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).
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.
Tod'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.
The Unknown Trail
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."
The Strange Cottage
"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.
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."
"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, for 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.
Tinkle Makes a Discovery
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 FORGETFUL POET
By Ruth Plumly Thompson
Originally published in the Philadelphia Public Ledger, April 14, 1918.
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--
Much by man.
One is measured,
One is needed
When ships are built
And one is heeded
Now I'll stop before
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.