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and hurried out.

Chapter 23 “The Fighting Trees”

The next morning our friends shook hands with the soldier in the green uniform, who, with impeccably decorous deportment, had walked with them as far as the gate. When the Guardian of the Gates saw them again he wondered why they would leave the beautiful City to get into new trouble, but he kept his thoughts to himself and merely wished them luck. Then, suddenly remembering that it was the Scarecrow to whom Oz had bequeathed his throne, he yelled to him, “You’re our ruler now, so you must come back to us as soon as possible.”

“I certainly will if I am able,” replied the Scarecrow, “but first I must help Dorothy get back to Kansas.”

The sun shone brightly as our itinerant friends turned their faces toward the Land of the South. Throughout the morning they walked through green fields peppered with bright flowers, but in the afternoon they came to a portentously thick forest that seemed to extend to the right and left as far as they could see.

They didn’t dare change the direction of their journey for fear of getting lost. So, in spite of the unknown, sylvan dangers that lurked within, they decided to walk through the woods. Now they looked for a gap in the thick foliage where they could enter.

The Scarecrow, who was in the lead, discovered a big tree with such wide-spreading branches that there was room for the party to pass underneath. Now, this tree was one of an enchanted species, endemic to this region, that didn’t take kindly to strangers encroaching on their land. So when the Scarecrow walked under the tree’s branches, they bent down and twined around him. The next minute he was raised from the ground and flung headlong among his fellow travelers.

“And that’s what we do with people who flout the rules of propriety!” shouted the tree.

“Let me try,” said the Tin Woodman. Shouldering his axe, he marched up to the tree. This second sortie only exacerbated the tree’s anger. A big branch flung itself furiously at the Tin Woodman, who chopped at it like a dynamo until it was cut it in two. At once the tree began shaking all its branches as if in excruciating pain, and the Tin Woodman passed safely under it.

“Come on! Be quick!” he shouted to the others, desperate to end this queer imbroglio once and for all. They all ran forward and passed under the tree without injury. The thought of these presumptuous trespassers entering the forest make the tree livid. It quickly threw out a serpentine, prehensile branch that tightly and painfully encircled Toto’s body, and the terrified, ululating dog was shaken mercilessly until the Tin Woodman set him free by chopping off the flailing limb with one mighty swing of his axe.

The other trees of the forest did nothing to keep them back, so they made up their minds that it was only that crazed zealot in the first row who had

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