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The Collected Complete Works of L. Frank Baum
A Kidnapped Santa Claus
American Fairy Tales
Aunt Jane's Nieces
Aunt Jane's Nieces Abroad
Aunt Jane's Nieces and Uncle John
Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz
Dot and Tot of Merryland
Glinda of Oz
Little Wizard Stories of Oz
Mary Louise and the Liberty Girls
Mary Louise in the Country
Mary Louise Solves a Mystery
Mother Goose in Prose
Ozma of Oz
Rinkitink in Oz
The Emerald City of Oz
The Enchanted Island of Yew
The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus
The Lost Princess of Oz
The Magic of Oz
The Marvelous Land of Oz
The Master Key
The Patchwork Girl of Oz
The Road to Oz
The Royal Book of Oz
The Scarecrow of Oz
The Sea Fairies
The Surprising Adventures of the Magical Monarch of Mo and His People
The Tin Woodman of Oz
The Woggle-Bug Book
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
Tik-Tok of Oz
Twinkle and Chubbins
A Kidnapped Santa Claus
A Kidnapped Santa Claus
by L. Frank Baum
Santa Claus lives in the Laughing Valley, where stands the big, rambling castle in which his toys are manufactured. His workmen, selected from the ryls, knooks, pixies and fairies, live with him, and every one is as busy as can be from one year's end to another.
It is called the Laughing Valley because everything there is happy and gay. The brook chuckles to itself as it leaps rollicking between its green banks; the wind whistles merrily in the trees; the sunbeams dance lightly over the soft grass, and the violets and wild flowers look smilingly up from their green nests. To laugh one needs to be happy; to be happy one needs to be content. And throughout the Laughing Valley of Santa Claus contentment reigns supreme.
On one side is the mighty Forest of Burzee. At the other side stands the huge mountain that contains the Caves of the Daemons. And between them the Valley lies smiling and peaceful.
One would thing that our good old Santa Claus, who devotes his days to making children happy, would have no enemies on all the earth; and, as a matter of fact, for a long period of time he encountered nothing but love wherever he might go.
But the Daemons who live in the mountain caves grew to hate Santa Claus very much, and all for the simple reason that he made children happy.
The Caves of the Daemons are five in number. A broad pathway leads up to the first cave, which is a finely arched cavern at the foot of the mountain, the entrance being beautifully carved and decorated. In it resides the Daemon of Selfishness. Back of this is another cavern inhabited by the Daemon of Envy. The cave of the Daemon of Hatred is next in order, and through this one passes to the home of the Daemon of Malice--situated in a dark and fearful cave in the very heart of the mountain. I do not know what lies beyond this. Some say there are terrible pitfalls leading to death and destruction, and this may very well be true. However, from each one of the four caves mentioned there is a small, narrow tunnel leading to the fifth cave--a cozy little room occupied by the Daemon of Repentance. And as the rocky floors of these passages are well worn by the track of passing feet, I judge that many wanderers in the Caves of the Daemons have escaped through the tunnels to the abode of the Daemon of Repentance, who is said to be a pleasant sort of fellow who gladly opens for one a little door admitting you into fresh air and sunshine again.
Well, these Daemons of the Caves, thinking they had great cause to dislike old Santa Claus, held a meeting one day to discuss the matter.
"I'm really getting lonesome," said the Daemon of Selfishness. "For Santa Claus distributes so many pretty Christmas gifts to all the children that they become happy and generous, through his example, and keep away from my cave."
"I'm having the same trouble," rejoined the Daemon of Envy. "The little ones seem quite content with Santa Claus, and there are few, indeed, that I can coax to become envious."
"And that makes it bad for me!" declared the Daemon of Hatred. "For if no children pass through the Caves of Selfishness and Envy, none can get to MY cavern."
"Or to mine," added the Daemon of Malice.
"For my part," said the Daemon of Repentance, "it is easily seen that if children do not visit your caves they have no need to visit mine; so that I am quite as neglected as you are."
"And all because of this person they call Santa Claus!" exclaimed the Daemon of Envy. "He is simply ruining our business, and something must be done at once."
To this they readily agreed; but what to do was another and more difficult matter to settle. They knew that Santa Claus worked all through the year at his castle in the Laughing Valley, preparing the gifts he was to distribute on Christmas Eve; and at first they resolved to try to tempt him into their caves, that they might lead him on to the terrible pitfalls that ended in destruction.
So the very next day, while Santa Claus was busily at work, surrounded by his little band of assistants, the Daemon of Selfishness came to him and said:
"These toys are wonderfully bright and pretty. Why do you not keep them for yourself? It's a pity to give them to those noisy boys and fretful girls, who break and destroy them so quickly."
"Nonsense!" cried the old graybeard, his bright eyes twinkling merrily as he turned toward the tempting Daemon. "The boys and girls are never so noisy and fretful after receiving my presents, and if I can make them happy for one day in the year I am quite content."
So the Daemon went back to the others, who awaited him in their caves, and said:
"I have failed, for Santa Claus is not at all selfish."
The following day the Daemon of Envy visited Santa Claus. Said he: "The toy shops are full of playthings quite as pretty as those you are making. What a shame it is that they should interfere with your business! They make toys by machinery much quicker than you can make them by hand; and they sell them for money, while you get nothing at all for your work."
But Santa Claus refused to be envious of the toy shops.
"I can supply the little ones but once a year--on Christmas Eve," he answered; "for the children are many, and I am but one. And as my work is one of love and kindness I would be ashamed to receive money for my little gifts. But throughout all the year the children must be amused in some way, and so the toy shops are able to bring much happiness to my little friends. I like the toy shops, and am glad to see them prosper."
In spite of the second rebuff, the Daemon of Hatred thought he would try to influence Santa Claus. So the next day he entered the busy workshop and said:
"Good morning, Santa! I have bad news for you."
"Then run away, like a good fellow," answered Santa Claus. "Bad news is something that should be kept secret and never told."
"You cannot escape this, however," declared the Daemon; "for in the world are a good many who do not believe in Santa Claus, and these you are bound to hate bitterly, since they have so wronged you."
"Stuff and rubbish!" cried Santa.
"And there are others who resent your making children happy and who sneer at you and call you a foolish old rattlepate! You are quite right to hate such base slanderers, and you ought to be revenged upon them for their evil words."
"But I don't hate 'em!" exclaimed Santa Claus positively. "Such people do me no real harm, but merely render themselves and their children unhappy. Poor things! I'd much rather help them any day than injure them."
Indeed, the Daemons could not tempt old Santa Claus in any way. On the contrary, he was shrewd enough to see that their object in visiting him was to make mischief and trouble, and his cheery laughter disconcerted the evil ones and showed to them the folly of such an undertaking. So they abandoned honeyed words and determined to use force.
It was well known that no harm can come to Santa Claus while he is in the Laughing Valley, for the fairies, and ryls, and knooks all protect him. But on Christmas Eve he drives his reindeer out into the big world, carrying a sleighload of toys and pretty gifts to the children; and this was the time and the occasion when his enemies had the best chance to injure him. So the Daemons laid their plans and awaited the arrival of Christmas Eve.
The moon shone big and white in the sky, and the snow lay crisp and sparkling on the ground as Santa Claus cracked his whip and sped away out of the Valley into the great world beyond. The roomy sleigh was packed full with huge sacks of toys, and as the reindeer dashed onward our jolly old Santa laughed and whistled and sang for very joy. For in all his merry life this was the one day in the year when he was happiest--the day he lovingly bestowed the treasures of his workshop upon the little children.
It would be a busy night for him, he well knew. As he whistled and shouted and cracked his whip again, he reviewed in mind all the towns and cities and farmhouses where he was expected, and figured that he had just enough presents to go around and make every child happy. The reindeer knew exactly what was expected of them, and dashed along so swiftly that their feet scarcely seemed to touch the snow-covered ground.
Suddenly a strange thing happened: a rope shot through the moonlight and a big noose that was in the end of it settled over the arms and body of Santa Claus and drew tight. Before he could resist or even cry out he was jerked from the seat of the sleigh and tumbled head foremost into a snowbank, while the reindeer rushed onward with the load of toys and carried it quickly out of sight and sound.
Such a surprising experience confused old Santa for a moment, and when he had collected his senses he found that the wicked Daemons had pulled him from the snowdrift and bound him tightly with many coils of the stout rope. And then they carried the kidnapped Santa Claus away to their mountain, where they thrust the prisoner into a secret cave and chained him to the rocky wall so that he could not escape.
"Ha, ha!" laughed the Daemons, rubbing their hands together with cruel glee. "What will the children do now? How they will cry and scold and storm when they find there are no toys in their stockings and no gifts on their Christmas trees! And what a lot of punishment they will receive from their parents, and how they will flock to our Caves of Selfishness, and Envy, and Hatred, and Malice! We have done a mighty clever thing, we Daemons of the Caves!"
Now it so chanced that on this Christmas Eve the good Santa Claus had taken with him in his sleigh Nuter the Ryl, Peter the Knook, Kilter the Pixie, and a small fairy named Wisk--his four favorite assistants. These little people he had often found very useful in helping him to distribute his gifts to the children, and when their master was so suddenly dragged from the sleigh they were all snugly tucked underneath the seat, where the sharp wind could not reach them.
The tiny immortals knew nothing of the capture of Santa Claus until some time after he had disappeared. But finally they missed his cheery voice, and as their master always sang or whistled on his journeys, the silence warned them that something was wrong.
Little Wisk stuck out his head from underneath the seat and found Santa Claus gone and no one to direct the flight of the reindeer.
"Whoa!" he called out, and the deer obediently slackened speed and came to a halt.
Peter and Nuter and Kilter all jumped upon the seat and looked back over the track made by the sleigh. But Santa Claus had been left miles and miles behind.
"What shall we do?" asked Wisk anxiously, all the mirth and mischief banished from his wee face by this great calamity.
"We must go back at once and find our master," said Nuter the Ryl, who thought and spoke with much deliberation.
"No, no!" exclaimed Peter the Knook, who, cross and crabbed though he was, might always be depended upon in an emergency. "If we delay, or go back, there will not be time to get the toys to the children before morning; and that would grieve Santa Claus more than anything else."
"It is certain that some wicked creatures have captured him," added Kilter thoughtfully, "and their object must be to make the children unhappy. So our first duty is to get the toys distributed as carefully as if Santa Claus were himself present. Afterward we can search for our master and easily secure his freedom."
This seemed such good and sensible advice that the others at once resolved to adopt it. So Peter the Knook called to the reindeer, and the faithful animals again sprang forward and dashed over hill and valley, through forest and plain, until they came to the houses wherein children lay sleeping and dreaming of the pretty gifts they would find on Christmas morning.
The little immortals had set themselves a difficult task; for although they had assisted Santa Claus on many of his journeys, their master had always directed and guided them and told them exactly what he wished them to do. But now they had to distribute the toys according to their own judgment, and they did not understand children as well as did old Santa. So it is no wonder they made some laughable errors.
Mamie Brown, who wanted a doll, got a drum instead; and a drum is of no use to a girl who loves dolls. And Charlie Smith, who delights to romp and play out of doors, and who wanted some new rubber boots to keep his feet dry, received a sewing box filled with colored worsteds and threads and needles, which made him so provoked that he thoughtlessly called our dear Santa Claus a fraud.
Had there been many such mistakes the Daemons would have accomplished their evil purpose and made the children unhappy. But the little friends of the absent Santa Claus labored faithfully and intelligently to carry out their master's ideas, and they made fewer errors than might be expected under such unusual circumstances.
And, although they worked as swiftly as possible, day had begun to break before the toys and other presents were all distributed; so for the first time in many years the reindeer trotted into the Laughing Valley, on their return, in broad daylight, with the brilliant sun peeping over the edge of the forest to prove they were far behind their accustomed hours.
Having put the deer in the stable, the little folk began to wonder how they might rescue their master; and they realized they must discover, first of all, what had happened to him and where he was.
So Wisk the Fairy transported himself to the bower of the Fairy Queen, which was located deep in the heart of the Forest of Burzee; and once there, it did not take him long to find out all about the naughty Daemons and how they had kidnapped the good Santa Claus to prevent his making children happy. The Fairy Queen also promised her assistance, and then, fortified by this powerful support, Wisk flew back to where Nuter and Peter and Kilter awaited him, and the four counseled together and laid plans to rescue their master from his enemies.
It is possible that Santa Claus was not as merry as usual during the night that succeeded his capture. For although he had faith in the judgment of his little friends he could not avoid a certain amount of worry, and an anxious look would creep at times into his kind old eyes as he thought of the disappointment that might await his dear little children. And the Daemons, who guarded him by turns, one after another, did not neglect to taunt him with contemptuous words in his helpless condition.
When Christmas Day dawned the Daemon of Malice was guarding the prisoner, and his tongue was sharper than that of any of the others.
"The children are waking up, Santa!" he cried. "They are waking up to find their stockings empty! Ho, ho! How they will quarrel, and wail, and stamp their feet in anger! Our caves will be full today, old Santa! Our caves are sure to be full!"
But to this, as to other like taunts, Santa Claus answered nothing. He was much grieved by his capture, it is true; but his courage did not forsake him. And, finding that the prisoner would not reply to his jeers, the Daemon of Malice presently went away, and sent the Daemon of Repentance to take his place.
This last personage was not so disagreeable as the others. He had gentle and refined features, and his voice was soft and pleasant in tone.
"My brother Daemons do not trust me overmuch," said he, as he entered the cavern; "but it is morning, now, and the mischief is done. You cannot visit the children again for another year."
"That is true," answered Santa Claus, almost cheerfully; "Christmas Eve is past, and for the first time in centuries I have not visited my children."
"The little ones will be greatly disappointed," murmured the Daemon of Repentance, almost regretfully; "but that cannot be helped now. Their grief is likely to make the children selfish and envious and hateful, and if they come to the Caves of the Daemons today I shall get a chance to lead some of them to my Cave of Repentance."
"Do you never repent, yourself?" asked Santa Claus, curiously.
"Oh, yes, indeed," answered the Daemon. "I am even now repenting that I assisted in your capture. Of course it is too late to remedy the evil that has been done; but repentance, you know, can come only after an evil thought or deed, for in the beginning there is nothing to repent of."
"So I understand," said Santa Claus. "Those who avoid evil need never visit your cave."
"As a rule, that is true," replied the Daemon; "yet you, who have done no evil, are about to visit my cave at once; for to prove that I sincerely regret my share in your capture I am going to permit you to escape."
This speech greatly surprised the prisoner, until he reflected that it was just what might be expected of the Daemon of Repentance. The fellow at once busied himself untying the knots that bound Santa Claus and unlocking the chains that fastened him to the wall. Then he led the way through a long tunnel until they both emerged in the Cave of Repentance.
"I hope you will forgive me," said the Daemon pleadingly. "I am not really a bad person, you know; and I believe I accomplish a great deal of good in the world."
With this he opened a back door that let in a flood of sunshine, and Santa Claus sniffed the fresh air gratefully.
"I bear no malice," said he to the Daemon, in a gentle voice; "and I am sure the world would be a dreary place without you. So, good morning, and a Merry Christmas to you!"
With these words he stepped out to greet the bright morning, and a moment later he was trudging along, whistling softly to himself, on his way to his home in the Laughing Valley.
Marching over the snow toward the mountain was a vast army, made up of the most curious creatures imaginable. There were numberless knooks from the forest, as rough and crooked in appearance as the gnarled branches of the trees they ministered to. And there were dainty ryls from the fields, each one bearing the emblem of the flower or plant it guarded. Behind these were many ranks of pixies, gnomes and nymphs, and in the rear a thousand beautiful fairies floated along in gorgeous array.
This wonderful army was led by Wisk, Peter, Nuter, and Kilter, who had assembled it to rescue Santa Claus from captivity and to punish the Daemons who had dared to take him away from his beloved children.
And, although they looked so bright and peaceful, the little immortals were armed with powers that would be very terrible to those who had incurred their anger. Woe to the Daemons of the Caves if this mighty army of vengeance ever met them!
But lo! coming to meet his loyal friends appeared the imposing form of Santa Claus, his white beard floating in the breeze and his bright eyes sparkling with pleasure at this proof of the love and veneration he had inspired in the hearts of the most powerful creatures in existence.
And while they clustered around him and danced with glee at his safe return, he gave them earnest thanks for their support. But Wisk, and Nuter, and Peter, and Kilter, he embraced affectionately.
"It is useless to pursue the Daemons," said Santa Claus to the army. "They have their place in the world, and can never be destroyed. But that is a great pity, nevertheless," he continued musingly.
So the fairies, and knooks, and pixies, and ryls all escorted the good man to his castle, and there left him to talk over the events of the night with his little assistants.
Wisk had already rendered himself invisible and flown through the big world to see how the children were getting along on this bright Christmas morning; and by the time he returned, Peter had finished telling Santa Claus of how they had distributed the toys.
"We really did very well," cried the fairy, in a pleased voice; "for I found little unhappiness among the children this morning. Still, you must not get captured again, my dear master; for we might not be so fortunate another time in carrying out your ideas."
He then related the mistakes that had been made, and which he had not discovered until his tour of inspection. And Santa Claus at once sent him with rubber boots for Charlie Smith, and a doll for Mamie Brown; so that even those two disappointed ones became happy.
As for the wicked Daemons of the Caves, they were filled with anger and chagrin when they found that their clever capture of Santa Claus had come to naught. Indeed, no one on that Christmas Day appeared to be at all selfish, or envious, or hateful. And, realizing that while the children's saint had so many powerful friends it was folly to oppose him, the Daemons never again attempted to interfere with his journeys on Christmas Eve.
American Fairy Tales
The BOX OF ROBBERS
No one intended to leave Martha alone that afternoon, but it happened that everyone was called away, for one reason or another. Mrs. McFarland was attending the weekly card party held by the Women's Anti-Gambling League. Sister Nell's young man had called quite unexpectedly to take her for a long drive. Papa was at the office, as usual. It was Mary Ann's day out. As for Emeline, she certainly should have stayed in the house and looked after the little girl; but Emeline had a restless nature.
"Would you mind, miss, if I just crossed the alley to speak a word to Mrs. Carleton's girl?" she asked Martha.
"'Course not," replied the child. "You'd better lock the back door, though, and take the key, for I shall be upstairs."
"Oh, I'll do that, of course, miss," said the delighted maid, and ran away to spend the afternoon with her friend, leaving Martha quite alone in the big house, and locked in, into the bargain.
The little girl read a few pages in her new book, sewed a few stitches in her embroidery and started to "play visiting" with her four favorite dolls. Then she remembered that in the attic was a doll's playhouse that hadn't been used for months, so she decided she would dust it and put it in order.
Filled with this idea, the girl climbed the winding stairs to the big room under the roof. It was well lighted by three dormer windows and was warm and pleasant. Around the walls were rows of boxes and trunks, piles of old carpeting, pieces of damaged furniture, bundles of discarded clothing and other odds and ends of more or less value. Every well-regulated house has an attic of this sort, so I need not describe it.
The doll's house had been moved, but after a search Martha found it away over in a corner near the big chimney.
She drew it out and noticed that behind it was a black wooden chest which Uncle Walter had sent over from Italy years and years ago--before Martha was born, in fact. Mamma had told her about it one day; how there was no key to it, because Uncle Walter wished it to remain unopened until he returned home; and how this wandering uncle, who was a mighty hunter, had gone into Africa to hunt elephants and had never been heard from afterwards.
The little girl looked at the chest curiously, now that it had by accident attracted her attention.
It was quite big--bigger even than mamma's traveling trunk--and was studded all over with tarnished brassheaded nails. It was heavy, too, for when Martha tried to lift one end of it she found she could not stir it a bit. But there was a place in the side of the cover for a key. She stooped to examine the lock, and saw that it would take a rather big key to open it.
Then, as you may suspect, the little girl longed to open Uncle Walter's big box and see what was in it. For we are all curious, and little girls are just as curious as the rest of us.
"I don't b'lieve Uncle Walter'll ever come back," she thought. "Papa said once that some elephant must have killed him. If I only had a key--" She stopped and clapped her little hands together gayly as she remembered a big basket of keys on the shelf in the linen closet. They were of all sorts and sizes; perhaps one of them would unlock the mysterious chest!
She flew down the stairs, found the basket and returned with it to the attic. Then she sat down before the brass-studded box and began trying one key after another in the curious old lock. Some were too large, but most were too small. One would go into the lock but would not turn; another stuck so fast that she feared for a time that she would never get it out again. But at last, when the basket was almost empty, an oddly-shaped, ancient brass key slipped easily into the lock. With a cry of joy Martha turned the key with both hands; then she heard a sharp "click," and the next moment the heavy lid flew up of its own accord!
The little girl leaned over the edge of the chest an instant, and the sight that met her eyes caused her to start back in amazement.
Slowly and carefully a man unpacked himself from the chest, stepped out upon the floor, stretched his limbs and then took off his hat and bowed politely to the astonished child.
He was tall and thin and his face seemed badly tanned or sunburnt.
Then another man emerged from the chest, yawning and rubbing his eyes like a sleepy schoolboy. He was of middle size and his skin seemed as badly tanned as that of the first.
While Martha stared open-mouthed at the remarkable sight a third man crawled from the chest. He had the same complexion as his fellows, but was short and fat.
All three were dressed in a curious manner. They wore short jackets of red velvet braided with gold, and knee breeches of sky-blue satin with silver buttons. Over their stockings were laced wide ribbons of red and yellow and blue, while their hats had broad brims with high, peaked crowns, from which fluttered yards of bright-colored ribbons.
They had big gold rings in their ears and rows of knives and pistols in their belts. Their eyes were black and glittering and they wore long, fierce mustaches, curling at the ends like a pig's tail.
"My! but you were heavy," exclaimed the fat one, when he had pulled down his velvet jacket and brushed the dust from his sky-blue breeches. "And you squeezed me all out of shape."
"It was unavoidable, Lugui," responded the thin man, lightly; "the lid of the chest pressed me down upon you. Yet I tender you my regrets."
"As for me," said the middle-sized man, carelessly rolling a cigarette and lighting it, "you must acknowledge I have been your nearest friend for years; so do not be disagreeable."
"You mustn't smoke in the attic," said Martha, recovering herself at sight of the cigarette. "You might set the house on fire."
The middle-sized man, who had not noticed her before, at this speech turned to the girl and bowed.
"Since a lady requests it," said he, "I shall abandon my cigarette," and he threw it on the floor and extinguished it with his foot.
"Who are you?" asked Martha, who until now had been too astonished to be frightened.
"Permit us to introduce ourselves," said the thin man, flourishing his hat gracefully. "This is Lugui," the fat man nodded; "and this is Beni," the middle-sized man bowed; "and I am Victor. We are three bandits--Italian bandits."
"Bandits!" cried Martha, with a look of horror.
"Exactly. Perhaps in all the world there are not three other bandits so terrible and fierce as ourselves," said Victor, proudly.
"'Tis so," said the fat man, nodding gravely.
"But it's wicked!" exclaimed Martha.
"Yes, indeed," replied Victor. "We are extremely and tremendously wicked. Perhaps in all the world you could not find three men more wicked than those who now stand before you."
"'Tis so," said the fat man, approvingly.
"But you shouldn't be so wicked," said the girl; "it's--it's--naughty!"
Victor cast down his eyes and blushed.
"Naughty!" gasped Beni, with a horrified look.
"'Tis a hard word," said Luigi, sadly, and buried his face in his hands.
"I little thought," murmured Victor, in a voice broken by emotion, "ever to be so reviled--and by a lady! Yet, perhaps you spoke thoughtlessly. You must consider, miss, that our wickedness has an excuse. For how are we to be bandits, let me ask, unless we are wicked?"
Martha was puzzled and shook her head, thoughtfully. Then she remembered something.
"You can't remain bandits any longer," said she, "because you are now in America."
"America!" cried the three, together.
"Certainly. You are on Prairie avenue, in Chicago. Uncle Walter sent you here from Italy in this chest."
The bandits seemed greatly bewildered by this announcement. Lugui sat down on an old chair with a broken rocker and wiped his forehead with a yellow silk handkerchief. Beni and Victor fell back upon the chest and looked at her with pale faces and staring eyes.
When he had somewhat recovered himself Victor spoke.
"Your Uncle Walter has greatly wronged us," he said, reproachfully. "He has taken us from our beloved Italy, where bandits are highly respected, and brought us to a strange country where we shall not know whom to rob or how much to ask for a ransom."
"'Tis so!" said the fat man, slapping his leg sharply.
"And we had won such fine reputations in Italy!" said Beni, regretfully.
"Perhaps Uncle Walter wanted to reform you," suggested Martha.
"Are there, then, no bandits in Chicago?" asked Victor.
"Well," replied the girl, blushing in her turn, "we do not call them bandits."
"Then what shall we do for a living?" inquired Beni, despairingly.
"A great deal can be done in a big American city," said the child. "My father is a lawyer" (the bandits shuddered), "and my mother's cousin is a police inspector."
"Ah," said Victor, "that is a good employment. The police need to be inspected, especially in Italy."
"Everywhere!" added Beni.
"Then you could do other things," continued Martha, encouragingly. "You could be motor men on trolley cars, or clerks in a department store. Some people even become aldermen to earn a living."
The bandits shook their heads sadly.
"We are not fitted for such work," said Victor. "Our business is to rob."
Martha tried to think.
"It is rather hard to get positions in the gas office," she said, "but you might become politicians."
"No!" cried Beni, with sudden fierceness; "we must not abandon our high calling. Bandits we have always been, and bandits we must remain!"
"'Tis so!" agreed the fat man.
"Even in Chicago there must be people to rob," remarked Victor, with cheerfulness.
Martha was distressed.
"I think they have all been robbed," she objected.
"Then we can rob the robbers, for we have experience and talent beyond the ordinary," said Beni.
"Oh, dear; oh, dear!" moaned the girl; "why did Uncle Walter ever send you here in this chest?"
The bandits became interested.
"That is what we should like to know," declared Victor, eagerly.
"But no one will ever know, for Uncle Walter was lost while hunting elephants in Africa," she continued, with conviction.
"Then we must accept our fate and rob to the best of our ability," said Victor. "So long as we are faithful to our beloved profession we need not be ashamed."
"'Tis so!" cried the fat man.
"Brothers! we will begin now. Let us rob the house we are in."
"Good!" shouted the others and sprang to their feet.
Beni turned threatingly upon the child.
"Remain here!" he commanded. "If you stir one step your blood will be on your own head!" Then he added, in a gentler voice: "Don't be afraid; that's the way all bandits talk to their captives. But of course we wouldn't hurt a young lady under any circumstances."
"Of course not," said Victor.
The fat man drew a big knife from his belt and flourished it about his head.
"S'blood!" he ejaculated, fiercely.
"S'bananas!" cried Beni, in a terrible voice.
"Confusion to our foes!" hissed Victor.
And then the three bent themselves nearly double and crept stealthily down the stairway with cocked pistols in their hands and glittering knives between their teeth, leaving Martha trembling with fear and too horrified to even cry for help.
How long she remained alone in the attic she never knew, but finally she heard the catlike tread of the returning bandits and saw them coming up the stairs in single file.
All bore heavy loads of plunder in their arms, and Lugui was balancing a mince pie on the top of a pile of her mother's best evening dresses. Victor came next with an armful of bric-a-brac, a brass candelabra and the parlor clock. Beni had the family Bible, the basket of silverware from the sideboard, a copper kettle and papa's fur overcoat.
"Oh, joy!" said Victor, putting down his load; "it is pleasant to rob once more."
"Oh, ecstacy!" said Beni; but he let the kettle drop on his toe and immediately began dancing around in anguish, while he muttered queer words in the Italian language.
"We have much wealth," continued Victor, holding the mince pie while Lugui added his spoils to the heap; "and all from one house! This America must be a rich place."
With a dagger he then cut himself a piece of the pie and handed the remainder to his comrades. Whereupon all three sat upon the floor and consumed the pie while Martha looked on sadly.
"We should have a cave," remarked Beni; "for we must store our plunder in a safe place. Can you tell us of a secret cave?" he asked Martha.
"There's a Mammoth cave," she answered, "but it's in Kentucky. You would be obliged to ride on the cars a long time to get there."
The three bandits looked thoughtful and munched their pie silently, but the next moment they were startled by the ringing of the electric doorbell, which was heard plainly even in the remote attic.
"What's that?" demanded Victor, in a hoarse voice, as the three scrambled to their feet with drawn daggers.
Martha ran to the window and saw it was only the postman, who had dropped a letter in the box and gone away again. But the incident gave her an idea of how to get rid of her troublesome bandits, so she began wringing her hands as if in great distress and cried out:
"It's the police!"
The robbers looked at one another with genuine alarm, and Lugui asked, tremblingly:
"Are there many of them?"
"A hundred and twelve!" exclaimed Martha, after pretending to count them.
"Then we are lost!" declared Beni; "for we could never fight so many and live."
"Are they armed?" inquired Victor, who was shivering as if cold.
"Oh, yes," said she. "They have guns and swords and pistols and axes and--and--"
"And what?" demanded Lugui.
The three wicked ones groaned aloud and Beni said, in a hollow voice:
"I hope they will kill us quickly and not put us to the torture. I have been told these Americans are painted Indians, who are bloodthirsty and terrible."
"'Tis so!" gasped the fat man, with a shudder.
Suddenly Martha turned from the window.
"You are my friends, are you not?" she asked.
"We are devoted!" answered Victor.
"We adore you!" cried Beni.
"We would die for you!" added Lugui, thinking he was about to die anyway.
"Then I will save you," said the girl.
"How?" asked the three, with one voice.
"Get back into the chest," she said. "I will then close the lid, so they will be unable to find you."
They looked around the room in a dazed and irresolute way, but she exclaimed:
"You must be quick! They will soon be here to arrest you."
Then Lugui sprang into the chest and lay fat upon the bottom. Beni tumbled in next and packed himself in the back side. Victor followed after pausing to kiss her hand to the girl in a graceful manner.
Then Martha ran up to press down the lid, but could not make it catch.
"You must squeeze down," she said to them.
"I am doing my best, miss," said Victor, who was nearest the top; "but although we fitted in very nicely before, the chest now seems rather small for us."
"'Tis so!" came the muffled voice of the fat man from the bottom.
"I know what takes up the room," said Beni.
"What?" inquired Victor, anxiously.
"The pie," returned Beni.
"'Tis so!" came from the bottom, in faint accents.
Then Martha sat upon the lid and pressed it down with all her weight. To her great delight the lock caught, and, springing down, she exerted all her strength and turned the key.
* * * * *
This story should teach us not to interfere in matters that do not concern us. For had Martha refrained from opening Uncle Walter's mysterious chest she would not have been obliged to carry downstairs all the plunder the robbers had brought into the attic.
THE GLASS DOG.
An accomplished wizard once lived on the top floor of a tenement house and passed his time in thoughtful study and studious thought. What he didn't know about wizardry was hardly worth knowing, for he possessed all the books and recipes of all the wizards who had lived before him; and, moreover, he had invented several wizardments himself.
This admirable person would have been completely happy but for the numerous interruptions to his studies caused by folk who came to consult him about their troubles (in which he was not interested), and by the loud knocks of the iceman, the milkman, the baker's boy, the laundryman and the peanut woman. He never dealt with any of these people; but they rapped at his door every day to see him about this or that or to try to sell him their wares. Just when he was most deeply interested in his books or engaged in watching the bubbling of a cauldron there would come a knock at his door. And after sending the intruder away he always found he had lost his train of thought or ruined his compound.
At length these interruptions aroused his anger, and he decided he must have a dog to keep people away from his door. He didn't know where to find a dog, but in the next room lived a poor glass-blower with whom he had a slight acquaintance; so he went into the man's apartment and asked:
"Where can I find a dog?"
"What sort of a dog?" inquired the glass-blower.
"A good dog. One that will bark at people and drive them away. One that will be no trouble to keep and won't expect to be fed. One that has no fleas and is neat in his habits. One that will obey me when I speak to him. In short, a good dog," said the wizard.
"Such a dog is hard to find," returned the glass-blower, who was busy making a blue glass flower pot with a pink glass rosebush in it, having green glass leaves and yellow glass roses.
The wizard watched him thoughtfully.
"Why cannot you blow me a dog out of glass?" he asked, presently.
"I can," declared the glass-blower; "but it would not bark at people, you know."
"Oh, I'll fix that easily enough," replied the other. "If I could not make a glass dog bark I would be a mighty poor wizard."
"Very well; if you can use a glass dog I'll be pleased to blow one for you. Only, you must pay for my work."
"Certainly," agreed the wizard. "But I have none of that horrid stuff you call money. You must take some of my wares in exchange."
The glass-blower considered the matter for a moment.
"Could you give me something to cure my rheumatism?" he asked.
"Oh, yes; easily."
"Then it's a bargain. I'll start the dog at once. What color of glass shall I use?"
"Pink is a pretty color," said the wizard, "and it's unusual for a dog, isn't it?"
"Very," answered the glass-blower; "but it shall be pink."
So the wizard went back to his studies and the glass-blower began to make the dog.
Next morning he entered the wizard's room with the glass dog under his arm and set it carefully upon the table. It was a beautiful pink in color, with a fine coat of spun glass, and about its neck was twisted a blue glass ribbon. Its eyes were specks of black glass and sparkled intelligently, as do many of the glass eyes worn by men.
The wizard expressed himself pleased with the glass-blower's skill and at once handed him a small vial.
"This will cure your rheumatism," he said.
"But the vial is empty!" protested the glass-blower.
"Oh, no; there is one drop of liquid in it," was the wizard's reply.
"Will one drop cure my rheumatism?" inquired the glass-blower, in wonder.
"Most certainly. That is a marvelous remedy. The one drop contained in the vial will cure instantly any kind of disease ever known to humanity. Therefore it is especially good for rheumatism. But guard it well, for it is the only drop of its kind in the world, and I've forgotten the recipe."
"Thank you," said the glass-blower, and went back to his room.
Then the wizard cast a wizzy spell and mumbled several very learned words in the wizardese language over the glass dog. Whereupon the little animal first wagged its tail from side to side, then winked his left eye knowingly, and at last began barking in a most frightful manner--that is, when you stop to consider the noise came from a pink glass dog. There is something almost astonishing in the magic arts of wizards; unless, of course, you know how to do the things yourself, when you are not expected to be surprised at them.
The wizard was as delighted as a school teacher at the success of his spell, although he was not astonished. Immediately he placed the dog outside his door, where it would bark at anyone who dared knock and so disturb the studies of its master.
The glass-blower, on returning to his room, decided not to use the one drop of wizard cure-all just then.
"My rheumatism is better to-day," he reflected, "and I will be wise to save the medicine for a time when I am very ill, when it will be of more service to me."
So he placed the vial in his cupboard and went to work blowing more roses out of glass. Presently he happened to think the medicine might not keep, so he started to ask the wizard about it. But when he reached the door the glass dog barked so fiercely that he dared not knock, and returned in great haste to his own room. Indeed, the poor man was quite upset at so unfriendly a reception from the dog he had himself so carefully and skillfully made.
The next morning, as he read his newspaper, he noticed an article stating that the beautiful Miss Mydas, the richest young lady in town, was very ill, and the doctors had given up hope of her recovery.
The glass-blower, although miserably poor, hard-working and homely of feature, was a man of ideas. He suddenly recollected his precious medicine, and determined to use it to better advantage than relieving his own ills. He dressed himself in his best clothes, brushed his hair and combed his whiskers, washed his hands and tied his necktie, blackened his hoes and sponged his vest, and then put the vial of magic cure-all in his pocket. Next he locked his door, went downstairs and walked through the streets to the grand mansion where the wealthy Miss Mydas resided.
The butler opened the door and said:
"No soap, no chromos, no vegetables, no hair oil, no books, no baking powder. My young lady is dying and we're well supplied for the funeral."
The glass-blower was grieved at being taken for a peddler.
"My friend," he began, proudly; but the butler interrupted him, saying:
"No tombstones, either; there's a family graveyard and the monument's built."
"The graveyard won't be needed if you will permit me to speak," said the glass-blower.
"No doctors, sir; they've given up my young lady, and she's given up the doctors," continued the butler, calmly.
"I'm no doctor," returned the glass-blower.
"Nor are the others. But what is your errand?"
"I called to cure your young lady by means of a magical compound."
"Step in, please, and take a seat in the hall. I'll speak to the housekeeper," said the butler, more politely.
So he spoke to the housekeeper and the housekeeper mentioned the matter to the steward and the steward consulted the chef and the chef kissed the lady's maid and sent her to see the stranger. Thus are the very wealthy hedged around with ceremony, even when dying.
When the lady's maid heard from the glass-blower that he had a medicine which would cure her mistress, she said:
"I'm glad you came."
"But," said he, "if I restore your mistress to health she must marry me."
"I'll make inquiries and see if she's willing," answered the maid, and went at once to consult Miss Mydas.
The young lady did not hesitate an instant.
"I'd marry any old thing rather than die!" she cried. "Bring him here at once!"
So the glass-blower came, poured the magic drop into a little water, gave it to the patient, and the next minute Miss Mydas was as well as she had ever been in her life.
"Dear me!" she exclaimed; "I've an engagement at the Fritters' reception to-night. Bring my pearl-colored silk, Marie, and I will begin my toilet at once. And don't forget to cancel the order for the funeral flowers and your mourning gown."
"But, Miss Mydas," remonstrated the glass-blower, who stood by, "you promised to marry me if I cured you."
"I know," said the young lady, "but we must have time to make proper announcement in the society papers and have the wedding cards engraved. Call to-morrow and we'll talk it over."
The glass-blower had not impressed her favorably as a husband, and she was glad to find an excuse for getting rid of him for a time. And she did not want to miss the Fritters' reception.
Yet the man went home filled with joy; for he thought his stratagem had succeeded and he was about to marry a rich wife who would keep him in luxury forever afterward.
The first thing he did on reaching his room was to smash his glass-blowing tools and throw them out of the window.
He then sat down to figure out ways of spending his wife's money.
The following day he called upon Miss Mydas, who was reading a novel and eating chocolate creams as happily as if she had never been ill in her life.
"Where did you get the magic compound that cured me?" she asked.
"From a learned wizard," said he; and then, thinking it would interest her, he told how he had made the glass dog for the wizard, and how it barked and kept everybody from bothering him.
"How delightful!" she said. "I've always wanted a glass dog that could bark."
"But there is only one in the world," he answered, "and it belongs to the wizard."
"You must buy it for me," said the lady.
"The wizard cares nothing for money," replied the glass-blower.
"Then you must steal it for me," she retorted. "I can never live happily another day unless I have a glass dog that can bark."
The glass-blower was much distressed at this, but said he would see what he could do. For a man should always try to please his wife, and Miss Mydas has promised to marry him within a week.
On his way home he purchased a heavy sack, and when he passed the wizard's door and the pink glass dog ran out to bark at him he threw the sack over the dog, tied the opening with a piece of twine, and carried him away to his own room.
The next day he sent the sack by a messenger boy to Miss Mydas, with his compliments, and later in the afternoon he called upon her in person, feeling quite sure he would be received with gratitude for stealing the dog she so greatly desired.
But when he came to the door and the butler opened it, what was his amazement to see the glass dog rush out and begin barking at him furiously.
"Call off your dog," he shouted, in terror.
"I can't, sir," answered the butler. "My young lady has ordered the glass dog to bark whenever you call here. You'd better look out, sir," he added, "for if it bites you, you may have glassophobia!"
This so frightened the poor glass-blower that he went away hurriedly. But he stopped at a drug store and put his last dime in the telephone box so he could talk to Miss Mydas without being bitten by the dog.
"Give me Pelf 6742!" he called.
"Hello! What is it?" said a voice.
"I want to speak with Miss Mydas," said the glass-blower.
Presently a sweet voice said: "This is Miss Mydas. What is it?"
"Why have you treated me so cruelly and set the glass dog on me?" asked the poor fellow.
"Well, to tell the truth," said the lady, "I don't like your looks. Your cheeks are pale and baggy, your hair is coarse and long, your eyes are small and red, your hands are big and rough, and you are bow-legged."
"But I can't help my looks!" pleaded the glass-blower; "and you really promised to marry me."
"If you were better looking I'd keep my promise," she returned. "But under the circumstances you are no fit mate for me, and unless you keep away from my mansion I shall set my glass dog on you!" Then she dropped the 'phone and would have nothing more to say.
The miserable glass-blower went home with a heart bursting with disappointment and began tying a rope to the bedpost by which to hang himself.
Some one knocked at the door, and, upon opening it, he saw the wizard.
"I've lost my dog," he announced.
"Have you, indeed?" replied the glass-blower tying a knot in the rope.
"Yes; some one has stolen him."
"That's too bad," declared the glass-blower, indifferently.
"You must make me another," said the wizard.
"But I cannot; I've thrown away my tools."
"Then what shall I do?" asked the wizard.
"I do not know, unless you offer a reward for the dog."
"But I have no money," said the wizard.
"Offer some of your compounds, then," suggested the glass-blower, who was making a noose in the rope for his head to go through.
"The only thing I can spare," replied the wizard, thoughtfully, "is a Beauty Powder."
"What!" cried the glass-blower, throwing down the rope, "have you really such a thing?"
"Yes, indeed. Whoever takes the powder will become the most beautiful person in the world."
"If you will offer that as a reward," said the glass-blower, eagerly, "I'll try to find the dog for you, for above everything else I long to be beautiful."
"But I warn you the beauty will only be skin deep," said the wizard.
"That's all right," replied the happy glass-blower; "when I lose my skin I shan't care to remain beautiful."
"Then tell me where to find my dog and you shall have the powder," promised the wizard.
So the glass-blower went out and pretended to search, and by-and-by he returned and said:
"I've discovered the dog. You will find him in the mansion of Miss Mydas."
The wizard went at once to see if this were true, and, sure enough, the glass dog ran out and began barking at him. Then the wizard spread out his hands and chanted a magic spell which sent the dog fast asleep, when he picked him up and carried him to his own room on the top floor of the tenement house.
Afterward he carried the Beauty Powder to the glass-blower as a reward, and the fellow immediately swallowed it and became the most beautiful man in the world.
The next time he called upon Miss Mydas there was no dog to bark at him, and when the young lady saw him she fell in love with his beauty at once.
"If only you were a count or a prince," she sighed, "I'd willingly marry you."
"But I am a prince," he answered; "the Prince of Dogblowers."
"Ah!" said she; "then if you are willing to accept an allowance of four dollars a week I'll order the wedding cards engraved."
The man hesitated, but when he thought of the rope hanging from his bedpost he consented to the terms.
So they were married, and the bride was very jealous of her husband's beauty and led him a dog's life. So he managed to get into debt and made her miserable in turn.
* * * * *
As for the glass dog, the wizard set him barking again by means of his wizardness and put him outside his door. I suppose he is there yet, and am rather sorry, for I should like to consult the wizard about the moral to this story.
THE QUEEN OF QUOK
A king once died, as kings are apt to do, being as liable to shortness of breath as other mortals.
It was high time this king abandoned his earth life, for he had lived in a sadly extravagant manner, and his subjects could spare him without the slightest inconvenience.
His father had left him a full treasury, both money and jewels being in abundance. But the foolish king just deceased had squandered every penny in riotous living. He had then taxed his subjects until most of them became paupers, and this money vanished in more riotous living. Next he sold all the grand old furniture in the palace; all the silver and gold plate and bric-a-brac; all the rich carpets and furnishings and even his own kingly wardrobe, reserving only a soiled and moth-eaten ermine robe to fold over his threadbare rainment. And he spent the money in further riotous living.
Don't ask me to explain what riotous living is. I only know, from hearsay, that it is an excellent way to get rid of money. And so this spendthrift king found it.
He now picked all the magnificent jewels from this kingly crown and from the round ball on the top of his scepter, and sold them and spent the money. Riotous living, of course. But at last he was at the end of his resources. He couldn't sell the crown itself, because no one but the king had the right to wear it. Neither could he sell the royal palace, because only the king had the right to live there.
So, finally, he found himself reduced to a bare palace, containing only a big mahogany bedstead that he slept in, a small stool on which he sat to pull off his shoes and the moth-eaten ermine robe.
In this straight he was reduced to the necessity of borrowing an occasional dime from his chief counselor, with which to buy a ham sandwich. And the chief counselor hadn't many dimes. One who counseled his king so foolishly was likely to ruin his own prospects as well.
So the king, having nothing more to live for, died suddenly and left a ten-year-old son to inherit the dismantled kingdom, the moth-eaten robe and the jewel-stripped crown.
No one envied the hild, who had scarcely been thought of until he became king himself. Then he was recognized as a pesonage of some importance, and the politicians and hangers-on, headed by the chief counselor of the kingdom, held a meeting to determine what could be done for him.
These folk had helped the old king to live riotously while his money lasted, and now they were poor and too proud to work. So they tried to think of a plan that would bring more money into the little king's treasury, where it would be handy for them to help themselves.
After the meeting was over the chief counselor came to the young king, who was playing peg-top in the courtyard, and said:
"Your majesty, we have thought of a way to restore your kingdom to its former power and magnificence."
"All right," replied his majesty, carelessly. "How will you do it?"
"By marrying you to a lady of great wealth," replied the counselor.
"Marrying me!" cried the king. "Why, I am only ten years old!"
"I know; it is to be regretted. But your majesty will grow older, and the affairs of the kingdom demand that you marry a wife."
"Can't I marry a mother, instead?" asked the poor little king, who had lost his mother when a baby.
"Certainly not," declared the counselor. "To marry a mother would be illegal; to marry a wife is right and proper."
"Can't you marry her yourself?" inquired his majesty, aiming his peg-top at the chief counselor's toe, and laughing to see how he jumped to escape it.
"Let me explain," said the other. "You haven't a penny in the world, but you have a kingdom. There are many rich women who would be glad to give their wealth in exchange for a queen's coronet--even if the king is but a child. So we have decided to advertise that the one who bids the highest shall become the queen of Quok."
"If I must marry at all," said the king, after a moment's thought, "I prefer to marry Nyana, the armorer's daughter."
"She is too poor," replied the counselor.
"Her teeth are pearls, her eyes are amethysts, and her hair is gold," declared the little king.
"True, your majesty. But consider that your wife's wealth must be used. How would Nyana look after you have pulled her teeth of pearls, plucked out her amethyst eyes and shaved her golden head?"
The boy shuddered.
"Have your own way," he said, desparingly. "Only let the lady be as dainty as possible and a good playfellow."