FictionForest

Chapter 19

L. Frank BaumJul 20, 2016'Command+D' Bookmark this page

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At three o’clock the Throne Room was crowded with citizens, men, women
and children being eager to witness the great trial.

Princess Ozma, dressed in her most splendid robes of state, sat in the
magnificent emerald throne, with her jewelled sceptre in her hand and
her sparkling coronet upon her fair brow. Behind her throne stood the
twenty-eight officers of her army and many officials of the royal
household. At her right sat the queerly assorted Jury–animals,
animated dummies and people–all gravely prepared to listen to what
was said. The kitten had been placed in a large cage just before the
throne, where she sat upon her haunches and gazed through the bars at
the crowds around her, with seeming unconcern.

And now, at a signal from Ozma, the Woggle-Bug arose and addressed the
jury. His tone was pompous and he strutted up and down in an absurd
attempt to appear dignified.

“Your Royal Highness and Fellow Citizens,” he began; “the small cat
you see a prisoner before you is accused of the crime of first
murdering and then eating our esteemed Ruler’s fat piglet–or else
first eating and then murdering it. In either case a grave crime has
been committed which deserves a grave punishment.”

“Do you mean my kitten must be put in a grave?” asked Dorothy.

“Don’t interrupt, little girl,” said the Woggle-Bug. “When I get my
thoughts arranged in good order I do not like to have anything upset
them or throw them into confusion.”

“If your thoughts were any good they wouldn’t become confused,”
remarked the Scarecrow, earnestly. “My thoughts are always–”

“Is this a trial of thoughts, or of kittens?” demanded the Woggle-Bug.

“It’s a trial of one kitten,” replied the Scarecrow; “but your manner
is a trial to us all.”

“Let the Public Accuser continue,” called Ozma from her throne, “and I
pray you do not interrupt him.”

“The criminal who now sits before the court licking her paws,” resumed
the Woggle-Bug, “has long desired to unlawfully eat the fat piglet,
which was no bigger than a mouse. And finally she made a wicked
plan to satisfy her depraved appetite for pork. I can see her,
in my mind’s eye–”

“What’s that?” asked the Scarecrow.

“I say I can see her in my mind’s eye–”

“The mind has no eye,” declared the Scarecrow. “It’s blind.”

“Your Highness,” cried the Woggle-Bug, appealing to Ozma, “have I a
mind’s eye, or haven’t I?”

“If you have, it is invisible,” said the Princess.

“Very true,” returned the Woggle-Bug, bowing. “I say I see the
criminal, in my mind’s eye, creeping stealthily into the room of our
Ozma and secreting herself, when no one was looking, until the
Princess had gone away and the door was closed. Then the murderer was
alone with her helpless victim, the fat piglet, and I see her pounce
upon the innocent creature and eat it up–”

“Are you still seeing with your mind’s eye?” enquired the Scarecrow.

“Of course; how else could I see it? And we know the thing is true,
because since the time of that interview there is no piglet to be
found anywhere.”

“I suppose, if the cat had been gone, instead of the piglet,
your mind’s eye would see the piglet eating the cat,” suggested
the Scarecrow.

“Very likely,” acknowledged the Woggle-Bug. “And now, Fellow Citizens
and Creatures of the Jury, I assert that so awful a crime deserves
death, and in the case of the ferocious criminal before you–who is
now washing her face–the death penalty should be inflicted nine times.”

There was great applause when the speaker sat down. Then the Princess
spoke in a stern voice:

“Prisoner, what have you to say for yourself? Are you guilty,
or not guilty?”

“Why, that’s for you to find out,” replied Eureka. “If you can prove
I’m guilty, I’ll be willing to die nine times, but a mind’s eye is no
proof, because the Woggle-Bug has no mind to see with.”

“Never mind, dear,” said Dorothy.

Then the Tin Woodman arose and said:

“Respected Jury and dearly beloved Ozma, I pray you not to judge this
feline prisoner unfeelingly. I do not think the innocent kitten can
be guilty, and surely it is unkind to accuse a luncheon of being a
murder. Eureka is the sweet pet of a lovely little girl whom we all
admire, and gentleness and innocence are her chief virtues. Look at
the kitten’s intelligent eyes;” (here Eureka closed her eyes sleepily)
“gaze at her smiling countenance!” (here Eureka snarled and showed her
teeth) “mark the tender pose of her soft, padded little hands!” (Here
Eureka bared her sharp claws and scratched at the bars of the cage.)
“Would such a gentle animal be guilty of eating a fellow creature?
No; a thousand times, no!”

“Oh, cut it short,” said Eureka; “you’ve talked long enough.”

“I’m trying to defend you,” remonstrated the Tin Woodman.

“Then say something sensible,” retorted the kitten. “Tell them it
would be foolish for me to eat the piglet, because I had sense enough
to know it would raise a row if I did. But don’t try to make out I’m
too innocent to eat a fat piglet if I could do it and not be found
out. I imagine it would taste mighty good.”

“Perhaps it would, to those who eat,” remarked the Tin Woodman. “I
myself, not being built to eat, have no personal experience in such
matters. But I remember that our great poet once said:

“‘To eat is sweet
When hunger’s seat
Demands a treat
Of savory meat.’

“Take this into consideration, friends of the Jury, and you will
readily decide that the kitten is wrongfully accused and should be set
at liberty.”

When the Tin Woodman sat down no one applauded him, for his arguments
had not been very convincing and few believed that he had proved
Eureka’s innocence. As for the Jury, the members whispered to each
other for a few minutes and then they appointed the Hungry Tiger their
spokesman. The huge beast slowly arose and said:

“Kittens have no consciences, so they eat whatever pleases them. The
jury believes the white kitten known as Eureka is guilty of having
eaten the piglet owned by Princess Ozma, and recommends that she be
put to death in punishment of the crime.”

The judgment of the jury was received with great applause, although
Dorothy was sobbing miserably at the fate of her pet. The Princess
was just about to order Eureka’s head chopped off with the Tin
Woodman’s axe when that brilliant personage once more arose and
addressed her.

“Your Highness,” said he, “see how easy it is for a jury to be mistaken.
The kitten could not have eaten your piglet–for here it is!”

He took off his funnel hat and from beneath it produced a tiny white
piglet, which he held aloft that all might see it clearly.

Ozma was delighted and exclaimed, eagerly:

“Give me my pet, Nick Chopper!”

And all the people cheered and clapped their hands, rejoicing that the
prisoner had escaped death and been proved to be innocent.

As the Princess held the white piglet in her arms and stroked its soft
hair she said: “Let Eureka out of the cage, for she is no longer a
prisoner, but our good friend. Where did you find my missing pet,
Nick Chopper?”

“In a room of the palace,” he answered.

“Justice,” remarked the Scarecrow, with a sigh, “is a dangerous thing
to meddle with. If you hadn’t happened to find the piglet, Eureka
would surely have been executed.”

“But justice prevailed at the last,” said Ozma, “for here is my pet,
and Eureka is once more free.”

“I refuse to be free,” cried the kitten, in a sharp voice, “unless the
Wizard can do his trick with eight piglets. If he can produce but
seven, then this is not the piglet that was lost, but another one.”

“Hush, Eureka!” warned the Wizard.

“Don’t be foolish,” advised the Tin Woodman, “or you may be sorry for it.”

“The piglet that belonged to the Princess wore an emerald collar,”
said Eureka, loudly enough for all to hear.

“So it did!” exclaimed Ozma. “This cannot be the one the Wizard gave me.”

“Of course not; he had nine of them, altogether,” declared Eureka;
“and I must say it was very stingy of him not to let me eat just a
few. But now that this foolish trial is ended, I will tell you what
really became of your pet piglet.”

At this everyone in the Throne Room suddenly became quiet, and the
kitten continued, in a calm, mocking tone of voice:

“I will confess that I intended to eat the little pig for my
breakfast; so I crept into the room where it was kept while the
Princess was dressing and hid myself under a chair. When Ozma went
away she closed the door and left her pet on the table. At once I
jumped up and told the piglet not to make a fuss, for he would be
inside of me in half a second; but no one can teach one of these
creatures to be reasonable. Instead of keeping still, so I could eat
him comfortably, he trembled so with fear that he fell off the table
into a big vase that was standing on the floor. The vase had a very
small neck, and spread out at the top like a bowl. At first the
piglet stuck in the neck of the vase and I thought I should get him,
after all, but he wriggled himself through and fell down into the deep
bottom part–and I suppose he’s there yet.”

All were astonished at this confession, and Ozma at once sent an
officer to her room to fetch the vase. When he returned the Princess
looked down the narrow neck of the big ornament and discovered her
lost piglet, just as Eureka had said she would.

There was no way to get the creature out without breaking the vase, so
the Tin Woodman smashed it with his axe and set the little prisoner free.

Then the crowd cheered lustily and Dorothy hugged the kitten in her
arms and told her how delighted she was to know that she was innocent.

“But why didn’t you tell us at first?” she asked.

“It would have spoiled the fun,” replied the kitten, yawning.

Ozma gave the Wizard back the piglet he had so kindly allowed Nick
Chopper to substitute for the lost one, and then she carried her own
into the apartments of the palace where she lived. And now, the trial
being over, the good citizens of the Emerald City scattered to their
homes, well content with the day’s amusement.

 

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