At the Bottom of the Mountain

Nox’s angry words had a strange effect on the boastful Gnome King.
Leaning dejectedly against the side of the pit, he drew his hand
wearily across his forehead.

“I remember now,” he told them hoarsely. “I once was the Powerful Metal
Monarch, but that was before I fell into the hands of Ozma and that
wicked Wizard of Oz.”

“So it was Ozma who turned you to a jug!” exclaimed Handy with all her
hands on her hips.

“Yes, and before that she deprived me of my Kingdom, ducked me in a
Truth Pond, marooned me for years on a desert island, struck me dumb,
and then, when she could think of nothing worse, turned me to this
jug!” screamed Ruggedo, kicking at the fragments of broken china at his

“You and Ozma have been enemies for a long time, then?” observed the
Ox, looking at the Gnome with great disfavor.

“Yes, yes, ever since that girl Dorothy stole my magic belt and gave
it to Ozma,” raged Ruggedo, stamping furiously up and down. “And every
time I try to recover my own property, or capture those wretched girls
and the Emerald City, something goes wrong and they conquer ME! The
last time Ozma turned me to a jug!” cried Ruggedo, his voice rising to
a shrill whistle.

“Well, what did you expect?” inquired Handy Mandy sharply. “That Ozma
would sit calmly on her throne and allow you to conquer her? My–y such
goings on!”

“Oh, then you are friends of Ozma?” said the Gnome King suspiciously.
“But no, you could not be her friends or you would not have broken the
jug. Who ARE you? The Ox is usual enough, except for his golden horns,
but you”–Ruggedo’s eyes grew round and anxious as he looked at the
seven-armed Goat Girl, “_YOU_ are odd, aren’t you?”

“No, she’s not odd!” snapped the Royal Ox severely. He had been through
so much with the sturdy mountain lass, he felt almost as if they were
related. “Handy is just seven times as smart and seven times as handy
as most people, that’s all. And since her seven hands have served you
pretty well, try to keep a civil tongue in your head, will you?”

“Oh, all right!” Ruggedo scuffing his foot, looked sulkily from one to
the other. “Much obliged, I’m sure. But what in rockets are we doing
in this miserable hole and what are we waiting for?”

“For a fellow Metal Monarch and Wizard,” answered a smooth voice, and
appearing as quietly as he had vanished, Wutz stood calmly before them.
“Come with me, Ruggedo, I have surprising news for you, comrade!” And
without so much as a nod or “thank you” to Nox and Handy Mandy, he
linked his arm through the Gnome’s and drew him through the invisible
door, slamming it viciously behind him.

“Hi–yi!” yelled Handy Mandy indignantly. “Come back here! Come back
here! A bargain’s a bargain, you old cheat and villain! We’ve kept our
part and you shall keep yours! Where have you hidden the little King of
Keretaria? Let us out! Let us out, you false faced rascal!”

Nox, as angry as Handy, charged forward, butting his head against the
exact spot where the wizard had disappeared. To his astonishment and
joy the whole section of wall swung outward and he and the Goat Girl,
rushing through, found themselves in a narrow dimly lit silver tunnel.

“To think, to think we could have got out any time!” gulped the Royal
Ox in a vexed voice. “The door was invisible but not locked. Imagine
that, m’lass!”

“Oh, I’ve other things to do,” puffed Handy, peering down the long
passageway to see whether she could catch a glimpse of the two Kings.
“No use trying to imagine anything about this mountain, it’s just plain
bewitched and goblinish. But that wizard made us a promise and I’m
going to see that he keeps it. Come on!”

“No! No!” said the Royal Ox, leaning weakly against the side of the
tunnel. “I couldn’t bear to look at him again, at least, not just yet.
Wait! I may think of something else! WAIT!” bellowed Nox, as Handy, in
spite of his pleas, started off on a run. “There now, you’ve dropped
something out of your pocket.”

“That silver ball,” muttered Handy, scooping it up without slackening
her pace.

“The ball! The _BALL_?” exclaimed Nox, galloping breathlessly to catch
up with her. “Oh, what muddle heads, _WHAT_ muddle heads! It told us to
wait for the wizard. Quick, see what it says now?”

“Well, a lot of good it did waiting for that wizard,” grumbled the Goat
Girl; but nevertheless, she stopped and opened the silver ball. Taking
out the folded paper, she held it up toward an amethyst gleaming dully
in the side of the tunnel.

“Follow me.”

directed the paper rather mysteriously.

“But who does ‘me’ mean?” asked Handy, as Nox, still breathing heavily,
read the message over her shoulder. “I don’t see any me, do you? Beans
and butternuts! If you hadn’t stopped me I’d have caught those villains
by this time!”

“And what good would that have done?” sniffed the Ox impatiently.
“Remember there are two of them now, and that little gnome is worse
than Wutz and twice as dangerous.” Closing his eyes in an effort to
concentrate, Nox repeated over the message, “Follow me! Follow me!
Follow ME! Why of course, it’s as plain as oats!” he snorted joyfully.
“‘Me’ means that ball. Put the message back in the ball, set the ball
down and then see what happens.” And what happened, was amazing enough,
for the silver ball, once it was on the floor of the tunnel began to
roll rapidly along ahead of them, faster and faster and faster, till
Handy and Nox had all they could do to keep it in sight.

“Where do you suppose it’s taking us?” gasped the Goat Girl, thankful
that so far the tunnel had been more or less straight and fairly well

“To Kerry,” said the Royal Ox positively. “Now watch that turn, m’lass.
What’s ahead? It’s growing so dark I can’t even see my own shadow!”

“It’s a flight of steps,” whispered Handy, gazing fearfully into the
deep well of a circular stairway winding down into the darkness. They
could hear the chink of the silver ball as it rolled from step to
step, so, taking her courage in all hands, the Goat Girl, herself,
began to descend. Nox, grunting and muttering lugubriously, came just
behind her. Steps were difficult enough for the Ox at any time, but
negotiating a flight of circular steps in pitch darkness was terrifying
and dangerous in the extreme.

“Be careful!” warned Handy, looking up anxiously. “Don’t slip, or
you’ll break my heart.”

“More than that, I’m afraid,” quavered the Royal Ox, setting his front
feet cautiously on the step below while he balanced his hind quarters
perilously on the one above.

Meanwhile, Wutz and Ruggedo had shot up in the wizard’s silver car and
were now in earnest conversation together.

“How in suds did that girl break your enchantment?” asked Wutz,
dropping irritably to his silver workbench. “I was watching her every
minute through an invisible window and I didn’t see her do a thing but
break the jug. Now why couldn’t I have thought of that?”

“Oh, what does it matter?” Ruggedo settled himself with a joyful little
wriggle beside the Silver Monarch. “What does it matter so long as I am
free and able to help you? So you really think you can make yourself
Ruler of Oz?” he went on, glancing enviously round the wizard’s well
stocked den, with its tables full of magic apparatus and its shelves
and shelves of dusty volumes of wizard and witch works. Wutz had
confided his plans and intentions to Ruggedo on the ride up. “Say!”
exclaimed the Gnome King suddenly, “How did you get Glinda’s record
book? That’s the most important treasure in her castle!”

“Of course!” Lazily the wizard reached for his silver pipe. “Well, it’s
a long story, Rug, but I don’t mind telling you that I have agents
working in every Kingdom of the country. Seven, who was assigned to the
Quadling Country, brought in the record book, smallifying it in order
to steal and carry it here, and restoring it to proper size when it
arrived. Six and Eleven have brought me useful magic from the Winkies
and Gillikins, but Five managed to steal Ozma’s own magic picture, and
ha ha! since he couldn’t find the Gnome King’s belt, he brought me the
Gnome King himself! Pretty clever of him to discover you were a jug,

“Re-markable!” sighed Ruggedo, as Wutz paused to blow a silver bubble
which floated out of the work den, breaking somewhere outside with a
tinkling bell-like explosion.

“Two glasses of melted silver,” snapped the wizard to a smart looking
bell boy who came in answer to this singular summons. “Now,” continued
Wutz, looking at the Gnome King through half closed eyes, “before I
attempt to capture the Emerald City, I must have one of two things;
either the silver hammer belonging to a witch of the West or the magic
belt that once belonged to you. So far, none of my agents has been able
to find the witch, locate the hammer, or discover where Ozma now keeps
your magic belt. But you, its rightful owner, must know exactly where
it is hidden?”

Ruggedo, without saying anything, nodded briefly.

“Well then,” said Wutz, “if you will help me steal the magic belt,
which I understand is the most potent and powerful magic in Ev or Oz, I
will kick Kaliko off your throne, restore your own Kingdom and give you
besides any one of the four Oz Kingdoms you may fancy.”

“Oh, don’t bother me with any of the Oz Kingdoms. I’m sick of the
place!” frowned the Gnome, wagging his beard vindictively. “All I
want is my own old Kingdom and my own magic belt! But I tell you what
I will do. I’ll help you steal this belt, for I know exactly where it
is hidden, show you how it works so you can transform Ozma and all her
friends and counselors to rocks and rubble. BUT, when you are safely
established as supreme Wizard of Oz, you must return the belt to me.”

“Oh, naturally!” promised the wizard, chuckling to himself as he
thought how quickly he would turn Ruggedo to a rock once he was wearing
the famous belt. Taking a glass of melted silver from the tray the boy
had just set down, Wutz lifted it to his lips, and Ruggedo, his eyes
glittering with all their old spitefulness, raised his own glass to
drink to the wicked bargain.

“Come,” he sputtered, wiping his mouth on the back of his hand. “When
do we start? What magic have you to carry us to the capital and open
the emerald safe where the magic belt and other important treasures
of Ozma are hidden? But wait, perhaps we had better look in the magic
picture and see where Ozma and the Wizard of Oz are now?”

“I am afraid we cannot do that,” Wutz explained regretfully. “Seven
spoiled the canvas in some way when he reduced it to carry it here.
It doesn’t show anything now and I’ve not had time to repair the

“Pshaw, that’s too bad,” said Ruggedo, going over to touch the picture,
now hanging on the wizard’s wall. “But the record book’s still working,
I suppose?”

“Oh, yes,” said the wizard, stepping up to the marble table and
glancing down at the open page. “And listen to this. It says,” roared
the Silver King, holding his sides and simply rocking with wicked
merriment, “it says: ‘The two metal monarchs are plotting the downfall
of the present ruler of Oz.'”

“What else does it say?” inquired the Gnome King, who had had more
experience than his companion in dealing with the magicians of the
Emerald City.

“It says, ‘Ozma and her counselors have gone to the castle of Glinda
the Good,'” Wutz told him complacently closing and padlocking the big

“Then we’d better start at once and before they return,” declared
Ruggedo. “For as soon as we have my belt we can change them to rocks,
wherever they are. The most important thing is to get that belt before
they know we are after it. But how are we going to get to the Emerald
City and how’re we going to open that safe?”

“My silver blowpipe will reduce the safe to a heap of ashes without
injuring the contents,” answered the wizard, “and reaching the capital
will be the simplest part of all!”

Taking a silver tube from a high shelf, Wutz put it in his pocket and
reaching for his bubble pipe, he began to blow an enormous quicksilver
bubble round himself and the Gnome King. Slowly and with both Kings
inside, the bubble rose, passed in a silver mist out of the wizard’s
den, up through the honeycomb of caves, caverns and grottos, on up–and
up, till it floated right out of the top of the Silver King’s Mountain.

At the same moment the silver bubble carrying Wutz and Ruggedo burst
out of the top of the mountain, Handy Mandy and Nox reached the bottom,
arriving at last at the end of the winding stair. One amethyst burned
dimly on the small landing, and crowded uncomfortably together the two
prisoners found themselves facing a heavily barred door.

Private Lower of the Wizard of Wutz.
Keep Out!

announced a surly sign. But Handy and Nox, their legs still quivering
from the long downward climb, were in no humor to be stopped by a sign.

“Lower!” sniffed Handy Mandy disgustedly. “I should think it was, we
must be at the very bottom of this miserable mountain. Lower–indeed!
Well, I expect a lower is the opposite of a tower, come on!” Picking up
the silver ball, Handy squinted sharply at the door, giving it a quick
shove to see whether it was locked or fitted with an invisible moving
panel. But there was nothing remarkable about this door, and nothing
on it except a very small silver keyhole, which at once recalled to
the Goat Girl the key she had been carrying around ever since she left

“Oh, Nox, I believe the key in your horn will fit!” she cried
excitedly, and deftly removing the left prong of Nox’s headgear she
shook out the ball. Then, while Nox fairly panting with impatience
looked on, Handy took the key from the ball and inserted it in the
silver lock. When it turned easily and smoothly she was almost afraid
to open the door. What would they find on the other side? What had the
wizard done to his helpless young captive? As Handy hesitated, Nox
rushed forward, banging the door open with his great shoulder.

“Kerry! Kerry!” wailed the faithful Ox, and falling to his knees,
Nox began to snort and blubber in real earnest. Handy, hurrying
after him into the small stuffy cell, saw a handsome boy in hunting
costume standing motionless and silent as a statue in the center of
a great shimmering violet bubble. Without thinking or reasoning, or
even stopping to consult the Ox, the Goat Girl flung out all her arms
toward the solitary figure, her iron hand puncturing the bubble with a
deafening pop.

“Why, hello Nox!” The Little King stepped calmly out of the misty
vapor, all that was left of the wizard’s bubble. “Where’s your other
horn? And who is this jolly looking girl?”

WHO, indeed? There was so much to be told and explained, even with
Handy and Nox talking as fast as they could and taking turns, it took
almost an hour to tell the story of their journey from Keretaria to the
Silver Mountain and their awful experiences with the Wizard of Wutz.

Kerry himself remembered nothing since he had started out on the
hunting expedition. He listened with angry exclamations and bounces
as Nox related the tale of King Kerr’s treachery and the sad state of
affairs in Keretaria. “And I’ve been shut up in this bubble for two
years!” mourned the little King, looking round the dismal cell with a
shudder. “Why it makes my head ache just to think of it!”

“Mine, too,” agreed Handy, clapping Nox’s left horn in place. “But
it’s almost over now, my lad. If we can just find some way out of this
mountain, I’ll settle old King Kerr and his High Boys, not to speak of
this woozling wizard!”

Placing Kerry on Nox’s back, Handy looked nervously out the door of
the Lower. At sight of the winding stair Nox gave a great groan and
shudder. “I’ll never climb those steps again!” he declared, planting
his feet stubbornly. “Never! Where’s that silver hammer, m’lass? Give
it a tap and see what the dwarf can do for us? Wutz and Ruggedo are too
busy with their wicked plans to bother us now.”

“I wouldn’t be too sure of that,” muttered the Goat Girl. Nevertheless,
she pulled out the hammer and tapped it lightly on the floor.

“Well, what’s wanted?” yawned Himself, appearing instantly and in the
exact spot the hammer had struck.

“We want to get out of here!” cried Kerry, so excited and delighted
with the purple bearded dwarf, he instantly forgot all his troubles.
With a crooked smile at the little King, Himself looked questioningly
at Handy, and at the Goat Girl’s quick nod, rapped his knuckles on
the north wall of the Lower. At once, a small panel slipped aside,
revealing an elevator, its door invitingly open. Waving all her hands
to thank Himself, who was already beginning to disappear, Handy stepped
inside. Nox, with Kerry still perched on his back, just managed to
squeeze in, when the door snapped shut and the elevator sped upward
carrying its three passengers in double quicksilver time to the work
den of the wizard. Handy, a bit disappointed not to find herself on
top of the mountain, stepped out first. As Nox, with an awkward jump,
followed her, the door slammed sharply and the elevator dropped like a
plummet to the bottom of the mountain.

“Oh, this must be where Wutz works all his magic transformations,”
breathed Kerry, sliding off Nox’s back and gazing around with deep
interest and curiosity. “I’ll bet he blew a bubble round me right in
this very den. Wonder where he is now?” There was a slight cough at
Kerry’s question and turning, they saw Nifflepok standing uncertainly
in the doorway.

“Ah, so we meet again!” cried Handy, doubling up all her fists and
walking grimly toward the Silver King’s fat Minister. “Where is that
rascally Master of yours? As you probably know by this time, we kept
our part of the bargain, but he still has to keep his.”

“Indeed, you are fortunate to have escaped with your lives,” muttered
Wutz, taking off his hat and looking anxiously inside. “And I’m sorry
to tell you the Wizard of Wutz NEVER keeps his bargains. No matter how
hard we work or try to please him, sooner or later, we are all shelved
or potted!”

“Then why work for such a villain?” snorted the Royal Ox gruffly.
“Where is he now?”

“Yes, where is he now?” asked Kerry, who in spite of the terrible
stories he had heard, hoped to get a look at the wonderful wizard who
had enchanted him.

“Gone!” answer Nifflepok, putting on his high hat and giving it a
couple of taps. “He’s bubbled off with the Gnome King to conquer Oz,
and I expect by this time they’ve bewitched about half the inhabitants
of the Emerald City.”

“Oh, what a shame!” burst out Kerry.

“Bubbled off? What do you mean by that?” The Goat Girl reached out with
all her arms to pull the Silver King’s little Minister closer.

“I mean, bubbled off,” repeated Nifflepok, struggling to release
himself from Handy’s clutches. “He blew a quicksilver bubble and he and
Ruggedo sailed away in it, if that’s any plainer.”

“Oh, then we had better go right after them,” snorted the Ox in an
anxious voice. “Show us out of this mountain, you little pudding, or
I’ll toss you higher than a kite.”

“Oh, do let’s do something!” begged Kerry, who, being young, was quite
daring and absolutely foolhardy. “We aren’t going to let those dreadful
Kings conquer the country, are we, and not lift a hand?”

“Well, I’m sure I’d lift all seven if it would do any good,” mused
Handy Mandy in a depressed voice. “But how can we stop them? Wutz and
Rug have probably stolen all the magic in Ozma’s palace by this time,
the thieving rascals!”

“But surely YOU have some magic?” ventured Nifflepok, who had finally
jerked himself free. “Or you could never have disenchanted that gnome
or found the wizard’s Lower and rescued this boy; and if you have–”
he warned, backing rapidly away, “if you have, you’d better use it
QUICK. When Wutz finishes conquering Oz, he’s sure to remember you and
turn you to rocks and rubble. He’s going to turn everyone to rocks and
rubble!” wailed Nifflepok, dashing out of the workshop.

“Great Gazoo, what shall we do? I don’t want to be a rock,” snorted

“And I won’t be a rock!” stormed the little King. “It was bad enough
being shut up in a bubble and missing two whole years–oh, you won’t
let him turn us to rocks, will you, Handy? And do let’s help poor Ozma,
before it’s too late!”

Kerry looked up at her so pleadingly, Handy, against all her
inclinations and better judgment, pulled out the silver hammer again.
“The hammer will be better than the ball,” she reasoned quickly, “for
the ball only seems to help Keretarians. Now then!” Lifting the hammer
in her iron hand, the Goat Girl brought it down sharply on the wizard’s
marble table. Silver sparks flew up in every direction and out of the
very middle of the shower stepped the yawning dwarf.

“Say, I’m trying to take a nap,” grumbled Himself, stretching his arms
up sleepily. “What do you fellows want now?”

“We want to go to the Emerald City of Oz and save Ozma from Wutz and
the Gnome King!” explained Handy in one breathless sentence.

“My! All that?” Stifling another yawn, Himself grinned mischievously at
the Goat Girl. “Then stand in line, please.” So Handy placed herself
in front of the Royal Ox and Kerry stepped behind him, and the dwarf,
seizing the hammer, brought it down with a terrible blow just behind
the little King. And what a blow it was you can readily understand,
when I tell you that its force carried the three travelers clear out of
the Silver King’s Mountain and all the way to the Emerald City itself.
Flying along for a moment beside them, Himself slipped the hammer
back in the Goat Girl’s hand, and then with another tremendous yawn,