Chapter 6. The Cowardly Lion
All this time Dorothy and her companions had been walking through the thick woods. The road was still paved with yellow brick, but these were much covered by dried branches and dead leaves from the trees, and the walking was not at all good.
There were few birds in this part of the forest, for birds love the open country where there is plenty of sunshine. But now and then there came a deep growl from some wild animal hidden among the trees. These sounds made the little girl's heart beat fast, for she did not know what made them; but Toto knew, and he walked close to Dorothy's side, and did not even bark in return.
"How long will it be," the child asked of the Tin Woodman, "before we are out of the forest?"
"I cannot tell," was the answer, "for I have never been to the Emerald City. But my father went there once, when I was a boy, and he said it was a long journey through a dangerous country, although nearer to the city where Oz dwells the country is beautiful. But I am not afraid so long as I have my oil-can, and nothing can hurt the Scarecrow, while you bear upon your forehead the mark of the Good Witch's kiss, and that will protect you from harm."
"But Toto!" said the girl anxiously. "What will protect him?"
"We must protect him ourselves if he is in danger," replied the Tin Woodman.
Just as he spoke there came from the forest a terrible roar, and the next moment a great Lion bounded into the road. With one blow of his paw he sent the Scarecrow spinning over and over to the edge of the road, and then he struck at the Tin Woodman with his sharp claws. But, to the Lion's surprise, he could make no impression on the tin, although the Woodman fell over in the road and lay still.
Little Toto, now that he had an enemy to face, ran barking toward the Lion, and the great beast had opened his mouth to bite the dog, when Dorothy, fearing Toto would be killed, and heedless of danger, rushed forward and slapped the Lion upon his nose as hard as she could, while she cried out:
"Don't you dare to bite Toto! You ought to be ashamed of yourself, a big beast like you, to bite a poor little dog!"
"I didn't bite him," said the Lion, as he rubbed his nose with his paw where Dorothy had hit it.
"No, but you tried to," she retorted. "You are nothing but a big coward."
"I know it," said the Lion, hanging his head in shame. "I've always known it. But how can I help it?"
"I don't know, I'm sure. To think of your striking a stuffed man, like the poor Scarecrow!"
"Is he stuffed?" asked the Lion in surprise, as he watched her pick up the Scarecrow and set him upon his feet, while she patted him into shape again.
"Of course he's stuffed," replied Dorothy, who was still angry.
"That's why he went over so easily," remarked the Lion. "It astonished me to see him whirl around so. Is the other one stuffed also?"
"No," said Dorothy, "he's made of tin." And she helped the Woodman up again.
"That's why he nearly blunted my claws," said the Lion. "When they scratched against the tin it made a cold shiver run down my back. What is that little animal you are so tender of?"
"He is my dog, Toto," answered Dorothy.
"Is he made of tin, or stuffed?" asked the Lion.
"Neither. He's a--a--a meat dog," said the girl.
"Oh! He's a curious animal and seems remarkably small, now that I look at him. No one would think of biting such a little thing, except a coward like me," continued the Lion sadly.
"What makes you a coward?" asked Dorothy, looking at the great beast in wonder, for he was as big as a small horse.