"The Power of Repulsion"
By L. Frank Baum
Author of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Annabel, The Visitors from Oz, etc.
This excerpt from Baum's fantasy John Dough and the Cherub was published in the following revised form in Baum's Own Book For Children in 1912. Hungry Tiger Press is pleased to present it in celebration of the centennial of the first publication of John Dough and the Cherub in 1906 and of the birthday of John Dough himself on the Fourth of July.
John Dough was a gingerbread man. The baker who made him accidentally mixed into his dough a magical elixir of life, so that as soon as he was baked the gingerbread man came to life, and wandered through the land seeking adventures. At one time he visited the Isle of Phreex, where many unusual characters live, and while a guest in the castle of the Kinglet of Phreex John Dough made the acquaintance of a famous inventor. He was a thin man, with a long bald head that slanted up to a peak, underneath which appeared a little withered face that constantly smiled in a most friendly manner.
"I am Sir Pryse Bocks," said he, shaking John's gingerbread hand in a most cordial manner. "The remarkable thing about me is not that I am inventor, but that I am a successful inventor. You, I perceive, are a delicatessen; a friend in knead; I might say, a Pan-American. Ha, ha!"
"Pleased to make your acquaintance," returned John, bowing stiffly "But do not joke upon my person, Sir Pryse. I'm proud of it."
"I respect your pride," said the other. "It's doubtless bread in the bone, sir. Ha, ha!"
John looked at him reproachfully, and the little man at once grew grave.
"Pardon my levity," he said. "I'm really a great inventor, you know."
"What have you invented?" asked the gingerbread man.
"This!" said the other, taking a little tube from his pocket. "You will notice that it often rains - it's raining now, if you'll look out the window. And the reason it rains is because the drops of water fall to the earth by the attraction of gravitation."
"I suppose so," said John.
"Now, what do people usually do when it rains?" asked the little man.
"They grumble," said John.
"Yes, and they use umbrellas--umbrellas, mind you, to keep themselves dry!"
"And that is quite sensible," declared John.
The bald-headed one gave a scornful laugh. "It's ridiculous!" he said, angrily. "An umbrella is a big, clumsy thing, that the wind jerks out of your hand, or turns inside out; and it's a nuisance to carry it around; and people always borrow it and never bring it back. An umbrella, sir, is a humbug! A relic of the Dark Ages! I've done away with the use of umbrellas entirely, by means of this invention--this little tube, which can be carried in one's pocket!"
He held up a small instrument that looked like a tin whistle.
"How curious!" said John.
"Isn't it? You see, within this tube is stored a Power of Repulsion that overcomes the Attraction of Gravitation, and sends the rain-drops flying upward again. You stick the tube in your hatband and walk out boldly into the rain. Immediately all the rain-drops shoot up into the air, and before they can fall again you have passed on! It's always dry where the wearer of this tube goes, for it protects him perfectly. And when it stops raining, you put it in your pocket again and it's all ready for another time. Isn't it great, sir? Isn't it wonderful? Is n't the inventor of this tube the greatest man in the world?"
"I'd like to try it," said John, "for no one needs protection from the rain more than I do. Being made of gingerbread, it would ruin me to get wet."
"True," agreed the other. "I'll lend you the tube, with pleasure. I see you have no hat to stick it in, but you may hold in your hand. It will work just as well that way, but is not so convenient."
So John took the tube; and having thanked the bald-headed man for his kindness, he left the room and walked down the stairs and through the big, empty hall, and so out into the courtyard. The rain seemed to have driven every one in doors, for not a person could he see.
Holding the tube upright, he boldly walked into the rain; and it gave him great pleasure to notice that not a drop fell near him. Indeed, by looking upward, he could see the falling drops stop short and then fly toward the clouds; and he began to believe that the bald-headed inventor was really as great a man as he claimed to be.
After descending the slippery path through the rocks, he crossed the patch of green, and at last reached the sandy shore, where he had some time before left his hat and cane. The hat had once belonged to the baker that make him, and he was grieved to find it now soaked through by the rain. As he lifted it he saw the crooked handle of his candy cane sticking out of the sand, and drew it forth to find it in excellent condition, little of the dampness having reached it.
But now, as John Dough began to retrace his steps, he discovered that his feet were soft and swollen. For he had been walking on the damp ground and through the wet grass, and although no rain had fallen upon his body, his feet were getting to be in a dangerous condition, and the gingerbread having become mushy and sticky. After he had recrossed the grass and come to the edge of the rocks, he began to be frightened, for bits of his left heel now commenced to crumble and drop in the path, and when he tried walking on his flabby toes they were so soggy and soft that he knew they would not last very long.
While he paused, bewildered, another calamity overtook him. For the tube suddenly lost its power of repulsion and ceased to work, and the raindrops began to pelt his unprotected body and sink into his flesh. He looked around with a groan of dismay, and discovered a round hole, or tunnel, in the rock near by. Staggering toward this, he entered the tunnel and found that now no rain could reach him. The floor was smooth and dry, and in the far distance he saw a light twinkling.
Not daring to walk farther upon his mushy feet, John got down on his hands and knees and began crawling to the further end of the tunnel. He made slow progress in that position, but soon was encouraged by feeling the warm air of a furnace coming to meet him. So he crawled on until he found he had reached the furnaces underneath the castle where an old man with kindly eyes was keeping the fires going. John asked permission to dry himself, and was told to make himself at home. So he crept to a furnace and put his soaked feet as near the fire as he dared, holding them there until the grateful warmth dried the gingerbread and it became as crisp and solid as ever.
Then he arose cautiously to his feet and found the damage to his heel would not interfere much with his walking.
"I'm much obliged," said John to the janitor; "when it stops raining I'll go on my way."
"Never mind the rain," said the man. "Here is a winding staircase that leads directly upward into the castle. If you go that way the rain cannot reach you. The tunnel through which you entered is only used for ventilation."
So the gingerbread man at once began climbing the stairs. There were a good many steps, but finally he came to a gallery of the castle and had little difficulty in finding the passage that led to his own room. As he opened the door he found the bald-headed inventor of the Power of Repulsion eagerly awaiting him.
"Well, how did the tube please you? Is it not wonderful?" he enquired.
"It's wonderful enough when it works," said John, glancing at his damaged feet; "but it suddenly quit working, and nearly ruined me."
"Ah, the Power became exhausted," returned the man, calmly, "But that is nothing. It can be easily renewed."
"However," John remarked, "I think that whenever one uses your tube as a protection from the rain, he should also carry an umbrella to use in case of accident."
"An umbrella! Bah!" cried the inventor, and left the room in a rage, slamming the door behind him.
THE FORGETFUL POET
By Ruth Plumly Thompson
Originally published in the Philadelphia Public Ledger, March 3, 1918.
Some More Reasonable Riddles
The Forgetful Poet wants to say right here that the answers to last week's puzzles were coffee and plum and wishes to thank Edith Lengert for her verses, which enable him to take a long-needed rest. Here they are:
What begins with c -
And ends with t;
It is two words
And sails the sea?
What is amusing,
At times quite abusing?
It begins with f
And ends with y;
Of course, it is
A little --------.
What is in your schoolbag that is like a person who travels with you?
The answers to the rest of last week's riddle are: The three finest letters in the alphabet, U. S. A. The sentence, c-u-r-1-2-xl. See you are one to excel. Y10, whiten; oacccc, oases; x10u8, extenuate.
Something all property owners pay
Changed around in a different way
Will give a State in the U.S.A.
If a fence make jokes, how would you describe them?
[Answers next time.]
Copyright © 2006 Eric Shanower and David Maxine. All rights reserved.
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