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19. The Wizard Performs Another Trick
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.
Turn to the next chapter: 20. Zeb Returns to the Ranch