Friday, December 1, 2006

A VISIT TO WINTERLAND

By Jack Snow
Author of The Magical Mimics of Oz, Spectral Snow, Who's Who in Oz, etc.

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



Chapter One
Tod's Present

Tod couldn't have had any more difficulty going to sleep that night, if it had been Christmas Eve.

His father had gone to the city early that morning on business, and since he would be unable to get away till quite late, he and Mrs. Travers had decided it would be best for him to stay the night with his brother, who was Tod's Uncle John and who lived in the city.

Before he had climbed into the car and driven down the country road to the busy highway that led to the city, Mr. Travers had told Tod he would bring him a present. More than that he would not say. Nor would Tod's mother tell the little boy what the present would be. She only smiled and said a present wasn't nearly so mice if you knew all about it before you got it.

So Tod pulled on his red-topped boots, and walked down the country road, heavily packed with snow, to Blue Bell Farm. There, he and Tinkle spent much of the day trying to guess what Tod's present would be. But there were too many wonderful things it might be to decide on just one of them.

Tod left Blue Bell Farm late in the afternoon, after Tinkle assured him that she would come over to his house right after breakfast the next morning to see his present. The boy went to bed early, so there would be less time to wait.

So it is no wonder he had difficulty going to sleep.

At last Tod closed his eyes, and imagined a wonderful toy shop, filled with picture books and games, electric trains, airplanes, building sets, bicycles, and all sorts of toys that wound up and did miraculous things. Finally he spied a pink monkey, clambering up a string to the bough of a tree on which hung a cluster of coconuts. Tod walked over to the tree, and the monkey threw one of the coconuts down to him. Immediately the nut fell open into two shells, one of which was filled with delicious chocolate candy and the other with cookies, covered with nuts and raisins.

Tod smiled happily in his sleep.

Mr. Travers drove home early the next morning, and the first thing Tod heard when he awakened was his father and mother talking downstairs. The boy hastily slipped into his clothes and fairly flew down the steps.

And there it was! In the middle of the kitchen floor - the present - a handsome sled!

Tod shouted with joy.

The sled was almost as long as the boy was tall, and it was decorated with bright red and yellow paint. The name "Winterland Special" was painted in red letters down its center, and its sturdy steel runners gleamed brightly.

TodÂ’s mother had his breakfast ready for him, but the boy scarcely saw what he was eating; his eyes were on the beautiful sled.

Just as Tod finished breakfast, Tinkle arrived, and the boy jumped from the table to proudly display his new possession.

Mr. Travers knew, of course, that Christmas was only a few weeks away. But, being a wise father, he also knew that when there was snow and ice, a boy needed a sled - Christmas coming or not.

Chapter Two
The Unknown Trail
After promising his mother that he would be home in time for lunch, Tod and Tinkle started for the hill at the back of the Great Woods. It was an ideal day for coasting, cold and clear, and the hill was a perfect place for the sport.

Arriving at the top of the hill, Tod seated himself first on the sled, and Tinkle gave it a push that started it slowly down the incline. Then she took her place on the sled, holding on to Tod with both arms.

Slowly at first, but gathering speed rapidly, the two children whizzed down the hill. Tod's sled soon proved it was as speedy and swift as it was handsome.

The path down the hill was not a straight one, but full of twists and sudden turns, which made the sport all the more exciting.

Despite the fact that he was a small boy, Tod proved that he was capable of managing the sled very well. He maneuvered the turns and sharp twists of the path with real skill, and both the children were enjoying the ride immensely.

Suddenly Tinkle cried out in alarm:

"Look out, Tod!"

For there, ahead of them, directly in the path of the onrushing sled, was a large tree that had been blown over by the wind. The sled was now traveling at a great rate of speed, and Tinkle shuddered when she thought what could happen when they dashed into the tree.

But Tod had seen the tree, even before Tinkle, and like a flash he veered the rushing sled from the path, just in time to miss the fallen tree.

Tinkle sighed with relief.

The little girl expected the sled would stop, now that it had left the path; but this was not so. Instead it kept right on going. Indeed, the sled increased its speed, if anything.

Tinkle saw now that in avoiding the fallen tree, Tod had steered the sled onto a trail that led among the trees of the Great Forest. The sled was following this lonely path, as it turned and twisted and wound in and out among the trees in a bewildering fashion. It required all of Tod's skill to keep the rushing sled on the narrow woodland trail.

So fast were they going, that it was all Tinkle could do to get her breath.

"Don't you think you'd better stop, Tod?" she gasped.

"Can't," called Tod briefly. "Goin' too fast."

And so, as they could not help themselves, the two children sped on and on, having not the faintest idea where the "Winterland Special" was taking them.

At last, when Tinkle began to fear the ride would never end, she noticed with relief that the sled was now moving at a considerably slower speed. Slower and slower went the sled, until the children were able to stop it altogether.

The boy and girl stood up and stretched. They had grown stiff from sitting for so long in their cramped positions on the sled.

Then they looked curiously about. The place was strange to them. They had often wandered in the Great Woods, but they had never before been in this part of it.

"Well," observed Tinkle, "I guess we're lost."

Chapter Three
The Strange Cottage
Tod was staring intently among the trees, and a moment later he called:

"Look, Tink - a house!"

Tinkle looked in the direction Tod was pointing, and sure enough, there, almost hidden among the trees, was a house. It was very tiny, no more than the smallest cottage. And it appeared very old fashioned, not at all like the farm houses Tinkle and Tod were accustomed to seeing.

It had a thatched roof that sloped down over the walls of the house, like an old hat with the brim turned far down. A stone chimney rose from the roof, and from this there curled upward a wisp of smoke. At the sight of the smoke, Tod said:

"C'mon, Tink, let's get warm!"

The girl was a bit cold after the long ride, so she followed Tod who walked unhesitatingly toward the house. As they approached the cottage, the children saw that it was surrounded by an old-fashioned fence built of stones, enclosing a neat little yard, in the middle of which stood a snow man. The walk that led to the house was swept clean of snow and was made of cobblestones.

An old-fashioned brass knocker was on the heavy oaken door, and Tod raised this and knocked several times.

In a moment the door opened and the children found themselves face to face with an old lady.

Yes, she was old, Tinkle decided, but somehow she looked young, too - as if she had never really stopped being young, no matter how old she was. Her cheeks were fair and soft, her bright blue eyes sparkled merrily, and her snowy white hair was piled high on her head.

"Come in, children! Come in out of the cold and warm yourselves," the old lady invited smilingly.

She was so round and so plump that she nearly filled the small doorway, but now she stood aside and Tod and Tinkle entered the cottage.

"My, my, this is the pleasantest Christmas surprise I've had in months," said the old lady. "I always say Christmas doesn't amount to much without children!"

Tinkle and Tod scarcely heard her, they were so busy looking about them. The inside of the cottage was like pictures they had seen in books of old-fashioned cottages at Christmas time.

There was a great open fireplace on which pine logs were burning cheerily, and over the fireplace hung garlands of holly and bright red forest berries. There were holly wreaths on the walls, and festoons of mistletoe and red berries framed the three little windows of the cottage.

The fat little woman was helping Tod off with his boots before the fireplace, and the boy was staring curiously at a great earthen kettle that simmered over the fire, giving off a delicious aroma of what Tinkle decided must be some kind of soup or stew.

Chapter Four
Winterland
By far the most delightful object in the cottage was the Christmas tree. The children had never seen such a tree.

It was so large that it filled one whole corner of the cottage. It was not decorated like any tree that Tinkle or Tod had ever seen. In place of the little electric lights that the children had on their trees, this one had small pink and white and red and blue and green candles with the wax molded in spirals. These candles were set in metal holders in the shapes of stars that were painted silver and gold and blue and red and green, and glittered brightly with the reflected lights of the twinkling candles. The holders were fastened to the branches of the tree, Tinkle noted, with little coiled spring snaps.

The tree was covered with strands of white popcorn and ruddy cranberries. There were also many kinds of fancy cookies, and these had been cut in the shapes of angels, boys and girls, Santa Claus, reindeer and the camels on which the three wise men rode to Bethlehem. There were even walnuts on the tree; walnuts whose shells had been carefully painted with gilt, and others painted silver or covered with tin foil, so that they gleamed and glittered brightly.

Tinkle could see that there was not a single ornament on the tree that had come from a store, and yet, she decided, it was the most "Christmasy" looking tree she had ever seen.

The little girl noted all this in much less time than it takes to tell it, and now that she had removed her wraps, she joined Tod before the fire, and turning to the old lady said:

"What a very nice home you have. I had no idea there was such a house on Blue Bell Farm."

The old lady had been bustling about, setting the table with pretty, old-fashioned, hand-painted dishes. Now she paused and, beaming at the little girl, smoothed her apron which was embroidered with marigolds, and said:

"Oh, but you have seen my house many times, my dear! And you have seen me many times - indeed, I have often wondered when you would finally decide to visit me!"

"Then," said Tinkle thoughtfully, "Daddy and Mother must know about this house being here in the Great Woods, too."

"Certainly they do," declared the old lady. "Your mother loves this old house very dearly, and your daddy often stops to look in."

With this the plump little old lady lifted the kettle from the fire and ladled out generous portions of its contents into the prettily painted bowls she had set on the table.

"Come now, my dears, eat your porridge while it is hot," invited the old lady.

Tod was already at the table, and as Tinkle sat down she saw that there was in addition to the porridge, thick slices of home-made bread, delicious golden butter, grape jelly, a huge pumpkin pie and a pitcher filed with fresh milk.

The children made a good meal, for they were hungry after the long ride. As she ate, Tinkle puzzled over why she had never heard her father or mother mention this pretty little cottage. The girl was troubled, too, with the growing conviction that, as the old lady had stated, she had seen the cottage somewhere many times before. But for the life of her, Tinkle couldn't remember where.

The plump lady had seated herself in an old fashioned rocking chair that creaked cheerfully as she rocked. She was busily engaged in embroidering a shawl, such as Tinkle had once seen her grandmother wear. The old lady knitted with amazing speed and skill, and the shawl seemed to grow almost before the girl's fascinated eyes.

Tinkle looked about the cottage again, and mused:

"You must like Christmas very much, to have your decorations up so early."

"Early?" asked the old lady in a puzzled tone. "Oh, they've been up for years now. You see," she added complacently, as if she were stating a simple fact, "it's always Christmas time here."

The girl's expression must have betrayed her astonishment, for the old lady laughed, and said:

"I do believe you children still don't know where you are! This cottage is in the very heart of Winterland - and, of course, it's always Christmas time there."

Chapter Five
Uncle Zekero
The plump little lady rose from her rocker, put down her knitting, and went to the window. Looking out, she said:

"Just as I thought, it's snowing. One of the Big Folks has shaken the snow down again."

While Tinkle was pondering these strange words, the old lady called:

"Come, children, and see the snow storm!"

Tinkle and Tod ran to the window and looked out. Indeed, it was snowing: great feathery flakes filled the sky.

The children could see the snow man standing in the middle of the yard, but so thick was the snow, that nothing of the forest, beyond the fence that encircled the cottage, was visible.

"Snow man's lookin' at us," announced Tod.

Tinkle started. The snow man was turned so that he appeared to be looking toward the window. Yet, Tinkle was sure he had been facing the forest when they had entered the cottage.

"To be sure," said the old lady. "Uncle Zekero will want to meet you! How thoughtless of me! Come, children, get on your things, and go out and talk with him for a while."

"Do you mean," said Tinkle wonderingly, "that the snow man is alive?" "Certainly he's alive," smiled the plump lady, "although he only wakes up when it snows, and falls asleep again as soon as it stops snowing. Sometimes he sleeps for days on end. I suppose it's a habit with him. But you'll find Uncle Zekero a pleasant old fellow, and it's seldom he gets the opportunity to talk with visitors."

Now bundled in their warm clothes, the children stepped from the cottage.

"Uncle Zekero! Uncle Zekero!" called the old lady from the doorway. "Here's company come to see you!"

The snow man turned his head, and regarded the children.

He wore a black silk "stove-pipe" hat, set at a jaunty angle on his head. His eyes were two pieces of coal, and his mouthy was ingeniously formed of two rows of kernels of golden corn, curved in a smile that was very jolly to behold.

"How nice," said the snow man. "I felt it in my snow that we would have company today. Tell me, children, how do you like it her in the heart of Winterland?"

"Fine," said Tod, staring in complete fascination at the snow man.

"Don't you get tired, just standing there all the time?" asked Tinkle, marveling at this strange experience of talking to a snow man.

"Oh, no," said Uncle Zekero, "I sleep a great deal - in fact it's hardly worthwhile staying awake when it isn't snowing. So in between snow storms, I just doze off and dream of the next snow storm. Occasionally I move about a bit, although my joints are beginning to turn into ice, and are a bit stiff. When I was younger and my snow was fresh, I had the foolish idea that I might like to travel - drift around a bit, you know. But there just couldn't be any place as fine as here in Winterland where it's likely to snow almost any moment. This is a fine snow we're having now, isn't it?" And Uncle Zekero tilted his head back so far that his black silk hat nearly fell off, and a large snow flake settled on the end of his round nose.

"What do you eat?" asked Tod, who was charmed by Uncle Zekero.

"Of course, I like ice cream," answered Uncle Zekero, "But my favorite dish is snow pudding. Oh, delicious snow pudding!" And the snow man rolled his eyes in ecstasy at the very thought of snow pudding.

Tinkle noted that it was no longer snowing so hard, so she said:

"We'd better be going, Tod. Remember, we're lost, and your mother expects you home by noon time."

The children returned to the cottage, and thanked the little old lady, who invited them to stay longer, and seemed quite disappointed that they were leaving so soon. But when Tinkle explained that they were expected home, the old lady said nothing more.

"Could you tell us," asked Tinkle, "how we can find the path back to Tod's house, or to my house on Blue Bell Farm?"

The plump little lady cast an admiring glance at Tod's new sled, and answered musingly:

"Well, it's easy enough to see how you got here: a fine sled like that, named 'Winterland Special,' would just naturally have to start its career by coming here on its first journey; and it's just as easy for you to go home! All you must do is close your eyes tightly, and step through my gate, and then you'll be no longer in Winterland."

Tinkle wasn't at all sure that they would find their way home by following the old lady's instructions, but so many strange things had happened there that the little girl thought it was worth trying.

As the children walked down the cobblestone path, now covered with snow, Uncle Zekero called to them:

"Children! Children! Will you do me a great favor?"

"If we can," replied Tinkle; "we'd be most happy to."

"Then please," said the snow man, "if ever you visit Winterland again, bring me a corn-cob pipe! Every snow man should have a corn-cob pipe. They're a great comfort, and there isn't one in all Winterland. Will you remember to bring me one?" he implored.

While the snow man was speaking, Tod dove into the pocket of his overcoat, and after a moment pulled out a corn-cob pipe that he used for blowing soap bubbles.

Tinkle was not surprised, bur she knew Tod well enough to know that like most boys, he carried around in his pockets an amazing variety of objects.

The little boy ran to the snow man, and handed him the corn-cob pipe.

"Thank you! Thank you very much!" said Uncle Zekero fervently, beaming with joy as he stuck the pipe between the rows of corn that formed his mouth.

As Tinkle paused at the gate for one last look at the cottage, it had almost stopped snowing, and she saw that the snow man was already nodding, while the figure of the little old lady appeared in the door, waving them goodbye.

Once again the little girl was struck with the impression that this was a familiar scene she had looked upon many times. But think as she might, she couldn't remember where it was she had seen it.

Chapter Six
Tinkle Makes a Discovery
Now Tinkle and Tod closed their eyes and stepped through the gate, just as the plump little lady had told them to do. Then they opened their eyes and looked about them.

The cottage and the snow man had vanished completely. All that remained was a tiny clearing in the trees, where they might have been.

The children rubbed their eyes and wondered if they had been dreaming.

They suddenly realized that in spite of the hearty food they had enjoyed in the little cottage, they were quite hungry. So they followed the path, again, pulling the sled after them. After a time, the path took a turn and they found themselves in a part of the Great Forest they knew well.

It was only a short time till they were running over the open fields and meadows of Blue Bell Farm to Tod's house a little distance away.

After Tod's mother had fixed them a warm and filling meal, Tod accompanied Tinkle to her house, where the children spent the afternoon with painting and coloring books. It had suddenly turned much colder, and they didn't care to play out of doors.

Tod was lying on his stomach before the fireplace, carefully filling in the colors of a fine ship, sailing on the sea, when Tinkle called to him excitedly:

"Tod! Tod! I know where the little cottage is now!"

"Know where what cottage is?" asked Tod.

"Why, the one where the little old lady lives - in Winterland - of course!" Tinkle's words tumbled over each other the little girl was so excited.

"It's here! It's been here all the time! Why didn't I remember?"

Tinkle held in her hand one of those old-fashioned crystal ball paper weights. Inside the glass globe there was a tiny little cottage--the tiny little cottage--and standing in the doorway was a plump little old lady. In the yard in front of the cottage was a snow man with a black stove-pipe hat on his head.

The little girl looked again, more closely into the crystal globe.

Then she caught her breath.

"Tod!" she gasped. "The snow man! Look! He's got a corn-cob pipe in his mouth!'

"Sure," said Tod proudly; "I gave it to him!"

"But," cried Tinkle in amazement, "he never had it before! I remember distinctly - and he didn't have a pipe before!"

" 'Course not," said Tod a little impatiently. "He couldn't have it till I gave it to him!"

Then the boy took the pretty toy and turned it upside down. Immediately there was a miniature snow storm around the tiny cottage.

"Now," said Tod with satisfaction, "snow man will wake up."

The End


THE FORGETFUL POET
By Ruth Plumly Thompson
Originally published in the Philadelphia Public Ledger, April 14, 1918.

Some Riddles by the Forgetful Poet

The dear fellow was so pleased with the riddles he made last week that he has made some more like them. The same word will answer all the qustions in the verses, he says, though in some cases it is spelled differently, but always sounded the same.

????

One is eaten,
One's a plan--
Another's traveled
Much by man.

One is measured,
One is needed
When ships are built
And one is heeded

When directions
Are required--
Now I'll stop before
You're tired!

He also says that the first one has something to do with Mother Goose. Now, I wonder-----? Last week's answers were reign of good Queen Bess. In April come both RAIN and showers, rainbow weather, rainy seasons, reindeer lives way far north, knight drew rein.

Copyright © 2006 Eric Shanower and David Maxine. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, November 1, 2006

THE PRINCESS WHO COULD NOT DANCE

By Ruth Plumly Thompson
Author of Jack Pumpkinhead of Oz, "The Wizard of Pumperdink", "King, King! Double King!", etc.

From The Princess of Cozytown, 1922. Originally published in St. Nicholas.

 

Oh, once - oh, once, dears and ducks, there was a beautiful Princess who could not dance! Think of it! All the dancing masters in the kingdom and in all the kingdoms for miles round could do nothing with her. They came singly and doubly and then all together, and counted one, two, one, two, three, and twirled, and bobbed, and bowed, and stamped, and swayed in and out, and whirled round like tops; and the Court Musicians twanged and banged and thumped, tum-tum, tiddy-um-tum, tum-tum, tiddy-um-tum, until their ruffled collars wilted, and their cheeks puffed out like red balloons, - but still she couldn't dance.

The King tore his hair out by the handful - he didn't have much either; and the Queen wept into her flowered handkerchief, while the dancing masters explained this and then that, but the Princess sadly shook her head instead of her foot, and there was an end of it. So in all the land there could be no dancing, no Court balls or frolics, nor any music even, because music made the other folks dance and the Prin-cess appear ridiculous.

And oh, my dears, that kingdom grew pokier than snuff! Faces grew long and dour, and visitors to the realm most mighty scarce. And yet this Princess was really bewitchingly enchanting, her hair all tumbling golden curls, and her eyes, sweethearts, as blue as the darkest part of the sky, and her cheeks as pink as the little clouds at sunset, while her feet and hands were the tiniest ever. Oh, you would have loved her to pieces! Even her name was a dancy sort of name, for it was Dianidra.

Well, poor Dianidra grew every day more thin and sad, because all the Court Ladies who could dance were exceedingly unkind to her. I shouldn't be surprised if they pinched her now and then. And the King was so vexed that a real Princess couldn't dance, that quite often he boxed her ears. Oh, he was a crab of a King! When Dianidra went near her mother, the Queen covered her face with her handkerchief and shrieked for her smelling-salts, and moaned: "A Princess who cannot dance will never marry. How disgraceful! How terrible! Unhappy me!" and a good bit more that I have not time to tell you.

So Dianidra used to wander off into the garden by herself and try to puzzle it out. She used to work it out with a paper and pencil like this: 2 steps plus 2 steps, and 1 bow plus 1 dip = the minuet. And 4 times 3 steps plus 1 turn, and 2 swings plus 1 slide = the Court glide. Then - then, because she never could put the puzzle together, she would throw herself down on the ground and weep, until the flowers thought surely that spring had come. And, dear hearts, have you guessed why? Don't think she was bewitched. Not a bit. Let me tell you the way of it. The proud old King and the weepy old Queen and the stupid old dancing-masters had been so busy telling the Princess how to dance that they all completely forgot to tell her what dancing was. So Dianidra had it all mixed up with her arithmetic and spelling lessons. And of course she couldn't dance, because the wisest person in the world couldn't dance with his head.

Things grew worse and worse, and pretty bad, I can tell you. And one day, after the King had been unusually crabbish, and the Queen most awfully weepish, and the Court Ladies outrageously crossish, Dianidra decided to run away. She waited until the gate-keeper was snoring, then she stood on her tippy-toes, turned the great golden key, and slipped out into the world. She ran and ran, down the King's highway, of course, crying all the time so hard that she couldn't see where she was going. And first thing you know, plump-p-p! bump-p-p! she had run into an old lady and tumbled her head over heels in the road.

"Sugar and molasses, my dear!" cried the old lady pleasantly. "I was just hoping something would happen."

At this, Dianidra, who had expected nothing less than a box on the ears, stopped crying and looked at the old lady curiously. Her eyes were brown and dancy, and her cheeks, 'though withered and old, were red as apples. In her shabby bonnet and dress she looked younger than Dianidra herself.

"Well, well!" she chuckled, picking up her things. "Who are you, my pretty?"

"I'm Dianidra, the Princess who cannot dance," the Princess answered, hanging her head.

"Hoity-toity!" exclaimed the old lady. "Is that why you're crying on the King's highway?"

"Oh," sobbed Dianidra, "if I could only learn to dance!"

"Come here, child," said the old lady; and putting her head to Dianidra's heart, she listened long and knowingly.

"Yes, it's there," she muttered to herself. "It's there." All of which was very puzzling to the Princess. "Now, what do you know about dancing?"

"Let me see," said Dianidra, puckering up her brow and counting on her fingers. "Two turns, plus five slides, plus six steps, plus two swings, divided by a curtsey equals - Oh, dear, what does that equal? What does it equal?"

At that, what do you suppose happened? The old lady burst into laughter - and I mean it, really. Her bonnet tumbled off, and she laughed and laughed; and her hair tumbled down, and she laughed and laughed; her cape flew away, and still she kept laughing; till finally, in an awful chuckle, she just disappeared; and out of the laughter stepped the most beautiful fairy that you can imagine - with shimmery wings and smiley eyes. Dianidra was so surprised that she laughed a little bit, herself.

"That's right!" said the fairy. "Before you can learn to dance, you must learn to laugh! You must laugh with your lips, and then with your heart, and then with your feet, Dianidra, for that's what dancing is. And I'm going to send you to the most wonderful dancing masters in the world. Walk straight ahead between these tall trees till you come to yonder gray stone, and on the other side you will see your first dancing-master. He will tell you where to find the others. Good-bye, little Princess. Before the next sunrise you will be the most beautiful dancer in all the ten kingdoms."

Then, sweethearts, the fairy kissed Dianidra and flew up, up, out of sight. And I might tell you that the fairy's name was Happiness, if you have not already guessed it.

Something about the fairy kiss kept the Princess laughing softly all the way along between the tall trees until she came to the gray stone. She peeked 'round it curiously, and there, sure enough, was her first dancing master, a rippling, racing, merry little brook.

"Lean down, Dianidra," called the brook. And Dianidra, obeying, was drawn gently into its arms, and danced away with her over the stones, singing:


"Run, don't slip, glide, don't trip!
Merrily, gay, that's the way.
Dianidra, dancing's play."

You never could guess how pleasant it was dancing with the brook. The sunbeams came, too, and joined in. But finally the brook whispered to the Princess that on the top of the next hill another dancing master was waiting. So Dianidra sprang gaily up the bank, shaking the diamond drops of water out of her sunny locks and wringing out her dress.

And straightway she began running and gliding as easily as the brook, singing all the time the bit of a song he had taught her. When she had come to the top of the hill, there, sure enough, was her second dancing master. 'Twas the south wind. He seized Dianidra's hands and spun her 'round in a hundred gay circles; and she bowed and swayed as gracefully as you have seen the flowers do when the south wind dances with them.

"Oh, off with a rush, now sway, now stay,
Now bend and bow, and again away!"

whispered the south wind in her ear. And away and away they danced, and Dianidra thought she would never weary of it. Over the flower-splashed hill they swept, down and down to the edge of the sea. And there the south wind left her to learn something from this, her last dancing master.

The sea rushed toward Dianidra with his hundred dancing waves, and, catching her up in his mighty arms, drew her out to where the swells rose and fell with majestic rhythm. The dance of the sea, dear hearts, was the most beautiful of all. First he held her curled in the hollow of a giant swell, then tossed her lightly as foam on the rising crest, where she floated gently to and fro. Now with a rush a great wave ran with her merrily up the sand, teaching her the most wonderful curtsey, the curtsey the waves have been dropping to the shore for years and hundreds of years.

After she had been dancing with the sea for a long, long time, he brought up from his treasure-chest a wonderful coral chain, and clasped it round her neck; and he wove her a crown of sea-weed and pearly sea-flowers, and, with a last caress, set her high upon the beach. So happy had Dianidra been, dancing with these wonderful dancing masters, that she hadn't noticed that the sun had slipped down behind the hill. It was night, and the moon came up out of the sea, and smiled at the runaway Princess dancing over the sands. Her satin dress was torn and dripping, but she was more beautiful now than ever before, because her eyes were laughing, her lips were laughing, her heart was laughing; but more than all else, her flying feet were laughing!

It chanced that a most royal palace stood on that beach, and the Princess, running and gliding like the brook, and swaying and bending as the south wind, and curtseying and dipping like the sea, danced up to the golden gates, which were open, straight into the gaily lighted ball-room! Gorgeous Princesses, and Queens, and Ladies of high degree were dancing with Princes, and Kings, and Gentlemen of high degree, for it was the royalest ball of the year, and from the east and west, from the north and south, from all the ten kingdoms in fact, this sprightly and gallant company had gathered.

When Dianidra swept lightly into their midst, dears and ducks, it was the most surprised company ever. The musicians all stopped thumping and banging, and, with their cheeks still puffed out and their hands upraised, stared and stared. And the gorgeous Princesses, and Queens, and the Ladies of high degree stopped right in the midst of a wonderful figure, and, with their satin slippers daintily pointed to take the next step, stared and stared. And the Princes, and Kings, and the Gentlemen of high degree, with their courtly backs bent for the deep bow, stopped and stared and stared; and my goody! they stared the hardest of all. But Dianidra danced merrily on.

Just about as long as you could count twenty they all stared, then - "CRASH!!!!" went the music, and started up the most marvelous booming, - quite like the roar of the sea, - and the most royal of the Princes unbent his back, and ran lightly up to Dianidra, and away they whirled down the center of the room. Then - then I am sure you would have laughed at what happened next - because all the Kings and Princes and Gentlemen of high degree were so anxious to dance with Dianidra that they trod upon each other's toes; and in the scramble they lost their crowns, and they shoved and pushed each other quite terribly, without ever once saying "Beg pardon," or anything like that, while the Princesses, and Queens, and the Ladies of high degree grew red and then white by turns, and stamped first one foot and then the other, and whispered behind their fans, and glared at the dancing Princess through their gold lorgnettes. No wonder! Dianidra, in her torn frock and seaweed crown and coral necklace, was more beautiful than all of them together; and who, after dancing with her, cared to dance with any one of them?

So she danced with each of the royal Gentlemen, but oftenest, as you are already supposing, with the most royal Prince; and pretty soon they danced out into the castle gardens, and perhaps she told him all about her strange dancing masters - but that I cannot say. But after a while the Prince ordered his most royal carriage, and the fifty white horses galloped over hill and dale to the palace of Dianidra's father.

There they found the crabbish King tearing out what little hair was left him, while the Queen, nearly smothered with smelling-salts, was weeping more bitterly than ever, and sobbing: "A Princess who could not dance was better than no Princess at all!" and a good bit more that I haven't time to tell you. But when they saw Dianidra, they ceased their crabbishness and weepishness straight off, and when the Prince on his bended knee asked for the hand of the Princess, they were overjoyed and delighted - which is the way of Kings and Queens.

So Dianidra and the Prince were married in a year and a day, and the wedding was the most gorgeous you could imagine. As the fairy had promised, Dianidra was the most wonderful dancer in all the ten kingdoms, for in her dancing was the ripple of the brook, the swaying of the trees and flowers in the south wind, and the mystery of the sea. All through the years she and the most royal Prince danced together merrily, and so lived happily ever after. That, sweethearts, was the way of it.


THE FORGETFUL POET
By Ruth Plumly Thompson
Originally published in the Philadelphia Public Ledger, March 31, 1918.

The Puzzle Corner

The Forgetful Poet's verses as he intended to write them last week are given below. He got some of his words in the wrong places, didn't he?

With line and rod upon my back
And little worms in cans,
I started out to catch some fish,
I'd wisely laid my plans.
I threw my line into a stream--
It caught upon a branch,
The hook flew back and bit me -
Took two handkerchiefs to staunch
The blood--I now untangled all
The knots and cast again.
My foot slipped and somehow I've felt
Oh, far from well, since then!

Why is an egg like one of the English poets?
Why is it unwise to tell secrets in a cornfield?


Copyright © 2006 Eric Shanower and David Maxine. All rights reserved.

Sunday, October 1, 2006

A MERRY CROWD OF CAMPERS

By Ruth Plumly Thompson
Author of The Wishing Horse of Oz, "The Wizard of Pumperdink", "King, King! Double King!", etc.

Originally published in the Philadelphia Public Ledger, Sept. 15, 1918.



Up the hill helter-skelter pounded the girls from Camp Perry. Deep sand and sticks meant nothing to these thirty lively brown lassies, breathless from setting-up drill. Pshaw! not when breakfast was waiting. A dip in the bay does give one an appetite. Oh, boy!

Two months this merry crown had hiked and played and sailed and swam together and the thought of breaking up was "ruination and desolation!" as one little southern girl expressed it. "I'm pickled inside - swallowed so much of the bay!" gasped Polly, sinking into her chair. "Bay-lieve me!"

"I'm growing gills!" answered Gabriel dryly, and all within hearing giggled appreciatively. Five tables - and how the food disappeared and how they chattered as it went down!

Then the bell sounded and every one turned their heads toward Cap'n John, to hear the program of the day - the "last day," as each one mournfully reflected.

"Seems as if it were only yesterday I landed in the Haven!" whispered Gabriel hoarsely to her neighbor. Gabriel was a nickname, for, strange to say, she, the only girl in camp who could blow the bugle, was lodged in Angel's Haven and immediately dubbed Gabriel by her three other angel fellows, who instantly became Peter, Job and Michael!

Cap'n John, in his usual teasing fashion, called off the names of the different crews, for this, my dears, was a nautical camp down on Cape Cod. Then, after assigning some to row, some to paddle the canoes - others to sail and the rest to go motor-boating - he paused impressively. Then ceremoniously announced:

"The members of the Kennel will entertain the camp this evening at Indian Head at an old-fashioned barn dance. Please come in costume. Prizes will be awarded to the best and the most terrible costumes!"

A whoop of delight greeted this news, and there was a spirited dash for the costume box on the side porch of the main bungalow.

The members of the Kennel (another one of the lodges) whispered mysteriously together and refused to give any particulars.

There was so much to do that the costumes had to be fitted in between times.

"I just know I'll come apart or sumpin'!" wailed Cora May, a little nine-year-old. "Could you lend me a few safety pins?"

But somehow the necessary apparel was assembled. Wonderful things can be done with kimonos and cheesecloth, safety pins and ingenuity.

Eight o'clock found an excited company of masked and mysterious figures on the dock, and in high spirits they made the trip across the bay to Indian Head and hiked the rest of the way to the big barn.

George and Martha Washington welcomed them, and, thrills upon thrills, there was a real darky fiddler and old-fashioned cookies and punch! The floor was smooth and waxed, and away marched the grand parade in and out and round about so the judges could decide which costume was handsomest and which the most terrible.

There was a little old-fashioned maid, her dress hastily assembled from an old nightgown and ruffled pajamas peeking below for pantalettes. There were sailor boys and boy scouts and Japanese damsels with knitting needles in their top-knots.

A French peasant girl in black-laced bodice - and how do you s'pose that bodice was made? A black necktie laced up the front with yellow yarn fastened on pins! There were several country chaps in overalls and straw hats, a country girl in sunbonnet and with a basket of fresh vegetables, and a dozen shy little girls in curls and socks and side sashes. A pirate with a ferocious wooden dagger got the prize for being the most terrible and the little country girl the prize for the best costume.

And what a lark it was! The old fiddle twanged and scraped as they frolicked through Virginia reels and skipped through polkas and "heels and toe."

The punch, helped along with water, held out splendidly, and the full moon peeped in the window to see what all the noise was about!

But even the best times end, and at 11 o'clock the party broke up and went singing along the quiet roads to camp.

"It was the bangingest-up party ever!" each one assured the members of the Kennel, and many times in the years to come those girls will look back on that evening in the old jolly barn as one of the happiest in their lives.



THE FORGETFUL POET
By Ruth Plumly Thompson
Originally published in the Philadelphia Public Ledger, March 24, 1918.

The Forgetful Poet's Puzzles

The answers to Mr. G. Ography and Mr. History's puzzles were Prussia, neutral countries of Europe--Spain, Sweden, Norway, Holland, Switzerland, Denmark. The Bay State is Massachusetts; West Virginia, Pan Handle; Pine Tree State, Maine; Keystone State, Pennsylvania; Lone Star, Texas; Hoosier, Indiana; Empire, New York; Old Dominion, Virginia. The men from Florida are nicknamed Fly-up-the-Creeks; New Yorkers, Knickerbockers; Vermonters, Green Mountain Boys; Michigan men, Wolverines. The naval hero was Admiral Dewey, and the present-day general Leonard Wood.

There seems to be no sense whatever in this verse by our poetical friend. See what you can make of it.

My Fishing Trip

With little worms upon my back
And line and rod in cans,
I started out to catch some fish,
I'd wisely laid my plans.

I threw my line into a stream--
It caught upon a branch,
The hook flew back and bit me; took
Two handkerchiefs to staunch

The blood--I now untangled all
The cast and knots again.
My foot slipped and somehow I've felt
Oh far from well, since then!

[Answer next time.]


Copyright © 2006 Eric Shanower and David Maxine. All rights reserved.

Friday, September 1, 2006

PRINCE MARVEL

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

First published in this form in L. Frank Baum's Juvenile Speaker, 1910. Originally published, with slight differences, as "The Fairy Prince" in Entertaining, December, 1909.



List of Characters:
PRINCESS MARVEL, a Fairy in disgrace; afterward Prince Marvel.
BESSIE BODKIN, RUTH RUTLEDGE, Just Girls, who meet with a strange adventure.
QUEEN LULEA, the Ruler of the Fairy Kingdom.
JACK TURNER [sic], a Highwayman.

Scene: A Glade in the Forest of Burzee.

ACT ONE:
(The curtain being drawn discloses Princess Marvel, a fairy, seated upon a stump near center of stage. - Her head is bowed and she is sobbing as if in distress. - Advancing toward her, rather timidly, come Bessie and Ruth. - The fairy does not notice them and they stand before her, gazing upon her wonderingly.)

BESSIE:
Do not weep, my pretty fay;
What has grieved you? Tell us, pray!

(Marvel does not answer nor look up.)

RUTH:
I suppose some fairy frolic
May have given her a colic.

(Marvel looks up indignantly; then drops face in handkerchief.)

BESSIE:
Wand'ring in the woods today,
Where we often come to play,
Here we find, to our surprise,
A really Fairy, from whose eyes
Diamond tears are dropping, so
All your sorrow we would know.
We are mortals, yet you'll find
Even mortal hearts are kind;
Tell us, then, sweet Fairy: say
What has caused you woe today?

MARVEL:
(Looking up:) I'm disgraced! The Fairy Queen
Thinks that I have saucy been
To her royal Majesty -
So she seeks to punish me,
And I'm exiled, by command,
From our lovely Fairyland!
I'm condemned - oh, boo, hoo, hoo! (sobbing)
I'm condemned - it's really true! -
To remain upon this earth
'Till I've done a deed of worth.

RUTH:
Then look up and try to smile;
Deeds of worth are well worth while.

MARVEL:
But alas! My fairy power
Is restricted to this bower.
Mortals seldom wander here,
So no worthy deed, I fear,
I'll accomplish while I stay
In this woodland day by day.
I'm so miserable - boo, hoo! (sobbing again)
How I wish that I were you!

BESSIE:
Why, if you could change with me,
Then a fairy I would be
And you'd then become a maid
Very helpless, I'm afraid.

MARVEL:
Deeds of worth may mortals do
Just as well as fairies.

RUTH:
True;
But you ought to be a boy
Deeds of valor to enjoy.
Girls are timid, girls are weak -
Only forceful when they speak -
Boys are strong and love to fight,
Doing deeds both wrong and right.

MARVEL:
Then, if I could be a boy,
All my powers I'd employ
Doing deeds so fine and grand
Soon I'd win to Fairyland
All forgiven by the Queen
For my naughty acts, I ween!

BESSIE:
But a boy you cannot be.
You're a fairy girl, you see.

MARVEL:
Ah, but you can change all that
By your powers - quick as scat -
For, as fairy transformation
Changes mortal form and station,
So may mortals, by decree,
Change a fairy's own degree.

RUTH:
What! our mortal power, you say,
Transforms fairies as we may?

MARVEL:
That is true; and so, my dear,
Fairies seldom dare appear
To your vision, lest a word
Change them to a beast or bird.
So, beneath the moon's pale light
We are dancing every night,
But lie hidden all the day
Lest on mortal folk we stray.

RUTH:
Well, I've often wondered why
Fairies were so dreadful shy;
But of us pray have no fear,
We'll not change your form, my dear.

MARVEL:
But I want you to! 'Tis true
I some valiant deed must do
E'er I get to Fairyland.
So I wish you to command.
I a boy shall be until
This adventure I fulfill.

BESSIE:
Tell us, then, what we must do
And we'll try to favor you.

MARVEL:
Seize a stick, and as a wand
Wave it thrice, and then command:
"As a mortal, I decree
Marvel now a boy shall be."
That is all, for you will see
Me transformed immediately.

BESSIE:
(Hesitating:) Ruth, you take the magic wand;
Here's a stick quite close at hand.

RUTH:
No, indeed! I'd shake with fright.
You can do it, Bess, all right.

MARVEL:
Mortal girls are shy, I see.
Do not fear; it won't hurt me:
Neither will it bother you
Such a simple thing to do.

BESSIE:
(Picking up a stick:)
Well, to please you I desire;
So to magic I'll aspire. (Waves stick thrice.)
Little fairy, I decree
You a boy shall henceforth be
Till some noble deed you do
That will prove you good and true.
Only then - the fact is plain -
Will you be a girl again!

(Marvel rises. - The fairy robe drops from her shoulder, showing her now dressed as a Fairy Prince.)

RUTH:
(Dancing delightedly:)
'Tis done! Good gracious, Bess; just see!
A lovely Fairy Prince is he!

MARVEL:
(Bowing low before them:)
I thank you, kindly maid; one more
Request I fear I must implore.
I need a sword - a stalwart blade--
Will you procure it, gentle maid?

BESSIE:
(Doubtfully:)
I'd like to; but I know not how.

MARVEL:
Just touch your wand upon that bough.
(He points to a small limb on the trunk of a near by tree.)

RUTH:
(Going to the bough and placing her hand upon it:)
Don't be afraid, Bess; wave the wand,
The sword will then be in my hand.
(Bess waves the stick. - At the same time Ruth bends back the bough and quickly grasps a sword that has stood concealed behind the tree, making it appear that the bough has changed into a sword in her hand.)

RUTH:
And here it is! So take it, Prince,
And may it make your foemen wince.

MARVEL:
(Taking the sword from her, and again bowing:)
I thank you, gentle maids. And now
Some noble deed I'll do, I vow
To win in Fairyland my place
And wipe away my dire disgrace!
(The Prince waves his sword and makes his exit into the forest.)

BESSIE:
Well, Ruth, this strange adventure o'er,
We're simple mortals, as before.
So let us both go home again
And hope our magic be not vain.

RUTH:
Yes! I'm as hungry as a bear;
So let us to our castle fare.

BESSIE:
And after dinner we'll return
News of our Fairy Prince to learn.
(They turn to go.)

RUTH:
I never knew before, dear Bess,
That you could be a Sorceress.

BESSIE:
Yet I'm not so bewitching, Ruth,
As you are - that's the solemn truth!
(They lock arms and walk away.)
(CURTAIN)

ACT TWO
(When the curtain is drawn the same scene is discovered as that in Act I. When curtain is well up, Prince Marvel enters slowly and with a dejected air.)

MARVEL:
How cold and dismal Earth appears!
It hath no single charm that cheers
A fairy heart, when day's dull gleam
Replaces moonlight's dainty beam.
And I, a wanderer, have tried
To find adventure far and wide
Throughout the wood, yet much I fear
No deed of valor 'waits me here.
The forest is deserted quite;
There's not a single foe in sight;
Yet here am I, condemned to halt
'Til I've redeemed my grievous fault.
(He paces up and down as if discouraged.)
What tho' my sword gleams fair and bright?
What tho' I long some wrong to right?
Unless a chance occurs, 'tis clear
I may forever wander here!
(He now strolls into the forest again, and passes from view.)

(Enter Jack Turpin, a desperate highwayman.)


TURPIN:
Aha--! Oho! a chance to steal
Will soon be mine, I truly feel!
For coming toward this wood I spied
Two maidens, walking side by side.
When they're alone beneath these trees
I'll pounce upon the girls and seize
Their purses, jewels, brooches, rings,
And all their other pretty things.
(Looks stealthily around.)
There's no one near to stop my game;
So let them scream - it's all the same
To bold Jack Turpin! I can rob
Two helpless girls, and like the job!
(He pauses and again looks around him.)
So now I'll hide behind this stump
Until the girls are here, then jump
And rob them while they're wild with fright -
Then quickly I will take to flight.
(Jack Turpin now hides himself behind the stump.)

(Enter Bessie and Ruth, walking slowly and not suspecting the presence of the highwayman.)


RUTH:
It must be here the Prince we found;
And yet I do not see him 'round.

BESSIE:
Perhaps he's wand'ring in the wood
In bold and knightly attitude
To do some noble deed he's fain
That will his Queen's forgiveness gain;
And so he rambles here and there
To seek a chance to do and dare.

RUTH:
Then let us here a while remain
And see if he returns again.
I'm very anxious, Bess, to know
If he has found a worthy foe.

(Here the highwayman springs from behind the stump and seizes both the girls, a wrist of each in either hand. They struggle, but he drags them to center of the stage.)

DICK [sic] TURPIN:
Stand and deliver, ladies fair!
I'm bold Jack Turpin; I declare
You are my prisoners, and so
I'll take your jewels e'er you go!

RUTH:
Help! Help! Oh, gracious goodness me!

BESSIE:
Help, someone! Come and set us free!

TURPIN: Yell if you want to, yell, my dear; There's no one near to interfere. (Prince Marvel rushes in, waving hs sword.) MARVEL:
Hold, wicked man! Unhand these maids!
Such villainy your race degrades,
And if you'd save your worthless life
Defend it in a manly strife!

(Marvel advances upon Turpin, who releases the girls and draws his own sword. Bessie and Ruth shrink back, their arms clasped about each other.)

TURPIN:
Aha--! Oho--! I'd have you know
That bold Jack Turpin is your foe!
I've slain full many a man before,
And now I'll shed your princely gore.

(They fight, clashing their swords together. Prince Marvel finally stabs the robber, who falls flat and appears to be dead.)

MARVEL:
(Placing a foot upon Turpin and looking down upon him.)
So, robber! now your race is run,
And all your wicked deeds are done.
(The girls run forward, delighted.)

BESSIE:
Oh, thank you, Prince, for saving us!
How fortunate it was that thus
You chanced our way!

MARVEL:
Nay, say not so;
The fortune's surely mine, you know.
(He bows to them.)

RUTH:
Still, though we owe a half to luck
The other half we owe to pluck.
The way you killed him was delightful -
The man was really very frightful!

(Enter the Fairy Queen, Lulea. - She slowly approaches the group, gliding in a graceful manner. - The two girls kneel before her and Prince Marvel kneels likewise.)

QUEEN:
Good Marvel, for this noble deed
From further punishment you're freed.
You've won forgiveness, for your arm
Has saved these fair young maids from harm.
Return with me to Fairyland
And join again my happy band.

(The Queen extends her hand. - Marvel kisses it, then rises and stands beside Lulea. - The girls now rise and stand in attitudes of awe and respect.)

MARVEL (To Bessie and Ruth):
First, gentle friends, will you restore
To me my girlish form once more?
I'm now a boy, and yet I fain
Would be a fairy girl again.

RUTH: (Eagerly:)
And so you shall be! Prithee, Bess,
Fetch here the Prince's fairy dress.

(Bessie runs to a tree, from behind which she takes the fairy robe and runs to rejoin Ruth. - Together they hold the gown suspended over the head of Marvel while they say, in unison:)
BESSIE AND RUTH:
We, by our mortal powers, declare
This Prince shall be a Princess fair;
For unto her we now restore
The very form she had before!
(They drop the gown, which covers Marvel.)

QUEEN:
We thank you, maidens, and decree
Your lives shall long and happy be.
For those who help the helpless learn
They also will be helped in turn.
A gracious act is sure to find
A sweet reward with it entwined!

(The girls again sink upon their knees, while the Queen extends her arms over their heads. - All remain motionless, forming a picture, as the curtain slowly closes in.)
(THE END)

THE FORGETFUL POET
By Ruth Plumly Thompson
Originally published in the Philadelphia Public Ledger, March 17, 1918.

Some Spring Riddles

The insectivorous answers to the Forgetful Poet's verses were cricket, spider, beetle, roach and locust. This week Mr. History and Mr. G. Ography have sent us some riddles. The Forgetful Poet says he thinks we have enough history and geography in the war news, but I think he is a bit jealous. Anyway, we shall have his verses next week to cheer us up again.


By prefixing a letter to one European country you will have another.


Name the neutral European countries in this war.


Can you tell the following States by their nicknames, Bay State, Panhandle, Pine Tree, Keystone, Lone Star, Hoosier, Empire and Old Dominion?


And can you tell the people of the States by their nicknames: Fly-Up-the-Creeks, Knickerbockers, Green Mountain Boys and Wolverines?


Mr. History says that a moisture found in the early-morning meadows will give you an American naval man, and a material used in building, an American general in the present war.

[Answers next time.]


Copyright © 2006 Eric Shanower and David Maxine. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, August 1, 2006

THE MAGIC TREE

By Ruth Plumly Thompson
Author of The Lost King of Oz, "The Wizard of Pumperdink", "King, King! Double King!", etc.

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



"Hist! Easy now. Set 'er down!"

"Aye, set 'er down!"

"By the jug, 'tis time we found a bit of earth. These blighted rocks! Give a hand here, will ye!"

"NOW for the spades! Ugh! That's deep enough. Shove 'er in - THERE!"

"By the powers!"

"What's that?"

With exclamations more rough and menacing the other of the five men whirled about. Toward them stepped a small figure in white. They shrank back, the tallest crossing himself hastily as if he had seen a ghost.

"What's it sayin'?" shrilled another. "You Sven, what's it sayin'?"

The gaunt Norwegian approached the lad. "Wants to know why ye be diggin' in his sire's garden!" he jerked over his shoulder.

The men pulled themselves together and held a whispered conference.

"Kill 'im," hissed one.

"That's like you, Andy, ye bungler, let me handle 'im!" A thick-set Irishman separated himself from the rest - "Tell 'im we're plantin' a tree for 'im!" he jeered.

The Norwegian translated the statement with many flourishes and the anxious expression on the child's face changed to one of interest and pleasure.

"He says he thanks you kindly, and may he stay and watch?"

"Faith, 'tis no bad plan," counseled the Irishman; " 'twill keep the lad's mouth shut."

"Tell 'im no one must know but 'is son and 'is son's son - 'tis a magic, ye understand! Tell 'im THAT, ye long-legged liar!"

With many ceremonious gestures Sven explained to the little Norwegian. Though but a lad of five, Eric, only son of Bjornsen of Trondjheim, had all the Norwegian's love of mystery. He was deeply impressed. Solemnly his word was given, the men awkwardly touching their caps.

In wide-eyed wonder he watched the planting of a stripling oak, which Sven produced with remarkable speed, seeing that he had first to dig it up.

" 'Twill serve well as a marker!" grunted the Irishman, patting down the last shovelful of soil.

With a feeling of strange importance Eric waved good-by as the five figures stole out of the garden and down over the rocks that stretched to Trondjheim Fiord.

"Curse the little herring!" muttered one of the apparent fishermen stepping into the boat.

"We'll fetch it away tomorrow night - the lad's tongue will hold till then!" reassured another.

From his window Eric watched the boat until it disappeared into the mist. "MY tree!" exulted the boy leaning far over the ledge, "My magic tree!"

Next day Eric had much time to think of the mysterious happening of the night, for without raged a storm that kept the bravest indoors. The little ships hugged the shore and the gulls screamed hoarsely over the tossing waves, and when at sunset the fury of the wind subsided a ship lay broken on the rocks of Smollen - a pirate ship with the skull and crossbones still fluttering from the mast. But pirate ships were not uncommon in those far-off days, and beyond a shake of the head and a muttered curse upon such men small attention was paid to the affair.

One day followed another, but never one slipped by without Eric visiting the tree at the foot of his father's garden. True to his promise he never breathed a word of the strange happenings of that strange night. The tree was wonderful to him. Sitting beside it he thought great thoughts and dreamed great dreams.

Years went by and the tree grew tall and straight as Eric grew tall and straight. He became a man, and his ships plied to and fro with spices and silks, for he was merchant sailor as all the Bjornsens had been before him. Eric married, and a new little boy played in the garden, a fair-haired little fellow, who, like his father, never failed to visit the magic tree, nor was he ever weary of hearing the story of the five fishermen from England. Now the first Eric lies in the Trondjheim kirk, the second Eric is an old man much dependent on his handsome son. The third Eric, a serious blue-eyed young man, has much to occupy him these days - the perilous days of war. One after another the ships of Bjornsen & Bjornsen have been sunk by German submarines. Food is scarce and wages high and it seems as if the old firm that had flourished from generation to generation must go down before so many disasters.

Often Eric would take his worries to the garden, and standing under the magic tree, ponder on the strange way it had come there. It seemed like an old friend somehow; and dreaming on the quaint tale handed down by his grandfather his anxieties were many times forgotten. "We should be thankful not to be in this world war, lad!" sighed the elder Bjornsen. "Though it's hard for Bjornsen & Bjornsen to have but ONE ship out of harbor!"

"And that likely to find a port at the bottom of the ocean!" exclaimed Eric bitterly.

"Don't be down-hearted, boy; the Helsingborg'll get by, and with THAT load of dyes, why boy, we'll mend our fortunes yet!" He emphasized this remark by a thump upon the table, but Eric sighed and drew the window curtains apart. A summer storm was raging outside; rain beat on the panes; the thunder rumbled ominously, while the wind played havoc with the trees.

"Bjornsen? Sign here!" The telegraph boy thrust the paper into the maid's hands, buttoned his coat and was off. Eric hurried into the hallway, returning with a crumpled telegram. Without a word he handed it to his father. "Helsingborg sunk in the North Sea. All lost!"

The old man groaned and covered his face. For a minute there was not a sound, then CRASH! A noise like a thousand bombs exploding shook the house, a blinding flash, then quiet. The two men rushed to the window.

"The TREE! The TREE," wailed Eric. "It is down, EVERYTHING IS LOST!"

Bareheaded and heedless of the downpour he ran into the garden. The next flash proved him right. The great oak had fallen, fairly torn up by the roots. But what's that? Gripped in those roots, tenaciously as in the arms of the octopus, was an iron box - a chest of gold and precious stones! - the treasure buried by the pirates in the time of the first Eric and guarded by the magic tree until it was needed.



THE FORGETFUL POET
By Ruth Plumly Thompson
Originally published in the Philadelphia Public Ledger, March 10, 1918.

Some Riddles Blown in by the March Winds

The answers to last week's riddles were catboat, fly, companion and Texas. If a fence made jokes I should call it raillery. The Forgetful Poet says today that the answers to his verses are insectivorous; in other words, to be filled in by insects. Here they are:

"You're lively as a ------?"
Quoth the knight when he e------,
And smoothing out his ------ling brows,
He sat right down beside her.

The little countess heard with scorn,
And when he did app------
She quickly rose, with tilted nose,
And jumped into her coach.

Until her coach was out of sight
On it his gaze he focused,
And then the knight went sadly back
And sat down 'neath a -------?

[Answers next time.]


Copyright © 2006 Eric Shanower and David Maxine. All rights reserved.

Saturday, July 1, 2006

THE POWER OF REPULSION

By L. Frank Baum
Author of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Annabel, The Visitors from Oz, etc.

This excerpt from Baum's fantasy John Dough and the Cherub was published in the following revised form in Baum's Own Book For Children in 1912. Hungry Tiger Press is pleased to present it in celebration of the centennial of the first publication of John Dough and the Cherub in 1906 and of the birthday of John Dough himself on the Fourth of July.


John Dough was a gingerbread man. The baker who made him accidentally mixed into his dough a magical elixir of life, so that as soon as he was baked the gingerbread man came to life, and wandered through the land seeking adventures. At one time he visited the Isle of Phreex, where many unusual characters live, and while a guest in the castle of the Kinglet of Phreex John Dough made the acquaintance of a famous inventor. He was a thin man, with a long bald head that slanted up to a peak, underneath which appeared a little withered face that constantly smiled in a most friendly manner.

"I am Sir Pryse Bocks," said he, shaking John's gingerbread hand in a most cordial manner. "The remarkable thing about me is not that I am inventor, but that I am a successful inventor. You, I perceive, are a delicatessen; a friend in knead; I might say, a Pan-American. Ha, ha!"

"Pleased to make your acquaintance," returned John, bowing stiffly "But do not joke upon my person, Sir Pryse. I'm proud of it."

"I respect your pride," said the other. "It's doubtless bread in the bone, sir. Ha, ha!"

John looked at him reproachfully, and the little man at once grew grave.

"Pardon my levity," he said. "I'm really a great inventor, you know."

"What have you invented?" asked the gingerbread man.

"This!" said the other, taking a little tube from his pocket. "You will notice that it often rains - it's raining now, if you'll look out the window. And the reason it rains is because the drops of water fall to the earth by the attraction of gravitation."

"I suppose so," said John.

"Now, what do people usually do when it rains?" asked the little man.

"They grumble," said John.

"Yes, and they use umbrellas--umbrellas, mind you, to keep themselves dry!"

"And that is quite sensible," declared John.

The bald-headed one gave a scornful laugh. "It's ridiculous!" he said, angrily. "An umbrella is a big, clumsy thing, that the wind jerks out of your hand, or turns inside out; and it's a nuisance to carry it around; and people always borrow it and never bring it back. An umbrella, sir, is a humbug! A relic of the Dark Ages! I've done away with the use of umbrellas entirely, by means of this invention--this little tube, which can be carried in one's pocket!"

He held up a small instrument that looked like a tin whistle.

"How curious!" said John.

"Isn't it? You see, within this tube is stored a Power of Repulsion that overcomes the Attraction of Gravitation, and sends the rain-drops flying upward again. You stick the tube in your hatband and walk out boldly into the rain. Immediately all the rain-drops shoot up into the air, and before they can fall again you have passed on! It's always dry where the wearer of this tube goes, for it protects him perfectly. And when it stops raining, you put it in your pocket again and it's all ready for another time. Isn't it great, sir? Isn't it wonderful? Is n't the inventor of this tube the greatest man in the world?"

"I'd like to try it," said John, "for no one needs protection from the rain more than I do. Being made of gingerbread, it would ruin me to get wet."

"True," agreed the other. "I'll lend you the tube, with pleasure. I see you have no hat to stick it in, but you may hold in your hand. It will work just as well that way, but is not so convenient."

So John took the tube; and having thanked the bald-headed man for his kindness, he left the room and walked down the stairs and through the big, empty hall, and so out into the courtyard. The rain seemed to have driven every one in doors, for not a person could he see.

Holding the tube upright, he boldly walked into the rain; and it gave him great pleasure to notice that not a drop fell near him. Indeed, by looking upward, he could see the falling drops stop short and then fly toward the clouds; and he began to believe that the bald-headed inventor was really as great a man as he claimed to be.

After descending the slippery path through the rocks, he crossed the patch of green, and at last reached the sandy shore, where he had some time before left his hat and cane. The hat had once belonged to the baker that make him, and he was grieved to find it now soaked through by the rain. As he lifted it he saw the crooked handle of his candy cane sticking out of the sand, and drew it forth to find it in excellent condition, little of the dampness having reached it.

But now, as John Dough began to retrace his steps, he discovered that his feet were soft and swollen. For he had been walking on the damp ground and through the wet grass, and although no rain had fallen upon his body, his feet were getting to be in a dangerous condition, and the gingerbread having become mushy and sticky. After he had recrossed the grass and come to the edge of the rocks, he began to be frightened, for bits of his left heel now commenced to crumble and drop in the path, and when he tried walking on his flabby toes they were so soggy and soft that he knew they would not last very long.

While he paused, bewildered, another calamity overtook him. For the tube suddenly lost its power of repulsion and ceased to work, and the raindrops began to pelt his unprotected body and sink into his flesh. He looked around with a groan of dismay, and discovered a round hole, or tunnel, in the rock near by. Staggering toward this, he entered the tunnel and found that now no rain could reach him. The floor was smooth and dry, and in the far distance he saw a light twinkling.

Not daring to walk farther upon his mushy feet, John got down on his hands and knees and began crawling to the further end of the tunnel. He made slow progress in that position, but soon was encouraged by feeling the warm air of a furnace coming to meet him. So he crawled on until he found he had reached the furnaces underneath the castle where an old man with kindly eyes was keeping the fires going. John asked permission to dry himself, and was told to make himself at home. So he crept to a furnace and put his soaked feet as near the fire as he dared, holding them there until the grateful warmth dried the gingerbread and it became as crisp and solid as ever.

Then he arose cautiously to his feet and found the damage to his heel would not interfere much with his walking.

"I'm much obliged," said John to the janitor; "when it stops raining I'll go on my way."

"Never mind the rain," said the man. "Here is a winding staircase that leads directly upward into the castle. If you go that way the rain cannot reach you. The tunnel through which you entered is only used for ventilation."

So the gingerbread man at once began climbing the stairs. There were a good many steps, but finally he came to a gallery of the castle and had little difficulty in finding the passage that led to his own room. As he opened the door he found the bald-headed inventor of the Power of Repulsion eagerly awaiting him.

"Well, how did the tube please you? Is it not wonderful?" he enquired.

"It's wonderful enough when it works," said John, glancing at his damaged feet; "but it suddenly quit working, and nearly ruined me."

"Ah, the Power became exhausted," returned the man, calmly, "But that is nothing. It can be easily renewed."

"However," John remarked, "I think that whenever one uses your tube as a protection from the rain, he should also carry an umbrella to use in case of accident."

"An umbrella! Bah!" cried the inventor, and left the room in a rage, slamming the door behind him.



THE FORGETFUL POET
By Ruth Plumly Thompson
Originally published in the Philadelphia Public Ledger, March 3, 1918.

Some More Reasonable Riddles

The Forgetful Poet wants to say right here that the answers to last week's puzzles were coffee and plum and wishes to thank Edith Lengert for her verses, which enable him to take a long-needed rest. Here they are:

What begins with c -
And ends with t;
It is two words
And sails the sea?

What is amusing,
At times quite abusing?
It begins with f
And ends with y;
Of course, it is
A little --------.

What is in your schoolbag that is like a person who travels with you?

The answers to the rest of last week's riddle are: The three finest letters in the alphabet, U. S. A. The sentence, c-u-r-1-2-xl. See you are one to excel. Y10, whiten; oacccc, oases; x10u8, extenuate.

Something all property owners pay
Changed around in a different way
Will give a State in the U.S.A.

If a fence make jokes, how would you describe them?

[Answers next time.]


Copyright © 2006 Eric Shanower and David Maxine. All rights reserved.