Then, as the others had by this time moved away from the table, the kitten sprang upon the chair and put her paws upon the cloth to see what there was to eat. To her surprise an unseen hand clutched her and held her suspended in the air. Eureka was frantic with terror, and tried to scratch and bite, so the next moment she was dropped to the floor,
"Did you see that, Dorothy?" she gasped.
"Yes, dear," her mistress replied; "there are people living in this house, although we cannot see them. And you must have better manners, Eureka, or something worse will happen to you."
She placed a plate of food upon the floor and the kitten ate greedily.
"Give me that nice-smelling fruit I saw on the table," she begged, when she had cleaned the plate.
"Those are damas," said Dorothy, "and you must never even taste them, Eureka, or you'll get invis'ble, and then we can't see you at all."
The kitten gazed wistfully at the forbidden fruit.
"Does it hurt to be invis'ble?" she asked.
"I don't know," Dorothy answered; "but it would hurt me dre'fully to lose you."
"Very well, I won't touch it," decided the kitten; "but you must keep it away from me, for the smell is very tempting."
"Can you tell us, sir or ma'am," said the Wizard, addressing the air because he did not quite know where the unseen people stood, "if there is any way we can get out of your beautiful Valley, and on top of the Earth again."
"Oh, one can leave the Valley easily enough," answered the man's voice; "but to do so you must enter a far less pleasant country. As for reaching the top of the earth, I have never heard that it is possible to do that, and if you succeeded in getting there you would probably fall off."
"Oh, no," said Dorothy, "we've been there, and we know."
"The Valley of Voe is certainly a charming place," resumed the Wizard; "but we cannot be contented in any other land than our own, for long. Even if we should come to unpleasant places on our way it is necessary, in order to reach the earth's surface, to keep moving on toward it."
"In that case," said the man, "it will be best for you to cross our Valley and mount the spiral staircase inside the Pyramid Mountain. The top of that mountain is lost in the clouds, and when you reach it you will be in the awful Land of Naught, where the Gargoyles live."
"What are Gargoyles?" asked Zeb.
"I do not know, young sir. Our greatest Champion, Overman-Anu, once climbed the spiral stairway and fought nine days with the Gargoyles before he could escape them and come back; but he could never be induced to describe the dreadful creatures, and soon afterward a bear caught him and ate him up."
The wanders were rather discouraged by this gloomy report, but Dorothy said with a sigh:
"If the only way to get home is to meet the Gurgles, then we've got to meet 'em. They can't be worse than the Wicked Witch or the Nome King."
"But you must remember you had the Scarecrow and the Tin Woodman to help you conquer those enemies," suggested the Wizard. "Just now, my dear, there is not a single warrior in your company."
"Oh, I guess Zeb could fight if he had to. Couldn't you, Zeb?" asked the little girl.
"Perhaps; if I had to," answered Zeb, doubtfully.
"And you have the jointed sword that you chopped the veg'table Sorcerer in two with," the girl said to the little man.
"True," he replied; "and in my satchel are other useful things to fight with."
"What the Gargoyles most dread is a noise," said the man's voice. "Our Champion told me that when he shouted his battle-cry the creatures shuddered and drew back, hesitating to continue the combat. But they were in great numbers, and the Champion could not shout much because he had to save his breath for fighting."
"Very good," said the Wizard; "we can all yell better than we can fight, so we ought to defeat the Gargoyles."
"But tell me," said Dorothy, "how did such a brave Champion happen to let the bears eat him? And if he was invis'ble, and the bears invis'ble, who knows that they really ate him up?"
"The Champion had killed eleven bears in his time," returned the unseen man; "and we know this is true because when any creature is dead the invisible charm of the dama-fruit ceases to be active, and the slain one can be plainly seen by all eyes.