Friday, January 15, 2016


By Ruth Plumly Thompson
Author of The Wishing Horse of Oz, Ozoplaning with the Wizard of Oz, The Wish Express, "King, King! Double King!" etc.
Originally published in the Philadelphia Public Ledger, May 26, 1918.

In the Clef Kingdom, just two rests and a pause beyond the Scale Domain, lives the singing monarch.

And in all the countries you have ever been, never was there a merrier fellow than he—nor a queerer one!

At the gates of his kingdom stands a shepherd who watches alike the king’s flocks and the king’s highway, letting no man enter there without passing the test.

No sooner does a stranger appear than the shepherd strikes his tuning-fork upon the golden gate and bids the stranger match it with his voice.

And if the voice be flat or sharp, too loud or too harsh, the shepherd shakes his head and the stranger is not admitted, for the man or maid whose voice is not pleasant to the ear has no place in the Clef Kingdom.

Only the sweet and gentle voiced may enter. But once inside the golden gates—how delightful! What singing and dancing and merry-making, and stranger still, no gold is needed there—no gold at all.

If you want aught, you sing for it, and the finest dinners and silk coats may be had for a song.

And constant singing has so affected the merry folk that they are happy all the time and ready to dance at the slightest provocation.

The King himself goes singing and tip-toeing about with the broadest smile in the world, always listening for new notes and always followed by the court fiddlers.

And the only crimes punishable in this strange land are the following; Hoarseness, scolding, loud talking and sadness.

And who has committed one of the first three must keep silent and speak no word for a month, and whoever persists in sadness is banished for a year. So no wonder there is naught to hear but pleasantness and that the merry folk take such care not to catch cold.

Imagine being punished for having a cold, dears and ducks! Could you hold your tongues for a month? Not for a minute, I’ll wager.

But after all, this is no story. One day there came to the gates a Princess riding upon a white mare. The shepherd struck his tuning-fork upon the gold bars and asked her sing, but the Princess shook her head. Now it chanced that the King happened to be standing there behind the shepherd, and so beautiful was the Princess, so sweet and so fair that his royal heart pounded against his ribs. He bowed low and begged her to comply with the slight formality and enter his kingdom and test its hospitality.

The Princess again shook her head, and the King, beside himself with anxiety lest he never see her again, was about to fling wide the gates, when the chief and royalist prime minister stepped forward and whispered long and earnestly in his majesty’s ear.

The King motioned for the Princess to excuse him and hurrying back to his castle summoned all the wise men in the realm to his assistance. For it was very clear that if the law be set aside and the maiden admitted without the tests, then must all other strangers also be admitted. The King shuddered at the thought of his pleasant kingdom invaded by loud and nasal-twanged folk; then thinking of the Princess he groaned, for never had a maiden so taken his fancy and already he was determined to make her his Queen.

The wise men argued this and that, and the King, to keep his sweet guest from running away, sent his finest singers to the gates and ordered a golden tray of dainties to be carried out to her.

The Princess gravely accepted these delicate attentions, while the arguing of the wise men grew so excited that they all were in danger of breaking the law of the land. At the end of a half-hour they had arrived at no decision, and the King, tearing his hair, wished in his heart he had never made such a law. No wonder! The Princess was turning her horse’s head back toward the hills whence she had come.

The shepherd seeing this whispered hastily to the King; then, before his majesty could say so much as “Sirrah!” or “By me troth,” he was on the other side of the gate and next minute had struck the Princess a stinging blow across the hands with his crook!

Never a sound uttered the Princess—but the King! For the first time in the history of the kingdom he screamed with rage, he stamped with fury and would surely have choked the poor shepherd had not the wise men pulled him off.

“Wait, your majesty! It is as I thought. The maiden has no voice, therefore may enter our kingdom without interfering with the law. Had she been deceiving us surely my blow would have brought forth a cry. But, see, your majesty, the lady is dumb! Is it not so, Princess?”

Never a word answered the Princess, but two tears rolled down her cheeks and splashed on the white mare’s silver harness.

Without waiting for more, the King flung open the golden gates and himself led the mare into the kingdom.

And wonder upon wonders, no sooner had he done so than the maiden flung back her head and sang so enchantingly that even the little birds hushed their notes to listen.

If the King were in love before, he was head over heels in love now.

“Love me ever, love me long,
And more than a song,
And more than a song!
For myself love me ever,
For my singing, never—
That is wrong!”

trilled the Princess, and all the courtiers nodded their heads. Yes, they were married, and, as the King loved the Princess when he thought she had no voice at all and loved her for herself, as she had bidden him do, they lived happily, oh, so happily, ever after!

By Ruth Plumly Thompson 
Originally published in the Philadelphia Public Ledger, June 6, 1920.
The Puzzle Corner

I guess the Forgetful Poet has gone off fishing for he never turned up at all this week, so I’ll have to tell you the answers to his puzzles myself. The Bear State was Arkansas; the Beaver State Oregon; the Wolverine State Michigan, and the Gopher State Minnesota.

The people from many of the states are nicknamed, too. Can you tell which are which. From what states do the Hoosiers, Foxes, Tar Heels, Panhandlers, Web Feet, Fly-up-the-Creeks and Bean Eaters come?

Besides all this the June Bug would like to know

How many hums in a humming bee?
How many stones in a cherry tree?
How many straws in a strawberry—
Ask Mr. Robin, but don’t ask me.

And can you fill in the missing words:

There once was a lizard
Named -----
Who climbed a high -----
Then grew dizzy.
She fell from the wall,
I believe that is -----;
To be brief, I’m
Uncommonly busy.

[Answers next time.]
Copyright © 2016 Eric Shanower and David Maxine. All rights reserved.

Sunday, January 3, 2016


By L. Frank Baum
Author of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, The Boy Fortune Hunters in the Yucatan, Daughters of Destiny, etc.

Originally published January 1, 1905. Included in The Visitors from Oz.

Now, although the queer people from Oz had come to the United States on a pleasure trip, they were greatly pleased when an opportunity arose for any of them to do a kindly act.

The Scarecrow was walking one day along a street where the houses were set close together and only the poorer classes of people dwelt. And soon he found, sitting upon a doorstep, a pretty little girl who had covered her face with her hands and was crying softly—as if to herself—in a very affecting manner.

The good Scarecrow was very sorry to see the child so grieved, so he sat down beside her and said:

“Tell me, my dear, why you are so sorrowful?”

“I—I wants a—a—a automobile!” sobbed the girl.

“Good gracious! An automobile! Then why don’t you have one?” asked the Scarecrow, somewhat surprised that so small a child should want so large a toy.

“Because my pop’s too poor to buy me one,” she answered, looking at her new friend in amazement that he should ask such a question.

“In that case, my dear, you shouldn’t want an automobile,” said the Scarecrow, gravely.

“But I do—I do!” sobbed the child, and began crying again.

Her tears were too much for the Scarecrow. “Very well; dry your eyes, and I’ll give you an automobile—since that is the only thing that will make you happy,” said he.

The girl thought her queer companion was making fun of her; but he was not, indeed. He knew what an automobile was, for he had curiously noted one of the big red ones going along the street only that morning. So all he had to do was to walk to the curbstone, where by means of a few magic words accompanied by the magical gestures that are usually required, he created an automobile that was exactly the same as the one he had seen.

The little girl sprang to her feet with a cry of astonish-ment; for there, before her door, stood a beautiful big red touring-car, fitted up with leather cushions and handsome em-broidered dust-robes and lunch and golf baskets and sparkling silver lanterns, and all the things that the most expensive automobiles possess!

“There,” said the Scarecrow, “I will make you a present of this automobile. It is your very own, to do what you like with it; and I hope it will make you happy.”

Then he bade her good-bye and walked away, soon disappearing around a corner. The girl half expected to see the automobile disappear, too, but it did not. It still stood before her, big and beautiful enough to delight the heart of a millionaire.

Now, this child had especially wanted an automobile because she believed it impossible for her ever to possess one, and now that the coveted machine was before her she had no idea what to do with it. She was still staring at it when her father came home from his work to get his dinner. The man couldn’t refuse to believe the wonderful story the girl told him, for there stood the automobile to prove it, and he had often heard of the magical powers possessed by the people from Oz. But he was greatly perplexed, nevertheless.

“We haven’t any barn to keep it in,” said he, “nor any clothes good enough to wear while riding in such a swell chariot. And it would cost more than I earn to feed it with gasoline. I think we ought to sell it, and buy coal for the winter. Anyhow, I’ve got to get back to work now, and we’ll talk it over when I come home tonight.”

But the girl was quite indignant at the idea of selling her beautiful automobile, and when her father had gone away and a crowd of admiring children from all over the neighborhood had congregated to gaze upon the wonderful thing, she proudly informed them that she was about to take a ride.

“Let me run it! Let me run it for you!” shouted a dozen boys, at once. Not one of them knew anything about an automobile, but most boys are willing to undertake any task that is really dangerous; so the girl thoughtfully selected one who had divided his stick of candy with her that very morning.

She climbed to a back seat and drew an embroidered robe over her faded gingham dress, and the barefooted boy chauffeur proudly mounted in front and gave a glance at the machinery.

“Get out of the way, you dubs!” he shouted to the crowd of children, who were spellbound with awe—and then he shut his teeth tight together and pushed over the lever.

Slowly the huge machine, like a thing of life, moved down the street; then it gathered headway, and, as the crowd shouted and cheered, the boy, swelling with pride, put the lever over as far it would go. Next instant the magic automobile was flying down the street like a red streak of lightning swaying the while from side to side and bumping furiously over the broken pavement.

At first the girl had hard work to catch her breath. Then she screamed:

“Stop it! Stop it!”

But the boy didn’t know how to stop it. Pale, but courageous, he seized the steering wheel and swung the machine around a corner. They were getting into more frequented streets, and the teams they passed crept close to the sidewalks as the great red monster whirled by them.

“It can’t last long!” thought the girl, gasping for breath.

And it didn’t.

They were building a house down the street, and big piles of brick had been placed far out into the roadway. Perhaps an expert automobilist could have avoided the obstruction with ease; but the boy, wild-eyed and frightened, abandoned hope.

Next minute there was a crash and a scream. The girl flew into the air, made a graceful curve, and fell flat into a big box of soft mortar the workmen had prepared. The boy flew higher, and landed in a sitting position on a scaffold of the new house—breathless, but unhurt. As for the magic automobile, it was a crumpled mass of red slivers and twisted steel and tag-ends of leather; for it struck the brick-pile squarely, and what remained of it could be called by no especial name.

The boy caught a ride on a delivery wagon and was soon back home again; but the workmen pulled the little girl from the mortar-box, and scraped her off as well as they could in the time they had to spare, and she finally walked away in a very subdued frame of mind.

“That Scarecrow was right,” she reflected, shivering also at the thought of what her mother would say about her soiled clothes. “Nobody—not even a little girl—has any right to want a thing they ought not to have. What I really need is a good switching, and the chances are that I’ll get it when I get home!”

By Ruth Plumly Thompson
Originally published in the Philadelphia Public Ledger, May 30, 1920.


The Puzzle Corner

The states referred to in last week’s verses were: Ohio, Maryland, Mississippi, Illinois, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Maine, Louisiana, California, Massachusetts, Tennessee, Wisconsin, Washington, Connecticut, Arkansas and Kansas.

Do you know what state is meant by the “Bear State” and the “Beaver State,” the “Wolverine” and the “Gopher”? The Forgetful Poet seems to be on speaking terms with his geography lately. Are you?

The dear chap is terribly worried. He has composed two lines of verse about a dragon and cannot for the life of him finish it. I told him that some of you would do it for him. “Do you think they would?” he asked anxiously. “Try them,” I suggested. And so he did. Here are the unfinished lines. The best answer will be published later:

There was an old dragon named Hannah,
Who swallowed an unripe banana—

(I don’t wonder he couldn’t finish it, do you?)

[Answers next time.]

Copyright © 2016 Eric Shanower and David Maxine. All rights reserved.