"We know of no others except yourselves," said the man. And then he inquired, "Were you born with those queer forms you have, or has some cruel magician transformed you to them from your natural shapes?"
"These are our natural shapes," declared the Wizard, "and we consider them very good shapes, too."
The group of inhabitants was constantly being enlarged by others who joined it. All were evidently startled and uneasy at the arrival of strangers. "Have you a King?"asked Dorothy, who knew it was better to speak with someone in authority.
But the man shook his diamond-like head. "What is a King?" he asked.
"Isn't there anyone who rules over you?"inquired the Wizard.
"No," was the reply, "each of us rules himself, or at least tries to do so. It is not an easy thing to do, as you probably know."
The Wizard reflected.
"If you have disputes among you," said he after a little thought, "who settles them?"
"The High Coco-Lorum," they answered in a chorus.
"And who is he?"
"The judge who enforces the laws," said the man who had first spoken.
"Then he is the principal person here?"continued the Wizard.
"Well, I would not say that," returned the man in a puzzled way. "The High Coco-Lorum is a public servant. However, he represents the laws, which we must all obey."
"I think," said the Wizard, "we ought to see your High Coco-Lorum and talk with him. Our mission here requires us to consult one high in authority, and the High Coco-Lorum ought to be high, whatever else he is."
The inhabitants seemed to consider this proposition reasonable, for they nodded their diamond-shaped heads in approval. So the broad one who had been their spokesman said, "Follow me," and turning led the way along one of the streets. The entire party followed him, the natives falling in behind. The dwellings they passed were quite nicely planned and seemed comfortable and convenient. After leading them a few blocks, their conductor stopped before a house which was neither better nor worse than the others. The doorway was shaped to admit the strangely formed bodies of these people, being narrow at the top, broad in the middle and tapering at the bottom. The windows were made in much the same way, giving the house a most peculiar appearance. When their guide opened the gate, a music box concealed in the gatepost began to play, and the sound attracted the attention of the High Coco-Lorum, who appeared at an open window and inquired, "What has happened now?"
But in the same moment his eyes fell upon the strangers and he hastened to open the door and admit them--all but the animals, which were left outside with the throng of natives that had now gathered. For a small city there seemed to be a large number of inhabitants, but they did not try to enter the house and contented themselves with staring curiously at the strange animals. Toto followed Dorothy.
Our friends entered a large room at the front of the house, where the High Coco-Lorum asked them to be seated. "I hope your mission here is a peaceful one," he said, looking a little worried, "for the Thists are not very good fighters and object to being conquered."
"Are your people called Thists?" asked Dorothy.
"Yes. I thought you knew that. And we call our city Thi."
."We are Thists because we eat thistles, you know," continued the High Coco-Lorum.
"Do you really eat those prickly things?"inquired Button-Bright wonderingly.
"Why not?" replied the other. "The sharp points of the thistles cannot hurt us, because all our insides are gold-lined."
"To be sure. Our throats and stomachs are lined with solid gold, and we find the thistles nourishing and good to eat. As a matter of fact, there is nothing else in our country that is fit for food. All around the City of Thi grow countless thistles, and all we need do is to go and gather them. If we wanted anything else to eat, we would have to plant it, and grow it, and harvest it, and that would be a lot of trouble and make us work, which is an occupation we detest."
"But tell me, please," said the Wizard, "how does it happen that your city jumps around so, from one part of the country to another?"
"The city doesn't jump.