"Because I ask it, and you alone can grant my request," answered the Woodman.
Oz gave a low growl at this, but said, gruffly: "If you indeed desire a heart, you must earn it."
"How?" asked the Woodman.
"Help Dorothy to kill the Wicked Witch of the West," replied the Beast. "When the Witch is dead, come to me, and I will then give you the biggest and kindest and most loving heart in all the Land of Oz."
So the Tin Woodman was forced to return sorrowfully to his friends and tell them of the terrible Beast he had seen. They all wondered greatly at the many forms the Great Wizard could take upon himself, and the Lion said:
"If he is a Beast when I go to see him, I shall roar my loudest, and so frighten him that he will grant all I ask. And if he is the lovely Lady, I shall pretend to spring upon her, and so compel her to do my bidding. And if he is the great Head, he will be at my mercy; for I will roll this head all about the room until he promises to give us what we desire. So be of good cheer, my friends, for all will yet be well."
The next morning the soldier with the green whiskers led the Lion to the great Throne Room and bade him enter the presence of Oz.
The Lion at once passed through the door, and glancing around saw, to his surprise, that before the throne was a Ball of Fire, so fierce and glowing he could scarcely bear to gaze upon it. His first thought was that Oz had by accident caught on fire and was burning up; but when he tried to go nearer, the heat was so intense that it singed his whiskers, and he crept back tremblingly to a spot nearer the door.
Then a low, quiet voice came from the Ball of Fire, and these were the words it spoke:
"I am Oz, the Great and Terrible. Who are you, and why do you seek me?"
And the Lion answered, "I am a Cowardly Lion, afraid of everything. I came to you to beg that you give me courage, so that in reality I may become the King of Beasts, as men call me."
"Why should I give you courage?" demanded Oz.
"Because of all Wizards you are the greatest, and alone have power to grant my request," answered the Lion.
The Ball of Fire burned fiercely for a time, and the voice said, "Bring me proof that the Wicked Witch is dead, and that moment I will give you courage. But as long as the Witch lives, you must remain a coward."
The Lion was angry at this speech, but could say nothing in reply, and while he stood silently gazing at the Ball of Fire it became so furiously hot that he turned tail and rushed from the room. He was glad to find his friends waiting for him, and told them of his terrible interview with the Wizard.
"What shall we do now?" asked Dorothy sadly.
"There is only one thing we can do," returned the Lion, "and that is to go to the land of the Winkies, seek out the Wicked Witch, and destroy her."
"But suppose we cannot?" said the girl.
"Then I shall never have courage," declared the Lion.
"And I shall never have brains," added the Scarecrow.
"And I shall never have a heart," spoke the Tin of Woodman.
"And I shall never see Aunt Em and Uncle Henry," said Dorothy, beginning to cry.
"Be careful!" cried the green girl. "The tears will fall on your green silk gown and spot it."
So Dorothy dried her eyes and said, "I suppose we must try it; but I am sure I do not want to kill anybody, even to see Aunt Em again."