At the End of the Tunnel

Suddenly Shaggy stopped and stared about him. He was alone in the
tunnel! He had been walking along looking at nothing in particular,
when in a flash his companions had vanished. Just ahead of him he could
hear the excited chattering of the twenty young beavers. But there was
no sign of any living thing. Then Shaggy looked down at himself and
cried out in amazement–he wasn’t there either!

He could see nothing of his body, although he felt as firm as ever.

“You will be kind enough to remove your wand from my eye, please!” It
was Twiffle’s voice speaking somewhere near Shaggy.

“I beg your pardon, we are both invisible, so my poking my wand in your
eye was entirely unintentional, I assure you,” the beaver King’s voice
answered.

“Hey! Stay off my foot!” Tom called out.

“Was that your foot? I’m sure I didn’t see it,” Twink’s voice answered
soothingly.

“Neither do I, but it’s there just the same,” replied Tom’s voice
ruefully.

All about them the young beavers’ voices had risen, and several angry
disputes were taking place. Evidently some accidents had occurred among
the little animals, too.

The Shaggy Man said sadly, “Well, this seems to be the Barrier of
Invisibility, and it’s most effective too. I propose we all stay just
where we are until we decide what to do for we all seem to be quite
invisible.”

“Must we turn back?” asked Twink anxiously.

“Don’t you worry, Twink,” said Tom, “even if we can’t get to the Land
of Oz, we’ll find our way home.”

“Yes, I think we must turn back,” announced the beaver King. “Let us
retreat in the tunnel to the point where the Barrier of Invisibility
begins. It should be only a few feet from where we are now since we
just entered it.”

“But we have turned about and lost all sense of direction since
becoming invisible,” said the Shaggy Man. “Since we cannot see the
tunnel, it looks the same in every direction, so how are we to know
which way to turn to go back?”

“Walk ten steps in one direction and if you are still invisible, then
turn about and walk twenty feet in the other direction,” instructed the
beaver King.

This they all did and after a bit of experimentation and several minor
collisions, they were relieved to find themselves visible once more and
standing on the edge of the Barrier of Invisibility.

At the King’s order, the young beavers had remained where they were,
until the others had found their way out of the Barrier. Now the beaver
King uttered a series of calls that quickly guided the animals beyond
the Barrier of Invisibility.

Shaggy and his friends stood about in the tunnel gazing from one to
another, almost despairingly, wondering what to do next.

“There is still hope that we may not have to go back and may be able to
use the tunnel to reach Oz, my friends,” began the beaver King quietly.
“Last night and far into the morning, while you were sleeping, I was
busy in my fairy workshop, studying the problem. I believe I have
solved it, although, of course, we cannot be quite sure until we make
the test.”

With this the little animal unstrapped from his back the small bundle
he had been carrying. Laying it on the tunnel floor, he carefully
unfolded it. The bundle seemed to consist of a number of shimmering
pieces of silver cloth, so light they might have been spun from spider
webs.

The beaver King selected one of the folds of gossamer cloth and handed
it to Twink.

“Unfold it and put it about you, my dear,” he said. “I think you will
find it just your size.”

Twink did as instructed and found the cloth fitted about her like a
fairy cloak. “Oh, it’s lovely,” she exclaimed.

“It’s more than that, I hope,” said the beaver King. “It is a Cloak of
Visibility.”

“A cloak of what?” exclaimed the Shaggy Man.

“You have all heard and read tales of cloaks of invisibility,”
explained the beaver King. “Cloaks that make the wearer invisible are
famous in the fairy tales of all lands. Well, I knew that we would
become invisible today against our wishes, so I have attempted to
create a Cloak of Visibility–a cloak that would overcome the spell of
invisibility.”

“Do you think it will work?” asked the Shaggy Man hopefully.

“I do not know,” confessed the beaver King. “I am sure it wouldn’t work
above ground where Glinda’s Barrier of Invisibility is full strength.
Underground, Glinda’s spell is much less intense, because the earth and
sands absorb and destroy the fairy spell. Glinda is a fairy just as
Ozma is, and fairies, you know, are creatures of the light and air, and
it is there that their powers are the strongest.”

The beaver King then handed out Cloaks of the shimmering material to
all of them. There was a tiny one that fitted Twiffle perfectly. The
twenty young beavers opened their knapsacks and drew from them their
own Cloaks of Visibility, which they adjusted about themselves.

“Now we are ready to test the power of the Cloaks,” said the beaver
King. “They should not only make us visible, but should enable us to
see the invisible.” Twink thought she detected the slightest tremor in
the King’s voice. It was no wonder, she thought, for so much depended
on those cloaks he had made.

Once again they proceeded into the tunnel, this time holding their
breaths with excitement. Would the Cloaks of Visibility work?
One–two–three–four–five steps and they found themselves
watching one another to see if they were still visible.
Six–seven–eight–nine–ten steps–but no one breathed freely until
they had counted twenty steps. They all were still visible! And they
could still see the tunnel walls. The Cloaks of Visibility worked
perfectly.

Eagerly the twenty young beavers took the lead again.

“Seems to me,” remarked the Shaggy Man after they had progressed
for some distance, “that by now we may have crossed the Barrier of
Invisibility.”

“You’re right,” agreed the beaver King. “And that means we are now
journeying underground in the Land of Oz. It also means that the Cloaks
of Visibility are no longer necessary for our journey, so I propose
that we discard them here and I will destroy them so that they may
never be used by anyone else for reaching the Land of Oz.”

Each of the traveler removed his shimmering cloak and placed it on
a little pile in the center of the tunnel. When all the cloaks were
there, the beaver King waved his beechwood wand over the little heap of
silvery material and in a flash it had vanished.

“Seems a shame,” murmured Twink, “they were so beautiful.”

But Twink forgot the Cloaks as they journeyed on. She and Tom could
scarcely believe it–just over their heads was the marvelous Land of
Oz. They began talking of all the famous people who lived in Oz, and
the boy and girl would probably have walked all night had not the King
of the Fairy Beavers announced after they had been trudging steadily
for more than six hours:

“My fairy powers tell me it is dark in the land above. That means we
have been walking all day. I propose we stop and sleep here and resume
our journey in the morning. We should reach the Emerald City shortly
after noon.”

The Shaggy Man looked a bit ruefully at the hard stone floor of the
tunnel. “Well,” he sighed, “in my wanderings I have slept in less
comfortable places. Twink can have my coat to rest her head on.”

The beaver King chuckled softly. “Don’t worry, Shaggy Man,” he said, “I
will provide beds for us. First let us enjoy a good dinner so that we
will sleep the more soundly.”

After the dinner two small beds and a large one magically appeared for
Twink, Tom, and Shaggy. Although he did not need to sleep, Twiffle was
provided with a little bed just his size. The beaver King curled up on
a silken cushion. Other cushions were provided for the young beaver
torch-bearers who took turns throughout the night sleeping and standing
guard.

The next morning found them refreshed and eager to be on their way
toward the Emerald City. The tunnel was cool now and they advanced
rapidly. They were all weary of the sameness of the rocky tunnel walls
and eager to reach the Land of Oz.

At last the young beavers who were leading the way came to a halt. For
some distance the travelers had noticed that the tunnel had been gently
sloping upward. Now they had arrived at its end. Just before them was a
round patch of earth–a sort of “cork” of earth that Ozma had set in
the end of the tunnel where it emerged in her garden.

The young beavers knew exactly what to do. They set to work digging and
burrowing around the rim of this patch of earth. When they had loosened
it sufficiently it would roll back into the tunnel, leaving free the
exit for the Shaggy Man and his friends to emerge from the underground
passage.

Twink and Tom watched in fascinated silence while the beavers worked.
They were amazingly fast and skillful. Their paws fairly flew as they
scooped out the earth and then brushed it from behind them with their
wide, flat tails.

In a few more seconds the beavers would be through the earth. The
beaver King warned his comrades to step back in the tunnel, as the
earth was about to come tumbling down.

There was a creaking and crashing of earth and stones, and the beavers
dashed to safety. Suddenly loud roars of mingled anger and fright
filled the tunnel. Sitting on the pile of earth that had crashed down
into the tunnel, and glaring at them frightfully while he roared, was
an enormous beast.

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