FictionForest

Chapter 15 – Ozma’s Prisoner

L. Frank BaumOct 04, 2016'Command+D' Bookmark this page

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The boy was so bewildered by this calamity that he
made no resistance at all. He knew very well he
was guilty, but it surprised him that Ozma also
knew it. He wondered how she had found out so soon
that he had picked the six-leaved clover. He
handed his basket to Scraps and said:

“Keep that, until I get out of prison. If I
never get out, take it to the Crooked Magician, to
whom it belongs.”

The Shaggy Man had been gazing earnestly in the
boy’s face, uncertain whether to defend him or
not; but something he read in Ojo’s expression
made him draw back and refuse to interfere to save
him. The Shaggy Man was greatly surprised and
grieved, but he knew that Ozma never made mistakes
and so Ojo must really have broken the Law of Oz.

The Soldier with the Green Whiskers now led them
all through the gate and into a little room built
in the wall. Here sat a jolly little man, richly
dressed in green and having around his neck a
heavy gold chain to which a number of great golden
keys were attached. This was the Guardian of the
Gate and at the moment they entered his room he
was playing a tune upon a mouth-organ.

“Listen!” he said, holding up his hand for
silence. “I’ve just composed a tune called ‘The
Speckled Alligator.’ It’s in patch-time, which is
much superior to rag-time, and I’ve composed it in
honor of the Patchwork Girl, who has just
arrived.”

“How did you know I had arrived?” asked Scraps,
much interested.

“It’s my business to know who’s coming, for I’m
the Guardian of the Gate. Keep quiet while I play
you ‘The Speckled Alligator.'”

It wasn’t a very bad tune, nor a very good one,
but all listened respectfully while he shut his
eyes and swayed his head from side to side and
blew the notes from the little instrument. When it
was all over the Soldier with the Green Whiskers
said:

“Guardian, I have here a prisoner.”

“Good gracious! A prisoner?” cried the little
man, jumping up from his chair. “Which one? Not
the Shaggy Man?”

“No; this boy.”

“Ah; I hope his fault is as small as himself,”
said the Guardian of the Gate. “But what can he
have done, and what made him do it?”

“Can’t say,” replied the soldier. “All I know
is that he has broken the Law.”

“But no one ever does that!”

“Then he must be innocent, and soon will be
released. I hope you are right, Guardian. Just now
I am ordered to take him to prison. Get me a
prisoner’s robe from your Official Wardrobe.”

The Guardian unlocked a closet and took
from it a white robe, which the soldier threw
over Ojo. It covered him from head to foot, but
had two holes just in front of his eyes, so he
could see where to go. In this attire the boy
presented a very quaint appearance.

As the Guardian unlocked a gate leading
from his room into the streets of the Emerald
City, the Shaggy Man said to Scraps:

“I think I shall take you directly to Dorothy,
as the Scarecrow advised, and the Glass Cat
and the Woozy may come with us. Ojo must
go to prison with the Soldier with the Green
Whiskers, but he will he well treated and you
need not worry about him.”

“What will they do with him?” asked Scraps.

“That I cannot tell. Since I came to the Land of
Oz no one has ever been arrested or imprisoned–
until Ojo broke the Law.”

“Seems to me that girl Ruler of yours is making
a big fuss over nothing,” remarked Scraps, tossing
her yarn hair out of her eyes with a jerk of her
patched head. “I don’t know what Ojo has done, but
it couldn’t be anything very, bad, for you and I
were with him all the time.”

The Shaggy Man made no reply to this speech and
presently the Patchwork Girl forgot all about Ojo
in her admiration of the wonderful city she had
entered.

They soon separated from the Munchkin boy, who
was led by the Soldier with the Green Whiskers
down a side street toward the prison. Ojo felt
very miserable and greatly ashamed of himself, but
he was beginning to grow angry because he was
treated in such a disgraceful manner. Instead of
entering the splendid Emerald City as a
respectable traveler who was entitled to a
welcome and to hospitality, he was being brought
in as a criminal, handcuffed and in a robe that
told all he met of his deep disgrace.

Ojo was by nature gentle and affectionate and if
he had disobeyed the Law of Oz it was to restore
his dear Unc Nunkie to life. His fault was more
thoughtless than wicked, but that did not alter
the fact that he had committed a fault. At first
he had felt sorrow and remorse, but the more he
thought about the unjust treatment he had
received–unjust merely because he considered it
so–the more he resented his arrest, blaming Ozma
for making foolish laws and then punishing folks
who broke them. Only a six-leaved clover! A tiny
green plant growing neglected and trampled under
foot. What harm could there be in picking it? Ojo
began to think Ozma must be a very bad and
oppressive Ruler for such a lovely fairyland as
Oz. The Shaggy Man said the people loved her; but
how could they?

The little Munchkin boy was so busy thinking
these things–which many guilty prisoners have
thought before him–that he scarcely noticed all
the splendor of the city streets through which
they passed. Whenever they met any of the happy,
smiling people, the boy turned his head away in
shame, although none knew who was beneath the
robe.

By and by they reached a house built just beside
the great city wall, but in a quiet, retired
place. It was a pretty house, neatly painted and
with many windows. Before it was a garden filled
with blooming flowers. The Soldier with the Green
Whiskers led Ojo up the gravel path to the front
door, on which he knocked.

A woman opened the door and, seeing Ojo
in his white robe, exclaimed:

“Goodness me! A prisoner at last. But what a
small one, Soldier.”

“The size doesn’t matter, Tollydiggle, my
dear. The fact remains that he is a prisoner,”
said the soldier. “And, this being the prison,
and you the jailer, it is my duty to place the
prisoner in your charge.”

“True. Come in, then, and I’ll give you a
receipt for him.”

They entered the house and passed through a hall
to a large circular room, where the woman pulled
the robe off from Ojo and looked at him with
kindly interest. The boy, on his part, was gazing
around him in amazement, for never had he dreamed
of such a magnificent apartment as this in which
he stood. The roof of the dome was of colored
glass, worked into beautiful designs. The walls
were paneled with plates of

gold decorated with gems of great size and many
colors, and upon the tiled floor were soft rags
delightful to walk upon. The furniture was framed
in gold and upholstered in satin brocade and it
consisted of easy chairs, divans and stools in
great variety. Also there were several tables with
mirror tops and cabinets filled with rare and
curious things. In one place a case filled with
books stood against the wall, and elsewhere Ojo
saw a cupboard containing all sorts of games.

“May I stay here a little while before I go to
prison?” asked the boy, pleadingly.

“Why, this is your prison,” replied Tollydiggle,
“and in me behold your jailor. Take off those
handcuffs, Soldier, for it is impossible for
anyone to escape from this house.”

“I know that very well,” replied the soldier and
at once unlocked the handcuffs and released the
prisoner.

The woman touched a button on the wall and
lighted a big chandelier that hung suspended from
the ceiling, for it was growing dark outside. Then
she seated herself at a desk and asked:

“What name?”

“Ojo the Unlucky,” answered the Soldier
with the Green Whiskers.

“Unlucky? Ah, that accounts for it,” said she.
“What crime?”

“Breaking a Law of Oz.”

“All right. There’s your receipt, Soldier; and
now I’m responsible for the prisoner. I’m glad
of it, for this is the first time I’ve ever had
anything to do, in my official capacity,” remarked
the jailer, in a pleased tone.

“It’s the same with me, Tollydiggle,” laughed
the soldier. “But my task is finished and I must
go and report to Ozma that I’ve done my duty
like a faithful Police Force, a loyal Army and
an honest Body-Guard–as I hope I am.”

Saying this, be nodded farewell to Tollydiggle
and Ojo and went away.

“Now, then,” said the woman briskly, “I must get
you some supper, for you are doubtless hungry.
What would you prefer: planked whitefish, omelet
with jelly or mutton-chops with gravy?”

Ojo thought about it. Then he said: “I’ll take
the chops, if you please.”

“Very well; amuse yourself while I’m gone;
I won’t be long,” and then she went out by a
door and left the prisoner alone.

Ojo was much astonished, for not only was this
unlike any prison he had ever heard of, but he was
being treated more as a guest than a criminal.
There were many windows and they bad no locks.
There were three doors to the room and none were
bolted. He cautiously opened one of the doors and
found it led into a hallway. But he had no
intention of trying to escape. If his jailor was
willing to trust him in this way he would not
betray her trust, and moreover a hot supper was
being prepared for him and his prison was very
pleasant and comfortable. So he took a book from
the case and sat down in a big chair to look at
the pictures.

This amused him until the woman came in with a
large tray and spread a cloth on one of the
tables. Then she arranged his supper, which proved
the most varied and delicious meal Ojo had ever
eaten in his life.

Tollydiggle sat near him while he ate, sewing
on some fancy work she held in her lap. When
he had finished she cleared the table and then
read to him a story from one of the books.

“Is this really a prison?” he asked, when she
had finished reading.

“Indeed it is,” she replied. “It is the only
prison in the Land of Oz.”

“And am I a prisoner?”

“Bless the child! Of course.”

“Then why is the prison so fine, and why
are you so kind to me?” he earnestly asked.

Tollydiggle seemed surprised by the question,
but she presently answered:

“We consider a prisoner unfortunate. He is
unfortunate in two ways–because he has done
something wrong and because he is deprived of his
liberty. Therefore we should treat him kindly,
because of his misfortune, for otherwise he would
become hard and bitter and would not be sorry he
had done wrong. Ozma thinks that one who has
committed a fault did so because he was not strong
and brave; therefore she puts him in prison to
make him strong and brave. When that is
accomplished he is no longer a prisoner, but a
good and loyal citizen and everyone is glad that
he is now strong enough to resist doing wrong. You
see, it is kindness that makes one strong and
brave; and so we are kind to our prisoners.”

Ojo thought this over very carefully. “I had
an idea,” said he, “that prisoners were always
treated harshly, to punish them.”

“That would be dreadful!” cried Tollydiggle.
“Isn’t one punished enough in knowing he has
done wrong? Don’t you wish, Ojo, with all your
heart, that you had not been disobedient and
broken a Law of Oz?”

“I–I hate to be different from other people,”
he admitted.

“Yes; one likes to be respected as highly as his
neighbors are,” said the woman. “When you are
tried and found guilty, you will be obliged to
make amends, in some way. I don’t know just
what Ozma will do to you, because this is the
first time one of us has broken a Law; but you
may be sure she will be just and merciful. Here
in the Emerald City people are too happy and
contented ever to do wrong; but perhaps you
came from some faraway corner of our land, and
having no love for Ozma carelessly broke one
of her Laws.”

“Yes,” said Ojo, “I’ve lived all my life in the
heart of a lonely forest, where I saw no one but
dear Unc Nunkie.”

“I thought so,” said Tollydiggle. “But now
we have talked enough, so let us play a game
until bedtime.”

 

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