"Then the bears will get him," said one of the children's voices.
"Bears!" exclaimed Dorothy. "Are these bears here?"
"That is the one evil of our country," answered the invisible man. "Many large and fierce bears roam in the Valley of Voe, and when they can catch any of us they eat us up; but as they cannot see us, we seldom get caught."
"Are the bears invis'ble, too?" asked the girl.
"Yes; for they eat of the dama-fruit, as we all do, and that keeps them from being seen by any eye, whether human or animal."
"Does the dama-fruit grow on a low bush, and look something like a peach?" asked the Wizard.
"Yes," was the reply.
"If it makes you invis'ble, why do you eat it?" Dorothy enquired.
"For two reasons, my dear," the woman's voice answered. "The dama-fruit is the most delicious thing that grows, and when it makes us invisible the bears cannot find us to eat us up. But now, good wanderers, your luncheon is on the table, so please sit down and eat as much as you like."
9. They Fight the Invisible Bears
The strangers took their seats at the table willingly enough, for they were all hungry and the platters were now heaped with good things to eat. In front of each place was a plate bearing one of the delicious dama-fruit, and the perfume that rose from these was so enticing and sweet that they were sorely tempted to eat of them and become invisible.
But Dorothy satisfied her hunger with other things, and her companions did likewise, resisting the temptation.
"Why do you not eat the damas?" asked the woman's voice.
"We don't want to get invis'ble," answered the girl.
"But if you remain visible the bears will see you and devour you," said a girlish young voice, that belonged to one of the children. "We who live here much prefer to be invisible; for we can still hug and kiss one another, and are quite safe from the bears."
"And we do not have to be so particular about our dress," remarked the man.
"And mama can't tell whether my face is dirty or not!" added the other childish voice, gleefully.
"But I make you wash it, every time I think of it," said the mother; "for it stands to reason your face is dirty, Ianu, whether I can see it or not."
Dorothy laughed and stretched out her hands.
"Come here, please--Ianu and your sister--and let me feel of you," she requested.
They came to her willingly, and Dorothy passed her hands over their faces and forms and decided one was a girl of about her own age and the other a boy somewhat smaller. The girl's hair was soft and fluffy and her skin as smooth as satin. When Dorothy gently touched her nose and ears and lips they seemed to be well and delicately formed.
"If I could see you I am sure you would be beautiful," she declared.
The girl laughed, and her mother said:
"We are not vain in the Valley of Voe, because we can not display our beauty, and good actions and pleasant ways are what make us lovely to our companions. Yet we can see and appreciate the beauties of nature, the dainty flowers and trees, the green fields and the clear blue of the sky."
"How about the birds and beasts and fishes?" asked Zeb.
"The birds we cannot see, because they love to eat of the damas as much as we do; yet we hear their sweet songs and enjoy them. Neither can we see the cruel bears, for they also eat the fruit. But the fishes that swim in our brooks we can see, and often we catch them to eat."
"It occurs to me you have a great deal to make you happy, even while invisible," remarked the Wizard. "Nevertheless, we prefer to remain visible while we are in your valley."
Just then Eureka came in, for she had been until now wandering outside with Jim; and when the kitten saw the table set with food she cried out:
"Now you must feed me, Dorothy, for I'm half starved."
The children were inclined to be frightened by the sight of the small animal, which reminded them of the bears; but Dorothy reassured them by explaining that Eureka was a pet and could do no harm even if she wished to.