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23. How They Encountered the Flutterbudgets
They were soon among the pretty hills and valleys again, and the Sawhorse sped up hill and down at a fast and easy pace, the roads being hard and smooth. Mile after mile was speedily covered, and before the ride had grown at all tiresome they sighted another village. The place seemed even larger than Rigmarole Town, but was not so attractive in appearance.
"This must be Flutterbudget Center," declared the Wizard. "You see, it's no trouble at all to find places if you keep to the right road."
"What are the Flutterbudgets like?" inquired Dorothy.
"I do not know, my dear. But Ozma has given them a town all their own, and I've heard that whenever one of the people becomes a Flutterbudget he is sent to this place to live."
"That is true," Omby Amby added; "Flutterbudget Center and Rigmarole Town are called 'the Defensive Settlements of Oz.'"
The village they now approached was not built in a valley, but on top of a hill, and the road they followed wound around the hill, like a corkscrew, ascending the hill easily until it came to the town.
"Look out!" screamed a voice. "Look out, or you'll run over my child!"
They gazed around and saw a woman standing upon the sidewalk nervously wringing her hands as she gazed at them appealingly.
"Where is your child?" asked the Sawhorse.
"In the house," said the woman, bursting into tears; "but if it should happen to be in the road, and you ran over it, those great wheels would crush my darling to jelly. Oh dear! oh dear! Think of my darling child being crushed into jelly by those great wheels!"
"Gid-dap!" said the Wizard sharply, and the Sawhorse started on.
They had not gone far before a man ran out of a house shouting wildly, "Help! Help!"
The Sawhorse stopped short and the Wizard and Uncle Henry and the Shaggy Man and Omby Amby jumped out of the wagon and ran to the poor man's assistance. Dorothy followed them as quickly as she could.
"What's the matter?" asked the Wizard.
"Help! help!" screamed the man; "my wife has cut her finger off and she's bleeding to death!"
Then he turned and rushed back to the house, and all the party went with him. They found a woman in the front dooryard moaning and groaning as if in great pain.
"Be brave, madam!" said the Wizard, consolingly. "You won't die just because you have cut off a finger, you may be sure."
"But I haven't cut off a finger!" she sobbed.
"Then what HAS happened?" asked Dorothy.
"I - I pricked my finger with a needle while I was sewing, and - and the blood came!" she replied. "And now I'll have blood-poisoning, and the doctors will cut off my finger, and that will give me a fever and I shall die!"
"Pshaw!" said Dorothy; "I've pricked my finger many a time, and nothing happened."
"Really?" asked the woman, brightening and wiping her eyes upon her apron.
"Why, it's nothing at all," declared the girl. "You're more scared than hurt."
"Ah, that's because she's a Flutterbudget," said the Wizard, nodding wisely. "I think I know now what these people are like."
"So do I," announced Dorothy.
"Oh, boo-hoo-hoo!" sobbed the woman, giving way to a fresh burst of grief.
"What's wrong now?" asked the Shaggy Man.
"Oh, suppose I had pricked my foot!" she wailed. "Then the doctors would have cut my foot off, and I'd be lamed for life!"
"Surely, ma'am," replied the Wizard, "and if you'd pricked your nose they might cut your head off. But you see you didn't."
"But I might have!" she exclaimed, and began to cry again. So they left her and drove away in their wagon. And her husband came out and began calling "Help!" as he had before; but no one seemed to pay any attention to him.
As the travelers turned into another street they found a man walking excitedly up and down the pavement. He appeared to be in a very nervous condition and the Wizard stopped him to ask:
"Is anything wrong, sir?"
"Everything is wrong," answered the man, dismally. "I can't sleep."
"Why not?" inquired Omby Amby.
"If I go to sleep I'll have to shut my eyes," he explained; "and if I shut my eyes they may grow together, and then I'd be blind for life!"
"Did you ever hear of any one's eyes growing together?" asked Dorothy.
"No," said the man, "I never did. But it would be a dreadful thing, wouldn't it? And the thought of it makes me so nervous I'm afraid to go to sleep."
"There's no help for this case," declared the Wizard; and they went on.
At the next street corner a woman rushed up to them crying:
"Save my baby! Oh, good, kind people, save my baby!"
"Is it in danger?" asked Dorothy, noticing that the child was clasped in her arms and seemed sleeping peacefully.
"Yes, indeed," said the woman, nervously. "If I should go into the house and throw my child out of the window, it would roll way down to the bottom of the hill; and then if there were a lot of tigers and bears down there, they would tear my darling babe to pieces and eat it up!"
"Are there any tigers and bears in this neighborhood?" the Wizard asked.
"I've never heard of any," admitted the woman, "but if there were - "
"Have you any idea of throwing your baby out of the window?" questioned the little man.
"None at all," she said; "but if - "
"All your troubles are due to those 'ifs'," declared the Wizard. "If you were not a Flutterbudget you wouldn't worry."
"There's another 'if'," replied the woman. "Are you a Flutterbudget, too?"
"I will be, if I stay here long," exclaimed the Wizard, nervously.
"Another 'if'!" cried the woman.
But the Wizard did not stop to argue with her. He made the Sawhorse canter all the way down the hill, and only breathed easily when they were miles away from the village.
After they had ridden in silence for a while Dorothy turned to the little man and asked:
"Do 'ifs' really make Flutterbudgets?"
"I think the 'ifs' help," he answered seriously. "Foolish fears, and worries over nothing, with a mixture of nerves and ifs, will soon make a Flutterbudget of any one."
Then there was another long silence, for all the travelers were thinking over this statement, and nearly all decided it must be true.
The country they were now passing through was everywhere tinted purple, the prevailing color of the Gillikin Country; but as the Sawhorse ascended a hill they found that upon the other side everything was of a rich yellow hue.
"Aha!" cried the Captain General; "here is the Country of the Winkies. We are just crossing the boundary line."
"Then we may be able to lunch with the Tin Woodman," announced the Wizard, joyfully.
"Must we lunch on tin?" asked Aunt Em.
"Oh, no;" replied Dorothy. "Nick Chopper knows how to feed meat people, and he will give us plenty of good things to eat, never fear. I've been to his castle before."
"Is Nick Chopper the Tin Woodman's name?" asked Uncle Henry.
"Yes; that's one of his names," answered the little girl; "and another of his names is 'Emp'ror of the Winkies.' He's the King of this country, you know, but Ozma rules over all the countries of Oz."
"Does the Tin Woodman keep any Flutterbudgets or Rigmaroles at his castle?" inquired Aunt Em, uneasily.
"No indeed," said Dorothy, positively. "He lives in a new tin castle, all full of lovely things."
"I should think it would rust," said Uncle Henry.
"He has thousands of Winkies to keep it polished for him," explained the Wizard. "His people love to do anything in their power for their beloved Emperor, so there isn't a particle of rust on all the big castle."
"I suppose they polish their Emperor, too," said Aunt Em.
"Why, some time ago he had himself nickel-plated," the Wizard answered; "so he only needs rubbing up once in a while. He's the brightest man in all the world, is dear Nick Chopper; and the kindest-hearted."
"I helped find him," said Dorothy, reflectively. "Once the Scarecrow and I found the Tin Woodman in the woods, and he was just rusted still, that time, an' no mistake. But we oiled his joints an' got 'em good and slippery, and after that he went with us to visit the Wizard at the Em'rald City."
"Was that the time the Wizard scared you?" asked Aunt Em.
"He didn't treat us well, at first," acknowledged Dorothy; "for he made us go away and destroy the Wicked Witch. But after we found out he was only a humbug wizard we were not afraid of him."
The Wizard sighed and looked a little ashamed.
"When we try to deceive people we always make mistakes," he said. "But I'm getting to be a real wizard now, and Glinda the Good's magic, that I am trying to practice, can never harm any one."
"You were always a good man," declared Dorothy, "even when you were a bad wizard."
"He's a good wizard now," asserted Aunt Em, looking at the little man admiringly. "The way he made those tents grow out of handkerchiefs was just wonderful! And didn't he enchant the wagon wheels so they'd find the road?"
"All the people of Oz," said the Captain General, "are very proud of their Wizard. He once made some soap-bubbles that astonished the world."
The Wizard blushed at this praise, yet it pleased him. He no longer looked sad, but seemed to have recovered his usual good humor.
The country through which they now rode was thickly dotted with farmhouses, and yellow grain waved in all the fields. Many of the Winkies could be seen working on their farms and the wild and unsettled parts of Oz were by this time left far behind.
These Winkies appeared to be happy, light-hearted folk, and all removed their caps and bowed low when the red wagon with its load of travelers passed by.
It was not long before they saw something glittering in the sunshine far ahead.
"See!" cried Dorothy; "that's the Tin Castle, Aunt Em!"
And the Sawhorse, knowing his passengers were eager to arrive, broke into a swift trot that soon brought them to their destination.
Turn to the next chapter: 24. How the Tin Woodman Told the Sad News