"Where next?" asked the Wizard when they had left the town of Fuddlecumjig and the Sawhorse had started back along the road.
"Why, Ozma laid out this trip," replied Dorothy, "and she 'vised us to see the Rigmaroles next, and then visit the Tin Woodman."
"That sounds good," said the Wizard. "But what road do we take to get to the Rigmaroles?"
"I don't know, 'zactly," returned the little girl; "but it must be somewhere just southwest from here."
"Then why need we go way back to the crossroads?" asked the Shaggy Man. "We might save a lot of time by branching off here."
"There isn't any path," asserted Uncle Henry.
"Then we'd better go back to the signposts, and make sure of our way," decided Dorothy.
But after they had gone a short distance farther the Sawhorse, who had overheard their conversation, stopped and said:
"Here is a path."
Sure enough, a dim path seemed to branch off from the road they were on, and it led across pretty green meadows and past leafy groves, straight toward the southwest.
"That looks like a good path," said Omby Amby. "Why not try it?"
"All right," answered Dorothy. "I'm anxious to see what the Rigmaroles are like, and this path ought to take us there the quickest way."
No one made any objection to this plan, so the Sawhorse turned into the path, which proved to be nearly as good as the one they had taken to get to the Fuddles. As first they passed a few retired farm houses, but soon these scattered dwellings were left behind and only the meadows and the trees were before them. But they rode along in cheerful contentment, and Aunt Em got into an argument with Billina about the proper way to raise chickens.
"I do not care to contradict you," said the Yellow Hen, with dignity, "but I have an idea I know more about chickens than human beings do."
"Pshaw!" replied Aunt Em. "I've raised chickens for nearly forty years, Billina, and I know you've got to starve 'em to make 'em lay lots of eggs, and stuff 'em if you want good broilers."
"Broilers!" exclaimed Billina, in horror. "Broil my chickens!"
"Why, that's what they're for, ain't it?" asked Aunt Em, astonished.
"No, Aunt, not in Oz," said Dorothy. "People do not eat chickens here. You see, Billina was the first hen that was ever seen in this country, and I brought her here myself. Everybody liked her an' respected her, so the Oz people wouldn't any more eat her chickens than they would eat Billina."
"Well, I declare," gasped Aunt Em. "How about the eggs?"
"Oh, if we have more eggs than we want to hatch, we allow people to eat them," said Billina. "Indeed, I am very glad the Oz folks like our eggs, for otherwise they would spoil."
"This certainly is a queer country," sighed Aunt Em.
"Excuse me," called the Sawhorse, "the path has ended and I'd like to know which way to go."
They looked around and sure enough there was no path to be seen.
"Well," said Dorothy, "we're going southwest, and it seems just as easy to follow that direction without a path as with one."
"Certainly," answered the Sawhorse. "It is not hard to draw the wagon over the meadow. I only want to know where to go."
"There's a forest over there across the prairie," said the Wizard, "and it lies in the direction we are going. Make straight for the forest, Sawhorse, and you're bound to go right."
So the wooden animal trotted on again and the meadow grass was so soft under the wheels that it made easy riding. But Dorothy was a little uneasy at losing the path, because now there was nothing to guide them.
No houses were to be seen at all, so they could not ask their way of any farmer; and although the Land of Oz was always beautiful, wherever one might go, this part of the country was strange to all the party.
"Perhaps we're lost," suggested Aunt Em, after they had proceeded quite a way in silence.
"Never mind," said the Shaggy Man; "I've been lost many a time--and so has Dorothy--and we've always been found again."
"But we may get hungry," remarked Omby Amby. "That is the worst of getting lost in a place where there are no houses near."
"We had a good dinner at the Fuddle town," said Uncle Henry, "and that will keep us from starving to death for a long time."
"No one ever starved to death in Oz," declared Dorothy, positively; "but people may get pretty hungry sometimes."
The Wizard said nothing, and he did not seem especially anxious. The Sawhorse was trotting along briskly, yet the forest seemed farther away than they had thought when they first saw it. So it was nearly sundown when they finally came to the trees; but now they found themselves in a most beautiful spot, the wide-spreading trees being covered with flowering vines and having soft mosses underneath them. "This will be a good place to camp," said the Wizard, as the Sawhorse stopped for further instructions.
"Camp!" they all echoed.
"Certainly," asserted the Wizard. "It will be dark before very long and we cannot travel through this forest at night. So let us make a camp here, and have some supper, and sleep until daylight comes again."
They all looked at the little man in astonishment, and Aunt Em said, with a sniff:
"A pretty camp we'll have, I must say! I suppose you intend us to sleep under the wagon."
"And chew grass for our supper," added the Shaggy Man, laughing.
But Dorothy seemed to have no doubts and was quite cheerful
"It's lucky we have the wonderful Wizard with us," she said; "because he can do 'most anything he wants to."
"Oh, yes; I forgot we had a Wizard," said Uncle Henry, looking at the little man curiously.
"I didn't," chirped Billina, contentedly.
The Wizard smiled and climbed out of the wagon, and all the others followed him.
"In order to camp," said he, "the first thing we need is tents. Will some one please lend me a handkerchief?"
The Shaggy Man offered him one, and Aunt Em another. He took them both and laid them carefully upon the grass near to the edge of the forest. Then he laid his own handkerchief down, too, and standing a little back from them he waved his left hand toward the handkerchiefs and said:
"Tents of canvas, white as snow, Let me see how fast you grow!"
Then, lo and behold! the handkerchiefs became tiny tents, and as the travelers looked at them the tents grew bigger and bigger until in a few minutes each one was large enough to contain the entire party.
"This," said the Wizard, pointing to the first tent, "is for the accommodation of the ladies. Dorothy, you and your Aunt may step inside and take off your things."
Every one ran to look inside the tent, and they saw two pretty white beds, all ready for Dorothy and Aunt Em, and a silver roost for Billina. Rugs were spread upon the grassy floor and some camp chairs and a table completed the furniture.
"Well, well, well! This beats anything I ever saw or heard of!" exclaimed Aunt Em, and she glanced at the Wizard almost fearfully, as if he might be dangerous because of his great powers.
"Oh, Mr. Wizard! How did you manage to do it?" asked Dorothy.
"It's a trick Glinda the Sorceress taught me, and it is much better magic than I used to practice in Omaha, or when I first came to Oz," he answered. "When the good Glinda found I was to live in the Emerald City always, she promised to help me, because she said the Wizard of Oz ought really to be a clever Wizard, and not a humbug. So we have been much together and I am learning so fast that I expect to be able to accomplish some really wonderful things in time."
"You've done it now!" declared Dorothy. "These tents are just wonderful!"
"But come and see the men's tent," said the Wizard. So they went to the second tent, which had shaggy edges because it has been made from the Shaggy Man's handkerchief, and found that completely furnished also. It contained four neat beds for Uncle Henry, Omby Amby, the Shaggy Man and the Wizard. Also there was a soft rug for Toto to lie upon.
"The third tent," explained the Wizard, "is our dining room and kitchen."
They visited that next, and found a table and dishes in the dining tent, with plenty of those things necessary to use in cooking. The Wizard carried out a big kettle and set it swinging on a crossbar before the tent. While he was doing this Omby Amby and the Shaggy Man brought a supply of twigs from the forest and then they built a fire underneath the kettle.
"Now, Dorothy," said the Wizard, smiling, "I expect you to cook our supper."
"But there is nothing in the kettle," she cried.
"Are you sure?" inquired the Wizard.
"I didn't see anything put in, and I'm almost sure it was empty when you brought it out," she replied.
"Nevertheless," said the little man, winking slyly at Uncle Henry, "you will do well to watch our supper, my dear, and see that it doesn't boil over."
Then the men took some pails and went into the forest to search for a spring of water, and while they were gone Aunt Em said to Dorothy:
"I believe the Wizard is fooling us. I saw the kettle myself, and when he hung it over the fire there wasn't a thing in it but air."
"Don't worry," remarked Billina, confidently, as she nestled in the grass before the fire. "You'll find something in the kettle when it's taken off--and it won't be poor, innocent chickens, either."
"Your hen has very bad manners, Dorothy," said Aunt Em, looking somewhat disdainfully at Billina. "It seems too bad she ever learned how to talk."
There might have been another unpleasant quarrel between Aunt Em and Billina had not the men returned just then with their pails filled with clear, sparkling water. The Wizard told Dorothy that she was a good cook and he believed their supper was ready.
So Uncle Henry lifted the kettle from the fire and poured its contents into a big platter which the Wizard held for him. The platter was fairly heaped with a fine stew, smoking hot, with many kinds of vegetables and dumplings and a rich, delicious gravy.
The Wizard triumphantly placed the platter upon the table in the dining tent and then they all sat down in camp chairs to the feast.
There were several other dishes on the table, all carefully covered, and when the time came to remove these covers they found bread and butter, cakes, cheese, pickles and fruits--including some of the luscious strawberries of Oz.
No one ventured to ask a question as to how these things came there. They contented themselves by eating heartily the good things provided, and Toto and Billina had their full share, you may be sure. After the meal was over, Aunt Em whispered to Dorothy:
"That may have been magic food, my dear, and for that reason perhaps it won't be very nourishing; but I'm willing to say it tasted as good as anything I ever et." Then she added, in a louder voice: "Who's going to do the dishes?"
"No one, madam," answered the Wizard. "The dishes have 'done' themselves."
"La sakes!" ejaculated the good lady, holding up her hands in amazement. For, sure enough, when she looked at the dishes they had a moment before left upon the table, she found them all washed and dried and piled up into neat stacks.