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Chapter 10 Pon, the Gardener's Boy

  • 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.