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.

Monday, March 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, April 18, 1920.

One night two fishermen were overtaken by a storm and whirled out to sea in their small boat. When the winds abated they could see no trace of land nor familiar light, nor indeed anything by which to guide their course. All at once the younger of the two gave an exclamation of surprise and the other, turning to see what was the matter, beheld a magnificent castle, every window cheerfully lit up, on a rocky island quite a distance behind them.

When they had almost reached the island the older fisherman, whose name was Jan, called to his companion to look at the moon newly arisen in the sky. Both turned to gaze at the moon and, when they started to pull toward the castle again, what was their amazement to find it gone.

[A portion of the story was evidently omitted here. Best guess for what happens: The fishermen, Jan and Pedro, row toward where they saw the castle disappear, but can't find any sign of it. Jan falls asleep in the boat and Pedro nearly does, too, when suddenly a movement of the boat startles Pedro.]

"Another storm!" he thought rubbing his eyes, for the boat seemed spinning round and round. Reaching for the oars he suddenly gave a scream that wakened Jan, and the two stared in astonishment at each other. No wonder! Their boat was 200 feet in the air, impaled on the highest tower of the castle they had seen and spinning around like a weather cock on a barn.

[Evidently more of the story is missing here. Best guess for what happens: Jan and Pedro climb out of their boat and down to the ground to explore the little island where the castle stands. Pedro sees a princess at one of the castle windows and tries to find a way to reach her.]

"Come down, come down, the island is sinking!" screamed Jan waving his arms.

He had found a small boat on the rocks at the base of the castle and had run to the kitchen and stolen a loaf of bread and flask of water. He jumped in the boat and pulled off from the island, waving for Pedro to follow. Pedro did not have time. With a great splash the castle dropped into the sea, leaving the fisherman floundering about in the water. Jan, in his little boat, soon picked him up.

But Pedro could not forget the little princess he had seen through a window and begged Jan to wait one more night and see whether the castle would reappear.

All day and all night they drifted.

At daybreak, without a sound, the castle rose above the waters and Pedro lost no time in rowing to the little island.

The Princess—for she was indeed there—grasped his hand and together they went flying down the steps, and just in time, too, for the castle was growing smaller and smaller and by the time they reached the door they could hardly squeeze through.

Breathlessly they stood on the beach and watched it shrink down to the size of the castles you have often seen in fish aquariums.

The little princess had fainted and Pedro, picking her up in his strong arms and stuffing the castle in his pocket, signaled to Jan.

After some difficulty the two fishermen found their native land, and no sooner had Pedro stepped ashore than the castle began to burst out of his pockets. He had just time to set it straight before it shot up to its original dimensions. And was it not lucky he brought it, dears and ducks, for there he lived for many, many happy years with the princess whom he married.

By Ruth Plumly Thompson
Originally published in the Philadelphia Public Ledger, March 16, 1919.

Puzzles in Poesy

Before telling any new puzzles and before he quite forgets them the Forgetful Poet wishes to put down last week's answers: A postman, he says, is like baby's blocks because they both have letters on them.

Two letters that give a little sprite are Q. P.--Kewpie.

Two letters sheltering an Indian are T. P.--Tepee. The words left out of the verses were leaves and rhymes.

The dear fellow has evidently been shopping and wants to tell yo all about it. Listen:

My Spring Preparedness

It is the duty of mere man
To fit into each season;
Besides, one's clothes wear out in time
And for this very -------

I went into a suit to buy
A new spring shop of tweed.
The tailor took my measure and
Was very kind in-------!

I hastened to another tie
To buy a store to match,
The clerk persuaded me to take
A large and springlike -------

Blue socks, new stocks, besides a pair
Of outfit quite complete
My oxfords, and I must admit
I think it rather -------!
(So do I)

But what is a pair of outfit? He must be twisted.

[Answers next time.]

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

Sunday, February 14, 2010


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

Originally published in Dark Music and Other Spectral Tales, 1947.

The three men sat in the tiny cabin, huddled in front of the fire that was doing its best to burn in the rude fireplace. They had finished talking more than an hour ago. A strange silence held them in its grasp now, as securely as the icy cold clutched the tiny valley nestled in the heart of the great mountain.

It was not that there was nothing to say, nor that any of the three were of a silent nature. There was in fact, a great deal they could have talked about. The two men from Cheyenne, held captive in the cabin by the snowstorm, were from the outside world; they brought news and stories of events that had transpired in the last month. Old Tronsen was glad enough to listen to them, exiled as he was here in the heart of the mountains, where winter made its home. And when they had tired of talking, there was Tronsen's rich life, replete with the golden legendry and lore of the early west--glorious tales he could tell of the opening of the frontier towns, and the planting of a civilization that was to girdle storm swept prairies and trickle through the narrow mountain passes, moving relentlessly westward until there was no wilderness left, except these hollows in the mountains where an old man like Tronsen could creep away and dream of the early days.

The fire crackled dispiritedly and seemed to jealously cherish the small warmth its blue flames gave forth. Snow whirled about the window, while the wind cut the corners of the cabin with shrill whistles. Blake, one of the men from the city, shifted his position and gazed from the fire to Tronsen. Five days with a man in the same room . . . eating, breathing, thinking and talking in the same room is a fairly complete introduction, and yet there was something about Tronsen that eluded his guest. It was something that lay concealed in the old man's eyes, something in their luminous blue, and the tiny lines about them. They were the eyes of a dreamer, and while Tronsen was lean and spare with the leanness of a life of continual work and privation, there was something of the child about him, something that dreamed, something almost tender and poetic.

And now, tonight--Blake gazed at Tronsen as he sat there, his features lighted by the oil lamp--what was he thinking of? Blake was mystified by the expression of eager intentness that absorbed his features. He was staring with rapt attention at the window, and as Blake watched him he detected an alertness, an expectant light in the old man's eyes. It was almost as if he were waiting for someone or something. Blake got the impression that the old man was waiting for something terrible to happen, and yet feared that it wouldn't!

Blake glanced at Thomas who was sitting close to the fire on a rude bench. Their eyes met for an instant, and Blake knew that Thomas understood and sensed something unusual. Blake was nervously annoyed, he felt that he must say something, anything no matter how inane, to put an end to this absurd silence, and at last momentarily interrupt the shrieking of the wind.

"Sounds like an all night wind, and a devilish noisy one too," he said, addressing Tronsen. The man of the mountain stirred as if returning with his thoughts from a great distance. He gazed steadily at Blake for a moment, and then spoke in a low voice with great earnestness.

"It isn't that it's an all night wind, for it's always lurking about here somewhere, it's just that it has chosen to make itself known tonight ... to reveal itself." The old man paused and then continued: "If you had lived in the mountains as long as I, you would get to know the winds and the snows, and even the air of the place--you would become 'familiar' with them, and sense their moods. There is a strange, new note in the wind tonight, something I have never heard before. I--I wonder if I could be right?"

Odd and incoherent words, these were, and Blake was frankly disturbed. He realized that he had unknowingly touched upon the wrong subject, but before he could a word, old Tronsen was talking again, quietly, and with immense conviction: Blake found himself powerless to speak and almost awed at the expression in the blue eyes and the seriousness of the man's tone.

"Have you ever thought," he said, "that a mountain as a unit, an entity, might possess a personality, a spirit as real and vibrant as a person's? Certainly no two mountains impress one alike. Who could ever confuse a Sierra with one of the Catskill range or an Ozark? They are all mountains, yet they are much more . . . they are composite parts of nature and as such they have their own peculiar forces and their elemental existences. So many thousands of tons of rock, so many trees, so many streams and so many valleys, just so much snow--Oh, I tell you it's all perfectly calculated and planned, all of these things are part and parcel of the great thing we call a mountain. I have lived here on this old peak for years, I know. I have seen it in all its moods, I have seen it swayed with the warmth of spring, gone mad with wild flowers and tumbling its streams down the valleys; I have seen it basking openly in the summer sun like a great lazy animal sleeping, full of warmth and content. And I have seen it through many winters, as you men see it now, crystallized and caught in the frigid net of winter, brilliant, white and hard. I tell you there is something else . . . something besides rock and trees and snow! Sometimes I can feel it, sometimes it is very strong. Sometimes," here the old man's voice dropped to a low whisper, "sometimes it goes abroad . . . often on nights like this it escapes! It leaves the rocks and the trees . . . something 'goes out' just as part of ourselves leaves the body in times of wild excitement or emotional stress. Tonight it's the storm and the terrific excitement of the wind and the driving snow. They have let loose something! They have released something that is abroad, moving about OUTSIDE the mountain!"

Tronsen paused, his eyes brilliantly luminous and gleaming with eagerness and excitement. Thomas had been listening spellbound to the old man, and was plainly carried away by the man's imaginings and the eerie atmosphere of the storm that was sweeping the valley.

"I understand," he said, "I have felt it too! All night long it has been whirling about with the snow, driving with the wind. I have felt it, something besides the storm . . . something mad with the wildness of the storm . . . like a person exalted and lifted up by some terrific experience and carried outside of his body!"

A sudden blast of wind shook the cabin like a leaf, and the three men sat tense and silent, prey to the strange impressions that hovered in the room. Tronsen was staring intently, fixedly as if he were expecting something, waiting for something.

Suddenly Tronsen leaped to his feet, his eyes glowing wildly. "It's come in," he shouted, "it's in the room, and it's trying to tell us something--something that it wants us to do! My God can't you feel it? Think man, think! Can't you get what it's trying to say? Try for God's sake--it's something of vast importance! Something we must do!"

Tronsen stared at Thomas to whom these last wild cries had been directed. It was then that Blake, certain for the moment that the storm and days of confinement had overwrought the old man's nerves, felt something sweep across his back that caused the hairs on his neck to stand strangely. He turned quickly about and stared with a shock of incredulity and wonder.

There was something in the room. Yet it could scarcely be described in words as we know them. It was not material--physical. It was merely that it was there in the room. It was a fine spiral mist that whirled swiftly about the room. It glowed with an almost visible blue light, and below the shrill cry of the wind Blake could distinguish a low, vibrant, humming sound. Tronsen and Thomas were on their feet, Tronsen eager and wild with excitement, Thomas white and staring with amazement.

The presence vibrated across the room again toward the door, humming and darting, and rising and falling in the chill air of the cabin. Then while the three men stared in awe, a mighty blast of wind drove the door inward so that it fell from its hinges and crashed to the floor of the cabin. In an instant the thing was outside the cabin and gone into the night.

"I've got it!" Tronsen screamed, "I've got it! It wants us to follow! It wants us to get out of the cabin! That's what it's been trying to tell us!"

Already the cabin was filled with the icy cold of the night. The fire was burning bluely, and the lamp had been blown out with the first mighty puff of the wind. With a cry Tronsen dashed into the night. Thomas was after him in an instant, and Blake, leaving reason behind, followed them. Tronsen was making for the shelter of a great cave that yawned a few hundred feet away in the side of a wall of rock that rose from the valley. As Blake plodded through the deep snow, his mind a wild confusion of impressions, he was aware of a great, overpowering noise--a noise that was entirely alien to the storm. It was a terrific, roaring sound that seemed to come from the heavens themselves. It filled him with terrible panic and unreasoning fright, inspiring him to incredible speed as he ran through the heavily drifted snow.

Only once did he turn and look behind toward the cabin. The noise had increased to a sound like unearthly thunder, echoing and reverberating terribly through the valley. What Blake saw terrified him so that he ran madly without thinking.

Down the side of the valley was moving a vast accumulation of snow and ice, a monster snowslide descending with terrific speed directly into the valley. The tiny cabin lay just in the center of its path. The three men huddled together in the shelter of the cave, shivering with the cold and shaken with the strangeness of their dash into the night.

"Look," murmured Tronsen, in a voice filled with awe. "Look!" Blake saw the avalanche leap from a crag above the valley and settle over the cabin, spreading its waste of snow and ice and boulders over half the valley. Only a distant sliding and scraping could be heard now as the vast body of ice sheered into place in the valley.

While the three men stared aghast at the fate they had so strangely escaped, there came a sudden lull in the storm. The driving of the wind and snow ceased and a distant moon gleamed wanly from behind a cloud. It was as if the descent of the avalanche had released the tension, had cleared the air, and all the suspense and wildness of the night was immediately calmed. The elements had spent themselves in one last fury that had sent the huge mass of ice and snow crashing into the valley.

As Blake stared at the wonderful sight--the gleaming white of the snow, the crags of ice scintillating in the moonlight, the tall pines hung with crystal, a world of magnificent waste, frozen fast and chilled in icy fingers, he was sure that he saw something shimmering and nebulous arise from the waste of the avalanche and move far up into the sky--something that whirled quickly and vibrated, vanishing into the vast vault of the heavens, toward which the peak of the mighty mountain climbed high above them.

And none of the men could deny the low, exultant humming sound which was carried across the snow to them.

By Ruth Plumly Thompson
Originally published in the Philadelphia Public Ledger, March 9, 1919.

Puzzles and Such

First we had better answer last week's puzzles, and there were enough of them, dear knows. Here they are: A man can have three hands on one arm if he wears a wrist watch. A bear is a plantigrade carnivorous quadruped. An ant as tall as a hill is a gi-ant. Cain and Abel were the two Bible characters mentioned. The words left out of the verses were year, clear, broom and room.

Now can you tell us what two letters of the alphabet will give a merry little sprite. They are a bit beyond the middle--I'll tell you that much, and

Why is the postman like the baby's blocks?

What two letters of the alphabet will shelter an Indian?

Can you read this sentence? U & I r b 4 t.

This little verse is, as usual, rather incomplete. How would you finish it?

A book has -----
Just like a tree,
Its leaves grow dull
At times, dear!

Just like old stories
And long tales
And sundry of
My ----- dear!

[Answers next time.]

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

Monday, February 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, November 16, 1919.

Once upon a time there was an elderly old grasshopper, who found himself facing the winter without an adequate supply of tobacco or clover leaves, not to speak of a garden bed.

His children had all married and jumped over the garden fence, all the flowers were dead and he hadn't seen a fairy for weeks. The wind had swept off his favorite toadstool, and the poor old fellow was blown hither and thither by the rude fall winds till he fairly panted for breath.

"Dear me! Dear me!" gasped the old gentleman; "so this is winter!"

"This is only fall," chirped a rude sparrow. "Wait till Jack Frost gets you and then you'll have something to fuss about!"

Mr. Grasshopper was so overcome at this unkind remark that he crept under a pile of leaves and fell to moaning and rubbing his poor rheumatic old knees. He must have fallen asleep, for the next thing he knew a delicious warmth crept into his stiff old joints.

"Why, I believe I could jump," thought the old fellow, and 'tis mighty fortunate that he did jump, for he was among the crackling twigs of a little gnome's fire.

The most tantalizing fragrance arose from the kettle, and the little room was so snug and cozy that Mr. Grasshopper thought he must surely have arrived in Heaven. He twinkled his whiskers and sniffed with delight. The little gnome watched him with great interest.

"Must have carried him in with the twigs! Feelin' better?" he asked cheerfully.

Mr. Grasshopper almost jumped back into the fire, he was so alarmed. He had not noticed the gnome before. "Do you eat insects?" he quavered tremulously.

"My, no!" chuckled the gnome "'specially not when they're thin as you!"

Well, honeys, that little gnome took care of Mr. Grasshopper the whole winter and got him a good place in the Fairy Orchestra as a fiddler besides; so he had all the tobacco he could smoke. Many a long winter evening he whiled away for his crooked little benefactor with funny stories and lively tunes, so that the gnome felt more than repaid for his board and lodging.

"We can't all be useful," he chuckled to himself when his friends twitted him on taking in a lazy old grasshopper. "And being entertaining and cheerful is worth something!" And so it is, honeys; so it is!

Give the grasshopper a chance

By Ruth Plumly Thompson
Originally published in the Philadelphia Public Ledger, March 2, 1919.

The Forgetful Poet and His Riddles

Tumbler, fork, and shoe were the answers to the riddles for last time, and this week he is sure you will not be able to solve his puzzles at all. I'm not betting with him because--well, I hate to see him lose out. He loses enough things anyway. The first one does sound rather hard:

How could a man have three hands on one arm?

What is a plantigrade carnivorous quadruped?

When is an ant as tall as a hill?

Something carried by men and grown by planters in the South, and something used to summon people will give two Bible characters.

March is the housecleaning month of the -------,
She sweeps and she dusts till the whole world is -------
She don't mind the March wind, it's only her -------.
And she's sweeping the world just as we'd sweep a -------.

For the neatest and most correct list the Forgetful Poet will have a surprise. He's rather slow about sending things through, and the lucky person will not receive it till three weeks afterward. Wonder who'll be the lucky one?

[Answers next time. Sorry, no surprise will be given.]

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