Monday, October 31, 2022


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

Originally published in the Philadelphia Public Ledger, May 7, 1916.


He would go! In spite of all the horrible stories we told him, in spite of all the good advice about the proper place for boys, in spite of everything, in fact, he and Ted quietly went on with their preparations to go from Philadelphia to Cape May by canoe.

Their allowance was not very large, and it took quite a bit of planning and self-sacrifice to buy the canned goods, coffee, salt and sugar. But they bought a little at a time and finally one very sultry Monday in the early part of August they started off on the great adventure.

“I can’t see why you brought these blankets along, Jack,” Ted complained bitterly, while they were carrying supplies to the canoe. “We’ll never in the world need them!”

“That’s all you know about it,” was Jack’s scathing rejoinder, “and you’d jolly well better take good care of them, too; they’re mother’s, and these rubber camping blankets we borrowed won’t feel very soft.”

Silently and perspiringly they stored away their provisions and blankets and the suit of clothes they had worn over their bathing suits, but when they were finally seated in the canoe and all was ready for the start their spirits rose. It was only 5 o’clock and the river was really lovely.

“Take slow, easy strokes, Ted,” advised Jack, “and we’ll keep inshore on account of the wash from the boats. Take it easy, now! Remember that you’re pretty soft!”

Where they were going to spend the night the two had no idea, preferring to “just go until we’re tired and then we can go ashore and make camp on the bank!”

By 10 o’clock the sun was very warm, and both boys’ faces, arms and shoulders were a fiery red.

“I say! Let’s get under shelter for a little while,” Ted said at last. Jack looked at him and quietly handed him his coat and slipped into his own. The rough serge scratched and rubbed their tender arms and shoulders, but it protected them somewhat and they “stuck” at it, getting occasional rests by letting the canoe drift with the current.

Twice they were nearly upset by passing steamers, but Jack saved the day both times by quick action.

By 6 o’clock they were both completely exhausted and paddled slowly along the shore to find a place to land and cook their supper. For one hour they searched, but no solid land was in sight—only marshes. There were billions of mosquitoes and green flies, which settled on their sunburned shoulders, and they were forced to stay several yards from the shore while they ate their cold tinned supper.

Such a night! Most of it was spent wrapped in the hot suffocating blankets, with a dive overboard when the mosquitoes became too bad. Their muscles, especially Ted’s, ached from the steady paddling, and the sunburned shoulders raised in huge white blisters which burned and throbbed.

At the first streak of light they started off again, bound to “be game.” Once they landed and sent postals home, telling what a wonderful trip they were having. They also bought a cup of coffee and these extravagances reduced their money to 17 cents between them.

About 5 o’clock in the afternoon the sun went in and a cool damp breeze started up, making it difficult to keep the canoe steady. The river became very rough, and Jack insisted that they keep close to the shore. “We’ll be eaten alive! I simply cannot stand one thing more,” complained Ted and gave his paddle a jerk.

Over went the canoe—trousers, money, mother’s blankets, borrowed camping blankets, food and boys all were plunged into the water. Fortunately, both boys were good swimmers and were able to clamber into the canoe again after a struggle, but everything was lost. To make matters worse, it started to rain and chilled the boys to the bone.

Ted began to shiver and Jack could hear his teeth chattering. Drawing the canoe closer to shore and holding her with one hand by the tall marsh grass, Jack took off his wet coat and wrapped that around his friend.

“I w-w-wish we’d ne-ver c-c-come!”

Jack wished so, too, but wishing did not help matters at all. Ted tossed and moaned all night, until about 2 o’clock, when he became very still. Strain his ears as he might, Jack could not hear him breathe, and when he reached out a cautious hand (for it was pitch dark) he could feel no sigh of life.

“He’s dead! I’ve killed him! What shall I do?” he sobbed over and over to himself. He was a boy who decided things quickly, and pushing out into the current he paddled along blindly, guiding the canoe by lights he could see down the river.

By 6 o’clock he reached a settlement, and, after waking up nearly all the people, succeeded in finding a doctor!

Ted was not dead! It was simply hunger, exposure, and exhaustion, and a long sleep did wonders for him.

The question now was how to get home. They had no money and no clothes (their bathing suits being hardly suitable for traveling). They had suitcases, which they had expressed down to Cape May, but they were just as far from there as they were from home.

The doctor finally agreed to let them have the fare to Cape May, and, by helping the baggage master, they were allowed to ride in the baggage car in their scanty clothing.

It was Friday when they arrived and they had not had a real meal since Tuesday. A sympathetic friend filled them up on delicious griddle cakes, honey and coffee and they telegraphed home for money.

They were the most forlorn boys you could imagine. The blisters had broken and their shoulders and necks were raw. They had lost about 10 pounds and their faces were drawn and white with exhaustion. They simply fell into bed and slept two whole days, only waking long enough to eat.

They will never take another canoe trip. It took them a whole year to pay for the blankets they lost overboard, and they have been teased unmercifully. (You know yourself how you would hate that.)

Originally published in the Evansville (Indiana) Journal-News, March 3, 1918.
The King’s Dilemma

Time passes in Supposyville
So swiftly and so sweetly
’Tis just a wonder that they don’t
Lose track of it completely!

But what I started out to tell
Was of the strangest thing,
That happened not so long ago
To none less than the King.

The sun had just slipped down the steps
Of skytown, and the moon
Looked out her window yawning ’cause
She had to rise so soon.

The King was softly treading here
And there with bits of cake.
“The fairies of the garden now
Will soon begin to wake!”

He chuckled to himself, when all
At once, and in a ring,
Up from the ground a hundred of
The little people spring.

They lightly dance around him.
“Merry monarch, for your care
And thoughtfulness we grant to you
A wish—pray wish it fair!”

Then dropping at his feet a little
Note of blue that said,
“Open when you wish,” away
Into the dusk they sped.

Not knowing whether he had dreamed,
Down sat the kindly King
And thought and thought and thought and thought
And couldn’t find a thing

To wish for. “I will ask the Queen.”
They both sat down and thought.
“My dear,” thus spoke the Queen at last,
“’Tis clear we wish for naught!”

And though that may sound funny,
As doubtless now it will,
Remember what a happy place
Is old Supposyville!

“Let’s put the wish away until
It’s needed” laughed the King.
“That might offend the fairies,”
Said the Queen. “Suppose we bring

Our subjects all together and
Let every one suggest
A wish.” “Quite right,” the good King beamed,
“Of course that will be best!”

So lo! a wishing day’s proclaimed,
And if I am invited
I’ll tell you just what happens—my!
Supposyville’s excited! 
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