Chapter 15 – The Discovery of Oz, The Terrible
The four travelers walked up to the great gate of Emerald City and rang the bell. After ringing several times, it was opened by the same Guardian of the Gates that they had met before.
“What! Are you back again?” he asked, in surprise.
“Of course! You can clearly see us,” answered the scarecrow.
“But I thought that you had gone to visit the Wicked Witch of the West.”
“We did visit her,” said the scarecrow.
“And she let you go again?” asked the man, in wonder.
“She couldn’t stop us because she was melted,” explained the scarecrow.
“Melted” Well, that is good news, indeed,” said the man. “Who melted her?”
“It was Dorothy,” said the lion gravely.
“Good gracious!” exclaimed the man, and he bowed very low to her.
Then, he led them into his little room and locked the green glasses on all of their eyes, just as he had done before. Afterward, they passed through the gate, into the Emerald City. When the people heard from the Guardian of the Gates that Dorothy had melted the Wicked Witch of the West, they all gathered around the travelers and followed them in a great crowd to the Palace of Oz.
The soldier with the green beard was still guarding the door, but he let them in at once, and they were again met by the beautiful green girl. She showed each of them to their old rooms so they could rest until the Great Oz was ready to receive them.
The soldier carried the news straight to Oz that Dorothy and the other travelers had returned after destroying the Wicked Witch. But Oz made no reply. They thought the Great Wizard would send for them at once, but he did not. They had no word from him the next day, or the next, or the next. The waiting was tiresome and boring. At last, they got angry that Oz would treat them so poorly after sending them to hardships and slavery.
So the scarecrow, asked the green girl to take another message to Oz, saying if Oz didn’t see them at once, they would call the Winged Monkeys to help them, and find out whether he kept his promises or not. When the wizard was given this message, he was so frightened that he sent word for them to come to the Throne Room at 9:04 the next morning. He had once met the Winged Monkeys in the Land of the West, and he did not wish to meet them again.
The four travelers spent a sleepless night, each thinking of the gift that Oz had promised to give them. Dorothy only slept a little, and she dreamed she was in Kansas, where Aunt Em was telling her how glad she was to have her little girl at home again.
Promptly at nine o’clock the next morning, the green bearded soldier came to them. Four minutes later, they all went into the Throne Room of the Great Oz.
Of course, each one of them expected to see the wizard i the shape he had taken before, and all were greatly surprised when they looked around and saw no one at all in the room. They kept close to the door and closer to one another, because the stillness of the empty room was very dreadful.
Suddenly, they heard a solemn voice. It seemed to come from the top of the room’s dome. And it said:
“I am Oz, the Great and Terrible. Why do you seek me?”
They looked again at every part of the room, and then, seeing no one, Dorothy asked, “Where are you?”
“I am everywhere,” answered the voice, “but to the eyes of common mortals, I am invisible. I will now sit on my throne, so that you may talk with me.”
Indeed, the voice seemed to move to the throne. So they walked toward it and stood in a row. Dorothy said:
“We have come to claim our promise, Oh Oz.”
“What promise?” asked Oz.
“You promised to send me back to Kansas when the Wicked Witch was destroyed,” said the girl.
“And you promised to give me a brain,” said the scarecrow.
“And you promised to give me a heart,” said the tin man.
“And you promised to give me courage,” said the lion.
“Is the Wicked Witch really destroyed?” asked the voice. Dorothy thought that the voice trembled a little.
“Yes,” she answered, “I melted her with a bucket of water.”
“Dear me,” said the voice, “how sudden” Well, come to me tomorrow, because I must have time to think it over.”
“You’ve had plenty of time already,” said the tin man, angrily.
“We won’t wait a day longer,” said the scarecrow.
“You must keep your promises to us!” exclaimed Dorothy.
The lion thought he should try to frighten the wizard, so he gave a large, loud roar, which was so fierce and dreadful that Toto jumped away from him and tipped over a screen that stood in a corner. It fell with a crash and they all looked at it. The next moment, all of them were filled with surprise. They saw, standing in the spot that was hidden by the screen, a little old man, with a bald head and a wrinkled face. He was just as surprised as they were. The tin man, raising his ax, rushed at the little man and cried out, “Who are you?”
“I am Oz, the Great and Terrible,” said the little man, in a trembling voice. “But don’t strike me – please don’t – and I’ll do anything you want me to.”
The friends looked at him in surprise and dismay.
“I thought Oz was a great head,” said Dorothy.
“And I thought Oz was a lovely lady,” said the scarecrow.
“And I thought Oz was a terrible Beast,” said the tin man.
“And I thought Oz was a ball of fire,” exclaimed the lion.
“No, you are all wrong,” said the little man, meekly. “I have been making believe.”
“Making believe!” cried Dorothy. “Are you not a Great Wizard?”
“Hush, my dear,” he said, “Don’t speak so loud, or you will be overheard and I will be ruined. I’m supposed to be a great wizard.”
“And aren’t you?” she asked.
“Not a bit, my dear. I’m just a common man.”
“You’re more than that,” said the scarecrow, in a grieved tone, “you’re a humbug.”
“Exactly so!” declared the little man, rubbing his hands together as if it pleased him. “I am a humbug.”
“But this is terrible,” said the tin man. “How will I ever get my heart?”
“Or my courage?” asked the lion.
“Or my brain?” wailed the scarecrow, wiping tears from his eyes with his coat sleeve.
“My dear friends,” said Oz, “I pray that you don’t speak of these little things. Think of me! I’m in terrible trouble for being found out.”
“Doesn’t anyone else know that you’re a humbug?” asked Dorothy.
“No one knows it except you four – and myself,” replied Oz. “It was a terrible mistake to let you into the Throne Room. Usually I don’t see anyone, and so they believe that I am something terrible.”
“But, I don’t understand,” said Dorothy, in bewilderment. “How di you appear to me as a great head?”
“That was one of my tricks,” answered Oz. “Step this way please, and I will tell you all about it.”
He led them to a small chamber in the back of the Throne Room. He pointed to one corner, where there was the great head. It was made out of thick paper, and the face was carefully painted.
“I hung this from the ceiling by a wire,” said Oz. “I stood behind the screen and pulled a thread to make the eyes move and the mouth open.”
“But what about the voice?” she inquired.
“Oh, I am a ventriloquist,” said the little man. “I can throw my voice wherever I wish, so you though it was coming from the head. Here are the other things I used to deceive you.” He showed the scarecrow the dress and mask he had worn when he seemed to be a lovely lady. And the tin man saw that the terrible beast was just a lot of skins, sewn together. As for the ball of fire, the fake wizard had hung a ball of cotton from the ceiling. When oil was poured on it, the ball burned fiercely.
“Really,” said the scarecrow, “you should be ashamed of yourself for being such a humbug.”
“I am – I certainly am,” answered the little man sorrowfully, “but it was the only thing I could do. Sit down, please, there are plenty of chairs. I will tell you my story.”
So they sat down and listened while he told the following tale.
“I was born in Omaha, Nebraska -“
“What? That isn’t very far from Kansas!” cried Dorothy.
“No, but it’s far from here,” he said, shaking his head at her sadly. “When I grew up, I became a ventriloquist, and I had been very well trained by a great master. I can imitate any kind of bird or beast.” He then mewed. It was so much like a kitten that Toto pricked up his ears and looked everywhere to see where the kitten was. “After a time,” continued Oz, “I got bored of that, and I became a balloonist.”
“What is that?” asked Dorothy.
“A man who goes up in a ballon on circus day. He draws a crowd of people together and gets them to pay to see the circus,” he explained.
“Oh,” she said, “I know.”
“Well, one day, I went up in a balloon and the ropes got twisted. I couldn’t come down again. It went way up above the clouds, so far that a strong wind hit it and carried it many, many miles away. For a day and a night, I traveled through the air, and on the morning of the second day, I awoke and found myself floating over a strange and beautiful county.
“The balloon came down gradually, and I was not hurt a bit. But I was in the midst of strange people, who, seeing me come from the clouds, thought I was a great wizard. Of course, I let them think so, because they were afraid of me, and promised to do anything that I commanded.
“Just to amuse myself, and to keep the good people busy, I ordered them to build this city and my palace. And they did it all willingly and well. Then I though, because the country was so green and beautiful, that I would call it the Emerald City. And to make the name fit, I put green glasses on all the people, so that everything they saw was green.”
“But isn’t everything here green?” asked Dorothy.
“No, it’s just a regular city,” replied Oz. “But when you wear green glasses, of course everything you see looks green. The Emerald City was build many years ago. I was a young man when the balloon brought me here, and I am a very old man now. But my people have worn green glasses on their eyes for so long that most of them think it really is an Emerald City, and it certainly is a beautiful place. It is filled with jewels and precious metals, and it has everything to make people happy. I have been good to the people, and they like me. But ever since this palace was built, I have shut myself up and refuse to see anyone.
“One of my greatest fears was the witches. I have no magical powers at all, but the witches can actually do wonderful things. There were four of them in this country, and they ruled the people who live in the North, South, East and West. Fortunately, the witches of the North and South were good, and I knew they would not harm me. But the witches of the East and West were terribly wicked, and they would surely have destroyed me if they knew I wasn’t a real wizard. I lived in deadly fear of them for many years, so you can imagine how pleased I was when I heard that your house had fallen on the Wicked Witch of the East. When you came to me, I was willing to promise anything if you would get rid of the other witch. But now that you have melted her, I am ashamed to say that I can’t keep my promises.”
“I think you are a very bad man,” said Dorothy.
“Oh, no, my dear. I’m really a very good man, but I’m a very bad wizard.”
“Can’t you give me a brain?” asked the scarecrow.
“You don’t need them. You are learning something every day. Babies have brains, but they don’t know much. Experience is the only thing that brings knowledge. The longer you are on earth, the more experience you will get.”
“That all may be true,” said the scarecrow, “but I will be very unhappy unless you give me a brain.”
The fake wizard looked at him carefully.
“Well,” he said with a sigh, “I’m not much of a magician, as I said, but if you come to me tomorrow morning, I will stuff your head with a brain. I cannot teach you how to use it, however. You must figure that out for yourself.”
“Oh, thank you! Thank you!” cried the scarecrow. “I’ll find a way to use it! Don’t worry!”
“But what about my courage?” asked the lion anxiously.
“You have plenty of courage, I am sure,” answered Oz. “All you need is confidence in yourself. There is no living thing that is not afraid when it faces danger. True courage is in facing danger when you are afraid. You have plenty of courage.”
“Perhaps, but I’m always scared,” said the lion. “I won’t be happy unless you give me the sort of courage that makes me forget that I am afraid.”
“Very well I will give you that sort of courage tomorrow,” replied Oz.
“How about my heart?” asked the tin man.
“Well, as for that,” answered Oz, “I think you are wrong to want a heart. It makes most people unhappy. If you only knew it, you are lucky to not have a heart.”
“That is your opinion,” said the tin man, “But for me, I will bear all unhappiness without complaint, if you will give me a heart.”
“Very well,” answered Oz meekly. “Come to me tomorrow and I’ll give you a heart. I have played wizard for so many years that I may as well continue a little longer.”
“And now,” said Dorothy, “how am I going to get back to Kansas?”
“I’ll have to think about that,” replied the little man. “Give me two or three days to consider the matter and I’ll try to find a way to carry you over the desert. In the meantime, you will all be treated as my guests, and while you live in the Palace, my people will serve you and obey your slightest wishes. There is only one thing that I ask in return for my help. You must keep my secret and tell no one I am a humbug.”
They agreed to say nothing about why they learned. They went back to their room in high spirits. Even Dorothy had hope that “The Great and Terrible Humbug,” would find a way to send her back to Kansas. If he did, she was willing to forgive him for everything.