver magnet, shaped like a horseshoe.
The moment Betsy saw it she began to like the Shaggy Man better than before. Hank also saw the Magnet and crept up to Shaggy to rub his head lovingly against the man's knee.
But they were interrupted by the Royal Gardener, who stuck his head into the greenhouse and shouted angrily:
"You are all condemned to death! Your only chance to escape is to leave here instantly."
This startled little Betsy, but the Shaggy Man merely waved the Magnet toward the Gardener, who, seeing it, rushed forward and threw himself at Shaggy's feet, murmuring in honeyed words:
"Oh, you lovely, lovely man! How fond I am of you! Every shag and bobtail that decorates you is dear to me--all I have is yours! But for goodness' sake get out of here before you die the death."
"I'm not going to die," declared Shaggy Man.
"You must. It's the Law," exclaimed the Gardener, beginning to weep real tears. "It breaks my heart to tell you this bad news, but the Law says that all strangers must be condemned by the Ruler to die the death."
"No Ruler has condemned us yet," said Betsy.
"Of course not," added Shaggy. "We haven't even seen the Ruler of the Rose Kingdom."
"Well, to tell the truth," said the Gardener, in a perplexed tone of voice, "we haven't any real Ruler, just now. You see, all our Rulers grow on bushes in the Royal Gardens, and the last one we had got mildewed and withered before his time. So we had to plant him, and at this time there is no one growing on the Royal Bushes who is ripe enough to pick."
"How do you know?" asked Betsy.
"Why, I'm the Royal Gardener. Plenty of royalties are growing, I admit; but just now they are all green. Until one ripens, I am supposed to rule the Rose Kingdom myself, and see that its Laws are obeyed. Therefore, much as I love you, Shaggy, I must put you to death."
"Wait a minute," pleaded Betsy. "I'd like to see those Royal Gardens before I die."
"So would I," added Shaggy Man. "Take us there, Gardener."
"Oh, I can't do that," objected the Gardener. But Shaggy again showed him the Love Magnet and after one glance at it the Gardener could no longer resist.
He led Shaggy, Betsy and Hank to the end of the great greenhouse and carefully unlocked a small door. Passing through this they came into the splendid Royal Garden of the Rose Kingdom.
It was all surrounded by a tall hedge and within the enclosure grew several enormous rosebushes having thick green leaves of the texture of velvet. Upon these bushes grew the members of the Royal Family of the Rose Kingdom--men, women and children in all stages of maturity. They all seemed to have a light green hue, as if unripe or not fully developed, their flesh and clothing being alike green. They stood perfectly lifeless upon their branches, which swayed softly in the breeze, and their wide open eyes stared straight ahead, unseeing and unintelligent.
While examining these curious growing people, Betsy passed behind a big central bush and at once uttered an exclamation of surprise and pleasure. For there, blooming in perfect color and shape, stood a Royal Princess, whose beauty was amazing.
"Why, she's ripe!" cried Betsy, pushing aside some of the broad leaves to observe her more clearly.
"Well, perhaps so," admitted the Gardener, who had come to the girl's side; "but she's a girl, and so we can't use her for a Ruler."
"No, indeed!" came a chorus of soft voices, and looking around Betsy discovered that all the Roses had followed them from the greenhouse and were now grouped before the entrance.
"You see," explained the Gardener, "the subjects of Rose Kingdom don't want a girl Ruler. They want a King."
"A King! We want a King!" repeated the chorus of Roses.
"Isn't she Royal?" inquired Shaggy, admiring the lovely Princess.
"Of course, for she grows on a Royal Bush. This Princess is named Ozga, as she is a distant cousin of Ozma of Oz; and, were she but a man, we would joyfully hail her as our Ruler."
The Gardener then turned away to talk with his Roses and Betsy whispered to her companion: "Let's pick her, Shaggy."
"All right," said he. "If she's royal, she has the right to rule this Kingdom, and if we pick her she will surely protect us and prevent our being hurt, or driven away."
So Betsy and Shaggy each took an arm of the beautiful Rose Princess and a little twist of her feet set her free of the branch upon which she grew. Very gracefully she stepped down from the bush to the ground, where she bowed low to Betsy and Shaggy and said in a delightfully sweet voice: "I thank you."
But at the sound of these words the Gardener and the Roses turned and discovered that the Princess had been picked, and was now alive. Over every face flashed an expression of resentment and anger, and one of the Roses cried aloud.
"Audacious mortals! What have you done?"
"Picked a Princess for you, that's all," replied Betsy, cheerfully.
"But we won't have her! We want a King!" exclaimed a Jacque Rose, and another added with a voice of scorn: "No girl shall rule over us!"
The newly-picked Princess looked from one to another of her rebellious subjects in astonishment. A grieved look came over her exquisite features.
"Have I no welcome here, pretty subjects?" she asked gently. "Have I not come from my Royal Bush to be your Ruler?"
"You were picked by mortals, without our consent," replied the Moss Rose, coldly; "so we refuse to allow you to rule us."
"Turn her out, Gardener, with the others!" cried the Tea Rose.
"Just a second, please!" called Shaggy, taking the Love Magnet from his pocket. "I guess this will win their love, Princess. Here--take it in your hand and let the roses see it."
Princess Ozga took the Magnet and held it poised before the eyes of her subjects; but the Roses regarded it with calm disdain.
"Why, what's the matter?" demanded Shaggy in surprise. "The Magnet never failed to work before!"
"I know," said Betsy, nodding her head wisely. "These Roses have no hearts."
"That's it," agreed the Gardener. "They're pretty, and sweet, and alive; but still they are Roses. Their stems have thorns, but no hearts."
The Princess sighed and handed the Magnet to the Shaggy Man.
"What shall I do?" she asked sorrowfully.
"Turn her out, Gardener, with the others!" commanded the Roses. "We will have no Ruler until a man-rose--a King--is ripe enough to pick."
"Very well," said the Gardener meekly. "You must excuse me, my dear Shaggy, for opposing your wishes, but you and the others, including Ozga, must get out of Rose Kingdom immediately, if not before."
"Don't you love me, Gardy?" asked Shaggy, carelessly displaying the Magnet.
"I do. I dote on thee!" answered the Gardener earnestly; "but no true man will neglect his duty for the sake of love. My duty is to drive you out, so--out you go!"
With this he seized a garden fork and began jabbing it at the strangers, in order to force them to leave. Hank the mule was not afraid of the fork and when he got his heels near to the Gardener the man fell back to avoid a kick.
But now the Roses crowded around the outcasts and it was soon discovered that beneath their draperies of green leaves were many sharp thorns which were more dangerous than Hank's heels. Neither Betsy nor Ozga nor Shaggy nor the mule cared to brave those thorns and when they pressed away from them they found themselves slowly driven through the garden door into the greenhouse. From there they were forced out at the entrance and so through the territory of the flower-strewn Rose Kingdom, which was not of very great extent.
The Rose Princess was sobbing bitterly; Betsy was indignant and angry; Hank uttered efiant "Hee-haws" and the Shaggy Man whistled softly to himself.
The boundary of the Rose Kingdom was a deep gulf, but there was a drawbridge in one place and this the Royal Gardener let down until the outcasts had passed over it. Then he drew it up again and returned with his Roses to the greenhouse, leaving the four queerly assorted comrades to wander into the bleak and unknown country that lay beyond.
"I don't mind, much," remarked Shaggy, as he led the way over the stony, barren ground. "I've got to search for my long-lost little brother, anyhow, so it won't matter where I go."
"Hank and I will help you find your brother," said Betsy in her most cheerful voice. "I'm so far away from home now that I don't s'pose I'll ever find my way back; and, to tell the truth, it's more fun traveling around and having adventures than sticking at home. Don't you think so, Hank?"
"Hee-haw!" said Hank, and the Shaggy Man thanked them both.
"For my part," said Princess Ozga of Roseland, with a gentle sigh, "I must remain forever exiled from my Kingdom. So I, too, will be glad to help the Shaggy Man find his lost brother."
"That's very kind of you, ma'am," said Shaggy. "But unless I can find the underground cavern of Ruggedo, the Metal Monarch, I shall never find poor brother."
(This King was formerly named "Roquat," but after he drank of the "Waters of Oblivion" he forgot his own name and had to take another.)
"Doesn't anyone know where it is?" inquired Betsy.
"Some one must know, of course," was Shaggy's reply. "But we are not the ones. The only way to succeed is for us to keep going until we find a person who can direct us to Ruggedo's cavern."
"We may find it ourselves, without any help," suggested Betsy. "Who knows?"
"No one knows that, except the person who's writing this story," said Shaggy. "But we won't find anything--not even supper--unless we travel on. Here's a path. Let's take it and see where it leads to."