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|Tik-Tok of Oz||L. Frank Baum|
Shaggy Seeks his Stray Brother
|Page 3 of 5||
"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."
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|Tik-Tok of Oz
L. Frank Baum
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