Sunday, October 1, 2017

“LET’S PLAY HOUSE!”

By Jack Snow
Author of Spectral Snow, The Shaggy Man of Oz, "A Murder in Oz," etc.

Originally published in Dark Music and Other Spectral Tales, 1947.


I had taken care of Alicia for all six years of her short life. Her mother had died at childbirth and her father, Will Raynor, had hired me as nurse and governess for the child. That was back in 1910 in a small town in the middle west where Will Raynor was a moderately well-to-do business man.

I was in my middle-thirties then and already resigned to spinsterhood and a life of nursing. Shy, retiring and never even remotely a beauty, I had endured a lonely girlhood, emerging into middle-age with an abiding love of my work and a deep sense of peace that was and has been a blessing, and, I suppose my consolation for the denial of marriage and children of my own. Now that I am an old woman and look back on my life, I certainly see no reason to count my years of service wasted, nor can I truthfully say that I have not enjoyed the quiet of spirit that has been mine and the joy I have experienced in serving others and being rewarded with their gratitude and friendship over many long years.

But this is not my story. Lives like mine are all too common in small towns, and too uncommon in large cities where the patterns of people and life change too rapidly for anything like peace or serenity to exist.

This is the story of laughing, blue-eyed, golden-haired Alicia Raynor and tow-headed, brown-eyed Tommy Ramsey who lived next door. In every possible way I was a mother to little Alicia, and she loved me, I am proud to say, as she might have loved her own sweet mother, whom I saw die. From that moment on, until her own death six short years later, Alicia was mine. Tommy had been born just a week before Alicia, and I remember that his mother had been grief stricken when told o£ Mrs. Raynor’s death. The two had been neighbors and good friends since girl-hood. They had planned many things they would do together with their children. They had agreed, half seri-ously, half facetiously that Mrs. Ramsey would have a boy and Mrs. Raynor would have a girl, and the children should grow up together. Well, at least part of their plan worked out, although poor Mrs. Raynor died without knowing whether her baby was a little girl or boy. After Mrs. Raynor’s death, I became quite friendly with Mrs. Ramsey, and as it was more than ever her wish that Alicia and Tommy should be comrades from baby days on, I was only too glad to agree.

So that was how it was that from the time the children were able to toddle they were together constantly. When Alicia was not in her nursery or playing about the house, I knew I could find her next door at the Ramseys’. Mrs. Ramsey enjoyed a like assurance concerning her Tommy. The children were wonderful together. I never once knew them to quarrel. I know many parents will scoff at that statement, but I insist it is true. Alicia and Tommy had no childish quarrels. It was as though they had been born to be together. Their toys were common property. Indeed, I do not think they looked upon their possessions as individually such. Perhaps they even regarded themselves as one. That would have been entirely natural since they had been together almost constantly from their earliest days. Often have I speculated on what their lives would have been like had they grown up and wedded. Surely such a marriage would have been one of those made in heaven.

The first five years of my life with Mr. Raynor and the children were as happy and uneventful as I have known, giving no hint of the sorrow that was to follow so soon. It was Alicia’s fifth birthday that really marked the begin-ning of the end. For it was on this occasion that Mr. Raynor gave her the Doll House.

I recall that day perfectly. It was early in March, grey, raw and blustery. Alicia and Tommy were playing in the nursery, and Mr. Raynor had come home early from his office. We climbed the stair, he carrying the well-wrapped Doll House. The nursery was lighted by a chandelier in which glowed four old fashioned electric light bulbs with shimmering carbon filaments and sharp tips like tears dripping from their rounded surfaces.

Both children were immediately fascinated by the package and flew to the aid of Mr. Raynor in removing the wrappers. When they saw the beautiful Doll House they went into ecstasies of delight.

“Our house!” they crowed in unison. “Now we have a house of our very own!”

Mr. Raynor and I simply sat down and enjoyed the scene. It was a remarkably elaborate and exquisitely con-structed Doll House. The roof and the sides lifted up so that each room was available for play. The furnishings of the rooms were marvels in themselves. There were no painted carpets here, but soft, finely woven, tiny rugs and carpets. Chairs and lounges were upholstered. The dining room was complete down to buffet with silver, glass and linen service. The kitchen was filled with delightful minia-tures of all the fixtures and utensils that made up the modern kitchen of that far-away day. The bedrooms were delights of tiny coziness. The beds were furnished with springs, mattresses, sheets, blankets and pillows with slips embroidered with fairy buttercups.  There was even a nursery complete with toys that an elf child might have delighted in. These were miniatures of exquisite work-manship. All must have been hand wrought, for the tiny doll carriage, the wee drum, the inch-tall clown, and all the others were delicately and charmingly carved and put together. In one corner of the nursery stood a miniature Noah’s Ark, and in another a Doll House that measured no more than three inches high. I wondered whimsically at the time if that three-inch-high Doll House had a Doll House within it—and so on and on, like the Chinese boxes that fit endlessly into each other.

When the excitement had died down somewhat, Mr. Raynor demonstrated the crowning wonder of this model house done in Lilliputian style. He had left the nursery for a moment to reappear with a package from which he produced four dry cells and a coil of bell wire. He hooked the batteries into circuit and fastened the lead wires to two terminals at the rear of the Doll House. Immediately the structure glowed with lights in every colorful room. The Doll House was electrically lighted! In 1915 that was sheer and utter magic and enchantment. The children were almost awed. Here was a house straight out of fairy-land, and it was all theirs!

Despite Alicia and Tommy’s wonder and joy, it didn’t take them long to discover new miracles in their enchanted house. Each of the tiny lights—which were no more than flashlight bulbs—could be turned on and off by individual switches on the walls and in the lamp bases. The house was as efficiently wired as any fire insurance underwriter would require in a human habitation.

From that moment on the Doll House was the center of Alicia and Tommy’s lives. They were never so happy as when they were playing house. On fine days I insisted as did Tommy’s mother that they play out-of-doors. But in spite of their normal, healthy love of the sunlight and fresh air and the romping games that could be played only on the sunny lawn or the glistening snow, it seemed to me that the children actually welcomed the gloomy days of rain, wind and bitter cold.

That was a happy year for all of us. I was not one whit worried over the children’s preoccupation with their Doll House. Who wouldn’t be fascinated with so marvelous a creation? I was, myself. And as 1916 dawned, I knew that the coming fall would see the children entering grade school—going hand in hand out into the world. I knew the association of other children, school occupations, and the swift unfolding of the world outside their homes would slowly but steadily lessen their interest in the Doll House. I sighed. Soon they would be our babies no longer, but children on the way to growing up.

However, that was not meant to be. It was late in March —a March that was roaring out like a cageful of angry lions—that first Alicia, and only a few days later Tommy, fell ill. It was dread diphtheria. Remember, those were still the days when diphtheria was a ruthless slayer of children. Widespread vaccination, except for smallpox, and inoculation were not yet prevalent in middle western schools. Nor were sanitary conditions anything like they are today. Few small towns possessed adequate water sup-plies. In our home, drinking water came from a well with a pump in the kitchen, while water for other purposes was nothing more than rain water, collected in a cistern. Control by preventive and sanitation measures were still to come, and in those years many an American town knew the terrors of diphtheria epidemics.

Even now I do not like to hark back to those dread two weeks. Alicia and Tommy suffered piteously. We made them as comfortable as possible, and did everything then prescribed to stay the course of the disease. The two houses were quarantined as one, and I divided my time between the two children, although the Ramseys had engaged their own nurse.

The parents were frantic. In such circumstances there is just no means of consolation, particularly when one needs to be consoled oneself. The end came one bleak, cold night in April. Alicia and Tommy stopped breathing at almost the same time. A blackness fell on all our hearts. I won’t, I can’t say that I suffered more than the parents, but I had been almost as close to Tommy as Alicia. I had lost two children.

The next few days we moved about like automatons. We had all been hurt so deeply that the funeral services and then the days following in the dreadfully quiet houses seemed unreal and nightmarish.

There was no reason for me to remain longer with Mr. Raynor. He had a competent housekeeper to look after things. He no longer needed the services of a nurse and governess. But Mr. Raynor asked me to stay on for a few more weeks until he had somewhat recovered from the shock of his loss. He confided in me that he planned to dismiss the housekeeper, sell the house and furnishings, and move to the one good hotel the town boasted. I could understand that very well. He was entirely alone now, and living in that empty house, surrounded by memories, would have been depressing and unhealthful.

So I remained, and that was how I chanced to experience the strangest happening of my entire life. It was nearly midnight one dreary Monday. It had been raining all day and the drops continued to beat a melancholy tapping on the roof. It was so quiet that I could hear the rain gutter-ing into the spouting outside my window. Mr. Raynor had retired several hours before, and the housekeeper had been in her room since early evening. I, alone, was awake.

I could not sleep, and had been reading. My extremely unfortunate choice of reading matter had been Henry James’ “The Turn of the Screw.” I am not a literary person, so I could not have known beforehand that the story was a great horror classic about a little girl and little boy who died. I had selected the book at random from Mr. Raynor’s library, and once I started reading it, I could not put it aside.

My little bed clock was ticking busily, and the hands had almost met at 12, when I finished the story with its tremendous ending. Realization of the meaning of the book swept over me like a cold tide of terror. I sat per-fectly still, thinking. The house was utterly quiet. There was only the ticking of my clock, and the sound of the chill rain in the black night outside. I felt suddenly cold, and rose to put a shawl about my shoulders.

It was then that the light attracted my attention. A door of my room opened into the nursery. Flowing from under this door, I thought I detected a faint light. Since the children had gone, neither Mr. Raynor nor I had entered the nursery. Our grief was still too fresh for that. But I was perfectly sure that no lights had been left on in the nursery. There was no alternative. I must investigate. I slowly opened the door and looked in. The faint light came from the Doll House.

There were lights in two of its downstairs rooms. Could Mr. Raynor have been there earlier in the evening and left the lights on? That must be the explanation, I assured myself. And then I stared in amazement. The light in one of the rooms—the living room—winked out! An instant later the light in the other room—the kitchen —vanished. The nursery was lighted only by a narrow path of faint luminance that flowed from my room. The Doll House was in complete shadow. I was trembling with cold now, and it wasn’t the kind of cold a shawl could dis-sipate.

Standing there in the shadow, staring at the Doll House, I heard it—unmistakably—the sound of two pairs of tiny feet pattering up a stairway—the stairway in the Doll House. I gasped, and then told myself I must regain con-trol of my nerves. Mice, I had heard, and nothing more— mice. Nevertheless, my hands shook, and I felt sick and weak.

Just as the footsteps on the stairway ceased, a light on the second floor of the Doll House blinked on. It was the light in the Doll House nursery.

Strong as my desire was to flee from the room, I knew what I must do, or never again know peace of mind. My hands shook violently, and I was desperately weak as I reached out to raise the roof of the Doll House so that I might peer into the tiny nursery.

I will state simply, and in as few words as possible what I saw. In the nursery of the Doll House were two tiny children, not more than six inches tall. One was Alicia— the other Tommy. They were natural as life, save that they were so tiny-—so doll-like. Entirely absorbed in each other the mannikins seemed unaware of my presence or of my having raised the roof of the Doll House. The two were standing before the three-inch-high Doll House in the Doll House nursery.

Just before darkness closed in and I fell in a deep faint, I heard perfectly and unquestionably the piping, childish treble of the miniature Alicia as she said to the wee Tommy:

“Let’s play house!”



THE FORGETFUL POET
 
By Ruth Plumly Thompson
Originally published in the Philadelphia Public Ledger, January 16, 1921.


The Puzzle Corner

Why is a pig like a tomato? asks the Forgetful Poet, and I, for one, don’t think it is. But he says there is an answer to this, so see whether you can find it.

The Tom Tom in the band
Rose up and
Bit the poor Trombone.
It wept three treble notes,
And then a dreadful
B Flat groan.

Can you fill in these blanks.

I lost my rubbers yesterday,
I hurried forth without them,
Quite brave and unconcerned and -----
Why should I care ----- -----?

Oh, why? I struck a bit of ice,
I slid—perhaps a yard—
I balanced, tottered dizzily,
Then sat down very -----!

Of course, you all guessed last week’s riddle—a pan of bread is like the sun because it rises.

[Answers next time.]
 
Copyright © 2017 Eric Shanower and David Maxine. All rights reserved.

Friday, September 1, 2017

THE TALE OF TIMMY TWITCHET

By Ruth Plumly Thompson
Author of Pirates in Oz, Ozoplaning with the Wizard in Oz, and The Wish Express, etc.

Originally published in the Philadelphia Public Ledger, March 13, 1921.



Timmy Twitchet was a little gray mouse-gentleman with curly whiskers and charming manners. He was a self-made mouse, moreover, and had, by his own efforts, risen from the woodshed to the attic!

Timmy’s early years had been spent as apprentice to a cross old cobbler-mouse whose bootshop was in a corner of the shed in a large city dwelling. Early and late the little mouse was kept blacking boots and running errands.

But Timmy kept his eyes open and before long had got a position as headwaiter in a modest mouse hotel kept by an old maid mouse in the kitchen cupboard. And so successful was he in gathering crumbs and other attractive fare from the dining-room table that he was asked to take entire charge of the Young Business Mouse’ Lunch Club, which had quarters in an exclusive corner of the sideboard.

From then on Timmy’s fortune improved. He had a wonderful facility for getting what he wanted without being molested by the giant two-legs who owned the house.

He taught in the public mouse-school in the library bookcase; then progressed rapidly through every room in the mansion, each time bettering his position and acquiring a little of the polish which later made him so delightful and so popular. In his early prime Timmy reached the top floor and here, in the children’s nursery, ran a flourishing banking business.

The dolls urged him to settle down—to build a house (there were plenty of blocks and supplies to be picked up cheap), but Timmy shook his head. When he settled down, he decided solemnly, it would be among his own people and in a quieter neighborhood.

So one day, after adding up his cash book, Timmy found he had enough to retire comfortably and, bidding good-by to the toys, he turned his steps toward the attic. It is to the attic that wealthy mice who have made their fortunes retire to live in ease and comfort far from the noise and persecutions of people, and it was in the attic that Timmy found his future home.

It was in the suburbs of the little flourishing attic city, and how the mice had overlooked it Timmy could not imagine. With his paws clasped in ecstasy Timmy stood before the handsome old homestead—then, dashing up the steps, claimed it for his own.

No wonder Timmy was so delighted. It was an abandoned doll house with a colonial front door, windows that opened, shades, furniture, carpets and a real bath tub.

The excited little mouse-gentleman hurried from floor to floor, snapped up all the shades, looked under the beds, bounced on the old-fashioned sofa to test the springs and finally, with a chuckle of pure content, settled down in a big (for a mouse) armchair to brood over his good fortune. Then, winding the clock which never ran, he hurried down to the attic hardware store and ordered a brass name-plate for his door.

“Timmy Twitchet, Esquire.”

“And mind you letter it plainly, he ordered, twirling his cane recklessly, and strode out, leaving the shopkeeper breathless with admiration. Timmy had style, there was no denying!

On the doll house steps Timmy paused again to admire his mansion. He thought with scorn of the old hole in the shed that used to harbor him, and of his struggles to rise in the world

“This—is living,” said Timmy proudly, “A little paint, a through cleaning and a few personal touches will make this the finest establishment in the attic!”

No callers came that evening, so Timmy retired early and, dreaming of sun parlors, green portieres, red lamp shades and a life-size portrait of himself over the library mantel, the little self-made mouse dropped off happily to sleep in the tiny four-post doll bed!



THE FORGETFUL POET
 
By Ruth Plumly Thompson 
Originally published in the Philadelphia Public Ledger, January 9, 1921.


Puzzles

Before breaking into verse the Forgetful Poet says that the only bird who can go into four twice is a Toucan, and I guess he is right about that. The two great Americans found in a tree are Root and Wood, and the rhyme of Dr. Duck was impossible, as one young lady put it, because a shad has no shin, a frog has no tail, a dog has no wing and a jellyfish no bones. The Forgetful Poet still thinks it was a pretty good poem.

“Why is a pan of bread like the sun?” he asks this week, and then goes on to give us another impossible poem, which he declares is as sensible as poetry need be.

A Strenuous Week-End

I went a-driving on a lake,
And rowing on a mountain,
And passing through a garden
Got all dusty from a fountain.

I ate a book of fiction up,
And read a box of candy;
I heard the moving pictures through,
And saw a concert dandy.

And, after all this, being tired,
I hustled off to bed,
And dreamed I was a clown
Supporting lions on my head.


[Answers next time.]


Copyright © 2017 Eric Shanower and David Maxine. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

TOYLAND SEES AN INTERRUPTION OF A WEDDING IDYL

By John R. Neill
Author of The Runaway in Oz, The Wonder City of Oz, Lucky Bucky in Oz, etc.

Originally published in the Philadelphia North American, May 20, 1906.


Click to enlarge.


THE FORGETFUL POET
  The Forgetful Poet 
By Ruth Plumly Thompson
Originally published in the Philadelphia Public Ledger, January 2, 1921.
 
Puzzles 

Most of you got the Forgetful Poet’s message in cipher, for he just said “Happy New Year” backward, and today he repeats it forward. And to begin the new year right he will answer his puzzles first. The dog was a pug, the cities in Georgia were Macon and Augusta and a man can have three ears because he has two of his own and a long-distance telephone ear. The two distinctly American-named states are Washington and Indiana and the precious stone a solitaire.

Now he would like to know—

What bird can go into four twice?

In what two parts of a tree can be found two great Americans of the present—a diplomat and a soldier.

Sure Cures

Dr. Duck made a speech
In the henhouse last night,
Of cures he had made,
And of ills he’d set right.

He took off his specs
And he said, to begin,
He’d cured an old shad
Of a pain in its shin!

That he’d untied a knot
In the tail of a frog,
And poulticed the wing
Of a suffering dog!

Besides he’d restored
An old jelly fish, too,
It was chilled to the bone
And rheumatic clear through.

The hens were impressed
At the doctor’s facility,
But I say his cures
Are an impossibility!


But when I told the Forgetful Poet so, he said he didn’t see why. “Well, the boys and girls will soon tell you,” said I. And between you and me I’m afraid Dr. Duck is a bit of a quack.
______

The Forgetful Poet says he has an animal riddle for you. He wants to know how many lions you can think of. I can think of only two, but he says there are more. How many can you think of?

[Answers next time.]
 

Copyright © 2017 Eric Shanower and David Maxine. All rights reserved.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

THE LITTLE FAIRY WHO LOST HER WISHING GIFT

By Ruth Plumly Thompson
Author of Jack Pumpkinhead of Oz, Ozoplaning with the Wizard in Oz, and The Wish Express, etc.

Originally published in the Philadelphia Public Ledger, June 8, 1919.



Once upon a time there was a dear little rosy fairy who loved the water. It was so cool and ripply, and she liked to make little leaf boats and watch them sail away. Fairies may not wash in brooks and rivers. No, indeed; they wash in dew and bathe in the crystal fountains in Fairyland, and if they fall into everyday and unmagic water they become visible at once. And worse still, they lose all their wishing power, every single bit, so that it is very dangerous for fairies to play near brooks and ponds. Oh, very dangerous, indeed!

But Nella could not keep away from them, and more than anything else she longed to go sailing across the pond on one of her leaf boats. She knew very well that flying was safer, that if she got wet she would lose her wishing power, but that made it even more adventuresome.

So one sunny day she tried it. And it was even nicer than she had supposed. The little leaf went spinning along with the current. Nella waved to a butterfly just overhead, and while she was looking upward her little craft struck a large stick and went under. Before she had time to use her wings Nella fell into the pond—down, down, down. As soon as she had touched the water she, of course, became visible, and a little frog who had been sunning himself on a nearby lily pad rubbed his eyes in amazement.

“Why, it’s a fairy!” he exclaimed. Then, without a moment’s hesitation he dived under the water, for he knew that fairies cannot swim. When Nella opened her eyes she was lying under a big leaf on the edge of the pond, and the little frog was fanning her with a daisy petal. Realizing what had happened she began to weep bitterly, and the poor frog was at his wits’ end to comfort her.

“I’ll hide you away till midnight, and then you can fly back to Fairyland,” he assured her eagerly.

“The only way to get to Fairyland is to wish one’s self there,” mourned Nella, dabbing at her eyes with her wet frock, “and I’ve lost my wishing power—oh, why did I ever go sailing? I shall never see my home again and will perish with cold!”

“Isn’t there any other way for you to get back?” he asked anxiously.

Nella put her tiny hand to her head, and thought and thought of all the books of fairy lore she had studied. Then she brightened up a bit.

“If three fairies or flowers wish for my return I could fly back in an instant, but suppose they do not think of wishing for me, what then?”

“You surely have three friends,” chuckled the little frog. “Why all you have to do is to make yourself comfortable till they call you back. And in the mean time I will take care of you. Order me about as much as you please,” he finished recklessly.

He made her a little bower between two small stones arched over top with flowers and carpeted with clover leaves. Then he brought her all the books he could find, and a large strawberry from a nearby garden. Nella could not thank him enough, and settled down in her hiding place to wait for the wishes that would carry her home. The good little frog placed himself before her door to keep away curious insects and all other enemies.

Meanwhile back in Fairyland Nella’s absence had not been noticed. There are so many fairies, and they so often visit one another that days might pass without her being missed.

Three days actually did pass and each one made the little fairy droop more. The little frog did everything he could to amuse her, even to standing on his head, but whenever she thought he was not looking Nella would weep bitterly into her cobwebbed handkerchief. Just as the little fellow was growing desperate and preparing to start off to Fairyland himself to find her friends, something happened. Nella’s wings, which had never dried off, but hung limply from her shoulders, grew bright and shimmery again—all in a second.

“Somebody has wished for me!” thrilled the little sprite, hugging the frog in her delight. And who do you ’spose that somebody was? A little violet! Nella always brought her a little pail of dew at nightfall, and for three nights no one had remembered the little flower. “Where can Nella be? Oh, I wish Nella were here,” she sighed. And that was the first wish.

The next day as Nella was reading a story to the frog out of the Pond Lily primer all at once her lacy frock, which had hung down as sadly as her wings, fluffed out all around her and turned a hundred rainbow colors. “Somebody has wished for me again,” cried Nella, clapping her hands! And who do you ’spose it was this time? A dear, little, old, old—oh, a thousand-year old gentleman fairy to whom Nella often read the Fairy Press, for his eyes were not so bright as they had been. “Where’s Nella?” he muttered anxiously after four days had brought no sign of her. “Oh, dear, I’ve lost my specs and I do wish she were here to read to me.”

While Nella was clapping her hands, and the frog was trying to look as happy as she felt (he was going to miss her awfully), the third little wish came rustling into the bower, and Nella’s little gold slippers, which had been very dull, grew as gold and dancy as sunbeams, and the next minute the frog gave a gasp of surprise for she had vanished entirely away, and all that he heard was a faint voice calling, “Good-by, little brother, I shall not forget you.” And who do you ’spose had wished for Nella this time? Why, a little fairy girl, who had cut her finger on a thorn. Every one tried to comfort her, but she wailed loudly for Nella: “If Nella were here she would kiss it and make it well! Oh, I wish that she were here!” Yes, that is the story of how Nella got back to Fairyland. The little frog mourned and mourned for her, and one day what do you think? He was whisked up, up and away. Little wings began to tickle his shoulders, and next minute he was in Fairyland himself, turned by Nella into a lovely little green sprite and there he lived happily ever and forever afterward.



THE FORGETFUL POET
 
By Ruth Plumly Thompson 
Originally published in the Philadelphia Public Ledger, December 26, 1920.


Puzzles

The Forgetful Poet has a message for you in cipher. See whether you can make it out. “Raey wen yppah!” says the dear fellow, or at least he would say it if it were pronounceable.

A kind of dog describes a nose;
Guessed that already I suppose!


A word meaning to create will give a city of Georgia and a girl’s name another city.

Though strange to many—it appears
A man may have at least three ears?
                          (How?)


What two states in the Union have distinctly American names?

What precious stone names a game of cards?


[Answers next time.]

Copyright © 2017 Eric Shanower and David Maxine. All rights reserved.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

THE WONDERFUL WIZARD

By L. Frank Baum
Author of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, The Boy Fortune Hunters in the Yucatan, Daughters of Destiny, etc
 
The following lyrics are from the earliest version (1901) of the script that developed into the 1903 Broadway Wizard of Oz. If music was written for them, it doesn't seem to survive. No evidence exists to suggest they were performed.


Oh, he is the wonderful wizard of Oz,
     The wizard of Oz is he,
There isn’t a juggle can cause him a struggle,
     He’s a marvel of mystery!
He’s practiced in sorcery, magical lore
Is never a pother to him any more,
He’s dazzled and frazzled the jays by the score,
He’s the wonderful wizard of Oz.

     Hear me! Fear me!
     Never dare to queer me,
I’m the greatest necromancer ever was!
     All my deeds with magic reek,
     I’m the whole thing so to speak,
I’m the Wonderful Wizard of Oz!

CHORUS:
     Hear him, fear him;
     Never try to queer him,
He’s the greatest necromancer ever was,
     All his deeds with magic reek,
     He’s the whole thing, so to speak,
He’s the wonderful wizard of Oz.


THE FORGETFUL POET
 
By Ruth Plumly Thompson 
Originally published in the Philadelphia Public Ledger, December 19, 1920. 

 

The Puzzle Corner


The greatest puzzle of all—what will be in it?
Copyright © 2017 Eric Shanower and David Maxine. All rights reserved.

Monday, May 1, 2017

ROCKINGHORSE HILL

By Ruth Plumly Thompson
Author of The Yellow Knight of Oz, Ozoplaning with the Wizard in Oz, and The Wish Express, etc.

Originally published in the Philadelphia Public Ledger, June 15, 1919.


There’s the jolliest mansion on Rockinghorse Hill
(An elf man once showed me the way),
’Tis a couple of smiles and a number of miles
Just beyond the Great Kingdom of Play!

And who do you s’pose it was built for? Heigh-ho!
Why for old and infirm broken toys—
For dolls without wigs and for little lame pigs
Who’ve been played out by girls and by boys!
 

For one-legged bowwows and lambs without tails,
And for rag-tag dolls too—if you please—
Every day they arrive—and my goody alive—
They just look like poor war refugees!

A little fat fairy—who never has wed—
Keeps the home—and the darling old dear
Sees the toys are all mended and properly fed,
And dispenses large doses of cheer!
 

And if you should peek in some fine afternoon,
You’d see Teddy Bears leaning on canes,
And dollies with crutches all sociably talking
Or walking in all of the lanes.

They have dances and teas—and the merriest times
In the Home up on Rockinghorse Hill—
Those old worn-out toys—do you know, girls and boys,
Just to think of it gives me a thrill!


THE FORGETFUL POET
 
By Ruth Plumly Thompson 
Originally published in the Philadelphia Public Ledger, December 12, 1920.


Puzzles

The Forgetful Poet is so busy with the last of his Christmas shopping that he cannot stop to think up any new riddles, but he hopes you guessed those last week. The first was easy—XLNC for “his excellency” the ambassador, you know. And, of course, the chimney, down which Old Kriss comes, has a knee and a throat and smokes like a man. And the little couplet should read:

A score of days, fourteen and SIX,
The twenty-fifth is old ST. NICK’S (Day).
 

Copyright © 2017 Eric Shanower and David Maxine. All rights reserved.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

THE WONDERFUL PUMP

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

Originally published in American Fairy Tales (1901).
 



Not many years ago there lived on a stony, barren New England farm a man and his wife. They were sober, honest people, working hard from early morning until dark to enable them to secure a scanty living from their poor land.

Their house, a small, one-storied building, stood upon the side of a steep hill, and the stones lay so thickly about it that scarce anything green could grow from the ground. At the foot of the hill, a quarter of a mile from the house by the winding path, was a small brook, and the woman was obliged to go there for water and to carry it up the hill to the house. This was a tedious task, and with the other hard work that fell to her share had made her gaunt and bent and lean.

Yet she never complained, but meekly and faithfully performed her duties, doing the housework, carrying the water and helping her husband hoe the scanty crop that grew upon the best part of their land.

One day, as she walked down the path to the brook, her big shoes scattering the pebbles right and left, she noticed a large beetle lying upon its back and struggling hard with its little legs to turn over, that its feet might again touch the ground. But this it could not accomplish; so the woman, who had a kind heart, reached down and gently turned the beetle with her finger. At once it scampered from the path and she went on to the brook.

The next day, as she came for water, she was surprised to see the beetle again lying upon its back and struggling helplessly to turn. Once more the woman stopped and set him upon his feet; and then, as she stooped over the tiny creature, she heard a small voice say:

"Oh, thank you! Thank you so much for saving me!"

Half frightened at hearing a beetle speak in her own language, the woman started back and exclaimed:

"La sakes! Surely you can't talk like humans!" Then, recovering from her alarm, she again bent over the beetle, who answered her:

"Why shouldn't I talk, if I have anything to say?

"'Cause you're a bug," replied the woman.

"That is true; and you saved my life—saved me from my enemies, the sparrows. And this is the second time you have come to my assistance, so I owe you a debt of gratitude. Bugs value their lives as much as human beings, and I am a more important creature than you, in your ignorance, may suppose. But, tell me, why do you come each day to the brook?"

"For water," she answered, staring stupidly down at the talking beetle.

"Isn't it hard work?" the creature inquired.

"Yes; but there's no water on the hill," said she.

"Then dig a well and put a pump in it," replied the beetle.

She shook her head.

"My man tried it once; but there was no water," she said, sadly.

"Try it again," commanded the beetle; "and in return for your kindness to me I will make this promise: if you do not get water from the well you will get that which is more precious to you. I must go now. Do not forget. Dig a well."

And then, without pausing to say good-by, it ran swiftly away and was lost among the stones.

The woman returned to the house much perplexed by what the beetle had said, and when her husband came in from his work she told him the whole story.

The poor man thought deeply for a time, and then declared:

"Wife, there may be truth in what the bug told you. There must be magic in the world yet, if a beetle can speak; and if there is such a thing as magic we may get water from the well. The pump I bought to use in the well which proved to be dry is now lying in the barn, and the only expense in following the talking bug's advice will be the labor of digging the hole. Labor I am used to; so I will dig the well."

Next day he set about it, and dug so far down in the ground that he could hardly reach the top to climb out again; but not a drop of water was found.

"Perhaps you did not dig deep enough," his wife said, when he told her of his failure.

So the following day he made a long ladder, which he put into the hole; and then he dug, and dug, and dug, until the top of the ladder barely reached the top of the hole. But still there was no water.

When the woman next went to the brook with her pail she saw the beetle sitting upon a stone beside her path. So she stopped and said:

"My husband has dug the well; but there is no water."

"Did he put the pump in the well?" asked the beetle.

"No," she answered.

"Then do as I commanded; put in the pump, and if you do not get water I promise you something still more precious."

Saying which, the beetle swiftly slid from the stone and disappeared. The woman went back to the house and told her husband what the bug had said.

"Well," replied the simple fellow, "there can be no harm in trying."

So he got the pump from the barn and placed it in the well, and then he took hold of the handle and began to pump, while his wife stood by to watch what would happen.

No water came, but after a few moments a gold piece dropped from the spout of the pump, and then another, and another, until several handfuls of gold lay in a little heap upon the ground.

The man stopped pumping then and ran to help his wife gather the gold pieces into her apron; but their hands trembled so greatly through excitement and joy that they could scarcely pick up the sparkling coins.

At last she gathered them close to her bosom and together they ran to the house, where they emptied the precious gold upon the table and counted the pieces.

All were stamped with the design of the United States mint and were worth five dollars each. Some were worn and somewhat discolored from use, while others seemed bright and new, as if they had not been much handled. When the value of the pieces was added together they were found to be worth three hundred dollars.

Suddenly the woman spoke.

"Husband, the beetle said truly when he declared we should get something more precious than water from the well. But run at once and take away the handle from the pump, lest anyone should pass this way and discover our secret."

So the man ran to the pump and removed the handle, which he carried to the house and hid underneath the bed.

They hardly slept a wink that night, lying awake to think of their good fortune and what they should do with their store of yellow gold. In all their former lives they had never possessed more than a few dollars at a time, and now the cracked teapot was nearly full of gold coins.

The following day was Sunday, and they arose early and ran to see if their treasure was safe. There it lay, heaped snugly within the teapot, and they were so willing to feast their eyes upon it that it was long before the man could leave it to build the fire or the woman to cook the breakfast.

While they ate their simple meal the woman said:

"We will go to church to-day and return thanks for the riches that have come to us so suddenly. And I will give the pastor one of the gold pieces."

"It is well enough to go to church," replied her husband, "and also to return thanks. But in the night I decided how we will spend all our money; so there will be none left for the pastor."

"We can pump more," said the woman.

"Perhaps; and perhaps not," he answered, cautiously. "What we have we can depend upon, but whether or not there be more in the well I cannot say."

"Then go and find out," she returned, "for I am anxious to give something to the pastor, who is a poor man and deserving."

Illustration for "The Wonderful Pump" from The St. Louis Republican, May 12, 1901.
So the man got the pump handle from beneath the bed, and, going to the pump, fitted it in place. Then he set a large wooden bucket under the spout and began to pump. To their joy the gold pieces soon began flowing into the pail, and, seeing it about to run over the brim, the woman brought another pail. But now the stream suddenly stopped, and the man said, cheerfully:

"That is enough for to-day, good wife! We have added greatly to our treasure, and the parson shall have his gold piece. Indeed, I think I shall also put a coin into the contribution box."

Then, because the teapot would hold no more gold, the farmer emptied the pail into the wood-box, covering the money with dried leaves and twigs, that no one might suspect what lay underneath.

Afterward they dressed themselves in their best clothing and started for the church, each taking a bright gold piece from the teapot as a gift to the pastor.

Over the hill and down into the valley beyond they walked, feeling so gay and light-hearted that they did not mind the distance at all. At last they came to the little country church and entered just as the services began.

Being proud of their wealth and of the gifts they had brought for the pastor, they could scarcely wait for the moment when the deacon passed the contribution box. But at last the time came, and the farmer held his hand high over the box and dropped the gold piece so that all the congregation could see what he had given. The woman did likewise, feeling important and happy at being able to give the good parson so much.

The parson, watching from the pulpit, saw the gold drop into the box, and could hardly believe that his eyes did not deceive him. However, when the box was laid upon his desk there were the two gold pieces, and he was so surprised that he nearly forgot his sermon.

When the people were leaving the church at the close of the services the good man stopped the farmer and his wife and asked:

"Where did you get so much gold?"

The woman gladly told him how she had rescued the beetle, and how, in return, they had been rewarded with the wonderful pump. The pastor listened to it all gravely, and when the story was finished he said:

"According to tradition strange things happened in this world ages ago, and now I find that strange things may also happen to-day. For by your tale you have found a beetle that can speak and also has power to bestow upon you great wealth." Then he looked carefully at the gold pieces and continued:

"Either this money is fairy gold or it is genuine metal, stamped at the mint of the United States government. If it is fairy gold it will disappear within 24 hours, and will therefore do no one any good. If it is real money, then your beetle must have robbed some one of the gold and placed it in your well. For all money belongs to some one, and if you have not earned it honestly, but have come by it in the mysterious way you mention, it was surely taken from the persons who owned it, without their consent. Where else could real money come from?"

The farmer and his wife were confused by this statement and looked guiltily at each other, for they were honest people and wished to wrong no one.

"Then you think the beetle stole the money?" asked the woman.

"By his magic powers he probably took it from its rightful owners. Even bugs which can speak have no consciences and cannot tell the difference between right and wrong. With a desire to reward you for your kindness the beetle took from its lawful possessors the money you pumped from the well."

"Perhaps it really is fairy gold," suggested the man. "If so, we must go to the town and spend the money before it disappears."

"That would be wrong," answered the pastor; "for then the merchants would have neither money nor goods. To give them fairy gold would be to rob them."

"What, then, shall we do?" asked the poor woman, wringing her hands with grief and disappointment.

"Go home and wait until to-morrow. If the gold is then in your possession it is real money and not fairy gold. But if it is real money you must try to restore it to its rightful owners. Take, also, these pieces which you have given me, for I cannot accept gold that is not honestly come by."

Sadly the poor people returned to their home, being greatly disturbed by what they had heard. 

Another sleepless night was passed, and on Monday morning they arose at daylight and ran to see if the gold was still visible.

"It is real money, after all!" cried the man; "for not a single piece has disappeared."

When the woman went to the brook that day she looked for the beetle, and, sure enough, there he sat upon the flat stone.

"Are you happy now?" asked the beetle, as the woman paused before him.

"We are very unhappy," she answered; "for, although you have given us much gold, our good parson says it surely belongs to some one else, and was stolen by you to reward us."

"Your parson may be a good man," returned the beetle, with some indignation, "but he certainly is not overwise. Nevertheless, if you do not want the gold I can take it from you as easily as I gave it."

"But we do want it!" cried the woman, fearfully. "That is," she added, "if it is honestly come by."

"It is not stolen," replied the beetle, sulkily, "and now belongs to no one but yourselves. When you saved my life I thought how I might reward you; and, knowing you to be poor, I decided gold would make you happier than anything else.

"You must know," he continued, "that although I appear so small and insignificant, I am really king of all the insects, and my people obey my slightest wish. Living, as they do, close to the ground, the insects often come across gold and other pieces of money which have been lost by men and have fallen into cracks or crevasses or become covered with earth or hidden by grass or weeds. Whenever my people find money in this way they report the fact to me; but I have always let it lie, because it could be of no possible use to an insect.

"However, when I decided to give you gold I knew just where to obtain it without robbing any of your fellow creatures. Thousands of insects were at once sent by me in every direction to bring the pieces of lost gold to his hill. It cost my people several days of hard labor, as you may suppose; but by the time your husband had finished the well the gold began to arrive from all parts of the country, and during the night my subjects dumped it all into the well. So you may use it with a clear conscience, knowing that you wrong no one."

This explanation delighted the woman, and when she returned to the house and reported to her husband what the beetle had said he also was overjoyed.

So they at once took a number of the gold pieces and went to the town to purchase provisions and clothing and many things of which they had long stood in need; but so proud were they of their newly acquired wealth that they took no pains to conceal it. They wanted everyone to know they had money, and so it was no wonder that when some of the wicked men in the village saw the gold they longed to possess it themselves.

"If they spend this money so freely," whispered one to another, "there must be a great store of gold at their home."

"That is true," was the answer. "Let us hasten there before they return and ransack the house."

So they left the village and hurried away to the farm on the hill, where they broke down the door and turned everything topsy turvy until they had discovered the gold in the wood-box and the teapot. It did not take them long to make this into bundles, which they slung upon their backs and carried off, and it was probably because they were in a great hurry that they did not stop to put the house in order again.

Presently the good woman and her husband came up the hill from the village with their arms full of bundles and followed by a crowd of small boys who had been hired to help carry the purchases. Then followed others, youngsters and country louts, attracted by the wealth and prodigality of the pair, who, from simple curiosity, trailed along behind like the tail of a comet and helped swell the concourse into a triumphal procession. Last of all came Guggins, the shopkeeper, carrying with much tenderness a new silk dress which was to be paid for when they reached the house, all the money they had taken to the village having been lavishly expended.

The farmer, who had formerly been a modest man, was now so swelled with pride that he tipped the rim of his hat over his left ear and smoked a big cigar that was fast making him ill. His wife strutted along beside him like a peacock, enjoying to the full the homage and respect her wealth had won from those who formerly deigned not to notice her, and glancing from time to time at the admiring procession in the rear.

But, alas for their new-born pride! when they reached the farmhouse they found the door broken in, the furniture strewn in all directions and their treasure stolen to the very last gold piece.

The crowd grinned and made slighting remarks of a personal nature, and Guggins, the shopkeeper, demanded in a loud voice the money for the silk dress he had brought.

Then the woman whispered to her husband to run and pump some more gold while she kept the crowd quiet, and he obeyed quickly. But after a few moments he returned with a white face to tell her the pump was dry, and not a gold piece could now be coaxed from the spout.

The procession marched back to the village laughing and jeering at the farmer and his wife, who had pretended to be so rich; and some of the boys were naughty enough to throw stones at the house from the top of the hill. Mr. Guggins carried away his dress after severely scolding the woman for deceiving him, and when the couple at last found themselves alone their pride had turned to humiliation and their joy to bitter grief.

Just before sundown the woman dried her eyes and, having resumed her ordinary attire, went to the brook for water. When she came to the flat stone she saw the King Beetle sitting upon it.

"The well is dry!" she cried out, angrily.

"Yes," answered the beetle, calmly, "you have pumped from it all the gold my people could find."

"But we are now ruined," said the woman, sitting down in the path beginning to weep; "for robbers have stolen from us every penny we possessed."

"I'm sorry," returned the beetle; "but it is your own fault. Had you not made so great a show of your wealth no one would have suspected you possessed a treasure, or thought to rob you. As it is, you have merely lost the gold which others have lost before you. It will probably be lost many times more before the world comes to an end."

"But what are we to do now?" she asked.

"What did you do before I gave you the money?"

"We worked from morning 'til night," said she.

"Then work still remains for you," remarked the beetle, composedly; "no one will ever try to rob you of that, you may be sure!" And he slid from the stone and disappeared for the last time.

*      *      *      *      *      *      *       *       *       *       *
This story should teach us to accept good fortune with humble hearts and to use it with 
moderation. For, had the farmer and his wife resisted the temptation to display their 
wealth ostentatiously, they might have retained it to this very day.



THE FORGETFUL POET
 
By Ruth Plumly Thompson 
Originally published in the Philadelphia Public Ledger, December 5, 1920. 
 
Puzzle Corner

“To begin at the beginning is very proper,” says the Forgetful Poet, and as old riddles should be answered before new ones are made—here goes: The little bees rise beetimes, of course, and NOON and HEAD were the words omitted from the verses.

And now the old dear tells me that if he were addressing a letter to an ambassador he could do it in four letters of the alphabet. To spell the title would require ten, but to spell it by sound would, he insists, take only four. Now, the first thing to find is, What do we call an ambassador? A king is “your royal highness” and the mayor “his honor.” What does one call an ambassador? And when you have found it put it into four letters.

And what is this?

A knee and a throat, sirs,
And yet it’s no man,
Though it smokes like a good one,
Guess what, if you can.

A score of days—fourteen and -----,
The twenty-fifth is old ----- (Day).

[Answers next time.]
 
Copyright © 2017 Eric Shanower and David Maxine. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

THE STORY OF BARON

By Ruth Plumly Thompson
Author of Grampa of Oz, Ozoplaning with the Wizard in Oz, and The Wish Express, etc.

Originally published in the Philadelphia Public Ledger, October 11, 1914.



(For Ned, Who Likes Stories of Horses.)

His name was Baron. He belonged to Krupp, of the Kaiser’s Uhlans. Two hands at least, his powerful shoulders rose above tall the horses in the line. His magnificent head stood out among the waving manes—like the prow of a ship stands out of the sea. He was on his way to the front. “Is this war?” he neighed with pounding heart as the trumpet sounded the call—“GO”—“Is this war?” he kept asking his comrade horses—during the long marches over the rolling hills. From his colthood he had heard men exclaim: “What a horse? What a WAR horse he will make!” All his life he had been dreaming, in a vague way, of this thing called war. When he was being trained to charge—and wheel and stand—he kept asking himself over and over, “Is this war?” The question leapt out of his eyes every day of the wearisome marching.

Then, one day, the Uhlans came to the French frontier own of Lamdreces. They charged the town—and somehow—the great horse realized that this charge was not like the practice charges. He felt a quiver of delight as the long line in a whirl of dust swept down the hill. “Ah,” cried he, throwing back his head—“surely this—is war!” down the narrow streets clattered the Uhlans. But suddenly the air was full of a thousand noises. Machine guns from the roofs and windows poured shot upon the advancing lines. With a rush a mass of English cavalry were hurtling to meet them. Ears back, head high, Baron plunged through the terrible confusion. The gun-powder stung his nostrils—on each side of him horses were rearing and plunging and snorting with fright. Men and horses were falling in hundreds. The cords of his mighty heart tightened. “This—then—was WAR!” With a scream of defiance he flung back his mane and plunged savagely to meet an advancing cavalryman. The man whipped out his sword and swung it at the head of Krupp. Up reared the gallant horse—and saved his master—by receiving the downward thrust in his heart.

Soundlessly he sank to his knees—then rolled heavily upon his side. Just once he raised his head to see Krupp fighting desperately with his back to the wall. He tried to rise—but dropped back with a groan. Something in the iron heart of the great horse snapped. His mighty limbs quivered, then lay forever still. This—was WAR!



THE FORGETFUL POET
 
By Ruth Plumly Thompson 
Originally published in the Philadelphia Public Ledger, November 28, 1920.


Puzzles

“What time,” asked a rabbit
With funny red eyes,
“What time may I ask
Do the little bees rise?”

        (Do you know?)

The sun had breakfast in bed, I think,
’Cause he didn’t get up till -----
With a woolen cloud bandage around his -----
He said ’twould be snowing soon!

(And I guess he’s right.)

And now let us explain that the weather is vain because it’s fair most of the time. And the only man it is safe to stick your tongue out at is—the doctor. And the mouse would like to be the man in the moon because he thinks the moon’s made of cheese, which shows he doesn’t know much about moonography.

We clean windows with a chamois and the animal in the verse was an oryx, and if you don’t believe me ask the Forgetful Poet. (If you can find him.)

[Answers next time.] 


Copyright © 2017 Eric Shanower and David Maxine. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

WITCH'S SONG

By L. Frank Baum
Author of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, The Boy Fortune Hunters in the Yucatan, Daughters of Destiny, etc.
 
From The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Act III, 1901.

A FOREST WITCH appeared in an early draft of the script for what eventually became the Broadway stage hit The Wizard of Oz. Baum wrote the following lyrics for the FOREST WITCH to sing in the Forest of Fighting Trees. The character and scene were cut from the script during work on the show in early 1902.

I’m fearfully wicked,
I’m cheerfully wicked,
I shudder myself when I think
How yearningly wicked,
Discerningly wicked
I am, from nothing I shrink.

I’m thrilling wicked,
I’m killingly wicked,
I don’t care a rap for what’s good.
I’m slashingly wicked,
Abashingly wicked,
I wouldn’t reform if I could.

You may show a deep aversion to a green goods man,
Or cast a vile aspersion on a sneak thief gang,
You may tremble at a murderer, an anarchist or tough,
But none of them compared to me is really up to snuff.

I’m blissfully wicked,
Remissfully wicked,
No crime is too dreadful for me.
I’m snortingly wicked,
Distortingly wicked,
My sinfulness fills me with glee.



THE FORGETFUL POET
 
By Ruth Plumly Thompson 
Originally published in the Philadelphia Public Ledger, November 21, 1920.

Puzzle Corner

This week the Forgetful Poet would like to know why is the weather vane.
And he says further that it is only safe to stick out your tongue at one person. Who is he?

What animal do we use to clean windows?

“I wish,” said a mouse
To a sparrow one noon,
“I wish I myself
Were the man in the moon!”

Why?

There once was an amiable -----
Who ate several boxes of Borax!
Yes, that antelope et it, and my! it upset it,
And gave him a pain in his thorax!

The pie puzzles last week gave a good many folks mental indigestion, so the Forgetful Poet wants to answer them right away. First, pie is like a cross old man because it is crusty. It could never grow into a giant because it is made short with shortening. Patti was named after a small pie. An animal added to pie gives us pie-rat and pie is used in geometry and magpie is the bird.

The words left out of the verses were piebald, cap-a-pie, pioneers and mince.

[Answers next time.]



Copyright © 2017 Eric Shanower and David Maxine. All rights reserved.