"But there will be no 'worst,' for I think I can manage to frighten these absurd soldiers very easily. Follow me closely, all of you!"
Then, swinging his axe in a great circle to right and left before him, he advanced upon the gate, and the others followed him without hesitation.
The girls, who had expected no resistance whatever, were terrified by the sweep of the glittering axe and fled screaming into the city; so that our
170 travelers passed the gates in safety and marched down the green marble pavement of the wide street toward the royal palace.
"At this rate we will soon have your Majesty upon the throne again," said the Tin Woodman, laughing at his easy conquest of the guards.
"Thank you, friend Nick," returned the Scarecrow, gratefully. "Nothing can resist your kind heart and your sharp axe."
As they passed the rows of houses they saw through the open doors that men were sweeping and dusting and washing dishes, while the women sat around in groups, gossiping and laughing.
"What has happened?" the Scarecrow asked a sad-looking man with a bushy beard, who wore an apron and was wheeling a baby-carriage along the sidewalk.
"Why, we've had a revolution, your Majesty as you ought to know very well," replied the man; "and since you went away the women have been running things to suit themselves. I'm glad you have decided to come back and restore order, for doing housework and minding the children is wearing out the strength of every man in the Emerald City."
"Hm!" said the Scarecrow, thoughtfully. "If it
171 is such hard work as you say, how did the women manage it so easily?"
"I really do not know" replied the man, with a deep sigh. "Perhaps the women are made of castiron."
No movement was made, as they passed along the street, to oppose their progress. Several of the women stopped their gossip long enough to cast curious looks upon our friends, but immediately they would turn away with a laugh or a sneer and resume their chatter. And when they met with several girls belonging to the Army of Revolt, those soldiers, instead of being alarmed or appearing surprised, merely stepped out of the way and allowed them to advance without protest.
This action rendered the Scarecrow uneasy."
I'm afraid we are walking into a trap," said he.
"Nonsense!" returned Nick Chopper, confidently; "the silly creatures are conquered already!"
But the Scarecrow shook his head in a way that expressed doubt, and Tip said:
"It's too easy, altogether. Look out for trouble ahead."
"I will," returned his Majesty. Unopposed they reached the royal palace and marched up the marble steps, which had once been
172 Full page line-art drawing.
"IT'S TOO EASY, ALTOGETHER."
173 thickly crusted with emeralds but were now filled with tiny holes where the jewels had been ruthlessly torn from their settings by the Army of Revolt. And so far not a rebel barred their way.
Through the arched hallways and into the magnificent throne room marched the Tin Woodman and his followers, and here, when the green silken curtains fell behind them, they saw a curious sight.
Seated within the glittering throne was General Jinjur, with the Scarecrow's second-best crown upon her head, and the royal sceptre in her right hand. A box of caramels, from which she was eating, rested in her lap, and the girl seemed entirely at ease in her royal surroundings.
The Scarecrow stepped forward and confronted her, while the Tin Woodman leaned upon his axe and the others formed a half-circle back of his Majesty's person.
"How dare you sit in my throne?" demanded the Scarecrow, sternly eyeing the intruder. "Don't you know you are guilty of treason, and that there is a law against treason?"
"The throne belongs to whoever is able to take it," answered Jinjur, as she slowly ate another caramel. "I have taken it, as you see; so just now I am the Queen, and all who oppose me are guilty of
174 treason, and must be punished by the law you have just mentioned."
This view of the case puzzled the Scarecrow.