Friday, April 15, 2016


By Ruth Plumly Thompson 
Author of The Lost King of Oz, Ozoplaning with the Wizard of Oz, The Wish Express, "King, King! Double King!" etc.
Originally published in the Philadelphia Public Ledger, March 16, 1919,

It was time the Princess Slimgrace was married; so King Hadalongname had decided; but there was one trouble—that was, to find something difficult for the young princes to accomplish as a test of their love and worthiness. The King thought and thought, but every time he seemed about to decide on some suitable feat, he fell asleep. It was very provoking when such an important matter was at stake.

Finally the King called the Prime Minister of the Private Affairs of the Palace, who looked very wise as he came into the King’s chamber, carrying several huge folios. “Your Majesty,” he began, bowing as low as his weighty burden would permit, “has summoned his most humble servant, I believe.” Here he paused, and after another bow took the seat to which the King pointed, then carefully wiped and adjusted his glasses.

After patiently waiting for these preliminaries to be finished, the King replied: “My dear Prime Minister, it is time the Princess Slimgrace was married.”

“Yes, most benign Sovereign,” returned the stately minister, “I was remarking the same thing to the Chief Barber and the Chief Shoe Buttoner just the other day.”

“Well, then,” continued the King, “what shall be decided upon for a fitting suitor’s contest?”

“Your Majesty, I find in this little book,” said the Minister opening one of his immense volumes, “numerous trials of love.”

“Read them,” commanded King Hadalongname.

“Killing a lion, slaying a giant, breaking iron gates—”

“Hold!” shouted the King. “These are all out of date. Haven’t you something more recent?”

“I regret deeply that I have not the pleasure of knowing anything modern,” answered the crestfallen minister, meekly.

“Then leave!” roared the King. The counsellor obeyed hastily, for by this time his majesty was in anything but an agreeable frame of mind.

And it was quite natural that he should feel extremely annoyed when his most trusted adviser showed such complete ignorance on this important subject. ‘Wild beasts to be killed! Wild fiddlesticks! There aren’t any but tame animals around anyway, and how should I know a suitor really killed a beast if I didn’t see him do it?”

Having delivered this convincing argument, the King ordered that all his chiefs, except the one just dismissed, should be summoned to assist him in his decision.

When they had all assembled he laid the matter before them, asking their opinions.

The Chief Barber thought eating a razor a trying little task, while the Chief Purveyor of Brushes judged the Prince who could count the bristles in 1000 brushes the most quickly would be the best successor to the King. The Chief Mathematician agreed to the latter suggestion, but the King was not pleased with either, and was beginning to scowl in a fearfully ferocious way when the Chief Cook spoke up.

“Your Majesty,” he said, “what could be more difficult than to get up a dinner with almost nothing to use and no money to buy anything, or none to speak of—say, a sixpence,” as he felt one in his pocket. “Then,” as he thought of his rye muffins which he had left in the oven, “a pocketful of rye, for instance.” And as a blackbird alighted in a tree near the window and began to chatter to its mate in its saucy way, he added: “Four and twenty blackbirds. Surely if anyone can do this he must have had a wise mother, and having had a wise mother, he will be likely to make a good husband.”

So much knowledge, and especially this last bit of wisdom, delighted the King, who ordered that the Cook should be made Chief Philosopher, and that the lovers’ contest should be announced in all the neighboring countries.

Few suitors came, for some had never handled so small a sum as a sixpence, others knew nothing about cooking and were too lazy to learn, and all were agreed that the feat was too difficult to attempt, even to obtain the hand of such a rich and beautiful young lady as the Princess Slimgrace. All were agreed, that is, all save one, Prince Lovliboy. He was not daunted in the least by the hard conditions separating him from his lady-love; for he and the Princess were old friends and were deeply in love with each other.

So he came to King Hadalongname’s palace, where he was to get up the dinner. Every day he laid snares for blackbirds until he had twenty-four. He then made a dough of rye and water, flavored with such spices as he could get for a sixpence. Into a pudding-dish he put this mixture, cooked it brown, then cut off the top, and slipped the birds in, and fastened the top on with bits of dough he had left for that purpose.

The time for the important dinner arrived at last. The Queen, who was exceedingly fond of bread and honey, finding that the Prince had not provided either of these articles of food, stayed out in the pantry, where she might indulge in them to her heart’s content. So there were only the Princess, the King and the Prince at the dinner. The great dish was set before the King. What was his surprise to see a flock of blackbirds fly out of it as he began to serve it.

He declared the Prince had won the Princess (to tell the truth, he wanted that Prince for his heir and successor), and went off to his counting-room to count his money to see how much he could give for the Princess’ dowry. The happy lovers went about the palace to be congratulated, but came across one poor maid who refused to share the general joyful feeling, for, said she, “While I was hanging out the clothes, one of those hateful little blackbirds snipped off my nose.”

By Ruth Plumly Thompson
Originally published in the Philadelphia Public Ledger, July 18, 1920.

Puzzle Corner

Last week’s verse, properly completed should read

There once was silly old Auk
Who loved dearly to lecture and talk—
The seals fell asleep
When the subjects grew deep,
The away the old fellow would stalk!

The bird was a toucan.

See what you can make of this:


A second cousin to the Auk—
A diving bird’s the -----
He’s fond of tea and relishes
The wild strawberry muffin!

Why is a house like a book?

With two letters of the alphabet you can make a word of two syllables meaning to surpass.

[Answers next time.] 

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