At last they slowly passed over the crest of a barren hill and saw before them a line of green trees with a strip of grass at their feet. An agreeable fragrance was wafted toward them.
Our travelers, hot and tired, ran forward on beholding this refreshing sight and were not long in coming to the trees. Here they found a spring of pure bubbling water, around which the grass was full of wild strawberry plants, their pretty red berries ripe and ready to eat. Some of the trees bore yellow oranges and some russet pears, so the hungry adventurers suddenly found themselves provided with plenty to eat and to drink. They lost no time in picking the biggest strawberries and ripest oranges and soon had feasted to their hearts' content. Walking beyond the line of trees they saw before them a fearful, dismal desert, everywhere gray sand. At the edge of this awful waste was a large, white sign with black letters neatly painted upon it and the letters made these words:
ALL PERSONS ARE WARNED NOT TO VENTURE UPON THIS DESERT
For the Deadly Sands will Turn Any Living Flesh to Dust in an instant. Beyond This Barrier is the
LAND OF OZ
But no one can Reach that Beautiful Country because of these Destroying Sands
"Oh," said Dorothy, when the shaggy man had read the sign aloud; "I've seen this desert before, and it's true no one can live who tries to walk upon the sands."
"Then we musn't try it," answered the shaggy man thoughtfully. "But as we can't go ahead and there's no use going back, what shall we do next?"
"Don't know," said Button-Bright.
"I'm sure I don't know, either," added Dorothy, despondently.
"I wish father would come for me," sighed the pretty Rainbow's Daughter, "I would take you all to live upon the rainbow, where you could dance along its rays from morning till night, without a care or worry of any sort. But I suppose father's too busy just now to search the world for me."
"Don't want to dance," said Button-Bright, sitting down wearily upon the soft grass.
"It's very good of you, Polly," said Dorothy; "but there are other things that would suit me better than dancing on rainbows. I'm 'fraid they'd be kind of soft an' squashy under foot, anyhow, although they're so pretty to look at."
This didn't help to solve the problem, and they all fell silent and looked at one another questioningly.
"Really, I don't know what to do," muttered the shaggy man, gazing hard at Toto; and the little dog wagged his tail and said "Bow-wow!" just as if he could not tell, either, what to do. Button-Bright got a stick and began to dig in the earth, and the others watched him for a while in deep thought. Finally, the shaggy man said:
"It's nearly evening, now; so we may as well sleep in this pretty place and get rested; perhaps by morning we can decide what is best to be done."
There was little chance to make beds for the children, but the leaves of the trees grew thickly and would serve to keep off the night dews, so the shaggy man piled soft grasses in the thickest shade and when it was dark they lay down and slept peacefully until morning.
Long after the others were asleep, however, the shaggy man sat in the starlight by the spring, gazing thoughtfully into its bubbling waters. Suddenly he smiled and nodded to himself as if he had found a good thought, after which he, too, laid himself down under a tree and was soon lost in slumber.
In the bright morning sunshine, as they ate of the strawberries and sweet juicy pears, Dorothy said:
"Polly, can you do any magic?"
"No dear," answered Polychrome, shaking her dainty head.
"You ought to know SOME magic, being the Rainbow's Daughter," continued Dorothy, earnestly.
"But we who live on the rainbow among the fleecy clouds have no use for magic," replied Polychrome.
"What I'd like," said Dorothy, "is to find some way to cross the desert to the Land of Oz and its Emerald City. I've crossed it already, you know, more than once. First a cyclone carried my house over, and some Silver Shoes brought me back again--in half a second. Then Ozma took me over on her Magic Carpet, and the Nome King's Magic Belt took me home that time.