"The Witches' Well"
By Ruth Plumly Thompson
Author of The Royal Book of Oz, "The Wizard of Pumperdink", "King, King! Double King!", etc.
Originally published in the Philadelphia Public Ledger, October 25, 1914.
(For All the Boys and Girls Who Wanted a Witch Story.)
There was once a Prince who, having been treacherously cheated out of his inheritance by his two older brothers, set out to make his fortune in a strange country. But he was in no wise cast down for he had the merriest heart in the world as well as the kindliest, and was the possessor of a silver flute, upon which he could play with marvelous skill.
One night his travels brought him to the edge of a dense forest. Fearing that if he lay down to rest he would be devoured by wild beasts, he determined to push on. He had not gone far before he saw a red light gleaming though the trees.
At every step the way grew more dense and tangled, but the light grew steadily brighter, and at last, parting the thick foliage, the Prince looked out upon a small clearing. "Trees and steeple-tops," cried he, falling back against a tree. No wonder!
In the centre of the clearing, chained by her nose to a dark well, crouched a witch. Oh, an awful witch - a terrible witch - a hideous witch - an awful, terrible, hideous witch! Her eyes were red, and big as dinner plates, indeed it was their light that cast the red glow over the forest. Her teeth were long as elephant's tusks, while her hair writhed out from beneath her peaked hat like mass of snakes. The Prince wiped the cold perspiration from his brow and stood watching from behind his tree.
Soon a whole company of wild beasts came slinking down to the well. They rumbled and roared threateningly until the witch had drawn them each a bucket of water, then they went slinking off again. Next a horde of goblins sprang into the clearing. Moaning and groaning, the red-eyed witch drew them bucket after bucket of water. The little imps pulled her hair, screamed in her ear and played every other sort of mischievous prank that goblins can play. Chained by her nose to the well, the witch was at their mercy.
"This won't do!" said the kind-hearted Prince, for he could not stand seeing even a red-eyed witch suffer. Seizing his flute he played the merriest tune that he knew. Straightway the goblins ceased their pranks. They hopped and skipped, and whirled and twirled and bounded about in the maddest, merriest goblin dance, not even stopping to see where the music came from. Playing gayly the Prince led them deep into the forest. Faster and faster played the flute - faster and faster whirled the little imps till at length they fell exhausted to the ground.
Then the Prince returned to the witch's well. "Good evening, madam," said he, sweeping off his hat. The witch's eyes grew big as meat platters and her tusks rattled like twenty drums, but the Prince neither shuddered nor stepped back. Seeing that she could neither make him shudder nor run, the witch spoke, "You are a brave lad! You have a kind heart. You are the only human being who has not run from me. Therefore I will grant you a wish. Come! Make a wish. Anything that your heart desires." The Prince sat down upon the edge of the well to wish and the witch sat on the edge of the well to wait, and there they sat and sat and sat! For as the merry-hearted Prince never thought of himself at all, he found making a wish the hardest thing in the world.
Then all at once he looked at the witch. "What a terrible misfortune to be so horribly ugly - !" Up sprang the Prince, "I wish that you were no longer a witch!" Scarcely had he spoken before there was a rumbling as of a hundred thunderstorms rolled into one. Everything grew dark. When it grew light again the Prince was standing before a beautiful palace. Down its golden steps swept the most beautiful Princess you can imagine. "Ah," cried she, "The spell is broken! Because I refused to marry him, I was changed by Crumblesticken, a wicked magician, to the horrible witch that you saw in the forest. There I was condemned to draw water for the wild beasts and goblins till someone, without fear, and of his own free will would do me a kindness."
It only remains to say that they were married upon the spot with great splendor and magnificence and lived happily ever afterward.
THE FORGETFUL POET
By Ruth Plumly Thompson
Originally published in the Philadelphia Public Ledger, November 25, 1917
Riddles in Rhyme for Thanksgiving Time
A month and an ingredient
In bread will give a ship
In whom our sturdy ancestors
First made the ocean trip!
A form of medicine, a word
That means stern and severe,
Will give, well, now what will it give,
Just tell me that, my dear?
His first name's a measure for distance,
And once you have that you will know
The whole, for he's truly thrice famous
A hot tempered man he was, though!
"When the frost is on the pumpkin
We ourselves must pilgrims be,
Amid the storm they sang,
And the stars heard and the sea."
That seems to me a remarkable poem; what do you make of it?
Last week's answers were: Rumania and Serbia. If an oak had an elderly relation it would certainly be Antioch--in Syria.
[Answers next time]
Copyright © 2005 Eric Shanower and David Maxine. All rights reserved.
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