Friday, August 1, 2003


By Ruth Plumly Thompson
Author of Ojo of Oz, "King, King! Double King!", King Kojo, etc.

Originally published in the Philadelphia Public Ledger, July 29, 1917.

Once a beautiful girl named Mertha was sitting beside the road talking to a handsome shepherd named Cleon. Her bright curly head was very, very near his dark brown one and they were so interested (now, I wonder what they were saying?) that they never saw Grumblegrimkins, the crooked witch, coming down the road!

It was very hot and the old witch was tired and cross. She had been hunting all day for the copper-leafed clover, which she needed to make her nose straighter, and as she had not found it, was even more disagreeable than usual, which is saying a good bit, treasures!

"Plague take the sun!" she growled, limping along painfully. "Plague take the birds; can't you stop your screeching?" brandishing her cane at two orioles that perched on a low bush. "Plague take this road with no trees to shade one! Aha!" She had caught a glimpse of Mertha and Cleon. Now nothing enrages a witch so quickly as the sight of some one happy and handsome, and Grumblegrimkins was the baddest old witch imaginable. "Aha!" she croaked again and hobbling up to them as fast as she could, let out such a howl that they flew to opposite sides of the road with their hands over their ears! Up flew the witch's cane and, oh, my dears, when it came down again gone was Mertha and her yellow curls, gone was Cleon with his bright, handsome face, and in their places stood two tall, tall trees already sighing as if all the trouble in the world had fallen upon them, which, indeed, there had!

"Now, I've made of you something useful!" chuckled the old witch, settling down comfortably in their shade. "Though, I suppose, you'll not thank me for it!" she finished ill-naturedly. "Ho, ho! thanks - what is more scarce than thanks? Ho, ho! I'll have a little joke on you, my good-for-nothings; here you shall stand till some one has thanked you for your shade, and a hundred years it may be at the rate most thank-yous are delivered!" How the poor hears of Mertha and Cleon fluttered in their wooden prisons. "Till some one thanks us!" sighed Mertha. "A hundred years!" mourned Cleon and both shuddered as Grumblegrimkins shouldered her bundle of fagots and went scolding away!

One day followed another and many paused in the grateful shade of the stately trees, but though Mertha and Cleon begged mutely with their poor dumb branches for the one word of thanks that would set them free, each person thoughtlessly continued his journey. The birds twittered and sang and built their nests in the branches, but never one thought of thanking the trees that sheltered them; the wind went rustling gayly through the leaves at his game of hide-and-seek, but then, when did the wind ever thank any one?

Winter came and snow and icicles bowed down the trees with their cold heavy weight. Dumb with grief and despairing of release, Mertha and Cleon shivered in the raw winter twilights. "Were I but free how I would thank each living, growing thing in the world for its service!" sighed Mertha.

Summer came at last and again the two trees shone resplendent in their green foliage and many a man and many a maid sat happily at their feet resting in the shade, but summer passed and still the magic words remained unspoken.

But, oh! you mist not think Mertha and Cleon were prisoners forever. No - no, indeed. One find day in October a thief came whistling down the road, counting the gold pieces in his bag and singing at the top of his voice. But scarcely had he reached the two trees before the clatter of horse's hoofs came thumping from behind. Two leaps and he was high in the branches of the tree, which was Mertha. Up, up, up to the top and pressed close to the trunk trembled the thief, and Mertha trembled, too, for she was a gentle soul and hoped the thief would escape. Clatter, clump, clatter came the riders with never a look in passing the two trees and were soon lost to view in a cloud of dust.

Wiping his moist forehead, the thief stood upright and leaned weakly against the tree: "Thank you! Thank you, dear comrade. You saved my life1” Scarce had the words passed his lips before Mertha and he lay tumbled in the road. "And you saved mine!" cried Mertha, hugging the astonished rogue. Then telling him in a few words the story of their bewitchment, she hurried over to Cleon and thanked him for his shade. So they were restored to each other and the thief was so impressed by the story that he became honest upon the spot. Dear me, we must be careful; 'twould be quite awful to have some one waiting for a thank-you to release him from enchantment. And I guess to be sure we had better use as many as we can. I shall begin it, treasures. Thank you for listening to my story! 

By Ruth Plumly Thompson
Originally published in the Philadelphia Public Ledger, April 15, 1917.

The Puzzle Corner

Mr. G. Ography has not returned from his Easter vacation, but he sent in the answers to last week's puzzles. Here they are: Florence, Thames River, Wales, Minnesota, Dresden, Nantucket, Iowa, Scotland, Yukon, Auberne, Toledo, Bull Run, Augusta, Kansas, Elizabeth. Hamor Michener says that in making a man Mr. G. Ography neglectd to state that he could find a leg in Leghorn, an arm in Armenia, a head from Moosehead, hair from Sahara, neck from Schenectady and a pore from Singapore.

The Forgetful Poet says that, while the poem below is not always grammatical, all the questions can be answered by flowers:

A Flower Poem

When we refer to sheep we
Always speak of them in ------!
Some lovely flowers rhyme with this,
The stately ------?
There is a story of King Midas
That is often told,
And of the daughter whom he loved,
Sweet little ------?
And when a man stands up there's
Just one thing to say, I s'pose,
And that is nothing more nor less
Than this, we say, "He ------!"
And now I say good-by to you,
Of whom I think a lot,
And saying it I hope that you
Will all ------?

[Answers next time.]

Copyright © 2003 Eric Shanower and David Maxine. All rights reserved.