Author of The Wish Express, Captain Salt in Oz, "The Wizard of Pumperdink", "King, King! Double King!", etc.
Originally published in the Philadelphia Public Ledger, September 17 and 24, 1916, and The Wonder Book, 1929.
[Ruth Plumly Thompson's Marvelous Travels on a Wish was serialized in the Philadelphia Public Ledger for thirteen Sundays in 1916, the longest of Thompson's serials to appear on the Ledger's "For Boys and Girls" page. A heavily abridged version was later published in Thompson's 1929 anthology The Wonder Book. Hungry Tiger Press is proud to present this little-known fantasy in six installments. Typographical errors have been corrected and paragraph divisions have been brought into line with standard usage.]
Synopsis, or What Happened Before
Berens, a little boy who is tired of his home, wishes himself Somewhere Else. He and his little dog, Rags, are bitten by the Dissatisfied Bug, who whirls them through the clouds and aboard a wish, which is somewhat like a trolley car. The wish is full of dissatisfied folks, also bound for Somewhere Else. There is an elephant, a donkey, a farmer's boy, a horse, a little old lady, a little old gentleman, a red-headed little girl, a serving maid and a poet on board. Just as Berens had managed to get a seat a terrible-looking creature came to collect the fares.
It was Envy, the conductor of the Wish, and each passenger stole something from his neighbor to pay Envy his fare. Stuffing the articles into his hat, Envy retires, announcing that the next station will be TALKTOWN. As the Wish rushes on its way Berens and Sarah Ann, the little red-headed girl become great friends. Sarah Ann explains that she is going to be a beautiful little girl without freckles when she arrives Somewhere Else.
Talktown is a frightful place. The members of the party have some narrow escapes, and Rags and Berens are buried under a falling house.
Here they meet the "I'm a goin'tos" - who are always "going to do" great things. Aboard the wish once more, the passengers all tell what they are going to be when they reach Somewhere Else.
Just as Berens is about to tell what he will be, the wish stops at the Abode of Discontentment, where people carry umbrellas so as not to see the sun. Berens is introduced to the Glooms, a very bluish person!
The party finally escapes from the Bogs of the State of Discontentment, board the Wish and continue their journey to Somewhere Else.
Passing through Dreamland, the Wish arrives finally Somewhere Else, where they are introduced to the King and Queen and each one's wish gratified.
The springs of the barouche were almost touching the wheels and the horse went bouncing and jouncing and jolting from one side of the seat to the other. It seemed to Berens that the black steeds were purposely galloping over all the bumps and thank-you-ma'ams in the road. Between holding the lines and his hat and keeping his seat the horse was having a horrible time of it. Indeed, he looked utterly cast down.
"Oh, my bones! Oh, my teeth! I'll be shattered to bits," Berens heard him groan as the barouche swung round the corner on one wheel.
"He doesn't seem to like riding after all," said Berens thoughtfully to himself. He walked on slowly down the street, thinking with regret of what might be happening to Sarah Ann. As he turned the corner he caught a glimpse of the elephant.
"Why, he's been no end of places," thought Berens, and, indeed, my dears, the elephant's trunk was literally covered with labels.
Berens made up his mind to run after the elephant and ask him about his travels when the sound of gay music from the opposite direction made him turn about suddenly. It was the King and Queen and all the courtiers. Before marched the Royal Orchestra playing upon golden horns and harps. The music was so sweet and compelling that Berens simply had to follow the procession. It wound in and out the streets of Somewhere Else, on and on, till Berens could scarcely drag one foot after the other for weariness. Each time that he would pause and decide to turn back the music gave a queer little rustle that sent him on again, or else the Queen would throw back a smile or wave her perfumed handkerchief.
How long he followed the gay company Berens never knew, for all at once the Queen turned and held out both arms, while the horns gave a joyous blast that sent him leaping forward, only to run headlong into a stone wall. Illusion and Delusion, King and Queen of Somewhere Else, the golden harps and horns and all the gay courtiers had vanished. Berens picked himself up slowly and looked at the gaunt gray wall with a shudder. It is not pleasant for any of us when we have run against that wall of facts that we must find at last - even in Somewhere Else.
"I wonder where they went," thought Berens, staring blankly around him.
It had grown very late and he felt very lonely indeed as he stood in the shadow of the wall and watched the people of Somewhere Else hurrying home to their suppers.
Suddenly he gave a little scream of delight. Who do you s'pose was coming toward him? Why, Rags. Rags with his nose glued fast to the pavement and his ears cocked anxiously, his tail a perfect interrogation point.
"Rags! Rags!" called Berens joyously.
Rags paused a moment, put up one ear, then, with a blank stare at Berens or rather at Some One Else, he trotted sadly on.
"Oh, he doesn't know me!" wailed poor Berens, and in spite of himself tears began to roll slowly down his cheeks.
Here an even worse thing happened. Some One Else's shoes began to tug and jerk and Berens, powerless to help himself, was hustled back to Some One Else's home where something else simply dreadful awaited him. Oh, he was sure of that!
This time Some One Else's mother opened the door. Suddenly her eye lighted on a dark stain on Some One Else's blouse.
"JAM!" cried Some One Else's mother in an awful tone.
Without more ado Berens was whisked into the gloomy library. Some One Else's father put down his paper and glared at him severely. Some One Else's mother pointed in terrible silence to the jam spot.
"How dared you steal the jam?" thundered Some One Else's father. "How dared you tell a story? How dared you run away?"
By this time his bony fingers had closed upon Berens' collar and after that it happened! It makes me feel very bad, so I'll just tell you there was a cane in it and let it go at that.
After IT was over Some One Else's mother sent him supperless to bed. Some One Else's bed was full of hard lumps. Berens twisted and tossed and felt very sad and sore. He kept thinking of Rags running about in the dark, scared and lonely.
"I'll not stay here," he exclaimed at last. "I'll not be Some One Else any longer."
So he slipped hastily out of Some One Else's bed and crept down the three flights of stairs. Noiselessly he let himself out of Some One Else's house. So many strange and marvelous things are always passing in the streets of Somewhere Else that the people paid little attention to Berens scurrying along in Some One Else's pajamas. Indeed, they hardly noticed him. He walked up and down looking for Rags, but could find no trace of him anywhere. At length, tired and discouraged, he had come to the gorgeous park where he had been presented to the King and Queen. He sat forlornly down on one of the golden benches and kicked his heels dejectedly together. A hollow groan made him turn.
"Oh, my! Oh, dear!" sighed a heavy voice close at hand.
Peering into the gloom, Berens saw a little man huddled together in an ermine cloak sitting at the other end of the bench. He was wringing his hands and rocking to and fro in deepest misery.
"What's the matter?" cried Berens, edging over beside him. (He was so lonely that talking to any one was a relief).
"Oh, my crown," wailed the little man; "being King is a wretched business!"
Here a breathless courier in lace breeches rushed into the little rim of light make by one of the park lamps.
"Your Most Serene, Elegant, Gracious and Noble Highness," a page said to him, "there's a cabinet meeting at 10. The Duke of Fuddle Duddle wishes to confer with you upon matters of state at 10:30. The Princess of the realm desires your August Presence at the opera at 11. The Baron De Rox awaits your decision upon the war in Euphasia. The Master of the Exchequer bids me inform you that the royal treasury is short $5000. The Dutch - "
"Stop, stop," shrieked the little man, waving his arms wildly. "I'll not come. I'll not go," and, backing precipitately, he tumbled off the edge of the bench.
Berens and the courier hastily went to his assistance and finally set him and his crown and his ermine robe up again.
"I tell you my very crown aches," said the little man in a complaining voice, turning from one to the other.
"Why don't you take it off?" asked Berens politely.
"There's many that'll do it for 'em," said the courier, with a broad wink at Berens. "They do be saying in the city," he whispered loudly behind his hand, "that they'll be taking his head off before next Michaelmas."
"Oh, woe, woe!" groaned the little man, and collapsed utterly.
They waited in silence for some time. All at once the old fellow straightened up stiffly. With both hands he lifted the crown from his head.
"Here, take it away!" cried he, holding it out to the courier. "Take it away, I tell you!" and he stamped his foot imperiously.
The courier took the crown gingerly, paused for a few moments as if he could not believe his ears, then, fearing lest the old gentleman should change his mind, ran at top speed, the crown tightly clasped to his stomach.
"Ah - h!" breathed the little man who had wanted to be King in relieved voice.
Here a terrible racket at the other end of the park made them both turn around. It was the elephant. With his trunk full of papers and maps he stood beneath one of the park lamps trumpeting defiance at a whole crowd of men and women, who also flourished papers and maps.
"I tell you it can't be so!"
"Impossible!" shouted the crowd derisively.
"I tell you it is so!" The elephant unrolled one of his maps and angrily shook it in the face of the crowd. "There!" he trumpeted loudly. "There! It's a brand new country, I tell you! A brand new country - and I - I discovered it!"
"Bosh!" yelled the crowd. "Humbug!" and hooting with mirth they danced about the elephant.
Berens watched breathlessly. He could see that the elephant was growing very angry. Flapping his huge ears with rage, he suddenly pitched the whole bunch of papers and maps into their midst.
"Blockheads!" he shrilled hoarsely and turning his back upon the crowds lumbered wrathfully toward Berens and the little man who had been King.
"What's the use of discovering anything?" he grumbled crossly, "when nobody will believe you when you get through discovering it. Blockheads! Blockheads! Who are you?" he grunted with an irritable wave of his trunk at Berens.
"Why, I'm Some One Else," said Berens mournfully.
"Well, you don't look very happy," snapped the elephant, rocking to and fro violently. "If you just knew what I've been through!" he added, rolling his little eyes. Indeed, he was scratched and torn up and covered with dust and stickers. "Humph!" he continued, "as I - "
"Oh, what's that?" cried Berens, interrupting him.
From a great clump of trees to the right excited voices were wafted to them.
"Won't you please write in my autograph book?"
"Oh, please give me a lock of your hair!"
"Come back! Come back!"
The babble of voices grew louder and louder and suddenly from out of the gloom burst the poet, a laurel wreath bobbing wildly up and down over one ear.
"Will you just look at these verses?" called a thin man, waving a dirty piece of paper as he panted along gasping at the poet's heels.
"Do you use a stub or a pointed pen?" called another.
"Come back! Come back!" shouted the rest.
"Oh, fame! Why did I desire thee?" moaned the poet, as he sprinted along, mopping his hot forehead and glancing wildly over his shoulder. "Go away! Go away! I want to be left alone!" he called loudly, and pulling off his laurel wreath tossed it to his pursuers. Immediately they left off chasing him and fell to quarrelling over the wreath.
The poet dropped heavily upon the bench beside Berens. Hardly had he been seated before a flashily clad youth came sneaking along in his stocking feet - a patent-leather pump in each hand. He looked nervously about and then sank wearily upon another of the benches.
"That must be the Farmer's Boy!" thought Berens and watched him with interest to see what kind of a time he was having Somewhere Else.
At that moment there was a rustle in the shrubbery behind them.
"Oh, he must be here!" remarked a low voice. "We'll just look around a bit."
At this the millionaire who had been the Farmer's Boy gave a start.
"Ah, there you are!" cried the voice in a relieved tone, and a plump little man came hurrying into the light. He was followed by several other obsequious-looking individuals. "Just let me explain why you should invest in the Mud Bank Company," began the little plump man, seating himself on the edge of the bench and taking out a roll of papers.
"Stop," cried the Farmer's Boy, waving his pumps feebly. Clumsily he turned out his pockets. "Get out," said he in a tired voice.
The men fell greedily upon the gold pieces and bank notes and disappeared in a twinkling.
The millionaire who had been a Farmer's Boy leaned back with a sigh and began absently fanning himself with his pumps. "Not a minute to call my own. Invest in this, invest in that, take a share here and a share there, now hurry to this place and now hurry off to that. Can't get no rest nohow."
"Hello! There comes Floribel Elizabeth," cried Berens excitedly. And Floribel Elizabeth Sarah Ann it surely was. Her white dress hung in ribbons, her pink sash dangled limply about her knees.
"Hello!" she called listlessly.
Berens ran eagerly to meet her, then both of them paused to look in amazement at a singular-looking creature who was coming up the walk.
"Why, it must be the donkey," said Floribel Elizabeth.
"But it's got horns," gasped Berens.
It was certainly the most remarkable looking beast. It had a donkey's body and ears topped by wide-spreading antlers. Upon the antlers hung every sort of an object. Pieces of cloth, bits of rubbish, dead branches, till it looked like nothing so much as a walking hatrack. It wobbled along uncertainly, its head wagging from side to side.
"If I could just manage these confounded horns," the children heard it mumble, as it swayed dizzily up the walk. It paid no attention to Berens and Floribel Elizabeth's "hello," but went and stood by itself under a tree, its head and tail drooping limply.
The next to join the party was the horse. It came hobbling along stiffly, stopping every few moments to put his hoof to his back.
"Don't speak of riding to me," he called, with an eloquent wave of his tail and roll of his eye. "Don't - "
"Oh, oh, oh!" wailed a high voice out of the night.
"Oh, oh, oh," echoed a higher one still.
Here two elegantly gowned young ladies flopped upon another of the golden benches and began weeping bitterly into their lace handkerchiefs.
"It must be the old lady and the serving maid," whispered Floribel Elizabeth Sarah Ann.
"Well," snorted the elephant, with a wave of his trunk, "this is a pleasant party."
At this every one gave a deep groan.
"Well, I've just had enough Floribel Elizabeth stuff," announced Sarah Ann decidedly. "I've been washed and dressed and dressed and washed and scolded and lectured and dressed and washed."
"I've had enough of Somewhere Else," thundered the elephant, interrupting rudely. "I want to go back where everything is discovered and nothing is new."
"Oh, being Some One Else is awful," cried Berens, wiping his eyes on Some One Else's nightshirt. "Oh, even divisions were better than this!" and he went and sat sadly upon one of the benches.
"I'm so tired," wailed the little old lady, who was young and charming again. "I tell you, old age has its compensations. Hurry, hurry, worry, worry, rush here, rush there, not a minute to rest."
"Unhook me, somebody, quick," gasped the other young lady, who had been the serving maid. "I'm choked by this dress and my slippers pinch, and if I only had some corned beef and cabbage!!!!"
Now every one raised his voice in a dismal wail. Berens hardly heard what they were saying, for suddenly, off at the end of the park, he caught sight of a great red brick house set in a wide garden. Lights blazed cheerily from all the windows. From one of the upper rooms he could see a little boy just about his own size lying upon a rug before the open fire, reading. There were a great many bright pictures upon the walls of this room and scattered about were tennis rackets, boxing gloves, baseball bats, electrical motors and engines - everything, in fact, that the heart of a boy could desire.
THE WISH EXPRESS
by Ruth Plumly Thompson
THE FORGETFUL POET
By Ruth Plumly Thompson
Originally published in the Philadelphia Public Ledger, August 5, 1917
The Forgetful Poet
The Forgetful Poet is still at the seashore and his verses are as comical as usual:
I went a fishing yesterday -
They told me it was sport.
Next time I'll choose a pastime
Of a very different ___!
Going out I felt delighted
And prepared myself to spend
A charming day, but, oh, I say!
That soon came to an ___!
We anchored in the sun and then
The boat began to sway
And I began to realize
How I should spend the ___.
I begged them to turn back again.
"What? Spoil our fishing - never!"
And then they made some crude remarks
Which they considered ___!
Each minute seemed a hundred years,
My watch ne'er went so slow;
I got a fishhook in my thumb -
Ne'er more to fish I'll ___.
[Answers next time.]
Copyright © 2004 Eric Shanower and David Maxine. All rights reserved.