Read The Wonderful Wizard of Oz Page 2

2. The Council with the Munchkins

She was awakened by a shock, so sudden and severe that if Dorothy hadnot been lying on the soft bed she might have been hurt. As it was,the jar made her catch her breath and wonder what had happened; andToto put his cold little nose into her face and whined dismally.Dorothy sat up and noticed that the house was not moving; nor was itdark, for the bright sunshine came in at the window, flooding thelittle room. She sprang from her bed and with Toto at her heels ranand opened the door.

The little girl gave a cry of amazement and looked about her, her eyesgrowing bigger and bigger at the wonderful sights she saw.

The cyclone had set the house down very gently--for a cyclone--in themidst of a country of marvelous beauty. There were lovely patches ofgreensward all about, with stately trees bearing rich and lusciousfruits. Banks of gorgeous flowers were on every hand, and birds withrare and brilliant plumage sang and fluttered in the trees and bushes.A little way off was a small brook, rushing and sparkling along betweengreen banks, and murmuring in a voice very grateful to a little girlwho had lived so long on the dry, gray prairies.

While she stood looking eagerly at the strange and beautiful sights,she noticed coming toward her a group of the queerest people she hadever seen. They were not as big as the grown folk she had always beenused to; but neither were they very small. In fact, they seemed aboutas tall as Dorothy, who was a well-grown child for her age, althoughthey were, so far as looks go, many years older.

Three were men and one a woman, and all were oddly dressed. They woreround hats that rose to a small point a foot above their heads, withlittle bells around the brims that tinkled sweetly as they moved. Thehats of the men were blue; the little woman's hat was white, and shewore a white gown that hung in pleats from her shoulders. Over it weresprinkled little stars that glistened in the sun like diamonds. Themen were dressed in blue, of the same shade as their hats, and worewell-polished boots with a deep roll of blue at the tops. The men,Dorothy thought, were about as old as Uncle Henry, for two of them hadbeards. But the little woman was doubtless much older. Her face wascovered with wrinkles, her hair was nearly white, and she walked ratherstiffly.

When these people drew near the house where Dorothy was standing in thedoorway, they paused and whispered among themselves, as if afraid tocome farther. But the little old woman walked up to Dorothy, made alow bow and said, in a sweet voice:

”You are welcome, most noble Sorceress, to the land of the Munchkins.We are so grateful to you for having killed the Wicked Witch of theEast, and for setting our people free from bondage.”

Dorothy listened to this speech with wonder. What could the littlewoman possibly mean by calling her a sorceress, and saying she hadkilled the Wicked Witch of the East? Dorothy was an innocent, harmlesslittle girl, who had been carried by a cyclone many miles from home;and she had never killed anything in all her life.

But the little woman evidently expected her to answer; so Dorothy said,with hesitation, ”You are very kind, but there must be some mistake. Ihave not killed anything.”

”Your house did, anyway,” replied the little old woman, with a laugh,”and that is the same thing. See!” she continued, pointing to thecorner of the house. ”There are her two feet, still sticking out fromunder a block of wood.”

Dorothy looked, and gave a little cry of fright. There, indeed, justunder the corner of the great beam the house rested on, two feet weresticking out, shod in silver shoes with pointed toes.

”Oh, dear! Oh, dear!” cried Dorothy, clasping her hands together indismay. ”The house must have fallen on her. Whatever shall we do?”

”There is nothing to be done,” said the little woman calmly.

”But who was she?” asked Dorothy.

”She was the Wicked Witch of the East, as I said,” answered the littlewoman. ”She has held all the Munchkins in bondage for many years,making them slave for her night and day. Now they are all set free,and are grateful to you for the favor.”

”Who are the Munchkins?” inquired Dorothy.

”They are the people who live in this land of the East where the Wicked Witch ruled.”

”Are you a Munchkin?” asked Dorothy.

”No, but I am their friend, although I live in the land of the North.When they saw the Witch of the East was dead the Munchkins sent a swiftmessenger to me, and I came at once. I am the Witch of the North.”

”Oh, gracious!” cried Dorothy. ”Are you a real witch?”

”Yes, indeed,” answered the little woman. ”But I am a good witch, andthe people love me. I am not as powerful as the Wicked Witch was whoruled here, or I should have set the people free myself.”

”But I thought all witches were wicked,” said the girl, who was halffrightened at facing a real witch. ”Oh, no, that is a great mistake.There were only four witches in all the Land of Oz, and two of them,those who live in the North and the South, are good witches. I knowthis is true, for I am one of them myself, and cannot be mistaken.Those who dwelt in the East and the West were, indeed, wicked witches;but now that you have killed one of them, there is but one Wicked Witchin all the Land of Oz--the one who lives in the West.”

”But,” said Dorothy, after a moment's thought, ”Aunt Em has told methat the witches were all dead--years and years ago.”

”Who is Aunt Em?” inquired the little old woman.

”She is my aunt who lives in Kansas, where I came from.”

The Witch of the North seemed to think for a time, with her head bowedand her eyes upon the ground. Then she looked up and said, ”I do notknow where Kansas is, for I have never heard that country mentionedbefore. But tell me, is it a civilized country?”

”Oh, yes,” replied Dorothy.

”Then that accounts for it. In the civilized countries I believe thereare no witches left, nor wizards, nor sorceresses, nor magicians. But,you see, the Land of Oz has never been civilized, for we are cut offfrom all the rest of the world. Therefore we still have witches andwizards amongst us.”

”Who are the wizards?” asked Dorothy.

”Oz himself is the Great Wizard,” answered the Witch, sinking her voiceto a whisper. ”He is more powerful than all the rest of us together.He lives in the City of Emeralds.”

Dorothy was going to ask another question, but just then the Munchkins,who had been standing silently by, gave a loud shout and pointed to thecorner of the house where the Wicked Witch had been lying.

”What is it?” asked the little old woman, and looked, and began tolaugh. The feet of the dead Witch had disappeared entirely, andnothing was left but the silver shoes.

”She was so old,” explained the Witch of the North, ”that she dried upquickly in the sun. That is the end of her. But the silver shoes areyours, and you shall have them to wear.” She reached down and picked upthe shoes, and after shaking the dust out of them handed them toDorothy.

”The Witch of the East was proud of those silver shoes,” said one ofthe Munchkins, ”and there is some charm connected with them; but whatit is we never knew.”

Dorothy carried the shoes into the house and placed them on the table.Then she came out again to the Munchkins and said:

”I am anxious to get back to my aunt and uncle, for I am sure they willworry about me. Can you help me find my way?”

The Munchkins and the Witch first looked at one another, and then atDorothy, and then shook their heads.

”At the East, not far from here,” said one, ”there is a great desert,and none could live to cross it.”

”It is the same at the South,” said another, ”for I have been there andseen it. The South is the country of the Quadlings.”

”I am told,” said the third man, ”that it is the same at the West. Andthat country, where the Winkies live, is ruled by the Wicked Witch ofthe West, who would make you her slave if you passed her way.”

”The North is my home,” said the old lady, ”and at its edge is the samegreat desert that surrounds this Land of Oz. I'm afraid, my dear, youwill have to live with us.”

Dorothy began to sob at this, for she felt lonely among all thesestrange people. Her tears seemed to grieve the kind-hearted Munchkins,for they immediately took out their handkerchiefs and began to weepalso. As for the little old woman, she took off her cap and balancedthe point on the end of her nose, while she counted ”One, two, three”in a solemn voice. At once the cap changed to a slate, on which waswritten in big, white chalk marks:


The little old woman took the slate from her nose, and having read thewords on it, asked, ”Is your name Dorothy, my dear?”

”Yes,” answered the child, looking up and drying her tears.

”Then you must go to the City of Emeralds. Perhaps Oz will help you.”

”Where is this city?” asked Dorothy.

”It is exactly in the center of the country, and is ruled by Oz, theGreat Wizard I told you of.”

”Is he a good man?” inquired the girl anxiously.

”He is a good Wizard. Whether he is a man or not I cannot tell, for Ihave never seen him.”

”How can I get there?” asked Dorothy.

”You must walk. It is a long journey, through a country that issometimes pleasant and sometimes dark and terrible. However, I willuse all the magic arts I know of to keep you from harm.”

”Won't you go with me?” pleaded the girl, who had begun to look uponthe little old woman as her only friend.

”No, I cannot do that,” she replied, ”but I will give you my kiss, andno one will dare injure a person who has been kissed by the Witch ofthe North.”

She came close to Dorothy and kissed her gently on the forehead. Whereher lips touched the girl they left a round, shining mark, as Dorothyfound out soon after.

”The road to the City of Emeralds is paved with yellow brick,” said theWitch, ”so you cannot miss it. When you get to Oz do not be afraid ofhim, but tell your story and ask him to help you. Good-bye, my dear.”

The three Munchkins bowed low to her and wished her a pleasant journey,after which they walked away through the trees. The Witch gave Dorothya friendly little nod, whirled around on her left heel three times, andstraightway disappeared, much to the surprise of little Toto, whobarked after her loudly enough when she had gone, because he had beenafraid even to growl while she stood by.

But Dorothy, knowing her to be a witch, had expected her to disappearin just that way, and was not surprised in the least.