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pomposity

Now Dorothy’s determination hardened. “You must keep your promises to us!” she demanded.

The Lion thought it would be a good idea to frighten the Wizard, so he gave his loudest roar. It was so fierce that Toto jumped away in alarm and knocked over a screen that stood in the corner of the room. As the screen fell with a crash they all looked that way, and the next moment they saw what the screen had been hiding. There stood a bald, flaccid-limbed, bulbous-nosed, little old man, who was visibly chagrined.

“Pay no attention to that man behind the screen!” boomed the Head.

The Tin Woodman brandished his axe and cried out, “Who are you?”

“I AM OZ—” began the Head in a loud, hubristic tone. Then, in a feeble, apologetic tone, the old man finished, “—the Great and Terrible.”

Our friends looked at him with a mixture of surprise and disgust. “I thought Oz was a great Head,” said Dorothy.

The little man looked down, abashed, and said softly, “I’ve been making believe.”

“Making believe?” cried Dorothy, nonplussed. She wondered for a second if this funny little man could possibly be a dotty escapee from some nearby geriatric center. The Scarecrow and the Tin Woodman exchanged a swift glance.

“Hush, my dear,” he said. “Don’t speak so loudly because if you’re overheard people will know I’m just a dissimulating little fraud, and I will surely be vilified.”

“But I don’t understand,” Dorothy said, looking at him askance. “How was it that you appeared to us as a great Head?”

“Well, that was just a bit of chicanery, said Oz. “And now, for your delectation and edification, I’ll tell you how I did it. The Head you saw was just a clever artifice—many layers of painted paper that I hung from the ceiling by a wire.” He pointed to the fallen screen. “I stood behind that screen and pulled a string to make the eyes move and the mouth open. Actually, I’m capable of producing several distinct forms. With my protean talents as a puppeteer I can also simulate a lovely lady, a terrible beast, and a ball of fire.” Then, as though speaking to himself, he added vaingloriously, “My little sham was quite plausible and my Head did possess a certain verisimilitude.” Suddenly looking up, he added, “Oh, and I’m a ventriloquist. I threw my voice so it sounded like it was coming from the Head.”

“You’re more than that,” said the Scarecrow. “You’re a charlatan, and you should be ashamed of yourself!”

“I am ashamed,” answered the little man contritely. “But please let me explain.”

So they all listened while the old man told the following tale.

“I was born on a farm in Omaha…”

“Why, that isn’t very far from Kansas!” cried Dorothy, her eyes suddenly glistening with effervescence.

“That’s right! Well, as I was saying, when I was a young man in Omaha, immediately after leaving the ivy walls and hallowed halls of my old alma mater, Nebraska Junior College, instead of joining the summer exodus

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