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|The Tin Woodman of Oz||L. Frank Baum|
The Invisible Country
|Page 5 of 7||
The travelers looked at the beast, and then they looked across the ditch at the level plain beyond. On the other side the grass had grown tall, and the sun had dried it, so there was a fine crop of hay that only needed to be cut and stacked.
"Why don't you cross over and eat hay?" the boy asked the beast.
"I'm not fond of hay," replied the Hip-po-gy-raf; "straw is much more delicious, to my notion, and it's more scarce in this neighborhood, too. Also I must confess that I can't get across the ditch, for my body is too heavy and clumsy for me to jump the distance. I can stretch my neck across, though, and you will notice that I've nibbled the hay on the farther edge -- not because I liked it, but because one must eat, and if one can't get the sort of food he desires, he must take what is offered or go hungry."
"Ah, I see you are a philosopher," remarked the Scarecrow.
"No, I'm just a Hip-po-gy-raf," was the reply.
Polychrome was not afraid of the big beast. She danced close to him and said:
"If you can stretch your neck across the ditch, why not help us over? We can sit on your big head, one at a time, and then you can lift us across."
"Yes; I can, it is true," answered the Hip-po; "but I refuse to do it. Unless --" he added, and stopped short.
"Unless what?" asked Polychrome.
"Unless you first allow me to eat the straw with which the Scarecrow is stuffed."
"No," said the Rainbow's Daughter, "that is too high a price to pay. Our friend's straw is nice and fresh, for he was restuffed only a little while ago."
"I know," agreed the Hip-po-gy-raf. "That's why I want it. If it was old, musty straw, I wouldn't care for it."
"Please lift us across," pleaded Polychrome.
"No," replied the beast; "since you refuse my generous offer, I can be as stubborn as you are."
After that they were all silent for a time, but then the Scarecrow said bravely:
"Friends, let us agree to the beast's terms. Give him my straw, and carry the rest of me with you across the ditch. Once on the other side, the Tin Soldier can cut some of the hay with his sharp sword, and you can stuff me with that material until we reach a place where there is straw. It is true I have been stuffed with straw all my life and it will be somewhat humiliating to be filled with common hay, but I am willing to sacrifice my pride in a good cause. Moreover, to abandon our errand and so deprive the great Emperor of the Winkies -- or this noble Soldier -- of his bride, would be equally humiliating, if not more so."
"You're a very honest and clever man!" exclaimed the Hip-po-gy-raf, admiringly. "When I have eaten your head, perhaps I also will become clever."
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|The Tin Woodman of Oz
L. Frank Baum
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