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Chapter 14 – The Frozen Heart

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

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In the hut of Pon, the gardener’s boy, Button-Bright
was the first to waken in the morning. Leaving his
companions still asleep, he went out into the fresh
morning air and saw some blackberries growing on bushes
in a field not far away. Going to the bushes he found the
berries ripe and sweet, so he began eating them. More
bushes were scattered over the fields, so the boy
wandered on, from bush to bush, without paying any heed
to where he was wandering. Then a butterfly fluttered by.
He gave chase to it and followed it a long way. When
finally he paused to look around him, Button-Bright could
see no sign of Pon’s house, nor had he the slightest idea
in which direction it lay.

“Well, I’m lost again,” he remarked to himself. “But
never mind; I’ve been lost lots of times. Someone is sure
to find me.”

Trot was a little worried about Button-Bright when she
awoke and found him gone. Knowing how careless he was,
she believed that he had strayed away, but felt that he
would come back in time, because he had a habit of not
staying lost. Pon got the little girl some food for her
breakfast and then together they went out of the hut and
stood in the sunshine.

Pon’s house was some distance off the road, but they
could see it from where they stood and both gave a start
of surprise when they discovered two soldiers walking
along the roadway and escorting Princess Gloria between
them. The poor girl had her hands bound together, to
prevent her from struggling, and the soldiers rudely
dragged her forward when her steps seemed to lag.

Behind this group came King Krewl, wearing his jeweled
crown and swinging in his hand a slender golden staff
with a ball of clustered gems at one end.

“Where are they going?” asked Trot. “To the house of
the Wicked Witch, I fear,” Pon replied. “Come, let us
follow them, for I am sure they intend to harm my dear
Gloria.”

“Won’t they see us?” she asked timidly.

“We won’t let them. I know a short cut through the
trees to Blinkie’s house,” said he.

So they hurried away through the trees and reached the
house of the witch ahead of the King and his soldiers.
Hiding themselves in the shrubbery, they watched the
approach of poor Gloria and her escort, all of whom
passed so near to them that Pon could have put out a hand
and touched his sweetheart, had he dared to.

Blinkie’s house had eight sides, with a door and a
window in each side. Smoke was coming out of the chimney
and as the guards brought Gloria to one of the doors it
was opened by the old witch in person. She chuckled with
evil glee and rubbed her skinny hands together to show
the delight with which she greeted her victim, for
Blinkie was pleased to be able to perform her wicked
rites on one so fair and sweet as the Princess.

Gloria struggled to resist when they bade her enter the
house, so the soldiers forced her through the doorway and
even the King gave her a shove as he followed close
behind. Pon was so incensed at the cruelty shown Gloria
that he forgot all caution and rushed forward to enter
the house also; but one of the soldiers prevented him,
pushing the gardener’s boy away with violence and
slamming the door in his face.

“Never mind,” said Trot soothingly, as Pon rose from
where he had fallen. “You couldn’t do much to help the
poor Princess if you were inside. How unfortunate it is
that you are in love with her!”

“True,” he answered sadly, “it is indeed my misfortune.
If I did not love her, it would be none of my business
what the King did to his niece Gloria; but the unlucky
circumstance of my loving her makes it my duty to defend
her.”

“I don’t see how you can, duty or no duty,” observed
Trot.

“No; I am powerless, for they are stronger than I. But
we might peek in through the window and see what they are
doing.”

Trot was somewhat curious, too, so they crept up to one
of the windows and looked in, and it so happened that
those inside the witch’s house were so busy they did not
notice that Pon and Trot were watching them.

Gloria had been tied to a stout post in the center of
the room and the King was giving the Wicked Witch a
quantity of money and jewels, which Googly-Goo had
provided in payment. When this had been done the King
said to her:

“Are you perfectly sure you can freeze this maiden’s
heart, so that she will no longer love that low
gardener’s boy?”

“Sure as witchcraft, your Majesty,” the creature
replied.

“Then get to work,” said the King. “There may be some
unpleasant features about the ceremony that would annoy
me, so I’ll bid you good day and leave you to carry out
your contract. One word, however: If you fail, I shall
burn you at the stake!” Then he beckoned to his soldiers
to follow him, and throwing wide the door of the house
walked out.

This action was so sudden that King Krewl almost caught
Trot and Pon eavesdropping, but they managed to run
around the house before he saw them. Away he marched, up
the road, followed by his men, heartlessly leaving Gloria
to the mercies of old Blinkie.

When they again crept up to the window, Trot and Pon
saw Blinkie gloating over her victim. Although nearly
fainting from fear, the proud Princess gazed with haughty
defiance into the face of the wicked creature; but she
was bound so tightly to the post that she could do no
more to express her loathing.

Pretty soon Blinkie went to a kettle that was swinging
by a chain over the fire and tossed into it several
magical compounds. The kettle gave three flashes, and at
every flash another witch appeared in the room.

These hags were very ugly but when one-eyed Blinkie
whispered her orders to them they grinned with joy as
they began dancing around Gloria. First one and then
another cast something into the kettle, when to the
astonishment of the watchers at the window all three of
the old women were instantly transformed into maidens of
exquisite beauty, dressed in the daintiest costumes
imaginable. Only their eyes could not be disguised, and
an evil glare still shone in their depths. But if the
eyes were cast down or hidden, one could not help but
admire these beautiful creatures, even with the knowledge
that they were mere illusions of witchcraft.

Trot certainly admired them, for she had never seen
anything so dainty and bewitching, but her attention was
quickly drawn to their deeds instead of their persons,
and then horror replaced admiration. Into the kettle old
Blinkie poured another mess from a big brass bottle she
took from a chest, and this made the kettle begin to
bubble and smoke violently. One by one the beautiful
witches approached to stir the contents of the kettle and
to mutter a magic charm. Their movements were graceful
and rhythmic and the Wicked Witch who had called them to
her aid watched them with an evil grin upon her wrinkled
face.

Finally the incantation was complete. The kettle ceased
bubbling and together the witches lifted it from the
fire. Then Blinkie brought a wooden ladle and filled it
from the contents of the kettle. Going with the spoon to
Princess Gloria she cried:

“Love no more! Magic art
Now will freeze your mortal heart!”

With this she dashed the contents of the ladle full
upon Gloria’s breast.

Trot saw the body of the Princess become transparent,
so that her beating heart showed plainly. But now the
heart turned from a vivid red to gray, and then to white.
A layer of frost formed about it and tiny icicles clung
to its surface. Then slowly the body of the girl became
visible again and the heart was hidden from view. Gloria
seemed to have fainted, but now she recovered and,
opening her beautiful eyes, stared coldly and without
emotion at the group of witches confronting her.

Blinkie and the others knew by that one cold look that
their charm had been successful. They burst into a chorus
of wild laughter and the three beautiful ones began
dancing again, while Blinkie unbound the Princess and set
her free.

Trot rubbed her eyes to prove that she was wide awake
and seeing clearly, for her astonishment was great when
the three lovely maidens turned into ugly, crooked hags
again, leaning on broomsticks and canes. They jeered at
Gloria, but the Princess regarded them with cold disdain.
Being now free, she walked to a door, opened it and
passed out. And the witches let her go.

Trot and Pon had been so intent upon this scene that in
their eagerness they had pressed quite hard against the
window. Just as Gloria went out of the house the window-
sash broke loose from its fastenings and fell with a
crash into the room. The witches uttered a chorus of
screams and then, seeing that their magical incantation
had been observed, they rushed for the open window with
uplifted broomsticks and canes. But Pon was off like the
wind, and Trot followed at his heels. Fear lent them
strength to run, to leap across ditches, to speed up the
hills and to vault the low fences as a deer would.

The band of witches had dashed through the window in
pursuit; but Blinkie was so old, and the others so
crooked and awkward, that they soon realized they would
be unable to overtake the fugitives. So the three who had
been summoned by the Wicked Witch put their canes or
broomsticks between their legs and flew away through the
air, quickly disappearing against the blue sky. Blinkie,
however, was so enraged at Pon and Trot that she hobbled
on in the direction they had taken, fully determined to
catch them, in time, and to punish them terribly for
spying upon her witchcraft.

When Pon and Trot had run so far that they were
confident they had made good their escape, they sat down
near the edge of a forest to get their breath again, for
both were panting hard from their exertions. Trot was the
first to recover speech, and she said to her companion:

“My! wasn’t it terr’ble?”

“The most terrible thing I ever saw,” Pon agreed.

“And they froze Gloria’s heart; so now she can’t love
you any more.”

“Well, they froze her heart, to be sure,” admitted Pon,
“but I’m in hopes I can melt it with my love.”

Where do you s’pose Gloria is?” asked the girl, after a
pause.

“She left the witch’s house just before we did. Perhaps
she has gone back to the King’s castle,” he said.

“I’m pretty sure she started off in a diff’rent
direction,” declared Trot. “I looked over my shoulder, as
I ran, to see how close the witches were, and I’m sure I
saw Gloria walking slowly away toward the north.”

“Then let us circle around that way,” proposed Pon,
“and perhaps we shall meet her.”

Trot agreed to this and they left the grove and began
to circle around toward the north, thus drawing nearer
and nearer to old Blinkie’s house again. The Wicked Witch
did not suspect this change of direction, so when she
came to the grove she passed through it and continued on.

Pon and Trot had reached a place less than half a mile
from the witch’s house when they saw Gloria walking
toward them. The Princess moved with great dignity and
with no show of haste whatever, holding her head high and
looking neither to right nor left.

Pon rushed forward, holding out his arms as if to
embrace her and calling her sweet names. But Gloria gazed
upon him coldly and repelled him with a haughty gesture.
At this the poor gardener’s boy sank upon his knees and
hid his face in his arms, weeping bitter tears; but the
Princess was not at all moved by his distress. Passing
him by, she drew her skirts aside, as if unwilling they
should touch him, and then she walked up the path a way
and hesitated, as if uncertain where to go next.

Trot was grieved by Pon’s sobs and indignant because
Gloria treated him so badly. But she remembered why.

“I guess your heart is frozen, all right,” she said to
the Princess. Gloria nodded gravely, in reply, and then
turned her back upon the little girl. “Can’t you like
even me?” asked Trot, half pleadingly.

“No,” said Gloria.

“Your voice sounds like a refrig’rator,” sighed the
little girl. “I’m awful sorry for you, ’cause you were
sweet an’ nice to me before this happened. You can’t help
it, of course; but it’s a dreadful thing, jus’ the same.”

“My heart is frozen to all mortal loves,” announced
Gloria, calmly. “I do not love even myself.”

“That’s too bad,” said Trot, “for, if you can’t love
anybody, you can’t expect anybody to love you.”

“I do!” cried Pon. “I shall always love her.”

“Well, you’re just a gardener’s boy,” replied Trot,
“and I didn’t think you ‘mounted to much, from the first.
I can love the old Princess Gloria, with a warm heart an’
nice manners, but this one gives me the shivers.”

“It’s her icy heart, that’s all,” said Pon.

“That’s enough,” insisted Trot. “Seeing her heart isn’t
big enough to skate on, I can’t see that she’s of any use
to anyone. For my part, I’m goin’ to try to find Button-
Bright an’ Cap’n Bill.”

“I will go with you,” decided Pon. “It is evident that
Gloria no longer loves me and that her heart is frozen
too stiff for me to melt it with my own love; therefore I
may as well help you to find your friends.”

As Trot started off, Pon cast one more imploring look
at the Princess, who returned it with a chilly stare. So
he followed after the little girl.

As for the Princess, she hesitated a moment and then
turned in the same direction the others had taken, but
going far more slowly. Soon she heard footsteps pattering
behind her, and up came Googly-Goo. a little out of
breath with running.

“Stop, Gloria!” he cried. “I have come to take you back
to my mansion, where we are to be married.”

She looked at him wonderingly a moment, then tossed her
head disdainfully and walked on. But Googly-Goo kept
beside her.

“What does this mean?” he demanded. “Haven’t you
discovered that you no longer love that gardener’s boy,
who stood in my way?”

“Yes; I have discovered it,” she replied. “My heart is
frozen to all mortal loves. I cannot love you, or Pon, or
the cruel King my uncle, or even myself. Go your way,
Googly-Goo, for I will wed no one at all.”

He stopped in dismay when he heard this, but in another
minute he exclaimed angrily:

“You must wed me, Princess Gloria, whether you want to
or not! I paid to have your heart frozen; I also paid the
King to permit our marriage. If you now refuse me it will
mean that I have been robbed — robbed — robbed of my
precious money and jewels!”

He almost wept with despair, but she laughed a cold,
bitter laugh and passed on. Googly-Goo caught at her arm,
as if to restrain her, but she whirled and dealt him a
blow that sent him reeling into a ditch beside the path.
Here he lay for a long time, half covered by muddy water,
dazed with surprise.

Finally the old courtier arose, dripping, and climbed
from the ditch. The Princess had gone; so, muttering
threats of vengeance upon her, upon the King and upon
Blinkie, old Googly-Goo hobbled back to his mansion to
have the mud removed from his costly velvet clothes.

 

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