The Lord High Mayor

The Shaggy Man was awake in an instant. “What is it, Twiffle, what is
wrong?”

“There is no time to lose,” whispered Twiffle. “Quick, get into your
clothes, and I will arouse the children.”

Shaggy dressed as speedily as possible, but no sooner had he finished
than Twiffle, followed by Twink and Tom, now wide-eyed with excitement
and fully dressed, appeared in the doorway. “Come,” Twiffle whispered.

Silently Shaggy and the children followed Twiffle down the marble
stairway to the elevator. The castle was not entirely dark, thanks to
the bright moonlight flowing through the windows. They stepped into
the elevator which had a dim light of its own. Once more it shot up to
the roof of the tower. Stepping out on the roof, Twiffle beckoned them
after him. The clown made his way straight to the Magic Airmobile. He
climbed in, motioning for Shaggy and the children to do likewise. They
all squeezed into the contraption after him. Twink noted the cushioned
seats in each end of the Airmobile were soft and yielding–Conjo
certainly liked comfort.

“Where are we going? And why?” demanded the Shaggy Man.

“There is no time to talk now,” retorted Twiffle briefly. “Wait until
we are well in the air.”

“Do you know how to operate this thing?” asked Tom.

“I have watched Conjo run it many times. I am sure I can manage it,”
replied Twiffle.

The little clown was busy with the buttons which exposed the gravity
resistor plates, and almost before they realized it, the Airmobile had
risen gently from the roof and was moving silently through the night.

“Ah, that is a relief,” sighed Twiffle as he watched Conjo’s castle
recede in the distance.

“But where are we going?” asked Twink, who was thoroughly enjoying the
ride through the cool night air.

“The main thing,” explained Twiffle, “is to get as far away from Conjo
as possible.”

“Then he is a villain, as I suspected,” said Shaggy.

Twiffle nodded. “Conjo is a curious man. He repaired the Love Magnet
because he couldn’t bear seeing one of his own charms broken. He is
very vain. Actually he doesn’t care anything about the Love Magnet,
which has no effect on him, since he made it. He doesn’t love anyone
and he doesn’t want anyone to love him. He came to this island many
years ago. He wanted to be alone, since he disliked people and desired
only to work on his wizard charms and incantations. He brought me to
life merely to amuse himself and to have someone to talk to when he
felt like boasting. Recently he has become restless. He has found that,
after all, he wants someone before whom he can show off his magic
tricks. But he hesitated to bring many people to the island, fearing
they would steal some of his precious magic tools.”

Twiffle paused and sighed. He went on, “I had made the mistake of
telling him about you, Twink and Tom. Those visits he permitted me to
your home, while you slept, were the only kindness Conjo ever showed
me, so I don’t feel I owe him any allegiance, even though he did bring
me to life. Well, yesterday Conjo announced he was going to use his
magic to bring you children to his island.”

“I see,” murmured Twink, “And so you have rescued us.”

“I hope so,” replied Twiffle. “After what I found out tonight I
couldn’t let you stay here. Conjo talks in his sleep a great deal, and
tonight he mumbled enough for me to learn completely for the first time
what his plans are for you two children.”

“What do you mean ‘plans’?” asked Tom.

“Why, Conjo was going to make you drink a magic potion that would wipe
out all memory of your home, parents, and former lives. Then you would
be content to stay on the island with him.”

“How dreadful!” exclaimed Twink, shuddering.

“And I suppose he never meant for me to return to the Land of Oz,” said
the Shaggy Man.

“Oh, no,” replied Twiffle. “Conjo wanted your magic Compass badly,
because it possesses a kind of magic that he knows nothing about. I
believe he meant to transport you to the Land of Ev, where you could
find your way back to Oz as best you could.”

“But now,” said Twink happily, “the Airmobile will take us all to the
Land of Oz.”

Twiffle shook his head. “No,” he said, “I’m afraid it won’t. Conjo is
a clever wizard of sorts, but he is not powerful enough to invent a
machine that will fly across the Deadly Desert.”

“You mean this contraption won’t carry us over the desert and back to
Oz?” the Shaggy Man asked, greatly disturbed.

“No,” said Twiffle. “I have heard of powerful birds managing to fly
high enough to cross the Deadly Desert, but I know of no magic that
can penetrate the barrier of invisibility that Glinda the Good spread
across the deadly waste many years ago–certainly not Conjo’s magic!”

“Then what shall we do?” asked the Shaggy Man.

“As I said,” reminded Twiffle, “the most important thing was to get
out of Conjo’s power. The Airmobile will carry us to the edge of the
Deadly Desert, but no farther.”

The Shaggy Man was silent considering. Once he had managed to cross the
Deadly Desert in a sandboat–that had been before Glinda had laid down
the magic barrier. But even since then, others had crossed the desert.
So, the Shaggy Man didn’t give up all hope.

The Airmobile was carrying them swiftly and silently through the night.
Below them the waters of the Nonestic Ocean gleamed silver in the
moonlight. There was just the faintest rocking motion as the Airmobile
sped along. Perhaps it was this and the fact that Shaggy and the two
children were deep in their own thoughts that made them all fall
asleep before they knew it. Twiffle smiled and applied himself to the
operation of the Airmobile. He had no need for sleep.

Twink was the first to awaken. The sun was well up in the sky, and the
morning was bright and clear. She shook Tom awake and at the same time
the Shaggy Man aroused himself. They looked over the side of the craft
and saw below them a pleasant land of hills and rolling farmlands.

“The Land of Ev,” announced the Shaggy Man. “We shouldn’t be so very
far from the Deadly Desert now.”

Twiffle had looked up and was staring ahead of him in amazement. The
little clown slowed down the Airmobile.

Directly ahead of them was a cluster of little houses and buildings–a
good sized village–in the sky.

“What in the world can that be?” gasped Twink.

The Airmobile was moving very slowly as they approached the sky
village. Directly before them, on what would have been the outskirts of
the town, had it been on the earth, was a sign reading:

YOU ARE NOW ENTERING HIGHTOWN
Population–522
Altitude–approximately 15,000 feet (but it varies)

They could see people walking about among the houses, just as though
they were on solid ground.

The Shaggy Man shook his head.

Twink and Tom were staring, fascinated.

The Airmobile glided silently a few feet past the sign. Then it jerked
several times and came to an abrupt halt.

Twiffle looked puzzled. He pushed one button, then another, and
another. Nothing happened. Twiffle did it all over again, a bit
frantically this time. Still nothing happened.

“It’s no use,” said Twiffle. “The Airmobile won’t budge. We’re stuck in
mid-air!”

While Twiffle fussed with the controls of the Magic Airmobile, a crowd
of curious people began to gather about the stalled aircraft. They
were men, women, children, and even dogs, and they walked on the air
easily and unconcernedly, as if it were the normal thing to do. These
people were all very tall and exceedingly thin. The grown-ups were well
over eight feet in height, while the older children averaged about six
feet tall. Perhaps the fact that they lived so high up had caused
them to grow that way, too. Their clothing was what we would consider
old-fashioned, but was neat and well cared for. The women wore the
brightest of colors which flashed gaily in the clear sunlight.

The people chattered among themselves, pointing toward the Airmobile,
and several dogs barked excitedly. A loud voice exclaimed:

“What is the meaning of this? What is going on here?”

The crowd made way for the speaker who proved to be a sour-faced, tall
individual, wearing a frock coat and a high silk hat–a stovepipe hat,
the Shaggy Man would have called it.

“Pardon us,” began the Shaggy Man, “but I am afraid we are the cause of
all the excitement. You see our airship has stalled just inside your
town.”

The tall man stared curiously at the occupants of the Airmobile as he
said: “Of course your machine won’t operate in Hightown. In fact a
flying machine in Hightown is an utter absurdity–against all the town
ordinances and rules. I must ask you to remove it immediately.”

“Not very friendly, is he?” remarked Tom.

But Twiffle was interested. “What do you mean, sir, that our aircraft
is against your laws?”

The tall man sniffed. “It should be apparent to you that the last thing
in the sky we need is an airplane. Here, in this favored spot, we walk
on air and are not compelled to crawl across the earth like worms.”

“Yes,” said the Shaggy Man, “we can see all that. But tell us, your
Honor, do you think we would be able to walk on air as you do?”

The top-hatted man was distinctly flattered by the Shaggy Man’s mode
of address. “Ah,” he replied, “I can see that you recognize me as a
person of importance. I am the Lord High Mayor of Hightown and my word
here represents the highest law of the land. As for your being able to
walk as we do on the air, I see no reason why you shouldn’t since in
Hightown there is no gravity to pull you to the earth.”

“What was that you said?–no gravity?” Twiffle was obviously excited.

“Exactly,” replied the Lord High Mayor with great dignity. “Within the
boundaries of Hightown, the earth does not exert the least bit of
gravity–none whatsoever.”

“Then that explains it,” said Twiffle. “The Airmobile operates on the
principle of gravity, and since there is no gravity here, the craft is
useless.”

“What are we to do?” asked the Shaggy Man. “I am not sure I want to
go walking around on the air, although these folks seem to take to it
naturally enough.”

“Tell me,” said Twiffle, addressing the Lord High Mayor, “is Hightown
of very great area?”

“Oh,” exclaimed the Lord High Mayor, “it is simply enormous–no less
than four square acres of the most delightful air!”

“Have you any idea, your Honor,” asked the Shaggy Man, “how we can get
our flying machine out of Hightown?”

“Oh, that’s very simple,” replied the Lord High Mayor. “Since your
craft has only just crossed the boundary into Hightown, I would suggest
that you get out and push the machine to the edge of the boundary–then
push it a few inches more and it will be in the field of gravity again
where it is equipped to operate.”

“Of course!” exclaimed Twiffle joyfully. “Why didn’t I think of that?”

The Lord High Mayor smiled with smug satisfaction.

“I’ll adjust these gravity plates now,” continued Twiffle, “so the
plane won’t fall when it passes the boundary.” After he had pressed
some buttons, he and the Shaggy Man and Twink and Tom climbed out of
the Airmobile. The air seemed as solid under their feet as the earth.
Nevertheless, this walking on thin air was a most curious experience,
and in spite of themselves they found they were treading gingerly, as
though they were walking on eggs.

The Lord High Mayor and the crowd of Hightowners that had gathered
watched curiously as the Shaggy Man and Tom slowly pushed the Airmobile
toward the boundary of Hightown. It was no task at all, since the
Airmobile had no weight. They knew the sign that had greeted them as
they entered Hightown marked the spot where gravity again exerted its
pull, so they pushed the Airmobile slowly over this invisible line.

Zoom! Like an arrow shot from a bow the Airmobile darted upward. Far
above their heads it continued its mad climb into the sky. So fast did
it move that within a few seconds it was visible only as a tiny speck
far above them.

“What in the sky has happened?” gasped the Shaggy Man.

“It is all my fault,” said Twiffle despondently. “I must have exposed
the gravity plates too much when I adjusted them. I was so afraid the
plane would fall. When the Airmobile passed into the area of gravity it
shot _upward_. Now it is lost to us forever.” Twiffle looked as if he
were about to weep.

“Cheer up, Twiffle,” said the Shaggy Man. “Maybe we can get the
Airmobile back.” Shaggy turned to the Lord High Mayor and asked: “Since
we can walk on air as well as you, couldn’t we just walk up there and
climb into the Airmobile?”

“You could, if you wanted to stop breathing,” said the Lord High Mayor
cheerfully.

“Why do you say that?” asked the Shaggy Man.

“Because,” exclaimed the Lord High Mayor, “we have discovered that
the higher up you go, the thinner the air becomes. At the altitude
now attained by your craft, the air would be so thin that it would be
unbreathable.”

“Anyway,” said Twink with a sigh, “the Airmobile isn’t there any more.”

They all stared upward. The girl was right. The speck that had been
the Airmobile had vanished completely.

“Wonder where it went?” said Twink.

The Lord High Mayor explained pompously. “Apparently your craft
attained so great a speed that it shot off into space, beyond the power
of gravity. From now on there’s no telling where it will go.”

“And astronomers will report that folks from earth are about to visit
another world, I suppose,” grinned the Shaggy Man.

“Too bad old Conjo isn’t in it,” grumbled Twiffle.

“The question is,” said Tom, “what do we do now?”

“Right,” agreed the Shaggy Man, as he turned to the Lord High Mayor and
asked: “Sir, can you tell us how we can leave Hightown and proceed on
our journey?”

“You wish to leave Hightown? Where could you possibly wish to go?”
inquired the Lord High Mayor.

“Well, eventually we hope to reach the Emerald City in the Land of
Oz,” replied the Shaggy Man, “so we’re heading for the Deadly Desert
surrounding the Land of Oz. Then we’ll have to figure out some way to
cross the desert.”

The Lord High Mayor stared at Shaggy in horror. “The Deadly Desert!”
he exclaimed. “Do you mean to stand here in the sky and tell me
you actually wish to go near that terrible, burning, dry waste of
shifting, deadly sands, when you can stay here and enjoy the delightful
perfection of the aerial climate of Hightown?”

“No,” began the Shaggy Man patiently, “we don’t like the Desert any
more than you do, but in order to get to Oz we must cross the Desert. I
assure you the Land of Oz has a climate just as delightful as that of
Hightown.”

“That is impossible!” declared the Lord High Mayor indignantly.
“Hightown has the only perfect climate in the world, and now that you
are here, you might as well stay and enjoy it.”

“Wonder if he ever heard of California?” murmured Tom to Twink.

“We would like very much to stay and enjoy your climate, your Honor,”
replied the Shaggy Man, “but it is impossible. We must be on our way
to the Land of Oz, much as we admire your high airs. So, if you will
kindly tell us how we may leave your town, we will be much obliged.”

The Lord High Mayor seemed to be deep in thought. “Leave our town?”
he said incredulously. “I don’t believe it. No one could want to
leave Hightown. It is the pinnacle of civilization, the highest point
in high life ever reached by man. Sir, I conclude that I must have
misunderstood you. It is beyond comprehension that you should wish to
depart from this exalted community and go crawling about the lowly
earth like a worm. I simply must have misunderstood you.”

“There’s nothing wrong with your ears,” replied the Shaggy Man. “I said
it and I’ll say it again–we want to leave Hightown! Maybe we haven’t
advanced to the state where we can fully appreciate your hi-falutin’
ways, and if you want to know the truth we actually like to feel the
earth beneath our feet.”

The Lord High Mayor stared at the Shaggy Man unbelievingly. There was
a suspicion of tears in his eyes. “My poor, dear fellow,” he said.
“How I grieve for you–to have such low tastes. The earth under one’s
feet–ugh! But then,” he went on, brightening, “you have not been here
long enough to appreciate the soaring virtues of life in Hightown. Once
you have become accustomed to the lofty plane on which we live and the
superiority we enjoy over earth-crawlers, I am sure that all the sod
in the world will not tempt you to put foot upon earth again.”

“Please,” said the Shaggy Man in exasperation. “Will you stop talking
like the Chamber of Commerce and tell us how we can get back to earth?”

The Lord High Mayor eyed Shaggy narrowly. “Well,” he said, “if you
insist on leaving Hightown, you could walk to the boundary there, where
gravity begins again, step over and fall very quickly to the earth.
That is the fastest way I can think of leaving Hightown, but I wouldn’t
recommend it.”

“No, no,” the Shaggy Man assured him. “We have no desire to _fall_ to
the earth.” Shaggy looked below him with a shudder. “We would be in no
shape to continue our travels if we did that.”

“Well, then, you see, it is all settled,” said the Lord High Mayor with
a beaming smile. “You will stay with us. Everything is settled and
there is not the slightest doubt that you will find Hightown the Garden
Spot of the Sky. Now, since I am the Lord High Mayor of Hightown,
it is my elevated privilege and honor to welcome you and make you
comfortable. You will please follow me on what is the most fortunate
journey of your life–for you are on your way to savoring the high and
flighty life of Hightown.”

There seemed nothing else to do, so Shaggy and his friends followed the
Lord High Mayor, stepping gingerly on what seemed to them to be the
airiest space. As the Mayor proceeded, the crowd of curious Hightowners
made way for him and the little company of adventurers.

“Might I inquire,” asked Twiffle, “where you are taking us?”

“Why, to my Air Castle, of course,” answered the Lord High Mayor.
“Since you are guests, you must be treated with the greatest courtesy.
Later we will find a permanent dwelling for you.”

They had now reached the center of the small town, and here the Lord
High Mayor paused before a dwelling that was little different from any
other of the houses which were scarcely more than bungalows, except
that they were all quite high and narrow to suit the shapes of the
Hightowners.

“This is your Air Castle?” asked the Shaggy Man. “It looks no different
from the other houses.”

“And why should it be different?” demanded the Lord High Mayor. “Here
we all live in Air Castles. You people who crawl around on the earth
just dream of them. We are privileged to enjoy them.” This last was
said with an air of great pride.

One thing did distinguish the Lord High Mayor’s dwelling from the
others in the town. Directly in front of it there stood a handsome
flower pot in which was blossoming a beautiful magnolia. The Lord High
Mayor paused to enjoy the delightful aroma of the flower.

“Ah, magnolia! That means we shall have a south wind soon. You visitors
are indeed fortunate to have arrived in Hightown at this time.”

“I’m not so sure we would be fortunate to arrive here any time,”
grumbled Twiffle.

“You see,” the Mayor went on, disregarding Twiffle’s remark. “When the
magnolia blossoms that means a south wind is coming. And _that_ means
we shall soon have a delightful southern cloud on which to walk. I
assure you there is nothing more delightful than walking on a southern
cloud.”

“Seems to me clouds of any sort would be sort of squiggy for walking
purposes, no matter how pretty they are to look at,” said the Shaggy
Man.

“What happens when there’s a north wind coming?” asked Twink curiously.

“Oh, then the plant blossoms with a beautiful wild thyme and we are
privileged to enjoy that delightful scent. When there’s an east wind
on its way,” the Lord High Mayor continued, “then the plant bears
chrysanthemums. When the west wind is coming, we enjoy the blossoms and
scent of wild roses.”

“Doesn’t the west wind bring rain clouds?” asked Tom, remembering that
it usually did in Buffalo.

“Yes,” said the Mayor, “that is right.”

“Then it _rains_ here in Hightown where you have a perfect climate?”
asked the boy, remembering his disgust with the rain at home.

“Not at all,” replied the Mayor. “There is no gravity to pull the
raindrops earthward, so it can’t rain. We just go out wading in the
rain cloud.”

“That’s quite a plant,” said the Shaggy Man, staring at the flower pot
with its beautiful blossoms.

“It’s much more than that,” said the Mayor. “Certainly since we have
the most perfect weather in the world in Hightown, we would have the
most perfect weather forecaster. That’s just what the plant is.”

While Tom was trying to puzzle out why, if Hightown always had perfect
weather, it needed any weather forecaster at all, the door of the
Mayor’s home opened and they were welcomed by a tall, thin woman in a
blue checked bungalow apron. She proved to be the Mayor’s wife.

The good woman immediately served dinner, hurrying about and doing her
best to make the visitors at home. She was particularly pleasant to
Twink and Tom and was greatly amazed and a little awed by Twiffle.

Strangely enough, the food consisted entirely of fruits, but they were
all fresh and tasty.

When the meal was over, the Lord High Mayor announced that it was time
for a nap.

“A nap!” exclaimed the Shaggy Man. “Why, it is only a little past noon.
We can’t sleep now.”

“It is the custom in Hightown,” remarked the Mayor placidly, “and you
will soon come to enjoy the siesta as much as we. However, if you
cannot sleep, you may sit on the front porch. But don’t go off the
porch and wander about, as you may come to the edge of the town and
fall to the earth.”

With this, the Lord High Mayor and his wife retired to their room and
the visitors were left to themselves. There seemed nothing else to do
but to follow the Mayor’s suggestion and while away the Town’s hour of
sleep on the front porch. Here they found several chairs and a swing
and soon made themselves comfortable.

There was nothing interesting about the scenery, and little to talk
about, and they were beginning to be a bit bored when a saucy brown
wren flitted out of the sky and perched on the porch railing, regarding
Shaggy and his friends with bright little eyes.

“Strangers here, aren’t you?” asked the bird. “Fine place to live.
You’ll like it, I’m sure.”

“We don’t like it and we don’t intend to stay,” said the Shaggy Man, a
bit ill-humoredly.

“Well, if you don’t like it, then why don’t you leave right away?”
asked the bird.

“How?” asked Shaggy. “Walk to the edge of the town and fall to the
earth? We can’t fly like you, you know.”

“You don’t need to fly. You can walk down through the air–or rather,
swim down–using your arms to push you through the air. There’s no
gravity, you know.” And with a flirt of its saucy tail the bird was
gone.

With a shout, Twiffle leaped to his feet. “What fools we’ve been! Of
course there’s no gravity, and we can push ourselves right down to
earth! Come on, let’s be on our way.”

Twiffle ran to the edge of the porch and leaped off head first. They
could see the little clown below them, moving his arms like a swimmer.

“Should we try it?” asked the Shaggy Man doubtfully.

Tom didn’t wait for an answer. He jumped from the porch just as Twiffle
had done. He found that by moving his arms he could force himself
downward. Indeed, it was no more effort than walking on a level on the
air. In a short time he discovered that, since there was no gravity,
he could move at will, up or down through the air. Now Twink was at
his side, thoroughly enjoying the novel experience. The Shaggy Man was
following close behind. Twink glanced upward once and saw the spectacle
of a whole town, suspended in the air above her. She could even make
out the Mayor’s house and the flower pot in front of it.

They were all swimming earthward at about the same level, when there
was a flirt of small wings and the wren who had spoken to them on the
porch of the Lord High Mayor’s house, alighted on the Shaggy Man’s
shoulder.

“I see you took my advice,” said the wren.

“Yes,” said the Shaggy Man, “and we are grateful to you for telling us
about this easy way to leave Hightown.”

“Think nothing of it,” replied the wren airily. “I always feel sorry
for anyone who gets stuck in Hightown. There isn’t a stupider place in
the world. Those Hightowners have never seen anything but their own
silly little town, so they just can’t imagine there’s anything else in
the world.”

“You get around quite a bit, I suppose,” ventured the Shaggy Man.

“Being a bird, naturally,” retorted the wren with a saucy flirt of his
tail.

“Well, then,” said Shaggy, “would you mind doing your own flying and
getting off my shoulder?”

“That’s gratitude for you,” said the wren reproachfully. “I save you
from a life of boredom and you refuse to let me hitchhike down to
earth.” But the bird didn’t move from Shaggy’s shoulder.

“Where are you going–anywhere in particular?” asked Twink.

“Oh yes, of course,” the wren replied. “Just below Hightown there
is a lovely orchard of all kinds of fruit trees. That’s where the
Hightowners get all their food. They live on fruit. They can boast
about their silly town all they like, but when they want food you can
bet they hurry down to the orchard on earth for it. That’s why they
don’t like us birds. We enjoy eating the fruit in the orchard, too. We
seldom go near Hightown, except when the people are asleep. They are
so disagreeable they throw things at us and accuse us of stealing from
their orchard. Their orchard, indeed!”

“Tell me,” said the Shaggy Man, “was your mother a magpie?”

“Of course not,” replied the wren indignantly.

“I thought she must have been,” said the Shaggy Man, “because you
certainly chatter like a magpie.”

“That’s enough,” declared the wren. “If you can’t appreciate
intelligent conversation, I shan’t waste it upon you. You are far too
slow for me anyway. No hard feelings, though–good luck to all of you.”

And with that the wren was off, darting swiftly earthward.

Shaggy and his friends all had a good laugh over the gossipy little
bird.

Ten minutes more “swimming” brought them within sight of the orchard
about which the bird had told them.

“The Hightown sign said ‘altitude 15,000 feet,'” said Tom. “That’s
almost three miles. I can’t believe we’ve been swimming that far.”

“Probably they boosted that figure as high as their opinion of
Hightown,” said Twiffle, “and anyway, it did say the altitude varied.
Varies very much, I’d say.”

A few minutes later they were standing on the earth in a grove of
apple, plum, and cherry trees. Every branch was filled with ripe,
luscious fruit. Twink looked for their friend, the wren, but saw
nothing of him. The Shaggy Man began looking about the ground for
apples. Suddenly he laughed.

“That was really stupid of me,” he called to Twink and Tom. “Of course
there aren’t any apples on the ground. They can’t fall off the trees!”

“This must be where the Hightowners get their fruit,” said Twink.

“Of course,” replied Shaggy. “They thought they would keep us with them
by not telling us how easy it is to reach the earth from Hightown.”

“But they must have known we would see some of them coming and going
to the orchard, and find out sooner or later how to escape,” said Tom.

“Well, thanks to that bird, we found out sooner,” said Twiffle.

Before they left the grove, Shaggy walked in the air to the upper
branches of the biggest apple tree in the orchard and filled his
pockets with the largest and ruddiest of the fruit. “Can’t tell where
we’ll find our next meal,” he explained.

Knowing the area that was freed from the force of gravity was of very
small extent, Shaggy and his friends walked steadily in one direction,
treading several feet in the air, since that was easier than walking
on the earth. As there was no difference in the appearance of the
countryside, where gravity exerted itself again, they had no way of
telling when they would suddenly emerge from the gravity-less land.

Shaggy was in the lead when he suddenly experienced that curious
sensation that comes when you step unexpectedly into a hole. The result
was that Shaggy toppled forward and found himself sprawled on the
grass. Following him came Twink, Tom and Twiffle. Only Tom managed to
maintain his balance. What he had realized in time, was simply that the
others had stepped off the air, on which they had been walking, to the
earth a foot or two below them.

The Shaggy Man sighed. “Give me the earth to crawl around on any day,
as our friend the Lord High Mayor would put it, even though it does
mean an occasional tumble.”

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