The country through which they were passing was still rocky and deserted, with here and there a bush or a tree to break the dreary landscape. Ojo noticed one tree, especially, because it had such long, silky leaves and was so beautiful in shape. As he approached it he studied the tree earnestly, wondering if any fruit grew on it or if it bore pretty flowers.
Suddenly he became aware that he had been looking at that tree a long time--at least for five minutes--and it had remained in the same position, although the boy had continued to walk steadily on. So he stopped short. and when he stopped, the tree and all the landscape, as well as his companions, moved on before him and left him far behind.
Ojo uttered such a cry of astonishment that it aroused the Shaggy Man, who also halted. The others then stopped, too, and walked back to the boy.
"What's wrong?" asked the Shaggy Man.
"Why, we're not moving forward a bit, no matter how fast we walk," declared Ojo. "Now that we have stopped, we are moving backward! Can't you see? Just notice that rock."
Scraps looked down at her feet and said: "The yellow bricks are not moving."
"But the whole road is," answered Ojo.
"True; quite true," agreed the Shaggy Man. "I know all about the tricks of this road, but I have been thinking of something else and didn't realize where we were."
"It will carry us back to where we started from," predicted Ojo, beginning to be nervous.
"No," replied the Shaggy Man; "it won't do that, for I know a trick to beat this tricky road. I've traveled this way before, you know. Turn around, all of you, and walk backward."
"What good will that do?" asked the cat.
"You'll find out, if you obey me," said the Shaggy Man.
So they all turned their backs to the direction in which they wished to go and began walking backward. In an instant Ojo noticed they were gaining ground and as they proceeded in this curious way they soon passed the tree which had first attracted his attention to their difficulty.
"How long must we keep this up, Shags?" asked Scraps, who was constantly tripping and tumbling down, only to get up again with a laugh at her mishap.
"Just a little way farther," replied the Shaggy Man.
A few minutes later he called to them to turn about quickly and step forward, and as they obeyed the order they found themselves treading solid ground.
"That task is well over," observed the Shaggy Man. "It's a little tiresome to walk backward, but that is the only way to pass this part of the road, which has a trick of sliding back and carrying with it anyone who is walking upon it."
With new courage and energy they now trudged forward and after a time came to a place where the road cut through a low hill, leaving high banks on either side of it. They were traveling along this cut, talking together, when the Shaggy Man seized Scraps with one arm and Ojo with another and shouted: "Stop!"
"What's wrong now?" asked the Patchwork Girl.
"See there!" answered the Shaggy Man, pointing with his finger.
Directly in the center of the road lay a motionless object that bristled all over with sharp quills, which resembled arrows. The body was as big as a ten-bushel-basket, but the projecting quills made it appear to be four times bigger.
"Well, what of it?" asked Scraps.
"That is Chiss, who causes a lot of trouble along this road," was the reply.
"Chiss! What is Chiss?
"I think it is merely an overgrown porcupine, but here in Oz they consider Chiss an evil spirit. He's different from a reg'lar porcupine, because he can throw his quills in any direction, which an American porcupine cannot do. That's what makes old Chiss so dangerous. If we get too near, he'll fire those quills at us and hurt us badly."
"Then we will be foolish to get too near," said Scraps.
"I'm not afraid," declared the Woozy. "The Chiss is cowardly, I'm sure, and if it ever heard my awful, terrible, frightful growl, it would be scared stiff."
"Oh; can you growl?" asked the Shaggy Man.