"The Toothache of the Sultan"
By Ruth Plumly Thompson
Author of Ozoplaning with the Wizard of Oz, The Wish Express, "King, King! Double King!", etc.
Originally published in the Philadelphia Public Ledger, March 18, 1917.
Once upon a time the Sultan of Durberay waked up with a toothache. Now it is bad enough when an ordinary person has the toothache, but when a Sultan has the toothache EVERYBODY suffers! The slaves ran to and fro, their robes flying and their turbans standing on end, and, as the chief lords remarked to one another in some agitation, if something was not done soon there would not be a head in the palace.
The Sultana had stuffed her ears with cotton and locked herself in a closet at the top of the house, the dancers were twirling about in an effort to take his Excellency's mind off the pain, but the more they twirled the louder he groaned. "Run for your lives!" whispered the keeper of the wardrobe, and run they did, just in time to prevent the Sultan from ordering off their heads. The fastest horse in the kingdom had been saddled and the young Prince had ridden for the doctor - would he NEVER COME?
Shoes, snuff-boxes, pipes and silver vases flew at one and then another and just as the Grand Vizier received a large brass flowerpot upon his head, a soothsayer entered the Sultan's apartment, begging permission to entertain him. How readily that permission was granted you can well imagine. Paying no attention to the book that the Sultan ill-naturedly let fly, he began to speak:
"The strangest thing I ever heard," he said slowly, "the strangest thing I EVER heard was told me today in the market place by a seaman with one eye. It certainly was an almost unbelievable phenomenon! The more I think of it, the more I wonder and the more I wonder, the more wonderful it becomes!" He stopped and shaking his head slowly from side to side looked off into space.
The Sultan raised himself upon one elbow. "What was it, idiot?" he demanded crossly.
""I hardly think I'd better tell you - nay, I am sure it would be most unwise to tell anybody! " He put his hand uneasily to his head and lapsed into silence again.
"Would it be DANGEROUS for me to know?" In spite of himself , the Sultan was growing interested. "Perhaps it is a plot against the realm - perhaps, perhaps - I insist upon your telling me. I command you to tell me! Begin at once or --" The Sultan touched his scimitar menacingly.
"If that seaman had ONLY had TWO eyes!" muttered the soothsayer absently.
"What's that got to do with it?" snapped the Sultan.
"Everything in the world!" replied the soothsayer promptly. "If he saw all he did see with ONE eye, what MIGHT he have seen with TWO!"
"What DID he see - what did he see?" screamed the Sultan, beside himself with curiosity.
"Defender of the Faithful, MUST I tell you?"
"Yes, yes, BY MY ROYAL TURBAN, YES!"
"Then so be it! This sailor, being homeward bound aboard a ship loaded with silk from China, was overtaken - I mean the ship - was overtaken by a storm. With all speed they made for the nearest land - a great shaggy island. On one side there arose what appeared to be a great cliff, in the center of which was a deep red cavern. They sailed in and made fast to a pure white rock - the cave was studded with them - and waited for the storm to pass." Again the soothsayer was silent.
"Yes, yes," exclaimed the Sultan, leaning forward impatiently.
"That was all!" said the soothsayer.
"All! ALL!" shrieked the Sultan in a rage. "There is nothing strange about THAT, you lying scoundrel!"
"For the GIANT HAD CLOSED HIS MOUTH!" finished the soothsayer calmly.
"Yes," continued the soothsayer. "It seems that they had anchored in the mouth of Gori, the giant who lives in the sea. He is so tall that his feet touch the ocean's bed and his head only appears above water. He nearly always sleeps with his mouth open. The one-eyed sailor, who had not been as satisfied with their shelter as the rest, noticed it growing darker, saw the walls of the cave closing down, rushed to the prow of the ship and dived out, just as the mighty jaws came creaking together. For ten days he hid himself in the forest on the giant's head, from which he managed to signal a ship and was thus rescued to make known to the world his strange story."
"Marvelous!" sighed the Sultan.
"The doctor!" announced the Grand Vizier, tossing the soothsayer a bag of gold.
THE FORGETFUL POET
By Ruth Plumly Thompson
Originally published in the Philadelphia Public Ledger, June 1, 1919.
The Forgetful Poet Again
The dear fellow came rushing in this week with the answers to the professor's puzzles. I rather think he was jealous, and he told me that I might dismiss the professor at once, as he would attend to the puzzles himself. So I did. The answers to the professor's insect puzzles are ant, beetle, bee, gnat, fly. Photographs are snapped, yet not broken. And now for some new fellows.
The Forgetful Poet says that a feature and a musical instrument will give you another musical instrument.
The June bug is about, they say,
Likewise the big ------,
Who do their best each summer time
To absolutely eat us.
The gnats and ants and bumble bees,
Of course, are little things;
But for their size they surely have
Remarkably sharp ------.
I sit down 'neath a tree to think
And slumber in the ------,
But oh, dear me! quite soon I flee
Before the ant brigade!
And though I'm not a timid man,
To me it is appalling
To feel adown my quaking spine
A caterpillar ------.
[Answers next time.]
Copyright © 2011 Eric Shanower and David Maxine. All rights reserved.
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