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with penniless, drunken reprobates—or worse, dwelling in that fiery venue far, far below the street with a red-suited, trident-carrying personification of evil—his eyelids began to quiver. In a pleading voice he continued, “I implore you. After all, I’m only human and therefore intrinsically not perfect. We all have our foibles, our little peccadilloes. And I assure you that I’ve already been sufficiently chastened and that I’ve learned my lesson.”

They felt sorry for the beleaguered old man, and they all accepted the proposed covenant amenably. Dorothy, thinking that Oz showed a few outward signs of genuine penitence, decided that if he could find some way to send her back to Kansas, she’d be willing to condone everything he had done.

Chapter 20 “The Confession”

For three days Dorothy heard nothing from Oz. These were sad days for the little girl, although her friends were all quite contented. The Scarecrow, thankfully noticing that his constant fear of publicly embarrassing himself—by committing some grievous social faux pas or grammatical solecism—had at last subsided, told everyone that he was contemplating abstruse theories and recondite facts, but that he couldn’t say what they were because they were far too esoteric for anyone but himself to comprehend. When the Tin Woodman walked about he felt his new heart moving around in his chest, and he told Dorothy he had discovered it to be a kind and clement one. The Lion declared he was afraid of nothing on earth and would gladly face a dozen bloodthirsty Kalidahs.

On the fourth day, to Dorothy’s great joy, Oz sent for her, and when she entered the Throne Room he greeted her pleasantly. “Sit down, my dear,” he said. “The reason I haven’t summoned you for the past few days is not because I’ve been remiss; it’s just that it would have been pointless for me to make meaningless prognostications. But now I think I’ve found a way to get you back to Kansas.”

Dorothy felt her heart skip, and she watched him intently. “You see,” he continued, “when I came to this country it was in a balloon. You also came through the air, being carried by a cyclone. So I believe the best way to get you back home is through the air. Now, it’s quite beyond my ken to make a cyclone, but it’s certainly within my bailiwick to make a balloon.”

Starting to feel slightly less like some pathetic also-ran, Dorothy asked, “How?”

“A balloon,” said Oz, envisioning his old circus balloon archetypally, “is made of silk, which is coated with a veneer of glue to keep the hot air in. I have plenty of silk in the Palace, so it will be no trouble to make the balloon. The only danger is that if the air gets cold the balloon will start to drop and we’ll have to jettison our supplies. At worst, we’ll drop back to the ground and be lost in the desert—a sobering thought.”

“We?” exclaimed the girl. “Are you going with me?”

“Yes, of course,” replied Oz.

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