"But we might have taken the Oz people by surprise, and conquered them before they had a chance to get any eggs. Our former defeat was due to the fact that the girl Dorothy had a Yellow Hen with her. I do not know what ever became of that hen, but I believe there are no hens at all in the Land of Oz, and so there could be no eggs there."
"On the contrary," said Guph, "there are now hundreds of chickens in Oz, and they lay heaps of those dangerous eggs. I met a goshawk on my way home, and the bird informed me that he had lately been to Oz to capture and devour some of the young chickens. But they are protected by magic, so the hawk did not get a single one of them."
"That is a very bad report," said the King, nervously. "Very bad, indeed. My Nomes are willing to fight, but they simply can't face hen's eggs--and I don't blame them."
"They won't need to face them," replied Guph. "I'm afraid of eggs myself, and don't propose to take any chances of being poisoned by them. My plan is to send the Whimsies through the tunnel first, and then the Growleywogs and the Phanfasms. By the time we Nomes get there the eggs will all be used up, and we may then pursue and capture the inhabitants at our leisure."
"Perhaps you are right," returned the King, with a dismal sigh. "But I want it distinctly understood that I claim Ozma and Dorothy as my own prisoners. They are rather nice girls, and I do not intend to let any of those dreadful creatures hurt them, or make them their slaves. When I have captured them I will bring them here and transform them into china ornaments to stand on my mantle. They will look very pretty--Dorothy on one end of the mantle and Ozma on the other--and I shall take great care to see they are not broken when the maids dust them."
"Very well, your Majesty. Do what you will with the girls for all I care. Now that our plans are arranged, and we have the three most powerful bands of evil spirits in the world to assist us, let us make haste to get the tunnel finished as soon as possible."
"It will be ready in three days," promised the King, and hurried away to inspect the work and see that the Nomes kept busy.
14. How the Wizard Practiced Sorcery
"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.