By L. Frank Baum
Author of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, The Boy Fortune Hunters in the Yucatan,
Originally published in A Child’s Garden, August and September 1925.
“I cannot understand how this furniture gets in such disorder every time I go shopping,” said Mrs. Blandford, severely. “I do wish, Joslyn Stanton Blandford, you would be more careful and less mischievous.”
Joslyn looked at his mother with round, grave eyes. He knew that when she called him “Joslyn Stanton” she was quite provoked, and it grieved him to be so misjudged. <br><br>
“It was the same way when I was at the matinee the other day,” she continued. “Everything topsy turvy and out of place when I came home. How in the world do you manage to do it, Joslyn Stanton Blandford?”
“I don’t, Mama,” said Joslyn, softly. “I haven’t been into the living room while you were away.”
“Don’t tell me that!” exclaimed Mrs. Blandford, irritably. “Do you want me to believe the furniture joggles itself out of place?” Joslyn was silent. He could not explain the disorder in the living room, for he knew nothing about it.
“I shall ask your father to talk to you,” said his mother, removing her wraps. “I can understand boys getting into mischief; but it horrifies me, Joslyn, to find you so obstinate and sullen and daring to deny you are to blame. Why don’t you own up to it, in a manly way?”
“I didn’t do it, Mama!” was all the little boy could say; and then he ran away to his own room and cried, for this was a sad homecoming after waiting so long for his dear mother to return from her shopping expedition. He had been all the afternoon in his play room, cutting pictures of figures out of magazines and fitting clothes to them, and except that he had run frequently to the hall window to see if mama was coming, he hand not left this room once while she had been gone. Yes; once he had asked Suzanne for a glass of water; but that was all.
Suzanne had been in the kitchen ironing her aprons, or doing other work. She was an unsociable maid and did not like children very well, so Joslyn seldom bothered her, even when he was left alone.
Mrs. Blandford was not usually so cross with her little son. She had had a trying day, vainly endeavoring to match some dress goods, and so her temper was rather irritable when she returned home. A glance into the big living room had shown her that her carefully arranged furniture was considerably out of place. Even the piano had been moved out and stood with one end against the wall and the other far away. The table cover was wrinkled and half off and one of the china shepherdesses on the mantel was so near the edge it was a wonder it had not fallen and smashed to pieces.
She knew she had left the room in perfect condition when she went away, for she was a careful housekeeper; so only Joslyn, she thought, could be to blame for the disorder.
After a little her mother’s heart reproached her for being so severe with her only child and she went to his room and tried to get him to admit his fault. But the boy was really sullen now, resenting the fact that his word had been doubted, so it was a hapless hour for both mother and son before the father and husband came home to dinner.
Mr. Blandford was a jovial man and very fond of his family. When he asked what was the matter with Joslyn, his wife, despite her threat, refrained from telling him how bad his boy had been. Joslyn ate little and was silent and very still, but he went to bed soon after dinner and forgot all his troubles in sleep, as a boy will.
Next morning only a recollection of his unhappiness remained to disturb him and he was almost his old self again by the time breakfast was over. Nor did Mrs. Blandford refer to the affair again until after luncheon, when Joslyn saw her putting on her things
“Are you going out again, Mama?” he asked.
“Yes, dear; our bridge club meets at Mrs. Boothe’s this afternoon,” she replied. Then she bent down to kiss him and added: “Be a good boy, Joslyn, and don’t get boisterous. I don’t want to find the house in the condition I did yesterday. If you need anything, go to Suzanne. She will be in her room mending.”
Then, as the boy stood silent, with a little frown upon his brow, she walked into the hall and drew together the sliding doors that shut off the living room--almost together, that is, for these doors would never come quite together, for some reason. She next pulled the heavy drapery across the rod above the door, as an additional barrier to the room.
Joslyn watched her, and so did the cat--a lean, sleek yellow animal that had come uninvited to the house several days before and had been adopted by Joslyn at once. Mrs. Blandford did not tell her little son not to enter the living room while she was gone, but he gathered a hint as to her wishes when she tried to close the sliding doors and afterwards drew the drapery over them.
When she had gone Joslyn still stood in the hall. The cat had curled herself up under the table and pretended to be asleep. She was not a sociable companion, and although the boy had taken her into his house and fed her liberally the lean yellow creature would not play with him, but stole through the rooms like a shadow and devoted herself only to her own comfort.
Joslyn went into his play room across the hall and sat down upon the floor to cut out pictures. Then he began to wonder how the furniture in the big living room could have become so disordered two separate times without anyone having entered the place while his mother was away. He had himself been accused, yet he knew very well he was innocent. Suzanne seldom came into that part of the house. Who, then, could have been the mischief-maker?--unless it was the cat.
He glanced up and found he could see through his open door across the dim hall to where the cat lay curled up asleep. No; so small a creature could not possibly have moved all the furniture. Had not mama complained that even the big piano had been dragged out of place?
Had she stopped to think, she might have known even Joslyn could not do that. But as he looked thoughtfully into the hall he saw the cat slowly arise, glance around her, and then stealthily creep behind the drapery that shut off the living room. So slyly had she moved that not a sound was heard; but he could see the curtain wave gently as she crawled behind it to the opening between the partly closed doors.
The boy was now curious, and on hands and knees he crept forward as softly as possible and crossed the hall to the thick drapery. He crawled behind it as the cat had done and then found that the sliding doors had been left several inches apart. So he sat down, with the drapery at his back and his eyes commanding all the interior of the room, and looked to see what was going on.
The cat had lain down upon a rug and curled herself up again, but her eyes were not closed in sleep. Instead, they gazed steadily at the mantel where vases and ornaments stood on either side the pretty French clock.
Something in the animal’s attitude made Joslyn decide to remain, half hidden as he was, and watch her. It was a long wait, and once or twice he was tempted to abandon his post. But finally the clock struck two, and then his patience was amply rewarded.
Instantly the cat arose and said in a clear, distinct voice: “Two o’clock! It’s time for our frolic, friends--the third and last one we shall be able to enjoy.”
Joslyn’s heart nearly stopped beating, he was so amazed to hear a cat talk; and then it began to throb with excitement, for one of the dainty Dresden shepherdesses on the mantel leaned forward, losing all its china stiffness, and replied to the cat’s speech.
“The last time, you say? Why is that?” she asked.
“Because my visit here ends today and I must journey on to other places,” was the answer.
A taboret came trotting on its four legs from a corner and awkwardly approached the yellow cat. Joslyn thought he could see a comical face faintly out-lined on the side of the taboret, although he had never noticed it before.
“Why don’t you tell us your story?” asked the little thing, in a squeaky voice.
“Why should you wish to hear it?” replied the cat.
“You’ve brought us to life and given us some good times--which we never enjoyed before since we were made,” said the taboret. “So we’d like to know who our good friend is.”
“Moreover,” added the shepherdess, who was now sitting on the edge of the mantle shelf and slowly swinging her feet, “if this is the last time we shall ever be able to move, we will have ages in which to think over these adventures, and your story will give us one more thing to think about.”
The cat made a queer purring sound that Joslyn thought was meant for a laugh.
“Very well,” it said, quietly; “I will tell you who I am and why I am here. Also I will tell you why I have given you these hours of frolic and play.”
“Wait a minute! wait a minute!” cried several shrill little voices, and to Joslyn’s astonishment all the pieces of furniture began to move away from their places and prance into the center of the room, where they surrounded the cat in an interested group.
“Wait for me, too!” called a voice more deep-toned than the others, and the big piano bent its carved legs and began stalking from the wall to-ward the cat.
“Keep away!” screamed a delicate Chippendale table; “you’ll crush me with your big body.”
“Stay back, awkward!” cried a carved mahogany chair; “do you intend to crowd all the rest of us away?”
“Can’t you hear plainly from where you are?” enquired the second Dresden shepherdess, who had now stepped forward and was leaning gracefully against a big Venetian vase on the mantel.
The piano stopped half way, and its castors gave a groan.
“I’m the most important article in this room,” it said indignantly, “and I must say I consider your remarks very disrespectful.”
“Say whatever you please; we don’t care, as long as you keep your distance,” retorted papa’s reading chair, sliding a little nearer the cat.
“Tut-tut, friends!” called a picture of an old gentleman in a hunting coat, which hung on the wall. “Don’t quarrel, for goodness’ sake. Let us enjoy these moments of freedom while we may.”
“That’s right; you’re spoiling all the fun,” added a Chinese Mandarin, bobbing his head back and forth from his perch on the music cabinet.
The chatter ceased at this rebuke and the cat rubbed its nose softly with one paw and said:
“Of course you know I was born a fairy”; he paused as the furniture, the picture and all listened breathless. “Of course, you know, I was born a fairy. Otherwise I could not have brought you to life. I am of a race of immortals called ryls, whose duty it is to paint the colors on the blossoming flowers. I am the Yellow Ryl, and carry a paint-pot full of yellow to color the buttercups and marigolds and other flowers when they appear upon their plants. It is a pleasant task, and I have enjoyed it for thousands of years. But our king, the White Ryl, is a very touchy and sensitive fellow, and because he thought I answered him impudently one day he resolved to punish me. So he gave me this form of a cat--a creature I always disliked--and commanded me to wander through the world for a year and a day. If I do no mischief in that time I am to be restored to my former condition.” Thus spoke the cat.
“Well, friends, you’ve no idea how hard it is to keep out of mischief for a year and a day especially when one has the shape of such an insignificant animal. I dare not let the stupid human creatures know I am anything more than I appear to be--a wandering, mongrel yellow cat, to be cuffed and kicked by all it meets--so there are few opportunities for enjoyment unless I occasionally exercise my fairy powers. In this house, where I am able to make but a brief stay, I found this room was often left alone for hours together; so I conceived the idea of bringing the furniture and other things here to life, and having a jolly romp with them whien no one was around. My king cannot say this is mischief, for it does no harm to anyone. It is a great relief to me to get away from the matter-of-fact, simple life in which I am now placed, and to watch your absurd antics.”
“Absurd!” cried the taboret.
“Yes; you are all absurd except the two pretty shepherdesses and the pictures,” insisted the cat. “But you are none the less amusing on that account.”
“Your king was right to call you impertinent,” declared the piano, in a discordant key, “I have often heard Mrs. Blandford say I was the finest piano she ever knew, and I am certainly high-toned and aristocratic, Therefore I cannot be absurd.”
‘“I,” said the mandarin, nodding briskly, “represent a high official of the Chinese Empire. There is nothing absurd about me,” and he continued to bob his head emphatically.
“Solid mahogany is always respectable,” said the center table, gravely. “Only a disgraced yellow cat would dare call me absurd.”
“Keep it up, you blockheads,” remarked the old gentleman in the picture, carefully arranging a painted flower in his buttonhole. “Keep it up, and waste, in useless argument, the only hour in which you can ever hope to be alive. Then you will be sorry forever afterward.”
There was a sudden hush at this, and the cat arose and stretched itself with a yawn.
“We will have a dance,” it announced. “Come down, Phoebe, dear, and play the piano.”
“Very well,” replied one of the shepherdesses.
Then the mahogany chair rolled up to the mantel and the center table came and stood beside it. The high back of the chair almost reached to the shelf of the mantel, so Phoebe, the shepherdess, stepped upon the back of the chair, then down to the table, and afterward, by putting a foot upon the arm of the chair and seat, she managed to reach the floor, where she arranged her dainty skirts and bowed to the company.
“Come along. Daphne!” called the cat, and the second shepherdess followed the first and stood beside her.
Phoebe went to the piano and one of the chairs reached out its arms and perched the pretty shepherdess upon the piano stool, where she began running her fingers over the ivory keys.
“Won’t the human people hear the noise?” asked the taboret.
“No,” replied the cat; “not a sound we make can be heard outside this room That is part of my fairy charm. Take four partners, everybody, and dance your best. Daphne, you will waltz with me.”
“I am willing,” answered the second shepherdess.
Joslyn, whose head was now pushed between the sliding doors while his body remained outside, could hear probably because he was in a dim and shadowy position. The boy was so interested in the scene being enacted that he had forgotten all about himself and so no longer felt astonishment at what he beheld.
Phoebe played the piano very well and the merry tune was quite inspiriting. The cat and Daphne first waltzed away together and encircled the big room with movements of considerable grace. They were followed by the mahogany chair and a slender-legged arm chair, and then the taboret waltzed with the music cabinet--which obliged the mandarin to cling on for dear life--and a rocking chair slid around with a magazine rack for a partner. Soon all the furniture in the room had paired and was waltzing gaily--except the center table, which was so big and broad it waltzed alone. The table’s legs were very nimble, however, and as it tipped this way and that the books mama had so carefully arranged upon it tumbled to the floor and began dancing by themselves.
Finally the center table stepped on the cat’s tail, and with a howl of pain the yellow animal turned angrily and pushed the table over, so that it fell with a clatter upon its side. At this Phoebe ended the tune and everything stopped waltzing to take a rest. A couple of chairs raised the table to its feet with their arms, and the accident did not seem to spoil the general good nature at all, although the cat licked its tail tenderly as it it still hurt.
“That was fine!” laughed the center table, fanning itself with its embroidered cover.
“The most fun I ever had!” gurgled the taboret, taking another step or two to show it was not tired.
“I think I’d like a waltz with pretty Daphne,” called the old gentleman from his picture.
“But you are only painted from the knees up,” said the cat, looking at him critically.
“Never mind; half a leg is better than none at all,” answered the gentleman. So the high-backed chair moved up to the wall and the old man stepped out of his picture and reached the floor safely. He wore a red hunting coat and white broadcloth breeches and his face had a genial and kindly expression.
“Pray be good enough to favor me with a waltz, fair shepherdess,” said he, bowing to Daphne. As he half turned around Joslyn saw he was just as thin edgewise as the cloth he was painted upon; but from the front he looked very natural, except that his legs were cut off at the knees.
“Wait a minute!” cried the mandarin, rising from his usual sitting position, “I’m going to waltz with Phoebe.”
“Phoebe has to play the piano,” said the old gentleman.
“Cannot anyone else play it?” asked the mandarin, anxiously.
“No one else has fingers, except Daphne, and I have chosen Daphne for my partner,” was the reply.
“I’ll play the piano,” announced the cat, going to the instrument and springing upon the stool in a single bound.
So the mandarin came down from the music cabinet to waltz with Phoebe, and the cat began playing a tune that was lively and inspiring. The old gentleman whirled away with Daphne and the mandarin danced fairly well with Phoebe. In a few moments all the pieces of furniture joined in the romp and the noise and clatter were so great that Joslyn was amazed because Suzanne did not hear it and come rushing in.
While the frolic and fun was at its height the clock on the mantel suddenly began to strike. At the first stroke the scene changed with marvelous abruptness. The furniture slid and scrambled back into the places where it belonged--or almost into place--the mandarin sprang to his perch on the cabinet and the books hopped upon the table and lay down. The mahogany chair and the table first ran to the mantel, where the two china shepherdesses used them to climb to the shelf, and then they hurried to take their own places.
So swift was the action of all the contents of the room that by the time the clock had deliberately struck three, something like order had taken the place of disorder and all movement had ceased. But Joslyn saw with a feeling of dismay, that to mama’s eyes the living room would be found more disarranged than it had been yesterday, and he dreaded another scolding.
While the cat sat upon the rug calmly washing its face with its paws, the boy arose and walked boldly into the room.
“See here, you Yellow Ryl, or whatever you are,” he said, “I want you to make these things get back where they belong. It’s all right to have fun, and I don’t blame you for that, but you will be making mischief if you get me into trouble, and I’ll be scolded for this disorder unless you fix things up.”
The cat looked at him steadily, but made no reply.
“Oh, I know all about you,” continued Joslyn, “for I saw and heard everything you said and did. But I won’t tell, honest, if you’ll put the furniture back where it belongs. Mama doesn’t know ’bout fairies and she’ll surely think I’m to blame if she finds things scattered ’round this way.”
The cat gazed observantly around the room. The piano, being a clumsy thing at best, was not at all in its place, nor were many of the other pieces of furniture. The old gentleman had jumped into his picture so carelessly that the frame had been joggled and now hung crooked on the wall. The shepherdesses were standing with their backs to the room and the table cover was half off again.
Perhaps the Yellow Ryl realized the boy was justified in making his complaint, and perhaps it feared its king, the White Ryl, might consider this romp in the nature of mischief-making. Anyway, after its inspection of the room the cat slowly waved one paw--and with a slight rustling sound everything was changed.
Even mama’s sharp eyes would not find anything wrong now, Joslyn joyfully acknowledged, and he turned to look at the cat again.
But the strange yellow animal had slipped away and was gone; nor did the boy ever see the creature again.
THE FORGETFUL POET
By Ruth Plumly Thompson
Originally published in the Philadelphia Public Ledger, April 18, 1920.
Originally published in the Philadelphia Public Ledger, April 18, 1920.
The Forgetful Poet says that most of you got your desserts and the missing ones were preserves, fruits, tart, jumble, brown betty, pie and jelly.
All of his missing words this week, he says, are terms of the great American game of ------ ------?
Behold—the air is full of -----.
I hear the ----- of wings,
And as they fly high in the sky
I think of many things.
One night as I sat down to chat
With friends, in flew a noisome -----.
I seized a towel to chase it out
And broke the water -----’s snout,
Also a teacup and a vase,
And knocked a statue off its -----.
“Be careful!” all my friends did -----,
And straightway scurried through the hall.
[Answers next time.]
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