"The Trial of the Proud and Wicked Pair of Shoes"
By Ruth Plumly Thompson
Author of The Royal Book of Oz, Ozoplaning with the Wizard of Oz, The Wish Express, "King, King! Double King!" etc.
Originally published in the Philadelphia Public Ledger, December 3, 1916.
Freddie was lying in his big bed in his big room, and he was bit restless because - well, because he had worn his fine new shoes all day and his feet hurt. He had just turned over with a big sigh, when up from the floor beneath his bed came the creepiest scuffle, scuffle, scrape, scuffle, followed by squeak, creak, shuffle, scuffle. I am a little ashamed of Freddie's first move; he ducked his head under the clothes and lay in a shivering heap, waiting for the THING to get him. But, nothing happened. The scraping continued, and finally he peeped out cautiously and saw – what do you suppose he saw? His two shoes, slipping, sliding and shuffling around the floor, without HIM. Hither and thither they ran, nosing under chairs and poking behind the door. Now, of course, this was exciting, but not very alarming; so Freddie peered from behind the covers to see what was going on.
After a mad scuffle around the room, they paused dejectedly, and, to Freddie's further amazement, began to converse. "No use," squeaked one, "there's not a place to hide." "Oh, we'll be caught," creaked the other.
"Hello," said Fred aloud. "I knew you fellows could pinch, but didn't know you could talk." At this, the shoes looked as alarmed as they could possibly look. But Right Shoe, quickly recovering itself, said, in a pert voice, "What do you suppose we have tongues for, stupid?" "Why, that's so," mused Freddie, "but you never talked to me." "No wonder," said Left Shoe, crossly, "you lace our tongues up all day, and could you talk with your tongue tied, blockhead?"
"Tongue tied! Well, I declare, I never thought of it!" said Freddie. But before Freddie had time to consider this remarkable statement a really scaresome thing happened. Right out of nowhere there suddenly sprang a terrible little brown goblin, with a red lantern, which he held high in the air until he spied the shoes.
The shoes rushed here, there - the goblin after them, shouting and gesticulating wildly. Freddie, stiff with fright, looked on. Round and round dashed the shoes. Round and round again; their tongues lolling out with exhaustion. Fast and furious pursued the Goblinman. Suddenly, with an exultant cry, he swung a long leather lariat around his head and zip, snap! It descended around the top of Left Shoe. "Now he'll come for me, " thought poor Freddie, and he shuddered and shook. But the Goblin grasped him neither by the throat nor the hair, but calmly proceeded to lash the shoes to a chair.
He seemed entirely make of leather, and he had leather wings and a terrible shock of hair, which Freddie discovered later was thick bunch of shoestrings. Now he sprang into the air and clapped his hands. Then in the door and window swarmed hundreds of Goblins like himself. They all bowed low before the little red lantern man. From that, I should judge he was a king or something, shouldn't you?
The Goblins squatted in a ring around the shoes. Now arose the king and said in a leathery voice: "Fellow Leather Gnomes! We have here for trial a pair of criminal shoes, violators of all the rules of Shoedom. Let the trial proceed!" Right Shoe was untied and dragged forward and a Goblin with a leather book pointed a long finger at him, shouting, "What are shoes made for?" Right Shoe shuffled uneasily and replied, "To wear." "Wrong!" shouted the little man, dancing up and down. "They are made to protect our very good friends, the feet!"
Left Shoe was dragged forward. "What is the first duty of a self-respecting shoe?" questioned the little man. "To look well on the foot," said Left Shoe, with a smirk. "Wrong!" screamed the lawyer Goblin (he was a lawyer, you know). "The first duty of a shoe to its foot is comfort; look are a secondary consideration. Examine these shoes and see if COMFORT is in them." Then two policemen Goblins rushed forward and, hopping into the shoes, searched long and diligently, and finally each emerged with an ugly little yellow creature. "Ha, ha!" exclaimed the lawyer triumphantly. "Se you sent COMFORT off and took in Pride!" The shoes hung their tops and muttered, "Comfort just naturally got out when Pride got in. We couldn't help it!" "Call the first witness," said the lawyer.
Here something happened which I hesitate to relate. Freddie suddenly felt his right foot tug and jerk, and, horrors! the next thing he knew it had pulled away and hopped to the floor. It must have been a terrible sensation, but as my feet have never taken such liberties, I will not pretend to tell you how it felt.
Right Foot briskly hurried into the center of the ring and pointing a stern toe at Right Shoe said: "I accuse the prisoner of barbarous treatment, which charge I stand ready to prove. By your stiffness you have bruised my toes," continued the foot sternly; "by your narrowness you have cramped and wrinkled my sole; by your shortness you have bent my nails and turned them inward and rubbed my heels in blisters. Furthermore, my toes have had no room to grow and have been unmercifully twisted and bent by your accomplice, Pride."
Now two doctor Goblins stepped forward and examined Right Foot, shaking their heads importantly and said, "It is all too true, your Honorable Court, just as the witness has stated." "What have you to say for yourself?" questioned the lawyer of Right Shoe. "I have always made a good appearance," snuffled Right Shoe dejectedly. Here there arose such an outcry that Fred thought his shoe would be lynched on the spot.
But finally the excitement subsided and Left Foot took the stand. "Call witness number two," said the lawyer Goblin. At this, Right Shoe quickly bade his friends adieu and hopped back to his appointed place, because there's no telling what would happen if both feet were off duty at the same time. Then Left Foot broke loose and hopped into the ring, making similar charges against Left Shoe. "What have you to say for yourself?" questioned the lawyer. "How could you expect a left shoe to be right?" he answered sullenly. Here again arose a great hubbub. They were discussing a punishment to fit the crime of the criminal shoes.
After much consulting and arguing, the king arose, and turning to the shoes, said: "I can think of no more just punishment for your willful cruelty that a five years' term on the stretchers. Inasmuch as you have pinched, you deserve to suffer; and as we cannot pinch you, we will stretch you."
Now a little Goblin who had been perched on the window ledge waved his arms excitedly, crying: "Hurry up! Here comes the Sun." The king blew out his lantern and gave a quick command. Whir-r, whiz-z, went a hundred leather wings, and out flew the whole company of goblins. The last Freddie saw of his shoes, twenty-five goblins were astride each one, as they careened fantastically through the air. Perhaps you wonder how Freddie could have ever gone to sleep again, but, dear me, boys can sleep after anything.
When he did finally awaken, he looked around the room in bewilderment, for everything was twisted. His shoes were nowhere to be seen, for, of course, the goblins had carried them off. And YOU'D best be careful and wear comfortable shoes, else the goblins'll get your shoes and you, too, maybe!
By Ruth Plumly Thompson
Originally published in the Philadelphia Public Ledger, September 28, 1919.
The answers to last week's puzzles were:
The Forgetful Poet sent us some alphabetical riddles this week. I wonder if you know your A, B, C's.
One letter we eat,
And one letter we drink,
One letter's a lamb,
There's a bird, too, I think!
One letter we look through,
And one is a word
Describing a Chinaman's
One has a sting,
This you'll guess without fail,
One's used for long measure,
Another we sail.
And what word is this: IIIIIII?
[Answers next time.]
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