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13. The Nome King Laughs
In a moment the King returned to his throne and relighted his pipe, and the rest of the little band of adventurers settled themselves for another long wait. They were greatly disheartened by the failure of their girl Ruler, and the knowledge that she was now an ornament in the Nome King's palace--a dreadful, creepy place in spite of all its magnificence. Without their little leader they did not know what to do next, and each one, down to the trembling private of the army, began to fear he would soon be more ornamental than useful.
Suddenly the Nome King began laughing.
"Ha, ha, ha! He, he, he! Ho, ho, ho!"
"What's happened?" asked the Scarecrow.
"Why, your friend, the Tin Woodman, has become the funniest thing you can imagine," replied the King, wiping the tears of merriment from his eyes. "No one would ever believe he could make such an amusing ornament. Next!"
They gazed at each other with sinking hearts. One of the generals began to weep dolefully.
"What are you crying for?" asked the Scarecrow, indignant at such a display of weakness.
"He owed me six weeks back pay," said the general, "and I hate to lose him."
"Then you shall go and find him," declared the Scarecrow.
"Me!" cried the general, greatly alarmed.
"Certainly. It is your duty to follow your commander. March!"
"I won't," said the general. "I'd like to, of course; but I just simply WON'T."
The Scarecrow looked enquiringly at the Nome King.
"Never mind," said the jolly monarch. "If he doesn't care to enter the palace and make his guesses I'll throw him into one of my fiery furnaces."
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