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18. The Trial of Eureka the Kitten
Several days of festivity and merry-making followed, for such old friends did not often meet and there was much to be told and talked over between them, and many amusements to be enjoyed in this delightful country.
Ozma was happy to have Dorothy beside her, for girls of her own age with whom it was proper for the Princess to associate were very few, and often the youthful Ruler of Oz was lonely for lack of companionship.
It was the third morning after Dorothy's arrival, and she was sitting with Ozma and their friends in a reception room, talking over old times, when the Princess said to her maid:
"Please go to my boudoir, Jellia, and get the white piglet I left on the dressing-table. I want to play with it."
Jellia at once departed on the errand, and she was gone so long that they had almost forgotten her mission when the green robed maiden returned with a troubled face.
"The piglet is not there, your Highness," said she.
"Not there!" exclaimed Ozma. "Are you sure?"
"I have hunted in every part of the room," the maid replied.
"Was not the door closed?" asked the Princess.
"Yes, your Highness; I am sure it was; for when I opened it Dorothy's white kitten crept out and ran up the stairs."
Hearing this, Dorothy and the Wizard exchanged startled glances, for they remembered how often Eureka had longed to eat a piglet. The little girl jumped up at once.
"Come, Ozma," she said, anxiously; "let us go ourselves to search for the piglet."
So the two went to the dressing-room of the Princess and searched carefully in every corner and among the vases and baskets and ornaments that stood about the pretty boudoir. But not a trace could they find of the tiny creature they sought.
Dorothy was nearly weeping, by this time, while Ozma was angry and indignant. When they returned to the others the Princess said:
"There is little doubt that my pretty piglet has been eaten by that horrid kitten, and if that is true the offender must be punished."
"I don't b'lieve Eureka would do such a dreadful thing!" cried Dorothy, much distressed. "Go and get my kitten, please, Jellia, and we'll hear what she has to say about it."
The green maiden hastened away, but presently returned and said:
"The kitten will not come. She threatened to scratch my eyes out if I touched her."
"Where is she?" asked Dorothy.
"Under the bed in your own room," was the reply.
So Dorothy ran to her room and found the kitten under the bed.
"Come here, Eureka!" she said.
"I won't," answered the kitten, in a surly voice.
"Oh, Eureka! Why are you so bad?"
The kitten did not reply.
"If you don't come to me, right away," continued Dorothy, getting provoked, "I'll take my Magic Belt and wish you in the Country of the Gurgles."
"Why do you want me?" asked Eureka, disturbed by this threat.
"You must go to Princess Ozma. She wants to talk to you."
"All right," returned the kitten, creeping out. "I'm not afraid of Ozma - or anyone else."
Dorothy carried her in her arms back to where the others sat in grieved and thoughtful silence.
"Tell me, Eureka," said the Princess, gently: "did you eat my pretty piglet?"
"I won't answer such a foolish question," asserted Eureka, with a snarl.
"Oh, yes you will, dear," Dorothy declared. "The piglet is gone, and you ran out of the room when Jellia opened the door. So, if you are innocent, Eureka, you must tell the Princess how you came to be in her room, and what has become of the piglet."
"Who accuses me?" asked the kitten, defiantly.
"No one," answered Ozma. "Your actions alone accuse you. The fact is that I left my little pet in my dressing-room lying asleep upon the table; and you must have stolen in without my knowing it. When next the door was opened you ran out and hid yourself - and the piglet was gone."
"That's none of my business," growled the kitten.
"Don't be impudent, Eureka," admonished Dorothy.
"It is you who are impudent," said Eureka, "for accusing me of such a crime when you can't prove it except by guessing."
Ozma was now greatly incensed by the kitten's conduct. She summoned her Captain-General, and when the long, lean officer appeared she said:
"Carry this cat away to prison, and keep her in safe confinement until she is tried by law for the crime of murder."
So the Captain-General took Eureka from the arms of the now weeping Dorothy and in spite of the kitten's snarls and scratches carried it away to prison.
"What shall we do now?" asked the Scarecrow, with a sigh, for such a crime had cast a gloom over all the company.
"I will summon the Court to meet in the Throne Room at three o'clock," replied Ozma. "I myself will be the judge, and the kitten shall have a fair trial."
"What will happen if she is guilty?" asked Dorothy.
"She must die," answered the Princess.
"Nine times?" enquired the Scarecrow.
"As many times as is necessary," was the reply. "I will ask the Tin Woodman to defend the prisoner, because he has such a kind heart I am sure he will do his best to save her. And the Woggle-Bug shall be the Public Accuser, because he is so learned that no one can deceive him."
"Who will be the jury?" asked the Tin Woodman.
"There ought to be several animals on the jury," said Ozma, "because animals understand each other better than we people understand them. So the jury shall consist of the Cowardly Lion, the Hungry Tiger, Jim the Cab-horse, the Yellow Hen, the Scarecrow, the Wizard, Tik-tok the Machine Man, the Sawhorse and Zeb of Hugson's Ranch. That makes the nine which the law requires, and all my people shall be admitted to hear the testimony."
They now separated to prepare for the sad ceremony; for whenever an appeal is made to law sorrow is almost certain to follow - even in a fairyland like Oz. But is must be stated that the people of that Land were generally so well-behaved that there was not a single lawyer amongst them, and it had been years since any Ruler had sat in judgment upon an offender of the law. The crime of murder being the most dreadful crime of all, tremendous excitement prevailed in the Emerald City when the news of Eureka's arrest and trial became known.
The Wizard, when he returned to his own room, was exceedingly thoughtful. He had no doubt Eureka had eaten his piglet, but he realized that a kitten cannot be depended upon at all times to act properly, since its nature is to destroy small animals and even birds for food, and the tame cat that we keep in our houses today is descended from the wild cat of the jungle - a very ferocious creature, indeed. The Wizard knew that if Dorothy's pet was found guilty and condemned to death the little girl would be made very unhappy; so, although he grieved over the piglet's sad fate as much as any of them, he resolved to save Eureka's life.
Sending for the Tin Woodman the Wizard took him into a corner and whispered:
"My friend, it is your duty to defend the white kitten and try to save her, but I fear you will fail because Eureka has long wished to eat a piglet, to my certain knowledge, and my opinion is that she has been unable to resist the temptation. Yet her disgrace and death would not bring back the piglet, but only serve to make Dorothy unhappy. So I intend to prove the kitten's innocence by a trick."
He drew from his inside pocket one of the eight tiny piglets that were remaining and continued:
"This creature you must hide in some safe place, and if the jury decides that Eureka is guilty you may then produce this piglet and claim it is the one that was lost. All the piglets are exactly alike, so no one can dispute your word. This deception will save Eureka's life, and then we may all be happy again."
"I do not like to deceive my friends," replied the Tin Woodman; "still, my kind heart urges me to save Eureka's life, and I can usually trust my heart to do the right thing. So I will do as you say, friend Wizard."
After some thought he placed the little pig inside his funnel-shaped hat, and then put the hat upon his head and went back to his room to think over his speech to the jury.
Turn to the next chapter: 19. The Wizard Performs Another Trick