"The Story of the Four Little Orphan Rabbits"
By Ruth Plumly Thompson
Author of Ozoplaning with the Wizard of Oz, "The Wizard of Pumperdink", "King, King! Double King!", etc.
Originally published in the Philadelphia Public Ledger, June 1, 1919.
The four brothers hopped along in silence, each trying to plan a way to earn his living. The oldest brother, who had always been considered very clever at home, was the first to speak.
"Sad as it seems," said he, "we must separate, for were we four to apply for work altogether, for a nights' lodging, or for food which we sorely need, we would surely meet with refusal. Let us follow the road till we come to a crossing. I myself will leave you at the first road branching off from this. Then let Peter take the next, Jonathan the third, and little Bill the fourth."
The other three saw the wisdom of their brother's speech and much as they grieved at the thought of parting agreed to follow his advice.
"Who can tell what riches may await us," he finished bravely.
"But shall we never meet again, dear brother," quavered little Peter.
"That will be as it may," said the oldest brother. "Fortunes are not made in a day, and 'tis a mighty large world we are faring in." Then seeing the little fellow so downcast he added:
"Suppose we agree to meet behind our old home two years from now and compare our experiences." The others joyfully agreed, and just then they arrived at the first crossroad. Bidding them an affectionate farewell Terry, the oldest little orphan rabbit, started down the side road and was soon lost to sight.
Not long after that Peter's turn came, then Jonathan's, and last of all little Bill's. And by nightfall each was traveling a different road with all his wits about him.
Time passed and went on, as it has a way of doing, and first thing you know two years had rolled by. The old hedgehog, who now lived in the little rabbits' house, nearly burst with astonishment one early spring evening, for approaching was a rabbit whose elegance and prosperity surpassed anything he had ever seen. He bowed as low as he possibly could, and wished the stranger a fine evening, but the rabbit never turned his head, but went into the woods back of the house and sat down after carefully dusting the ground with a blue linen handkerchief.
While old Mr. Hedgehog ran to fetch his wife two more rabbits appeared, even more elegant than the first one. The hedgehogs looking from a back window saw the three distinguished travelers embrace; then each turned expectantly toward the road, and to the astonishment of the old couple in the window, along came another young gentleman rabbit, fine as any of the others. All three rushed upon him, and such a hugging as they gave him! No wonder; it was Bill, the littlest orphan!
"We all seem to have prospered," remarked Terry, eyeing his brothers with pride and approval, "and now let each of us tell his story."
"You begin," cried the three in unison, and thus Terry related his adventures. The road that he took had led straight into an impenetrable forest, and though several times so terrified that he was near to turning back, Terry ventured into its depths and blundered in the dark into a lion's cave. With every hair on end he waited for the beast to finish him, but when his eyes had become accustomed to the gloom he saw that the poor creature was rolling in agony.
At the door of the cave he heard mighty rumbles and roars, and being a rabbit of such presence of mind he hastily closed and double-bolted the big doors, and then turned to the groaning lion. A short glance told him that the lion was suffering from epigrogulous, which he had often been troubled with himself. Finding every convenience and luxury in the cave he proceeded to ease the poor beast, and in the course of a few days had him up in a chair eating gruel. To the continual thumpings and scratchings at the door of the cave he paid no attention, and when the lion was able to talk - I mean to roar - he told Terry that he was a king, and that the other beasts were about to kill and depose him when he arrived and thoughtfully barred the door.
"Since then," finished Terry, fingering his gold watch chain, "I've been prime minister, enjoying every delicacy and privilege." The other brothers were delighted with Terry's good fortune; then all listened attentively to Peter's recital.
The road he had taken ran straight to a big city Much confused by the noise and dust Peter darted into a low doorway. No sooner had he done so than he was seized by the ears and lifted into the air. Though much shaken, he wished the creature who held him a good day and inquired of what service he might be.
"If you will but make her majesty laugh, then my fortune and your own likewise is made," said a voice, and looking up Peter perceived he was held by a poor though handsome youth. Declaring he was not averse to the work Peter required the youth to set him on the ground. The boy then explained that the queen, her majesty, had not smiled in seven years, and that the king had offered three bags of gold to the man who could coax her royal highness to smile. "You made me laugh so when you ran in here with your ears flying out behind that I know you can make the queen laugh in spite of herself." "So I did," chuckled Peter proudly, "and now the boy has married the princess and we're court favorites. Imagine!"
Now came Jonathan's story. He had followed the road down to the edge of a river, and not knowing how to cross had sat down upon the bank to think of a way to make his fortune. As he sat thus a fish thrust his head above the water, and wished him good evening. And in just no time they had gotten into a conversation, and like a flash came Jonathan's inspiration.
"Do not you people need a watchman?" Jonathan inquired breathlessly, and went on to explain how he would sit on the bank of the river and warn them below when fishermen were about. The fish was delighted and disappeared to consult the other creatures in the riverbed, with the result that Jonathan was unanimously elected watchman, and was so munificently rewarded from treasures of the deep that he had set up a wonderful castle (hidden from men very ingeniously by shrubbery), and there he lived in elegance and luxury.
Little Bill had been trying to conceal his impatience during the recital of his brother's adventures, and he now burst forth with his story. His road, he said, had gone on and on growing wigglier and wigglier until it finally disappeared altogether in a pretty green woods. Being tired he lay down beneath a tree to rest, and had just composed himself for slumber when the sound of someone crying made him spring up to search for the cause. Under a toadstool he found a little fairy boy who had lost his way. Bill, being lonely and lost himself, took the little fellow in his arms and they were both soon fast asleep. When Bill wakened he was in the most wonderful country in the world in the midst of a circle of charming little people.
It seems that the fairy's mother had found them and was so grateful to Bill for taking care of her baby that she wished him immediately in Fairyland, where he had lived ever since, "and the only animal there!" he concluded with great satisfaction.
The brothers were so delighted with the way their fortunes had turned out that they embraced all over again, and after promising to return to the same spot in one year Terry went back to the king of the impenetrable forest, Peter to the princess in the big city, Jonathan to his castle by the river and little Bill back to the finest place of all - Fairyland. Were they not clever little orphans?
THE FORGETFUL POET
By Ruth Plumly Thompson
Originally published in the Philadelphia Public Ledger, June 2, 1918.
Puzzles and So Forth
The Forgetful Poet had a great idea. He says it is great, and I quite agree with him. For the two best answers to his puzzles each week he will send two thrift stamps. Are you saving and serving? Come along, then, and see if you cannot win one today.
I saw a tie that wouldn't tie -
A tie that wasn't worn;
A pipe that wasn't smoked nor soaked,
And after that a horn
That wasn't piped nor on a cow;
A dog that didn't bark;
A horse that couldn't eat or run -
Aho! Now, what a lark!
A pie that wasn't eaten
And that seemed to be a bird,
A bird much use in building -
Well, how perfectly absurd!
(I should say so!)
Last week's answers were: Courtly judge, courthouse, courting, (tennis court) and cortege. Lock of hair, locked and locket. Something wild and yet sought by every one - wild flowers.
Send your answers to the Fortgetful Poet, care of the Public Ledger.
[Answers next time. This is a historical reprinting of Ruth Plumly Thompson's work. No thrift stamps are currently being offered, so don't send your answers in. (Besides, World War One is long over.) The answers offered above are not the answers to the Forgetful Poet feature in the April 2007 Tiger Tale. The answers to that feature are: crackers, tops. Eagle-eyed, lion-hearted, dog days, horse sense, and doggerel.]
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