"The Scarlet Death," Edwin corrected.
"An' don't work all that funny lingo on us," Hare-Lip went on. "Talk sensible, Granser, like a Santa Rosan ought to talk. Other Santa Rosans don't talk like you."
The old man showed pleasure in being thus called upon. He cleared his throat and began.
"Twenty or thirty years ago my story was in great demand. But in these days nobody seems interested—"
"There you go!" Hare-Lip cried hotly. "Cut out the funny stuff and talk sensible. What's interested? You talk like a baby that don't know how."
"Let him alone," Edwin urged, "or he'll get mad and won't talk at all. Skip the funny places. We'll catch on to some of what he tells us."
"Let her go, Granser," Hoo-Hoo encouraged; for the old man was already maundering about the disrespect for elders and the reversion to cruelty of all humans that fell from high culture to primitive conditions.
The tale began.
"There were very many people in the world in those days. San Francisco alone held four millions—"
"What is millions?" Edwin interrupted.
"It's a mystery," replied the Lion. "I suppose I was born that way. All the other animals in the forest naturally expect me to be brave, for the Lion is everywhere thought to be the King of Beasts. I learned that if I roared very loudly every living thing was frightened and got out of my way. Whenever I've met a man I've been awfully scared; but I just roared at him, and he has always run away as fast as he could go. If the elephants and the tigers and the bears had ever tried to fight me, I should have run myself--I'm such a coward; but just as soon as they hear me roar they all try to get away from me, and of course I let them go."
"But that isn't right. The King of Beasts shouldn't be a coward," said the Scarecrow.
"I know it," returned the Lion, wiping a tear from his eye with the tip of his tail. "It is my great sorrow, and makes my life very unhappy. But whenever there is danger, my heart begins to beat fast."
"Perhaps you have heart disease," said the Tin Woodman.
"It may be," said the Lion.
"If you have," continued the Tin Woodman, "you ought to be glad, for it proves you have a heart. For my part, I have no heart; so I cannot have heart disease."
"Perhaps," said the Lion thoughtfully, "if I had no heart I should not be a coward."
"Have you brains?" asked the Scarecrow.
"I suppose so. I've never looked to see," replied the Lion.
"I am going to the Great Oz to ask him to give me some," remarked the Scarecrow, "for my head is stuffed with straw."