"We are subjects of Ozma of Oz, and we live in her country. Also we are under the protection of the great Sorceress Glinda the Good, who made us promise to respect Ozma's commands."
"Then may I come in?" she asked.
"I'll open the door," said the rabbit. He shut the window and disappeared, but a moment afterward a big door in the wall opened and admitted Dorothy to a small room, which seemed to be a part of the wall and built into it.
Here stood the rabbit she had been talking with, and now that she could see all of him, she gazed at the creature in surprise. He was a good sized white rabbit with pink eyes, much like all other white rabbits. But the astonishing thing about him was the manner in which he was dressed. He wore a white satin jacket embroidered with gold, and having diamond buttons. His vest was rose-colored satin, with tourmaline buttons. His trousers were white, to correspond with the jacket, and they were baggy at the knees--like those of a zouave--being tied with knots of rose ribbons. His shoes were of white plush with diamond buckles, and his stockings were rose silk.
The richness and even magnificence of the rabbit's clothing made Dorothy stare at the little creature wonderingly. Toto and Billina had followed her into the room and when he saw them the rabbit ran to a table and sprang upon it nimbly. Then he looked at the three through his monocle and said:
"These companions, Princess, cannot enter Bunnybury with you."
"Why not?" asked Dorothy.
"In the first place they would frighten our people, who dislike dogs above all things on earth; and, secondly, the letter of the Royal Ozma does not mention them."
"But they're my friends," persisted Dorothy, "and go wherever I go."
"Not this time," said the rabbit, decidedly. "You, yourself, Princess, are a welcome visitor, since you come so highly recommended; but unless you consent to leave the dog and the hen in this room I cannot permit you to enter the town."
"Never mind us, Dorothy," said Billina. "Go inside and see what the place is like. You can tell us about it afterward, and Toto and I will rest comfortably here until you return."
This seemed the best thing to do, for Dorothy was curious to see how the rabbit people lived and she was aware of the fact that her friends might frighten the timid little creatures. She had not forgotten how Toto and Billina had misbehaved in Bunbury, and perhaps the rabbit was wise to insist on their staying outside the town.
"Very well," she said, "I'll go in alone. I s'pose you're the King of this town, aren't you?"
"No," answered the rabbit, "I'm merely the Keeper of the Wicket, and a person of little importance, although I try to do my duty. I must now inform you, Princess, that before you enter our town you must consent to reduce."
"Reduce what?" asked Dorothy.
"Your size. You must become the size of the rabbits, although you may retain your own form."
"Wouldn't my clothes be too big for me?" she inquired.
"No; they will reduce when your body does."
"Can YOU make me smaller?" asked the girl.
"Easily," returned the rabbit.
"And will you make me big again, when I'm ready to go away?"
"I will," said he.
"All right, then; I'm willing," she announced.
The rabbit jumped from the table and ran--or rather hopped--to the further wall, where he opened a door so tiny that even Toto could scarcely have crawled through it.
"Follow me," he said.
Now, almost any other little girl would have declared that she could not get through so small a door; but Dorothy had already encountered so many fairy adventures that she believed nothing was impossible in the Land of Oz. So she quietly walked toward the door, and at every step she grew smaller and smaller until, by the time the opening was reached, she could pass through it with ease. Indeed, as she stood beside the rabbit, who sat upon his hind legs and used his paws as hands, her head was just about as high as his own.
Then the Keeper of the Wicket passed through and she followed, after which the door swung shut and locked itself with a sharp click.