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16. How Dorothy Visited Utensia
There must have been from six to eight dozen spoons in the Brigade, and they marched away in the shape of a hollow square, with Dorothy, Billina and Toto in the center of the square. Before they had gone very far Toto knocked over one of the spoons by wagging his tail, and then the Captain of the Spoons told the little dog to be more careful, or he would be punished. So Toto was careful, and the Spoon Brigade moved along with astonishing swiftness, while Dorothy really had to walk fast to keep up with it.
By and by they left the woods and entered a big clearing, in which was the Kingdom of Utensia.
Standing all around the clearing were a good many cookstoves, ranges and grills, of all sizes and shapes, and besides these there were several kitchen cabinets and cupboards and a few kitchen tables. These things were crowded with utensils of all sorts: frying pans, sauce pans, kettles, forks, knives, basting and soup spoons, nutmeg graters, sifters, colanders, meat saws, flat irons, rolling pins and many other things of a like nature.
When the Spoon Brigade appeared with the prisoners a wild shout arose and many of the utensils hopped off their stoves or their benches and ran crowding around Dorothy and the hen and the dog.
"Stand back!" cried the Captain, sternly, and he led his captives through the curious throng until they came before a big range that stood in the center of the clearing. Beside this range was a butcher block upon which lay a great cleaver with a keen edge. It rested upon the flat of its back, its legs were crossed and it was smoking a long pipe.
"Wake up, your Majesty," said the Captain. "Here are prisoners."
Hearing this, King Kleaver sat up and looked at Dorothy sharply.
"Gristle and fat!" he cried. "Where did this girl come from?"
"I found her in the forest and brought her here a prisoner," replied the Captain.
"Why did you do that?" inquired the King, puffing his pipe lazily.
"To create some excitement," the Captain answered. "It is so quiet here that we are all getting rusty for want of amusement. For my part, I prefer to see stirring times."
"Naturally," returned the cleaver, with a nod. "I have always said, Captain, without a bit of irony, that you are a sterling officer and a solid citizen, bowled and polished to a degree. But what do you expect me to do with these prisoners?"
"That is for you to decide," declared the Captain. "You are the King."
"To be sure; to be sure," muttered the cleaver, musingly. "As you say, we have had dull times since the steel and grindstone eloped and left us. Command my Counselors and the Royal Courtiers to attend me, as well as the High Priest and the Judge. We'll then decide what can be done."
The Captain saluted and retired and Dorothy sat down on an overturned kettle and asked:
"Have you anything to eat in your kingdom?"
"Here! Get up! Get off from me!" cried a faint voice, at which his Majesty the cleaver said:
"Excuse me, but you're sitting on my friend the Ten-quart Kettle."
Dorothy at once arose, and the kettle turned right side up and looked at her reproachfully.
"I'm a friend of the King, so no one dares sit on me," said he.
"I'd prefer a chair, anyway," she replied.
"Sit on that hearth," commanded the King.
So Dorothy sat on the hearth-shelf of the big range, and the subjects of Utensia began to gather around in a large and inquisitive throng. Toto lay at Dorothy's feet and Billina flew upon the range, which had no fire in it, and perched there as comfortably as she could.
When all the Counselors and Courtiers had assembled - and these seemed to include most of the inhabitants of the kingdom - the King rapped on the block for order and said:
"Friends and Fellow Utensils! Our worthy Commander of the Spoon Brigade, Captain Dipp, has captured the three prisoners you see before you and brought them here for - for - I don't know what for. So I ask your advice how to act in this matter, and what fate I should mete out to these captives. Judge Sifter, stand on my right. It is your business to sift this affair to the bottom. High Priest Colender, stand on my left and see that no one testifies falsely in this matter."
As these two officials took their places, Dorothy asked:
"Why is the colander the High Priest?"
"He's the holiest thing we have in the kingdom," replied King Kleaver.
"Except me," said a sieve. "I'm the whole thing when it comes to holes."
"What we need," remarked the King, rebukingly, "is a wireless sieve. I must speak to Marconi about it. These old-fashioned sieves talk too much. Now, it is the duty of the King's Counselors to counsel the King at all times of emergency, so I beg you to speak out and advise me what to do with these prisoners."
"I demand that they be killed several times, until they are dead!" shouted a pepperbox, hopping around very excitedly.
"Compose yourself, Mr. Paprica," advised the King. "Your remarks are piquant and highly-seasoned, but you need a scattering of commonsense. It is only necessary to kill a person once to make him dead; but I do not see that it is necessary to kill this little girl at all."
"I don't, either," said Dorothy.
"Pardon me, but you are not expected to advise me in this matter," replied King Kleaver.
"Why not?" asked Dorothy.
"You might be prejudiced in your own favor, and so mislead us," he said. "Now then, good subjects, who speaks next?"
"I'd like to smooth this thing over, in some way," said a flatiron, earnestly. "We are supposed to be useful to mankind, you know."
"But the girl isn't mankind! She's womankind!" yelled a corkscrew.
"What do you know about it?" inquired the King.
"I'm a lawyer," said the corkscrew, proudly. "I am accustomed to appear at the bar."
"But you're crooked," retorted the King, "and that debars you. You may be a corking good lawyer, Mr. Popp, but I must ask you to withdraw your remarks."
"Very well," said the corkscrew, sadly; "I see I haven't any pull at this court."
"Permit me," continued the flatiron, "to press my suit, your Majesty. I do not wish to gloss over any fault the prisoner may have committed, if such a fault exists; but we owe her some consideration, and that's flat!"
"I'd like to hear from Prince Karver," said the King.
At this a stately carvingknife stepped forward and bowed.
"The Captain was wrong to bring this girl here, and she was wrong to come," he said. "But now that the foolish deed is done let us all prove our mettle and have a slashing good time."
"That's it! that's it!" screamed a fat choppingknife. "We'll make mincemeat of the girl and hash of the chicken and sausage of the dog!"
There was a shout of approval at this and the King had to rap again for order.
"Gentlemen, gentlemen!" he said, "your remarks are somewhat cutting and rather disjointed, as might be expected from such acute intellects. But you give me no reasons for your demands."
"See here, Kleaver; you make me tired," said a saucepan, strutting before the King very impudently. "You're about the worst King that ever reigned in Utensia, and that's saying a good deal. Why don't you run things yourself, instead of asking everybody's advice, like the big, clumsy idiot you are?"
The King sighed.
"I wish there wasn't a saucepan in my kingdom," he said. "You fellows are always stewing, over something, and every once in a while you slop over and make a mess of it. Go hang yourself, sir - by the handle - and don't let me hear from you again."
Dorothy was much shocked by the dreadful language the utensils employed, and she thought that they must have had very little proper training. So she said, addressing the King, who seemed very unfit to rule his turbulent subjects:
"I wish you'd decide my fate right away. I can't stay here all day, trying to find out what you're going to do with me."
"This thing is becoming a regular broil, and it's time I took part in it," observed a big gridiron, coming forward.
"What I'd like to know," said a can-opener, in a shrill voice, "is why the little girl came to our forest anyhow and why she intruded upon Captain Dipp - who ought to be called Dippy - and who she is, and where she came from, and where she is going, and why and wherefore and therefore and when."
"I'm sorry to see, Sir Jabber," remarked the King to the can-opener, "that you have such a prying disposition. As a matter of fact, all the things you mention are none of our business."
Having said this the King relighted his pipe, which had gone out.
"Tell me, please, what IS our business?" inquired a potato-masher, winking at Dorothy somewhat impertinently. "I'm fond of little girls, myself, and it seems to me she has as much right to wander in the forest as we have."
"Who accuses the little girl, anyway?" inquired a rolling-pin. "What has she done?"
"I don't know," said the King. "What has she done, Captain Dipp?"
"That's the trouble, your Majesty. She hasn't done anything," replied the Captain.
"What do you want me to do?" asked Dorothy.
This question seemed to puzzle them all. Finally, a chafingdish, exclaimed irritably:
"If no one can throw any light on this subject you must excuse me if I go out."
At this, a big kitchen fork pricked up its ears and said in a tiny voice:
"Let's hear from Judge Sifter."
"That's proper," returned the King.
So Judge Sifter turned around slowly several times and then said:
"We have nothing against the girl except the stove-hearth upon which she sits. Therefore I order her instantly discharged."
"Discharged!" cried Dorothy. "Why, I never was discharged in my life, and I don't intend to be. If it's all the same to you, I'll resign."
"It's all the same," declared the King. "You are free - you and your companions - and may go wherever you like."
"Thank you," said the little girl. "But haven't you anything to eat in your kingdom? I'm hungry."
"Go into the woods and pick blackberries," advised the King, lying down upon his back again and preparing to go to sleep. "There isn't a morsel to eat in all Utensia, that I know of."
So Dorothy jumped up and said:
"Come on, Toto and Billina. If we can't find the camp, we may find some blackberries."
The utensils drew back and allowed them to pass without protest, although Captain Dipp marched the Spoon Brigade in close order after them until they had reached the edge of the clearing.
There the spoons halted; but Dorothy and her companions entered the forest again and began searching diligently for a way back to the camp, that they might rejoin their party.
Turn to the next chapter: 17. How They Came to Bunbury