"In that case, they must have built the web behind us, after we walked into the trap," exclaimed the little girl.
"True," agreed Ozma, "an enemy has tried to imprison us."
"And they did it, too," said Dorothy. "I wonder who it was."
"It's a spider-web, I'm quite sure," returned Ozma, "but it must be the work of enormous spiders."
"Quite right!" cried a voice behind them. Turning quickly around they beheld a huge purple spider sitting not two yards away and regarding them with its small bright eyes.
Then there crawled from the bushes a dozen more great purple spiders, which saluted the first one and said:
"The web is finished, O King, and the strangers are our prisoners."
Dorothy did not like the looks of these spiders at all. They had big heads, sharp claws, small eyes and fuzzy hair all over their purple bodies.
"They look wicked," she whispered to Ozma. "What shall we do?"
Ozma gazed upon the spiders with a serious face.
"What is your object in making us prisoners?" she inquired.
"We need someone to keep house for us," answered the Spider King. "There is sweeping and dusting to be done, and polishing and washing of dishes, and that is work my people dislike to do. So we decided that if any strangers came our way we would capture them and make them our servants."
"I am Princess Ozma, Ruler of all Oz," said the girl with dignity.
"Well, I am King of all Spiders," was the reply, "and that makes me your master. Come with me to my palace and I will instruct you in your work."
"I won't," said Dorothy indignantly. "We won't have anything to do with you."
"We'll see about that," returned the Spider in a severe tone, and the next instant he made a dive straight at Dorothy, opening the claws in his legs as if to grab and pinch her with the sharp points. But the girl was wearing her Magic Belt and was not harmed. The Spider King could not even touch her. He turned swiftly and made a dash at Ozma, but she held her Magic Wand over his head and the monster recoiled as if it had been struck.
"You'd better let us go," Dorothy advised him, "for you see you can't hurt us."
"So I see," returned the Spider King angrily. "Your magic is greater than mine. But I'll not help you to escape. If you can break the magic web my people have woven you may go; if not you must stay here and starve." With that the Spider King uttered a peculiar whistle and all the spiders disappeared.
"There is more magic in my fairyland than I dreamed of," remarked the beautiful Ozma, with a sigh of regret. "It seems that my laws have not been obeyed, for even these monstrous spiders defy me by means of Magic."
"Never mind that now," said Dorothy; "let's see what we can do to get out of this trap."
They now examined the web with great care and were amazed at its strength. Although finer than the finest silken hairs, it resisted all their efforts to work through, even though both girls threw all their weight against it.
"We must find some instrument which will cut the threads of the web," said Ozma, finally. "Let us look about for such a tool."
So they wandered among the bushes and finally came to a shallow pool of water, formed by a small bubbling spring. Dorothy stooped to get a drink and discovered in the water a green crab, about as big as her hand. The crab had two big, sharp claws, and as soon as Dorothy saw them she had an idea that those claws could save them.
"Come out of the water," she called to the crab; "I want to talk to you."
Rather lazily the crab rose to the surface and caught hold of a bit of rock. With his head above the water he said in a cross voice:
"What do you want?"
"We want you to cut the web of the purple spiders with your claws, so we can get through it," answered Dorothy. "You can do that, can't you?"
"I suppose so," replied the crab. "But if I do what will you give me?"
"What do you wish?" Ozma inquired.
"I wish to be white, instead of green," said the crab. "Green crabs are very common, and white ones are rare; besides the purple spiders, which infest this hillside, are afraid of white crabs.