The Road to Oz HTML version

7. The Shaggy Man's Transformation
They found the houses of the town all low and square and built of bricks, neatly
whitewashed inside and out. The houses were not set in rows, forming regular streets, but
placed here and there in a haphazard manner which made it puzzling for a stranger to find
his way.
"Stupid people must have streets and numbered houses in their cities, to guide them
where to go," observed the grey donkey, as he walked before the visitors on his hind legs,
in an awkward but comical manner; "but clever donkeys know their way about without
such absurd marks. Moreover, a mixed city is much prettier than one with straight
Dorothy did not agree with this, but she said nothing to contradict it. Presently she saw a
sign on a house that read: "Madam de Fayke, Hoofist," and she asked their conductor:
"What's a 'hoofist,' please?"
"One who reads your fortune in your hoofs," replied the grey donkey.
"Oh, I see," said the little girl. "You are quite civilized here."
"Dunkiton," he replied, "is the center of the world's highest civilization."
They came to a house where two youthful donkeys were whitewashing the wall, and
Dorothy stopped a moment to watch them. They dipped the ends of their tails, which
were much like paint-brushes, into a pail of whitewash, backed up against the house, and
wagged their tails right and left until the whitewash was rubbed on the wall, after which
they dipped these funny brushes in the pail again and repeated the performance.
"That must be fun," said Button-Bright.
"No, it's work," replied the old donkey; "but we make our youngsters do all the
whitewashing, to keep them out of mischief."
"Don't they go to school?" asked Dorothy.
"All donkeys are born wise," was the reply, "so the only school we need is the school of
experience. Books are only for those who know nothing, and so are obliged to learn
things from other people."
"In other words, the more stupid one is, the more he thinks he knows," observed the
shaggy man. The grey donkey paid no attention to this speech because he had just
stopped before a house which had painted over the doorway a pair of hoofs, with a
donkey tail between them and a rude crown and sceptre above.