In the Jackdaw's Nest
"This," said the Gump, in a squeaky voice not at all proportioned to the size of its great body, "is the most novel experience I ever heard of. The last thing I remember distinctly is walking through the forest and hearing a loud noise. Something probably killed me then, and it certainly ought to have been the end of me. Yet here I am, alive again, with four monstrous wings and a body which I venture to say would make any respectable animal or fowl weep with shame to own. What does it all mean? Am I a Gump, or am I a juggernaut?" The creature, as it spoke, wiggled its chin whiskers in a very comical manner.
"You're just a Thing," answered Tip, "with a Gump's head on it. And we have made you and brought you to life so that you may carry us through the air wherever we wish to go."
"Very good!" said the Thing. "As I am not a Gump, I cannot have a Gump's pride or independent spirit. So I may as well become your servant as anything else. My only satisfaction is that I do not seem to have a very strong constitution, and am not likely to live long in a state of slavery."
"Don't say that, I beg of you!" cried the Tin Woodman, whose excellent heart was strongly affected by this sad speech. "Are you not feeling well today?"
"Oh, as for that," returned the Gump, "it is my first day of existence; so I cannot Judge whether I am feeling well or ill." And it waved its broom tail to and fro in a pensive manner.
"Come, come!" said the Scarecrow, kindly; "do try, to be more cheerful and take life as you find it. We shall be kind masters, and will strive to render your existence as pleasant as possible. Are you willing to carry us through the air wherever we wish to go?"
"Certainly," answered the Gump. "I greatly prefer to navigate the air. For should I travel on the earth and meet with one of my own species, my embarrassment would be something awful!"
"I can appreciate that," said the Tin Woodman, sympathetically.
"And yet," continued the Thing, "when I carefully look you over, my masters, none of you seems to be constructed much more artistically than I am."
"Appearances are deceitful," said the Woggle-Bug, earnestly. "I am both Highly Magnified and Thoroughly Educated."
"Indeed!" murmured the Gump, indifferently.
"And my brains are considered remarkably rare specimens," added the Scarecrow, proudly.
"How strange!" remarked the Gump.
"Although I am of tin," said the Woodman, "I own a heart altogether the warmest and most admirable in the whole world."
"I'm delighted to hear it," replied the Gump, with a slight cough.
"My smile," said Jack Pumpkinhead, "is worthy your best attention. It is always the same."
"Semper idem," explained the Woggle-Bug, pompously; and the Gump turned to stare at him.
"And I," declared the Saw-Horse, filling in an awkward pause, "am only remarkable because I can't help it."
"I am proud, indeed, to meet with such exceptional masters," said the Gump, in a careless tone. "If I could but secure so complete an introduction to myself, I would be more than satisfied."
"That will come in time," remarked the Scarecrow. "To 'Know Thyself' is considered quite an accomplishment, which it has taken us, who are your elders, months to perfect. But now," he added, turning to the others, "let us get aboard and start upon our journey."
"Where shall we go?" asked Tip, as he clambered to a seat on the sofas and assisted the Pumpkinhead to follow him.
"In the South Country rules a very delightful Queen called Glinda the Good, who I am sure will gladly receive us," said the Scarecrow, getting into the Thing clumsily. "Let us go to her and ask her advice."
"That is cleverly thought of," declared Nick Chopper, giving the Woggle-Bug a boost and then toppling the Saw-Horse into the rear end of the cushioned seats. "I know Glinda the Good, and believe she will prove a friend indeed."
"Are we all ready?" asked the boy.
"Yes," announced the Tin Woodman, seating himself beside the Scarecrow.
"Then," said Tip, addressing the Gump, "be kind enough to fly with us to the Southward; and do not go higher than to escape the houses and trees, for it makes me dizzy to be up so far."
"All right," answered the Gump, briefly.
It flopped its four huge wings and rose slowly into the air; and then, while our little band of adventurers clung to the backs and sides of the sofas for support, the Gump turned toward the South and soared swiftly and majestically away.
"The scenic effect, from this altitude, is marvelous," commented the educated Woggle-Bug, as they rode along.
"Never mind the scenery," said the Scarecrow. "Hold on tight, or you may get a tumble. The Thing seems to rock badly.'
"It will be dark soon," said Tip, observing that the sun was low on the horizon. "Perhaps we should have waited until morning. I wonder if the Gump can fly in the night."
"I've been wondering that myself," returned the Gump quietly. "You see, this is a new experience to me. I used to have legs that carried me swiftly over the ground. But now my legs feel as if they were asleep."
"They are," said Tip. "We didn't bring 'em to life."
"You're expected to fly," explained the Scarecrow; "not to walk."
"We can walk ourselves," said the Woggle-Bug.
"I begin to understand what is required of me," remarked the Gump; "so I will do my best to please you," and he flew on for a time in silence.
Presently Jack Pumpkinhead became uneasy.
"I wonder if riding through the air is liable to spoil pumpkins," he said.
"Not unless you carelessly drop your head over the side," answered the Woggle-Bug. "In that event your head would no longer be a pumpkin, for it would become a squash."
"Have I not asked you to restrain these unfeeling jokes?" demanded Tip, looking at the Woggle-Bug with a severe expression.
"You have; and I've restrained a good many of them," replied the insect. "But there are opportunities for so many excellent puns in our language that, to an educated person like myself, the temptation to express them is almost irresistible."
"People with more or less education discovered those puns centuries ago," said Tip.
"Are you sure?" asked the Woggle-Bug, with a startled look.
"Of course I am," answered the boy. "An educated Woggle-Bug may be a new thing; but a Woggle-Bug education is as old as the hills, judging from the display you make of it."
The insect seemed much impressed by this remark, and for a time maintained a meek silence.
The Scarecrow, in shifting his seat, saw upon the cushions the pepper-box which Tip had cast aside, and began to examine it.
"Throw it overboard," said the boy; "it's quite empty now, and there's no use keeping it."
"Is it really empty?" asked the Scarecrow, looking curiously into the box.
"Of course it is," answered Tip. "I shook out every grain of the powder.
"Then the box has two bottoms," announced the Scarecrow, "for the bottom on the inside is fully an inch away from the bottom on the outside."
"Let me see," said the Tin Woodman, taking the box from his friend. "Yes," he declared, after looking it over, "the thing certainly has a false bottom. Now, I wonder what that is for?"
"Can't you get it apart, and find out?" enquired Tip, now quite interested in the mystery.
"Why, yes; the lower bottom unscrews," said the Tin Woodman. "My fingers are rather stiff; please see if you can open it."
He handed the pepper-box to Tip, who had no difficulty in unscrewing the bottom. And in the cavity below were three silver pills, with a carefully folded paper lying underneath them.
This paper the boy proceeded to unfold, taking care not to spill the pills, and found several lines clearly written in red ink.
"Read it aloud," said the Scarecrow; so Tip read, as follows:
"Why, this is a very valuable discovery!" cried the Scarecrow.
"It is, indeed," replied Tip, gravely. "These pills may be of great use to us. I wonder if old Mombi knew they were in the bottom of the pepper-box. I remember hearing her say that she got the Powder of Life from this same Nikidik."
"He must be a powerful Sorcerer!" exclaimed the Tin Woodman; "and since the powder proved a success we ought to have confidence in the pills."
"But how," asked the Scarecrow, "can anyone count seventeen by twos? Seventeen is an odd number."
"That is true," replied Tip, greatly disappointed. "No one can possibly count seventeen by twos."
"Then the pills are of no use to us," wailed the Pumpkinhead; "and this fact overwhelms me with grief. For I had intended wishing that my head would never spoil."
"Nonsense!" said the Scarecrow, sharply. "If we could use the pills at all we would make far better wishes than that."
"I do not see how anything could be better," protested poor Jack. "If you were liable to spoil at any time you could understand my anxiety."
"For my part," said the Tin Woodman, "I sympathize with you in every respect. But since we cannot count seventeen by twos, sympathy is all you are liable to get."
By this time it had become quite dark, and the voyagers found above them a cloudy sky, through which the rays of the moon could not penetrate.
The Gump flew steadily on, and for some reason the huge sofa-body rocked more and more dizzily every hour.
The Woggle-Bug declared he was sea-sick; and Tip was also pale and somewhat distressed. But the others clung to the backs of the sofas and did not seem to mind the motion as long as they were not tipped out.
Darker and darker grew the night, and on and on sped the Gump through the black heavens. The travelers could not even see one another, and an oppressive silence settled down upon them.
After a long time Tip, who had been thinking deeply, spoke.
"How are we to know when we come to the palace of Glinda the Good?" he asked.
"It's a long way to Glinda's palace," answered the Woodman; "I've traveled it."
"But how are we to know how fast the Gump is flying?" persisted the boy. "We cannot see a single thing down on the earth, and before morning we may be far beyond the place we want to reach."
"That is all true enough," the Scarecrow replied, a little uneasily. "But I do not see how we can stop just now; for we might alight in a river, or on, the top of a steeple; and that would be a great disaster."
So they permitted the Gump to fly on, with regular flops of its great wings, and waited patiently for morning.
Then Tip's fears were proven to be well founded; for with the first streaks of gray dawn they looked over the sides of the sofas and discovered rolling plains dotted with queer villages, where the houses, instead of being dome-shaped—as they all are in the Land of Oz—had slanting roofs that rose to a peak in the center. Odd looking animals were also moving about upon the open plains, and the country was unfamiliar to both the Tin Woodman and the Scarecrow, who had formerly visited Glinda the Good's domain and knew it well.
"We are lost!" said the Scarecrow, dolefully. "The Gump must have carried us entirely out of the Land of Oz and over the sandy deserts and into the terrible outside world that Dorothy told us about."
"We must get back," exclaimed the Tin Woodman, earnestly; "we must get back as soon as possible!"
"Turn around!" cried Tip to the Gump; "turn as quickly as you can!"
"If I do I shall upset," answered the Gump. "I'm not at all used to flying, and the best plan would be for me to alight in some place, and then I can turn around and take a fresh start."
Just then, however, there seemed to be no stopping-place that would answer their purpose. They flew over a village so big that the Woggle-Bug declared it was a city; and then they came to a range of high mountains with many deep gorges and steep cliffs showing plainly.
"Now is our chance to stop," said the boy, finding they were very close to the mountain tops. Then he turned to the Gump and commanded: "Stop at the first level place you see!"
"Very well," answered the Gump, and settled down upon a table of rock that stood between two cliffs.
But not being experienced in such matters, the Gump did not judge his speed correctly; and instead of coming to a stop upon the flat rock he missed it by half the width of his body, breaking off both his right wings against the sharp edge of the rock and then tumbling over and over down the cliff.
Our friends held on to the sofas as long as they could, but when the Gump caught on a projecting rock the Thing stopped suddenly—bottom side up—and all were immediately dumped out.
By good fortune they fell only a few feet; for underneath them was a monster nest, built by a colony of Jackdaws in a hollow ledge of rock; so none of them—not even the Pumpkinhead—was injured by the fall. For Jack found his precious head resting on the soft breast of the Scarecrow, which made an excellent cushion; and Tip fell on a mass of leaves and papers, which saved him from injury. The Woggle-Bug had bumped his round head against the Saw-Horse, but without causing him more than a moment's inconvenience.
The Tin Woodman was at first much alarmed; but finding he had escaped without even a scratch upon his beautiful nickle-plate he at once regained his accustomed cheerfulness and turned to address his comrades.
"Our Journey had ended rather suddenly," said he; "and we cannot justly blame our friend the Gump for our accident, because he did the best he could under the circumstances. But how we are ever to escape from this nest I must leave to someone with better brains than I possess."
Here he gazed at the Scarecrow; who crawled to the edge of the nest and looked over. Below them was a sheer precipice several hundred feet in depth. Above them was a smooth cliff unbroken save by the point of rock where the wrecked body of the Gump still hung suspended from the end of one of the sofas. There really seemed to be no means of escape, and as they realized their helpless plight the little band of adventurers gave way to their bewilderment.
"This is a worse prison than the palace," sadly remarked the Woggle-Bug.
"I wish we had stayed there," moaned Jack.
"I'm afraid the mountain air isn't good for pumpkins."
"It won't be when the Jackdaws come back," growled the Saw-Horse, which lay waving its legs in a vain endeavor to get upon its feet again. "Jackdaws are especially fond of pumpkins."
"Do you think the birds will come here?" asked Jack, much distressed.
"Of course they will," said Tip; "for this is their nest. And there must be hundreds of them," he continued, "for see what a lot of things they have brought here!"
Indeed, the nest was half filled with a most curious collection of small articles for which the birds could have no use, but which the thieving Jackdaws had stolen during many years from the homes of men. And as the nest was safely hidden where no human being could reach it, this lost property would never be recovered.
The Woggle-Bug, searching among the rubbish—for the Jackdaws stole useless things as well as valuable ones—turned up with his foot a beautiful diamond necklace. This was so greatly admired by the Tin Woodman that the Woggle-Bug presented it to him with a graceful speech, after which the Woodman hung it around his neck with much pride, rejoicing exceedingly when the big diamonds glittered in the sun's rays.
But now they heard a great jabbering and flopping of wings, and as the sound grew nearer to them Tip exclaimed:
"The Jackdaws are coming! And if they find us here they will surely kill us in their anger."
"I was afraid of this!" moaned the Pumpkinhead. "My time has come!"
"And mine, also!" said the Woggle-Bug; "for Jackdaws are the greatest enemies of my race."
The others were not at all afraid; but the Scarecrow at once decided to save those of the party who were liable to be injured by the angry birds. So he commanded Tip to take off Jack's head and lie down with it in the bottom of the nest, and when this was done he ordered the Woggle-Bug to lie beside Tip. Nick Chopper, who knew from past experience just what to do, then took the Scarecrow to pieces (all except his head) and scattered the straw over Tip and the Woggle-Bug, completely covering their bodies.
Hardly had this been accomplished when the flock of Jackdaws reached them. Perceiving the intruders in their nest the birds flew down upon them with screams of rage.