Wednesday, November 6, 2019

PLAYED A NEW HAMLET

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 the Chicago Times-Herald, 1895.


[Hungry Tiger Press presents the following short story as a tie-in with—or amplification of—the history of L. Frank Baum's experiences as a young actor touring the hinterlands in 1881 with a disreputable acting company, as detailed by David Maxine in his Vintage Broadway blog. The basic background situation is true to Baum's life, as Maxine shows in his blog post "Opening Prayer - Part 1." But the 1961 book To Please a Child, a biography of L. Frank Baum by Russell MacFall and Baum's eldest son Frank J. Baum, claims the events of "Played a New Hamlet" are fact. Did this story really occur as Baum tells it?]


"No," said the actor, as he put his feet on the opposite seat, threw his ulster over the head of the harmless old gentleman in front of us, and proceeded to light his corncob pipe, "life with a cross-roads aggregation ain't no snap. You traveling men think you lead hard lives, but as a matter of fact you don't know what trouble is. Why, I've worked for five companies since the first of October, and played every part you can think of except a bronze statue, and where am I now? On my way to join an Uncle Tom's Cabin company of the deepest dye! Wouldn't expect it in an artist and a gentleman, I know; but three meals a day are indispensable to my health and happiness, and I must do what I can till Henderson offers me the comedy part in his new extravaganza.

"Comedian? Not on your birthday; I'm a tragedian by instinct and education; but it so happened that I always have to play the comedy role wherever I go—fate, I suppose, or what those theosophist Indiamaniacs call Karma. I never remember playing a part to my liking but once, and that was under adverse circumstances. I did the ghost in 'Hamlet,' and it was this way: I'd joined a party of barnstormers who were playing week stands through the mining towns in Pennsylvania. We sported a brass band at one time, but they had skipped out and left us with nothing but a bass drum, that was of little use as an attraction; still we lugged it around with us. Well, one week we were at a coal town way up on the hills above the Two Lick, where the natives were as green as grass. The first night's performance was a great success, but at its close a committee of miners waited on us with a request that we play 'Hamlet' the next night. Our manager replied that 'Hamlet' was not a part of our repertory, but that we'd give 'em a much better show. The miners were evidently disappointed, and the leader said:

" 'See here, boss, we've got to have this Hamlet show or the folks'll git mad. None of us ever seen it, but there was a digger here last year as could talk of nothin' else but Hamlet, as was the greatest show ever played an' had a ghost to it. Now, you say as you're actors, but can't play Hamlet; we've talked with the boys, an' that's the play they all want. You give us that an' we'll pack the house for you.'

"The manager looked puzzled and undecided, and another miner noticed it and exclaimed:

" 'See here, cap'n, if you can't give us Hamlet why leave that out, but give us the ghost anyway.'

"The manager put on his sweetest smile.




" 'My friends,' he said, 'you shall have the ghost, and Hamlet, too.'

" 'To-morrow night?'

" 'To-morrow night.'

"The delegates thanked us earnestly and withdrew, while the members of the company turned upon their betrayer in anger and amazement.

" 'Who knows anything about Hamlet?' I asked.

" 'Who's got a copy of the play?' inquired the heavy man.

" 'Where's the costumes coming from?' screamed the leading lady.

"But the manager silenced us all.

" 'Look here,' he said; 'if they are bound to have Hamlet they shall have him. It'll fill the house. I never saw Hamlet myself, but I know a few quotations from it, and the most they want is the ghost, anyhow. We'll go on and do anything we like—fake the thing through—and when it gets dull we'll ring in the ghost for excitement.'

"That settled it, but I own I had misgivings when I looked at the stage. We were playing in a schoolhouse, and, as there was no stage, we had been obliged to build one, from some lumber a miner had bought to add a wing to his house. He wouldn't let us cut the boards or nail them, so we laid them across some trusses, meeting the ends in the middle, and during the performance we had to exercise great care where we stepped or the end of a plank would fly up and give us an exit not down in the play.

"When the evening came there was a very nervous lot of actors behind the improvised curtain and even the manager lost a part of his assurance and would have backed out had he dared. But the miners were packed in the house like sardines in a box, and there wasn't standing room for a fly, so we knew it would not be safe to change the bill on them.

"That performance of 'Hamlet' was the rankest parody on a play ever presented to a suffering public. The miners looked on critically and tried to make out what it was all about. The manager, who was chief actor as well, stayed on the stage most of the time himself, getting off time-honored gags and trying to put a little go into his embarrassed and indignant company. I was to play the ghost, but not having seen 'Hamlet' at that time and having no idea how to dress the part I had covered myself with a sheet and swung the bass drum in front of me. As I'm rather short, my eyes just ranged across the top of the instrument. My cue was to be 'Who art thou?' but I was busily engaged in watching the antics of the company.

"They had been a little reckless in their movements and some of the boards near the center of the stage had slipped back, leaving a hole about two feet across. Owing to the drum I never saw this hole. I stood waiting for my cue in the wings, but I was thinking intently of something else when I became conscious that the manager was standing at the other side of the stage glaring angrily at me and shouting 'Who art thou?' at the top of his voice.




"Instantly I stepped out, gave the drum a solemn beat at each stride and exclaimed: 'I am thy father's ghost!' At the same time I unconsciously walked into the gaping hole in the stage and disappeared like a shot; but the drum remained on top while I was struggling in the darkness to gain a footing and  the crowd was shouting in intense delight at this magnificent denouement. The manager rang down the curtain and act first was concluded. They drew me out all covered with bumps and bruises, and, while the company roared with laughter and the manager thanked me with tears in his eyes for saving the piece, I tried to collect my wits and discover what had happened.

"But this wasn't the worst of it. Those cussed miners thought the accident was part of the piece, and during the next act shouted so energetically for the ghost that I was forced to go on and repeat the whole business. The third act was the same way, and when it was over my legs and arms were skinned, one eye was swelled shut, two of my front teeth were missing and every inch of my anatomy was sore. The crowd waited outside to escort me to the boarding house, where they gave me three rousing cheers. 'Tell you what,' said one of them to me the next day, as I sat propped up in bed, 'that air Hamlet is a great show. We sorter wondered why you didn't want to play it for us, but we understand now, and are grateful to you for givin' in. If ever your troupe comes here again, an' you give us Hamlet an' the ghost, you can have every dollar the town holds!'

"And that," concluded the actor, with a sigh, as he picked his grip out of the rack and put on his ulster, "is the only time I remember playing a tragic part, and yet my sold yearns for tragedy. Goodby, old man, I get out here. To-night, if you'll stop off, you'll see me once more in the grasp of relentless fate, and playing the fascinating part of Marks, the lawyer—for which sin may Heaven forgive me!"


Originally published in the Philadelphia Public Ledger, May 27, 1917.

The Wicked Stranger’s Visit to Supposyville
 
The keeper of the castle gate
Was wakened up at dawn;
For tapping there a visitor,
All wary, pale and wan,
Begged for admission to the realm
Of good Supposyville;
“Your name, sir?” quoth the gateman,
But the visitor kept still;
So feeling sorry for the wight
The keeper let him in;
But oh! my dears! He didn’t see
His sly and wicked grin;
Before the keeper scarce could wink
He hurried down the lane,
Banging on each door and sill,
And shuttered window pane;
The townfolk wakened in alarm
And tumbled out of bed;
And at each window and each door
Appeared a sleepy head.
“Ha! Ho!” the gloomy figure called,
“There are no queens or kings;
There are no fairies, elves or sprites,
Nor other magic things.”
(The idea!)
“Your old state is a make-up, and
It’s not upon the map;
You’re all a supposition.”
With their face quite agap
The poor Supposies listen; then
They hustle on their clothes;
“What does it mean? What can it be?
Whatever do you s’pose?”
They hasten to the palace, with
The stranger at their heels;
The King and Queen come out to see
What’s happened; each one feels
All sad and gloomy, while the person
Laughs in scornful glee;
“Pray call the wise men,” cried the King;
Out come the wise men, three;
“How dare you enter here! Beware!
Touch one man and you die!”
The first cries; while the second glares
At him with flashing eye;
“Begone from here, Dull Facts, begone;
Quick, drive him out of town!”
The third wise man calls angrily;
The kind Supposies frown,
And turning, chase that rogue, Dull Facts,
As fast as he can pelter,
Out of the kingdom, coming back
All breathless helter skelter;
Supposyville’s a kingdom of
The very realest kind;
For Supposyville, beloved,
Is a jolly state of mind.
“Not on the maps,” you say; “perhaps
‘Tis not, but each one knows
The way to get there; close your eyes
And then suppose, suppose!”

 Copyright © 2019 Eric Shanower and David Maxine. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

TOM, THE PIPER'S SON

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

Illustration by Maxfield Parrish

Originally published in Mother Goose in Prose (1897).



man bent over crooking his finger ast someone
Tom, the Piper's Son
Tom, Tom, the piper's son,
Stole a pig and away he run;
The pig was eat and Tom was beat
And Tom ran crying down the street.

There was not a worse vagabond in Shrewsbury than old Barney the piper. He never did any work except to play the pipes, and he played so badly that few pennies ever found their way into his pouch. It was whispered around that old Barney was not very honest, but he was so sly and cautious that no one had ever caught him in the act of stealing, although a good many things had been missed after they had fallen into the old man's way.

Barney had one son, named Tom; and they lived all alone in a little hut away at the end of the village street, for Tom's mother had died when he was a baby. You may not suppose that Tom was a very good boy, since he had such a queer father; but neither was he very bad, and the worst fault he had was in obeying his father's wishes when Barney wanted him to steal a chicken for their supper or a pot of potatoes for their breakfast. Tom did not like to steal, but he had no one to teach him to be honest, and so, under his father's guidance, he fell into bad ways.


One morning

Tom, Tom, the piper's son,
Was hungry when the day begun;
He wanted a bun and asked for one,
But soon found out that there were none.
"What shall we do?" he asked his father.

"Go hungry," replied Barney, "unless you want to take my pipes and play in the village. Perhaps they will give you a penny."

"No," answered Tom, shaking his head; "no one will give me a penny for playing; but Farmer Bowser might give me a penny to stop playing, if I went to his house. He did last week, you know."

"You'd better try it," said his father; "it's mighty uncomfortable to be hungry."

So Tom took his father's pipes and walked over the hill to Farmer Bowser's house; for you must know that

Tom, Tom, the piper's son,
Learned to play when he was young;
But the only tune that he could play
Was "Over the hills and far away."

And he played this one tune as badly as his father himself played, so that the people were annoyed when they heard him, and often begged him to stop.
When he came to Farmer Bowser's house, Tom started up the pipes and began to play with all his might. The farmer was in his woodshed, sawing wood, so he did not hear the pipes; and the farmer's wife was deaf, and could not hear them. But a little pig that had strayed around in front of the house heard the noise, and ran away in great fear to the pigsty.

Then, as Tom saw the playing did no good, he thought he would sing also, and therefore he began bawling, at the top of his voice,

"Over the hills, not a great ways off,
The woodchuck died with the whooping-cough!"
The farmer had stopped sawing to rest, just then; and when he heard the singing he rushed out of the shed, and chased Tom away with a big stick of wood.

The boy went back to his father, and said, sorrowfully, for he was more hungry than before,

"The farmer gave me nothing but a scolding; but there was a very nice pig running around the yard."
"How big was it?" asked Barney.

"Oh, just about big enough to make a nice dinner for you and me."

The piper slowly shook his head;
"'Tis long since I on pig have fed,
And though I feel it's wrong to steal,
Roast pig is very nice," he said.
Tom knew very well what he meant by that, so he laid down the pipes, and went back to the farmer's house.

When he came near he heard the farmer again sawing wood in the woodshed, and so he went softly up to the pig-sty and reached over and grabbed the little pig by the ears. The pig squealed, of course, but the farmer was making so much noise himself that he did not hear it, and in a minute Tom had the pig tucked under his arm and was running back home with it.

The piper was very glad to see the pig, and said to Tom,

"You are a good son, and the pig is very nice and fat. We shall have a dinner fit for a king."

It was not long before the piper had the pig killed and cut into pieces and boiling in the pot. Only the tail was left out, for Tom wanted to make a whistle of it, and as there was plenty to eat besides the tail his father let him have it.

The piper and his son had a fine dinner that day, and so great was their hunger that the little pig was all eaten up at one meal!

Then Barney lay down to sleep, and Tom sat on a bench outside the door and began to make a whistle out of the pig's tail with his pocket-knife.

Now Farmer Bowser, when he had finished sawing the wood, found it was time to feed the pig, so he took a pail of meal and went to the pigsty. But when he came to the sty there was no pig to be seen, and he searched all round the place for a good hour without finding it.

"Piggy, piggy, piggy!" he called, but no piggy came, and then he knew his pig had been stolen. He was very angry, indeed, for the pig was a great pet, and he had wanted to keep it till it grew very big.


So he put on his coat and buckled a strap around his waist, and went down to the village to see if he could find out who had stolen his pig.

Up and down the street he went, and in and out the lanes, but no traces of the pig could he find anywhere. And that was no great wonder, for the pig was eaten by that time and its bones picked clean.

Finally the farmer came to the end of the street where the piper lived in his little hut, and there he saw Tom sitting on a bench and blowing on a whistle made from a pig's tail.

"Where did you get that tail?" asked the farmer.

"I found it," said naughty Tom, beginning to be frightened.

"Let me see it," demanded the farmer; and when he had looked at it carefully he cried out,

"This tail belonged to my little pig, for I know very well the curl at the end of it! Tell me, you rascal, where is the pig?"

Then Tom fell in a tremble, for he knew his wickedness was discovered.

"The pig is eat, your honor," he answered.

The farmer said never a word, but his face grew black with anger, and, unbuckling the strap that was about his waist, he waved it around his head, and whack! came the strap over Tom's back.

"Ow, ow!" cried the boy, and started to run down the street.

Whack! whack! fell the strap over his shoulders, for the farmer followed at his heels half-way down the street, nor did he spare the strap until he had given Tom a good beating. And Tom was so scared that he never stopped running until he came to the end of the village, and he bawled lustily the whole way and cried out at every step as if the farmer was still at his back.

It was dark before he came back to his home, and his father was still asleep; so Tom crept into the hut and went to bed. But he had received a good lesson, and never after that could the old piper induce him to steal.

When Tom showed by his actions his intention of being honest he soon got a job of work to do, and before long he was able to earn a living more easily, and a great deal more honestly, than when he stole the pig to get a dinner and suffered a severe beating as a punishment.

Tom, Tom, the piper's son
Now with stealing pigs was done,
He'd work all day instead of play,
And dined on tart and currant bun.

Originally published in the Philadelphia Public Ledger, May 13, 1917.

Spring Planting in Supposyville and Just Beyond

Just beyond the walls and kingdom
Of Supposyville abode
A giant; in his garden there
The mighty person hoed
And worked away all busily
Preparing for his needs,
A-pulling up some poplar trees
Which he considered weeds;
While on the other side the good
Supposies toiled and panted,
To get their gardens shipshape and
All ready to be planted;
The King had ordered all the seeds,
And sent the miller for ‘em
To the neighboring town of Pumpernick,
And home he proudly bore ‘em;
The giant man had fetched his seeds
Form Dearknowswhere, and met
The miller on his journey home;
Ho! Ho! I’m laughing yet,
For the giant sat down on a hill,
Put the miller on his finger
To hear news of Supposyville;
Quite long in talk they linger.
“How comes your package is so small?”
The miller asked, espying
The giant’s seeds beside his own
Upon the hillside lying;
“Well,” said the giant, “they are small,
But once they start to grow
They’ll shoot up higher than the
Towers of your land. Heighho!
I must be getting home. Good-by!
Good luck!” He set him down;
The miller seized his packet and
Went hurrying back to town;
Next day the folk turned out in force,
And everything was sown
In less time than it takes to tell;
I’ve really never known
Such merry workers; all was done
And every one about
To hasten homeward, when, my word!
The things began to sprout;
Green shoots shot ten feet in the air,
Upset folks left and right;
And while they all lay scattered there
Grew on with main and might;
Before the miller could escape
A living wall of beans
Sprung up around him; a potato
Plant upset the Queen’s
First page, and grew and grew and grew,
Till higher than the wall,
And carried him on up with it;
The radishes were tall
As the turrets of the castle;
And just then appeared a head
Above the wall. “Good evening all,
There’s some mistake,” it said;
“You’ve got my seeds and I have yours;
Mine grow up in a day.”
It was the giant.  “Say, I hope
They’re not much in the way.”
Oh, how they laughed and chortled, and
Rolled over in their glee;
“If you will gather in your crops
‘Twill greatly pleasure me,”
The Queen called up; “but step with care,
My men are caught in here somewhere;
And please don’t knock our houses down.:
“I won’t,” the giant said,
And in a trice had gathered up
The crops from every bed;
A potato he left for the Queen
Of such a size and weight
It took twelve horses to convey
It to the castle gate;
“I’ll tend your crops and take them in,”
He thunders from the wall;
“And come and see me, little folks;
Good night! Good-by! To all.”
(Well, did you ever!)

 Copyright © 2019 Eric Shanower and David Maxine. All rights reserved.

Sunday, September 1, 2019

JACK MONKEY'S NEW WAY OF DOING THINGS

By Ruth Plumly Thompson
Author of The Lost King of Oz, "The Wizard of Pumperdink", "King, King! Double King!", etc.

Originally published in the Philadelphia Public Ledger, April 2, 1916.


“Now, what did I want to be sure to remember today?” murmured Oliver Elephant, tumbling out of bed the other morning. It must have been something pretty important, for he had tried a red string around the end of his trunk. He flopped his big ears up and he flopped his big ears down and he thought—all the time he was getting dressed he kept thinking, but still he couldn’t remember what he had wanted to be sure to remember! He was so slow dressing that mother elephant had to call him six or seven times to hurry—Professor Bear was very stern about lateness and Oliver had been late to school twice this month—if it happened again! Br-r-r! Something very terrible was going to happen.

Sighing deeply, Oliver jerked on his coat and clumped downstairs. He ate his breakfast in silence and snatching up his books, rushed off without even saying good-by or good-morning or good anything!

He was so busy trying to remember what he was to be sure to remember that he never noticed when Jack Monkey dropped down from a cocoanut tree and walked along at his side, till Jack tugged him violently by the coattails. “Wake up! You’re walking in your sleep!” teased Jack.

Oliver recovered himself with a start, and Jack Monkey had so many interesting things to tell him about the cocoanut ball game that was to take place next afternoon that he stopped bothering about what he was to be sure to remember. Discussing one thing and another they walked amiably through the jungle together. Just about halfway to Professor Bear’s school Jack Monkey stopped. He looked mysteriously all around to make sure that no one was about. Then, standing on tiptoe, he whispered something in Oliver Elephant’s huge ear.

“I don’t believe it!” boomed Oliver, twitching his ear to take the tickle of Jack’s whisper out of it. “Yes, sir! There’s a new way of doing everything!” repeated Jack triumphantly. “A new way of crossing rivers and streams without getting wet—new way of crossing ditches—I can show you a new way of crossing that ditch right in front of us there—a NEW way, mind you, and you won’t have to do a single thing but stand on the edge of it and close your eyes.”

“Pshaw,” grumbled Oliver Elephant, “I don’t believe you, but I’ll do it just to show how silly you are. Do you expect me to FLY across?”

Placing himself on the edge of the ditch, Oliver Elephant closed his eyes, swaying backward and forward in the manner of elephants. Poor Oliver. Jack Monkey gave a signal of some sort with his hand and the next minute the strangest horned beast you most ever have seen rushed out of the bushes and, lowering its head, butted Oliver plump into the mud! “April first! April first!” screamed Jack Monkey, dancing up and down with glee; then not waiting for Oliver to pull himself out of the ditch, pelted off to school as fast as he could. As for the horned beast it sat down on its haunches and laughed and laughed—and what do you suppose it was? A GNU!

“Ha! Ha! A gnu way of doing things. How do you like it?” Oliver Elephant pretended not to hear. Picking up his books and brushing off his clothes, he scrambled up the other side of the ditch. Suddenly, quite suddenly, he had remembered what he had wanted to be sure to remember—that today was April Fool. “If I only had thought a little longer, if I only had not met Jack Monkey!” he kept repeating bitterly to himself as he stumbled along toward the jungle school. “Now I’ll be late and—” Oliver Elephant did not care to finish this sentence.

“HAH!” roared Professor Bear as Oliver scuffled hastily into his seat. “LATE AGAIN! Same old excuse, I suppose!”

“No, sir!” sniffed Oliver, edging away as the professor strode down the aisle. “I’ve a GNU one!” At this Jack Monkey laughed uproariously. I do not think I shall finish, for what happened to both of them was decidedly unpleasant, but it all came of Oliver Elephant forgetting what he had meant to remember—April Fool’s Day.



Originally published in the Philadelphia Public Ledger, May 13, 1917. 

The Rise of the Supposyville Cake

Well, what you s’pose? You’ll never guess!
I don’t see how you could;
Oh, you might guess and guess and ‘twouldn’t
Do a bit of good;
Of course, you’ve heard about cakewalks,
But here’s a different one;
You should have seen Supposyville,
Ho! Ho! In that cake run!
The Queen decided to surprise
The King and make a cake.
Surprise him? Well, I guess she did,
And all the rest; my sake!
It was as large as twenty cakes;
Three cooks helped put it in
The oven; and just here is where
Exciting times begin;
Exciting times? Well, I should think!
You see she made it by herself;
And to be sure it wouldn’t sink
Used everything upon the shelf;
All sorts of spices, nuts and mace;
Two dozen cans of baking powder;
The wonder is when it went up, that
The explosion wasn’t louder;
Explode it did, just like a bomb,
And with an awful roar,
Up shot the stove clean through the roof,
Off flew the kitchen door;
And there that pan of cake still sot,
And riz, and riz, and riz,
Till halfway to the ceiling you
Could fairly hear it sizz;
The cooks rushed out in mad alarm,
The Queen fled in dismay;
But the cake rose in a sea of dough
And swamped ‘em all halfway;
They struggled up and pulled it from
Their eyeses and their noses,
And made what speed they could upon
Their sticky tippytoeses;
The raced it to the garden,
And warned the populace;
And Ho! Ho! Ho! Did ever one
Behold so strange a race?
It billowed down the garden walk
As if it were alive;
While out from hedge and street and lane
The startled people dive;
The Queen lost both her slippers, and
The King three times fell down;
And every one with sticky dough
Is stuck from toe to crown;
And on and on and on it spread,
And mercy goodness me!
It never stopped a-rising till
It chased them to the sea.
For weeks and weeks all hands were busy
Scraping off the dough;
But think of all the fun and laughs
They’ve had about it, though.

Copyright © 2019 Eric Shanower and David Maxine. All rights reserved.

Friday, August 9, 2019

THE WILD PIEMAN OF BORNEO COMES TO THE FRONT WITH A GIANT-CRACKER ACT

Verse and illustration by W. W. Denslow
Author of Denslow's Scarecrow and Tinman, original illustrator of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Father Goose: His Book, Dot and Tot of Merryland, etc. 

Originally published in The Minneapolis Star Tribune, June 29, 1902.


Click image to view larger.


Originally published in the Philadelphia Public Ledger, May 6, 1917.
 
Riddle Day in Supposyville

The first of May is riddle day;
And in Supposyville,
The townfolk, dressed in colors gay,
Assemble on the hill;
The King and Queen and Fiddlesticks
Gave riddles out at three,
And all the folks are in a line,
Same as a spelling bee;
And when you miss you step right out
And have a cake or bun;
But, oh! my goody, don’t each try
To be the lucky one—
To outguess all the rest and win
The cup and bag of gold
And the title “Royal Riddle Guesser,”
For a year to hold!
“What is it whose whole fortune is
A cent; yet all desire it,
And spend both gold and silver to
Secure and to acquire it?”
The tailor missed, the baker missed;
“A rose!” piped up the next,
A little lass; the other two
Retire abashed and vexed.
One riddle follows t’other, and
So entertained are all,
None note the quickly darkening sky
Or see the coming squall;
Down lashed the rain, up rose the gale;
Next minute half the people
Were perching on the housetops,
Fiddlesticks astride the steeple;
The cakes and buns flew through the air,
Too comical for words;
The hats went flapping up the trees
Like lively sort of birds;
But if you think they let this gale
Break up the riddle match,
You don’t know these Supposies;
Perched on tree or fence or thatch,
With ne’er a thought of fixings fine,
They stayed in wind and rain
A-shouting answers to the Queen
With all their might and main;
A little merchant won the match;
Then all splash off together,
Forgetting in their jolly talk
The shocking riddle weather.
It takes a lot to discompose
A people so unique as those!

Copyright © 2019 Eric Shanower and David Maxine. All rights reserved.

Sunday, July 14, 2019

OLIVER ELEPHANT AND TABORA CROCODILE

By Ruth Plumly Thompson
Author of Jack Pumpkinhead of Oz, "The Wizard of Pumperdink", "King, King! Double King!", etc.

Originally published in the Philadelphia Public Ledger, October 11, 1912.


Ooooo—ooh—ah—haaaa—ah— haaa—ooo—h!!! Ooooooh—ah—haaa—ah—haaa—ooo—ooh—OOOOH!!!

“What’s that?” stuttered Oliver Elephant, putting up his big ears. “Huh—what’s that, I wonder?” He was on his way home from school when he heard this queer noise that I have tried to tell you about in the first three lines of this story. Looks pretty awful, doesn’t it? Well, it sounded just dreadful! And it grew louder and louder. Oliver Elephant waved his trunk in perplexity; then pulling his cap down ran with all his might through the tangly jungle, stumbling over vines and trees and tearing his gray breeches on the stickery cactuses and things. He didn’t even stop when a branch caught his jacket and jerked it off his back.

“Something terrible is happening to somebody—and I MUST hurry!” gasped Oliver Elephant. “I’m coming, I’m coming!” he called, plunging along like a steam engine. And pretty soon the awful noise led him down to the banks of a stream. There on the bank sat Tabora Crocodile with his mouth WIDE open, crying and crying—and crocodile tears were running all over every place.

“Humph—a—humph—humph— a —humph,” puffed Oliver Elephant fanning himself with his hat, ’cause he’d lost his breath as well as his jacket. “Huh—what’s the matter?”

“Oooo—ooh—Ah—aaaaah! I ’och a ’ooth ache!” sobbed Tabora rocking to and fro, and trying to put his tail in his mouth. “Is THAT all,” said Oliver Elephant, sitting plump down on the ground. “Is THAT all!”  “Ooooo—OOH! All!” shrieked Tabora Crocodile, “I ’ish oo h-ad it!” He said a good bit more, but it got all mixed up with his tears and sobs, so that Oliver Elephant couldn’t make head nor tail of it. Tabora’s sobs grew louder and louder, and Oliver Elephant held his ears together under his chin, ’cause it was giving him a headache.

“It must hurt terribly,” thought Oliver, and he tried and tried to think of something to do. It was pretty hard to think with Tabora making such an awful nose, but after a while he had a WONDERFUL idea. He ran back among the trees and returned with a long stout piece of vine. Then he tapped Tabora on the shoulder and told him to stop crying. “I am going to tie this vine around your tooth,” said he. “Will that help?” sobbed Tabora, brushing away his tears with his tail and looking doubtfully at Oliver. “I just guess it will,” said Oliver. So he tied the stout vine tightly round Tabora’s tooth, and the rest of the vine around a big tree, then he held on to the end of it.

“Now,” said Oliver Elephant, “dive into the river!” AND—Tabora dove into the river! Oooooh! Jerk, went the stout vine, thump went Oliver Elephant against the tree, and out flew Tabora’s tooth. Oliver didn’t wait a minute when he saw Tabora’s head coming above water. Still holding on to the vine he ran plumpety smash off toward his house. It’s a good thing he did! For Tabora climbed out of the river faster than anything you could imagine—and IF HE CAUGHT HIM!!!!!!!--. Yes, siree, Oliver Elephant reached his house just in time! He slammed the door tight—then he looked out of the window.

“What are you so cross about?” said he. “Your tooth doesn’t ache any more, does it?”

Tabora stopped crying at this, and seemed to discover for the first time that his tooth DIDN’T ache any more. He stood a moment in surprise and then he began to smile and smile—and SMILE till he showed every tooth he had left. Oliver Elephant dropped his old tooth out of the window, and he went off singing “The jolly, jolly whale,” which is a favorite song of his. But after THAT Oliver Elephant never helped pull anybody’s tooth again!!!


Originally published in the Philadelphia Public Ledger, April 29, 1917.


Spring Lessons in Supposyville

The day was fair as only days
In spring can be; the birds
Woke up a four o’clock to try
To put spring’s song in words;
The grown-ups in Supposyville
Are happily repairing
To garden, wood and fragrant lanes;
The little folks are faring
Regretfully to school to learn
The facts that grow in books,
And lagging wistfully along
With many backward looks.
The king waved from the palace garden
As slow they passed. “My dear!”
He called the queen, who’s trimming up
The roses, “Look! Look here!
It doesn’t seem quite right to keep
The children in today;
Spring days are treasures to be lived
Outdoors’ too few are they
To spend in dreary recitation,
Spelling, and all that’;
I’d rather have them learn of spring
Than say c—a—t cat!”
“Just what I used to think,” the queen
Agreed; and off they hurry,
Arriving just as school begins
And causing quite a flurry.
“I’ve come to state that three days of
Each week in spring this school
Shall picnic in the woods and fields
And wade in brook and pool!
And not a word of verbs or nouns,
Or history dates be spoken
In Supposyville; it is the law,
For I, the king, have spoken!”
Whew! what a shout went up at that—
Outdoors the children tumble;
The teacher follows in a daze,
His thoughts all in a jumble;
But soon he enters in the fun,
And with the merry king
Helps teach the little children all
The lessons of the spring;
To know where violets peep up in
The wood and where the thrush
Trills out his limpid joyous song,
Through twilight’s misty hush
About the trees and clouds and hills;
And sometimes, dears, we will
Learn out o’ doors just as they do
In dear Supposyville!

Copyright © 2019 Eric Shanower and David Maxine. All rights reserved.

Saturday, June 1, 2019

GIRLS ARE ALWAYS THE SAME

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

L. Frank Baum's unproduced script for Ozma of Oz, copyrighted in 1909, was based on his 1907 book of the same name. Eventually it evolved into the play The Tik-Tok Man of Oz, staged in 1913, which was the basis for Baum's 1914 Oz book of a similar name. The following song, which would have had music (not known to still exist) by Manuel Klein, was a duet for the characters Queen Ann and Ozma the Rose Princess. The song was cut before the project turned into The Tik-Tok Man of Oz.

ANN:
Maidens of old didn’t gossip or scold,
Always could secrets keep;
Never talked nights when they put out the lights—
Always went straight to sleep.
They’d say: “Oh, my dear, what a beautiful dress!”
When it didn’t fit anyhow—
That’s what an old-fashioned girl would do,
What would a girl do now?

OZMA:
A girl of today wouldn’t publicly say
A friend was tackily dressed;
If she suspected a gown resurrected
She’d smile—we’d all know the rest.
If a hat’s out of date, or isn’t on straight
She merely raises her brow;
If you know beans, you know what that means—
That’s what a girl would do now.

BOTH:
Ages may come and ages may go,
But maids will be ever the same;
If a girl didn’t lie now and then, on the sly,
She wouldn’t be worthy the name.

2.
ANN:
Maidens of old by mothers were told
Always to be discreet,
Never beguiling a stranger by smiling,
Never trapesing [sic] the street.
Never, they’d swear, to flirt would they dare,
Never been kissed they’d vow.
That’s what an old-fashioned girl would do;
What would a girl do now?

OZMA:
Girls of today have a more demure way
Seldom a trick is missed;
Frequently dine upon partridge and wine,
Never resist when kissed.
Ev’ry sweet lass is saving of gas,
Ev’ry papa will allow;
If asked to the play: “I’m game!” she will say—
That’s what a girl would do now.

BOTH:
Ages may come and ages may go,
But maids will be ever the same;
Any girl with a chance will step high and prance
Or she wouldn’t be worthy the name.

3.
ANN:
Maidens of old were modest—not bold—
Never were reckless or weak;
Men who were busted the girls never trusted,
Wouldn’t permit them to speak.
Told ’em they wouldn’t and couldn’t for true
Hitch to ’em anyhow;
That’s what an old-fashioned girl would do—
What would a girl do now?

OZMA:
Well, if her breast with love was oppress’d,
If she were fond and true,
Never a maid would e’er be afraid
To do what she ought to do.
Money won’t weigh on the same scale, they say,
With love, and I guess it’s true;
No matter how poor, she’d have him for sure—
That’s what a real girl would do.

BOTH:
Ages may come and ages may go,
But maids will be ever the same;
If a girl wasn’t foolish, and stubborn, and mulish,
She wouldn’t be worthy the name.


Originally published in the Philadelphia Public Ledger, April 22, 1917.

A Supposyville Happening

Open came the shutters and
The windows, long ’fore dawn;
Up jumped the good Supposy folk
And slipped their best clothes on,
And down the silent roads and streets
Hilarious they go,
Before the chickens waken, or
The cock has time to crow!
The Queen skips gayly with the rest,
The King, beside the cook,
Hands out delightful little cakes,
Which everybody took
With gracious courtesy, and to cheer
The way, they had a song,
The Fiddlesticks’ bow-legged band
Tuned up and twanged along.
And just as Daddy Sun threw back
His rosy quilt to see
Who’d waked him up, and what the noise
And merriment could be
A whistle and a rattle sounded;
Sundry growls and roars,
And other sounds mysterious,
Like seal or walrus snores.
“They’ve come!” cry the Supposys—
Up fly a score of hats,
Of kerchiefs, ribbons and what-nots,
A tailor waved his spats!
And now out from the puffing train,
A motley company poured—
Clowns, ladies, bears, and juggler men;
Inside the lions roared,
But not CROSS roars, indeedy, NO!
Just lion conversation,
About how glad they were to be
In such a situation!
Aho! I want to tell you when
The circus comes to town,
Supposyville drops EVERYTHING,
To make way for the clown!
The lads and lassies and the men
Help set the circus tents,
And not a soul is missing
When festivities commence.
In Supposyville the tumblers tumble
JUST THE BEST OF ALL.
The bareback riders jump ten feet
Through hoops and never fall.
The elephants do tricks with glee,
The bears cheer up and dance.
You see, they’re happy here because
They know they’ll have a chance
To meet just every single soul
In town, and it’s SUCH fun
To know there’s not a person there
Who isn’t having fun.
Supposy folks don’t grow up like
The folks in other places,
They’re just big boys and girls behind
Their pleasant grown-up faces.
And after the performance the
Whole circus is invited
To the palace—bears and clowns and all
And MY! But they’re excited.
The fat dame sits upon the throne,
The Human Skeleton
Is crowned King for the evening.
You can guess just how much fun
They have, and oft I’m tempted
(P’raps some day I will)
Run off and rent a cottage
In that dear Supposyville! 

Copyright © 2019 Eric Shanower and David Maxine. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

PROFESSOR BEAR’S SCHOOL

By Ruth Plumly Thompson
Author of Handy Mandy in Oz, "The Wizard of Pumperdink", "King, King! Double King!", etc.

Originally published in the Philadelphia Public Ledger, September 27, 1914.
 


 The jungle school was kept by Professor Bear, who was fearfully wise, but also fearfully bearish. “I don’t believe he was ever a little elephant!” said Oliver to Tommy Tapir, one morning as they were on their way to school. “Little elephant!” snorted Tommy—“Oliver Elephant, what are you thinking about?” “Well, I don’t believe he was ever a little bear, then,” grumbled Oliver Elephant—and it did seem, boys and girls, as if the Professor was so chuck full of jungleography and junglelaw that he hadn’t much room left for heart. On this day I am telling you about he was very stern—oh, very stern, indeed!

“Sit up!” he thundered, banging on his desk with his big cane. The little monkeys and bears and tapirs, the little elephants and all the rest of them sat up with a jerk. “ATTENTION!” growled Professor Bear. “NOW! Oliver Elephant, please stand up and answer this simple problem. If I were to chop three and one-half inches off your trunk, how many inches would there be left, and just give the answer in decimals.”

“Huh—what!” gasped Oliver Elephant, scrambling to his feet.

“Make haste!” snapped the Professor, banging his desk again. “Make haste!” Oliver Elephant rocked to and fro and put up his big ears and opened wide his little eyes. “Mm—my father wouldn’t let you!” he burst out at last, jamming his trunk in his pocket and starting to run for the door. “Hah, hah!” giggled Katange Monkey, diving under her desk.

“This is UNBEARABLE!” spluttered the Professor, and bouncing out of his seat, he came rushing down the room. Everybody ducked and shivered and shook—and just think how poor Oliver Elephant felt! Next the Professor’s arm shot out; Oliver Elephant seemed to sail and fly through the air, and then stopped kerplump under the clock with a dunce cap smashed down over his eye—AND ALL THE BUTTONS OFF HIS NEW SUIT! (I am glad that Oliver’s mother didn’t happen to come along just then.) Tommy Tapir felt so sorry for Oliver that he scribbled a note on the back of his arithmetic paper and passed it to Oliver while the Professor’s back was turned. This is what it said: “Don’t you care!”

Oliver read the note, wiped his eyes on it (he had lost his handkerchief), then he felt a little better. It was pretty tiresome, though, standing under the clock. There wasn’t a sound in the room ’ceptin’ its ticking and the scraping of pencils, as the pupils wrote the answers to the Professor’s questions. I don’t see how they ever answered them at ALL. Could YOU have told how many knots a cobra could tie in his tail—if a hippopotamus stepped on his head?—and how many berries and a half a little bear could eat without getting the mullygrubs?—and why the grass was green instead of PINK? Could you, now?


Well, while they were writing all this down—Oliver Elephant stood first on one foot and then on the other and Ooooh! but he was tired. At last he looked up at the clock to see what time it was. It said 11 o’clock. Then he found that by stretching his trunk a WAY up he could just reach the hands. And because he was pretty tired, I guess—he—what do you ’spose he did. Well, HE PUSHED THE HAND ’ROUND TO TWELVE! And just as he did—Professor Bear looked up—and SAW HIM DO IT. Whoooo! Everybody held his breath. First the Professor put down his chalk—then he took off his spectacles—then he began to shake all over. “Go Home!” he choked, waving one paw at the class and putting his other paw to his mouth—“Go home!” And they all grabbed their hats and ran home in a hurry. And no sooner were they gone before he took down his paw from his mouth and Oliver Elephant saw that he was laughing—laughing so hard that the tears ran down his nose. “Why did you do it?” he gasped at last. “Mmm—my foot was asleep!” stuttered Oliver Elephant, too surprised to talk straight. “Same reason—same reason!” chuckled the Professor—then he told Oliver Elephant how he had done the VERY SAME THING when he was a little bear. “Indeed, it takes me back to my little bear days!” said he, wiping his eyes. “And you have no idea what an old grumpus Professor Panther was!” “Good bearskins!” he muttered all at once— “I’m afraid I was a little severe this morning,” “Oh, that’s all right,” said Oliver Elephant, holding his blouse together—where the buttons had been ripped off. Now Professor Bear grew very thoughtful—then he gave Oliver Elephant an apple and sent him home to his mother.

“So you see,” said Oliver Elephant, when he was telling Tommy Tapir all about things—“he was a little bear after all!” I am glad to say that the Professor from this time on was always kind and agreeable—and never stood any one in the corner again!



Originally published in the Philadelphia Public Ledger, April 15, 1917.


Spring Housecleaning in Supposeyville

Now in Supposeyville there floats
Upon the atmosphere
The pungent smell of soap and paint—
HOUSECLEANING TIME is here!
The winter coats and trousers dance
Their farewell on the line;
The windows have been polished up
And chamoised till they shine.
The men go whistling to their work;
The merry dames all sing,
And scrub and splash to heart’s content
A-welcoming the spring!
But let us take the king and queen,
While all the rest are jolly;
They both are rather cross and ill
And fearfully melancholy.
The doctor says “Spring fever!” and
Suggests a trip away;
Grand preparations are begun
By every one. Next day
When maids in waiting go to wake
The queen, no queen is there;
The king has also disappeared;
They search most everywhere,
And find at last on garden seat
A note: “We’ve gone—due east,”
It says, “by west and will
Return good folk—ANON.”
Quite puzzled, somewhat reassured,
They all resume their splashing
Their painting, dusting  scrubbing, and
Relentless water dashing.
Meanwhile the king and queen, dressed up
As ordinary folks,
Are jogging down the highway on
Two donkeys, cracking jokes;
The king points to a house—says he,
“My dearest Mrs. Jones,
Let’s rent this house; it is THE ONE,
I feel it in my bones!”
“Just as you say,” the queen replies.
That same night they move in,
Known by the neighbors as the Joneses;
And NOW the larks begin;
The queen starts in to sweep and scrub;
The king, with vig’rous brush,
Paints the house and then the barn;
And how the queen does blush,
When the king—I mean when Mr. Jones
Praises her hot-cakes—MY!
What fun they had, what happiness,
And how the hours fly.
But even the finest times must end.
The house from roof to sill
Is spotless, and they must return
To good Supposeyville.
So hunting up their crowns and gowns
They slip back in the night,
And next day are discovered by
The courtiers with delight.
Cured of all ills and quite restored,
Sometimes they puzzle folks
By referring to the JONESES—but
Then kings must have their jokes!

Copyright © 2019 Eric Shanower and David Maxine. All rights reserved.

Monday, April 1, 2019

MR. WOODCHUCK

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 1906.

Chapter I
The Trap

“There’s a woodchuck over on the side hill that is eating my clover,” said Twinkle’s father, who was a farmer.

“Why don’t you set a trap for it?” asked Twinkle’s mother.

“I believe I will,” answered the man.

So, when the midday dinner was over, the farmer went to the barn and got a steel trap, and carried it over to the clover-field on the hillside.

Twinkle wanted very much to go with him, but she had to help mamma wash the dishes and put them away, and then brush up the dining-room and put it in order. But when the work was done, and she had all the rest of the afternoon to herself, she decided to go over to the woodchuck’s hole and see how papa had set the trap, and also discover if the woodchuck had yet been caught.

So the little girl took her blue-and-white sun-bonnet, and climbed over the garden fence and ran across the corn-field and through the rye until she came to the red-clover patch on the hill.

She knew perfectly well where the woodchuck’s hole was, for she had looked at it curiously many times; so she approached it carefully and found the trap set just in front of the hole. If the woodchuck stepped on it, when he came out, it would grab his leg and hold him fast; and there was a chain fastened to the trap, and also to a stout post driven into the ground, so that when the woodchuck was caught he couldn’t run away with the trap.
But although the day was bright and sunshiny, and just the kind of day woodchucks like, the clover-eater had not yet walked out of his hole to get caught in the trap.

So Twinkle lay down in the clover-field, half hidden by a small bank in front of the woodchuck’s hole, and began to watch for the little animal to come out. Her eyes could see right into the hole, which seemed to slant upward into the hill instead of downward; but of course she couldn’t see very far in, because the hole wasn’t straight, and grew black a little way from the opening.

It was somewhat wearisome, waiting and watching so long, and the warm sun and the soft chirp of the crickets that hopped through the clover made Twinkle drowsy. She didn’t intend to go to sleep, because then she might miss the woodchuck; but there was no harm in closing her eyes just one little minute; so she allowed the long lashes to droop over her pretty pink cheeks—just because they felt so heavy, and there was no way to prop them up.

Then, with a start, she opened her eyes again, and saw the trap and the woodchuck hole just as they were before. Not quite, though, come to look carefully. The hole seemed to be bigger than at first; yes, strange as it might seem, the hole was growing bigger every minute! She watched it with much surprise, and then looked at the trap, which remained the same size it had always been. And when she turned her eyes upon the hole once more it had not only become very big and high, but a stone arch appeared over it, and a fine, polished front door now shut it off from the outside world. She could even read a name upon the silver door-plate, and the name was this:

Mr. Woodchuck.
 

Chapter II
Mister Woodchuck Captures a Girl

“Well, I declare!” whispered Twinkle to herself; “how could all that have happened?”

On each side of the door was a little green bench, big enough for two to sit upon, and between the benches was a doorstep of white marble, with a mat lying on it. On one side Twinkle saw an electric door-bell.

While she gazed at this astonishing sight a sound of rapid footsteps was heard, and a large Jack- Rabbit, almost as big as herself, and dressed in a messenger-boy’s uniform, ran up to the woodchuck’s front door and rang the bell.

Almost at once the door opened inward, and a curious personage stepped out.

Twinkle saw at a glance that it was the woodchuck himself,—but what a big and queer woodchuck it was!

He wore a swallow-tailed coat, with a waistcoat of white satin and fancy knee-breeches, and upon his feet were shoes with silver buckles. On his head was perched a tall silk hat that made him look just as high as Twinkle’s father, and in one paw he held a gold-headed cane. Also he wore big spectacles over his eyes, which made him look more dignified than any other woodchuck Twinkle had ever seen.

When this person opened the door and saw the Jack-Rabbit messenger-boy, he cried out:

“Well, what do you mean by ringing my bell so violently? I suppose you’re half an hour late, and trying to make me think you’re in a hurry.”

The Jack-Rabbit took a telegram from its pocket and handed it to the woodchuck without a word in reply. At once the woodchuck tore open the envelope and read the telegram carefully.

“Thank you. There’s no answer,” he said; and in an instant the Jack-Rabbit had whisked away and was gone.

“Well, well,” said the woodchuck, as if to himself, “the foolish farmer has set a trap for me, it seems, and my friends have sent a telegram to warn me. Let’s see—where is the thing?”

He soon discovered the trap, and seizing hold of the chain he pulled the peg out of the ground and threw the whole thing far away into the field.

“I must give that farmer a sound scolding,” he muttered, “for he’s becoming so impudent lately that soon he will think he owns the whole country.”

But now his eyes fell upon Twinkle, who lay in the clover staring up at him; and the woodchuck gave a laugh and grabbed her fast by one arm.

“Oh ho!” he exclaimed; “you’re spying upon me, are you?”

“I’m just waiting to see you get caught in the trap,” said the girl, standing up because the big creature pulled upon her arm. She wasn’t much frightened, strange to say, because this woodchuck had a good-humored way about him that gave her confidence.

“You would have to wait a long time for that,” he said, with a laugh that was a sort of low chuckle. “Instead of seeing me caught, you’ve got caught yourself. That’s turning the tables, sure enough; isn’t it?”

“I suppose it is,” said Twinkle, regretfully. “Am I a prisoner?”

“You might call it that; and then, again, you mightn’t,” answered the woodchuck. “To tell you the truth, I hardly know what to do with you. But come inside, and we’ll talk it over. We musn’t be seen out here in the fields.”

Still holding fast to her arm, the woodchuck led her through the door, which he carefully closed and locked. Then they passed through a kind of hallway, into which opened several handsomely furnished rooms, and out again into a beautiful garden at the back, all filled with flowers and brightly colored plants, and with a pretty fountain playing in the middle. A high stone wall was built around the garden, shutting it off from all the rest of the world.

The woodchuck led his prisoner to a bench beside the fountain, and told her to sit down and make herself comfortable.


Chapter III
Mister Woodchuck Scolds Twinkle

Twinkle was much pleased with her surroundings, and soon discovered several gold-fishes swimming in the water at the foot of the mountain.

“Well, how does it strike you?” asked the woodchuck, strutting up and down the gravel walk before her and swinging his gold-headed cane rather gracefully.

“It seems like a dream,” said Twinkle.

“To be sure,” he answered, nodding. “You’d no business to fall asleep in the clover.”

“Did I?” she asked, rather startled at the suggestion.

“It stands to reason you did,” he replied. “You don’t for a moment think this is real, do you?”

“It seems real,” she answered. “Aren’t you the woodchuck?”

“Mister Woodchuck, if you please. Address me properly, young lady, or you’ll make me angry.”

“Well, then, aren’t you Mister Woodchuck?”

“At present I am; but when you wake up, I won’t be,” he said.

“Then you think I’m dreaming?”

“You must figure that out for yourself,” said Mister Woodchuck.

“What do you suppose made me dream?”

“I don’t know.”

“Do you think it’s something I’ve eaten?” she asked anxiously.

“I hardly think so. This isn’t any nightmare, you know, because there’s nothing at all horrible about it so far. You’ve probably been reading some of those creepy, sensational story-books.”

“I haven’t read a book in a long time,” said Twinkle.

“Dreams,” remarked Mister Woodchuck, thoughtfully, “are not always to be accounted for. But this conversation is all wrong. When one is dreaming one doesn’t talk about it, or even know it’s a dream. So let’s speak of something else.”

“It’s very pleasant in this garden,” said Twinkle. “I don’t mind being here a bit.”

“But you can’t stay here,” replied Mister Woodchuck, “and you ought to be very uncomfortable in my presence. You see, you’re one of the deadliest enemies of my race. All you human beings live for or think of is how to torture and destroy woodchucks.”

“Oh, no!” she answered. “We have many more important things than that to think of. But when a woodchuck gets eating our clover and the vegetables, and spoils a lot, we just have to do something to stop it. That’s why my papa set the trap.”

“You’re selfish,” said Mister Woodchuck, “and you’re cruel to poor little animals that can’t help themselves, and have to eat what they can find, or starve. There’s enough for all of us growing in the broad fields.”

Twinkle felt a little ashamed.

“We have to sell the clover and the vegetables to earn our living,” she explained; “and if the animals eat them up we can’t sell them.”

“We don’t eat enough to rob you,” said the woodchuck, “and the land belonged to the wild creatures long before you people came here and began to farm. And really, there is no reason why you should be so cruel. It hurts dreadfully to be caught in a trap, and an animal captured in that way sometimes has to suffer for many hours before the man comes to kill it. We don’t mind the killing so much. Death doesn’t last but an instant. But every minute of suffering seems to be an hour.”

“That’s true,” said Twinkle, feeling sorry and repentant. “I’ll ask papa never to set another trap.”

“That will be some help,” returned Mister Woodchuck, more cheerfully, “and I hope you’ll not forget the promise when you wake up. But that isn’t enough to settle the account for all our past sufferings, I assure you; so I am trying to think of a suitable way to punish you for the past wickedness of your father, and of all other men that have set traps.”

“Why, if you feel that way,” said the little girl, “you’re just as bad as we are!”

“How’s that?” asked Mister Woodchuck, pausing in his walk to look at her.

“It’s as naughty to want revenge as it is to be selfish and cruel,” she said.

“I believe you are right about that,” answered the animal, taking off his silk hat and rubbing the fur smooth with his elbow. “But woodchucks are not perfect, any more than men are, so you’ll have to take us as you find us. And now I’ll call my family, and exhibit you to them. The children, especially, will enjoy seeing the wild human girl I’ve had the luck to capture.”

“Wild!” she cried, indignantly.

“If you’re not wild now, you will be before you wake up,” he said.


Chapter IV
Mrs. Woodchuck and Her Family

But Mister Woodchuck had no need to call his family, for just as he spoke a chatter of voices was heard and Mrs. Woodchuck came walking down a path of the garden with several young woodchucks following after her.

The lady animal was very fussily dressed, with puffs and ruffles and laces all over her silk gown, and perched upon her head was a broad white hat with long ostrich plumes. She was exceedingly fat, even for a woodchuck, and her head fitted close to her body, without any neck whatever to separate them. Although it was shady in the garden, she held a lace parasol over her head, and her walk was so mincing and airy that Twinkle almost laughed in her face.

The young woodchucks were of several sizes and kinds. One little woodchuck girl rolled before her a doll’s baby-cab, in which lay a woodchuck doll made of cloth, in quite a perfect imitation of a real woodchuck. It was stuffed with something soft to make it round and fat, and its eyes were two glass beads sewn upon the face. A big boy woodchuck wore knickerbockers and a Tam o’ Shanter cap and rolled a hoop; and there were several smaller boy and girl woodchucks, dressed quite as absurdly, who followed after their mother in a long train.

“My dear,” said Mister Woodchuck to his wife, “here is a human creature that I captured just outside our front door.”

“Huh!” sneered the lady woodchuck, looking at Twinkle in a very haughty way; “why will you bring such an animal into our garden, Leander? It makes me shiver just to look at the horrid thing!”

“Oh, mommer!” yelled one of the children, “see how skinny the beast is!”

“Hasn’t any hair on its face at all,” said another, “or on its paws!”

“And no sign of a tail!” cried the little woodchuck girl with the doll.

“Yes, it’s a very strange and remarkable creature,” said the mother. “Don’t touch it, my precious darlings. It might bite.”

“You needn’t worry,” said Twinkle, rather provoked at these speeches. “I wouldn’t bite a dirty, greasy woodchuck on any account!”

“Whoo! did you hear what she called us, mommer? She says we’re greasy and dirty!” shouted the children, and some of them grabbed pebbles from the path in their paws, as if to throw them at Twinkle.

“Tut, tut! don’t be cruel,” said Mister Woodchuck. “Remember the poor creature is a prisoner, and isn’t used to good society; and besides that, she’s dreaming.”

“Really?” exclaimed Mrs. Woodchuck, looking at the girl curiously.

“To be sure,” he answered. “Otherwise she wouldn’t see us dressed in such fancy clothes, nor would we be bigger than she is. The whole thing is unnatural, my dear, as you must admit.”

“But we’re not dreaming; are we, Daddy?” anxiously asked the boy with the hoop.

“Certainly not,” Mister Woodchuck answered; “so this is a fine opportunity for you to study one of those human animals who have always been our worst enemies. You will notice they are very curiously made. Aside from their lack of hair in any place except the top of the head, their paws are formed in a strange manner. Those long slits in them make what are called fingers, and their claws are flat and dull—not at all sharp and strong like ours.”

“I think the beast is ugly,” said Mrs. Woodchuck. “It would give me the shivers to touch its skinny flesh.”

“I’m glad of that,” said Twinkle, indignantly. “You wouldn’t have all the shivers, I can tell you! And you’re a disagreeable, ign’rant creature! If you had any manners at all, you’d treat strangers more politely.”

“Just listen to the thing!” said Mrs. Woodchuck, in a horrified tone. “Isn’t it wild, though!”
 

Chapter V
 Mr. Woodchuck Argues the Question

“Really,” Mister Woodchuck said to his wife, “you should be more considerate of the little human’s feelings. She is quite intelligent and tame, for one of her kind, and has a tender heart, I am sure.”

“I don’t see anything intelligent about her,” said the girl woodchuck.

“I guess I’ve been to school as much as you have,” said Twinkle.

“School! Why, what’s that?”

“Don’t you know what school is?” cried Twinkle, much amused.

“We don’t have school here,” said Mister Woodchuck, as if proud of the fact.

“Don’t you know any geography?” asked the child.

“We haven’t any use for it,” said Mister Woodchuck; “for we never get far from home, and don’t care a rap what state bounds Florida on the south. We don’t travel much, and studying geography would be time wasted.”

“But don’t you study arithmetic?” she asked; “don’t you know how to do sums?”

“Why should we?” he returned. “The thing that bothers you humans most, and that’s money, is not used by us woodchucks. So we don’t need to figure and do sums.”

“I don’t see how you get along without money,” said Twinkle, wonderingly. “You must have to buy all your fine clothes.”

“You know very well that woodchucks don’t wear clothes, under ordinary circumstances,” Mister Woodchuck replied. “It’s only because you are dreaming that you see us dressed in this way.”

“Perhaps that’s true,” said Twinkle. “But don’t talk to me about not being intelligent, or not knowing things. If you haven’t any schools it’s certain I know more than your whole family put together!”

“About some things, perhaps,” acknowledged Mister Woodchuck. “But tell me: do you know which kind of red clover is the best to eat?”

“No,” she said.

“Or how to dig a hole in the ground to live in, with different rooms and passages, so that it slants up hill and the rain won’t come in and drown you?”

“No,” said Twinkle.

“And could you tell, on the second day of February (which is woodchuck day, you know), whether it’s going to be warm weather, or cold, during the next six weeks?”

“I don’t believe I could,” replied the girl.

“Then,” said Mister Woodchuck, “there are some things that we know that you don’t; and although a woodchuck might not be of much account in one of your schoolrooms, you must forgive me for saying that I think you ‘d make a mighty poor woodchuck.”

“I think so, too!” said Twinkle, laughing.

“And now, little human,” he resumed, after looking at his watch, “it’s nearly time for you to wake up; so if we intend to punish you for all the misery your people has inflicted on the woodchucks, we won’t have a minute to spare.”

“Don’t be in a hurry,” said Twinkle. “I can wait.”

“She’s trying to get out of it,” exclaimed Mrs. Woodchuck, scornfully. “Don’t you let her, Leander.”

“Certainly not, my dear,” he replied; “but I haven’t decided how to punish her.”

“Take her to Judge Stoneyheart,” said Mrs. Woodchuck. “He will know what to do with her.”


Chapter VI
Twinkle is Taken to the Judge

At this the woodchuck children all hooted with joy, crying: “Take her, Daddy! Take her to old Stoneyheart! Oh, my! won’t he give it to her, though!”

“Who is Judge Stoneyheart?” asked Twinkle, a little uneasily.

“A highly respected and aged woodchuck who is cousin to my wife’s grandfather,” was the reply. “We consider him the wisest and most intelligent of our race; but, while he is very just in all things, the judge never shows any mercy to evil-doers.”

“I haven’t done anything wrong,” said the girl.

“But your father has, and much wrong is done us by the other farmers around here. They fight my people without mercy, and kill every woodchuck they can possibly catch.”

Twinkle was silent, for she knew this to be true.

“For my part,” continued Mister Woodchuck, “I’m very soft-hearted, and wouldn’t even step on an ant if I could help it. Also I am sure you have a kind disposition. But you are a human, and I am a woodchuck; so I think I will take you to old Stoneyheart and let him decide your fate.”

“Hooray!” yelled the young woodchucks, and away they ran through the paths of the garden, followed slowly by their fat mother, who held the lace parasol over her head as if she feared she would be sunstruck.

Twinkle was glad to see them go. She didn’t care much for the woodchuck children, they were so wild and ill-mannered, and their mother was even more disagreeable than they were. As for Mister Woodchuck, she did not object to him so much; in fact, she rather liked to talk to him, for his words were polite and his eyes pleasant and kindly.

“Now, my dear,” he said, “as we are about to leave this garden, where you have been quite secure, I must try to prevent your running away when we are outside the wall. I hope it won’t hurt your feelings to become a real prisoner for a few minutes.”

Then Mister Woodchuck drew from his pocket a leather collar, very much like a dog-collar, Twinkle thought, and proceeded to buckle it around the girl’s neck. To the collar was attached a fine chain about six feet long, and the other end of the chain Mister Woodchuck held in his hand.

“Now, then,” said he, “please come along quietly, and don’t make a fuss.”

He led her to the end of the garden and opened a wooden gate in the wall, through which they passed. Outside the garden the ground was nothing but hard, baked earth, without any grass or other green thing growing upon it, or any tree or shrub to shade it from the hot sun. And not far away stood a round mound, also of baked earth, which Twinkle at once decided to be a house, because it had a door and some windows in it.

There was no living thing in sight—not even a woodchuck—and Twinkle didn’t care much for the baked-clay scenery.

Mister Woodchuck, holding fast to the chain, led his prisoner across the barren space to the round mound, where he paused to rap softly upon the door.


Chapter VII
Twinkle is Condemned

“Come in!” called a voice.

Mister Woodchuck pushed open the door and entered, drawing Tinkle after him by the chain.

In the middle of the room sat a woodchuck whose hair was grizzled with old age. He wore big spectacles upon his nose, and a round knitted cap, with a tassel dangling from the top, upon his head. His only garment was an old and faded dressing-gown.

When they entered, the old woodchuck was busy playing a game with a number of baked-clay dominoes, which he shuffled and arranged upon a baked-mud table; nor did he look up for a long time, but continued to match the dominoes and to study their arrangement with intense interest.

Finally, however, he finished the game, and then he raised his head and looked sharply at his visitors.

“Good afternoon, Judge,” said Mister Woodchuck, taking off his silk hat and bowing respectfully.

The judge did not answer him, but continued to stare at Twinkle.

“I have called to ask your advice,” continued Mister Woodchuck. “By good chance I have been able to capture one of those fierce humans that are the greatest enemies of peaceful woodchucks.”

The judge nodded his gray head wisely, but still answered nothing.

“But now that I’ve captured the creature, I don’t know what to do with her,” went on Mister Woodchuck; “although I believe, of course, she should be punished in some way, and made to feel as unhappy as her people have made us feel. Yet I realize that it’s a dreadful thing to hurt any living creature, and as far as I’m concerned I’m quite willing to forgive her.” With these words he wiped his face with a red silk handkerchief, as if really distressed.

“She’s dreaming,” said the judge, in a sharp, quick voice.

“Am I?” asked Twinkle.

“Of course. You were probably lying on the wrong side when you went to sleep.”

“Oh!” she said. “I wondered what made it.”

“Very disagreeable dream, isn’t it?” continued the judge.

“Not so very,” she answered. “It’s interesting to see and hear woodchucks in their own homes, and Mister Woodchuck has shown me how cruel it is for us to set traps for you.”

“Good!” said the judge. “But some dreams are easily forgotten, so I’ll teach you a lesson you’ll be likely to remember. You shall be caught in a trap yourself.”

“Me!” cried Twinkle, in dismay.

“Yes, you. When you find how dreadfully it hurts you’ll bear the traps in mind forever afterward. People don’t remember dreams unless the dreams are unusually horrible. But I guess you’ll remember this one.”

He got up and opened a mud cupboard, from which he took a big steel trap. Twinkle could see that it was just like the trap papa had set to catch the woodchucks, only it seemed much bigger and stronger.

The judge got a mallet and with it pounded a stake into the mud floor. Then he fastened the chain of the trap to the stake, and afterward opened the iron jaws of the cruel-looking thing and set them with a lever, so that the slightest touch would spring the trap and make the strong jaws snap together.

“Now, little girl,” said he, “you must step in the trap and get caught.”

“Why, it would break my leg!” cried Twinkle.

“Did your father care whether a woodchuck got its leg broken or not?” asked the judge.

“No,” she answered, beginning to be greatly frightened.

“Step!” cried the judge, sternly.

“It will hurt awfully,” said Mister Woodchuck; “but that can’t be helped. Traps are cruel things, at the best.”

Twinkle was now trembling with nervousness and fear.

“Step!” called the judge, again.

“Dear me!” said Mister Woodchuck, just then, as he looked earnestly into Twinkle’s face, “I believe she’s going to wake up!”

“That’s too bad,” said the judge.

“No, I’m glad of it,” replied Mister Woodchuck.

And just then the girl gave a start and opened her eyes.

She was lying in the clover, and before her was the opening of the woodchuck’s hole, with the trap still set before it.
 

Chapter VIII 
Twinkle Remembers

“Papa,” said Twinkle, when supper was over and she was nestled snugly in his lap, “I wish you wouldn’t set any more traps for the woodchucks.”

“Why not, my darling?” he asked in surprise.

“They’re cruel,” she answered. “It must hurt the poor animals dreadfully to be caught in them.”

“I suppose it does,” said her father, thoughtfully. “But if I don’t trap the woodchucks they eat our clover and vegetables.”

“Never mind that,” said Twinkle, earnestly. “Let’s divide with them. God made the woodchucks, you know, just as He made us, and they can’t plant and grow things as we do; so they have to take what they can get, or starve to death. And surely, papa, there’s enough to eat in this big and beautiful world, for all of God’s creatures.”

Papa whistled softly, although his face was grave; and then he bent down and kissed his little girl’s forehead.

“I won’t set any more traps, dear,” he said.

And that evening, after Twinkle had been tucked snugly away in bed, her father walked slowly through the sweet-smelling fields to the woodchuck’s hole; there lay the trap, showing plainly in the bright moonlight. He picked it up and carried it back to the barn. It was never used again.
 

THE END




Originally published in the Philadelphia Public Ledger, April 1, 1917.

The Solemn, Most Solemn Proclamation

The clock was on the stroke of twelve
And all were deep asleep,
For in Supposyville, my dears,
Folks early hours keep.
When all at once the courtyard bell
Began to toll so loud
The people tumbled from their beds
And hastened in a crowd.
“What can it be?” “What’s happened?” and
“Whatever do you s’pose?”
Each asked the other, shivering
In the courtyard. No one knows.
Then lights shine from the window
In the palace and appears
The Royal Chief Prime Minister,
His pen behind his ears.
Upon the balcony above
The King and Queen as well,
And all stand listening to the
Tolling of the courtyard bell!
Full twenty strokes it sounds and then
Quite suddenly is still.
“I’ve called you hither!” quoth the King
Of all Supposyville,
“To hear a solemn proclamation.
Oh, my children, don’t despair.
Alas! That it should come to pass.
Behold! Behear! BEWARE!”
The King stepped back and hid his face,
And now what doleful looks
They turn upon each other,
All the merchants, lords and cooks,
The lords and ladies and the other
Good Supposy folk.
Two blasts the courier pages blew,
Again the good King spoke:
“Read out the proclamation, sir,
Yes, let the WHOLE be told!”
The Prime Minister steps forward
And his paper is unrolled.
Then groans are groaned and sighs are sighed
And every one gives ear,
Wondering with shaking knees
What horrid news he’ll hear.
“Know all ye people!” boomed the voice,
“Prepare ye for the worst,
The clock has struck and I announce
That it is APRIL FIRST!”
With what astonishment and gasps
The shivering townfolk hear,
And what a joke it was on them,
And HOW THEY LAUGHED, dear, dear!


Copyright © 2019 Eric Shanower and David Maxine. All rights reserved.