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26. How Ozma Refused to Fight for Her Kingdom
Ozma was in her rose garden picking a bouquet when the party arrived, and she greeted all her old and new friends as smilingly and sweetly as ever.
Dorothy's eyes were full of tears as she kissed the lovely Ruler of Oz, and she whispered to her:
"Oh, Ozma, Ozma! I'm SO sorry!"
Ozma seemed surprised.
"Sorry for what, Dorothy?" she asked.
"For all your trouble about the Nome King," was the reply.
Ozma laughed with genuine amusement.
"Why, that has not troubled me a bit, dear Princess," she replied. Then, looking around at the sad faces of her friends, she added: "Have you all been worrying about this tunnel?"
"We have!" they exclaimed in a chorus.
"Well, perhaps it is more serious than I imagined," admitted the fair Ruler; "but I haven't given the matter much thought. After dinner we will all meet together and talk it over."
So they went to their rooms and prepared for dinner, and Dorothy dressed herself in her prettiest gown and put on her coronet, for she thought that this might be the last time she would ever appear as a Princess of Oz.
The Scarecrow, the Tin Woodman and Jack Pumpkinhead all sat at the dinner table, although none of them was made so he could eat. Usually they served to enliven the meal with their merry talk, but to-night all seemed strangely silent and uneasy.
As soon as the dinner was finished Ozma led the company to her own private room in which hung the Magic Picture. When they had seated themselves the Scarecrow was the first to speak.
"Is the Nome King's tunnel finished, Ozma?" he asked.
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