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!”
THE FORGETFUL POET
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.