"By our magic we will transform all you animals into men and women--like the Oz people--and we will transform all the Oz people into beasts. You can then live in the fine houses of the Land of Oz, and eat the fine food of the Oz people, and wear their fine clothes, and sing and dance and be happy. And the Oz people, having become beasts, will have to live here in the forest and hunt and fight for food, and often go hungry, as you now do, and have no place to sleep but a bed of leaves or a hole in the ground. Having become men and women, you beasts will have all the comforts you desire, and having become beasts, the Oz people will be very miserable. That is our plan, and if you agree to it, we will all march at once into the Land of Oz and quickly conquer our enemies."
When the stranger ceased speaking, a great silence fell on the assemblage, for the beasts were thinking of what he had said. Finally one of the walruses asked:
"Can you really transform beasts into men, and men into beasts?"
"He can--he can!" cried Loo the Unicorn, prancing up and down in an excited manner. "He transformed ME, only last evening, and he can transform us all."
Gugu the King now stepped forward.
"You have heard the stranger speak," said he, "and now you must answer him. It is for you to decide. Shall we agree to this plan, or not?"
"Yes!" shouted some of the animals.
"No!" shouted others.
And some were yet silent.
Gugu looked around the great circle.
"Take more time to think," he suggested. "Your answer is very important. Up to this time we have had no trouble with the Oz people, but we are proud and free, and never will become slaves. Think carefully, and when you are ready to answer, I will hear you."
12. Kiki Uses His Magic
Then arose a great confusion of sounds as all the animals began talking to their fellows. The monkeys chattered and the bears growled and the voices of the jaguars and lions rumbled, and the wolves yelped and the elephants had to trumpet loudly to make their voices heard. Such a hubbub had never been known in the forest before, and each beast argued with his neighbor until it seemed the noise would never cease.
Ruggedo the Nome waved his arms and fluttered his wings to try to make them listen to him again, but the beasts paid no attention. Some wanted to fight the Oz people, some wanted to be transformed, and some wanted to do nothing at all.
The growling and confusion had grown greater than ever when in a flash silence fell on all the beasts present, the arguments were hushed, and all gazed in astonishment at a strange sight.
For into the circle strode a great Lion--bigger and more powerful than any other lion there--and on his back rode a little girl who smiled fearlessly at the multitude of beasts. And behind the Lion and the little girl came another beast--a monstrous Tiger, who bore upon his back a funny little man carrying a black bag. Right past the rows of wondering beasts the strange animals walked, advancing until they stood just before the rock throne of Gugu.
Then the little girl and the funny little man dismounted, and the great Lion demanded in a loud voice:
"Who is King in this forest?"
"I am!" answered Gugu, looking steadily at the other. "I am Gugu the Leopard, and I am King of this forest."
"Then I greet Your Majesty with great respect," said the Lion. "Perhaps you have heard of me, Gugu. I am called the 'Cowardly Lion,' and I am King of all Beasts, the world over."
Gugu's eyes flashed angrily.
"Yes," said he, "I have heard of you. You have long claimed to be King of Beasts, but no beast who is a coward can be King over me."
"He isn't a coward, Your Majesty," asserted the little girl, "He's just cowardly, that's all."
Gugu looked at her. All the other beasts were looking at her, too.
"Who are you?" asked the King.
"Me? Oh, I'm just Dorothy," she answered.
"How dare you come here?" demanded the King.
"Why, I'm not afraid to go anywhere, if the Cowardly Lion is with me," she said.