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"The Seeress of Saucerville"
By Ruth Plumly Thompson
Author of Ozoplaning with the Wizard of Oz, The Wish Express, "King, King! Double King!", etc.

Originally published in King Comics, Number 65, September 1941.

At the south end of Whatalow Valley lies the small but important Kingdom of Saucerville. Named for its shape, its tidy round houses look like nothing so much as overturned teacups, while its castle is set like a plump sugar bowl in the exact center. On a fine summer morning the Sovereign of Saucerville was breakfasting with his daughter.

"It's no use, Sam," declared the princess, biting firmly into a piece of toast. "I still say NO! NO! NO and NEVER!"

"But he plays an excellent game of checkers," pleaded her father, stirring his coffee anxiously.

"Checkers!" Samantha flashed her black eyes indignantly at her royal parent, then rushed from the room with a slam of the door that shook the castle to its foundations. Gloomily old King Samuel slumped in his chair. He had invited suitor after suitor to Saucerville and all had been turned down by the princess. Beautiful and headstrong, Samantha bossed her father and everyone else. The king felt that if she married she would leave him to manage his own and the country's affairs to suit himself. Of all the applicants for his daughter's hand none had seemed more promising than Captain Questor, who had stopped at the castle to inquire the way to Widdicoomb. And because he found the fare so tasty, the princess so pretty and the king's checker playing of such a high order the captain had lingered on. When the king suggested he make his stay permanent and assume command of Saucerville's army, the captain had immediately understood and promised to speak to the princess at the first opportunity. 'Twas this that had brought on the bitter argument.

"I'll just have to see Sally," decided the agitated sovereign, pushing back his bacon and eggs untasted. At ten the same morning anyone who happened to be riding by could have seen, the king's plump charger tied to the fence of Sally's white cottage. Some people called Sally The Witch of Whatalow Valley; others laughingly referred to her as the Kingdom's Cup-and-Sorceress, for Sally could foretell any important event by reading the leaves in her visitor's teacups, so that sooner or later almost everyone sought out the pretty young goat girl. Orphaned as a child, left with only a flock of goats and the small cottage at the foot of Whatahi Mountain, Sally had managed to take care of herself from the very start. Her cheese was famed over the entire valley; bundles of her sweet herbs hung in every kitchen in the realm. No one had ever been able to coax Sally into town, nor did she take much part in Saucerville's life and activities. Roaming the mountain with her goats, weaving at her old loom or gathering wild flowers, Sally was at her happiest. Most of the young squires and many of the old ones (including the king himself) had tried to marry Sally, for Sally was beautiful. But she always smiled and shook her head, then read them such handsome fortunes in the tea leaves that they rode off cheerfully enough.

"So you think Captain Questor is the right one for your daughter?" Sally observed thoughtfully as the king hung his crown on a wooden peg behind the door and sat down wearily at her well-scrubbed kitchen table. "But what about Samantha? Does she think so, too?"

"NO!" sighed the monarch, draining off his tea. "Tell me, Sally, will she ever marry?"

"Yes, yes! Indeed yes!" answered the goat girl, squinting knowingly into the king's cup, "and your highness will have seven splendid grandsons."

"But when WILL the right fellow come along?" groaned the king. "You have seen this Captain Questor--what do you think of him?"

"I have other matters to think of." Speaking primly, Sally moved back to her loom. "You say he is clever at games and a splendid tenor, but the princess does not care for games, nor does she sing. So, how is the captain on a horse? If he does not ride well, he can never hope to interest your daughter."

"You're right!" exclaimed the sovereign, slapping his knee with his glove. "She'd not give a farthing for a fellow who could not hunt or take his fences. I'll try him out on Trumpeter. If he can handle Trumpeter he can handle Samantha!" Reaching for his crown, the ruler of Saucerville galloped back to his castle. Now Sally, it must be confessed, had seen the captain ride into the kingdom. He rode carelessly and comfortably, as a farmer who cared more for his horse than his hunting, and considering this, Sally smiled secretly to herself, then went quietly about her preparations for the morrow.

Samantha was pleased and a little astonished when her father suggested she accompany him and the captain on a canter next morning.

"I've had Trumpeter saddled for our guest," he confided with a wink.

"Trumpeter? Is he that good, Sammy? Why, if he can ride Trumpeter--"

Humming to herself, the princess hurried away to don her habit. Meanwhile, quite unconscious of disaster, the captain was in high spirits, too. True, he was not in love with this princess, but the climate suited him, a high post in the army would be most gratifying, and altogether his fortune seemed as good as made. Smiling quite nonchalantly, he threw a leg over the surly black hunter that was being held for him by a groom. Neither too good nor too bad as a horseman, he settled himself smartly. "Where to, princess?" he called across to Samantha, who was already mounted. "Where to?" And "where to" it was, indeed! Before Samantha could answer, the vicious black gave a buck and a leap that jarred every bone in the captain's body, then off he went like a fury pursued by a tempest. Up lanes, down lanes, across the park, through the woods, dashing his hapless rider against branches and trees and tossing him finally and contemptuously into a gully at the foot of Whatahi Mountain. There, bruised but not groaning, he was found by Sally the goat girl, who, oddly enough, was right on the spot.

"If you could just walk to my cottage!" murmured Sally, contritely regarding the fallen hero.

"Walk? Why, surely!" grunted Questor, valiantly attempting to rise. Tugging and pulling, Sally at last hauled him to his feet, and, leaning on her arm, he came to the cozy white cottage.

"Just a strained back and a broken arm," she announced after a brief examination, then reaching cheerfully for bandages and splints which were miraculously right at hand she set to work. "Perhaps a broken arm will mend more quickly than a broken heart," ventured Sally.

"Broken heart!" Sturdily enduring the pain as the goat girl set his arm and wiped mud from his bruised and scratched countenance, the captain looked sharply at his rescuer. "I've had a nasty fall, but that probably knocked some of the nonsense from my head. As to that young princess, who was riding with me a while back, she would never look twice at a chap who let a horse get the best of him, nor would she care at all whether he both his head and his heart; so what KIND of a wife would she make, I ask you?"

"I'm sure I couldn't say," answered Sally demurely, handing him a cup of tea. "Drink this and your head will be better, sir."

"Ho, now I know!" For the first time the captain regarded Sally as she deserved to be regarded. "You're the little seeress the king speaks of so often. Well, tell my fortune, Sally, for I'm bound to have one sooner or later."

"You must work for your fortune, captain, and you will marry a girl with red hair," she predicted.

"Why, YOU have red hair!" Joyously the captain threw back his head and laughed.

"Oh, MY hair is brown," said Sally, moving quickly into the shadows.

"It's red," insisted Questor. "But have it your own color; just tell me the way to Widdicoomb. There's a place for a miller's helper there, and when I've learned the business I'll be back to start up a mill beside the swift brook near your cottage. Then you'll have your goats, I'll have my mill, we'll marry and be happy as kings and queens never were. What do you say to that, my girl?"

"I say 'YES,' " cried Sally, flinging both arms, round his neck, for Sally had not told fortunes all her life without recognizing her own when it came falling off a horse at her very door. From the first day when Captain Questor had come to Saucerville Sally had known he was for her and not for the princess.

Later Samantha married a chap as bluff and high-handed as she was herself. And so occupied were the two quarreling and making up, King Sammy was left in peace and to rule the valley as he pleased. So everyone was happy. That is to say, each one was as happy as he deserved to be!

The Forgetful Poet

By Ruth Plumly Thompson
Originally published in the Philadelphia Public Ledger, April 13, 1919.

More Riddles

Your lists helped the Forgetful Poet very much in his contest with the Raven and Crow. And when he had read off all the combs the two flew away quite put out. Here are the combs he collected from the different lists: First, the hair combs, plain comb, side comb, back comb, fine-tooth comb, then a cock's comb, curry-comb, comber, catacomb, coxcomb and honeycomb

This week he wants to know if a bell rings?

Does an orange peal?

What part of the foot gives the name of a fish?

When a candle burns unevenly what bird results?

What part of history is eatable?

The answer about a little boy's father is seven. First his own father, then two grandfathers and his forefathers.

The words omitted from the verses were rain and fellow.

One is cold
And one you ride,
One cuts grass,
And when you've tried

To guess them, each
You'll find a ------,
A word that rhymes
Quite well with tickle.

[Answers next time.]

Copyright © 2010 Eric Shanower and David Maxine. All rights reserved.

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