Saturday, December 1, 2012

AUNT 'PHRONEY'S BOY

By L. Frank Baum
Author of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, John Dough and the Cherub, The Treasure of Karnak, and The Visitors from Oz, etc.
Illustrations by George Avison

Originally published in St. Nicholas Magazine, December 1912, exactly one hundred years ago.
Oddities of spelling and the spacing of contractions have been retained.

 
Aunt 'Phroney's Boy title

The boy realized he had made a mistake before he had driven the big touring car a half-mile along this dreadful lane. The map had shown the road Fennport clearly enough, but it was such a roundabout way that, when the boy came to this crossing, he decided to chance it, hoping it would get him to Fennport much quicker. The landscape was barren of interest, the farm-houses few and far between, and the cross-road seemed as promising as the main way. Meanwhile, at Fennport, the county fair was progressing, and there was no use wasting time on the road.

The promise faded after a short stretch; rust and ditches appeared; rotten culverts and sandy hollows threatened the safety of the car. The boy frowned, but doggedly kept going. He must be fully half-way to another road by this time, and, if he could manage to keep on without breaking a spring or ripping a tire, it would be as well to continue as to turn back.

Suddenly the engines began muttering and hesitated in doing their duty. The boy caught the warning sound, and instantly divined the reason; he had forgotten to replenish the gasolene before starting, and the tank was about empty. Casting a quick, inquiring glance around, he saw the roof of a farm-house showing through the trees just ahead. That was a joyful sight, for he had scarcely dared hope to find a building upon this unused, seemingly abandoned lane. He adjusted the carbureter, and urged the engines to feed upon the last drops of the precious fluid they could absorb. Slowly, with staggering gait, the automobile pushed forward until just opposite the farm-house, when, with a final moan, the engines gave up the struggle, and the car stopped dead.

Then the boy turned and looked at the lonely dwelling. It was a small, primitive sort of building, ancient and weather-stained. There was a simple garden at the front, which faced the grove and not the lane, and farther along, stood a rickety, rambling barn that was considerably larger than the house.

Upon a tiny side porch of the dwelling, directly facing the road, sat an old woman with a battered tin pan full of rosy-cheeked apples in her lap. She was holding a knife in one hand and a half-pared apple in the other. Her mouth was wide open in amazement, her spectacled eyes staring fixedly at the automobile--as if it had been a magical apparition and the boy a weird necromancer who had conjured it up.

He laughed a little at the amusing expression of the old woman, for he was a good-humored boy in spite of his present vexations. Then, springing to the ground, he walked toward the porch and removed his cap, to make a graceful bow. She did not alter her pose, and, with eyes still fixed upon the car, she gasped:

"Laws-a-me! if it ain't one o' them no-hoss keeridges."

"Nothing wonderful about that, is there?" asked the boy, smiling, as he reached the porch.

"Why not?" said she; "ain't they the mos' wunnerful things in all the world? Mart'n Luther's seen 'em in town, an' told me about 'em, but I never thought as I 'd see one with my own eyes."

Her awe and interest were so intense that, as yet, she had not glanced once at the boy's face. He laughed, in his quiet way, as he leaned over the porch rail, but it occurred to him that there was something pathetic in the fact that the lonely old woman had never seen an automobile before.

"Don't you ever go to town yourself?" he asked curiously.

She shook her head. "Not often, though sometimes I do," she replied. "Went to Fennport a year ago las' June, an' put in a whole day there. But it tired me, the waggin jolts so. I'm too old now fer sech doin's, an' Mart'n Luther 'lows it ain't wuth payin toll-gate both ways for. He has to go sometimes, you know, to sell truck an' buy groceries; he 's there to-day, 'tendin' the county fair; bit I 've stayed home an' minded my own business 'til I hain't got much hankerin' fer travel any more."

During this speech, she reluctantly withdrew her eyes from the automobile and turned them upon the boy's face. He was regarding her placid features with a wonder almost equal to her own. It seemed so strange to find one so isolated and secluded from the world, and so resigned to such a fate.

"No near neighbors?" he said.

"The Bascomes live two miles north, but Mis' Bascome an' I don't git on well. She ain't never had religion."

"But you go to church?"

"Certain sure, boy! But our church ain't town way, you know; it 's over to Hobbs' Corners. Ev'ry Sunday fer that las' year, I 've been lookin' out for them no-hoss waggins, thinkin' one might pass the Corners. But none ever did."

"This is a queer, forsaken corner of the world," the boy said reflectively. "and yet it 's in the heart of one of the most populous and progressive States in the Union."

"You 're right 'bout that," she agreed. "Silas Herrin 's bought the lates' style thrash'n'-machine--all painted red--an' I guess the county fair at Fennport makes the rest o' th world open its eyes some. We 're ahead of 'em all on progressin', as Mart'n Luther 's said more 'n once."

"Who is Martin Luther?" asked the boy.

"He 's my man. His name 's Mart'n Luther Sager, an' I 'm Aunt 'Phroney Sager--the which my baptism name is Sophroney. Mart'n Luther were named fer the great Meth'dis' preacher. He had a hankerin' to be a Baptis' in his young days, but he das n't with such a name. So he j'ined the Meth'dists to make things harmoni'us, an' he 's never regretted it."

The boy smiled in an amused way, but he did not laugh at her. There was something in her simple, homely speech, as well as in the expression of her face, that commanded respect. Her eyes were keen, yet gentle; her lips firm, yet smiling; her aged, wrinkled features complacent and confident, yet radiating a childlike innocence.

"Ain't ye 'fraid to run the thing?" she asked, reverting to the automobile.

"No, indeed. It 's as simple as a sewing-machine--when you know how."

"I 'd like to see it go. It come so sudden-like past the grove that when I looked up, you 'd stopped short."

"I 'd like to see it go myself, Aunt 'Phroney," the boy answered; "But it won't move a step unless you help it. Just think, Ma'am, you 've never seen a motor-car before, and yet the big machine can't move without your assistance! "

She knew he was joking, and returned his merry smile; but the speech puzzled her.

"As how, boy?" she inquired.

"The 'no-hoss keeridge' is a hungry monster, and has to be fed before he 'll work. I hope you will feed him, Aunt 'Phroney."

"On what?"

"Gasolene. I forgot to fill up the tank before I started, and now the last drop is gone."

"Gasolene!" she exclaimed, with a startled look; "why, we don't keep gasolene, child. How on earth do you expec' to find sech a thing in a farm-house?"

"Don't you cook with gasolene?" he asked.

"My, no! We use good chopped wood--splinters and knots. Mis' Bascome had a gas'lene stove once, but it bu'sted an' set fire to the baby; so they buried it in the back yard. "

"The baby?"

"No, boy; the stove. They managed to put the baby out."

This statement puzzled him, but his mind was more on the gasolene.

"Does n't your husband use gasolene around the farm?" he inquired.

"No, 'ndeed."

"And you have n't any naphtha or benzine--just a little?"

"Not a drop. "

"Nor alcohol?"

"Mercy, no!"

The boy's face fell. "Where is the nearest place I might get some gasolene?" he asked.

"Lemme see. Harpers' might have it--that 's six mile' west--or Clark's store might have some, at Everdale. That 's seven mile' off, but I ain't sure they keep it. The only place they 're sure to have it is over to Fennport, which is 'leven mile' from here by the turnpike."

The boy considered all this seriously. "Can I borrow a horse from you--and a buggy?" he asked.

"Mart'n Luther 's gone to town with the only team we own. We ain't had a buggy fer twenty-two years.

He sighed, and sat down on the steps, looking disconsolately toward the big touring car that was now so helpless. Aunt 'Phroney resumed her task of paring the apples, but now and then she also would glance admiringly at the automobile.

"Come far?" she presently inquired.

"From Durham."

"To-day? Why, Durham 's thirty mile' from here."

"I know; that 's only an hour's run, with good roads."

"Mercy me!"

"But the roads are not good in this neighborhood. I wanted to run over to Fennport to see the fair. I thought there might be some fun there, and I 'd jog over this morning and run back home to-night. That would n't have been any trick at all, if I had n't forgotten the gasolene."

"Live in Durham?" she asked.

"Yes; Father has the bank there."

"Pretty big town, I 've heard."

"Why, it 's only a village. And a stupid, tiresome village at that. Lonely, too. That 's why Father got this touring car; he said it would help to amuse me. May I have an apple?"

Aunt 'Phroney smiled indulgently, and handed him an apple from the pan. The idea of one who lived in the thriving, busy town of Durham becoming lonely filled her with amusement. For her part, she had n't left the old farm-house, except to go to church, for nearly two years, and days at a time she never saw a human being other than her silent, morose husband. Yet she was not lonely--not really lonely--only at times did her isolation weigh upon her spirits.

"Got a mother, child?" she softly inquired.

He nodded, biting the apple.

"Mother 's an invalid. She does n't leave, her own rooms, and keeps two trained nurses and a special cook, and she studies social science--and such things."

"What does that mean?"

"I don't know; it 's only a name to Father and me. But Father has the bank to interest him, and as I 'm not ready for the bank yet, he lets me run the automobile."

Aunt 'Phroney gave him a pitying look.

"Guess I un'erstan' your hist'ry now," she said gently. "You need n't say no more 'bout it. Hev another apple?"

"I will, thank you. They 're fine. Grow 'em here?"

"Yes. Mart'n Luther 's entered a peck at the county fair, an' hopes to git the premium. It 's two dollars, in cash. He 's put up our Plymouth Rock rooster an' some pertaters fer prizes, too, an' seein' he 's entered 'em, it don't cost him anything to get into the fair grounds--only the ten cents fer toll-gate."

"Why did n't you go with him?" asked the boy.

Aunt 'Phroney flushed a little. "That some more hist'ry--the kind that 's better not studied," she remarked quietly. "Mart'n Luther took it from his pa, I guess. His pa once cried like a baby when he lost four cents through a whole in his pocket. After that, ev'ry penny was kep' strapped up in his leather pocket-book, which were never unstrapped without a groan. Yes, Mart'n Luther 's a' honest man. an' God-fearin'; but I guess he takes after his pa."

The boy finished his apple.

"Come out and see our touring car," he said. "I 'd like to show it to you, although I can't take you to ride in it."

"Thank you," she eagerly replied. ''I 'll come in a minute. Let me git this apple-sass started cookin' first."

She went into the kitchen with the apples, but soon came back, and with a brisk air followed the boy across the patch of rank grass to the road.

"I can't walk six miles or more, you know, " he remarked, "and lug a can of gasolene back with me; so I 'll have to wait until your husband comes back to-night with the team. You don't mind my staying with you, do you?"

"Of course not," she answered. "I like boys--boys like you, that is. We--we never had no children of our own."

He showed her all the parts of the automobile, and explained how they worked and what they were for, all in a simple way that enabled her readily to understand. She was in a flutter of excitement at her close proximity to the wonderful invention, and the luxury of the seats, and interior fittings filled her with awe. At first, he could not induce Aunt 'Phroney to enter the car and sit down upon the soft cushions, but, after much urging, she finally yielded, and was frankly delighted at the experience.

"It must 'a' cost a lot o' money," she observed.

"I guess your pa is pretty good to you. Like enough he did n't take after any one with a strapped pocket-book."

''No," laughed the boy; "Father is always kind to me. But I wish--I wish--"

"What, child?"

"I wish we lived together on a farm like this, where we could enjoy each other. All day he 's at the bank, you know."

"If he worked the farm," said the woman, "you would n't see much of him then, either, 'cept at meal-time. Mart'n Luther gits up at daylight, works in the fields all day, an' goes to bed after supper. In heaven we may find time to enjoy the sassiety of our friends, but p'r'aps there 'll be so much company there, it won't matter."

"I think," said the boy, solemnly, "we need a good deal more here than we shall need in heaven. Does any one get what he needs, I wonder?"

"Some may, but not many," she rejoined cheerfully. "Some of us don't get even gasolene, you know. Funny, ain't it, how such a little thing can spoil a great big creation like this? Why, in some ways, it beats Silas Herrin's new thrash'n'-machine; but it ain't so useful, 'cause the thrash'n'-machine runs along the road without horses to where it wants to go, an' then its injynes do the thrashin' better 'n hands can do it."

"I 've never really examined one," he replied thoughtfully; "it must be very interesting."

"Come into the barn." she said, "an' I 'll show you Silas Herrin's new one. He brought it here yest'day, but he an' all his crew are at the fair to-day, an' they won't begin thrashin' our crop till nex' Monday."

He followed her to the barn, willing to while away the time examining the big thresher. It filled nearly all the clear space on the barn floor, and towered half as high as the haymow. With its bright red body and diverse mechanical parts, the machine certainly presented an imposing appearance. The boy examined it with much curiosity.

"There are two distinct engines," he said musingly; "one a motor, I suppose, and one to do the work. The big one runs by steam, but this smaller one seems a gasolene engine."

"Perhaps it is," said the woman; "I never had it explained to me like you did your own machine."

"If it is," he suddenly exclaimed, "there must be some gasolene among Mr. Herrin's traps to run it with! If I can only find it, I 'll borrow enough to get me to Fennport."

Eagerly, now, he began the search, the woman looking on with interest. In a short time, he drew out from the interior of the thresher a ten-gallon can, which proved to be filled with the fluid he sought.

"Hooray!" be cried joyfully. "We 'll have our ride, after all. Aunt 'Phroney."

"It--it ain't stealin', is it?" she asked doubtfully. "This all b'longs to Silas Herrin, you know."

"It 's a law of the road, ma'am, that any one needing gasolene has the right to help himself--if he pays for what he lakes. I 'll pay Silas Herrin a good price, and he 'll have plenty left to run his engine with."

He got a bucket, measured out about three gallons, and placed a silver dollar on top of the can for payment. Then, when he had "fed" his automobile, an operation watched carefully by the old woman, the boy turned and said:

"Aunt 'Phroney, I 've a proposition to make. Get on your things, and I 'll take you to the fair at Fennport and give you a good time."

"Land sakes, boy!" she cried, holding up both hands; "I could n't think of it."

"Why not?"

"There 's the work to do."

"Cut it out for to-day. Martin Luther 's having a holiday, and I 'm sure you 're entitled to one, too."

"He--he might be mad."

"I don't see why. It won't cost him a cent, you know, and perhaps we won't see him at all. We 'll have a good dinner somewhere, see all the sights, have a fine auto ride, and I 'll fetch yon home in plenty of time to get supper for your husband."

The temptation was too strong to be resisted. Aunt 'Phroney's face broke into a beaming smile, and she hurried into the house to get on her "bes' bib an' tucker."

Her reappearance caused the boy's eyes to twinkle. She wore a plain, black gown, baggy and ill made, an old-fashioned "Peasley" shawl wrapped around her shoulders, and a wonderful hat that no milliner would have recognized as modern head-gear. But the boy did not mind. He helped her to the seat beside him, saw that she was comfortable, and started the engines slowly, so as not to alarm her.

The lane from the farm-house to the Fennport turnpike was in much better condition than the other end, which Aunt 'Phroney said was seldom used by any one. They traversed it with merely a few bumps, and on reaching the turnpike glided along so smoothly, that the old woman was in an ecstasy of delight.

"I almos' hope Mart'n Luther will see us,'' she remarked. "Would n't he be s'prised, though, to see me in this stylish no-hoss keeridge?"

"I think he would," said the boy.

"An' jealous, too. Mart'n Luther says I take life easier ner he does, 'though my work 's jus' as hard fer me as his is fer him. Only diffrence is, I don't complain."

"Is--is your husband a poor man?" the boy hazarded.

"Goodness, no! Mart'n Luther 's pretty well off, I 'm told. Not by him, mind you. He only tells me what he can't afford. But our minister once said he would n't be s'prised if Mart'n Luther had a thousan' dollars laid up! It 's a pretty good farm, an' he works it himself. An' he's so keerful o' spendin'."

"Does n't he give you money for--for clothes and--and things?"

"Oh, yes; he 's good 'bout that. We made an agreement, once, an' he 's stuck to it like a man. Ev'ry New-Year's, he gives me five dollars for dresses an' hats, an' ev'ry Fourth o' July I git fifty cents an' no questions asked."

The boy's eyes grew big at this.

"Does n't he spend anything on himself, either?" he inquired.

"A little, of course. He gits his clo's second-hand from the drug-store keeper, who 's about the same size as Mart'n Luther, but some fatter, an' he puts five cents in the contribution box ev'ry Sunday, an'--an'--well, there 's the toll-gate he has to pay for ev'ry time he goes to town. That toll-gate makes him orful mad. We 're comin' to it pretty soon. You don't mind, do you?"

"Not at all," he cried, laughing merrily.

"Mart'n Luther 's savin', an' no mistake." she continued musingly, "He would n't let me put him up no lunch to-day, 'cause he said Tom Dwyer would he sure to ask him to eat with him, an' if he did n't, he could easy get hold o' some fruit on exhibition. He said to save the food for his supper to-night, an' he 'd git along somehow."

"He ought to he worth several thousand dollars, at that rate." observed the boy, not without indignation. "But what good is his money to him, or to you, if he does n't enjoy it? You ought to have a better allowance than you do, for you 've certainly helped him to accumulate the money."

She heaved a little sigh.

"He says he can't afford any more," she replied, "an' I 'm satisfied, as things be. I used to long to buy pretty things an' go 'round, once in a while, but I 've got all over that now. I 'm happy, an' the Lord takes keer o' me. Did n't He send you here to-day with the--this--orto--orto--machine o' yours?"

"I wonder if He did?" returned the boy, gravely. "Oh, here 's the dreadful toll-gate, Aunt 'Phroney."


They entered the big gate of the fair grounds


It was nearly eleven o'clock when they entered the big gate of the fair grounds. The automobile attracted considerable attention, although there were two or three others in Fennport. As the boy assisted Aunt 'Phroney from the car, she was recognized by several acquaintances who frequented her church, and it was good to witness the old woman's pride and satisfaction at the looks of bewilderment that greeted her. She took the boy's arm and passed through the crowd with her chin well up, and presently they were in the main pavilion, where the largest part of the display was centered.

"Let 's look at the fruits an' veg'tibles," she eagerly exclaimed. "I want to see if Mart'n Luther 's won any prizes. Do you know, boy, he promised me all the money he won that come to over four dollars?"

"Did he, really?"

"Yes, he were feelin' quite chirky this mornin', 'fore he left, so he promised it. But if he won first prize on ev'rything, it 'd be only five dollars altogether, so I guess he did n't risk much."

They found the fruits, but Martin Luther's red apples had no ribbon on them, either blue or red.

"They don't look as good here, 'longside the others, as they did to home," sighed Aunt 'Phroney; "so I guess the jedge was correc' in lett'n' 'em pass by. Let 's see how the pertaters turned out."

Martin Luther's potatoes had failed to win. They lay just between the lots which had drawn the first and second prizes, and even the boy's inexperienced eyes could see they were inferior to the others.

"They bake well," murmured Aunt 'Phroney, "an' they bile jus' fine; but they ain't so pretty as them others, thet 's a fact. I guess Mart'n Luther won't hev to give me any of his prize-money this year--'specially as he don't git any."

"Did n't you say you had a chicken in the show?" asked the boy.

"Yes, an' a mightv fine rooster he is, if I do say it. I 've looked after him myself, ever since he were an egg, an' he 's that high an' mighty, I named him 'The Bishop.' Seems to me he 'll be hard to beat, but p'r'aps when he 's compared to others, the Bishop 'll be like the apples an' 'taters."

"Where is he?"

"The poultry show 'll be in a tent somewheres."

"Let 's find him," said the boy, almost as interested as his companion.

They inquired the way, and, in passing through the grounds to the poultry tent, they passed a crowd surrounding one of those fakers so prominent at every country fair. Aunt 'Phroney wanted to see what was going on, so the boy drew her dexterously through the circle of spectators. As soon as they reached a place of observation, the old woman gave a violent start and grabbed her escort's arm. A lean, round-shouldered man with chin whiskers was tossing rings at a board filled with jack-knives of all sizes and shapes, in a vain endeavor to "ring" one of them. He failed, and the crowd jeered. Then he drew a leather wallet from his pocket, unstrapped it, and withdrew a coin with which he purchased more delusive rings. The boy felt Aunt 'Phroney trembling beside him.


See that ol' feller yonder?


"See that ol' feller yonder?" she asked.

"Yes," said he.

"That 's Mart'n Luther!"

They watched him with breathless interest, but not one of the rings he threw managed to capture a knife. Others tried them, undeterred by the failure of the old farmer, and, after watching them a short time, out came Martin Luther's leather pocket-book again.

"Come!" whispered the woman, in deep distress; "let 's go afore I faint dead away! Who 'd believe Mart'n Luther could be sech a spen'thrift an' prodigal? I did n't b'lieve 't was in him."

The boy said nothing, but led her out of the crowd. To solace his companion's grief, he "treated" Aunt 'Phroney to pink lemonade, which had the effect of decidedly cheering her up. They found the poultry tent almost deserted, and, after a brief search, the woman recognized the Bishop. A man down the row of cages was even now judging the fowls and attaching ribbons to the winning birds as he went along.

"He 'll come to the Plymouth Rocks in a minute," whispered Aunt 'Phroney; "let 's wait an' see what happens."

It did n't take the judge very long to decide. Quite promptly he pinned a blue ribbon to the Bishop's cage, and Aunt 'Phroney exclaimed: "There! we 've got a prize at last, boy!"

The judge looked up, saw the boy, and held out his hand with a smile of recognition.

"Why, how are you, Mr. Carroll?" he exclaimed cordially; "I thought I was the only Durham man on the grounds. Did you drive your new car over?"

The boy nodded.

"They sent for me to judge this poultry show," continued the man, "but it 's the poorest lot of alleged thoroughbreds I ever saw together. Not a really good bird in the show."

"That ought to make your task easier," said the boy.

"No, it makes it harder. For instance, there's the Sweepstakes Prize for the best bird of any sort on exhibition. Tell me, how am I to make such an award, where all are undeserving?"

"Very well, I 'll tell you," returned the boy, audaciously. "If I were judging, I 'd give this fellow"--pointing to the Bishop--"the Sweepstakes."

"Eh? This fellow?" muttered the judge, eyeing Aunt 'Phroney's pet critically. "Why, I don't know but you 're right, Mr. Carroll. I had it in mind to give the Sweepstakes to that White Leghorn yonder, but this Plymouth Rock seems well set up and has good style."

The Bishop had recognized his mistress, and was strutting proudly and showing to excellent advantage. While the judge considered him, he flapped his wings and gave a lusty crow.

"I 'll take back my statement," said the man. "Here is a really good bird. Guess I 'll follow your advice, Mr. Carroll"; and he pinned a bright yellow ribbon marked "Sweepstakes" next to the blue one on the Bishop's cage.

Aunt 'Phroney drew a long breath. Her eyes were sparkling.

"How much is the Sweepstakes, jedge?" she inquired.

"It 's the largest money prize offered--twenty-five dollars--and there 's a silver water-pitcher besides. I 'm sorry such a liberal premium did not bring out a better display. But I must hurry and make my report, for I want to catch the two o'clock train home. Good day, Mr. Carroll."

As he bowed and left the tent, Aunt 'Phroney was staring proudly at the Bishop.

"Twenty-five dollars!" she gasped, "an' two dollars first prize for Plymouth Rocks! Twenty-seven dollars an' a silver pitcher! Boy, do you know what this means? It means I 'll git twenty-three dollars--an' Mart'n Luther 'll git jus' four.

"Will he keep his promise?" the boy asked.

"Yes. Mart'n Luther 's a' honest man, an' God-fearin'--but he ain't got much jedgment 'bout ringin' jack-knives. Dear me, who 'd ever think he 'd turn out a squanderer?"

The boy took her away to the big dining-hall. It was divided into two sections by a rail. On one side was a sign reading: "Square Meal, 25c.'' On the other side was the legend: "Regular Dinner, with Oysters and Ice-Cream, 50c."

Disregarding his companion's protests, the boy led her into the latter section, which had few patrons compared with the cheaper one. No sooner had Aunt 'Phroney tucked her napkin under her chin than she grew pale and stared amazed across the rail. The boy's eyes followed hers and recognized Martin Luther seated at a table facing them, and eating with ravenous industry.

"Twenty-five cents gone--an' he might 'a' took the lunch I offered him!" wailed the old woman. Perhaps the magnetism of their combined gaze affected Martin Luther, for he raised his eyes and encountered his wife's horrified stare. The man was justified in being equally astonished. Motionless, with a piece of beef poised half-way to his mouth, he glared alternately at the strange boy and at Aunt 'Phroney. His face betokened bewilderment, shame at being discovered, and, at the last, an unreasoning panic. He slowly rose to his feet, turned his back, and ignominiously fled from the hall.

"Never mind," said the woman, her lips firmly set, "he 'll know he 's got somethin' to explain when he gits home; an' if Mart'n Luther ever hears the last o' them jack-knives an' his prodigal 'square meal,' my name ain't Sophroney Sager!"

After the dinner, with its accompanying luxuries of oysters and ice cream, was over, they saw the balloon ascension and the races; and then, early in the afternoon, the boy put Aunt 'Phroney into the touring car and they drove to Fennport, where the tank was filled with gasolene. During this operation, the boy noticed that the old woman shivered slightly in the cool autumn weather, and drew her thin shawl more closely around her as she sat waiting in the car.

"You ought to have brought a heavy coat," he said.

"Why, I have n't got any," she returned, smiling at him cheerfully.

"No coat! What do you wear in winter, when you go to church?" the boy asked.

"When it 's real cold, I wrap a comforter 'round me on the way, an' then wear this shawl into church. Aunt Sally left it to me when she died. It 's real Peasley."

"Get out of the car, Please, Aunt 'Phroney," the boy said quietly.

"Why cert'nly, if you say so; but what for?"

"I had a birthday last week, and Father gave me a check. I want to buy a present for my best girl at this store, and I wish you to help me pick it out."

She went in, then, full of interest, and the boy whispered to the clerk, who began to display a collection of thick, warm coats in sober colors.

"Try this one on, Aunt 'Phroney," urged the boy.

Suddenly she became suspicious, and flushed like a school-girl.

"Boy," she began, "if you dare--"

"Hush, please!" he pleaded. "Do you want to shame me before all these strangers? And spoil my birthday? And prove that I have n't any best girl?"

The appeal was effective. The old woman meekly submitted to the "try-on," and presently he said to the clerk: "This one will do. Mrs. Sager will take it with her and wear it home, as the air is a bit chilly."


This one will do


Before she could recover from her dazed condition, they were once more in the automobile and speeding down the turnpike toward the farm.

"Feel warm enough, Aunt 'Phroney?" asked the boy, turning a merry face toward her. Then he saw that her eyes were full of tears. She nestled closer to him and murmured softly: "You know, boy, we--we never had a chick or a child of our own!"



Aunt 'Phroney and the boy


That evening father and son were seated in the banker's library.

"I spent twenty dollars of my birthday money, to-day," said the boy.

"Indeed. In what way?"

"Trying to make an old country woman happy."

"Really, my son?"

"Really, Father; and I think--I 'm quite sure--that I succeeded."

And then he told him the whole story.



THE FORGETFUL POET The Forgetful Poet 
By Ruth Plumly Thompson 
Originally published in the Philadelphia Public Ledger, November 16 and 23, 1919.


Last Week's Puzzles

The Forgetful Poet is pleased to learn that you guessed the missing words in his verses to be mincemeat, Thanksgiving, head, bed, dishes and Thanksgiving!

The Forgetful Poet

So many of you guessed the dear fellow's missing words that he is simply amazed. He wants to know how you knew Thanksgiving was coming. "Dear knows," I said, and he snapped his fingers and said he guessed nose was right and that your dear noses had given the secret away.

"How many raisins in a fruit cake?" he asked me.

"What nonsense!" I said crossly. "Can't you make up a regular riddle?" He said no; that he felt too funny.

"Did your ancestors come over in the Mayflower?" he asked next. "That is a riddle." I saw he had something on his mind, so instead of answering said:

"Did yours?"

"No, on the Cauliflower!" he chuckled. That was too much, so I went out and closed the door. On my return I found a paper with these riddles scrawled upon it:

What Nuts?

A nut that is a favorite
  With boys and girls is found
In a letter of the alphabet,
  And, after thought profound.

I've found a girl's name gives another!
  Dairy products two
Will add two more and that makes four.
  A certain part of you

Will give us five, and, word alive,
  Part of a room one more!
Ha, ho, hum, and that's enough,
  These riddles are a bore.


[Answers next time.]


Copyright © 2012 Eric Shanower and David Maxine. All rights reserved.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

A STRANGE THANKSGIVING

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

Originally published in the Philadelphia Public Ledger, November 23, 1919.


It was a phantom Pilgrim Ship
  Sailed down Molasses Bay
And landed in Rock Candy Cove,
  Just 'fore Thanksgiving Day.

The Chocolate Chaps who ruled the Isle
  Of Sugar Plums came running,
And one was short and one was tall,
  But both were awfully cunning!

"Some visitors!" the first one called,
  "I wonder now, who comes?
Ho! Ship ahoy and welcome
  To the Isle of Sugar Plums!"

The candy folk came running down,
  And as the Pilgrims land
They met them with loud cheers
  And music from the sugar band!

The phantom Pilgrims doffed their hats:
  "We're due in Memory Town
To celebrate Thanksgiving,
  But we thought we'd just run down

"And have a little relaxation
  Ere they start to boast
'Bout that famous first Thanksgiving
  On the 'stern and rock-bound coast!'

"Now what we want's a little cheer,
  We never learned to play,
And as for fun! it was not done
  In our New England day!"

The Pilgrim children nod their heads
  And look with big, round eyes.
The sugar hills and chocolate mills
  Just fill them with surprise.

Ho! Ho! the candy folk, my dear,
  Soon put them at their ease;
They played at candy hop-scotch -
  Climbed the maple sugar trees,

Enjoyed a jolly taffy pull,
  And then, on candy horses,
They galloped gayly, ending
  With a feast of twenty courses,

Each sweeter than the last, you know;
  It almost made them late,
And when their ship reached Memory Town,
  They couldn't look sedate.

And if the Pilgrims that you think of,
  Or upon the wall
The picture Pilgrims seem to grin,
  Don't be surprised at all!

  (They're thinking of Sugar Plum Island.)



THE FORGETFUL POET The Forgetful Poet 
By Ruth Plumly Thompson 
Originally published in the Philadelphia Public Ledger, November 9, 1919.


The Forgetful Poet

It always surprises the dear fellow to see how readily you can supply the words to his verses, but today he feels sure that he has achieved a masterpiece, and that none of you will be able to make head or tail of it. I wonder!

The words missing from last week's verses were ill, got and loses.

COMING

The goose is growing fatter
And the pumpkin's looking prime.
There's ------meat in the making,
For it's most -----time?

The turkey's strutting in the yard.
Ah, soon he'll lose his -----;
The celery's sticking up its leaves
Out in the garden-----.

The pie tins stand expectantly.
The pots and pans and -----
Are mobilizing. Oh, I say,
-----time's delicious!

[Answers next time.]


Copyright © 2012 Eric Shanower and David Maxine. All rights reserved.

Monday, October 1, 2012

FAULTY VISION

By Jack Snow
Author of The Magical Mimics of Oz, The Shaggy Man of Oz, Spectral Snow, etc.

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


If only she could make George look at her, Mavis thought. If only she could make him see her. It was useless to try to talk to him. He couldn't hear her. It had been like this ever since the accident. George looked so pathetically lonely as he sat in the big, bleak room. Why didn't he light a fire in the fireplace? That might make him a little less miserable. The room was chilly, and outside a cold, October rain was falling. The room was even darker than the gloom of the night. George started nervously when the naked limb of a tree stirred by the night wind tapped mournfully against a window. Mavis wished that George wouldn't sit alone on the dark like this.

She stood directly in front of him, hoping that somehow she could make him see her. George looked up, almost as though he were aware of her presence. But it was no use. He stared right through her, and in his eyes Mavis saw the misery and suffering that had been there ever since the accident. If only there was some way she could comfort him--make him see her just for an instant, so that he would know she was still here beside him.

George arose, switched on a lamp and lighted a cigarette. Mavis sat down in the chair opposite him . . . her chair. They had sat like this, happy and full of content, through so many long winter evenings. Surely George must see her now. The light of the lamp was full upon her, and he was so used to seeing her here like this. But his eyes were blank and hopeless as he stared at the chair.

Slowly the hours ticked away, while George nervously smoked one cigarette after another. Finally the clock in the study tolled the hour of midnight in deep-toned notes. The witching hour--the hour when graves yawn and ghosts walk! What a lot of nonsense, Mavis thought. Midnight was no different from any other hour.

With a deep sigh, George switched out the light and made his way wearily up the stairs. Mavis followed close behind him. Outside her room, George paused for moment, then slowly opened the door and clicked on the light. Mavis slipped past him into the room. He must see her now--in her own room, surrounded by all her own things that he had given her. But no, his eyes searched the room hopelessly, then clouded and filled with bitter tears. He extinguished the light and closed the door. Mavis followed him into his own room. Wearily the man undressed and made ready for bed. But in spite of the luxuriance and warmth of the bed, he did not sleep. A dim night light burned on a table at the side of the bed. Mavis stood in the soft light, gazing at him pitifully. George turned restlessly. Again and again he looked directly through her. She might as well not have been there.

The long hours passed. Fitfully George dozed and slumbered only to awaken with a start and a flood of memories that contorted his features with grief and suffering. Mavis tried in these moments of sudden re-awakening and onrushing consciousness to make him see her. If only he could catch the most fleeting image of her. But it was no use.

The rain had stopped, but with the dawn came a dismal fog that clung to the windows and swirled through the chill air. Now that the night had passed, George was sleeping soundly for the first time.

With the first faint grey streaks of morning light, Mavis was aware of someone standing quietly in the bedroom doorway. It was her mother.

"Come, my dear," said the older woman, as she advanced to Mavis and put her arm about her. "You can see it is quite useless. You remember how we used to refer to some people as being color blind? Well," she went on, as the two women walked slowly from the room and down the thickly shadowed hallway, "George is what we know as 'specter blind.' "



THE FORGETFUL POET The Forgetful Poet 
By Ruth Plumly Thompson 
Originally published in the Philadelphia Public Ledger, November 2, 1919.


The Puzzle Corner

First and 4-most the answers to last week's Halloween riddles were:

A corn ear is like an army because it is full of kernels (colonels).

One's palms are truly read (red) if one is an Indian.

Owl, bat and cat were the three animals concealed in the words low, bat [sic] and act.

A candle goes out without moving. And now for some new ones. Can you finish these verses?

The Forgetful Poet's Puzzles
Fall Sports


I'm a pretty good shot
If the target stays still
But a rabbit will run,
So I fared very -----?

I tried a game of football
With some boys upon the lot;
I caught the ball--but that's not all--
There's other things I -----?

A black eye and a twisted knee,
And several knobby bruises;
Whate'r they say, the one who has
The ball, sirs, always -----?

[Answers next time.]


Copyright © 2012 Eric Shanower and David Maxine. All rights reserved.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

HOME OF THE LITTLE VISITING FAIRY

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

Originally published in the Philadelphia Public Ledger, March 4, 1917.


Of course, you know that the fairies live deep down in the gardens of the earth where it is summer always, and no one is unhappy, but DID you know that every month the queen sends a hundred little messenger fairies up into the world to keep US happy?

Well, that is just what she does, and they fly about here and there, finding out all the world news and writing down in their little pink report books just what they have been doing, for all the world like wee visiting nurses.

And, of course, while they are working away at keeping folks happy they must live somewhere. Sometimes they keep house cozily under a teacup and sometimes they board with the dolls, if there are any children in the houses they are visiting; some have been known to live for months in the work basket, being careful to keep out of sight in the daytime.

Well, once a dear little wee speck of a fairy lady named Pear Blossom was sent to comfort a lonely artist. His home was in a side street, the top floor of a dusty old building, but even though he was so very poor, he managed to make the studio beautiful. The little fairy fluttering here and there with her tiny night lamp sighed with content. There were lovely pictures of forest scenes, there were stands and stands of plants. She swung happily to and from on the arch of a little palm tree, then quite suddenly caught sight of it. "Oh - eee!" exclaimed Pear Blossom, flying off the palm like a feather. "Oh! here I shall live!"

It was a garden, tiny trees, just right for fairies to sit under and admire themselves in the little lake. Tall herons stood proudly on its edge and across the bridge, snuggled down between two tremendous fairy mountains, was a tiny little house, and peeping shyly out of the window of the house was - well, what do you s'pose - a tiny little Japanese lady. A little Japanese garden in a bowl and WHAT A HOME FOR A FAIRY!

First Pear Blossom paddled about in the lake, then she touched the lovely herons and they lifted their beautiful wings and drifted lazily overhead. Then dancing over the little bridge, Pear Blossom skipped out into the tiny house, kissed the little Japanese lady and in a trice they were playing hide-and-seek all over the garden.

Next day the artist fell to work with new hope and vigor. And how could he help it, pray, with a saucy little fairy perching invisibly on the end of his brush? And what do you think he was painting? The Japanese garden. Why had he never thought of it before, I wonder? It grew into a real lovely, breathless, BIG garden under his bush. "Strange," he muttered, squinting at one of the herons. "I could almost swear you moved then!" That gave him another idea. Why not make his herons fly? So in the picture the herons came sweeping from the fairy mountains toward the lake. A little noise made him pause again. The Japanese lady had sneezed - yes - he was quite sure of it. Another idea. Why should she not lean out of the window and wave her fan? The little fairy clasped her hands and gazed in delight, but the artist did not seem satisfied. "He needs help!" she decided suddenly. And the next time the artist looked, leaning over the bridge, laughing at her reflection in the water, was Pear Blossom. Lighter than a breeze, misty as a rainbow, mischievous as a sunbeam. He scarcely dared breathe - his brush flew and just as he touched off the gauzy tips of her wings she vanished. "Had she ever been there?" The artist mopped his brow, but smiling out of his picture, the loveliest he had ever painted, was the fairy herself.

For many weeks Pear Blossom lived in the garden until the artist became so successful that she was no longer needed. Then she went away. Dejected, the herons stand in the little lake, seeming ever to be watching; anxiously the little Japanese lady gazes from her window, and I hope, for their sakes, that she will come again, for who has been visited by a fairy never never can be quite happy without her.



THE FORGETFUL POET The Forgetful Poet 
By Ruth Plumly Thompson 
Originally published in the Philadelphia Public Ledger, October 26, 1919.


Halloween Riddles

The Forgetful Poet met an old witch, and because he stirred her cauldron for her while she went to fetch some faggots she gave him a handful of nuts.

When he opened them he found each one contained a puzzle. There were six. See whether you can guess the answers.

Why is a corn ear like an army?

To what race must one belong to have one's palm truly read?

What pronoun will give a Halloween character?

Low, tab, act. These three words conceal three animals associated with the rites of the evening.

How does a pumpkin feel on Hallowe'en?

What goes out without moving?

The answers to last week's alphabet puzzles were: You and yew tree (u); and the fish in the verse was a pike. The words spelled by sound were:

Effiminate
Effendi
Sepia
Effuse
Excess
Devious
Expiate
Excise

[Answers next time.]


Copyright © 2012 Eric Shanower and David Maxine. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

HALDEMAN

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

Originally published in Uplifters Hymnal, 1915.


(Tune of "I'll Get You")

SOLO -
  We know a fellow who's one of us;
    He's generous - magnanimous;
  Loves to be merry; never's contrary;
    He's one of us - this genial cuss!
  Uplifting art's the stunt he loves best;
  He uplifts our hears with song and with jest;
  Makes us his comrades and calls us his friends
  As at our festive board he graciously unbends:

ALL THE UPLIFTERS -
    Hal-de-man! Hal-de-man!
  In his shirtsleeves, while at lunch,
  He leads in song or Uplift bunch -
    Oh, Hal-de-man! Excel him no one can!
  By all our clan he is called a man,
    Is Hal-de-man!

THEN, VERY SLOWLY -
    Hal-de-man! Hal-de-man!
  He loves girlies, he loves grub,
  (For otherwise he'd be a dub)
  And he loves beer, goodfellowship and cheer;
  He loves to shake for the good bones' sake
    Does Hal-de-man!

      II

SOLO -
  He's always cheery, he's always gay -
    That is his way - fun and fair play -
  Never gets dumpy, never is grumpy -
    That is his way, day after day!
  We've found this comrade faithful and true;
  Just give him a chance, the right thing he'll do;
  We love his faults, we'll his vurtues defend,
  For one a friend, a friends's a friend unto the end!

NOW - ALL TOGETHER -
    Hal-de-man! Hal-de-man!
  Happiness will with us tarry
  While we have our dear old Harry!
  Hal-de-man! Since fellowship began
  No bigger heart could uplift art
    Than Hal-de-man!

REPEAT SOFTLY -
    Hal-de-man! Hal-de-man!
  He loves girlies, he loves grub,
  (For otherwise he'd be a dub!)
  And he loves beer, goodfellowship and cheer;
  He loves to shake for the good bones' sake
    Does Hal-de-man!



THE FORGETFUL POET The Forgetful Poet 
By Ruth Plumly Thompson 
Originally published in the Philadelphia Public Ledger, October 19, 1919.


Alphabet Riddles

The forgetful poet says that shorthand is all very well, but that he has a method of spelling that is sound and short. He says that if you pronounce the letters just as he has written them you will guess the word they are intended to spell. But first can you guess this?

An alphabet person
  And also a tree -
They're both the same letter:
  "Oh, say, can you see?"
        (them, too?)


And now for some sound spelling. These words are familiar; see how many you recognize:

f-m-n-8
f-n-d
c-p-a
f-u-u-u-u
x-s
d-v-s
x-p-8
x-iiii

Last week's sentence was: I foresee a foray.

[Answers next time.]


Copyright © 2012 Eric Shanower and David Maxine. All rights reserved.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

THE APPLE PIE PRINCESS

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

Originally published in the Philadelphia Public Ledger, August 10, 1919.


Yes - it was lost, as lost could be!
  The Prince sat on his throne
With down-cast eyes and hollow sighs
  And many a mournful groan.
"Lost by the Prince of Pumperdink -
  One hearty appetite!"
The crier of the kingdom called
  The news both left and right.
The wise men and the kitchen boys
  The King and Queen and Lords
Seek out that missing appetite
  With telescope and swords;
Some hunt with custards - some with cake;
  Some with the humble prune;
Some try hot rolls in golden bowls;
  Some seek it with a spoon!
But one wee lass took apples three
  And wrought a magic pie -
And while the rest roamed far, she
  Straightway to the Prince doth hie.
He took one sniff - his appetite
  Returned,dears - with a bound!
And Princess of All Apple Pies
  The little lass was crowned.
He found his appetite - oh, yes -
  But pshaw - he lost his heart
And so he wed the little lass
  Who wrought the apple tart.
It makes me laugh to even think
  About the Prince of Pumperdink!



THE FORGETFUL POET The Forgetful Poet 
By Ruth Plumly Thompson 
Originally published in the Philadelphia Public Ledger, October 12, 1919.


Can you read this little sentence? I 4 c a 4 a.

The answers to last week's puzzles:

Pan.
Pandora.
Juno.
Moth is the fairy's miller.

[Answer next time.]


Copyright © 2012 Eric Shanower and David Maxine. All rights reserved.

Friday, June 1, 2012

SHE REMARKS EMPHATICALLY ON SOME TIMELY AND TRUTHFUL TOPICS

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

Originally published in the "Our Landlady" series of columns in the Aberdeen Saturday Pioneer, January 25, 1890.


"It beats all," said our landlady, as she threw down the plate of pancakes and wiped the turner on her apron, "it beats all how hard the times really is. There's no end to the sufferin', right here in our own neighborhood - excuse me, colonel, but your a butterin' of that cake the second time! Why, only yesterday a poor woman from the country was beggin' the grocery man to trust her for a pint o' kerosene, and he wouldn't let her have it. It made my heart bleed, that's what it did, and if any o' you boarders had a paid up lately I'd have gin it to her myself."

Here Tom looked rather red, and said hastily, "But, Mrs. Bilkins, she might have been an impostor."

"Nonsense," replied the landlady, moving the syrup out of the colonel's reach, "the country people hain't got a cent - nor the city ones neither for that matter! Even the hotels is economizing. Don't it look bad for Al. Ward to eat at the Sherman House and Jim Ringrose go sneakin' down to Ward's for lunch?"

"Mrs. Bilkins!" cried the colonel, "are you trying to starve us? Let me tell you, ma'am, that I for one won't be economized on. Fetch on the cakes!" The landlady darted a wicked look at him and retired to the kitchen.

"The times are bad," said the doctor, thoughtfully, as he removed the grounds from his coffee, "any one would think the prevailing epidemic would help my business, but it don't. Nine out of ten who declare they have la grippe are impostors, and the other one suffers tortures rather than pay for a prescription because he thinks the desease isn't fatal.

"That's false economy."

"Economy!" shrieked the landlady, reappearing with the hot cakes, "everybody's economizin'! What do you think o' Nat. Wendell's chewin' both ends of his toothpick, and Frank Beard blackin' of his own boots, an' Skip Salisbury refusin' to shake for the cigars, and Cholly Brockway's stayin' at Columbia three weeks rather than pay the fare home to see his girl? There's economy for you!"

The colonel picked his teeth with a ruminating air.

"If," said he, "I had any money, I too would economize. But it's impossible to economize on nothing."

"Why, gentlemen;" continued the landlady, sitting down across the arms of the baby's high chair, and waving the empty pancake plate with the air of a newly elected speaker to a brand new House, "why, see how the uncommon council is economizin'! Ain't they hired a lot o' poor men to plant sign posts in the snow, so as to keep them from starvin' and obligin' the city to bury 'em?

"Ain't they cut down poor Major Barrett's printing bill to $1700, when they might have gin him five thousand? And he such a nice, pleasant gentleman, too! I declare it's too aggravating. But economy must begin somewhere, and why not with the uncommon council - hey?"

But the boarders had quietly stolen away, and the landlady having wiped the mouth of the syrup jug with her finger, put it in her mouth (the finger, that is) and retired to the kitchen in a triumphant mood.



THE FORGETFUL POET The Forgetful Poet 
By Ruth Plumly Thompson 
Originally published in the Philadelphia Public Ledger, October 5, 1919.


The Puzzle Corner

The answers to last week's alphabet riddles were pea-p, tea-t, ewe-u, jay-j-, eye-i-, que-q-, bee-b-, ell-l-, sea-c-. The word IIIII was capitalized.

A Riddle or Two to Puzzle You

Here are some mythological puzzles for a change. Can you guess -

What god of the woods and fields is named by a humble cooking utensil?

The same utensil plus the entrance to a house and the first letter of the alphabet will give a mythological maiden who brought grief to the world through her curiosity.

A month and a letter of the alphabet will give another goddess.

Who is the fairies' miller?

[Answers next time.]


Copyright © 2012 Eric Shanower and David Maxine. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

THE TRIAL OF THE PROUD AND WICKED PAIR OF SHOES

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

Originally published in the Philadelphia Public Ledger, December 3, 1916.


Do you believe in goblins? Well, all we have to say is, "Look out!" Freddie didn't believe in them until - but, let's begin at the beginning.

Freddie was lying in his big bed in his big room, and he was bit restless because - well, because he had worn his fine new shoes all day and his feet hurt. He had just turned over with a big sigh, when up from the floor beneath his bed came the creepiest scuffle, scuffle, scrape, scuffle, followed by squeak, creak, shuffle, scuffle. I am a little ashamed of Freddie's first move; he ducked his head under the clothes and lay in a shivering heap, waiting for the THING to get him. But, nothing happened. The scraping continued, and finally he peeped out cautiously and saw รข€“ what do you suppose he saw? His two shoes, slipping, sliding and shuffling around the floor, without HIM. Hither and thither they ran, nosing under chairs and poking behind the door. Now, of course, this was exciting, but not very alarming; so Freddie peered from behind the covers to see what was going on.

After a mad scuffle around the room, they paused dejectedly, and, to Freddie's further amazement, began to converse. "No use," squeaked one, "there's not a place to hide." "Oh, we'll be caught," creaked the other.

"Hello," said Fred aloud. "I knew you fellows could pinch, but didn't know you could talk." At this, the shoes looked as alarmed as they could possibly look. But Right Shoe, quickly recovering itself, said, in a pert voice, "What do you suppose we have tongues for, stupid?" "Why, that's so," mused Freddie, "but you never talked to me." "No wonder," said Left Shoe, crossly, "you lace our tongues up all day, and could you talk with your tongue tied, blockhead?"

"Tongue tied! Well, I declare, I never thought of it!" said Freddie. But before Freddie had time to consider this remarkable statement a really scaresome thing happened. Right out of nowhere there suddenly sprang a terrible little brown goblin, with a red lantern, which he held high in the air until he spied the shoes.

The shoes rushed here, there - the goblin after them, shouting and gesticulating wildly. Freddie, stiff with fright, looked on. Round and round dashed the shoes. Round and round again; their tongues lolling out with exhaustion. Fast and furious pursued the Goblinman. Suddenly, with an exultant cry, he swung a long leather lariat around his head and zip, snap! It descended around the top of Left Shoe. "Now he'll come for me, " thought poor Freddie, and he shuddered and shook. But the Goblin grasped him neither by the throat nor the hair, but calmly proceeded to lash the shoes to a chair.

He seemed entirely make of leather, and he had leather wings and a terrible shock of hair, which Freddie discovered later was thick bunch of shoestrings. Now he sprang into the air and clapped his hands. Then in the door and window swarmed hundreds of Goblins like himself. They all bowed low before the little red lantern man. From that, I should judge he was a king or something, shouldn't you?

The Goblins squatted in a ring around the shoes. Now arose the king and said in a leathery voice: "Fellow Leather Gnomes! We have here for trial a pair of criminal shoes, violators of all the rules of Shoedom. Let the trial proceed!" Right Shoe was untied and dragged forward and a Goblin with a leather book pointed a long finger at him, shouting, "What are shoes made for?" Right Shoe shuffled uneasily and replied, "To wear." "Wrong!" shouted the little man, dancing up and down. "They are made to protect our very good friends, the feet!"

Left Shoe was dragged forward. "What is the first duty of a self-respecting shoe?" questioned the little man. "To look well on the foot," said Left Shoe, with a smirk. "Wrong!" screamed the lawyer Goblin (he was a lawyer, you know). "The first duty of a shoe to its foot is comfort; look are a secondary consideration. Examine these shoes and see if COMFORT is in them." Then two policemen Goblins rushed forward and, hopping into the shoes, searched long and diligently, and finally each emerged with an ugly little yellow creature. "Ha, ha!" exclaimed the lawyer triumphantly. "Se you sent COMFORT off and took in Pride!" The shoes hung their tops and muttered, "Comfort just naturally got out when Pride got in. We couldn't help it!" "Call the first witness," said the lawyer.

Here something happened which I hesitate to relate. Freddie suddenly felt his right foot tug and jerk, and, horrors! the next thing he knew it had pulled away and hopped to the floor. It must have been a terrible sensation, but as my feet have never taken such liberties, I will not pretend to tell you how it felt.

Right Foot briskly hurried into the center of the ring and pointing a stern toe at Right Shoe said: "I accuse the prisoner of barbarous treatment, which charge I stand ready to prove. By your stiffness you have bruised my toes," continued the foot sternly; "by your narrowness you have cramped and wrinkled my sole; by your shortness you have bent my nails and turned them inward and rubbed my heels in blisters. Furthermore, my toes have had no room to grow and have been unmercifully twisted and bent by your accomplice, Pride."

Now two doctor Goblins stepped forward and examined Right Foot, shaking their heads importantly and said, "It is all too true, your Honorable Court, just as the witness has stated." "What have you to say for yourself?" questioned the lawyer of Right Shoe. "I have always made a good appearance," snuffled Right Shoe dejectedly. Here there arose such an outcry that Fred thought his shoe would be lynched on the spot.

But finally the excitement subsided and Left Foot took the stand. "Call witness number two," said the lawyer Goblin. At this, Right Shoe quickly bade his friends adieu and hopped back to his appointed place, because there's no telling what would happen if both feet were off duty at the same time. Then Left Foot broke loose and hopped into the ring, making similar charges against Left Shoe. "What have you to say for yourself?" questioned the lawyer. "How could you expect a left shoe to be right?" he answered sullenly. Here again arose a great hubbub. They were discussing a punishment to fit the crime of the criminal shoes.

After much consulting and arguing, the king arose, and turning to the shoes, said: "I can think of no more just punishment for your willful cruelty that a five years' term on the stretchers. Inasmuch as you have pinched, you deserve to suffer; and as we cannot pinch you, we will stretch you."

Now a little Goblin who had been perched on the window ledge waved his arms excitedly, crying: "Hurry up! Here comes the Sun." The king blew out his lantern and gave a quick command. Whir-r, whiz-z, went a hundred leather wings, and out flew the whole company of goblins. The last Freddie saw of his shoes, twenty-five goblins were astride each one, as they careened fantastically through the air. Perhaps you wonder how Freddie could have ever gone to sleep again, but, dear me, boys can sleep after anything.

When he did finally awaken, he looked around the room in bewilderment, for everything was twisted. His shoes were nowhere to be seen, for, of course, the goblins had carried them off. And YOU'D best be careful and wear comfortable shoes, else the goblins'll get your shoes and you, too, maybe!



THE FORGETFUL POET The Forgetful Poet 
By Ruth Plumly Thompson 
Originally published in the Philadelphia Public Ledger, September 28, 1919.


Perplexing Puzzles

The answers to last week's puzzles were:

Bed
Potatoes
Clock
Hammer
Boat

The Forgetful Poet sent us some alphabetical riddles this week. I wonder if you know your A, B, C's.

One letter we eat,
 And one letter we drink,
One letter's a lamb,
 There's a bird, too, I think!

One letter we look through,
 And one is a word
Describing a Chinaman's
 ______, absurd!

One has a sting,
 This you'll guess without fail,
One's used for long measure,
 Another we sail.
And what word is this: IIIIIII?

[Answers next time.]


Copyright © 2012 Eric Shanower and David Maxine. All rights reserved.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

THE TRAMP DOG AND THE MONARCH'S LOST TEMPER

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

Originally published in The Magical Monarch of Mo, 1903.


One day the Monarch of Mo, having nothing better to do, resolved to go hunting blackberries among the bushes that grew at the foot of the mountains.

So he put on an old crown that would not get tarnished if it rained, and, having found a tin pail in the pantry, started off without telling anyone where he was going.

For some distance the path was a nice, smooth taffy, that was very agreeable to walk on, but as he got nearer the mountains the ground became gravelly, the stones being gumdrops and fragments of rock candy; so that his boots, which had been a little green when he picked them, began to hurt his feet.

But the King was not easily discouraged and kept on until he found the blackberry bushes, when he immediately began to fill his pail. The berries were remarkably big and sweet.

While thus occupied he heard a sound of footsteps coming down the mountainside, and presently a little dog ran out from the bushes and trotted up to him.

Now there were no dogs at all in Mo, and the King had never seen a creature like this before. Therefore he was greatly surprised, and said, "What are you, and where do you come from?"

The dog also was surprised at this question, and looked suspiciously at the King's tin pail. Many times wicked boys had tied such a pail to the end of his tail. In fact, that was the reason he had run away from home and found his way, by accident, to the Valley of Mo.

"My name is Prince," replied the dog gravely, "and I have come from a country beyond the mountains and the desert."

"Indeed! Are you in truth a prince?" exclaimed the Monarch. "Then you will be welcome in my kingdom, where we always treat nobility with proper respect. But why do you have four feet?"

"Because six would be too many," replied the dog.

"But I have only two," said the King.

"I am sorry," said the dog, who was something of a wag, "because where I come from it is more fashionable to walk on four feet."

"I like to be in the fashion," remarked the King thoughtfully, "but what am I to do, having only two legs?"

"Why, I suppose you could walk on your hands and feet," returned the dog with a laugh.

"So I will," said the King, being pleased with the idea; "and you shall come to the palace with me and teach me all the fashions of the country whence you came."

The King got down on his hands and knees, and was delighted to find he could get along in this way very nicely.

"How am I to carry my pail?" he asked.

"In your mouth, of course," replied the dog.

This suggestion seemed a happy one. The King took the pail in his mouth and they started back toward the palace. But when His Majesty came to the gumdrops and rock candy they hurt his hands and knees, so that he groaned aloud. But the dog only laughed. Finally they reached a place where it was quite muddy. Of course the mud was only jelly, but it hadn't dried up since the last rain. The dog jumped over the place nimbly enough, but when the King tried to do likewise he failed, and came down into the jelly with both hands and knees, and stuck fast.

Now the Monarch had a very good temper, which he carried in his vest pocket, but as he passed over the gum-drop pebbles on his hands and knees this temper dropped out of his pocket and, having lost it, he became very angry at the dog for getting him into such a scrape.

So he began to scold, and when he opened his mouth the pail dropped out and the berries were all spilled. This made the dog laugh more than ever, at which the King pulled himself out of the jelly, jumped to his feet and began to chase the dog as fast as he could. Finally the dog climbed a tall tree where the King could not reach him, and when safe among the branches he looked down and said, "See how foolish a man becomes who tries to be in fashion rather than live as nature intended he should! You can no more be a dog than I can be a king, so hereafter, if you are wise, you will be content to walk on two legs."

"There is much truth in what you say," replied the Monarch of Mo. "Come with me to the palace, and you shall be forgiven. Indeed, we shall have a fine feast in honor of your arrival."

So the dog climbed down from the tree and followed the King to the palace, where all the courtiers were astonished to see so queer an animal, and made a great favorite of him.

After dinner the King invited the dog to take a walk around the grounds of the royal mansion, and they started out merrily enough. But the King's boots had begun to hurt him again; for, as they did not fit, being picked green, they had rubbed his toes until he had corns on them. So when they reached the porch in front of the palace the King asked, "My friend, what is good for corns?"

"Tight boots," replied the dog, laughing, "but they are not very good for your feet."

Now the King, not yet having found his lost temper, became exceedingly angry at this poor jest; so he rushed at the dog and gave it a tremendous kick.

Up into the air like a ball flew the dog, while the King, having hurt his toe by the kick, sat down on the doorstep and nursed his foot while he watched the dog go farther and farther up, until it seemed like a tiny speck against the blue of the sky.

"I must have kicked harder than I thought," said the King ruefully. "There he goes, out of sight, and I shall never see him again!"

He now limped away into the back garden, where he picked a new pair of boots that would not hurt his feet, and while he was gone the dog began to fall down again. Of course he fell faster than he went up, and finally landed with a crash exactly on the King's doorstep. But so great was the force of the fall and so hard the doorstep that the poor dog was flattened out like a pancake, and could not move a bit.

When the King came back he said, "Hullo! Some kind friend has brought me a new door mat as a present."

He leaned down and stroked the soft hair with much pleasure. Then he wiped his feet on the new mat and went into the palace to tell the Queen.

When Her Majesty saw the nice soft door mat she declared it was too good to be left outside, so she brought it into the parlor and put it on the floor before the fireplace.

The good King was sorry he had treated the dog so harshly, and for fear he might do some other dreadful thing he went back to the place where he had lost his temper and searched until he found it again, when he put it carefully away in his pocket where it would stay.

Then he returned to the palace and entered the parlor, but as he passed the mat, his new boots were so clumsy he stumbled against the edge and pushed the mat together into a roll.

Immediately the dog gave a bark, got up on its legs and said, "Well, this is better! Now I can breathe again. While I was so flat I could not draw a single breath."

The Monarch and his Queen were much surprised to find that what they had taken for a mat was only the dog that had fallen so flat on their doorstep, but they could not forbear laughing at his queer appearance. For, as the King had kicked the mat on the edge, the dog was more than six feet long, and no bigger around than a lead pencil, which brought its front legs so far from its rear legs that it could scarcely turn around in the room without getting tangled up.

"But it is better than being a door mat," said the dog, and the King and Queen agreed with him in this.

Then the King went away to tell the people he had found the dog again, and when he left the palace he slammed the front door behind him. The dog had started to follow the King out, so when the front door slammed it hit the poor animal so sharp a blow on the nose that it pushed his body together again; and, lo and behold! there was the dog in his natural shape, just as he was before the King kicked him.

After this the dog and the King agreed very well, for the King was careful not to kick, since he had recovered his temper, and the dog took care not to say anything that would provoke the King to anger.

And one day the dog saved the kingdom and all the Valley of Mo from destruction, as I shall tell you another time
.



THE FORGETFUL POET The Forgetful Poet 
By Ruth Plumly Thompson 
Originally published in the Philadelphia Public Ledger, September 21, 1919.


Rhyming Riddles

Get out your puzzle-guessers and see if you can tell--

What has four legs, yet cannot walk;
One foot besides a head?
If I should finish out this rhyme--
I'd say it was a _____!

What grows in the ground,
And has many eyes,
Yet nary a bit can they see?
We have them for dinner
Most every night, now--
What in the world can they be?

And what has two hands
And a jolly found face
That tells us when we shall go every place?
It runs all the time,
And yet runs standing still,
And works for us all with
A jolly good will.

What has a head,
Yet never uses it?
Indeed I think it
Quite abuses it.
It drives, but
Does not drive a horse--
If I'd tell you what
You'd guess, of course,
For it takes a ___
To drive a ___,
And what it drives
Will rhyme with pail!

The first letter's B,
The last letter's T;
There are two in the middle
And the whole sails the sea!

Answers to the Forgetful Poet's Verses about wars two weeks ago:
Roses.
Civil.

[Answers next time.]


Copyright © 2012 Eric Shanower and David Maxine. All rights reserved.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

STORY OF A TREE

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

Originally published in the Philadelphia Public Ledger, November 28, 1920.


It had been one of the tallest trees in the forest, and the proudest! But now! The great scarred trunk--all that was left of the mighty forest hero--shivered with disgust and looked unhappily at the green pine tree across the road. How it envied her--standing securely behind the fence of the small city garden.

She would not be cut down and shorn of her green branches and carried far from her native ground. She made him think of the tall pine trees that had stood beside him in the deep forest on the mountain side. Dimly he could see the waving tops of his old comrades. They had not carried him too far for that, fortunately.

He still felt dizzy and flurried from his experiences, and paid no attention to the buzzing that seemed continually going on over his head.

Perhaps the little pine tree sensed his feeling of strangeness, for, waiting until the street was deserted, she called across:

"Hello, Mr. Tree; so you are the new telegraph pole! My, how tall you are!"

"Don't call me a tree," sighed the tree trunk; "I'm nothing but a great piece of wood, with all the life gone!"

"Oh, no you're not," smiled the little tree wisely; "you've only lost your leaves and branches and you're used to going without leaves in winter anyway. Really, now, you're quite handsome, so white and straight!"

"Am I?" said the pole slowly. "But what is all this cross-work and wires overhead and this buzzing?"

"Why, you don't even know what you are, you important person!" chuckled the little tree, and began laughing softly to herself. Just then a whole company of boys and girls came running down the street, and the conversation stopped. But the big tree began to think of the little tree's words. That surely was so about his being used to going without leaves; perhaps there was still something for him to do after all. He puzzled over it a long time. Without branches, he was of no use to the birds, and without branches he cast not a mite of shadow, so what use was he? He had heard the old trees in the forest talk of the time when they should be used for building; but here he was stuck straight up in the air; surely he was not a building! He must talk some more to that little tree across the way.

That evening, when the street was dark and quiet, he called across to the pine tree, and pretty soon he was telling her all about his life on the mountain side, of the great storms and winds that swept over them, of the forest animals and birds and of all his comrades in leaves.

"Very fine," agreed the little pine tree, "but you are much more useful now. How I envy you, for I never could be tall enough to do your work nor play so big a part in the affairs of the world."

"What do you mean?" asked the pole again.

"That you are one of the sentinels of the earth on guard always, standing ready to send the messages of men flying from one end of the world to the other. That buzzing you hear above are the words of men that you help to send flying through space telling the East what is happening in the West and the West what is happening in the East, ready to spread an alarm in time of danger and carry good news to those who wait. Listen!"

The tall pole thrilled with excitement and tried to guess what each tremor over the wires meant, and it was not long before he could read those flying taps as well as the men who sent them, and how he and the little pine tree would rejoice when the news was good and how solemn and sorry they were when the news was bad.

So interested was the great tree that it forgot it was unhappy, and when it thought of the long, long ranks of telegraph poles standing guard from one end of the country to the other, a thrill of pride made it straighten up as tall as it could. And it never tired nor grew weary. "This," thought the tree, "is life!"

One day from the far-away mountainside, a great column of smoke rose and a hot, dry smell drifted into the little valley town.

"Oh!" groaned the pole, "my comrades are doomed; see, it is a fire on the mountainside! What shall I do! What shall I do!"

"Wait," cried the little tree breathlessly. "What you have seen surely will be seen by others; get ready, for the message will come. Call to your comrade below that there will be a rush call in a moment, and bid him pass along the word."

Scarcely had the little tree ceased speaking before the message for help flashed along the wires. How quickly those gallant sentinels tossed it along the line, and how quickly the response from the valley came. The battle with the flames was fought and won, and the tall pole, watching the smoke die away, felt so happy that he could hardly keep from running across the street to embrace the little pine tree. The forest was saved and his friends--and he had helped.


What a wonderful life mine is!" he sighed happily. "And so is every life of service."

THE FORGETFUL POET The Forgetful Poet 
By Ruth Plumly Thompson 
Originally published in the Philadelphia Public Ledger, September 7, 1919.


For the Riddle Bugs

First and foremost you'll want the answers to last week's riddles. Well, here they are: foothills, millwheel, Sir Launfal, Shylock and buzz-saw.

Here are some of the Forgetful Poet's new riddles assorted. Serious, worse and otherwise.

What Wars?

Some well-loved flowers
Name a war
Fought in England
Long ago.
A word that means polite
Will give
Another war you know,
    (Or ought to.)
And after you've unriddled that
Tell why an ant is like a rat?
     And
It does not shut
 And yet it is a gate,
And everybody has one
 Let me state.
    (Even you!)
[Answers next time.]


Copyright © 2012 Eric Shanower and David Maxine. All rights reserved.