Two small children, Twinkle and Chubbins, are enchanted by a wicked "tuxix" so that their bodies become those of birds. While so transformed, they can speak to all the birds and animals, and they learn a great deal about the wild creatures of the forest. Of course, this is no ordinary forest; it is a nature fairyland, and the Royal Necromancer of the bird Kingdom of Paradise informs them that they must each eat a tingle-berry as antidote to undo the evil enchantment. So they set out to find a tingle-berry bush and lose no time in resuming their natural forms.
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(a.k.a. L. Frank Baum)
Little Ones in Trouble
The Forest Guardian
An Afternoon Reception
The Oriole's Story
A Merry Adventure
The Bluejay's Story
In the Eagle's Nest
The King Bird
A Real Fairyland
The Lake of Dry Water
The Beauty Dance
The Queen Bee
Policeman Bluejay, L. Frank Baum
Jazzybee Verlag Jürgen Beck
86450 Altenmünster, Loschberg 9
Cover Design: Based on a drawing by Lumarca, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.
"SEEMS to me, Chub," said Twinkle, "that we're lost."
"Seems to me, Twink," said Chubbins, "that it isn't we that's lost. It's the path."
"It was here a minute ago," declared Twinkle.
"But it isn't here now," replied the boy.
"That's true," said the girl.
It really was queer. They had followed the straight path into the great forest, and had only stopped for a moment to sit down and rest, with the basket between them and their backs to a big tree. Twinkle winked just twice, because she usually took a nap in the afternoon, and Chubbins merely closed his eyes a second to find out if he could see that long streak of sunshine through his pink eyelids. Yet during this second, which happened while Twinkle was winking, the path had run away and left them without any guide or any notion which way they ought to go.
Another strange thing was that when they jumped up to look around them the nearest trees began sliding away, in a circle, leaving the little girl and boy in a clear space. And the trees continued moving back and back, farther and farther, until all their trunks were jammed tight together, and not even a mouse could have crept between them. They made a solid ring around Twinkle and Chubbins, who stood looking at this transformation with wondering eyes.
"It's a trap," said Chubbins; "and we're in it."
"It looks that way," replied Twinkle, thoughtfully. "Isn't it lucky, Chub, we have the basket with us? If it wasn't for that, we might starve to death in our prison."
"Oh, well," replied the little fellow, "the basket won't last long. There's plenty of starve in the bottom of it, Twinkle, any way you can fix it."
"That's so; unless we can get out. Whatever do you suppose made the trees behave that way, Chubbins?
"Don't know," said the boy.
Just then a queer creature dropped from a tree into the ring and began moving slowly toward them. It was flat in shape, like a big turtle; only it hadn't a turtle's hard shell. Instead, its body was covered with sharp prickers, like rose thorns, and it had two small red eyes that looked cruel and wicked. The children could not see how many legs it had, but they must have been very short, because the creature moved so slowly over the ground.
When it had drawn near to them it said, in a pleading tone that sounded soft and rather musical:
"Little girl, pick me up in your arms, and pet me!"
Twinkle shrank back.
"My! I couldn't think of doing such a thing," she answered.
Then the creature said:
"Little boy, please pick me up in your arms, and pet me!"
"Go 'way!" shouted Chubbins. "I wouldn't touch you for anything."
The creature turned its red eyes first upon one and then upon the other.
"Listen, my dears," it continued; "I was once a beautiful maiden, but a cruel tuxix transformed me into this awful shape, and so must I remain until some child willingly takes me in its arms and pets me. Then, and not till then, will I be restored to my proper form."
"Don't believe it! Don't believe it!" cried a high, clear voice, and both the boy and the girl looked quickly around to see who had spoken. But no one besides themselves was in sight, and they only noticed a thick branch of one of the trees slightly swaying its leaves.
"What is a tuxix?" asked Twinkle, who was beginning to feel sorry for the poor creature.
"It is a magician, a sorcerer, a wizard, and a witch all rolled into one," was the answer; "and you can imagine what a dreadful thing that would be."
"Be careful!" cried the clear voice, again. "It is the tuxix herself who is talking to you. Don't believe a word you hear!"
At this the red eyes of the creature flashed fire with anger, and it tried to turn its clumsy body around to find the speaker. Twinkle and Chubbins looked too, but only heard a flutter and a mocking laugh coming from the trees.
"If I get my eye on that bird, it will never speak again," exclaimed the creature, in a voice of fury very different from the sweet tones it had at first used; and perhaps it was this fact that induced the children to believe the warning was from a friend, and they would do well to heed it.
"Whether you are the tuxix or not," said Twinkle, "I never will touch you. You may be sure of that."
"Nor I," declared Chubbins, stoutly, as he came closer to the girl and grasped her hand in his own.
At this the horrid thing bristled all its sharp prickers in anger, and said:
"Then, if I cannot conquer you in one way, I will in another. Go, both of you, and join the bird that warned you, and live in the air and the trees until you repent your stubbornness and promise to become my slaves. The tuxix has spoken, and her magical powers are at work. Go!"
In an instant Twinkle saw Chubbins shoot through the air and disappear among the leaves of one of the tall trees. As he went he seemed to grow very small, and to change in shape.
"Wait!" she cried. "I'm coming, too!"
She was afraid of losing Chubbins, so she flew after him, feeling rather queer herself, and a moment after was safe in the tall tree, clinging with her toes to a branch and looking in amazement at the boy who sat beside her.
Chubbins had been transformed into a pretty little bird—all, that is, except his head, which was Chubbins' own head reduced in size to fit the bird body. It still had upon it the straw hat, which had also grown small in size, and the sight that met Twinkle's eyes was so funny that she laughed merrily, and her laugh was like the sweet warbling of a skylark.
Chubbins looked at her and saw almost what she saw; for Twinkle was a bird too, except for her head, with its checked sunbonnet, which had grown small enough to fit the pretty, glossy-feathered body of a lark.
Both of them had to cling fast to the branch with their toes, for their arms and hands were now wings. The toes were long and sharp pointed, so that they could be used in the place of fingers.
"My!" exclaimed Twinkle; "you're a queer sight, Chubbins!"
"So are you," answered the boy. "That mean old thing must have 'witched us."
"Yes, we're 'chanted," said Twinkle. "And now, what are we going to do about it? We can't go home, for our folks would be scared nearly into fits. And we don't know the way home, either."
"That's so," said Chubbins, fluttering his little wings to keep from falling, for he had nearly lost his balance.
"What shall we do?" she continued.
"Why, fly around and be gay and happy," said a clear and merry voice beside them."That's what birds are expected to do!"
Twinkle and Chubbins twisted their heads around on their little feathered necks and saw perched beside them a big bird of a most beautiful blue color. At first they were a bit frightened, for the newcomer seemed of giant size beside their little lark bodies, and he was, moreover, quite fierce in appearance, having a crest of feathers that came to a point above his head, and a strong beak and sharp talons. But Twinkle looked full into the shrewd, bright eye, and found it good humored and twinkling; so she plucked up courage and asked:
"Were you speaking to us?"
"Very likely," replied the blue bird, in a cheerful tone. "There's no one else around to speak to."
"And was it you who warned us against that dreadful creature below in the forest?" she continued.
"Then," said Twinkle, "we are very much obliged to you."
"Don't mention it," said the other. "I'm the forest policeman—Policeman Bluejay, you know—and it's my duty to look after everyone who is in trouble."
"We're in trouble, all right," said Chubbins, sorrowfully.
"Well, it might have been worse," remarked Policeman Bluejay, making a chuckling sound in his throat that Twinkle thought was meant for a laugh. "If you had ever touched the old tuxix she would have transformed you into toads or lizards. That is an old trick of hers, to get children into her power and then change them into things as loathsome as herself."
"I wouldn't have touched her, anyhow," said Twinkle.
"Nor I!" cried Chubbins, in his shrill, bird-like voice. "She wasn't nice."
"Still, it was good of you to warn us," Twinkle added, sweetly.
The Bluejay looked upon the fluttering little things with kind approval. Then he laughed outright.
"What has happened to your heads?" he asked.
"Nothing, 'cept they're smaller," replied Chubbins.
"But birds shouldn't have human heads," retorted the bluejay. "I suppose the old tuxix did that so the birds would not admit you into their society, for you are neither all bird nor all human. But never mind; I'll explain your case, and you may be sure all the birds of the forest will be kind to you."
"Must we stay like this always?" asked Twinkle, anxiously.
"I really can't say," answered the policeman. "There is said to be a way to break every enchantment, if one knows what it is. The trouble in these cases is to discover what the charm may be that will restore you to your natural shapes. But just now you must make up your minds to live in our forest for a time, and to be as happy as you can under the circumstances."
"Well, we'll try," said Chubbins, with a sigh.
"That's right," exclaimed Policeman Bluejay, nodding his crest in approval. "The first thing you must have is a house; so, if you will fly with me, I will try to find you one."
"I—I'm afraid!" said Twinkle, nervously.
"The larks," declared the bluejay, "are almost the strongest and best flyers we have. You two children have now become skylarks, and may soar so high in the air that you can scarcely see the earth below you. For that reason you need have no fear whatever. Be bold and brave, and all will be well."
He spoke in such a kindly and confident voice that both Twinkle and Chubbins gained courage; and when the policeman added: "Come on!" and flew straight as an arrow into the air above the tree-tops, the two little skylarks with their girl and boy heads followed swiftly after him, and had no trouble in going just as fast as their conductor.
It was quite a pleasant and interesting experience, to dart through the air and be in no danger of falling. When they rested on their outstretched wings they floated as lightly as bubbles, and soon a joyous thrill took possession of them and they began to understand why it is that the free, wild birds are always so happy in their native state.
The forest was everywhere under them, for it was of vast extent. Presently the bluejay swooped downward and alighted near the top of a tall maple tree that had many thick branches.
In a second Twinkle and Chubbins were beside him, their little hearts beating fast in their glossy bosoms from the excitement of their rapid flight. Just in front of them, firmly fastened to a crotch of a limb, was a neatly built nest of a gray color, lined inside with some soft substance that was as smooth as satin.
"Here," said their thoughtful friend, "is the nest that Niddie Thrush and Daisy Thrush built for themselves a year ago. They have now gone to live in a wood across the big river, so you are welcome to their old home. It is almost as good as new, and there is no rent to pay."
"It's awfully small!" said Chubbins.
"Chut-chut!" twittered Policeman Bluejay. "Remember you are not children now, but skylarks, and that this is a thrush's nest. Try it, and you are sure to find it will fit you exactly."
So Twinkle and Chubbins flew into the "house" and nestled their bodies against its soft lining and found that their friend was right. When they were cuddled together, with their slender legs tucked into the feathers of their breasts, they just filled the nest to the brim, and no more room was necessary.
"Now, I'll mark the nest for you, so that everyone will know you claim it," said the policeman; and with his bill he pecked a row of small dots in the bark of the limb, just beside the nest. "I hope you will be very happy here, and this afternoon I will bring some friends to meet you. So now good-bye until I see you again."
"Wait!" cried Chubbins. "What are we going to eat?"
"Eat!" answered the bluejay, as if surprised. "Why, you may feast upon all the good things the forest offers—grubs, beetles, worms, and butterfly-eggs."
"Ugh!" gasped Chubbins. "It makes me sick to just think of it."
"You see," said Twinkle, "we are not all birds, Mr. Bluejay, as you are; and that makes a big difference. We have no bills to pick up the things that birds like to eat, and we do not care for the same sort of food, either."
"What do you care for?" asked the policeman, in a puzzled voice.
"Why, cake and sandwitches, and pickles, and cheese, such as we had in our basket. We couldn't eat any live things, you see, because we are not used to it."
The bluejay became thoughtful.
"I understand your objection," he said, "and perhaps you are right, not having good bird sense because the brains in your heads are still human brains. Let me see: what can I do to help you?"
The children did not speak, but watched him anxiously.
"Where did you leave your basket?" he finally asked.
"In the place where the old witch 'chanted us."
"Then," said the officer of the forest, "I must try to get it for you."
"It is too big and heavy for a bird to carry," suggested Twinkle.
"Sure enough. Of course. That's a fact." He turned his crested head upward, trying to think of a way, and saw a black speck moving across the sky.
"Wait a minute! I'll be back," he called, and darted upward like a flash.
The children watched him mount into the sky toward the black speck, and heard his voice crying out in sharp, quick notes. And before long Policeman Bluejay attracted the other bird's attention, causing it to pause in its flight and sink slowly downward until the two drew close together.
Then it was seen that the other bird was a great eagle, strong and sharp-eyed, and with broad wings that spread at least six feet from tip to tip.
"Good day, friend eagle," said the bluejay; "I hope you are in no hurry, for I want to ask you to do me a great favor."
"What is it?" asked the eagle, in a big, deep voice.
"Please go to a part of the forest with me and carry a basket to some friends of mine. I'll show you the way. It is too heavy for me to lift, but with your great strength you can do it easily."
"It will give me pleasure to so favor you," replied the eagle, politely; so Policeman Bluejay led the way and the eagle followed with such mighty strokes of its wings that the air was sent whirling in little eddies behind him, as the water is churned by a steamer's paddles.
It was not very long before they reached the clearing in the forest. The horrid tuxix had wriggled her evil body away, to soothe her disappointment by some other wicked act; but the basket stood as the children had left it.
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