It was Button-Bright who first discovered, lying on his face beneath a broa_preading tree near the pathway, a young man whose body shook with the forc_f 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 ove_nd 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. Tro_hought 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, i_he 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 i_he castle and is the loveliest and sweetest maiden in all Jinxland. She i_ond of flowers and used to walk in the gardens with her attendants. At suc_imes, if I was working at my tasks, I used to cast down my eyes as Glori_assed me; but one day I glanced up and found her gazing at me with a ver_ender look in her eyes. The next day she dismissed her attendants and, comin_o my side, began to talk with me. She said I had touched her heart as n_ther young man had ever done. I kissed her hand. Just then the King cam_round a bend in the walk. He struck me with his fist and kicked me with hi_oot. Then he seized the arm of the Princess and rudely dragged her into th_astle."
"Wasn't he awful!" gasped Trot indignantly.
"He is a very abrupt King," said Pon, "so it was the least I could expect. U_o that time I had not thought of loving Princess Gloria, but realizing i_ould be impolite not to return her love, I did so. We met at evening, now an_hen, and she told me the King wanted her to marry a rich courtier name_oogly-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 ric_resents to bribe the King. On that account King Krewl has commanded his niec_o marry the old man, but the Princess has assured me, time and again, tha_he will wed only me. This morning we happened to meet in the grape arbor an_s I was respectfully saluting the cheek of the Princess, two of the King'_uards seized me and beat me terribly before the very eyes of Gloria, whom th_ing 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 roya_rincess 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 woul_e the King instead of Krewl. As it is, I'm a Prince, and as royal as any ma_n Jinxland."
"How does that come?" asked Cap'n Bill.
"My father used to be the King and Krewl was his Prime Minister. But one da_hile out hunting, King Phearse — that was my father's name — had a quarre_ith Krewl and tapped him gently on the nose with the knuckles of his close_and. This so provoked the wicked Krewl that he tripped my father backward, s_hat 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 t_he surface. It is impossible to kill anyone in this land, as perhaps yo_now, but when my father was pressed down into the mud at the bottom of th_eep pool and the stones held him so he could never escape, he was of no mor_se to himself or the world than if he had died. Knowing this, Krew_roclaimed himself King, taking possession of the royal castle and driving al_y father's people out. I was a small boy, then, but when I grew up I became _ardener. I have served King Krewl without his knowing that I am the son o_he 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 Prim_inister for King Kynd, who was Gloria's father. She was only a baby when Kin_ynd fell into the Great Gulf that lies just this side of the mountains — th_ame mountains that separate Jinxland from the rest of the Land of Oz. It i_aid the Great Gulf has no bottom; but, however that may be, King Kynd ha_ever 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 o_inxland."
"Well, her father was a King," admitted Pon, "and so was my father; so we ar_f equal rank, although she's a great lady and I'm a humble gardener's boy. _an't see why we should not marry if we want to except that King Krewl won'_et us."
"It's a sort of mixed-up mess, taken altogether," remarked Cap'n Bill. "But w_re on our way to visit King Krewl, and if we get a chance, young man, we'l_ut 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 _hipmunk in a tree. "You ought to give Gloria just as good a heart as sh_ives you."
"That's common sense," agreed Cap'n Bill. So they left the gardener's bo_tanding beside the path, and resumed their journey toward the castle.