Wednesday, December 1, 2010


By John R. Neill
Illustrator of most of the Oz books, and author of The Runaway in Oz, The Wonder City of Oz, Lucky Bucky in Oz, etc.

Originally published in The Sunday Magazine, February 21, 1904.

A Scandal in High Life


By Ruth Plumly Thompson 
Originally published in the Philadelphia Public Ledger, May 25, 1919.

The Forever Forgetful Poet

"The sand man," says the forgetful poet, "carries a knapsack, because it is full of naps. As for dactylology, it is the sign language of the deaf and dumb. As for the marine creature mentioned last week, 'tis a dolphin; and as for the gales in his verse, nightingale, farthingale and a wind gale." Having delivered himself of all this the dear fellow went to sleep in the most comfortable chair in the office, and refused to be interviewed.

Fortunately, Professor Specs came along with some riddles. The professor is a very learned gentleman, and spends his time studying the earth. He says that below he has described a number of insects. I hope you will recognize them.

First, a relation will give a very industrious little insect.

A vegetable and a letter of the alphabet another.

A single letter of the alphabet gives a busy insect citizen.

A boy's nickname, rather an old-fashioned name beginning with N, gives a vexing little insect that bites.

A verb meaning "to hurry very quickly" gives another small pest.

And that is about enough for you to puzzle over this week, I fancy. But can you tell me what snaps without breaking?

[Answers next time.]

Copyright © 2010 Eric Shanower and David Maxine. All rights reserved.

Monday, November 1, 2010


For Freedom of Sherwood Forest 
By Ruth Plumly Thompson
Author of Ozoplaning with the Wizard of Oz, The Wish Express, "King, King! Double King!", etc.

Originally published in the Philadelphia Public Ledger, November 9, 1919.

Once on a long-ago morning in June young Robin of Locksley journeyed through the forest of Sherwood. Two men at arms with sharp pikes rode ahead, for Will o' th' Green and his outlaw band lurked in the forest - then came Robin's lady mother, Dame Fitzooth, and the Hermit of Copmanhurst, Robin's Latin master.

Gayly the birds sang in the greenwood, but not so gayly as Robin himself. His heart beat stoutly under his green doublet and he patted his bow and quiver of arrows affectionately.

A pretty shot was Robin, son of Fitzooth, ranger of the king's forest - let robbers come if they dare!

Ah! those were merry days in old England and Robin's mind was full of his visit to his uncle at Gamewell Hall; of the tourneys and joustings and brave sights he would see at the Nottingham Fair.

Little did Robin dream that he would replace Will o' th' Green as ruler of Sherwood; little did Robin of Locksley dream of Robin o' th' Hood - generous, gallant outlawed Robin! No, Robin of Locksley was a proper youth going properly to the Nottingham Fair.

The giant trees cast deep shadows across the road, arched overhead till the sky itself was shut out, and noon brought them to the darkest spot of all. And - here it happened.

The shrill blast of a hunting horn rang suddenly through the greenwood. A dozen robbers sprang out of the shadows, seized the men at arms, and jerked hold of the horses' heads.

"Toll! Toll! All must pay toll who pass through Sherwood!" cried the chief - no less than Will himself.

Robin brandished his small dagger and struggled manfully with the outlaw nearest him.

"Shame to hold up a woman! Loose your hold there, villain!" he called angrily. But what could one slim youth do among such numbers. Dame Fitzooth was on the point of turning her purse over to the outlaw, when an idea came to Robin.

"Wait!" he called imperiously. "I'll shoot with you, Will, for the freedom of the forest, and if I lose you shall take all we have and hold me hostage till my mother rides to Gamewell. Then will she return with 200 crowns more!"

The outlaw slapped his thigh and laughed loudly.

"Agreed!" he roared, for Robin's spirit pleased him. "Point out your mark, lad!"

Straight toward a tall birch sped Robin's bright arrow, lodging in the trunk, but Will's feather-tipped shaft, singing behind it, stuck fairly in the center of the tree.

"Will o' th' Green has first round," called the hermit. "Shoot again, masters, and --"

But hark.

Out of the forest dash a whole company of the king's foresters. Over is the strange contest; gone in a breath Will o' th' Green and his merry men, melted like shadows into the dim greenwood.

"I'll shoot with you again, Will, for the freedom of Sherwood!" called Robin lustily, half sorry to be thus rescued from the valiant outlaw.

And he did, but then that is another story.

Robin Shoots With Will o' th' Green
By Ruth Plumly Thompson

Originally published in the Philadelphia Public Ledger, November 30, 1919.

Do you mind how Robin and his mother, riding to Gamewell Hall, were stopped by Will o' th' Green and how Robin challenged the outlaw to shoot with him for the freedom of the forest? Will's arrow struck the heart of the oak. Robin's sped a little to one side and just as the King's foresters came to their rescue Robin called after the robbers: "I'll shoot with you again, Will!"

Now this is the rest of the story: Robin arrived at his uncle's castle, and after seeing all the grand rooms he ran out in the great gardens, and asking Warrenton, one of his uncle's retainers, for a bow and arrow he fell to practicing away for his dear life. The old man was astounded at Robin's skill, and as he was a famous archer he showed Robin much that helped to better his aim.

Robin had come to his uncle's so that he might go to the Nottingham Fair, which was a great treat for a forester's son. There were tournaments and joustings, fortune telling and shows of every sort to delight the heart of a high-spirited youth.

At the suggestion of Warrenton, Robin decided to try for the golden arrow, to be awarded to the best marksman.

And there among the archers on the day of the contest who should be found but Will o' th' Green himself, disguised from all but Robin's bright eyes. It was Will's fancy to win the golden arrow, break it into small pieces and return it to the sheriff - a very proper way to show his scorn and defiance, thought Will.

But matters turned out quite differently, for it was Robin's bright shaft that won the victory, and, Will, disappointed as he was, must still admire the spirit of this intrepid youngster.

They had recognized each other immediately, but being true sportsmen said nothing and no one in the gay holiday crowd knew that Will o' th' Green - dreaded outlaw of Sherwood - was competing for the prize. Nor did they know that young Robin of Locksley soon would be known to them as Robin Hood, the merriest robber and the kindest in old England. Neither did Robin know it himself.

To think he had beaten Will in an open trial! He received the few words, in an undertone, granting him freedom of the forest of Sherwood with a thrill of pride, and presented the fine golden arrow to Mistress Marion Fitzwalter whose blue eyes had set Robin's heart in a flutter, and who was to share many adventures of the man Robin Hood.

Indeed, it was Maid Marion who gave Robin his name, and on that very day, as Robin rode through the woods to the fair, an outlaw had shot at him, his arrow piercing Robin's long cape and wounding him slightly. With his sword Robin cut his cape off short, and in its new form he drew many a laugh from the rough crowd.

But Mistress Fitzwalter found it vastly becoming, and in accepting her golden arrow said prettily:

"Thank you Robin o' th' Hood; I'll take the dart and wear it in memory of Locksley and this day!"

It was the happiest day Robin was to have for many a long year. Do you know the story of how he became an outlaw and the merry adventures he had in the old forest of Sherwood? Well, some day I must tell you of them.

THE FORGETFUL POET The Forgetful Poet 
By Ruth Plumly Thompson 
Originally published in the Philadelphia Public Ledger, May 18, 1919.

The Forgetful Poet's Riddles

Last week's flower answers were ivy, poppy, tulip, pansy, larkspur, marigold, foxglove, phlox, daisy, orchid - and that is all period.

He wants to know this week whether a birdhouse has wings. Ho! Ho! Isn't he ridiculous? And -

What kind of sack does the Sand Man carry?

What is dactylology? (I think you'll find this in the dictionary.)

Something that little girls play with and part of a fish will give a marine creature.


One sings
And one blows,
And one was worn
By queens - and those

Of fashion long ago,
They all
End in a word that's
Very small.

A word that's small
And rhymes with pale;
Now you can guess it
Without fail.
(Can you not?)

[Answers next time.]

Copyright © 2010 Eric Shanower and David Maxine. All rights reserved.

Friday, October 1, 2010


By L. Frank Baum
Author of John Dough and the Cherub, The Treasure of Karnak, and The Visitors from Oz. etc.

Originally published October 12, 1896. Newspaper of first publication unidentified.

The Inn at Loudre was very disagreeable. The odor of garlic and cabbage and the dampness and dirt were unsupportable, and so I decided to push on to Danvers. The only vehicle I could procure was a rattling two seated gig drawn by a bony white horse of doubtful ability, but as my destination was only three hours away and I was not liable to meet any one on the lonely road I started off cheerfully enough, resolved to enjoy my solitary drive to the utmost.

The moonlight as it glinted on the soft green of the hedges and streaked the gray of the dusty road was very beautiful, and before half a league had been passed over I heartily congratulated myself upon good fortune in escaping the horrible inn at Loudre.

After an hour's dreamy and delightful ride I came to a crossroads where with difficulty I deciphered the battered signpost and learned I must turn to the left to reach Danvers. So, clucking up my deliberate steed, who proceeded in a half dignified, half protesting fashion, I turned into a grassy lane between two tall hedges and drove through a lonely district until the dreamy influence of the night overcame me and I drifted into a somnolent state midway between sleep and waking.

I was aroused by the sudden halting of my horse, who gave a frightened snort and planted both feet firmly before him.

A subdued sobbing, as of a woman in distress, fell upon my ears, and leaning forward, I peered into the moonlight to discover whence it came.

A high brick wall ran close to the roadway, covered with ivy and lichens, and leaning against an angle of this, a few steps before me, was a slight, girlish form draped in a black mantle.

I sprang to the ground and softly approached her. Her face was buried in her hands, and she sobbed bitterly.

"Mademoiselle," I said, speaking in French, "You are in trouble. Can I assist you in any way?"

She lifted her head, and the moonlight fell upon the most beautiful face I had ever seen. Absolutely faultless in texture, it was surmounted by a crown of yellow hair that shone like gold in the glare of the moonbeams, while a pair of deep violet eyes that even tears could not dim looked earnestly into mine.

"Who are you?" I asked gently, "and why are you here?"

"I am Amelie de Boursons, monsieur, and I reside at the chateau just within these gates."

The soft, musical notes of her voice added to the powerful impression her exquisite beauty had already produced upon my heart.

"But it is late," I continued. "Surely some great misfortune must have befallen you to bring you here at this hour."

"It is true, monsieur," she replied, struggling with a new paroxysm of grief. "Tomorrow is my wedding day."

Illustration originally published in the Stevens Point [Wisconsin] Journal, October 14, 1896.

"But is that so terrible an event?" I asked.

"If you but knew, monsieur," she said, "how vile and brutal is the man they are forcing me to marry, you would willingly save me from my horrible fate."

She accompanied these words with an appealing look into my face, then she dropped her head and sobbed anew.

I did not stop to reason upon the strangeness of all this. I was a young, generous hearted man in those days and could not resist this appeal from beauty in distress.

"But tell me," I said, "how can I save you from this distasteful marriage? Do you wish to fly? I have a conveyance close by and will gladly escort you to a place of safety."

"To fly would avail me nothing," she answered, with a sweet sadness. "They would follow us and force me to return."

"But how else can I save you?" I asked helplessly.

"I do not know," she replied, with a sudden calmness that suggested despair, "but unless you can find some way to succor me I shall take my own life."

There was no doubt from the expression of her low, earnest voice that she meant this, and, filled with consternation at the thought, I racked my brains for some way to preserve both her life and happiness.

At last an idea came to me, but I trembled at my own presumption as I suggested it.

"Mademoiselle," I said haltingly, "I see but one alternative. You must marry me."

The violet eyes opened wide in surprise. "Marry you, monsieur?"

"Then pursuit would be useless. Being my wife, you would escape this villain who insists upon wedding you. I am free and able to give you all that would add to your happiness, and I shall learn to love you very dearly. It is true that I am a stranger to you, but I assure you that I am in all ways worthy to seek both your heart and your hand."

She gazed with earnest intentness into my face for a moment and then replied slowly:

"I think I shall trust you, monsieur. Indeed, I cannot help myself. I will be your wife."

There was no coyness in her answer; no blush tinted the pale, beautiful face, but she drew herself up, with an air of simple dignity that commanded my respect and admiration.

"Then come," I said eagerly. "We must lose no time. It will be midnight before we can hope to reach Danvers."

"Not Danvers," she replied, shrinking back as I sought to take her hand. "Let us go to Tregonne. There is a notary who will marry us, and we are far safer from pursuit."

"Very well," I answered. "Let us be off."

Refusing my proffered assistance, Mlle. de Boursons walked to the carriage and sprang lightly to the back seat. Rather awkwardly I took my place in front, gathered up the reins and drove off as swiftly as I could induce the ancient steed to move.

Mademoiselle drew her mantle closely over her head and shoulders, and only once during the long drive did she speak. Then it was to direct me to the Tregonne road.

With ample time for reflection my adventure now began to seem rather queer and uncanny, and by the time we discovered the lights of Tregonne twinkling before us I had come to doubt the perfect wisdom of my present course.

But it was too late to draw back now, and the girl was very beautiful.

"This is the notary's," said my companion in her low, sweet voice, indicating by a gesture a rambling structure from whose windows gleamed a single light.

I leaped out, found the door at the end of a long pathway and knocked upon it loudly.

A tall thin man beyond the middle age, holding a tallow candle high above his head, answered my call.

"You are the notary? " I asked briefly.

He nodded in assent.

"I wish to be married."

"Married!" he echoed in surprise. "But when, monsieur?"

"Now; at once."

"But the bride, monsieur?"

"I will fetch the bride. She is waiting without."

I thought he intended to protest, so I left him abruptly and returned for the lady. She was already coming toward the house, and as I met her she motioned me to go before, while she followed silently up the pathway.

The notary admitted us without ceremony, and we entered a small, dimly lighted room that appeared to be a study.

My companion at once seated herself in an armchair, but without removing the mufflings from her face.

The notary snuffed the candle, arranged his books and, turning to me with a penetrating look, said;

"I must know your name, monsieur."

"Richard Harrington."

"Your residence?"

"I am an American."

He wrote the answers in his book. Then, glancing toward the armchair, he continued:

"The lady's name?"

I waited for her to reply, but as she remained silent I answered:

"Amelie de Boursons."

"Who?" cried the notary in a loud voice, springing to his feet, while a look of fear and consternation spread over his wrinkled face.

"Amelie de Boursons," I repeated slowly, infected by the man's agitation in spite of myself.

The notary stared wildly at the muffled form of the lady. Then, he drew out is handkerchief and wiped the beads of perspiration from his forehead.

"What does this mean, monsieur?" I demanded angrily.

The man heeded me not the slightest; but, clutching the edge of the table to steady himself and extending his long, bony finger toward the girl, he exclaimed:

"Are you Amelie de Boursons?"

Slowly, with admirable grace and dignity, the lady threw back her mantle, and her marvelous beauty was again revealed.

The notary with distended eyes fixed upon the visage sank back in his chair with a low moan.

"This must be explained, monsieur." I cried, striding up to his side and grasping his shoulder. "Is there any reason I should not marry Mlle. de Boursons?"

"Mlle. de Boursons," returned the notary, still regarding her with horror, "has been dead these forty years!"

"Dead!" I echoed, staring first at the notary and then at the girl, while a sense of bewilderment overcame me.

Mlle. de Boursons arose with a gleaming smile and came to my side.

"See, monsieur," she exclaimed mockingly and giving me her hand. "Do you also think me dead?"

The hand was as cold as ice, but its touch sent a strange thrill through my body.

"Come, monsieur," I said to the notary, who watched the scene in amazement. "Read the ceremony at once. We are in haste."

Slowly and with trembling voice the notary obeyed, the girl at my side returning the answers in a sweet, collected voice that disarmed my fears and calmed to some extent the notary himself.

I drew a seal ring from my finger and placed it upon her icy hand, and in its place she slipped a large ruby from her own hand upon mine.

The ceremony concluded, I paid the notary, thanking him briefly for his services, and, followed by my bride, walked down the path to my carriage. The notary stood in the doorway lighting us with the candle.

At the carriage I turned to hand my wife to her seat, but she had disappeared. I ran back to the doorway.

"Where is my wife?" I asked.

"She followed you down the path," said the man.

"But she is not there."

Without a word the notary accompanied me back to the carriage. No trace of the girl was to be seen.

Right and left among the shrubbery I searched. I called aloud her name, entreating her to come to me, but no sight of the beautiful face rewarded my efforts.

I returned to the notary's study filled with grave misgivings.

"Where can she be?" I asked dismally.

"In her grave," was the hoarse answer.


"I told you before that she was dead. It is true. You have wedded a ghost."

The next morning, in company with the notary, I drove down the road 'til we came to the brick wall where I had first seen Amelie de Boursons.

We entered the gates and walked to the chateau that stood in the neglected grounds. An old woman admitted us, the caretaker, and at the notary's request allowed us to visit the gallery.

The notary threw back the shutters, and the sun came in and flooded the portrait of a beautiful girl whose violet eyes regarded me with the same sweet expression I had noted of my bride on the previous evening.

"It is Amelie de Boursons," said the notary in a gentle voice. "I have seen this picture often and heard the girl's pitiful story, and that is why I knew her last night to be a mere phantom. Her father was a stern, hard man, who insisted upon her marrying a person utterly distasteful to the young girl. She tried to escape, but was captured and brought home to confront her fate. On the wedding morning they found her dead in her bed. She had taken her own life. That was forty years ago, monsieur."

As we left the room I glanced curiously at the ruby that sparkled on my finger.

I wear it to this day.

It is the only evidence I have ever possessed of my phantom bride.

By Ruth Plumly Thompson 
Originally published in the Philadelphia Public Ledger, May 11, 1919.

A Puzzling Bouquet

Before he tenders you his spring riddle bouquet, the Forgetful Poet wishes to say that the words left out of the verses last week were: 1 - Daisy, rose, violet. 2 - Tigerlily. 3 - Snowdrop. 4 - Sweet pea. 5 - Bowwow. 6 - Feather. 7 - pain.

Everybody is thinking of flowers and gardens, he says. So let's see how much you really know about them.

What two letters of the alphabet will give a well-known vine?

A nickname for father will give a lovely flower?

A figure and a feature will give another?

A cooking vessel and a letter will give another?

A bird and something one uses when riding horseback will give a flower.

King Midas's daughter is a well-known flower.

An animal and something to wear will give another.

A word used in designating a lot of sheep is a flower.

One-seventh of a week and a letter will give still another.

Something used by boatmen and a nickname for children will give a very rare flower - and I think that is enough of a bouquet, do not you? It would not seem quite cozy unless the dear fellow ended with a verse, and here it is, as foolish as ever:


You're as welcome as the dinner bell
Or shelter when it showers!
Why can't folks say this instead
Of "welcome as the flowers."

To a man of sense these are more welcome
Than a bunch of flowers -
It's time to add some truth to these
Comparisons of ours.

[Answers next time.]

Copyright © 2010 Eric Shanower and David Maxine. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010


By Ruth Plumly Thompson
Author of Ozoplaning with the Wizard of Oz, The Wish Express, "King, King! Double King!", etc.

Originally published in the Philadelphia Public Ledger, January 14, 1917.

Of course you know - in Giantland
Things are tremendous BIG -
And one day Carrottop the Grand
Went driving in his gig.
The horses, high as any tower,
Went charging through the town,
For every day at just this hour
To call on Treebell Brown
Went Carrottop, and on a chair
As mammoth as a hill
He'd sit and praise her eyes and hair
And talk with wit and skill.
But on this day I tell you of
A giant flower pot
Fell from a balcony above
- Of course, the horses got
Excited - for turned upside down
Upon their heads it STUCK,
And off they dashed through Giant Town
As if by lightning struck.
Poor Carrottop sawed on the reins
And bounced about most cruelly;
He might have saved himself the pains,
Ne'er were steeds more unruly.
On - ON they rushed and left at last
His loved Giantland,
And into Mortal countries passed,
A whirl of dust and sand!
The earth shook 'neath those awful thuds,
And how the humans flew -
The lakes and brooks were churned to suds
Each place the gig passed through.
"An earthquake!" shrieked the folks - and fled.
"A cyclone! An eclipse!"
They hid themselves beneath the bed,
And many a building rips
From its foundations. Carrottop
At last is badly thrown -
But still the horses will not stop,
And thunder on alone.
The giant rises up with many sighs
And hies him back,
And in a roaring rage he cries
He'll beat them blue and black.
But now the flower pot - it snapped.
The horses, like the wind,
Turned homeward - in remorse quite wrapt,
But left the gig behind,
And there in Perryville it stands
Unto this very day,
A giant curiosity for all
Who pass that way!

THE FORGETFUL POET The Forgetful Poet 
By Ruth Plumly Thompson 
Originally published in the Philadelphia Public Ledger, May 4, 1919.

The Forgetful Poet and His Riddles

The dear fellow has spring fever and says he really has not time to write many verses or puzzles - he has so many more important things to do. Going to sleep, for instance, and swinging in his new swing and picking daisies.

Hah-hoh-hum, he made me yawn, please excuse me! He says that the answers to his riddles two Sundays ago were grip - trip - that - pour and knows. I think it was rather a mixed poem, do not you?

He has another one for you. Here it is:

Three flowers, often used for girls' names.

A wild animal and a girl's name will give a flower.

Something white and wintry, and the tiniest portion of water will give another flower.

"Hah-hoh-hum!" (I wish he would stop yawning.)

An adjective describing little girls and a vegetable will give another.

Besides all this he wants to know when a bow is not a bow? And when is it?

He has left some words out of his verse, as usual, and from the way they sound I am afraid he was asleep when he wrote them. Oh, well!

Two birds sat singing in a tree
About the fair spring weather,
And on my word! It seemed to me
They were in finest ______.

I'd like to sing myself, but for
Your sake I will refrain,
As I never like to cause my friends
Unnecessary ______!

[Answers next time.]

Copyright © 2010 Eric Shanower and David Maxine. All rights reserved.

Sunday, August 1, 2010


By L. Frank Baum
Author of John Dough and the Cherub, The Treasure of Karnak, and The Visitors from Oz. etc.

Lyric from The Woggle-Bug stage show, originally published as sheet music, 1905.

Early morn the hunter's horn rings out upon the air,
Straight away we ride all day and never turn a hare,
The hounds all bay as if to say
The sport is rather tame,
And we'll admit that where we sit the lunch is rather lame.

Hi! Hi! Hi! Here's the way to ride.
We're mighty quick at any trick
When on a horse astride.
Our bare back feat can not be beat,
So on us keep your eye.
Just note the fact our greatest act
Is Hi! Hi! Hi!

Here's a troop of cowboys from the wild and wooley West,
How we ride is Teddy's pride as you perhaps have guessed,
To rope a steer or corral beer
Is our supreme delight,
And when we can not run away you ought to see us fight.

Hi! Hi! Hi! Here's the way to ride.
We're mighty quick at any trick
When on a horse astride.
Our bare back feat can not be beat,
So on us keep your eye.
Just note the fact our greatest act
Is Hi! Hi! Hi!

We're a bunch of circus riders just from Wankayoo,
Daring deeds as dashing speeds we'll now perform for you,
Your hair will surely stand on end,
We'll thrill you through and through,
And you will wonder why in thunder we're from Wankayoo.

Hi! Hi! Hi! Here's the way to ride.
We're mighty quick at any trick
When on a horse astride.
Our bare back feat can not be beat,
So on us keep your eye.
Just note the fact our greatest act
Is Hi! Hi! Hi!

We's de weary willies and we always makes a fuss
Shoin saws to feed our jaws so dat's a horse on us.
Our backs is broke and dat's no joke,
Our nightmare is a buck,
Dough we may sigh for cake and pie, on workin' we ain't stuck.

Hi! Hi! Hi! Here's the way to ride.
We're mighty quick at any trick
When on a horse astride.
Our bare back feat can not be beat,
So on us keep your eye.
Just note the fact our greatest act
Is Hi! Hi! Hi!

THE FORGETFUL POET The Forgetful Poet 
By Ruth Plumly Thompson 
Originally published in the Philadelphia Public Ledger, April 20, 1919.

The Forgetful Poet's Riddles

Before starting any new riddles the Forgetful Poet wishes to answer his last ones. The sole of the foot gives the name of a fish and when a candle burns unevenly we have a bird - the flicker. Dates are the only eatable part of history that I know of and the three things referred to in the verses were icicle, sickle to cut grass, and bicycle.

On Easter day
I packed my ______
To take a little
Pleasure ______

My suit and shoes,
My coat and hat
Were new and
Somewhat thin at ______.

No sooner had I
Reached the shore
Than it began to
Blow and ______.

I caught a cold,
And spoiled my clothes,
Which was not pleasant,
Goodness _____!

He hopes you all have a very happy Easter vacation, and he says beware of castor oil. Now what do you suppose he means by that?

[Answers next time.]

Copyright © 2010 Eric Shanower and David Maxine. All rights reserved.

Thursday, July 1, 2010


By Ruth Plumly Thompson
Author of Ozoplaning with the Wizard of Oz, The Wish Express, "King, King! Double King!", etc.

Originally published in King Comics, Number 65, September 1941.

At the south end of Whatalow Valley lies the small but important Kingdom of Saucerville. Named for its shape, its tidy round houses look like nothing so much as overturned teacups, while its castle is set like a plump sugar bowl in the exact center. On a fine summer morning the Sovereign of Saucerville was breakfasting with his daughter.

"It's no use, Sam," declared the princess, biting firmly into a piece of toast. "I still say NO! NO! NO and NEVER!"

"But he plays an excellent game of checkers," pleaded her father, stirring his coffee anxiously.

"Checkers!" Samantha flashed her black eyes indignantly at her royal parent, then rushed from the room with a slam of the door that shook the castle to its foundations. Gloomily old King Samuel slumped in his chair. He had invited suitor after suitor to Saucerville and all had been turned down by the princess. Beautiful and headstrong, Samantha bossed her father and everyone else. The king felt that if she married she would leave him to manage his own and the country's affairs to suit himself. Of all the applicants for his daughter's hand none had seemed more promising than Captain Questor, who had stopped at the castle to inquire the way to Widdicoomb. And because he found the fare so tasty, the princess so pretty and the king's checker playing of such a high order the captain had lingered on. When the king suggested he make his stay permanent and assume command of Saucerville's army, the captain had immediately understood and promised to speak to the princess at the first opportunity. 'Twas this that had brought on the bitter argument.

"I'll just have to see Sally," decided the agitated sovereign, pushing back his bacon and eggs untasted. At ten the same morning anyone who happened to be riding by could have seen, the king's plump charger tied to the fence of Sally's white cottage. Some people called Sally The Witch of Whatalow Valley; others laughingly referred to her as the Kingdom's Cup-and-Sorceress, for Sally could foretell any important event by reading the leaves in her visitor's teacups, so that sooner or later almost everyone sought out the pretty young goat girl. Orphaned as a child, left with only a flock of goats and the small cottage at the foot of Whatahi Mountain, Sally had managed to take care of herself from the very start. Her cheese was famed over the entire valley; bundles of her sweet herbs hung in every kitchen in the realm. No one had ever been able to coax Sally into town, nor did she take much part in Saucerville's life and activities. Roaming the mountain with her goats, weaving at her old loom or gathering wild flowers, Sally was at her happiest. Most of the young squires and many of the old ones (including the king himself) had tried to marry Sally, for Sally was beautiful. But she always smiled and shook her head, then read them such handsome fortunes in the tea leaves that they rode off cheerfully enough.

"So you think Captain Questor is the right one for your daughter?" Sally observed thoughtfully as the king hung his crown on a wooden peg behind the door and sat down wearily at her well-scrubbed kitchen table. "But what about Samantha? Does she think so, too?"

"NO!" sighed the monarch, draining off his tea. "Tell me, Sally, will she ever marry?"

"Yes, yes! Indeed yes!" answered the goat girl, squinting knowingly into the king's cup, "and your highness will have seven splendid grandsons."

"But when WILL the right fellow come along?" groaned the king. "You have seen this Captain Questor--what do you think of him?"

"I have other matters to think of." Speaking primly, Sally moved back to her loom. "You say he is clever at games and a splendid tenor, but the princess does not care for games, nor does she sing. So, how is the captain on a horse? If he does not ride well, he can never hope to interest your daughter."

"You're right!" exclaimed the sovereign, slapping his knee with his glove. "She'd not give a farthing for a fellow who could not hunt or take his fences. I'll try him out on Trumpeter. If he can handle Trumpeter he can handle Samantha!" Reaching for his crown, the ruler of Saucerville galloped back to his castle. Now Sally, it must be confessed, had seen the captain ride into the kingdom. He rode carelessly and comfortably, as a farmer who cared more for his horse than his hunting, and considering this, Sally smiled secretly to herself, then went quietly about her preparations for the morrow.

Samantha was pleased and a little astonished when her father suggested she accompany him and the captain on a canter next morning.

"I've had Trumpeter saddled for our guest," he confided with a wink.

"Trumpeter? Is he that good, Sammy? Why, if he can ride Trumpeter--"

Humming to herself, the princess hurried away to don her habit. Meanwhile, quite unconscious of disaster, the captain was in high spirits, too. True, he was not in love with this princess, but the climate suited him, a high post in the army would be most gratifying, and altogether his fortune seemed as good as made. Smiling quite nonchalantly, he threw a leg over the surly black hunter that was being held for him by a groom. Neither too good nor too bad as a horseman, he settled himself smartly. "Where to, princess?" he called across to Samantha, who was already mounted. "Where to?" And "where to" it was, indeed! Before Samantha could answer, the vicious black gave a buck and a leap that jarred every bone in the captain's body, then off he went like a fury pursued by a tempest. Up lanes, down lanes, across the park, through the woods, dashing his hapless rider against branches and trees and tossing him finally and contemptuously into a gully at the foot of Whatahi Mountain. There, bruised but not groaning, he was found by Sally the goat girl, who, oddly enough, was right on the spot.

"If you could just walk to my cottage!" murmured Sally, contritely regarding the fallen hero.

"Walk? Why, surely!" grunted Questor, valiantly attempting to rise. Tugging and pulling, Sally at last hauled him to his feet, and, leaning on her arm, he came to the cozy white cottage.

"Just a strained back and a broken arm," she announced after a brief examination, then reaching cheerfully for bandages and splints which were miraculously right at hand she set to work. "Perhaps a broken arm will mend more quickly than a broken heart," ventured Sally.

"Broken heart!" Sturdily enduring the pain as the goat girl set his arm and wiped mud from his bruised and scratched countenance, the captain looked sharply at his rescuer. "I've had a nasty fall, but that probably knocked some of the nonsense from my head. As to that young princess, who was riding with me a while back, she would never look twice at a chap who let a horse get the best of him, nor would she care at all whether he both his head and his heart; so what KIND of a wife would she make, I ask you?"

"I'm sure I couldn't say," answered Sally demurely, handing him a cup of tea. "Drink this and your head will be better, sir."

"Ho, now I know!" For the first time the captain regarded Sally as she deserved to be regarded. "You're the little seeress the king speaks of so often. Well, tell my fortune, Sally, for I'm bound to have one sooner or later."

"You must work for your fortune, captain, and you will marry a girl with red hair," she predicted.

"Why, YOU have red hair!" Joyously the captain threw back his head and laughed.

"Oh, MY hair is brown," said Sally, moving quickly into the shadows.

"It's red," insisted Questor. "But have it your own color; just tell me the way to Widdicoomb. There's a place for a miller's helper there, and when I've learned the business I'll be back to start up a mill beside the swift brook near your cottage. Then you'll have your goats, I'll have my mill, we'll marry and be happy as kings and queens never were. What do you say to that, my girl?"

"I say 'YES,' " cried Sally, flinging both arms, round his neck, for Sally had not told fortunes all her life without recognizing her own when it came falling off a horse at her very door. From the first day when Captain Questor had come to Saucerville Sally had known he was for her and not for the princess.

Later Samantha married a chap as bluff and high-handed as she was herself. And so occupied were the two quarreling and making up, King Sammy was left in peace and to rule the valley as he pleased. So everyone was happy. That is to say, each one was as happy as he deserved to be!

By Ruth Plumly Thompson 
Originally published in the Philadelphia Public Ledger, April 13, 1919.

More Riddles

Your lists helped the Forgetful Poet very much in his contest with the Raven and Crow. And when he had read off all the combs the two flew away quite put out. Here are the combs he collected from the different lists: First, the hair combs, plain comb, side comb, back comb, fine-tooth comb, then a cock's comb, curry-comb, comber, catacomb, coxcomb and honeycomb

This week he wants to know if a bell rings?

Does an orange peal?

What part of the foot gives the name of a fish?

When a candle burns unevenly what bird results?

What part of history is eatable?

The answer about a little boy's father is seven. First his own father, then two grandfathers and his forefathers.

The words omitted from the verses were rain and fellow.

One is cold
And one you ride,
One cuts grass,
And when you've tried

To guess them, each
You'll find a ------,
A word that rhymes
Quite well with tickle.

[Answers next time.]

Copyright © 2010 Eric Shanower and David Maxine. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010


By L. Frank Baum
Author of John Dough and the Cherub, The Treasure of Karnak, and The Visitors from Oz. etc.

Originally published in the Aberdeen Saturday Pioneer, July 7, 1890.

"I see by the papers," said our landlady, as she took a speck out of the milk-pitcher with her thumb, "that the church folks is to have a conwention to obleege folks to observe the Sabbath."

"So I see," replied the colonel, turning his beefsteak over to find a vulnerable point of attack.

"Well," she continued, "I've observed the Sabbath ever since I've been in this 'ere town, an' what I've observed ain't any credit to it. I hope they'll pass a law as'll make every man go to church or to jail, that's what I hope!"

"My dear Mrs. Bilkins," retorted Tom, "this is a free country, and I'd like to see any pack of religious fanatics oblige me to attend church when I don't want to go!"

Mrs. Bilkins put on her gold-rimmed "specs" and stared long and indignantly at the audacious speaker.

"I see how it is," she remarked, at length, "you want to go down to the post-office every Sunday mornin', with the other heathen men-folks, an' open an' read your mail, an' loaf in the drugstores, an' smoke bad cigars an' talk politics! As if that couldn't be done on week days! I'm ashamed o' you, young man!"

"I don't suppose," broke in the doctor, reflectively, "that there's anything wrong in what you have mentioned. And as far as this convention is concerned, they will find it difficult to restrict the personal liberty of people who are not religiously inclined."

"Don't you fool yourself," snapped our landlady, beginning to get angry. "You fellers can buck agin' politics all you want to, but you'll find it harder to buck agin' religion. There was a feller in our town down east as didn't want the church bells to ring on Sunday mornin' cause it waked him up outer his beauty sleep; an' so he complained agin' 'em as a nuisance, an' the other heathen men in the town backed him up, 'an made the a'thorities pass a law as no church bells should be ringed. Well, them church people, as had been as meek and quiet as Moses so long as they could jingle the bells and try to down the noise o' the rival churches, these same folks became roarin' lions o' indignation. They went to that 'ere complainer's house and' fetched him away, an' carried him up inter the church tower, an' tied the bell-rope around his neck.

" 'Now,' says they, 'what have you got to say?'

" 'Jest this,' says he, 'you're a set o' rabid fanatics, an' your religion ain't skin deep.'

" 'Then,' says they, 'as we can't ring the chruch bells, we'll ring your neck. Pull him up, sexton!'

" 'Hol' up,' yells the victim, 'I ain't werry pertic'lar about them bells. You can ring 'em for all I care. It's better to be kep' awake Sunday mornin' than be killed entirely.'

"So they let him off, an' the church bells in that town hes been ringin' ever sence."

"But these people in South Dakota are not content to ring their bells," said the colonel, "they want to oblige us to attend church whether we want to or not."

"Well, why shouldn't they?" she replied, "it don't hurt none to go to church, an' it's good discipline. It makes us appreciate our blessin's a good deal harder. A pusson as never goes to church can't realize the fun there is in stayin' away, an' somebody's got to support these ministers what is gittin' thicker an' thicker every day, or else they'll be obleeged to work fer a livin', an' religion will be at a standstill. An' that ain't all this conwention orter do. They orter obleege the sexton ter search every woman's pocket fer gum an' candy, and to arrest every man what puts buttons in the conterbushun box. Them is needed reforms. I tell you, people has lost all respect fer religion, now'days, an' if they won't be pius o' their own accord, it must be druv inter 'em by the iron hammer o' the Law. A close Sunday observance would mean to you boarders a clean shirt ev'ry Sabbath mornin, a sermon as 'ud teach you that life [is] not an empty dream, but is full o' ups an' downs--more downs nor ups--cold pork an' beans fer dinner, Sunday-school, an' prayer meetin' in the arternoon, more serious thoughts an' achin' backs in the evenin', an' a good night's rest. No politics, no cigars, no turkey dinner, no flirtin' or visitin' with pritty gals, no rest. An' then, if you didn't feel on Monday mornin' that this 'ere is a glorious existence six days in the week, the law could be repealed; but I expect, arter you'd tried it awhile, you'd think as Shakespeare did, or else it were Ella Wheeler Wilcox or Ed. Lowe or Billy Carleton'I don't know which an' I don't care--but this is what he thunk, an' I agree wi' him--

'To appreciate heaven well
It's well fer a man ter hav
Jest fifteen minits o' hell.' "

By Ruth Plumly Thompson
Originally published in the Philadelphia Public Ledger, April 6, 1919.

A Shower of Riddles

The deep-sea riddles were not too hard for you, it seems. You went after them like regular pearl divers. The answers were:

1. C. 2. Whale. 3. Well. 4. Skate. 5. Bay. 6. Spring. 7. Hammerhead. 8. Flounder. 9. Brook.

The Forgetful Poet was talking to the raven and the crow the other day and they've asked him a riddle, which he hopes you'll answer so they can't crow over him. They want to know how many combs he can name, and the poor fellow has only got two so far. Now do send him a list, won't you? He wants to know, besides, how many fathers one little boy can have, not counting stepfathers, of course. That sounds awfully easy, but look out!

If I walk out
With my cane
The sun goes in--
It's sure to ______

If I carry an ______
The sun comes out
To tease a ______

[Answers next time.]

Copyright © 2010 Eric Shanower and David Maxine. All rights reserved.

Saturday, May 1, 2010


By Ruth Plumly Thompson
Author of Ozoplaning with the Wizard of Oz, The Wish Express, "King, King! Double King!", etc.

Originally published in the Philadelphia Public Ledger, September 12, 1920.

Once upon a time the King of the Deep Sea visited his brother, the King of the Deep Forest, and great was his wonder at the tall trees, the racing clouds and fragrant flowers.

Surely he would have perished without the waters of his kingdom had not a fairy charm given him by a wood ninie made him like the creatures of earth and air for two months.

And for two long months the kings rode gayly through the forest, and all the merry men of the woods joined them, and there were feastings and tests of skill and amusements of all kinds. Indeed, the King of the Deep Forest never wearied of planning new pleasures for his brother, so that the time passed all too quickly and the day of the Sea King's departure drew near.

Now, of all the things in the forest, the King of the Sea found the birds most delightful. He never tired watching their flight from tree to tree, and their singing filled his heart with rapture.

"Brilliant and beautiful are my fishes, but they are dumb! Would that I had some of these sweet singers in my castle under the waves!" said the king to his brother, and his heart was sad at the thought of leaving them.

The King of the Forest thought over his brother's words and, calling a wood ninie to him, begged her to construct a cage that he might give to his brother one of the forest's sweetest singers.

The little Nin thought and worked, and finally by many magic contrivances, fashioned a cage and coaxed into it a lark. Then joyfully she returned to her master.

The day for the king's going came, and the King of the Deep Forest went with the King of the Sea to the edge of the water, and, after they had embraced, gave him the little cage.

"The lark, by the magic powers of this cage, will live under water and rejoice your ear with the pleasant songs of the forest," said he. And his brother, the Sea King, almost wept for joy.

Down in the dim green depths of the ocean, in his palace of coral, he hung the lark's cage, and called all his subjects to hear it sing.

But the lark drooped in the corner of the cage and looked pleadingly at the King with its bright eyes.

"Sing!" commanded the monarch; and "Sing!" begged all the other people, and they brought it fresh seaweed and sea flowers. But the little lark could not sing.

"I am not a singer!" sighed the little bird. "It is the wind in the tree tops and the clouds scurrying through the sky and the stars that you heard. I am the voice of the forest, and where these things are not I cannot sing! Where are the trees and the stars? Give me back the blue sky!" begged the lark.

"But what shall I do for singers? I cannot live without hearing your voices!"

"Place on the beach a thousand seashells, those with deep hollows and curves, and let me go back!" coaxed the little bird, and the King of the Sea, who was kind at heart, did as the bird told him, though he could not imagine what the lark would do with the shells.

"Come back tomorrow!" said the bird, as the King, holding the lark above the surface of the sea, opened its cage. "Come back tomorrow and get the shells."

That evening as the sun was going to bed he saw a very strange sight. A thousand birds were singing into the seashells, and the next day when the King came for them each held the song of a bird, and now, whenever the King wants music he holds one of the shells to his ear and it sings to him the song of the forest. And every year he leaves thousands of shells on the beach and the kind little birds sing into them. You yourself have heard them sing, and though there is magic in the matter, it is a very pretty magic that puts the voice of a bird in a lovely seashell. Listen for it next time, sweetheart!

By Ruth Plumly Thompson
Originally published in the Philadelphia Public Ledger, March 30, 1919.

A Few Marine Riddles

What letter in the alphabet will give a body of water?

When a child cries what marine creature results?

What word meaning sound health will give another body of water?

A popular outdoor pastime with boys and girls will give another deep-sea creature.

A plant from which they make wreaths to crown poets and such will give still another body of water.

(How are you coming along?)

What season gives a body of water?

The top of a mighty handy tool will give a certain kind of shark.

A word describing the way one might come through a muddy field will give a sea creature often caught in the nets and tossed back into the water.

A word meaning to endure or put up with will give a merry little body of water.

And that is enough riddles for you to dive for today, I think. Five surprises will be sent to the five best-looking and correct lists.

The words omitted from the Forgetful Poet's verse last week were:
1. Suppose.
2. Not.
3. Done.

[Answers next time. This is a historical presentation of Thompson's writing. No surprises will be sent. Sorry.]

Copyright © 2010 Eric Shanower and David Maxine. All rights reserved.

Thursday, April 1, 2010


By L. Frank Baum
Author of John Dough and the Cherub, The Treasure of Karnak, and The Visitors from Oz. etc.

Illustrations by Maginel Wright Enright.

Originally published in 1906 under the pseudonym Laura Bancroft.

[Disclaimer: The term "Jim Crow" is considered a racial slur. Readers should be aware that the name "Jim Crow" is an integral part of the following story, which is presented as originally published. No offense is intended to anyone.]

Bandit Jim Crow Title
Chapter I
Jim Crow Becomes a Pet

One day, when Twinkle's father was in the corn-field, he shot his gun at a flock of crows that were busy digging up, with their long bills, the kernels of corn he had planted. But Twinkle's father didn't aim very straight, for the birds screamed at the bang of the gun and quickly flew away--all except one young crow that fluttered its wings, but couldn't rise into the air, and so began to run along the ground in an effort to escape.

The man chased the young crow, and caught it; and then he found that one of the little lead bullets had broken the right wing, although the bird seemed not to be hurt in any other way.

It struggled hard, and tried to peck the hands that held it; but it was too young to hurt any one, so Twinkle's father decided he would carry it home to his little girl.

"Here's a pet for you, Twinkle," he said, as he came into the house. "It can't fly, because its wing is broken; but don't let it get too near your eyes, or it may peck at them. It's very wild and fierce, you know."

Twinkle was delighted with her pet, and at once got her mother to bandage the broken wing, so that it would heal quickly.

The crow had jet black feathers, but there was a pretty purplish and violet gloss, or sheen, on its back and wings, and its eyes were bright and had a knowing look in them. They were hazel-brown in color, and the bird had a queer way of turning his head on one side to look at Twinkle with his right eye, and then twisting it the other side that he might see her with his left eye. She often wondered if she looked the same to both eyes, or if each one made her seem different.


She named her pet "Jim Crow" because papa said that all crows were called Jim, although he never could find out the reason. But the name seemed to fit her pet as well as any, so Twinkle never bothered about the reason.

Having no cage to keep him in, and fearing he would run away, the girl tied a strong cord around one of Jim Crow's legs, and the other end of the cord she fastened to the round of a chair--or to the table-leg--when they were in the house. The crow would run all around, as far as the string would let him go; but he couldn't get away. And when they went out of doors Twinkle held the end of the cord in her hand, as one leads a dog, and Jim Crow would run along in front of her, and then stop and wait. And when she came near he'd run on again, screaming "Caw! Caw!" at the top of his shrill little voice.

He soon came to know he belonged to Twinkle, and would often lie in her lap or perch upon her shoulder. And whenever she entered the room where he was he would say, "Caw--caw!" to her, in pleading tones, until she picked him up or took some notice of him.

It was wonderful how quickly a bird that had always lived wild and free seemed to become tame and gentle. Twinkle's father said that was because he was so young, and because his broken wing kept him from flying in the air and rejoining his fellows. But Jim Crow wasn't as tame as he seemed, and he had a very wicked and ungrateful disposition, as you will presently learn.


For a few weeks, however, he was as nice a pet as any little girl could wish for. He got into mischief occasionally, and caused mamma some annoyance when he waded into a pan of milk or jumped upon the dinner table and ate up papa's pumpkin pie before Twinkle could stop him. But all pets are more or less trouble, at times, so Jim Crow escaped with a few severe scoldings from mamma, which never seemed to worry him in the least or make him a bit unhappy.


Chapter II
Jim Crow Runs Away

At last Jim got so tame that Twinkle took the cord off his leg and let him go free, wherever he pleased. So he wandered all over the house and out into the yard, where he chased the ducks and bothered the pigs and made himself generally disliked. He had a way of perching upon the back of old Tom, papa's favorite horse, and chattering away in Tom's ear until the horse plunged and pranced in his stall to get rid of his unwelcome visitor.

Twinkle always kept the bandage on the wounded wing, for she didn't know whether it was well yet, or not, and she thought it was better to be on the safe side. But the truth was, that Jim Crow's wing had healed long ago, and was now as strong as ever; and, as the weeks passed by, and he grew big and fat, a great longing came into his wild heart to fly again--far, far up into the air and away to the lands where there were forests of trees and brooks of running water.

He didn't ever expect to rejoin his family again. They were far enough away by this time. And he didn't care much to associate with other crows. All he wanted was to be free, and do exactly as he pleased, and not have some one cuffing him a dozen times a day because he was doing wrong.

So one morning, before Twinkle was up, or even awake, Jim Crow pecked at the bandage on his wing until he got the end unfastened, and then it wasn't long before the entire strip of cloth was loosened and fell to the ground.


Now Jim fluttered his feathers, and pruned them with his long bill where they had been pressed together, and presently he knew that the wing which had been injured was exactly as strong and well as the other one. He could fly away whenever he pleased.

The crow had been well fed by Twinkle and her mamma, and was in splendid health. But he was not at all grateful. With the knowledge of his freedom a fierce, cruel joy crept into his heart, and he resumed the wild nature that crows are born with and never lay aside as long as they live.

Having forgotten in an instant that he had ever been tame, and the pet of a gentle little girl, Jim Crow had no thought of saying good-bye to Twinkle. Instead, he decided he would do something that would make these foolish humans remember him for a long time. So he dashed into a group of young chickens that had only been hatched a day or two before, and killed seven of them with his strong, curved claws and his wicked black beak. When the mother hen flew at him he pecked at her eyes; and then, screaming a defiance to all the world, Jim Crow flew into the air and sailed away to a new life in another part of the world.

Chapter III
Jim Crow Finds a New Home

I'll not try to tell you of all the awful things this bad crow did during the next few days, on his long journey toward the South.


Twinkle almost cried when she found her pet gone; and she really did cry when she saw the poor murdered chickens. But mamma said she was very glad to have Jim Crow run away, and papa scowled angrily and declared he was sorry he had not killed the cruel bird when he shot at it in the corn-field.

In the mean time the runaway crow flew through the country, and when he was hungry he would stop at a farm-house and rob a hen's nest and eat the eggs. It was his knowledge of farm-houses that made him so bold; but the farmers shot at the thieving bird once or twice, and this frightened Jim Crow so badly that he decided to keep away from the farms and find a living in some less dangerous way.

And one day he came to a fine forest, where there were big and little trees of all kinds, with several streams of water running through the woods.

"Here," said Jim Crow, "I will make my home; for surely this is the finest place I am ever likely to find."

There were plenty of birds in this forest, for Jim could hear them singing and twittering everywhere among the trees; and their nests hung suspended from branches, or nestled in a fork made by two limbs, in almost every direction he might look. And the birds were of many kinds, too: robins, thrushes, bullfinches, mocking-birds, wrens, yellowtails and skylarks. Even tiny humming-birds fluttered around the wild flowers that grew in the glades; and in the waters of the brooks waded long-legged herons, while kingfishers sat upon overhanging branches and waited patiently to seize any careless fish that might swim too near them. Jim Crow decided this must be a real paradise for birds, because it was far away from the houses of men. So he made up his mind to get acquainted with the inhabitants of the forest as soon as possible, and let them know who he was, and that he must be treated with proper respect.

In a big fir-tree, whose branches reached nearly to the ground, he saw a large gathering of the birds, who sat chattering and gossiping pleasantly together. So he flew down and joined them.


"Good morning, folks," he said; and his voice sounded to them like a harsh croak, because it had become much deeper in tone since he had grown to his full size.

The birds looked at him curiously, and one or two fluttered their wings in a timid and nervous way; but none of them, little or big, thought best to make any reply.

"Well," said Jim Crow, gruffly, "what's the matter with you fellows? Haven't you got tongues? You seemed to talk fast enough a minute ago."

"Excuse me," replied a bullfinch, in a dignified voice; "we haven't the honor of your acquaintance. You are a stranger."

"My name's Jim Crow," he answered, "and I won't be a stranger long, because I'm going to live here."

They all looked grave at this speech, and a little thrush hopped from one branch to another, and remarked:

"We haven't any crows here at all. If you want to find your own folks you must go to some other place."

"What do I care about my own folks?" asked Jim, with a laugh that made the little thrush shudder. "I prefer to live alone."

"Haven't you a mate?" asked a robin, speaking in a very polite tone.

"No; and I don't want any," said Jim Crow. "I'm going to live all by myself. There's plenty of room in this forest, I guess."

"Certainly," replied the bullfinch. "There is plenty of room for you here if you behave yourself and obey the laws."

"Who's going to make me?" he asked, angrily.

"Any decent person, even if he's a crow, is bound to respect the law," answered the bullfinch, calmly.

Jim Crow was a little ashamed, for he didn't wish to acknowledge he wasn't decent. So he said:

"What are your laws?"

"The same as those in all other forests. You must respect the nests and the property of all other birds, and not interfere with them when they're hunting for food. And you must warn your fellow-birds whenever there is danger, and assist them to protect their young from prowling beasts. If you obey these laws, and do not steal from or interfere with your neighbors, you have a right to a nest in our forest."

"To be quite frank with you, though," said the robin, "we prefer your room to your company."

"I'm going to stay," said the crow. "I guess I'm as good as the rest of you; so you fellows just mind your own business and I'll mind mine."

With these words he left them, and when he had mounted to a position above the trees he saw that one tall, slim pine was higher than all the rest, and that at its very top was a big deserted nest.


Chapter IV
Jim Crow Becomes a Robber

It looked like a crow's nest to Jim, so he flew toward the pine tree and lit upon a branch close by. One glance told him that at some time it really must have been the home of birds of his kind, who for some reason had abandoned it long ago. The nest was large and bulky, being made of strong sticks woven together with fine roots and grasses. It was rough outside, but smooth inside, and when Jim Crow had kicked out the dead leaves and twigs that had fallen into it, he decided it was nearly as good as new, and plenty good enough for a solitary crow like him to live in. So with his bill he made a mark on the nest, that every bird might know it belonged to him, and felt that at last he had found a home.


During the next few days he made several attempts to get acquainted with the other birds, but they were cold and distant, though very polite to him; and none of them seemed to care for his society.

No bird ever came near his nest, but he often flew down to the lower trees and perched upon one or another of them, so gradually the birds of the forest got used to seeing him around, and paid very little attention to his actions.

One day Mrs. Wren missed two brown eggs from her nest, and her little heart was nearly broken with grief. It took the mocking bird and the bullfinch a whole afternoon to comfort her, while Mr. Wren hopped around in nearly as much distress as his wife. No animals had been seen in the forest who would do this evil thing, so no one could imagine who the thief might be.


Such an outrage was almost unknown in this pleasant forest, and it made all the birds nervous and fearful. A few days later a still greater horror came upon them, for the helpless young children of Mrs. Linnet were seized one morning from their nest, while their parents were absent in search of food, and were carried away bodily. Mr. Linnet declared that on his way back to his nest he had seen a big black monster leaving it, but had been too frightened to notice just what the creature looked like. But the lark, who had been up very early that morning, stated that he had seen no one near that part of the forest except Jim Crow, who had flown swiftly to his nest in the tall pine-tree.

This was enough to make all the birds look upon Jim Crow with grave suspicion, and Robin Redbreast called a secret meeting of all the birds to discuss the question and decide what must be done to preserve their nests from the robber. Jim Crow was so much bigger and fiercer than any of the others that none dared accuse him openly or venture to quarrel with him; but they had a good friend living not far away who was not afraid of Jim Crow or any one else, so they finally decided to send for him and ask his assistance.

The starling undertook to be the messenger, and as soon as the meeting was over he flew away upon his errand.

"What were all you folks talking about?" asked the crow, flying down and alighting upon a limb near to those who had not yet left the place of meeting.

"We were talking about you," said the thrush, boldly; "and you wouldn't care at all to know what we said, Mister Jim Crow."

Jim looked a trifle guilty and ashamed at hearing this, but knowing they were all afraid of him he burst out into a rude laugh.


"Caw! caw! caw!" he chuckled hoarsely; "what do I care what you say about me? But don't you get saucy, my pretty thrush, or your friends will miss you some fine morning, and never see you again."

This awful threat made them all silent, for they remembered the fate of poor Mrs. Linnet's children, and very few of the birds now had any doubt but that Jim Crow knew more about the death of those helpless little ones than he cared to tell.

Finding they would not talk with him, the crow flew back to his tree, where he sat sullenly perched upon a branch near his nest. And they were very glad to get rid of him so easily.

Chapter V
Jim Crow Meets Policeman Blue Jay

Next morning Jim Crow woke up hungry, and as he sat lazily in his big nest, he remembered that he had seen four pretty brown eggs, speckled with white, in the nest of the oriole that lived at the edge of the forest.

"Those eggs will taste very good for breakfast," he thought. "I'll go at once and get them; and if old Mammy Oriole makes a fuss, I'll eat her, too."

He hopped out of his nest and on to a branch, and the first thing his sharp eye saw was a big and strange bird sitting upon the tree just opposite him and looking steadily in his direction.

Never having lived among other birds until now, the crow did not know what kind of bird this was, but as he faced the new-comer he had a sort of shiver in his heart that warned him to beware an enemy. Indeed, it was none other than the Blue Jay that had appeared so suddenly, and he had arrived that morning because the starling had told him of the thefts that had taken place, and the Blue Jay is well known as the policeman of the forest and a terror to all evil-doers.


In size he was nearly as big as Jim Crow himself, and he had a large crest of feathers on the top of his head that made him look even more fierce--especially when he ruffled them up. His body was purplish blue color on the back and purplish gray below, and there was a collar of black feathers running all around his neck. But his wings and tail were a beautiful rich blue, as delightful in color as the sky on a fine May morning; so in personal appearance Policeman Blue Jay was much handsomer than Jim Crow. But it was the sharp, stout beak that most alarmed the crow, and had Jim been wiser he would have known that before him was the most deadly foe of his race, and that the greatest pleasure a Blue Jay finds in life is to fight with and punish a crow.

But Jim was not very wise; and so he imagined, after his first terror had passed away, that he could bully this bird as he had the others, and make it fear him.

"Well, what are you doing here?" he called out, in his crossest voice, for he was anxious to get away and rob the oriole's nest.

The Blue Jay gave a scornful, chattering laugh as he answered:

"That's none of your business, Jim Crow."

"Take care!" warned the crow; "you'll be sorry if you don't treat me with proper respect."

The Blue Jay winked solemnly, in a way that would have been very comical to any observer other than the angry crow.

"Don't hurt me--please don't!" he said, fluttering on the branch as if greatly frightened. "My mother would feel dreadful bad if anything happened to me."

"Well, then, behave yourself," returned the crow, strutting proudly along a limb and flopping his broad wings in an impressive manner. For he was foolish enough to think he had made the other afraid.

But no sooner had he taken flight and soared into the air than the Blue Jay darted at him like an arrow from a bow, and before Jim Crow could turn to defend himself the bill of his enemy struck him full in the breast. Then, with a shriek of shrill laughter, the policeman darted away and disappeared in the forest, leaving the crow to whirl around in the air once or twice and then sink slowly down, with some of his own torn feathers floating near him as witnesses to his defeat.


The attack had dazed and astonished him beyond measure; but he found he was not much hurt, after all. Crows are tougher than most birds. Jim managed to reach one of the brooks, where he bathed his breast in the cool water, and soon he felt much refreshed and more like his old self again.

But he decided not to go to the oriole's nest that morning, but to search for grabs and beetles amongst the mosses beneath the oak-trees.

Chapter VI
Jim Crow Fools the Policeman

From that time on Policeman Blue Jay made his home in the forest, keeping a sharp eye upon the actions of Jim Crow. And one day he flew away to the southward and returned with Mrs. Blue Jay, who was even more beautiful than her mate. Together they built a fine nest in a tree that stood near to the crow's tall pine, and soon after they had settled down to housekeeping Mrs. Blue Jay began to lay eggs of a pretty brown color mottled with darker brown specks.

Had Jim Crow known what was best for him he would have flown away from this forest and found himself a new home. Within a short flight were many bits of woodland where a crow might get a good living and not be bothered by blue jays. But Jim was obstinate and foolish, and had made up his mind that he never would again be happy until he had been revenged upon his enemy.

He dared no longer rob the nests so boldly as he had before, so he became sly and cunning. He soon found out that the Blue Jay could not fly as high as he could, nor as fast; so, if he kept a sharp lookout for the approach of his foe, he had no trouble in escaping. But if he went near to the nests of the smaller birds, there was the blue policeman standing guard, and ready and anxious to fight at a moment's notice. It was really no place for a robber at all, unless the robber was clever.

One day Jim Crow discovered a chalkpit among the rocks at the north of the forest, just beyond the edge of trees. The chalk was soft and in some places crumbled to a fine powder, so that when he had rolled himself for a few minutes in the dust all his feathers became as white as snow. This fact gave to Jim Crow a bright idea. No longer black, but white as a dove, he flew away to the forest and passed right by Policeman Blue Jay, who only noticed that a big white bird had flown amongst the trees, and did not suspect it was the thieving crow in a clever disguise.


Jim found a robin's nest that was not protected, both the robin and his wife being away in search of food. So he ate up the eggs and kicked the nest to pieces and then flew away again, passing the Blue Jay a second time all unnoticed.

When he reached a brook he washed all the chalk away from his feathers and then returned to his nest as black as ever.

All the birds were angry and dismayed when they found what had happened, but none could imagine who had robbed the robins. Mrs. Robin, who was not easily discouraged, built another nest and laid more eggs in it; but the next day a second nest in the forest was robbed, and then another and another, until the birds complained that Policeman Blue Jay did not protect them at all.

"I can't understand it in the least," said the policeman, "for I have watched carefully, and I know Jim Crow has never dared to come near to your trees."

"Then some one else is the robber," declared the thrush fussily.

"The only stranger I have noticed around here is a big white bird," replied the Blue Jay, "and white birds never rob nests or eat eggs, as you all know very well."

So they were no nearer the truth than before, and the thefts continued; for each day Jim Crow would make himself white in the chalk-pit, fly into the forest and destroy the precious eggs of some innocent little bird, and afterward wash himself in some far-away brook, and return to his nest chuckling with glee to think he had fooled the Blue Jay so nicely.

But the Blue Jay, although stupid and unsuspecting at first, presently began to get a little wisdom. He remembered that all this trouble had commenced when the strange white bird first arrived in the forest; and although it was doubtless true that white birds never eat eggs and have honest reputations, he decided to watch this stranger and make sure that it was innocent of the frightful crimes that had so aroused the dwellers in the forest.

Chapter VII
Jim Crow is Punished

So one day Policeman Blue Jay hid himself in some thick bushes until he saw the big white bird fly by, and then he followed quietly after it, flitting from tree to tree and keeping out of sight as much as possible, until at last he saw the white bird alight near a bullfinch's nest and eat up all the eggs it contained.


Then, ruffling his crest angrily, Policeman Blue Jay flew to attack the big white robber, and was astonished to find he could not catch it. For the white bird flew higher into the air than he could, and also flew much faster, so that it soon escaped and passed out of sight.

"It must be a white crow," thought the Blue Jay; "for only a crow can beat me at flying, and some of that race are said to be white, although I have never seen one."

So he called together all the birds, and told them what he had seen, and they all agreed to hide themselves the next day and lie in wait for the thief.

By this time Jim Crow thought himself perfectly safe, and success had made him as bold as he was wicked. Therefore he suspected nothing when, after rolling himself in the chalk, he flew down the next day into the forest to feast upon birds' eggs. He soon came to a pretty nest, and was just about to rob it, when a chorus of shrill cries arose on every side of him and hundreds of birds--so many that they quite filled the air--flew straight at the white one, pecking him with their bills and striking him with their wings; for anger had made even the most timid of the little birds fierce, and there were so many of them that they gave each other courage.


Jim Crow tried to escape, but whichever way he might fly his foes clustered all around him, getting in his way so that he could not use his big wings properly. And all the time they were pecking at him and fighting him as hard as they could. Also, the chalk was brushed from his feathers, by degrees, and soon the birds were able to recognize their old enemy the crow, and then, indeed, they became more furious than ever.

Policeman Blue Jay was especially angry at the deception practiced upon him, and if he could have got at the crow just then he would have killed it instantly. But the little birds were all in his way, so he was forced to hold aloof.

Filled with terror and smarting with pain, Jim Crow had only one thought: to get to the shelter of his nest in the pine-tree. In some way he managed to do this, and to sink exhausted into the hollow of his nest. But many of his enemies followed him, and although the thick feathers of his back and wings protected his body, Jim's head and eyes were at the mercy of the sharp bills of the vengeful birds.

When at last they left him, thinking he had been sufficiently punished, Jim Crow was as nearly dead as a bird could be. But crows are tough, and this one was unlucky enough to remain alive. For when his wounds had healed he had become totally blind, and day after day he sat in his nest, helpless and alone, and dared not leave it.

Chapter VIII
Jim Crow Has Time to Repent His Sins

"Where are you going, my dear?" asked the Blue Jay of his wife.

"I'm going to carry some grubs to Jim Crow," she answered. "I'll be back in a minute."

"Jim Crow is a robber and a murderer!" said the policeman, harshly.

"I know," she replied, in a sweet voice; "but he is blind."

"Well, fly along," said her husband; "but hurry back again."

And the robin-redbreast and his wife filled a cup-shaped flower with water from the brook, and then carried it in their bills to the pine-tree, without spilling a drop.

"Where are you going?" asked the oriole, as they passed.

"We're just taking some water to Jim Crow," replied Mrs. Robin.

"He's a thief and a scoundrel!" cried the oriole, indignantly.

"That is true." said Mrs. Robin, in a soft, pitiful voice; "but he is blind."

"Let me help you." exclaimed the oriole. "I'll carry this side of the cup, so it can't tip."


So Jim Crow, blind and helpless, sat in his nest day after day and week after week, while the little birds he had so cruelly wronged brought him food and water and cared for him as generously as they could.

And I wonder what his thoughts were--don't you?


By Ruth Plumly Thompson
Originally published in the Philadelphia Public Ledger, March 23, 1919.

Puzzles in Poesy

The forgetful poet's spring shopping continued:

I bought a hoe and watering can,
Some seeds--a garden hose--
I'm going to hoe and sow
And have a garden I --------.

I bought a trowel and a rake,
A spade. It costs a lot
To have a modest garden,
Dears and ducklings, does it -------?

I had to have a big straw hat
To keep away the sun,
And I'm afraid my dog will spoil
My garden when it's --------!
(Oh, well!)

The words omitted from last week's verses were:
1. Reason. 2. Indeed. 3. Batch. 4. Neat.

[Answers next time.]

Copyright © 2010 Eric Shanower and David Maxine. All rights reserved.