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