Saturday, December 1, 2001


By Jack Snow
Author of The Shaggy Man of Oz, Spectral Snow, and "Princess Chrystal and Prince Eolus," etc.

From Tinkle and Tod; Their Surprising Adventures on Blue Bell Farm, 1942.

Chapter One

'Twas the Night Before Christmas

"How soon do you think he'll be here, Tink?" asked Tod sleepily.

The little boy's eyes were heavy, for it was far past his usual bed time.

" 'Most any time now, Tod," replied Tinkle, trying to repress a yawn. She didn't want the boy to know she was as sleepy as he was.

"Will we see his reindeers, too?" queried Tod.

Try as she might, Tinkle couldn't hold back the yawn that followed. And when she had finished yawning, the girl saw that there was no need to reply to Tod's question, for the little boy was now fast asleep.

Well, thought Tinkle, it was only a little after nine o'clock, and Santa Claus might not come for several hours yet, so it couldn't possibly make any difference if she took just a short nap.

Sighing with content, the little girl snuggled cozily into the depths of the great, soft chair, and was asleep in no time at all.

It was Christmas Eve.

Tod was staying the night at Tinkle's house on Blue Bell Farm, and in answer to their pleas the children had been granted permission to sit up and watch for Santa Claus.

Tinkle's mother and father believed that on one Christmas eve in his life, every boy and girl should be permitted to sit up and watch for Santa Claus. So they had broken the rule that usually prevailed on Blue Bell Farm, that children must be in their beds early on Christmas eve, and allowed Tinkle and her little friend to remain downstairs in the warm living room, while they went upstairs to bed.

The Christmas tree had been put up that evening and decorated, and Mrs. Bell had made a big platter full of chocolate fudge for the children. So with all the excitement of trimming the tree and helping with the making of the candy, to say nothing of the prospective thrill of waiting up for Santa to come, it is no wonder the boy and girl were tired out.

When Tinkle's mother and father had gone upstairs to bed, Mrs. Bell had said to Mr. Bell:

"They'll fall asleep in an hour at the most, and then we can carry them up to their beds."

Mr. Bell had not answered. He only smiled a curious sort of a smile, because he remembered a Christmas long, long ago when he had been a little boy, and his mother had allowed him to wait up for Santa Claus. Very tenderly he kissed Mrs. Bell.

I am sure, if anyone had asked Tinkle's mother, she would have said that was the dearest Christmas present she received.

Chapter Two
The House That Was Stirring

Tinkle awoke with a start.

For a moment she didn't know where she was, and then she remembered.

Next the girl recalled what it was that had awakened her: she was sure she had heard someone speaking her name.

It was very quiet in the big farm house, so quiet that Tinkle could hear her own breathing, as she listened.

She was right--there it was again!

A small, clear voice said very distinctly:

"Tinkle! Tinkle Bell! Wake up, or we'll be late!"

The girl looked carefully all about her. She could see no one but Tod and he was sleeping soundly. She shook the boy, and his eyes opened slowly.

"Has he come yet?" were his first words.

"Tod!" whispered Tinkle. "There's someone here in the room! Someone's calling my name! Listen!"

And then the voice said, a bit impatiently:

"Well, at least you two children are awake! That's something. I thought I would never be able to arouse you."

Now Tinkle and Tod saw who was speaking.

On the hearth-rug, just before the chairs of the boy and girl, was a mouse.

The children stared at the little creature in wonder.

"Well, for goodness sake," said the animal, "one would think you had never seen a mouse before!"

"We have seen lots of mice," admitted the little girl, "but never a mouse that could talk."

"Well, a good many unusual things happen on Christmas eve, so don't be surprised," advised the brisk little creature. And with a flick of his whiskers, he went on: "Permit me to introduce myself: I am Timor, and my wife and children and I have a very comfortable and convenient apartment in the wall, just behind the pantry. I awakened you, because I thought you would like to go along."

"Go along?" asked Tinkle, who was now wide awake, "Go along where?" And then the girl added musingly: "I'm not sure that you ought to be going anywhere at all yourself tonight. 'Cording to the poem: 'Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the house, not a creature was stirring,--"

"Not even a mouse!" Timor broke in, finishing the line for her in his high-pitched little voice.

"That's a lovely poem," the mouse declared, "My children always insist that I recite it for them on Christmas eve. But I must say the person who wrote it didn't know very much about mice, or about animals of any kind, for that matter; for if there's ever a night when the mice are likely to be stirring--it's Christmas Eve."

Tinkle was about to ask a question, but Timor went hurriedly on:

"Come! We're wasting time, and it's precious tonight! Do you children want to come along, or not?"

Tod had said nothing, til now. He was steadily regarding the neat little grey mouse with round eyes. Now he declared:

"Sure, we'll go!"

"But where," asked Tinkle, "are you going?"

"To see the animals' Christmas tree, of course," said the mouse.

"Will Santa Claus be there?" asked Tod.

"To be sure, he will," replied Timor. "It's a grand sight, and you two children should feel highly honored, for you will be the first humans ever to have witnessed the spectacle. So you slip on your coats and boots, and I'll get the Mrs. and the children and we'll be off!"

"Well," said Tinkle, with a sigh, "since we're waiting up for Santa Claus anyway, and he'll be there, I guess we might as well see this animals' Christmas tree, too."

"Sure," said Tod, who was already struggling into his coat.

Timor had vanished, only to re-appear a moment later. This time he was accompanied by another mouse, somewhat smaller than he, and six baby mice, who looked so cute and cuddly, that Tinkle was charmed with them.

"This is Mrs. Timor, and our family," said the grey mouse.

Timor's wife greeted Tinkle and Tod in a most friendly and gentle fashion, and Tinkle thought the little mouse's soft brown eyes were wonderfully tender and kind.

"Now," said Timor briskly, "you must open the door, and we'll lead the way!"

Moving cautiously, so as not to disturb her parents, Tinkle opened the front door, and the family of mice scurried through the entrance.

The children followed closely after them.

Chapter Three
In the Forest Clearing

It was a bright, moonlight night and the ground was covered with heavily packed snow. The children had no difficulty at all in following Timor and his family, although they were surprised to see how fast the six little baby mice could scamper over the snow.

First went Timor, then came his wife, and after her in single file the six baby mice, followed close by Tinkle and Tod. In this fashion they made their way over the meadow to the edge of The Great Forest.

Even in the Great Forest, it was almost as light as day; except that in the day time the trees don't cast such deep shadows. A great, round moon rode high in the sky, and to every object its silver light touched, it seemed to impart a luster of its own. As for the stars, Tinkle thought she had never seen them so magnificent. They looked as though they had been especially polished for an occasion worthy of their last bit of loveliness.

As the children followed the mouse family through the forest, they constantly heard faint scurryings and scamperings in the underbrush, and occasionally small shadows flitted past them on the snow. From above, they heard the rustle of wings. Not a bird note was sounded--this was no time for song--there was only the whir of intent, busy wings beating the air.

The whole of the Great Forest was awake and in motion.

While they penetrated deeper and deeper into the woods, something of the mystery and wonder of the occasion crept over the boy and girl, and they found themselves regarding the forest and the creatures who peopled it in a strange new light. It was as if they were seeing it all clearly for the first time in their lives. The figure of Timor, his wife and the six baby mice assumed a dignity that passed beyond mere size. Animals though they were, the mouse family seemed to Tinkle of no less beauty and lovingness, than a family of humans. The moonlight of Christmas eve shone with equal radiance on the common life that beat in animal and human hearts.

These were serious thoughts; but then Christmas eve with all its joyous merry making, is a serious occasion, and one that should inspire the deepest thought.

Before they suspected that they had come to the end of their strange journey, the children stepped into a clearing, and here Timor and his family paused.

The spectacle that greeted the eyes of Tinkle and Tod caused the children to stop in their tracks and stare in amazement.

For here, deep in the forest groves, was a great circular clearing, and ranged around it in row after row were animals: all the animals of the Great Forest, the meadows, the fields, the orchards and the barnyards of Blue Bell Farm. They were all there. Tinkle recognized many of them. There was Sarah, the brown and white cow and her playful calf, Tobey; and Jeb, the workhorse; and Scamper, the cat, and all the barnyard creatures--the chickens, ducks, geese and turkeys. The wild animals were far too numerous to mention. The children saw that there were scores of rabbits of all ages and sizes, many squirrels, and a number of beavers from the creek, six families of wood chucks, four possum families, and even a number of very dignified appearing snakes. They were all ranged [around] the clearing in a great circle, in orderly rows--very like the gallery of a theater.

Then the children saw that the center of attraction, the object that held the attention of all the creatures, large and small, was a great fir tree that rose in the very center of the grove. It was truly a forest giant, towering far above the tops of the trees that encircled the clearing.

Timor, the mouse, had gathered his family about him on a little hillock, where they could peer into the clearing, and see the great Christmas tree with ease.

The children drew near to their mouse friends, and Tinkle whispered: "I never saw anything so wonderful! What are they all waiting for?"

"You'll find out, as soon as the Upper Story Folks arrive," answered Timor briefly.

Tinkle longed to ask who the "Upper Story Folks" were, but something in Timor's manner caused the little girl to refrain. All the animals were impressively silent, and seemed to be waiting, as if thoughtless words or sounds would violate the importance of the occasion.

But Tinkle's curiosity concerning the Upper Story Folks was soon satisfied. A rush of wings, thousands of feathery wings, beating the air, answered the girl's question. The birds had arrived. There were hundreds of them, all the birds of the fields and forests of Blue Bell Farm. Quickly, and without a sound, save for the soft flutter and rush of their wings, they took their places on the branches of the trees that encircled the grove.

Now all the spectators seemed to be in their places, and the children were aware of a wave of expectancy, that swept over the clearing. It was the excitement that prevails in the moment before the curtain goes up on the opening act of a play at the theater.

Chapter Four
Santa Claus

From out of the circle of animals, there came slowly an aged turtle, who made his way to the center of the clearing.

Timor whispered to Tinkle and Tod that the turtle was by far the oldest, and therefore the most honored animal on Blue Bell Farm, and that he had officiated at these ceremonies for more years than most of the animals could remember.

Tinkle listened closely to the quavering voice of the ancient turtle. Some of the words were strange and sounded only half familiar to the ears of the little humans, but Tinkle made out part of the speech, which was, she gathered, a sort of summing up of the joys and happiness shared by the animals living on Blue Bell Farm. The old turtle spoke of the peace and plenty that was for all, of the master of Blue Bell Farm, who was kindly and loved animals, and did nothing to harm the small folk, who made their homes in the forest fastnesses and the open fields and meadows.

The old turtle spoke briefly, and when he had finished and shambled back to his place in the ranks of the spectators, there was only a deep silence, as if each of the animals was gravely considering the wise words of the venerable creature.

It was so deeply quiet, that Tinkle believed she could have heard a pine needle drop on the snow. Tinkle found herself holding her breath, lest her breathing break the spell of the moment.

And then--over all the assembly of animals, there went a flurry of motion. The strain was broken, and hundreds of tiny heads turned to a single direction.

The children followed the gaze of the animals to the northern heavens, and immediately the boy and girl saw what it was that held their attention. Far, far away in the crystal clearness of the night, Tinkle and Tod discerned it unmistakably and they shivered with thrilling wonder.

It was a miniature sleigh, drawn by eight tiny reindeer, so far away, and yet so distinct in the crisp cold air, that it looked like an object viewed through the small end of an opera glass.

Tinkle stared in awe, and grasped Tod's hand. The little boy's fingers interlaced those of the girl tightly, and the two human children knew this was a moment of moments, as they watched with rapt attention, the approach of the world's best loved immortal.

Closer and closer came the tiny figure, and as it drew nearer, it grew in size, until the children could distinguish the figure of Santa Claus, himself, and the great red sleigh, loaded down with toys of every description.

Timor was chattering with excitement:

"Watch closely! Don't miss a thing! He will only be here a moment--he's so busy tonight!"

The sleigh had approached so close, that the merry jingle of its bells rang happily through the night air.

Now the reindeer and the sleigh and its occupant were just above the tips of the trees on the northern edge of the clearing. Here, they swooped down, and an instant later the hooves of the reindeer were treading the ground of the Great Forest, and the gleaming runners of the sleigh were gliding smoothly over the snow.

The reindeer were breathing hard, as they snorted and pranced, and Tinkle could see their frosty breath on the night air.

Santa Claus drove his sleigh straight to the center of the clearing, to the very trunk of the great Christmas tree. Here, the beloved old gentleman, despite his many years, leaped from the sleigh as nimbly as any youngster. Then, he gently touched the base of the great tree with a wand of evergreen, tipped with a star of holly and mistletoe, which he held aloft in a red mitten clad hand.

Chapter Five
The Miraculous Tree

Before the children realized what had happened, the forest tree was lighted as surely no other Christmas tree had ever been lighted before.

From every branch and every tip of the immense tree, there now hung great flashing, flaming balls of dancing light, scintillating with every color of the rainbow.

Tinkle gasped at the loveliness of the sight: hundreds and hundreds of those flaming spheres of light, that sparkled and glowed with a life of their own. And all about and around the tree, from its wide base to its peaked top, there darted flashing strands of light, streamers of the most brilliant colors, circling the tree, and winding about it like great necklaces of precious jewels.

Set at the very top of the miraculous tree, was the greatest wonder of all: a huge star that shone over all the Great Forest. As it beamed, the majestic star slowly changed color. For a moment it glowed a deep, fiery red, then, mounting through all the known shades of red to a dainty shell pink, it burst into a deep orange, shading swiftly through every conceivable tint of orange, and so on to brilliant yellow and emerald green--through all the hues of the rainbow. And as the magical star glowed, it showered from all five of its points, brilliant streamers of colored lights that radiated into the heavens far beyond the tree.

Timor was chattering excitedly again. "The Northern Lights! The Northern Lights!" the little animal said. "It's the lights from the great Northland, where Santa Claus lives! He brings them with him, and lights our Christmas tree with them! Did you ever see anything so beautiful?" The little grey mouse gazed with shining eyes at the miraculous tree.

Even while the children and the animals watched, spellbound, Santa Claus had leaped back into his sleigh, for the old fellow had no spare moments this night. Now, as the reindeer and the sleigh rose once more into the air, Santa Claus stood up, and waved Goodbye to the assemblage of animals--and, the human children were sure, to them, too. The hearty, jovial voice rang out merrily, as the sleigh climbed higher into the sky:

"A Merry Christmas to all my dear children! Come Dasher! Come Dancer! Come Prancer end Vixen! On Comet! On Cupid! On Donder and Blitzen!"

Chapter Six
Blue Bell Farm Goes to Sleep

The children turned for one last look at the tree. They saw that the lights were winking out. The flaring balls of color, the ribbons and streamers and necklaces and garlands of magical fire, and finally last of all, the great polychrome star at the top, all dimmed gently, and faded into nothingness.

Once more the fir tree stood silent in the night; one side of it bright silver with moonlight, the other soft black velvet with shadows. Even without the magnificent lights, the tree was clothed in a simple dignity and nobility, that made it apparent why man had chosen its ever green loveliness to bring into his home, as the Spirit of Christmas.

The animals were departing for their homes. Again there was that flutter of wings, that padding of little paws, and rustling of small furry bodies through the underbrush and over the trails of the Great Forest.

Timor and his family had left the clearing, and were flashing in and out among the trees over the white snow. Tinkle and Tod followed after them, deep in thought.

They reached the house in a short time, and Tinkle carefully opened the door. Timor and his wife and children scurried in, and with softly murmured "Goodnights", the family of mice vanished into the shadows of the big farmhouse.

The boy and girl, suddenly very sleepy, climbed the stairs to their bed rooms. Just before they parted, Tinkle to go to her room, and Tod to the room where he slept when he visited Tinkle, the small boy said:

"Know what, Tink?"

"What, Tod," asked Tinkle, with a yawn.

"I think," announced Tod seriously, "that the mouse was wrong about us being the first people ever to see the animals' Christmas tree."

"Why?" asked Tinkle,

" 'Cause," explained the boy, "someone else must have seen it--or how would we know how to deck'rate our own Christmas trees?"

Which proved that Tod, small though he was, was also a wise little boy.

With whispered "Goodnights," the children parted, and were asleep as soon as they removed their clothes, and crept into their beds.

A few moments later, Mr. Bell appeared from his room, and walking to the stairway, looked down into the big living room. The children were not there. Gently, he opened the door of his little girl's room, and then of Tod's; and seeing them soundly slumbering, he smiled to himself, and went back to his room.

"They're snug in their beds," he said to Mrs. Bell. "They must have decided to wait and see Santa Claus next Christmas."

But if Mr. Bell could have peeped in on the dreams of eight little mice and a small boy and girl, who slept soundly in the great house of Blue Bell Farm, he would have known how mistaken he was.

But he only smiled happily to himself, and as he turned off the light, he said lovingly to Mrs. Bell:

"Goodnight, my dear--Merry Christmas!"

The End

By Ruth Plumly Thompson
Originally published in the Philadelphia Public Ledger, November 19, 1916.

Ridiculous Riddles in Rhyme

I wonder sometimes how the Forgetful Poet can think up so many riddles. When I asked him he shook his head and said he guessed he was a genius, and 'pon my soul, I think he is. And you all keep him jumping, I can tell you. Why, hundreds guessed his last riddles correctly, though how you found a pineapple, a tepee and banks in that jumble of nonsense I cannot imagine. Here are the new ones:

Its stories are never told,
And yet it has three--
Sometimes more, sometimes less,
Now then, what can it be?

My first's a meat
We often eat,
We bathe in my last.
I'm a city that's vast?

Dogs have 'em,
And so have trees.
Have what? Just
Kindly tell me, please!

[Answers next time]

Copyright © 2001 Eric Shanower and David Maxine.
"The Animals' Christmas Tree" copyright © 2001 Jack Snow.
All rights reserved.

Thursday, November 1, 2001


By L. Frank Baum
Author of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, The Secret of the Lost Fortune, The Visitors from Oz, etc.

Originally published 1913.

Chapter I
Twinkle Captures the Turtle

One hot summer day Twinkle went down into the meadow to where the brook ran tinkling over its stones or rushed and whirled around the curves of the banks or floated lazily through the more wide and shallow parts. It wasn't much of a brook, to tell the facts, for there were many places where an active child could leap across it. But it was the only brook for miles around, and to Twinkle it was a never-ending source of delight. Nothing amused or refreshed the little girl more than to go wading on the pebbly bottom and let the little waves wash around her slim ankles.

There was one place, just below the pasture lot, where it was deeper; and here there were real fishes swimming about, such as "horned aces" and "chubs" and "shiners"; and once in a while you could catch a mud-turtle under the edges of the flat stones or in hollows beneath the banks. The deep part was not very big, being merely a pool, but Twinkle never waded in it, because the water would come quite up to her waist, and then she would be sure to get her skirts wet, which would mean a good scolding from mamma.

To-day she climbed the fence in the lane, just where the rickety wooden bridge crossed the brook, and at once sat down upon the grassy bank and took off her shoes and stockings. Then, wearing her sun-bonnet to shield her face from the sun, she stepped softly into the brook and stood watching the cool water rush by her legs.

It was very nice and pleasant; but Twinkle never could stand still for very long, so she began to wade slowly down the stream, keeping in the middle of the brook, and being able to see through the clear water all the best places to put her feet.

Pretty soon she had to duck her head to pass under the fence that separated the meadow from the pasture lot; but she got through all right, and then kept on down the stream, until she came close to the deep pool. She couldn't wade through this, as I have explained; so she got on dry land and crept on her hands and knees up to the edge of the bank, so as not to scare the fishes, if any were swimming in the pool.

By good luck there were several fishes in the pool to-day, and they didn't seem to notice that Twinkle was looking at them, so quiet had she been. One little fellow shone like silver when the sunshine caught his glossy sides, and the little girl watched him wiggling here and there with much delight. There was also a big, mud-colored fish that lay a long time upon the bottom without moving anything except his fins and the tip of his tail, and Twinkle also discovered a group of several small fishes not over an inch long, that always swam together in a bunch, as if they belonged to one family.

The girl watched these little creatures long and earnestly. The pool was all of the world these simple fishes would ever know. They were born here, and would die here, without ever getting away from the place, or even knowing there was a much bigger world outside of it.

After a time the child noticed that the water had become a little muddy near the edge of the bank where she lay, and as it slowly grew clear again she saw a beautiful turtle lying just under her head and against the side of the bank. It was a little bigger around than a silver dollar, and instead of its shell being of a dull brown color, like that of all other mud-turtles she had seen, this one's back was streaked with brilliant patches of yellow and red.

"I must get that lovely turtle!" thought Twinkle; and as the water was shallow where it lay she suddenly plunged in her hand, grabbed the turtle, and flung it out of the water on to the bank, where it fell upon its back, wiggling its four fat legs desperately in an attempt to turn over.

Chapter II
Twinkle Discovers the Turtle Can Talk

At this sudden commotion in their water, the fishes darted away and disappeared in a flash. But Twinkle didn't mind that, for all her interest was now centered in the struggling turtle.

She knelt upon the grass and bent over to watch it, and just then she thought she heard a small voice say:

"It's no use; I can't do it!" and then the turtle drew its head and legs between the shells and remained still.

"Good gracious!" said Twinkle, much astonished. Then, addressing the turtle, she asked:

"Did you say anything, a minute ago?"

There was no reply. The turtle lay as quiet as if it were dead. Twinkle thought she must have been mistaken; so she picked up the turtle and held it in the palm of her hand while she got into the water again and waded slowly back to where she had left her shoes and stockings.

When she got home she put the mud-turtle in a tub which her papa had made by sawing a barrel in two. Then she put a little water into the tub and blocked it up by putting a brick under one side, so that the turtle could either stay in the water or crawl up the inclined bottom of the tub to where it was dry, whichever he pleased. She did this because mamma said that turtles sometimes liked to stay in the water and sometimes on land, and Twinkle's turtle could now take his choice. He couldn't climb up the steep sides of the tub and so get away, and the little girl thoughtfully placed crumbs of bread and fine bits of meat, where the turtle could get them whenever he felt hungry.

After that, Twinkle often sat for hours watching the turtle, which would crawl around the bottom of the tub, and swim in the little pool of water and eat the food placed before him in an eager and amusing way.

At times she took him in her hand and examined him closely, and then the mud-turtle would put out its little head and look at her with its bright eyes as curiously as the girl looked at him.

She had owned her turtle just a week, when she came to the tub one afternoon and held him in her hand, intending to feed her pet some scraps of meat she had brought with her. But as soon as the turtle put out its head it said to her, in a small but distinct voice:

"Good morning, Twinkle."

She was so surprised that the meat dropped from her hand, and she nearly dropped the turtle, too. But she managed to control her astonishment, and asked, in a voice that trembled a little:

"Can you talk?"

"To be sure," replied the turtle; "but only on every seventh day—which of course is every Saturday. On other days I cannot talk at all."

"Then I really must have heard you speak when I caught you; didn't I?"

"I believe you did. I was so startled at being captured that I spoke before I thought, which is a bad habit to get into. But afterward I resolved not to answer when you questioned me, for I didn't know you then, and feared it would be unwise to trust you with my secret. Even now I must ask you not to tell any one that you have a turtle that knows how to talk."

Chapter III
The Turtle Tells of the Corrugated Giant

"Why, it's wonderful!" said Twinkle, who had listened eagerly to the turtle's speech.

"It would be wonderful, indeed, if I were but a simple turtle," was the reply.

"But aren't you a turtle?"

"Of course, so far as my outward appearance goes, I'm a common little mud-turtle," it answered; "and I think you will agree with me that it was rather clever in the Corrugated Giant to transform me into such a creature."

"What's a Corrulated Giant?" asked Twinkle, with breathless interest.

"The Corrugated Giant is a monster that is full of deep wrinkles, because he has no bones inside him to hold his flesh up properly," said the turtle. "I hated this giant, who is both wicked and cruel, I assure you; and this giant hated me in return. So, when one day I tried to destroy him, the monster transformed me into the helpless little being you see before you."

"But who were you before you were transformed?" asked the girl.

"A fairy prince named Melga, the seventh son of the fairy Queen Flutterlight, who rules all the fairies in the north part of this land."

"And how long have you been a turtle?"

"Fourteen years," replied the creature, with a deep sigh. "At least, I think it is fourteen years; but of course when one is swimming around in brooks and grubbing in the mud for food, one is apt to lose all track of time."

"I should think so, indeed," said Twinkle. "But, according to that, you're older than I am."

"Much older," declared the turtle. "I had lived about four hundred years before the Corrugated Giant turned me into a turtle."

"Was your head gray?" she asked; "and did you have white whiskers?"

"No, indeed!" said the turtle. "Fairies are always young and beautiful in appearance, no matter how many years they have lived. And, as they never die, they're bound to get pretty old sometimes, as a matter of course."

"Of course!" agreed Twinkle. "Mama has told me about the fairies. But must you always be a mud-turtle?"

"That will depend on whether you are willing to help me or not," was the answer.

"Why, it sounds just like a fairy tale in a book!" cried the little girl.

"Yes," replied the turtle, "these things have been happening ever since there were fairies, and you might expect some of our adventures would get into books. But are you willing to help me? That is the important thing just now."

"I'll do anything I can," said Twinkle.

"Then," said the turtle, "I may expect to get back to my own form again in a reasonably short time. But you must be brave, and not shrink from such a little thing as danger."

That made Twinkle look solemn.

"Of course I don't want to get hurt," she said. "My mama and papa would go distructed if anything happened to me."

"Something will happen, sure," declared the turtle; "but nothing that happens will hurt you in the least if you do exactly as I tell you."

"I won't have to fight that Carbolated Giant, will I?" Twinkle asked doubtfully.

"He isn't carbolated; he's corrugated. No, you won't have to fight at all. When the proper time comes I'll do the fighting myself. But you may have to come with me to the Black Mountains, in order to set me free."

"Is it far?" she asked.

"Yes; but it won't take us long to go there," answered the turtle. "Now, I'll tell you what to do and, if you follow my advice no one will ever know you're been mixed up with fairies and strange adventures."

"And Collerated Giants," she added.

"Corrugated," he corrected. "It is too late, this Saturday, to start upon our journey, so we must wait another week. But next Saturday morning do you come to me bright and early, as soon as you've had breakfast, and then I'll tell you what to do."

"All right," said Twinkle; "I won't forget."

"In the mean time, do give me a little clean water now and then. I'm a mud-turtle, sure enough; but I'm also a fairy prince, and I must say I prefer clean water."

"I'll attend to it," promised the girl.

"Now put me down and run away," continued the turtle. "It will take me all the week to think over my plans, and decide exactly what we are to do."

Chapter IV
Prince Turtle Remembers His Magic

Twinkle was as nervous as she could be during all the week that followed this strange conversation with Prince Turtle. Every day, as soon as school was out, she would run to the tub to see if the turtle was still safe—for she worried lest it should run away or disappear in some strange manner. And during school hours it was such hard work to keep her mind on her lessons that teacher scolded her more than once.

The fairy imprisoned in the turtle's form had nothing to say to her during this week, because he would not be allowed to talk again until Saturday; so the most that Twinkle could do to show her interest in the Prince was to give him the choicest food she could get and supply him with plenty of fresh, clean water.

At last the day of her adventure arrived, and as soon as she could get away from the breakfast table Twinkle ran out to the tub. There was her fairy turtle, safe as could be, and as she leaned over the tub he put out his head and called "Good morning!" in his small, shrill voice.

"Good morning," she replied.

"Are you still willing and ready to assist me?" asked the turtle.

"To be sure," said Twinkle.

"Then take me in your hand," said he.

So she picked him out of the tub and placed him upon her hand. And the turtle said:

"Now pay strict attention, and do exactly as I tell you, and all will be well. In the first place, we want to get to the Black Mountains; so you must repeat after me these words: 'Uller; aller; iller; oller!'"

"Uller; aller; iller; oller!" said Twinkle.

The next minute it seemed as though a gale of wind had struck her. It blew so strongly against her eyes that she could not see; so she covered her face with one arm while with the other hand she held fast to the turtle. Her skirts fluttered so wildly that it seemed as if they would tear themselves from her body, and her sun-bonnet, not being properly fastened, was gone in a minute.

But it didn't last long, fortunately. After a few moments the wind stopped, and she found she could breathe again. Then she looked around her and drew another long breath, for instead of being in the back yard at home she stood on the side of a beautiful mountain, and spread before her were the loveliest green valleys she had ever beheld.

"Well, we're here," said the turtle, in a voice that sounded as if he were well pleased. "I thought I hadn't forgotten my fairy wisdom."

"Where are we?" asked the child.

"In the Black Mountains, of course," was the reply. "We've come a good way, but it didn't take us long to arrive, did it?"

"No, indeed," she answered, still gazing down the mountain side at the flower-strewn grass-land of the valleys.

"This," said the turtle, sticking his little head out of the shell as far as it would go, "is the realm of the fairies, where I used to dwell. Those beautiful palaces you see yonder are inhabited by Queen Flutterlight and my people, and that grim castle at your left, standing on the side of the mountain, is where the Corrugated Giant lives."

"I don't see anything!" exclaimed Twinkle; "that is, nothing but the valleys and the flowers and grass."

"True; I had forgotten that these things are invisible to your mortal eyes. But it is necessary that you should see all clearly, if you are going to rescue me from this terrible form and restore me to my natural shape. Now, put me down upon the ground, for I must search for a particular plant whose leaf has a magic virtue."

So Twinkle put him down, and the little turtle began running around here and there, looking carefully at the different plants that grew amongst the grass on the mountain side. But his legs were so short and his shell-covered body so heavy, that he couldn't move very fast; so presently he called for her to pick him up again, and hold him close to the ground while she walked among the plants. She did this, and after what seemed a long search the turtle suddenly cried out:

"Stop! Here it is! This is the plant I want."

"Which—this?" asked the girl, touching a broad green leaf.

"Yes. Pluck the leaf from the stem and rub your eyelids with it."

She obeyed, and having rubbed her lids well with the leaf, she again opened her eyes and beheld the real Fairyland.

Chapter V
Twinkle Promises to Be Brave

In the center of the valley was a great cluster of palaces that appeared to be built of crystal and silver and mother-of-pearl, and golden filigree- work. So dainty and beautiful were these fairy dwellings that Twinkle had no doubt for an instant but that she gazed upon fairyland. She could almost see, from the far mountain upon which she stood, the airy, gauze-winged forms of the fairies themselves, floating gently amidst their pretty palaces and moving gracefully along the jeweled streets.

But another sight now attracted her attention—a big, gray, ugly looking castle standing frowning on the mountain side at her left. It overlooked the lovely city of palaces like a dark cloud on the edge of a blue sky, and the girl could not help giving a shudder as she saw it. All around the castle was a high fence of iron spikes.

"That fence is enchanted," said the turtle, as if he knew she was looking at it; "and no fairy can pass it, because the power to prevent it has been given to the giant. But a mortal has never been forbidden to pass the fence, for no one ever supposed that a mortal would come here or be able to see it. That is the reason I have brought you to this place, and the reason why you alone are able to help me."

"Gracious!" cried Twinkle; "must I meet the Carbonated Giant?"

"He's corrugated," said the turtle.

"I know he's something dreadful," she wailed, "because he's so hard to pronounce."

"You will surely have to meet him," declared the turtle; "but do not fear, I will protect you from all harm."

"Well, a Corralated Giant's a mighty big person," said the girl, doubtfully, "and a mud-turtle isn't much of a fighter. I guess I'll go home."

"That is impossible," declared the turtle. "You are too far from home ever to get back without my help, so you may as well be good and obedient."

"What must I do?" she asked.

"We will wait until it is nearly noon, when the giant will put his pot on the fire to boil his dinner. We can tell the right time by watching the smoke come out of his chimney. Then you must march straight up to the castle and into the kitchen where the giant is at work, and throw me quickly into the boiling kettle. That is all that you will be required to do."

"I never could do it!" declared Twinkle.

"Why not?"

"You'd be scalded to death, and then I'd be a murderer!"

"Nonsense!" said the turtle, peevishly. "I know what I'm doing, and if you obey me I'll not be scalded but an instant; for then I'll resume my own form. Remember that I'm a fairy, and fairies can't be killed so easily as you seem to think."

"Won't it hurt you?" she inquired.

"Only for a moment; but the reward will be so great that I won't mind an instant's pain. Will you do this favor for me?"

"I'll try," replied Twinkle, gravely.

"Then I will be very grateful," said Prince Turtle, "and agree to afterward send you home safe and sound, and as quickly as you came."

Chapter VI
Twinkle Meets the Corrugated Giant

"And now, while we are waiting," continued the fairy turtle, "I want to find a certain flower that has wonderful powers to protect mortals from any injury. Not that I fear I shall be unable to take care of you, but it's just as well to be on the safe side."

"Better," said Twinkle, earnestly. "Where's the flower?"

"We'll hunt for it," replied the turtle.

So holding him in her hand in such a way that he could see all the flowers that grew, the girl began wandering over the mountain side, and everything was so beautiful around her that she would have been quite contented and happy had not the gray castle been before her to remind her constantly that she must face the terrible giant who lived within it.

They found the flower at last—a pretty pink blossom that looked like a double daisy, but must have been something else, because a daisy has no magic power that I ever heard of. And when it was found, the turtle told her to pick the flower and pin it fast to the front of her dress; which she did.

By that time the smoke began to roll out of the giant's chimney in big black clouds; so the fairy turtle said the giant must be getting dinner, and the pot would surely be boiling by the time they got to the castle.

Twinkle couldn't help being a little afraid to approach the giant's stronghold, but she tried to be brave, and so stepped along briskly until she came to the fence of iron spikes.

"You must squeeze through between two of the spikes," said the turtle.

She didn't think it could possibly be done; but to her surprise it was quite easy, and she managed to squeeze through the fence without even tearing her dress. Then she walked up a great driveway, which was lined with white skulls of many sheep which the giant had eaten, to the front door of the castle, which stood ajar.

"Go in," said the turtle; so she boldly entered and passed down a high arched hall toward a room in the rear.

"This is the kitchen," said the turtle, "Enter quickly, go straight to the kettle, and throw me into the boiling water."

Twinkle entered quickly enough, but then she stopped short with a cry of amazement; for there before her stood the ugly giant, blowing the fire with an immense pair of bellows.

Chapter VII
Prince Mud-Turtle Becomes Prince Melga

The giant was as big around as ten men, and as tall as two; but, having no bones, he seemed pushed together, so that his skin wrinkled up like the sides of an accordeon, or a photograph camera, even his face being so wrinkled that his nose stuck out between two folds of flesh and his eyes from between two more. In one end of the kitchen was the great fireplace, above which hung an iron kettle with a big iron spoon in it. And at the other end was a table set for dinner.

As the giant was standing between the kettle and Twinkle, she could not do as the turtle had commanded, and throw him into the pot. So she hesitated, wondering how to obey the fairy. Just then the giant happened to turn around and see her.

"By the whiskers of Gammarog—who was one of my ancestors that was killed by Jack the Giant-Killer!" he cried, but in a very mild voice for so big a person. "Whom have we here?"

"I'm Twinkle," said the girl, drawing a long breath.

"Then, to pay you for your folly in entering my castle, I will make you my slave, and some day, if you're not good, I'll feed you to my seventeen-headed dog. I never eat little girls myself. I prefer mutton."

Twinkle's heart almost stopped beating when she heard these awful words. All she could do was to stand still and look imploringly at the giant. But she held the fairy mud-turtle clasped tight in her hand, so that the monster couldn't see it.

"Well, what are you staring at?" shouted the Corrugated Giant, angrily. "Blow up that fire this instant, slave!"

He stood aside for her to pass, and Twinkle ran at once to the fireplace. The pot was now before her, and within easy reach, and it was bubbling hot.

In an instant she reached out her hand and tossed the turtle into the boiling water; and then, with a cry of horror at her own action, she drew back to see what would happen.

The turtle was a fairy, all right; and he had known very well the best way to break the enchantment his enemy had put upon him. For no sooner had Twinkle tossed him into the boiling pot than a great hissing was heard, and a cloud of steam hid for an instant the fireplace. Then, as it cleared away, a handsome young prince stepped forward, fully armed; for the turtle was again a fairy, and the kettle had changed into a strong shield which he bore upon his left arm, and the iron spoon was now a long and glittering sword.

Chapter VIII
Twinkle Receives a Medal

The giant gave a roar like that of a baby bull when he saw Prince Melga standing before him, and in a twinkling he had caught up a big club that stood near and began whirling it over his head. But before it could descend, the prince ran at him and stuck his sword as far as it would go into the corrugated body of the giant. Again the monster roared and tried to fight; but the sword had hurt him badly, and the prince pushed it into the evil creature again and again, until the end came, and his corrugated enemy rolled over upon the floor quite dead.

Then the fairy turned to Twinkle, and kneeling before her he kissed her hand.

"Thank you very much," he said, in a sweet voice, "for setting me free. You are a very brave little girl!"

"I'm not so sure about that," she answered. "I was dreadfully scared!"

Now he took her hand and led her from the castle; and she didn't have to squeeze through the fence again, because the fairy had only to utter a magic word and the gate flew open. And when they turned to look back, the castle of the Corrugated Giant, with all that it had contained, had vanished from sight, never to be seen again by either mortal or fairy eyes. For that was sure to happen whenever the giant was dead.

The prince led Twinkle into the valley where the fairy palaces stood, and told all his people, when they crowded around to welcome him, how kind the little girl had been to him, and how her courage had enabled him to defeat the giant and to regain his proper form. And all the fairies praised Twinkle with kind words, and the lovely Queen Flutterlight, who seemed altogether too young to be the mother of the handsome prince, gave to the child a golden medal with a tiny mud- turtle engraved upon one side of it.

Then, after a fine feast had been prepared, and the little girl had eaten all she could of the fairy sweetmeats, she told Prince Melga she would like to go home again.

"Very well," said he. "Don't forget me, Twinkle, although we probably shall never meet again. I'll send you home quite as safely as you came; but as your eyes have been rubbed with the magic maita-leaf, you will doubtless always see many strange sights that are hidden from other mortals."

"I don't mind," said Twinkle.

Then she bade good-bye to the fairies, and the prince spoke a magic word. There was another rush of wind, and when it had passed Twinkle found herself once more in the back yard at home.

As she sat upon the grass rubbing her eyes and wondering at the strange adventure that had befallen her, mamma came out upon the back porch and said:

"Your turtle has crawled out of the tub and run away."

"Yes," said Twinkle, "I know; and I'm glad of it!"

But she kept her secret to herself.

By Ruth Plumly Thompson
Originally published in the Philadelphia Public Ledger, November 12, 1916.

Another Batch of Riddles

So far the boys are ahead in this riddle-guessing business. See whether you girls cannot catch up to them this week? The answers last time were: Hat, armchair, battledore, carriage or gate.

The Forgetful Poet says they are eeeeeee e. I wonder what you will think.

What tree plus what fruit equals another fruit?

Take two letters,
The proper two,
Will spell a red man's
Home for you.

'Tis sat upon and drawn upon,
In cities they are found;
And never was a river yet
That two ------ didn't bound!

[Answers next time.]

Copyright © 2001 Eric Shanower and David Maxine. All rights reserved. 

Monday, October 1, 2001


By Ruth Plumly Thompson
Author of Pirates in Oz, The Princess of Cozytown, etc.

Originally published in the Philadelphia Public Ledger, January 7 - 14, 1917. 

One dark and dreary night as I was going (but where I was going is an awful secret, but it was mighty near the edge of things, mighty near!)--well, as I was going I suddenly came to a narrow road with tall, queersome trees on each side and at the end of the road there shone a brilliant light. So I started down the road between the queersome trees and had gone about half a mile when I saw before me a great white palace that shone like ivory in the moonlight. I quickened my steps and had soon reached the tall palace gates.

Then I felt my spine prickle with terror; there seemed to be something creepy in the very air. Now when so near the edge of things, one must expect to see gruesome sights, but, boys and girls, what I saw the next minute nearly set me flying down the road. Steady now, I'll tell you what I discovered. That whole big palace was built of TEETH!--little, shiny baby teeth, big, rough, grown-up teeth, row upon row, row upon row, grinning down at me with a malicious grin. I clapped my hand quickly over my mouth, for, to tell the truth, I expected my own teeth to be jerked out of my head any minute, and stepped quickly behind the nearest tree.

"So this is where all the teeth go. This is a pretty state of affairs," said I to myself. But one can get used to almost anything, and after I had stared fixedly at that horrible palace for ten minutes, it didn't scare me a bit. I stepped boldly from behind the tree, and, still holding my hand over my mouth, shook the palace gate.

At the first touch it flew open so suddenly that I tumbled head first into the garden. Then it swung to with a horrid groan, and I, jumping to my feet, found that I was locked in. I rattled the gate fiercely, but it sounded so much like chattering teeth that my blood ran cold and my own teeth began to chatter in chorus. Then I looked about me for a place to hide.

My stars! Did I say I was in a garden? I should have said a cemetery. Hideous figures, made entirely of teeth, stood everywhere: great piles of unused teeth lay in mounds and heaps around the dreary walls. The winds sighed and moaned like a boy with the toothache. All the paths were edged with teeth; wherever I looked were teeth in some form or other.

There seemed to be no one about, so, taking a firm hold on my courage, I crept up close to the palace and peeped in the window, and lo and behold! There on a great throne made of teeth, in a great hall of teeth, sat an ogre. Of course, he was an ogre. Who else would live in so horrible a palace? Whoo--but he was a te-errible fellow, the most ogrish-looking ogre you ever saw. My knees knocked together with fright, but still I kept looking. It was twice as big as a man and, believe me or not, he had twenty-four eyes. The twelve toward me were shut, but I could somehow feel that the other twelve were open. He had only one nose, but my what a long one! And only one mouth, but zounds! What a wide one! On his head was a tall crown entirely made of teeth, and the roots were sticking up around the edge like palings on a fence. All the buttons on his clothes were teeth, and round his neck hung a chain of perfectly matched ones. In his hand he held a great roll of paper, and just as I was craning my neck to see what it was, without a minute's warning, the twelve terrible eyes toward me flew open and the next thing I knew I lay sprawling on the ground.

Whether I tumbled backward from pure fright or whether some strange force in those eyes toppled me over, I cannot say.

Ugh! How they frightened me! Some were red and some were green, some black and some blue. I suppose twelve of his eyes are always open, so that he can work at the business of being wicked both night and day. But at last my curiosity got the better of my fright and I crept back to the window. The hall was gradually filling with the ogre's followers, who, if not quite as big and terrible as he, were bad enough in all conscience.

"There's to be a hunt," thought I, for each fellow carried a sack slung over one shoulder and quiver full of arrows over the other. Now the head ogre, in a hoarse whisper, read off a list from the paper I had been watching. When he had finished the huntsmen fell in line, grinning and joking. Presently I saw them at the palace gate, which opened with a shiversome moan, and each taking a different path disappeared into the night.

When they had gone, the old ogre with twelve shut eyes and twelve open eyes went creaking around the room, locking all the doors and stuffing the keyholes. Then, chuckling to himself, he drew from under his throne a great sack and, like a miser his gold, began to count the teeth.

"Ha!" said he, and again, "Ha! Ha!" His eyes glittered and glared as he held one tooth after the other to the light, grunting and muttering all the while. Suddenly some one rattled the door and the ogre called, "Who's that?"

"It is I, father dear," came a voice like the scraping of knives on the scissors grinder's wheel. Then up jumped the ogre and opened the door and a tall young ogress fell into his arms. I am mighty glad she didn't fall into mine, for I should have died upon the spot. But, dear me! I have not time to tell how simply fearful she looked, for she immediately began to cry, "Father, father, when can I get married?" He patted her on the back with a force that would have floored you or me and said in his most soothingly ogrish tone, "Soon, my dear, very soon. I have nearly enough teeth now to build you a fine palace. But none but the most perfect teeth shall go to the making of the home of so perfect a creature as yourself." Whereupon they kissed so heartily that sparks fell in showers all around. Then the ogress went off to bed, I suppose.

The old ogre stood a moment in the middle of the floor grumbling to himself. "Tooth hunting used to be very easy before mortals began cleaning their teeth so much!" growled he. "But never mind. The children aren't all taking care of their teeth, so I'll go for the children."

Hurriedly putting his treasures away, he drew from a little cupboard a bottle of greenish liquid. Then he took down a quiver full of arrows and started dipping them one after the other into the liquid.

"The old scalawag," thought I. "Why, he is going hunting with poisoned darts." Next he took down a heavy sack and slinging it over his shoulder started for the door, singing in a grating voice:

"The night's the time for me, boys,
Though I hunt sometimes by day;
My darts are swift, my darts are sure,
I am the terrible ogre T. A."

Still singing, he tramped out of the room. Keeping a few steps behind and well out of the range of those terrible eyes, I followed him out the gate, down the narrow road, on and on, right back into the everyday city.

He stopped before a big brownstone house and touched the door, which silently opened. Like shadows we mounted the stairs to the third story and slid into a great room, the nursery. A little boy lay very, very sound asleep in a snug white bed. He was sleeping with his mouth open, and I , from my hiding place behind the door, shivered, for the ogre was aiming one of his fatal arrows right at that open mouth. By the way, have you any idea who this old rascal is? The next minute the spiteful zip of the arrow was heard as it flew to its destined mark. With a shrill scream, the little boy sat up in bed. "I'll be back in a week to finish this job," muttered the old ogre. Then, noiselessly, he slid into the hall and, boiling with rage, I followed after him.

You could hear the little boy crying for nearly a block, and no wonder, with a poisoned arrow fastened in his tooth. I cannot tell you how many houses we visited, leaving little girls and boys howling with pain, but finally we stopped before a great gloomy mansion with a sign on the door which read, "Doctor Brown, Dentist." The ogre pounded on the door and soon the nightcapped head of Doctor Brown himself appeared at the window. As soon as he saw the ogre he called in a shaky voice: "Just wait, my dear sir. I will be there directly." The ogre grumbled and growled and when the little doctor, quaking in his bedroom slippers, opened the door, he whispered fiercely, "Have you got them?"

"Yes," quavered the poor dentist and handed the ogre a small bag. He opened it greedily and started to finger over the teeth it contained. Then with an exclamation of rage he shook his long finger into the face of the poor dentist. "It's not enough. It's not enough!" he shrieked. "You must pull more! Do you hear?" He edged closer and closer, the dentist all the time backing into the doorway. But suddenly he gave a bloodcurdling scream and disappeared in a flash.

The dentist slammed the door and I, looking over my shoulder, saw the sun rising above the housetops.

And, oh, my dears and ducks, do keep YOUR teeth clean, else that wicked old ogre will come visiting you in the night and carry your pearly teeth back to his terrible palace.


By Ruth Plumly Thompson
Originally published in the Philadelphia Public Ledger, November 5, 1916.

Rhyming Riddles
The Forgetful Poet is getting to be quite a dabster at riddles. See what you can do with these:

Some foolish folks talk through it;
All of us wear it.
And, winter or summer,
Nobody can spare it?

My first rhymes with harm
And my next rhymes with air;
I'm easy and comfy,
I'm just an --- ---?

I know a door that never closes;
Indeed, it flies sky high;
The Chinese know a deal about it,
So do you and I?

Displayed when we walk,
With a name that we ride in,
Or another word guarding
The house we abide in?

[Answers next time]

Copyright © 2001 Eric Shanower and David Maxine. All rights reserved.