"You don't know what you're talking about," continued the General, seating himself upon a large cut diamond. "I advise you to stand in a corner and count sixty before you speak again. By that time you may be more sensible."
The King looked around for something to throw at General Blug, but as nothing was handy he began to consider that perhaps the man was right and he had been talking foolishly. So he merely threw himself into his glittering throne and tipped his crown over his ear and curled his feet up under him and glared wickedly at Blug.
"In the first place," said the General, "we cannot march across the deadly desert to the Land of Oz. And if we could, the Ruler of that country, Princess Ozma, has certain fairy powers that would render my army helpless. Had you not lost your Magic Belt we might have some chance of defeating Ozma; but the Belt is gone."
"I want it!" screamed the King. "I must have it."
"Well, then, let us try in a sensible way to get it," replied the General. "The Belt was captured by a little girl named Dorothy, who lives in Kansas, in the United States of America."
"But she left it in the Emerald City, with Ozma," declared the King.
"How do you know that?" asked the General.
"One of my spies, who is a Blackbird, flew over the desert to the Land of Oz, and saw the Magic Belt in Ozma's palace," replied the King with a groan.
"Now that gives me an idea," said General Blug, thoughtfully. "There are two ways to get to the Land of Oz without traveling across the sandy desert."
"What are they?" demanded the King, eagerly.
"One way is OVER the desert, through the air; and the other way is UNDER the desert, through the earth."
Hearing this the Nome King uttered a yell of joy and leaped from his throne, to resume his wild walk up and down the cavern.
"That's it, Blug!" he shouted. "That's the idea, General! I'm King of the Under World, and my subjects are all miners. I'll make a secret tunnel under the desert to the Land of Oz--yes! right up to the Emerald City--and you will march your armies there and capture the whole country!"
"Softly, softly, your Majesty. Don't go too fast," warned the General. "My Nomes are good fighters, but they are not strong enough to conquer the Emerald City."
"Are you sure?" asked the King.
"Absolutely certain, your Majesty."
"Then what am I to do?"
"Give up the idea and mind your own business," advised the General. "You have plenty to do trying to rule your underground kingdom."
"But I want the Magic Belt--and I'm going to have it!" roared the Nome King.
"I'd like to see you get it," replied the General, laughing maliciously.
The King was by this time so exasperated that he picked up his scepter, which had a heavy ball, made from a sapphire, at the end of it, and threw it with all his force at General Blug. The sapphire hit the General upon his forehead and knocked him flat upon the ground, where he lay motionless. Then the King rang his gong and told his guards to drag out the General and throw him away; which they did.
This Nome King was named Roquat the Red, and no one loved him. He was a bad man and a powerful monarch, and he had resolved to destroy the Land of Oz and its magnificent Emerald City, to enslave Princess Ozma and little Dorothy and all the Oz people, and recover his Magic Belt. This same Belt had once enabled Roquat the Red to carry out many wicked plans; but that was before Ozma and her people marched to the underground cavern and captured it. The Nome King could not forgive Dorothy or Princess Ozma, and he had determined to be revenged upon them.
But they, for their part, did not know they had so dangerous an enemy. Indeed, Ozma and Dorothy had both almost forgotten that such a person as the Nome King yet lived under the mountains of the Land of Ev--which lay just across the deadly desert to the south of the Land of Oz.
An unsuspected enemy is doubly dangerous.
2. How Uncle Henry Got Into Trouble
Dorothy Gale lived on a farm in Kansas, with her Aunt Em and her Uncle Henry.