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Chapter 12 – The Wooden-Legged Grass-Hopper

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

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Now it so happened that Trot, from the window of her
room, had witnessed the meeting of the lovers in the
garden and had seen the King come and drag Gloria away.
The little girl’s heart went out in sympathy for the poor
Princess, who seemed to her to be one of the sweetest and
loveliest young ladies she had ever seen, so she crept
along the passages and from a hidden niche saw Gloria
locked in her room.

The key was still in the lock, so when the King had
gone away, followed by Googly-Goo, Trot stole up to the
door, turned the key and entered. The Princess lay prone
upon a couch, sobbing bitterly. Trot went up to her and
smoothed her hair and tried to comfort her.

“Don’t cry,” she said. “I’ve unlocked the door, so you
can go away any time you want to.”

“It isn’t that,” sobbed the Princess. “I am unhappy
because they will not let me love Pon, the gardener’s
boy!”

“Well, never mind; Pon isn’t any great shakes, anyhow,
seems to me,” said Trot soothingly. “There are lots of
other people you can love.”

Gloria rolled over on the couch and looked at the
little girl reproachfully.

“Pon has won my heart, and I can’t help loving him,”
she explained. Then with sudden indignation she added:
“But I’ll never love Googly-Goo — never, as long as I
live!”

“I should say not!” replied Trot. “Pon may not be much
good, but old Googly is very, very bad. Hunt around, and
I’m sure you’ll find someone worth your love. You’re very
pretty, you know, and almost anyone ought to love you.”

“You don’t understand, my dear,” said Gloria, as she
wiped the tears from her eyes with a dainty lace
handkerchief bordered with pearls. “When you are older
you will realize that a young lady cannot decide whom she
will love, or choose the most worthy. Her heart alone
decides for her, and whomsoever her heart selects, she
must love, whether he amounts to much or not.”

Trot was a little puzzled by this speech, which seemed
to her unreasonable; but she made no reply and presently
Gloria’s grief softened and she began to question the
little girl about herself and her adventures. Trot told
her how they had happened to come to Jinxland, and all
about Cap’n Bill and the Ork and Pessim and the Bumpy
Man.

While they were thus conversing together, getting more
and more friendly as they became better acquainted, in
the Council Chamber the King and Googly-Goo were talking
with the Wicked Witch.

This evil creature was old and ugly. She had lost one
eye and wore a black patch over it, so the people of
Jinxland had named her “Blinkie.” Of course witches are
forbidden to exist in the Land of Oz, but Jinxland was so
far removed from the center of Ozma’s dominions, and so
absolutely cut off from it by the steep mountains and the
bottomless gulf, that the laws of Oz were not obeyed very
well in that country. So there were several witches in
Jinxland who were the terror of the people, but King
Krewl favored them and permitted them to exercise their
evil sorcery.

Blinkie was the leader of all the other witches and
therefore the most hated and feared. The King used her
witchcraft at times to assist him in carrying out his
cruelties and revenge, but he was always obliged to pay
Blinkie large sums of money or heaps of precious jewels
before she would undertake an enchantment. This made him
hate the old woman almost as much as his subjects did,
but to-day Lord Googly-Goo had agreed to pay the witch’s
price, so the King greeted her with gracious favor.

“Can you destroy the love of Princess Gloria for the
gardener’s boy?” inquired his Majesty.

The Wicked Witch thought about it before she replied:

“That’s a hard question to answer. I can do lots of
clever magic, but love is a stubborn thing to conquer.
When you think you’ve killed it, it’s liable to bob up
again as strong as ever. I believe love and cats have
nine lives. In other words, killing love is a hard job,
even for a skillful witch, but I believe I can do
something that will answer your purpose just as well.”

“What is that?” asked the King.

“I can freeze the girl’s heart. I’ve got a special
incantation for that, and when Gloria’s heart is
thoroughly frozen she can no longer love Pon.”

“Just the thing!” exclaimed Googly-Goo, and the King
was likewise much pleased.

They bargained a long time as to the price, but finally
the old courtier agreed to pay the Wicked Witch’s
demands. It was arranged that they should take Gloria to
Blinkie’s house the next day, to have her heart frozen.

Then King Krewl mentioned to the old hag the strangers
who had that day arrived in Jinxland, and said to her:

“I think the two children — the boy and the girl —
are unable to harm me, but I have a suspicion that the
wooden-legged man is a powerful wizard.”

The witch’s face wore a troubled look when she heard
this.

“If you are right,” she said, “this wizard might spoil
my incantation and interfere with me in other ways. So it
will be best for me to meet this stranger at once and
match my magic against his, to decide which is the
stronger.”

“All right,” said the King. “Come with me and I will
lead you to the man’s room.”

Googly-Goo did not accompany them, as he was obliged to
go home to get the money and jewels he had promised to
pay old Blinkie, so the other two climbed several flights
of stairs and went through many passages until they came
to the room occupied by Cap’n Bill.

The sailor-man, finding his bed soft and inviting, and
being tired with the adventures he had experienced, had
decided to take a nap. When the Wicked Witch and the King
softly opened his door and entered, Cap’n Bill was
snoring with such vigor that he did not hear them at all.

Blinkie approached the bed and with her one eye
anxiously stared at the sleeping stranger.

“Ah,” she said in a soft whisper, “I believe you are
right, King Krewl. The man looks to me like a very
powerful wizard. But by good luck I have caught him
asleep, so I shall transform him before he wakes up,
giving him such a form that he will be unable to oppose
me.”

“Careful!” cautioned the King, also speaking low. “If
he discovers what you are doing he may destroy you, and
that would annoy me because I need you to attend to
Gloria.”

But the Wicked Witch realized as well as he did that
she must be careful. She carried over her arm a black
bag, from which she now drew several packets carefully
wrapped in paper. Three of these she selected, replacing
the others in the bag. Two of the packets she mixed
together. and then she cautiously opened the third.

“Better stand back, your Majesty,” she advised, “for if
this powder falls on you you might be transformed
yourself.”

The King hastily retreated to the end of the room. As
Blinkie mixed the third powder with the others she waved
her hands over it, mumbled a few words, and then backed
away as quickly as she could.

Cap’n Bill was slumbering peacefully, all unconscious
of what was going on. Puff! A great cloud of smoke rolled
over the bed and completely hid him from view. When the
smoke rolled away, both Blinkie and the King saw that the
body of the stranger had quite disappeared, while in his
place, crouching in the middle of the bed, was a little
gray grasshopper.

One curious thing about this grasshopper was that the
last joint of its left leg was made of wood. Another
curious thing — considering it was a grasshopper — was
that it began talking, crying out in a tiny but sharp
voice:

“Here — you people! What do you mean by treating me
so? Put me back where I belong, at once, or you’ll be
sorry!”

The cruel King turned pale at hearing the grasshopper’s
threats, but the Wicked Witch merely laughed in derision.
Then she raised her stick and aimed a vicious blow at the
grasshopper, but before the stick struck the bed the tiny
hopper made a marvelous jump — marvelous, indeed, when
we consider that it had a wooden leg. It rose in the air
and sailed across the room and passed right through the
open window, where it disappeared from their view.

“Good!” shouted the King. “We are well rid of this
desperate wizard.” And then they both laughed heartily at
the success of the incantation, and went away to complete
their horrid plans.

After Trot had visited a time with Princess Gloria, the
little girl went to Button-Bright’s room but did not find
him there. Then she went to Cap’n Bill’s room, but he was
not there because the witch and the King had been there
before her. So she made her way downstairs and questioned
the servants. They said they had seen the little boy go
out into the garden, some time ago, but the old man with
the wooden leg they had not seen at all.

Therefore Trot, not knowing what else to do, rambled
through the great gardens, seeking for Button-Bright or
Cap’n Bill and not finding either of them. This part of
the garden, which lay before the castle, was not walled
in, but extended to the roadway, and the paths were open
to the edge of the forest; so, after two hours of vain
search for her friends, the little girl returned to the
castle.

But at the doorway a soldier stopped her.

“I live here,” said Trot, “so it’s all right to let
me in. The King has given me a room.”

“Well, he has taken it back again,” was the soldier’s
reply. “His Majesty’s orders are to turn you away if you
attempt to enter. I am also ordered to forbid the boy,
your companion, to again enter the King’s castle.”

“How ’bout Cap’n Bill?” she inquired.

“Why, it seems he has mysteriously disappeared,”
replied the soldier, shaking his head ominously. “Where
he has gone to, I can’t make out, but I can assure you he
is no longer in this castle. I’m sorry, little girl, to
disappoint you. Don’t blame me; I must obey my master’s
orders.”

Now, all her life Trot had been accustomed to depend on
Cap’n Bill, so when this good friend was suddenly taken
from her she felt very miserable and forlorn indeed. She
was brave enough not to cry before the soldier, or even
to let him see her grief and anxiety, but after she was
turned away from the castle she sought a quiet bench in
the garden and for a time sobbed as if her heart would
break.

It was Button-Bright who found her, at last, just as
the sun had set and the shades of evening were falling.
He also had been turned away from the King’s castle, when
he tried to enter it, and in the park he came across
Trot.

“Never mind,” said the boy. “We can find a place to
sleep.”

“I want Cap’n Bill,” wailed the girl.

“Well, so do I,” was the reply. “But we haven’t got
him. Where do you s’pose he is, Trot?

“I don’t s’pose anything. He’s gone, an’ that’s all I
know ’bout it.”

Button-Bright sat on the bench beside her and thrust
his hands in the pockets of his knickerbockers. Then he
reflected somewhat gravely for him.

“Cap’n Bill isn’t around here,” he said, letting his
eyes wander over the dim garden, “so we must go somewhere
else if we want to find him. Besides, it’s fast getting
dark, and if we want to find a place to sleep we must get
busy while we can see where to go.”

He rose from the bench as he said this and Trot also
jumped up, drying her eyes on her apron. Then she walked
beside him out of the grounds of the King’s castle. They
did not go by the main path, but passed through an
opening in a hedge and found themselves in a small but
well-worn roadway. Following this for some distance,
along a winding way, they came upon no house or building
that would afford them refuge for the night. It became so
dark that they could scarcely see their way, and finally
Trot stopped and suggested that they camp under a tree.

“All right,” said Button-Bright, “I’ve often found that
leaves make a good warm blanket. But — look there, Trot!
— isn’t that a light flashing over yonder?”

“It certainly is, Button-Bright. Let’s go over and see
if it’s a house. Whoever lives there couldn’t treat us
worse than the King did.”

To reach the light they had to leave the road, so they
stumbled over hillocks and brushwood, hand in hand,
keeping the tiny speck of light always in sight.

They were rather forlorn little waifs, outcasts in a
strange country and forsaken by their only friend and
guardian, Cap’n Bill. So they were very glad when finally
they reached a small cottage and, looking in through its
one window, saw Pon, the gardener’s boy, sitting by a
fire of twigs.

As Trot opened the door and walked boldly in, Pon
sprang up to greet them. They told him of Cap’n Bill’s
disappearance and how they had been turned out of the
King’s castle. As they finished the story Pon shook his
head sadly.

“King Krewl is plotting mischief, I fear,” said he,
“for to-day he sent for old Blinkie, the Wicked Witch,
and with my own eyes I saw her come from the castle and
hobble away toward her hut. She had been with the King
and Googly-Goo, and I was afraid they were going to work
some enchantment on Gloria so she would no longer love
me. But perhaps the witch was only called to the castle
to enchant your friend, Cap’n Bill.”

“Could she do that?” asked Trot, horrified by the
suggestion.

“I suppose so, for old Blinkie can do a lot of wicked
magical things.”

“What sort of an enchantment could she put on Cap’n
Bill?”

“I don’t know. But he has disappeared, so I’m pretty
certain she has done something dreadful to him. But don’t
worry. If it has happened, it can’t be helped, and if it
hasn’t happened we may be able to find him in the
morning.”

With this Pon went to the cupboard and brought food for
them. Trot was far too worried to eat, but Button-Bright
made a good supper from the simple food and then lay down
before the fire and went to sleep. The little girl and
the gardener’s boy, however, sat for a long time staring
into the fire, busy with their thoughts. But at last
Trot, too, became sleepy and Pon gently covered her with
the one blanket he possessed. Then he threw more wood on
the fire and laid himself down before it, next to Button-
Bright. Soon all three were fast asleep. They were in a
good deal of trouble; but they were young, and sleep was
good to them because for a time it made them forget.

 

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