Chapter 9 – The Queen of the Field Mice
“We can not be far from the yellow brick road, now,” said the scarecrow, as he stood beside the girl, “because we have come almost as far as as the river carried us away.”
The tin man was about to reply when he heard a low growl. He turned his head and saw a strange beast come running over the grass toward them. It was, indeed, a great yellow wildcat. The tin man thought it must be chasing something, because its ears were flat against its head and its mouth was wide open. It had ugly teeth and it had red eyes that glowed like balls of fire. As it came nearer, the tin man saw that there was a little gray field mouse running in front of the beast. And although the tin man had no heart, he knew it was wrong for the wildcat to try to kill such a pretty, harmless creature.
So the tin man raised his ax. As the wildcat ran by, he give it a quick chop that cut the beast’s head cleanly off from its body. The head and body rolled over in two pieces in front of the tin man’s feet.
The field mouse, now that it was free from its enemy, stopped short. It came up slowly to the tin man and said in a squeaky little voice:
“Oh, thank you! Thank you ever so much for saving my life.”
“Please don’t mention it,” replied the tin man, “I have no heart, you know, so I am careful to help everyone who needs a friend, even if it is only a mouse.”
“Only a mouse!” cried the little animal, indignantly. “I am a Queen! The Queen of all the field mice!”
“Oh, indeed,” said the tin man, bowing.
“Therefore you have done a great deed, and a brave deed, by saving my life,” added the queen.
At that moment, several mice came running up as fast as their little legs could run. When they saw their queen, they exclaimed:
“Oh, your Majesty, we thought you would be killed! How did you manage to escape the great wildcat?” They all bowed to the little queen. They bowed so low that they almost stood on their heads.
“This strange tin man,” she answered, “killed the wildcat and saved my life. So from now on, you all must serve him and obey his every wish.”
“We will!” cried all the mice, in chorus. And then they scampered in all directions because Toto had woken up from his sleep and jumped right into the middle of the group. Toto barked happily because he loved to chase mice, and he didn’t think it was a bad thing.
But the tin man caught the dog in his arms and held him tightly. He called to the mice, “Come back! Come back! Toto will not hurt you.”
At this, the queen of the mice stuck out her head from under the grass and asked, in a timid voice, “Are you sure that he will not bite us?”
“I will not let him,” said the tin man, “so do not be afraid.”
One by one, the mice came creeping back, and Toto did not bark again, although he tried to get out of the tin man’s arms. He didn’t try to bite the tin man because he knew he couldn’t bite tin. Finally, once of the biggest mice spoke:
“Is there anything we can do,” it asked, “to repay you for saving the life of our queen?”
“Nothing that I know of,” answered the tin man. But the scarecrow, who had been trying to think, but could not because his brainless head was stuffed with straw, said quickly, “Oh yes! You can save our friend, the cowardly lion, who is asleep in the poppies.”
“A lion!” cried the little queen. “Oh, he would eat us all up.”
“Oh, no,” said the scarecrow, “this lion is a coward.”
“Really?” asked the mouse.
“He says so himself,” answered the scarecrow, “and he would never hurt anyone who is our friend. If you will help us save him, I promise that he will treat you with kindness.”
“Very well,” said the queen, “we trust you. But what can we do?”
“Are there a lot of mice who obey you?”
“Oh yes, there are thousands,” she replied.
“Then ask them to come here as soon as possible, and ask each one to bring a long piece of string.”
The queen turned to the mice that were with her and told them to go and get all of her mice. As soon as they heard her orders, they ran away in every direction as fast as possible.
“Now,” said the scarecrow to the tin man, “you must go to those trees on the river bank and make a cart that will carry the lion.”
So the tin man went to the trees and began to work. He soon made a cart out of the tree branches. He made four wheels our of small pieces of the tree trunk. He worked so quickly that by the time the mice arrived, the tin man’s cart was ready.
The mice came from all directions. There were thousands of them: big mice, little mice and middle-sized mice. Each one brought a piece of string in its mouth. At this time, Dorothy woke up from her long sleep and opened her eyes. She was greatly surprised to find herself lying on the grass with thousands of mice. All of the mice were looking at her timidly. But the scarecrow told her about everything. He turned to the little mouse and said to Dorothy:
“Allow me to introduce you. This is her Majesty, the Queen.”
Dorothy nodded seriously and the queen curtsied. After that, the queen became very friendly with the girl.
The scarecrow and the tin man now began to fasten the mice to the cart, using the strings. One end of a string was tied around the neck of each mouse and the other end was tied to the cart. Of course, the cart was a thousand times bigger than any of the mice, but when all the mice had been harnessed, they were able to pull the cart easily. Even the scarecrow and the tin man could sit on it, and they were pulled by the strange little horses. They went tot he place where the lion was sleeping.
After a great deal of hard work, they managed to get the heavy lion on the cart. Then, the queen quickly gave her mice the order to start, because she feared that the mice would fall asleep if they stayed among the poppies for too long.
At first, the little mice could hardly move the heavy cart, but when the scarecrow and the tin man pushed from behind, they could move more easily. Soon, they got the lion out of the poppy field and into the green fields. He could breathe the sweet, fresh air again, instead of the poisonous scent of the flowers.
Dorothy came to meet them and thanked the little mice for saving her companion from death. She had grown very fond of the big lion, so she was glad that he had been rescued.
Then the mice were unharnessed from the cart and they scampered away through the grass to their homes. The queen of the mice was the last to leave.
“If you ever need us again,” she said, “come out into the field and call for us. We will hear you and come to your help. Good bye!”
“Good bye!” they all answered, and the queen ran away. Dorothy held Toto tightly so that he didn’t run after her.
After this, they sat down beside the lion and waited for him to wake up. The scarecrow brought Dorothy some fruit from a tree, which she ate for dinner.