Dorothy and her fellow travelers rode away from the Cuttenclip village and followed the indistinct path as far as the sign-post. Here they took the main road again and proceeded pleasantly through the pretty farming country. When evening came they stopped at a dwelling and were joyfully welcomed and given plenty to eat and good beds for the night.
Early next morning, however, they were up and eager to start, and after a good breakfast they bade their host good-bye and climbed into the red wagon, to which the Sawhorse had been hitched all night. Being made of wood, this horse never got tired nor cared to lie down. Dorothy was not quite sure whether he ever slept or not, but it was certain that he never did when anybody was around.
The weather is always beautiful in Oz, and this morning the air was cool and refreshing and the sunshine brilliant and delightful.
In about an hour they came to a place where another road branched off. There was a sign-post here which read:
THIS WAY TO FUDDLECUMJIG
"Oh, here is where we turn," said Dorothy, observing the sign.
"What! Are we going to Fuddlecumjig?" asked the Captain General.
"Yes; Ozma thought we might enjoy the Fuddles. They are said to be very interesting," she replied.
"No one would suspect it from their name," said Aunt Em. "Who are they, anyhow? More paper things?"
"I think not," answered Dorothy, laughing; "but I can't say 'zactly, Aunt Em, what they are. We'll find out when we get there."
"Perhaps the Wizard knows," suggested Uncle Henry.
"No; I've never been there before," said the Wizard. "But I've often heard of Fuddlecumjig and the Fuddles, who are said to be the most peculiar people in all the Land of Oz."
"In what way?" asked the Shaggy Man.
"I don't know, I'm sure," said the Wizard.
Just then, as they rode along the pretty green lane toward Fuddlecumjig, they espied a kangaroo sitting by the roadside. The poor animal had its face covered with both its front paws and was crying so bitterly that the tears coursed down its cheeks in two tiny streams and trickled across the road, where they formed a pool in a small hollow.
The Sawhorse stopped short at this pitiful sight, and Dorothy cried out, with ready sympathy:
"What's the matter, Kangaroo?"
"Boo-hoo! Boo-hoo!" wailed the Kangaroo; "I've lost my mi--mi--mi--Oh, boo-hoo! Boo-hoo!"--
"Poor thing," said the Wizard, "she's lost her mister. It's probably her husband, and he's dead."
"No, no, no!" sobbed the kangaroo. "It--it isn't that. I've lost my mi--mi--Oh, boo, boo-hoo!"
"I know," said the Shaggy Man; "she's lost her mirror."
"No; it's my mi--mi--mi--Boo-hoo! My mi--Oh, Boo-hoo!" and the kangaroo cried harder than ever.
"It must be her mince-pie," suggested Aunt Em.
"Or her milk-toast," proposed Uncle Henry.
"I've lost my mi--mi--mittens!" said the kangaroo, getting it out at last.
"Oh!" cried the Yellow Hen, with a cackle of relief. "Why didn't you say so before?"
"Boo-hoo! I--I--couldn't," answered the kangaroo.
"But, see here," said Dorothy, "you don't need mittens in this warm weather."
"Yes, indeed I do," replied the animal, stopping her sobs and removing her paws from her face to look at the little girl reproachfully. "My hands will get all sunburned and tanned without my mittens, and I've worn them so long that I'll probably catch cold without them."
"Nonsense!" said Dorothy. "I never heard of any kangaroo wearing mittens."
"Didn't you?" asked the animal, as if surprised.
"Never!" repeated the girl. "And you'll probably make yourself sick if you don't stop crying. Where do you live?"
"About two miles beyond Fuddlecumjig," was the answer. "Grandmother Gnit made me the mittens, and she's one of the Fuddles."
"Well, you'd better go home now, and perhaps the old lady will make you another pair," suggested Dorothy. "We're on our way to Fuddlecumjig, and you may hop along beside us."
So they rode on, and the kangaroo hopped beside the red wagon and seemed quickly to have forgotten her loss. By and by the Wizard said to the animal:
"Are the Fuddles nice people?"
"Oh, very nice," answered the kangaroo; "that is, when they're properly put together. But they get dreadfully scattered and mixed up, at times, and then you can't do anything with them."
"What do you mean by their getting scattered?" inquired Dorothy.
"Why, they're made in a good many small pieces," explained the kangaroo; "and whenever any stranger comes near them they have a habit of falling apart and scattering themselves around. That's when they get so dreadfully mixed, and it's a hard puzzle to put them together again."
"Who usually puts them together?" asked Omby Amby.
"Any one who is able to match the pieces. I sometimes put Grandmother Gnit together myself, because I know her so well I can tell every piece that belongs to her. Then, when she's all matched, she knits for me, and that's how she made my mittens. But it took a good many days hard knitting, and I had to put Grandmother together a good many times, because every time I came near, she'd scatter herself."
"I should think she would get used to your coming, and not be afraid," said Dorothy.
"It isn't that," replied the kangaroo. "They're not a bit afraid, when they're put together, and usually they're very jolly and pleasant. It's just a habit they have, to scatter themselves, and if they didn't do it they wouldn't be Fuddles."
The travelers thought upon this quite seriously for a time, while the Sawhorse continued to carry them rapidly forward. Then Aunt Em remarked:
"I don't see much use our visitin' these Fuddles. If we find them scattered, all we can do is to sweep 'em up, and then go about our business."
"Oh, I b'lieve we'd better go on," replied Dorothy. "I'm getting hungry, and we must try to get some luncheon at Fuddlecumjig. Perhaps the food won't be scattered as badly as the people."
"You'll find plenty to eat there," declared the kangaroo, hopping along in big bounds because the Sawhorse was going so fast; "and they have a fine cook, too, if you can manage to put him together. There's the town now--just ahead of us!"
They looked ahead and saw a group of very pretty houses standing in a green field a little apart from the main road.
"Some Munchkins came here a few days ago and matched a lot of people together," said the kangaroo. "I think they are together yet, and if you go softly, without making any noise, perhaps they won't scatter."
"Let's try it," suggested the Wizard.
So they stopped the Sawhorse and got out of the wagon, and, after bidding good bye to the kangaroo, who hopped away home, they entered the field and very cautiously approached the group of houses.
So silently did they move that soon they saw through the windows of the houses, people moving around, while others were passing to and fro in the yards between the buildings. They seemed much like other people from a distance, and apparently they did not notice the little party so quietly approaching.
They had almost reached the nearest house when Toto saw a large beetle crossing the path and barked loudly at it. Instantly a wild clatter was heard from the houses and yards. Dorothy thought it sounded like a sudden hailstorm, and the visitors, knowing that caution was no longer necessary, hurried forward to see what had happened.
After the clatter an intense stillness reigned in the town. The strangers entered the first house they came to, which was also the largest, and found the floor strewn with pieces of the people who lived there. They looked much like fragments of wood neatly painted, and were of all sorts of curious and fantastic shapes, no two pieces being in any way alike.
They picked up some of these pieces and looked at them carefully. On one which Dorothy held was an eye, which looked at her pleasantly but with an interested expression, as if it wondered what she was going to do with it. Quite near by she discovered and picked up a nose, and by matching the two pieces together found that they were part of a face.
"If I could find the mouth," she said, "this Fuddle might be able to talk, and tell us what to do next."
"Then let us find it," replied the Wizard, and so all got down on their hands and knees and began examining the scattered pieces.
"I've found it!" cried the Shaggy Man, and ran to Dorothy with a queer-shaped piece that had a mouth on it. But when they tried to fit it to the eye and nose they found the parts wouldn't match together.
"That mouth belongs to some other person," said Dorothy. "You see we need a curve here and a point there, to make it fit the face."
"Well, it must be here some place," declared the Wizard; "so if we search long enough we shall find it."
Dorothy fitted an ear on next, and the ear had a little patch of red hair above it. So while the others were searching for the mouth she hunted for pieces with red hair, and found several of them which, when matched to the other pieces, formed the top of a man's head. She had also found the other eye and the ear by the time Omby Amby in a far corner discovered the mouth. When the face was thus completed, all the parts joined together with a nicety that was astonishing.
"Why, it's like a picture puzzle!" exclaimed the little girl. "Let's find the rest of him, and get him all together."
"What's the rest of him like?" asked the Wizard. "Here are some pieces of blue legs and green arms, but I don't know whether they are his or not."
"Look for a white shirt and a white apron," said the head which had been put together, speaking in a rather faint voice. "I'm the cook."
"Oh, thank you," said Dorothy. "It's lucky we started you first, for I'm hungry, and you can be cooking something for us to eat while we match the other folks together."
It was not so very difficult, now that they had a hint as to how the man was dressed, to find the other pieces belonging to him, and as all of them now worked on the cook, trying piece after piece to see if it would fit, they finally had the cook set up complete.
When he was finished he made them a low bow and said:
"I will go at once to the kitchen to prepare your dinner. You will find it something of a job to get all the Fuddles together, so I advise you to begin on the Lord High Chigglewitz, whose first name is Larry. He's a bald-headed fat man and is dressed in a blue coat with brass buttons, a pink vest and drab breeches. A piece of his left knee is missing, having been lost years ago when he scattered himself too carelessly. That makes him limp a little, but he gets along very well with half a knee. As he is the chief personage in this town of Fuddlecumjig, he will be able to welcome you and assist you with the others. So it will be best to work on him while I'm getting your dinner."
"We will," said the Wizard; "and thank you very much, Cook, for the suggestion."
Aunt Em was the first to discover a piece of the Lord High Chigglewitz.
"It seems to me like a fool business, this matching folks together," she remarked; "but as we haven't anything to do till dinner's ready, we may as well get rid of some of this rubbish. Here, Henry, get busy and look for Larry's bald head. I've got his pink vest, all right."
They worked with eager interest, and Billina proved a great help to them. The Yellow Hen had sharp eyes and could put her head close to the various pieces that lay scattered around. She would examine the Lord High Chigglewitz and see which piece of him was next needed, and then hunt around until she found it. So before an hour had passed old Larry was standing complete before them.
"I congratulate you, my friends," he said, speaking in a cheerful voice. "You are certainly the cleverest people who ever visited us. I was never matched together so quickly in my life. I'm considered a great puzzle, usually."
"Well," said Dorothy, "there used to be a picture puzzle craze in Kansas, and so I've had some 'sperience matching puzzles. But the pictures were flat, while you are round, and that makes you harder to figure out."
"Thank you, my dear," replied old Larry, greatly pleased. "I feel highly complimented. Were I not a really good puzzle, there would be no object in my scattering myself."
"Why do you do it?" asked Aunt Em, severely. "Why don't you behave yourself, and stay put together?"
The Lord High Chigglewitz seemed annoyed by this speech; but he replied, politely:
"Madam, you have perhaps noticed that every person has some peculiarity. Mine is to scatter myself. What your own peculiarity is I will not venture to say; but I shall never find fault with you, whatever you do."
"Now you've got your diploma, Em," said Uncle Henry, with a laugh, "and I'm glad of it. This is a queer country, and we may as well take people as we find them."
"If we did, we'd leave these folks scattered," she returned, and this retort made everybody laugh good-naturedly.
Just then Omby Amby found a hand with a knitting needle in it, and they decided to put Grandmother Gnit together. She proved an easier puzzle than old Larry, and when she was completed they found her a pleasant old lady who welcomed them cordially. Dorothy told her how the kangaroo had lost her mittens, and Grandmother Gnit promised to set to work at once and make the poor animal another pair.
Then the cook came to call them to dinner, and they found an inviting meal prepared for them. The Lord High Chigglewitz sat at the head of the table and Grandmother Gnit at the foot, and the guests had a merry time and thoroughly enjoyed themselves.
After dinner they went out into the yard and matched several other people together, and this work was so interesting that they might have spent the entire day at Fuddlecumjig had not the Wizard suggested that they resume their journey.
"But I don't like to leave all these poor people scattered," said Dorothy, undecided what to do.
"Oh, don't mind us, my dear," returned old Larry. "Every day or so some of the Gillikins, or Munchkins, or Winkies come here to amuse themselves by matching us together, so there will be no harm in leaving these pieces where they are for a time. But I hope you will visit us again, and if you do you will always be welcome, I assure you."
"Don't you ever match each other?" she inquired.
"Never; for we are no puzzles to ourselves, and so there wouldn't be any fun in it."
They now said goodbye to the queer Fuddles and got into their wagon to continue their journey.
"Those are certainly strange people," remarked Aunt Em, thoughtfully, as they drove away from Fuddlecumjig, "but I really can't see what use they are, at all."
"Why, they amused us all for several hours," replied the Wizard. "That is being of use to us, I'm sure."
"I think they're more fun than playing solitaire or mumbletypeg," declared Uncle Henry, soberly. "For my part, I'm glad we visited the Fuddles."