Chapter 8 – The Deadly Poppy Field
The party of travelers woke up the next morning feeling refreshed and full of hope. Dorothy ate a breakfast like a princess. She had delicious peaches and plums from the trees on the bank of the river. Behind them was the dark forest that they had passed through safely, although they had suffered many discouragement. But in front of them was a lovely, sunny country.
Unfortunately, the broad river cut them off from this beautiful land. But the raft was nearly done, and after the tin man had cut a few more logs and fastened them together, they were ready to start. Dorothy sad down in the middle of the raft and held Toto in her arms. When the cowardly lion stepped on the raft, it tipped badly, because he was big and heavy. But the scarecrow and the tin man stood on the other end to steady it, and they had long poles in their hands to push the raft through the water.
They got along quite well at first, but when they reached the middle of the river, the swift river current pushed the raft downstream, father and father away from the yellow brick road. And the water became so deep that the long poles could not touch the bottom of the river.
“This is bad,” said the tin man. “If we can not get to the river bank, we will be carried into the country of the Wicked Witch of the West and she will make us her slaves.”
“And then, I won’t get a brain,” said the scarecrow.
“And I won’t get courage,” said the lion.
“And I won’t get a heart,” said the tin man.
“And I will never get back to Kansas,” said Dorothy.
“We must get to the Emerald City if we can,” said the scarecrow, and he pushed so hard on his long pole that it got stuck in the mud at the bottom of the river. Then, before he could pull the pole out again – or let go of the pole – the raft was swept away and the poor scarecrow was left hanging on to the pole in the middle of the river.
“Good bye!” he called after them, and they were very sorry to leave him. The tin man began to cry, but he remembered that he might rust, so he dried his tears on Dorothy’s apron.
Of course, this was a bad thing for the scarecrow.
“I am now worse off than when I first met Dorothy,” he thought. “Then, I was stuck on a pole in a cornfield, where I could scare the crows, at any rate. But surely there is no use for a scarecrow stuck on a pole in the middle of a river. I am afraid that I will never have any brains, after all!”
The raft floated down the river and the poor scarecrow was left far behind.
Then the lion said:
“Something must be done to save us. I think I can swim to the bank and pull the raft after me, if you hold tightly onto my tail.”
So he sprang into the water, and the tin man took hold of his tail. Then the lion began to swim with all his strength toward the bank. It was hard work, although he was so big. Slowly, but surely, they were drawn out of the swift current, and Dorothy took the tin man’s long pole and helped push the raft to the land.
They were all tired out when they reached the bank at last. They stepped off the raft and onto the pretty green grass. They knew that the river had carried them a long way past the yellow brick road.
“What should we do now?” asked the tin man while the lion lied down on the grass to let the sun dry him.
“We must get back to the road, in some way,” said Dorothy.
“The best plan will be to walk along the river bank until we come to the road again,” said the lion.
So after they rested, Dorothy picked up her basket and they started along the grassy bank toward the road. It was a lovely country with plenty of flowers and fruit trees and sunshine. But they could not feel happy because they felt so sorry for the poor scarecrow. They walked along as fast as they could. Dorothy stopped only once to pick a beautiful flower. After some time, the tin man cried out, “Look!”
They all looked at the river and saw the scarecrow perched on his pole in the middle of the water, looking very lonely and sad.
“What can we do to save him?” asked Dorothy.
The lion and the tin man both shook their heads, because they didn’t know. So they sad down on the back and gazed at the scarecrow until a stork flew by. The stock, seeing them, stopped to rest at the water’s edge.
“Who are you and where are you going?” asked the stork.
“I am Dorothy,” answered the girl, “and these are my friends, the tin man and the cowardly lion, and we are going to the Emerald City.”
“This isn’t the road,” said the stork, as she twisted her long neck and looked at the strange party.
“I know,” said Dorothy, “but we have lost the scarecrow and we are wondering how we should get him again.”
“Where is he?” asked the stork.
“Over there in the river,” answered the little girl.
“If he wasn’t so big and heavy, I would get him for you,” remarked the stork.
“He isn’t heavy at all,” said Dorothy eagerly, “because he is stuffed with straw and if you bring him back to us, we will thank you so much.”
“Well, I’ll try,” said the stork, “but if I find that he is too heavy to carry, I will have to drop him in the river again.”
So the big bird flew into the air and over the water. With her great claws, the stork grabbed the scarecrow by the arm and carried him up into the air and back to the bank, where Dorothy, the lion, the tin man and Toto were sitting.
When the scarecrow found himself among his friends again, he was so happy that he hugged them all, even the lion and Toto. As they walked along, he sang, “La, la, la” at every step.
“I was afraid that I would have to stay in the river forever,” he said, “but the kind stork saved me, and if I ever get a brain, I will find the stork again and do something kind for her in return.”
“That’s all right,” said the stork, who was flying along beside them. “I always like to help anyone in trouble. But now I must go, because my babies are waiting in the nest for me. I hope you find the Emerald City and that Oz helps you.”
“Thank you,” replied Dorothy, and then the kind stork flew into the air and was soon out of sight.
They walked along, listening to the singing of the brightly colored birds and looking at the lovely flowers. The flowers were so thick that it looked like a flower carpet on the ground. There were blossoms that were yellow, white, blue and purple. And there were great clusters of red poppies, which were so bright that they almost dazzled Dorothy’s eyes.
“Aren’t they beautiful?” the girl asked, as she breathed in the spicy scent of the bright flowers.
“I suppose so,” answered the scarecrow. “When I have a brain, I will probably like them better.”
“If I only had a heart, I would love them,” added the tin man.
“I always liked flowers,” said the lion. “They seem so helpless and frail. But I’ve never seen flowers as bright as these.”
They came to more and more of the big, red poppies, and fewer and fewer of the other flowers. Soon they found themselves in the middle of a great field of poppies. In this country, it is well known that when there are many of these flowers together, their smell is so powerful that anyone who breathes it will fall asleep. And if the sleep is not carried away from the scent of the flowers, he sleeps on forever.
But Dorothy did not know this, nor could she get away from the bright flowers that were everywhere around her. Her eyes grew heavy and she felt like sitting down to rest and sleep.
But the tin man would not let her do this.
“We must hurry and get back to the yellow brick road before dark,” he said. The scarecrow agreed with him. So they kept walking until Dorothy could not stand anymore. Her eyes closed and she forgot where she was and fell among the poppies. She was fast asleep.
“What do we do?” asked the tin man.
“If we leave her here, she will die,” said the lion. “The smell of the flowers is killing us all. I, myself, can hardly keep my eyes open, and the dog is asleep already.”
It was true. Toto had called down beside the girl. But the scarecrow and the tin man, not being made of flesh, were not troubled by the scent of the flowers.
“Fun fast,” said the scarecrow to the lion, “and get out of this deadly flower bed as soon as you can. We will bring the little girl with us, but if you fall asleep, you are too big to be carried.”
So the lion opened his eyes wide and ran forward as fast as he could go. In a moment, he was out of sight.
“Let’s make a chair with our arms and carry her,” said the scarecrow. So they picked up Toto and put the dog in Dorothy’s lap. Then, they made a chair with their arms and carried the sleeping girl between them through the flowers.
On and on they walked and it seemed that the great carpet of deadly flowers was endless. They followed the river and at last, they came to the lion, lying fast asleep among the poppies. The flowers had been too strong for the huge beast and he had given up. He had fallen only a short distance from the end of the poppy bed, where the sweet, green fields were.
“We can do nothing for him,” said the tin man sadly, “for he is much too heavy to lift. We must leave him here to sleep on forever. Perhaps he will dream that he found courage at last.”
“I’m sorry,” said the scarecrow. “The lion was a very good friend, even though he was cowardly. But let’s continue on.”
They carried the sleeping girl to a pretty spot beside the river. It was far enough from the poppy field to prevent her from breathing any more of the flower’s poison. They laid her gently on the soft grass and waited for the fresh breeze to wake her.