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|Ozma of Oz||L. Frank Baum|
The Nome King Laughs
|Page 1 of 3||
In a moment the King returned to his throne and relighted his pipe, and the rest of the little band of adventurers settled themselves for another long wait. They were greatly disheartened by the failure of their girl Ruler, and the knowledge that she was now an ornament in the Nome King's palace--a dreadful, creepy place in spite of all its magnificence. Without their little leader they did not know what to do next, and each one, down to the trembling private of the army, began to fear he would soon be more ornamental than useful.
Suddenly the Nome King began laughing.
"Ha, ha, ha! He, he, he! Ho, ho, ho!"
"What's happened?" asked the Scarecrow.
"Why, your friend, the Tin Woodman, has become the funniest thing you can imagine," replied the King, wiping the tears of merriment from his eyes. "No one would ever believe he could make such an amusing ornament. Next!"
They gazed at each other with sinking hearts. One of the generals began to weep dolefully.
"What are you crying for?" asked the Scarecrow, indignant at such a display of weakness.
"He owed me six weeks back pay," said the general, "and I hate to lose him."
"Then you shall go and find him," declared the Scarecrow.
"Me!" cried the general, greatly alarmed.
"Certainly. It is your duty to follow your commander. March!"
"I won't," said the general. "I'd like to, of course; but I just simply WON'T."
The Scarecrow looked enquiringly at the Nome King.
"Never mind," said the jolly monarch. "If he doesn't care to enter the palace and make his guesses I'll throw him into one of my fiery furnaces."
"I'll go!--of course I'm going," yelled the general, as quick as scat. "Where is the entrance--where is it? Let me go at once!"
So the Nome King escorted him into the palace, and again returned to await the result. What the general did, no one can tell; but it was not long before the King called for the next victim, and a colonel was forced to try his fortune.
Thus, one after another, all of the twenty-six officers filed into the palace and made their guesses-- and became ornaments.
Meantime the King ordered refreshments to be served to those waiting, and at his command a rudely shaped Nome entered, bearing a tray. This Nome was not unlike the others that Dorothy had seen, but he wore a heavy gold chain around his neck to show that he was the Chief Steward of the Nome King, and he assumed an air of much importance, and even told his majesty not to eat too much cake late at night, or he would be ill.
Dorothy, however, was hungry, and she was not afraid of being ill; so she ate several cakes and found them good, and also she drank a cup of excellent coffee made of a richly flavored clay, browned in the furnaces and then ground fine, and found it most refreshing and not at all muddy.
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|Ozma of Oz
L. Frank Baum
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