The Marvelous Land of Oz by L. Frank Baum
19. Dr. Nikidik's Famous Wishing Pills
The Tin Woodman was usually a peaceful man, but when occasion required he could fight as fiercely as a Roman gladiator. So, when the Jackdaws nearly knocked him down in their rush of wings, and their sharp beaks and claws threatened to damage his brilliant plating, the Woodman picked up his axe and made it whirl swiftly around his head.
But although many were beaten off in this way, the birds were so numerous and so brave that they continued the attack as furiously as before. Some of them pecked at the eyes of the Gump, which hung over the nest in a helpless condition; but the Gump's eyes were of glass and could not be injured. Others of the Jackdaws rushed at the Saw-Horse; but that animal, being still upon his back, kicked out so viciously with his wooden legs that he beat off as many assailants as did the Woodman's axe.
Finding themselves thus opposed, the birds fell upon the Scarecrow's straw, which lay at the center of the nest, covering Tip and the Woggle-Bug and Jack's pumpkin head, and began tearing it away and flying off with it, only to let it drop, straw by straw into the great gulf beneath.
The Scarecrow's head, noting with dismay this wanton destruction of his interior, cried to the Tin Woodman to save him; and that good friend responded with renewed energy. His axe fairly flashed among the Jackdaws, and fortunately the Gump began wildly waving the two wings remaining on the left side of its body. The flutter of these great wings filled the Jackdaws with terror, and when the Gump by its exertions freed itself from the peg of rock on which it hung, and sank flopping into the nest, the alarm of the birds knew no bounds and they fled screaming over the mountains.
When the last foe had disappeared, Tip crawled from under the sofas and assisted the Woggle-Bug to follow him.
"We are saved!" shouted the boy, delightedly.
"We are, indeed!" responded the Educated Insect, fairly hugging the stiff head of the Gump in his joy. "and we owe it all to the flopping of the Thing, and the good axe of the Woodman!"
"If I am saved, get me out of here!" called Jack; whose head was still beneath the sofas; and Tip managed to roll the pumpkin out and place it upon its neck again. He also set the Saw-Horse upright, and said to it:
"We owe you many thanks for the gallant fight you made."
"I really think we have escaped very nicely," remarked the Tin Woodman, in a tone of pride.
"Not so!" exclaimed a hollow voice.
At this they all turned in surprise to look at the Scarecrow's head, which lay at the back of the nest.
"I am completely ruined!" declared the Scarecrow, as he noted their astonishment. "For where is the straw that stuffs my body?"
The awful question startled them all. They gazed around the nest with horror, for not a vestige of straw remained. The Jackdaws had stolen it to the last wisp and flung it all into the chasm that yawned for hundreds of feet beneath the nest.
"My poor, poor friend!" said the Tin Woodman, taking up the Scarecrow's head and caressing it tenderly; "whoever could imagine you would come to this untimely end?"
"I did it to save my friends," returned the head; "and I am glad that I perished in so noble and unselfish a manner."
"But why are you all so despondent?" inquired the Woggle-Bug. "The Scarecrow's clothing is still safe."
"Yes," answered the Tin Woodman; "but our friend's clothes are useless without stuffing."
"Why not stuff him with money?" asked Tip.
"Money!" they all cried, in an amazed chorus.
"To be sure," said the boy. "In the bottom of the nest are thousands of dollar bills -- and two-dollar bills -- and five-dollar bills -- and tens, and twenties, and fifties. There are enough of them to stuff a dozen Scarecrows. Why not use the money?"
The Tin Woodman began to turn over the rubbish with the handle of his axe; and, sure enough, what they had first thought only worthless papers were found to be all bills of various denominations, which the mischievous Jackdaws had for years been engaged in stealing from the villages and cities they visited.
There was an immense fortune lying in that inaccessible nest; and Tip's suggestion was, with the Scarecrow's consent, quickly acted upon.
They selected all the newest and cleanest bills and assorted them into various piles. The Scarecrow's left leg and boot were stuffed with five- dollar bills; his right leg was stuffed with ten-dollar bills, and his body so closely filled with fifties, one-hundreds and one-thousands that he could scarcely button his jacket with comfort.
"You are now" said the Woggle-Bug, impressively, when the task had been completed, "the most valuable member of our party; and as you are among faithful friends there is little danger of your being spent."
"Thank you," returned the Scarecrow, gratefully. "I feel like a new man; and although at first glance I might be mistaken for a Safety Deposit Vault, I beg you to remember that my Brains are still composed of the same old material. And these are the possessions that have always made me a person to be depended upon in an emergency."
"Well, the emergency is here," observed Tip; "and unless your brains help us out of it we shall be compelled to pass the remainder of our lives in this nest."
"How about these wishing pills?" enquired the Scarecrow, taking the box from his jacket pocket. "Can't we use them to escape?"
"Not unless we can count seventeen by twos," answered the Tin Woodman. "But our friend the Woggle-Bug claims to be highly educated, so he ought easily to figure out how that can be done."
"It isn't a question of education," returned the Insect; "it's merely a question of mathematics. I've seen the professor work lots of sums on the blackboard, and he claimed anything could be done with x's and y's and a's, and such things, by mixing them up with plenty of plusses and minuses and equals, and so forth. But he never said anything, so far as I can remember, about counting up to the odd number of seventeen by the even numbers of twos."
"Stop! stop!" cried the Pumpkinhead. "You're making my head ache."
"And mine," added the Scarecrow. "Your mathematics seem to me very like a bottle of mixed pickles the more you fish for what you want the less chance you have of getting it. I am certain that if the thing can be accomplished at all, it is in a very simple manner."
"Yes," said Tip. "old Mombi couldn't use x's and minuses, for she never went to school."
"Why not start counting at a half of one?" asked the Saw-Horse, abruptly. "Then anyone can count up to seventeen by twos very easily."
They looked at each other in surprise, for the Saw-Horse was considered the most stupid of the entire party.
"You make me quite ashamed of myself," said the Scarecrow, bowing low to the Saw-Horse.
"Nevertheless, the creature is right," declared the Woggle-Bug; for twice one-half is one, and if you get to one it is easy to count from one up to seventeen by twos."
"I wonder I didn't think of that myself," said the Pumpkinhead.
"I don't," returned the Scarecrow. "You're no wiser than the rest of us, are you? But let us make a wish at once. Who will swallow the first pill?"
"Suppose you do it," suggested Tip.
"I can't," said the Scarecrow.
"Why not? You've a mouth, haven't you?" asked the boy.
"Yes; but my mouth is painted on, and there's no swallow connected with it,' answered the Scarecrow. "In fact," he continued, looking from one to another critically, "I believe the boy and the Woggle-Bug are the only ones in our party that are able to swallow."
Observing the truth of this remark, Tip said:
"Then I will undertake to make the first wish. Give me one of the Silver Pills."
This the Scarecrow tried to do; but his padded gloves were too clumsy to clutch so small an object, and he held the box toward the boy while Tip selected one of the pills and swallowed it.
"Count!" cried the Scarecrow.
"One-half, one, three, five, seven, nine, eleven,!" counted Tip. thirteen, fifteen, seventeen.
"Now wish!" said the Tin Woodman anxiously:
But Just then the boy began to suffer such fearful pains that he became alarmed.
"The pill has poisoned me!" he gasped; "O -- h! O-o-o-o-o! Ouch! Murder! Fire! O-o-h!" and here he rolled upon the bottom of the nest in such contortions that he frightened them all.
"What can we do for you. Speak, I beg!" entreated the Tin Woodman, tears of sympathy running down his nickel cheeks.
"I -- I don't know!" answered Tip. "O -- h! I wish I'd never swallowed that pill!"
Then at once the pain stopped, and the boy rose to his feet again and found the Scarecrow looking with amazement at the end of the pepper-box.
"What's happened?" asked the boy, a little ashamed of his recent exhibition.
"Why, the three pills are in the box again!" said the Scarecrow.
"Of course they are," the Woggle-Bug declared. "Didn't Tip wish that he'd never swallowed one of them? Well, the wish came true, and he didn't swallow one of them. So of course they are all three in the box."
"That may be; but the pill gave me a dreadful pain, just the same," said the boy.
"Impossible!" declared the Woggle-Bug. "If you have never swallowed it, the pill can not have given you a pain. And as your wish, being granted, proves you did not swallow the pill, it is also plain that you suffered no pain."
"Then it was a splendid imitation of a pain," retorted Tip, angrily. "Suppose you try the next pill yourself. We've wasted one wish already."
"Oh, no, we haven't!" protested the Scarecrow. "Here are still three pills in the box, and each pill is good for a wish."
"Now you're making my head ache," said Tip. "I can't understand the thing at all. But I won't take another pill, I promise you!" and with this remark he retired sulkily to the back of the nest.
"Well," said the Woggle-Bug, "it remains for me to save us in my most Highly Magnified and Thoroughly Educated manner; for I seem to be the only one able and willing to make a wish. Let me have one of the pills."
He swallowed it without hesitation, and they all stood admiring his courage while the Insect counted seventeen by twos in the same way that Tip had done. And for some reason -- perhaps because Woggle-Bugs have stronger stomachs than boys -- the silver pellet caused it no pain whatever.
"I wish the Gump's broken wings mended, and as good as new!" said the Woggle-Bug, in a slow; impressive voice.
All turned to look at the Thing, and so quickly had the wish been granted that the Gump lay before them in perfect repair, and as well able to fly through the air as when it had first been brought to life on the roof of the palace.