Now, General Jinjur—who, you will remember, commanded the Army of Revolt—was rendered very uneasy by the escape of the Scarecrow from the Emerald City. She feared, and with good reason, that if his Majesty and the Tin Woodman Joined forces, it would mean danger to her and her entire army; for the people of Oz had not yet forgotten the deeds of these famous heroes, who had passed successfully through so many startling adventures.
So Jinjur sent post-haste for old Mombi, the witch, and promised her large rewards if she would come to the assistance of the rebel army.
Mombi was furious at the trick Tip had played upon her as well as at his escape and the theft of the precious Powder of Life; so she needed no urging to induce her to travel to the Emerald City to assist Jinjur in defeating the Scarecrow and the Tin Woodman, who had made Tip one of their friends.
Mombi had no sooner arrived at the royal palace than she discovered, by means of her secret magic, that the adventurers were starting upon their Journey to the Emerald City; so she retired to a small room high up in a tower and locked herself in while she practised such arts as she could command to prevent the return of the Scarecrow and his companions.
That was why the Tin Woodman presently stopped and said:
“Something very curious has happened. I ought to know by heart and every step of this Journey, yet I fear we have already lost our way.”
“That is quite impossible!” protested the Scarecrow. “Why do you think, my dear friend, that we have gone astray?”
“Why, here before us is a great field of sunflowers—and I never saw this field before in all my life.”
At these words they all looked around, only to find that they were indeed surrounded by a field of tall stalks, every stalk bearing at its top a gigantic sunflower. And not only were these flowers almost blinding in their vivid hues of red and gold, but each one whirled around upon its stalk like a miniature wind-mill, completely dazzling the vision of the beholders and so mystifying them that they knew not which way to turn.
“It’s witchcraft!” exclaimed Tip.
While they paused, hesitating and wondering, the Tin Woodman uttered a cry of impatience and advanced with swinging axe to cut down the stalks before him. But now the sunflowers suddenly stopped their rapid whirling, and the travelers plainly saw a girl’s face appear in the center of each flower. These lovely faces looked upon the astonished band with mocking smiles, and then burst into a chorus of merry laughter at the dismay their appearance caused.
“Stop! stop!” cried Tip, seizing the Woodman’s arm; “they’re alive! they’re girls!”
At that moment the flowers began whirling again, and the faces faded away and were lost in the rapid revolutions.
The Tin Woodman dropped his axe and sat down upon the ground.
“It would be heartless to chop down those pretty creatures,” said he, despondently. “and yet I do not know how else we can proceed upon our way”
“They looked to me strangely like the faces of the Army of Revolt,” mused the Scarecrow. “But I cannot conceive how the girls could have followed us here so quickly.”
“I believe it’s magic,” said Tip, positively, “and that someone is playing a trick upon us. I’ve known old Mombi do things like that before. Probably it’s nothing more than an illusion, and there are no sunflowers here at all.”
“Then let us shut our eyes and walk forward,” suggested the Woodman.
“Excuse me,” replied the Scarecrow. “My eyes are not painted to shut. Because you happen to have tin eyelids, you must not imagine we are all built in the same way.”
“And the eyes of the Saw-Horse are knot eyes,” said Jack, leaning forward to examine them.
“Nevertheless, you must ride quickly forward,” commanded Tip, “and we will follow after you and so try to escape. My eyes are already so dazzled that I can scarcely see.”
So the Pumpkinhead rode boldly forward, and Tip grasped the stub tail of the Saw-Horse and followed with closed eyes. The Scarecrow and the Tin Woodman brought up the rear, and before they had gone many yards a Joyful shout from Jack announced that the way was clear before them.
Then all paused to look backward, but not a trace of the field of sunflowers remained.
More cheerfully, now they proceeded upon their Journey; but old Mombi had so changed the appearance of the landscape that they would surely have been lost had not the Scarecrow wisely concluded to take their direction from the sun. For no witch-craft could change the course of the sun, and it was therefore a safe guide.
However, other difficulties lay before them. The Saw-Horse stepped into a rabbit hole and fell to the ground. The Pumpkinhead was pitched high into the air, and his history would probably have ended at that exact moment had not the Tin Woodman skillfully caught the pumpkin as it descended and saved it from injury.
Tip soon had it fitted to the neck again and replaced Jack upon his feet. But the Saw-Horse did not escape so easily. For when his leg was pulled from the rabbit hole it was found to be broken short off, and must be replaced or repaired before he could go a step farther.
“This is quite serious,” said the Tin Woodman. “If there were trees near by I might soon manufacture another leg for this animal; but I cannot see even a shrub for miles around.”
“And there are neither fences nor houses in this part of the land of Oz,” added the Scarecrow, disconsolately.
“Then what shall we do?” enquired the boy.
“I suppose I must start my brains working,” replied his Majesty the Scarecrow; “for experience has, taught me that I can do anything if I but take time to think it out.”
“Let us all think,” said Tip; “and perhaps we shall find a way to repair the Saw-Horse.”
So they sat in a row upon the grass and began to think, while the Saw-Horse occupied itself by gazing curiously upon its broken limb.
“Does it hurt?” asked the Tin Woodman, in a soft, sympathetic voice.
“Not in the least,” returned the Saw-Horse; “but my pride is injured to find that my anatomy is so brittle.”
For a time the little group remained in silent thought. Presently the Tin Woodman raised his head and looked over the fields.
“What sort of creature is that which approaches us?” he asked, wonderingly.
The others followed his gaze, and discovered coming toward them the most extraordinary object they had ever beheld. It advanced quickly and noiselessly over the soft grass and in a few minutes stood before the adventurers and regarded them with an astonishment equal to their own.
The Scarecrow was calm under all circumstances.
“Good morning!” he said, politely.
The stranger removed his hat with a flourish, bowed very low, and then responded:
“Good morning, one and all. I hope you are, as an aggregation, enjoying excellent health. Permit me to present my card.”
With this courteous speech it extended a card toward the Scarecrow, who accepted it, turned it over and over, and handed it with a shake of his head to Tip.
The boy read aloud:
“MR. H. M. WOGGLE-BUG, T. E.”
“Dear me!” ejaculated the Pumpkinhead, staring somewhat intently.
“How very peculiar!” said the Tin Woodman.
Tip’s eyes were round and wondering, and the Saw-Horse uttered a sigh and turned away its head.
“Are you really a Woggle-Bug?” enquired the Scarecrow.
“Most certainly, my dear sir!” answered the stranger, briskly. “Is not my name upon the card?”
“It is,” said the Scarecrow. “But may I ask what ‘H. M.’ stands for?”
“‘H. M.’ means Highly Magnified,” returned the Woggle-Bug, proudly.
“Oh, I see.” The Scarecrow viewed the stranger critically. “And are you, in truth, highly magnified?”
“Sir,” said the Woggle-Bug, “I take you for a gentleman of judgment and discernment. Does it not occur to you that I am several thousand times greater than any Woggle-Bug you ever saw before? Therefore it is plainly evident that I am Highly Magnified, and there is no good reason why you should doubt the fact.”
“Pardon me,” returned the Scarecrow. “My brains are slightly mixed since I was last laundered. Would it be improper for me to ask, also, what the ‘T.E.’ at the end of your name stands for?”
“Those letters express my degree,” answered the Woggle-Bug, with a condescending smile. “To be more explicit, the initials mean that I am Thoroughly Educated.”
“Oh!” said the Scarecrow, much relieved.
Tip had not yet taken his eyes off this wonderful personage. What he saw was a great, round, buglike body supported upon two slender legs which ended in delicate feet—the toes curling upward. The body of the Woggle-Bug was rather flat, and judging from what could be seen of it was of a glistening dark brown color upon the back, while the front was striped with alternate bands of light brown and white, blending together at the edges. Its arms were fully as slender as its legs, and upon a rather long neck was perched its head—not unlike the head of a man, except that its nose ended in a curling antenna, or “feeler,” and its ears from the upper points bore antennae that decorated the sides of its head like two miniature, curling pig tails. It must be admitted that the round, black eyes were rather bulging in appearance; but the expression upon the Woggle-Bug’s face was by no means unpleasant.
For dress the insect wore a dark-blue swallowtail coat with a yellow silk lining and a flower in the button-hole; a vest of white duck that stretched tightly across the wide body; knickerbockers of fawn-colored plush, fastened at the knees with gilt buckles; and, perched upon its small head, was jauntily set a tall silk hat.
Standing upright before our amazed friends the Woggle-Bug appeared to be fully as tall as the Tin Woodman; and surely no bug in all the Land of Oz had ever before attained so enormous a size.
“I confess,” said the Scarecrow, “that your abrupt appearance has caused me surprise, and no doubt has startled my companions. I hope, however, that this circumstance will not distress you. We shall probably get used to you in time.”
“Do not apologize, I beg of you!” returned the Woggle-Bug, earnestly. “It affords me great pleasure to surprise people; for surely I cannot be classed with ordinary insects and am entitled to both curiosity and admiration from those I meet.”
“You are, indeed,” agreed his Majesty.
“If you will permit me to seat myself in your august company,” continued the stranger, “I will gladly relate my history, so that you will be better able to comprehend my unusual—may I say remarkable?—appearance.”
“You may say what you please,” answered the Tin Woodman, briefly.
So the Woggle-Bug sat down upon the grass, facing the little group of wanderers, and told them the following story: