Chapter 20 – The Dainty China Country
While the tin man was making a ladder from wood, Dorothy laced down and slept, because she was tired from the long walk. The lion also curled himself up to sleep and Toto lied beside him.
The scarecrow watched the tin man work, and said to him:
“I can’t understand why this wall is here, or even what it is made of.”
“Rest you brains and don’t worry about the wall,” replied the tin man. “When we have climbed over it, we will know what is on the other side.”
After some time, the ladder was finished. It looked clumsy, but the tin man was sure it was strong. The scarecrow woke up Dorothy, the lion and Toto, and told them that the ladder was ready. The scarecrow climbed up the ladder first, but he was so awkward that Dorothy had to follow close behind an keep him from falling off. When he got his head over the top of the wall, the scarecrow said, “Oh, my!”
“Keep going,” exclaimed Dorothy.
So the scarecrow climbed farther up and sat down on the top of the wall, and Dorothy kept climbing. She got her head over the top and cried, “Oh, my!” just as the scarecrow had done.
Then Toto came up, and immediately began to bark, but Dorothy made him be quiet.
The lion climbed the ladder next, and the tin man came last. Both of them cried, “Oh, my!” as soon as they looked over the wall. When they were all sitting in a row on the top of the wall, they looked down and saw a strange sight.
In front of them was a great stretch of country with ground that was as smooth and shining and white as a big dish. There were houses made entirely of china, which were painted bright colors. These houses were quite small. The biggest of the houses only reached as high as Dorothy’s waist. There were also pretty little barns, with china fences around them, and many cows, sheep, horses, pigs and chickens, all made of china.
But the strangest of all were the people who lived in this strange country. There were milkmaids and shepherds, with brightly colored bodies and golden spots over their clothes. And princesses with the most gorgeous dresses of silver and gold and purple. And princes with jeweled crowns on their heads, wearing bright robes. And funny clowns in ruffled gowns, with red spots on their cheeks, and tall hats. And, the strangest thing of all, these people were all made of china, even their clothes. And they were so small that the tallest of them was no taller than Dorothy’s knee.
No one even looked at the travelers at first, except one little purple china dog with an extra large head. It came to the wall at backed at them in a tiny voice, and ran away again.
“How should we get down?” asked Dorothy.
They realized that the ladder was so heavy that they couldn’t pull it up. So the scarecrow fell off the wall and the others jumped down on him so that the hard floor would not hurt their feet. Of course, they were careful not to jump on his head and get the pins in their feet. When all of them were safely down, they picked up the scarecrow, whose body was quite flattened out, and patted his straw into shape again.
“We must cross this strange place in order to get to the other side,” said Dorothy, “because it would be unwise for us to change direction.”
They began walking through the country of china people. The first thing they came to was a china milkmaid, who was milking a china cow. As they got closer, the cow suddenly kicked. It kicked over the stool, the pail, and even the milkmaid. Everything fell on the china ground with a crash.
Dorothy was shocked to see that the cow had broken its leg off, and that the pail was broken into several pieces, and the milkmaid had a nick in her left elbow.
“No!” cried the milkmaid angrily. “See what you have done! My cow has broken its leg, and I must take her to the mender’s shop and have it glued on again. Why did you come here and frighten my cow?”
“I’m very sorry,” Dorothy said, “please forgive us.”
But the pretty milkmaid was too angry to answer. She picked up the leg and led her cow away. The poor animal was limping on three legs. As she left, the milkmaid gave the clumsy travelers angry glances over her shoulder. She held her nicked elbow close to her side.
Dorothy was very upset at this mishap.
“We must be very careful here,” said the kind hearted tin man, “or we might hurt these pretty little people and make them angry.”
A little farther on, Dorothy met a beautifully dressed young princess, who stopped short as she saw the strangers. She started to run away.
Dorothy wanted to see more of the princess, so she ran after her. But the china girl cried out:
“Don’t chase me! Don’t chase me!”
She had such a frightened little voice that Dorothy stopped and said, “Why not?”
“Because,” answered the princess, also stopping (a safe distance away), “if I run, I might fall down and break myself.”
“But couldn’t you be mended?” asked Dorothy.
“Oh yes, but one is never as pretty after they are mended, you know,” replied the princess.
“I suppose not,” said Dorothy.
“Now there is Mr. Joker, one of our clowns,” continued the china lady, “who is always trying to stand on his head. He has broken himself so often that he is mended in a hundred places, and doesn’t look pretty. Here he comes now, so you can see for yourself.”
Indeed, a jolly little clown came walking toward them. He had pretty clothes that were red, yellow and green. Dorothy could see that he was completely covered with cracks, showing that he had been mended in many places.
The clown put his hands in his pockets, and after puffing out his checks and nodding his head at them, he sang at Dorothy:
“Girl with brown hair,
Why do you stare,
At poor old Mr. Joker?
You’re very stiff,
And rude as if,
You’re looks weren’t mediocre.”
“Be quiet, sir!” said the princess. “Can’t you see these are strangers and should be treated with respect?”
“Well, I also expect, to get some respect.,” declared the clown, and immediately stood on his head.
“Don’t mind Mr. Joker,” said the princess to Dorothy. “He has gotten a lot of cracks in his head and that makes him foolish.
“Oh, I don’t mind him a bit,” said Dorothy. “But you are so beautiful,” she continued, “that I’m sure I could love you dearly. Won’t you let me carry you back to Kansas, and stand on Aunt Em’s shelf? I could carry you in my basket.”
“That would make me very unhappy,” answered the china princess. “You see, here in our country, we live happily, and we talk and move around as we please. But whenever any of us are taken away, our joints stiffen and we can only stand straight and look pretty. Of course, that is all that is expected of us when we are on shelves and cabinets and tables, but our lives are much more pleasant here in our own country.”
“I don’t want to make you unhappy!” exclaimed Dorothy. “So I’ll just say goodbye.”
“Goodbye,” replied the princess.
They walked carefully through the china country. The little animals and all the people scampered out of their way, fearing that the strangers would break them. After an hour or so, the travelers reached the other side of the country and came to another china wall.
It was not as high as the first wall, and by standing on the lion’s back, they all managed to scramble to the top. Then, the lion jumped over the wall, but just as he jumped, he hit a china church with his tail and smashed it all to pieces.
“That was too bad,” said Dorothy, “but really, I think we were lucky to not do more damage. We only broke a cow’s leg and a church. They are all so fragile!”
“They are, indeed,” said the scarecrow, “and I am thankful that I am made of straw and not easily damaged. There are worse things in the world than being a scarecrow.”