Author of The Purple Prince of Oz, Ozoplaning with the Wizard in Oz, and The Wish Express, etc.
Originally published in the Philadelphia Public Ledger, April 6, 1919.
There was once an old gentleman mouse who played the fiddle and who was much in demand for parties, weddings and other entertainments in Mousedom. There are not very many musicians among the mice and poor Uncle Mumbledy was worked pretty hard. He was getting old too and rheumatic, and used sometimes to long for a quiet evening at home.
During the daytime he had scholars, and what with teaching and scales all day and fiddling and calling out dances (the mice are great for square dances) half the night, the poor old fellow was just worn out.
He often tried to think of a way out, but never seemed to be able to hit upon a plan. The young mice insisted that no dance music was like his, and refused to engage any of his scholars.
Then one day he made a wonderful discovery, which he kept all to himself. On his way home from a strawberry festival he was attracted by the sounds of sweet music. He stepped cautiously out of hole in the wall into the drawing room of a great house.
“Mousealive!” gasped Uncle Mumbledy. And no wonder, for it was the first time he had ever heard of music coming out of a box. You see, he had lived all his life in the attic of this very same house and not until this very evening had the strange new magic box been bought. All of his neighbors lived in the attic, too, and none of them had ever seen such a marvellous invention, of that he was very sure. At first he was going to run back and break the news to them as fast as he could. Then, he decided to wait and see how it was done.
Very quietly he tiptoed over to that part of the room where the music was coming from. Nobody saw him or heard him, so he ran quickly up the back of a big easy chair and perched on the top. Never had he heard such a concert. Growing more bold he stretched out at his ease and watched sharply everything that went on.
Then he took out a little memorandum and jotted down: “First, wind (this will be difficult); second, adjust needle; third, pull lever; fourth, shut off lever!” He put the memorandum in his pocket and gave himself up to pure enjoyment. He watched the mode of dancing practised by the humans with no small amazement. Then, perhaps because he was very tired or because the music was so soothing, he fell fast asleep. When he wakened it was 8 o’clock and the maid was already flourishing a feather duster. With a squeak of alarm he ran off to the garret.
He wished to keep the secret for the coming-out party of his favorite niece. He chuckled over the sensation it would cause and spent much time on the invitations. The parents of the little mouse were much surprised when Uncle Mumbledy suggested that the coming-out party be given in the drawing-room of the big house. But, as he was to furnish the music and refreshments, they readily agreed.
As 12 o’clock, on the evening of this happy occasion, the guests began to arrive in the drawing room, with bouquets of forget-me-nots, lady slippers and other tiny and appropriate mousy bouquets. Uncle Mumbledy was here and there and everywhere, welcoming and chatting, but everybody remarked upon a strange thing. He had not brought his fiddle. As the time for the dancing drew on and a part of the drawing room table was cleared for the purpose, their astonishment grew. Then came the surprise of the evening and the triumph of Uncle Mumbledy’s life. He ran hurriedly up the cabinet of a new and puzzling piece of furniture. Fortunately it was open, and a record in place. Pulling the lever hard and letting down the needle he started the talking machine, and not a step could a mouse take for sheer astonishment.
Then Uncle Mumbledy explained it as best he could and started off himself with a fat old lady mouse, and soon all the mice were dancing for dear life. Never had they heard such music nor experienced such pleasure. When the record was over and Uncle Mumbledy hastily ran up to turn it off, they clapped and clapped and nothing would do but to play it all over again. By that time it had run down, and all of the gentlemen mice together swung on the handle, and, after many accidents and rumbles, managed to wind it up again.
There were several records lying about. Putting on his specs Uncle Mumbledy picked out a familiar dance tune. Removing the old record and adjusting the new was no mean task, but the little creatures persevered and finally succeeded. Uncle Mumbledy, who had never had an opportunity to dance before (being always forced to fiddle), enjoyed himself hugely; in fact, never had a mouse party been so successful.
Toward the end of the evening they discovered another delightful use for the instrument. They turned it on without letting down the needle, the result being a perfect mouse merry-go-round.
Finally the noise attracted the master of the house.
“I could swear I hear music!” he murmured getting sleepily out of bed. At the first sound of his foot upon the stairs Uncle Mumbledy turned out all the little mice lanterns and, next minute, giggling and whispering, the party broke up. But many, many times they came back to enjoy a concert or dance, and many and many a morning the housemaid would wonder who left the records scattered about. I wonder if they ever dance to your talking machine?
THE FORGETFUL POET
By Ruth Plumly Thompson
Originally published in the Philadelphia Public Ledger, August 1, 1920.
The Puzzle Corner
“Whew!” groaned the Forgetful Poet, slinking down in an office chair, “it’s bad enough to make puzzles in winter—but now! Whew! Don’t believe the boys and girls could guess ’em anyway!”
I gave him a glass of water and told him that I thought you could and that you didn’t mind hot weather like poets do. So he took a stub pencil and got to work and after a great deal of scribbling this is what he handed to me:
If a barrel laughed, would it give a -----?
How many sous in a bowl of -----?
What have a tree, a ship and a dog in common?
THE FOOLISH OLD MANATEE
There once was a foolish old manatee,
Who was known far and wide for her -----,
She was ugly and fat, but she didn’t know that,
And was proud to the point of -----.
[Answers next time.]
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