FictionForest

Chapter 10 – Pon, the Gardener’s Boy

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

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It was Button-Bright who first discovered, lying on his
face beneath a broad spreading tree near the pathway, a
young man whose body shook with the force of his sobs. He
was dressed in a long brown smock and had sandals on his
feet, betokening one in humble life. His head was bare
and showed a shock of brown, curly hair. Button-Bright
looked down on the young man and said:

“Who cares, anyhow?”

“I do!” cried the young man, interrupting his sobs to
roll over, face upward, that he might see who had spoken.
“I care, for my heart is broken!”

“Can’t you get another one?” asked the little boy.

“I don’t want another!” wailed the young man.

By this time Trot and Cap’n Bill arrived at the spot
and the girl leaned over and said in a sympathetic voice:

“Tell us your troubles and perhaps we may help you.”

The youth sat up, then, and bowed politely. Afterward
he got upon his feet, but still kept wringing his hands
as he tried to choke down his sobs. Trot thought he was
very brave to control such awful agony so well.

“My name is Pon,” he began. “I’m the gardener’s boy.”

“Then the gardener of the King is your father, I
suppose,” said Trot.

“Not my father, but my master,” was the reply

“I do the work and the gardener gives the orders. And
it was not my fault, in the least, that the Princess
Gloria fell in love with me.”

“Did she, really?” asked the little girl.

“I don’t see why,” remarked Button-Bright, staring at
the youth.

“And who may the Princess Gloria be?” inquired Cap’n
Bill.

“She is the niece of King Krewl, who is her guardian.
The Princess lives in the castle and is the loveliest and
sweetest maiden in all Jinxland. She is fond of flowers
and used to walk in the gardens with her attendants. At
such times, if I was working at my tasks, I used to cast
down my eyes as Gloria passed me; but one day I glanced
up and found her gazing at me with a very tender look in
her eyes. The next day she dismissed her attendants and,
coming to my side, began to talk with me. She said I had
touched her heart as no other young man had ever done. I
kissed her hand. Just then the King came around a bend in
the walk. He struck me with his fist and kicked me with
his foot. Then he seized the arm of the Princess and
rudely dragged her into the castle.”

“Wasn’t he awful!” gasped Trot indignantly.

“He is a very abrupt King,” said Pon, “so it was the
least I could expect. Up to that time I had not thought
of loving Princess Gloria, but realizing it would be
impolite not to return her love, I did so. We met at
evening, now and then, and she told me the King wanted
her to marry a rich courtier named Googly-Goo, who is old
enough to be Gloria’s father. She has refused Googly-Goo
thirty-nine times, but he still persists and has brought
many rich presents to bribe the King. On that account
King Krewl has commanded his niece to marry the old man,
but the Princess has assured me, time and again, that she
will wed only me. This morning we happened to meet in the
grape arbor and as I was respectfully saluting the cheek
of the Princess, two of the King’s guards seized me and
beat me terribly before the very eyes of Gloria, whom the
King himself held back so she could not interfere.”

“Why, this King must be a monster!” cried Trot.

“He is far worse than that,” said Pon, mournfully.

“But, see here,” interrupted Cap’n Bill, who had
listened carefully to Pon. “This King may not be so much
to blame, after all. Kings are proud folks, because
they’re so high an’ mighty, an’ it isn’t reasonable for a
royal Princess to marry a common gardener’s boy.”

“It isn’t right,” declared Button-Bright. “A Princess
should marry a Prince.”

“I’m not a common gardener’s boy,” protested Pon. “If I
had my rights I would be the King instead of Krewl. As it
is, I’m a Prince, and as royal as any man in Jinxland.”

“How does that come?” asked Cap’n Bill.

“My father used to be the King and Krewl was his Prime
Minister. But one day while out hunting, King Phearse —
that was my father’s name — had a quarrel with Krewl and
tapped him gently on the nose with the knuckles of his
closed hand. This so provoked the wicked Krewl that he
tripped my father backward, so that he fell into a deep
pond. At once Krewl threw in a mass of heavy stones,
which so weighted down my poor father that his body could
not rise again to the surface. It is impossible to kill
anyone in this land, as perhaps you know, but when my
father was pressed down into the mud at the bottom of the
deep pool and the stones held him so he could never
escape, he was of no more use to himself or the world
than if he had died. Knowing this, Krewl proclaimed
himself King, taking possession of the royal castle and
driving all my father’s people out. I was a small boy,
then, but when I grew up I became a gardener. I have
served King Krewl without his knowing that I am the son
of the same King Phearse whom he so cruelly made away
with.”

“My, but that’s a terr’bly exciting story!” said Trot,
drawing a long breath. “But tell us, Pon, who was
Gloria’s father?”

“Oh, he was the King before my father,” replied Pon.
“Father was Prime Minister for King Kynd, who was
Gloria’s father. She was only a baby when King Kynd fell
into the Great Gulf that lies just this side of the
mountains — the same mountains that separate Jinxland
from the rest of the Land of Oz. It is said the Great
Gulf has no bottom; but, however that may be, King Kynd
has never been seen again and my father became King in
his place.”

“Seems to me,” said Trot, “that if Gloria had her
rights she would be Queen of Jinxland.”

“Well, her father was a King,” admitted Pon, “and so
was my father; so we are of equal rank, although she’s a
great lady and I’m a humble gardener’s boy. I can’t see
why we should not marry if we want to except that King
Krewl won’t let us.”

“It’s a sort of mixed-up mess, taken altogether,”
remarked Cap’n Bill. “But we are on our way to visit King
Krewl, and if we get a chance, young man, we’ll put in a
good word for you.”

“Do, please!” begged Pon.

“Was it the flogging you got that broke your heart?”
inquired Button-Bright.

“Why, it helped to break it, of course,” said Pon.

“I’d get it fixed up, if I were you,” advised the boy,
tossing a pebble at a chipmunk in a tree. “You ought to
give Gloria just as good a heart as she gives you.”

“That’s common sense,” agreed Cap’n Bill. So they left
the gardener’s boy standing beside the path, and resumed
their journey toward the castle.

 

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