At the end of that time he faced them with a more cheerful expression upon his painted face.
"Where is the Saw-Horse you rode here?" he asked the Pumpkinhead.
"Why, I said he was a jewel, and so your man locked him up in the royal treasury," said Jack.
"It was the only place I could think of your Majesty," added the Soldier, fearing he had made a blunder.
"It pleases me very much," said the Scarecrow. "Has the animal been fed?"
"Oh, yes; I gave him a heaping peck of sawdust."
"Excellent!" cried the Scarecrow. "Bring the horse here at once."
The Soldier hastened away, and presently they heard the clattering of the horse's wooden legs upon the pavement as he was led into the courtyard.
His Majesty regarded the steed critically. "He doesn't seem especially graceful!" he remarked, musingly. "but I suppose he can run?"
"He can, indeed," said Tip, gazing upon the Saw-Horse admiringly.
"Then, bearing us upon his back, he must make a dash through the ranks of the rebels and carry us to my friend the Tin Woodman," announced the Scarecrow.
"He can't carry four!" objected Tip.
"No, but he may be induced to carry three," said his Majesty. "I shall therefore leave my Royal Army Behind. For, from the ease with which he was conquered, I have little confidence in his powers."
"Still, he can run," declared Tip, laughing.
"I expected this blow" said the Soldier, sulkily; "but I can bear it. I shall disguise myself by cutting off my lovely green whiskers. And, after all, it is no more dangerous to face those reckless girls than to ride this fiery, untamed wooden horse!"
"Perhaps you are right," observed his Majesty. "But, for my part, not being a soldier, I am fond of danger. Now, my boy, you must mount first. And please sit as close to the horse's neck as possible."
Tip climbed quickly to his place, and the Soldier and the Scarecrow managed to hoist the Pumpkinhead to a seat just behind him. There remained so little space for the King that he was liable to fall off as soon as the horse started.
"Fetch a clothesline," said the King to his Army, "and tie us all together. Then if one falls off we will all fall off."
And while the Soldier was gone for the clothesline his Majesty continued, "it is well for me to be careful, for my very existence is in danger."
"I have to be as careful as you do," said Jack.
"Not exactly," replied the Scarecrow. "for if anything happened to me, that would be the end of me. But if anything happened to you, they could use you for seed."
The Soldier now returned with a long line and tied all three firmly together, also lashing them to the body of the Saw-Horse; so there seemed little danger of their tumbling off.
"Now throw open the gates," commanded the Scarecrow, "and we will make a dash to liberty or to death."
The courtyard in which they were standing was located in the center of the great palace, which surrounded it on all sides. But in one place a passage led to an outer gateway, which the Soldier had barred by order of his sovereign. It was through this gateway his Majesty proposed to escape, and the Royal Army now led the Saw-Horse along the passage and unbarred the gate, which swung backward with a loud crash.
"Now," said Tip to the horse, "you must save us all. Run as fast as you can for the gate of the City, and don't let anything stop you."
"All right!" answered the Saw-Horse, gruffly, and dashed away so suddenly that Tip had to gasp
105 Full page line-art drawing.
"WE WILL MAKE A DASH TO LIBERTY OR TO DEATH."
106 for breath and hold firmly to the post he had driven into the creature's neck.
Several of the girls, who stood outside guarding the palace, were knocked over by the Saw-Horse's mad rush. Others ran screaming out of the way, and only one or two jabbed their knitting-needles frantically at the escaping prisoners. Tip got one small prick in his left arm, which smarted for an hour afterward; but the needles had no effect upon the Scarecrow or Jack Pumpkinhead, who never even suspected they were being prodded.