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|The Emerald City of Oz||L. Frank Baum|
11. How the General Met the First and Foremost
|Page 2 of 5||
When Guph stumbled over the rocks in approaching the bridge the creature opened its eyes, from which tiny flames shot in all directions, and after looking at the intruder very wickedly the scarlet alligator closed its eyelids again and lay still.
Guph saw there was no room for him to pass the alligator on the narrow bridge, so he called out to it:
"Good morning, friend. I don't wish to hurry you, but please tell me if you are coming down, or going up?"
"Neither," snapped the alligator, clicking its cruel jaws together.
The General hesitated.
"Are you likely to stay there long?" he asked.
"A few hundred years or so," said the alligator.
Guph softly rubbed the end of his nose and tried to think what to do.
"Do you know whether the First and Foremost Phanfasm of Phantastico is at home or not?" he presently inquired.
"I expect he is, seeing he is always at home," replied the alligator.
"Ah; who is that coming down the mountain?" asked the Nome, gazing upward.
The alligator turned to look over its shoulder, and at once Guph ran to the bridge and leaped over the sentinel's back before it could turn back again. The scarlet monster made a snap at the Nome's left foot, but missed it by fully an inch.
"Ah ha!" laughed the General, who was now on the mountain path. "I fooled you that time."
"So you did; and perhaps you fooled yourself," retorted the alligator. "Go up the mountain, if you dare, and find out what the First and Foremost will do to you!"
"I will," declared Guph, boldly; and on he went up the path.
At first the scene was wild enough, but gradually it grew more and more awful in appearance. All the rocks had the shapes of frightful beings and even the tree trunks were gnarled and twisted like serpents.
Suddenly there appeared before the Nome a man with the head of an owl. His body was hairy like that of an ape, and his only clothing was a scarlet scarf twisted around his waist. He bore a huge club in his hand and his round owl eyes blinked fiercely upon the intruder.
"What are you doing here?" he demanded, threatening Guph with his club.
"I've come to see the First and Foremost Phanfasm of Phantastico," replied the General, who did not like the way this creature looked at him, but still was not afraid.
"Ah; you shall see him!" the man said, with a sneering laugh. "The First and Foremost shall decide upon the best way to punish you."
"He will not punish me," returned Guph, calmly, "for I have come here to do him and his people a rare favor. Lead on, fellow, and take me directly to your master."
The owl-man raised his club with a threatening gesture.
"If you try to escape," he said, "beware--"
But here the General interrupted him.
"Spare your threats," said he, "and do not be impertinent, or I will have you severely punished. Lead on, and keep silent!"
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|The Emerald City of Oz
L. Frank Baum
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