"I didn't know you were so delicate."
"We're not delicate!" retorted another soldier, raising his head from the ground. "We are strong and healthy; but we can't stand draughts."
"May I help you up?" asked Dorothy.
"If you please," replied the end soldier. "But do it gently, little girl."
Dorothy carefully stood up the line of soldiers, who first dusted their painted clothes and then saluted the visitors with their paper muskets. From the end it was easy to see that the entire line had been cut out of paper, although from the front the soldiers looked rather solid and imposing.
"I've a letter of introduction from Princess Ozma to Miss Cuttenclip," announced Dorothy.
"Very well," said the end soldier, and blew upon a paper whistle that hung around his neck. At once a paper soldier in a Captain's uniform came out of a paper house near by and approached the group at the entrance. He was not very big, and he walked rather stiffly and uncertainly on his paper legs; but he had a pleasant face, with very red cheeks and very blue eyes, and he bowed so low to the strangers that Dorothy laughed, and the breeze from her mouth nearly blew the Captain over. He wavered and struggled and finally managed to remain upon his feet.
"Take care, Miss!" he said, warningly. "You're breaking the rules, you know, by laughing."
"Oh, I didn't know that," she replied.
"To laugh in this place is nearly as dangerous as to cough," said the Captain. "You'll have to breathe very quietly, I assure you."
"We'll try to," promised the girl. "May we see Miss Cuttenclip, please?"
"You may," promptly returned the Captain. "This is one of her reception days. Be good enough to follow me."
He turned and led the way up a path, and as they followed slowly, because the paper Captain did not move very swiftly, they took the opportunity to gaze around them at this strange paper country.
Beside the path were paper trees, all cut out very neatly and painted a brilliant green color. And back of the trees were rows of cardboard houses, painted in various colors but most of them having green blinds. Some were large and some small, and in the front yards were beds of paper flowers quite natural in appearance. Over some of the porches paper vines were twined, giving them a cozy and shady look.
As the visitors passed along the street a good many paper dolls came to the doors and windows of their houses to look at them curiously. These dolls were nearly all the same height, but were cut into various shapes, some being fat and some lean. The girl dolls wore many beautiful costumes of tissue paper, making them quite fluffy; but their heads and hands were no thicker than the paper of which they were made.
Some of the paper people were on the street, walking along or congregated in groups and talking together; but as soon as they saw the strangers they all fluttered into the houses as fast as they could go, so as to be out of danger.
"Excuse me if I go edgewise," remarked the Captain as they came to a slight hill. "I can get along faster that way and not flutter so much."
"That's all right," said Dorothy. "We don't mind how you go, I'm sure."
At one side of the street was a paper pump, and a paper boy was pumping paper water into a paper pail. The Yellow Hen happened to brush against this boy with her wing, and he flew into the air and fell into a paper tree, where he stuck until the Wizard gently pulled him out. At the same time, the pail went into the air, spilling the paper water, while the paper pump bent nearly double.
"Goodness me!" said the Hen. "If I should flop my wings I believe I'd knock over the whole village!"
"Then don't flop them--please don't!" entreated the Captain. "Miss Cuttenclip would be very much distressed if her village was spoiled."
"Oh, I'll be careful," promised Billina.
"Are not all these paper girls and women named Miss Cuttenclips?" inquired Omby Amby.
"No indeed," answered the Captain, who was walking better since he began to move edgewise.