Chapter 20. The Captive Yoop
As they were preparing to leave, Dorothy asked: "Can you tell us where there is a dark well?"
"Never heard of such a thing," said the Tottenhot. "We live our lives in the dark, mostly, and sleep in the daytime; but we've never seen a dark well, or anything like one."
"Does anyone live on those mountains beyond here?" asked the Scarecrow.
"Lots of people. But you'd better not visit them. We never go there," was the reply.
"What are the people like?" Dorothy inquired.
"Can't say. We've been told to keep away from the mountain paths, and so we obey. This sandy desert is good enough for us, and we're not disturbed here," declared the Tottenhot.
So they left the man snuggling down to sleep in his dusky dwelling, and went out into the sunshine, taking the path that led toward the rocky places. They soon found it hard climbing, for the rocks were uneven and full of sharp points and edges, and now there was no path at all. Clambering here and there among the boulders they kept steadily on, gradually rising higher and higher until finally they came to a great rift in a part of the mountain, where the rock seemed to have split in two and left high walls on either side.
"S'pose we go this way," suggested Dorothy; "it's much easier walking than to climb over the hills."
"How about that sign?" asked Ojo.
"What sign?" she inquired.
The Munchkin boy pointed to some words painted on the wall of rock beside them, which Dorothy had not noticed. The words read:
"LOOK OUT FOR YOOP."
The girl eyed this sign a moment and turned to the Scarecrow, asking:
"Who is Yoop; or what is Yoop?"
The straw man shook his head. Then looked at Toto and the dog said "Woof!"
"Only way to find out is to go on," said Scraps.
This being quite true, they went on. As they proceeded, the walls of rock on either side grew higher and higher. Presently they came upon another sign which read:
"BEWARE THE CAPTIVE YOOP."
"Why, as for that," remarked Dorothy, "if Yoop is a captive there's no need to beware of him. Whatever Yoop happens to be, I'd much rather have him a captive than running around loose."
"So had I," agreed the Scarecrow, with a nod of his painted head.
"Still," said Scraps, reflectively:
"Dear me! Aren't you feeling a little queer, just now?" Dorothy asked the Patchwork Girl.
"Not queer, but crazy," said Ojo. "When she says those things I'm sure her brains get mixed somehow and work the wrong way.
"I don't see why we are told to beware the Yoop unless he is dangerous," observed the Scarecrow in a puzzled tone.
"Never mind; we'll find out all about him when we get to where he is," replied the little girl.
The narrow canyon turned and twisted this way and that, and the rift was so small that they were able to touch both walls at the same time by stretching out their arms. Toto had run on ahead, frisking playfully, when suddenly he uttered a sharp bark of fear and came running back to them with his tail between his legs, as dogs do when they are frightened.
"Ah," said the Scarecrow, who was leading the way, "we must be near Yoop."
Just then, as he rounded a sharp turn, the Straw man stopped so suddenly that all the others bumped against him.
"What is it?" asked Dorothy, standing on tip-toes to look over his shoulder. But then she saw what it was and cried "Oh!" in a tone of astonishment.
In one of the rock walls—that at their left—was hollowed a great cavern, in front of which was a row of thick iron bars, the tops and bottoms being firmly fixed in the solid rock. Over this cavern was a big sign, which Dorothy read with much curiosity, speaking the words aloud that all might know what they said:
"MISTER YOOP—HIS CAVE
The Largest Untamed Giant in Captivity.
STRANGERS APPROACHING THIS CAVE DO SO AT THEIR
P.S.—Don't feed the Giant yourself."
"Very well," said Ojo, with a sigh; "let's go back."
"It's a long way back," declared Dorothy.
"So it is," remarked the Scarecrow, "and it means a tedious climb over those sharp rocks if we can't use this passage. I think it will be best to run by the Giant's cave as fast as we can go. Mister Yoop seems to be asleep just now."
But the Giant wasn't asleep. He suddenly appeared at the front of his cavern, seized the iron bars in his great hairy hands and shook them until they rattled in their sockets. Yoop was so tall that our friends had to tip their heads way back to look into his face, and they noticed he was dressed all in pink velvet, with silver buttons and braid. The Giant's boots were of pink leather and had tassels on them and his hat was decorated with an enormous pink ostrich feather, carefully curled.
"Yo-ho!" he said in a deep bass voice; "I smell dinner."
"I think you are mistaken," replied the Scarecrow. "There is no orange marmalade around here."
"Ah, but I eat other things," asserted Mister Yoop. "That is, I eat them when I can get them. But this is a lonely place, and no good meat has passed by my cave for many years; so I'm hungry."
"Haven't you eaten anything in many years?" asked Dorothy.
"Nothing except six ants and a monkey. I thought the monkey would taste like meat people, but the flavor was different. I hope you will taste better, for you seem plump and tender."
"Oh, I'm not going to be eaten," said Dorothy.
"I shall keep out of your way," she answered.
"How heartless!" wailed the Giant, shaking the bars again. "Consider how many years it is since I've eaten a single plump little girl! They tell me meat is going up, but if I can manage to catch you I'm sure it will soon be going down. And I'll catch you if I can."
With this the Giant pushed his big arms, which looked like tree-trunks (except that tree-trunks don't wear pink velvet) between the iron bars, and the arms were so long that they touched the opposite wall of the rock passage. Then he extended them as far as he could reach toward our travelers and found he could almost touch the Scarecrow—but not quite.
"Come a little nearer, please," begged the Giant.
"I'm a Scarecrow."
"A Scarecrow? Ugh! I don't care a straw for a scarecrow. Who is that bright-colored delicacy behind you?"
"Me?" asked Scraps. "I'm a Patchwork Girl, and I'm stuffed with cotton."
"Dear me," sighed the Giant in a disappointed tone; "that reduces my dinner from four to two—and the dog. I'll save the dog for dessert."
Toto growled, keeping a good distance away.
"Back up," said the Scarecrow to those behind him. "Let us go back a little way and talk this over."
So they turned and went around the bend in the passage, where they were out of sight of the cave and Mister Yoop could not hear them.
"My idea," began the Scarecrow, when they had halted, "is to make a dash past the cave, going on a run."
"He'd grab us," said Dorothy.
"Well, he can't grab but one at a time, and I'll go first. As soon as he grabs me the rest of you can slip past him, out of his reach, and he will soon let me go because I am not fit to eat."
They decided to try this plan and Dorothy took Toto in her arms, so as to protect him. She followed just after the Scarecrow. Then came Ojo, with Scraps the last of the four. Their hearts beat a little faster than usual as they again approached the Giant's cave, this time moving swiftly forward.
It turned out about the way the Scarecrow had planned. Mister Yoop was quite astonished to see them come flying toward him, and thrusting his arms between the bars he seized the Scarecrow in a firm grip. In the next instant he realized, from the way the straw crunched between his fingers, that he had captured the non-eatable man, but during that instant of delay Dorothy and Ojo had slipped by the Giant and were out of reach. Uttering a howl of rage the monster threw the Scarecrow after them with one hand and grabbed Scraps with the other.
The poor Scarecrow went whirling through the air and so cleverly was he aimed that he struck Ojo's back and sent the boy tumbling head over heels, and he tripped Dorothy and sent her, also, sprawling upon the ground. Toto flew out of the little girl's arms and landed some distance ahead, and all were so dazed that it was a moment before they could scramble to their feet again. When they did so they turned to look toward the Giant's cave, and at that moment the ferocious Mister Yoop threw the Patchwork Girl at them.
Down went all three again, in a heap, with Scraps on top. The Giant roared so terribly that for a time they were afraid he had broken loose; but he hadn't. So they sat in the road and looked at one another in a rather bewildered way, and then began to feel glad.
"We did it!" exclaimed the Scarecrow, with satisfaction. "And now we are free to go on our way."
"Mister Yoop is very impolite," declared Scraps. "He jarred me terribly. It's lucky my stitches are so fine and strong, for otherwise such harsh treatment might rip me up the back."
"Allow me to apologize for the Giant," said the Scarecrow, raising the Patchwork Girl to her feet and dusting her skirt with his stuffed hands. "Mister Yoop is a perfect stranger to me, but I fear, from the rude manner in which he has acted, that he is no gentleman."
Dorothy and Ojo laughed at this statement and Toto barked as if he understood the joke, after which they all felt better and resumed the journey in high spirits.
"Of course," said the little girl, when they had walked a way along the passage, "it was lucky for us the Giant was caged; for, if he had happened to be loose, he—he—"
"Perhaps, in that case, he wouldn't be hungry any more," said Ojo gravely.