The Garden of the Plynck
Karle Wilson Baker
Chapter I. The Dimplesmithy
Chapter II. Avrillia
Chapter III. Relations
Chapter IV. The Invaders
Chapter V. Crumbs and Waffles
Chapter VI. The Little Lost Laugh
Chapter VII. Accepting an Invitation
Chapter VIII. The Vale of Tears
Chapter IX. Cheers and Butter
Chapter X. Sara's Day
Chapter I The Dimplesmithy
Grown people have such an exasperating way of saying, "Now, when I was a little girl—"
Then, just as you prick up the little white ears of your mind for a story, they finish, loftily, "I did—or didn't do—so-and-so."
It is certainly an underhand way of suggesting that you stop doing something pleasant, or begin doing something unpleasant; and you would not have thought that Sara's dear mother would have had so unworthy a habit. But a stern regard for the truth compels me to admit that she had.
You see, Sara's dear mother was, indeed, most dear; but very self-willed and contrary. Her great fault was that she was always busy at something. She would darn, and she would write, and she would read dark-colored books without pictures. When Sara compared her with other mothers of her acquaintance, or when this very contrary own-mother went away for a day, she seemed indeed to Sara quite desperately perfect. But on ordinary days Sara was darkly aware, in the clearest part of her mind—the upper right-hand corner near the window—that her mother, with all her charm, really did need to be remoulded nearer to her heart's desire.
She was especially clear about this on the frequent occasions when she would come into the room where her mother was sitting, and plump down upon a chair with a heart-rending sigh, and say, "I wish I had somebody to play with!"
For then her dear but most contrary mother would glance up from her book or her darning and remark, with a calm smile,
"When I was a little girl—"
"I used to go inside my head and play."
And Sara would answer with a poor, vindictive satisfaction, "There's nothing in my head to play with!"
And her kind-hearted mother would snip off her thread and say gently, in a tone of polite regret, "Poor little girl!"
Then Sara would gnash the little milk-teeth of her mind and have awful thoughts. The worst she ever had came one day when Mother, who had already filled about fourteen pages of paper with nothing in the world but words, acted that way again. And just as she said, "Poor little girl!" Sara thought, "I'd like to take that sharp green pencil and stick it into Mother's forehead, and watch a story run out of her head through the hole!"
But that was such an awful thought that she sent it scurrying away, as fast as she could. Just the same, she said to herself, if Mother ever acted that way again—
And, after all, Mother did. And that was the fatal time—the four-thousand-and-fourth. For, after Mother had suggested it four thousand and four times, it suddenly occurred to Sara that she might try it.
So she shut the doors and went in.
Yes, I said shut the doors and went in; for that is what you do when you go into your head. The doors were of ivory, draped with tinted damask curtains which were trimmed with black silk fringe. The curtains fell noiselessly behind Sara as she entered.
And there in the Gugollaph-tree by the pool sat the Plynck, gazing happily at her Echo in the water.
She was larger than most Plyncks; about the size of a small peacock. Of course you would know without being told that her plumage was of a delicate rose color, except for the lyre-shaped tuft on the top of her head, which was of the exact color and texture of Bavarian cream. Her beak and feet were golden, and her eyes were golden, too, and very bright and wild. The wildness and brightness of her eyes would have been rather frightening, if her voice, when she spoke, had not been so soft and sweet.
"I think a little girl has forgotten something," she said gently, looking down into her Teacup.
Sara examined herself anxiously. She knew it was something about herself, because the Plynck's tone was exactly like Mother's when she wished to remind Sara, without seeming officious, that she had not wiped her feet on the mat, or spread out her napkin, or remembered to say "Thank you" at the exact psychological moment.
Sara was extremely anxious to please the Plynck, because she thought her so pensive and pretty; but, try as she would, she couldn't think what she had forgotten to do.
"Does a little girl wear her dimples in The House?" asked the Plynck, still more gently.
"Oh, of course not!" said Sara, taking them off hastily. But she could not help adding, as she looked around appreciatively at the silver bushes and the blue plush grass and the alabaster moon-dial by the fountain, "But this isn't The House, is it?"
"Isn't it?" asked the Plynck, glancing uneasily about her. What she saw startled her so much that she dropped her Teacup. Of course it flew up to a higher branch and balanced itself there instead of falling; but the poor little thing was so round and fat, that—especially as it hadn't any feet—it had some difficulty at first in perching. As for the Plynck, she seemed so embarrassed over her mistake that Sara felt dreadfully uncomfortable for her. Recovering herself, however, in a moment, she said in her sweet, gentle way,
"Well, dear, you wouldn't want the Zizzes to fall into them, even if this isn't The House—would you?"
Sara hadn't noticed until then that the air was full of Zizzes; but the minute she saw their darling little vibrating wings she knew that she wouldn't for anything have one of them come to grief in her dimples. They were more like hummingbirds than anything she had ever seen outside of her head, but of course they were not nearly so large; most of them were about a millionth-part as large as a small mosquito. She noticed, too, that their tails were bitter. If it had not been for the bitterness of their tails, she would not have felt so uneasy about them; as it was, she held the dimples tight in her hand, with the concave side next her palm.
"Avrillia's at home," said the Plynck gently, with her eyes on her Teacup, which she was gradually charming back into her hand. (Her hands were feet, you know, like a nightingale's, only golden; but she called them hands in the afternoon, to match her Teacup.) The timid little thing was fluttering back, coming nearer twig by twig; and it trembled up to the Plynck just as she said, softly and absent-mindedly, "Avrillia's at home."
"Oh, is she?" exclaimed Sara, clapping her hands with joy. She did not know who Avrillia was; nevertheless, it somehow seemed delightful to hear that she was at home. But alas and alas! when she clapped her hands she forgot all about the dimples she had been holding so carefully. To tell the truth, she had never taken them off before; but she was ashamed to let the Plynck know about that, especially as she had lived in The House all her former life. Her first thought, indeed, when she realized what had happened, was to conceal the catastrophe from the Plynck; but before she could get her breath that gentle bird startled her almost out of her wits by shrieking,
"Watch out! the Snimmy will get it!"
And there, at Sara's feet, where a bit of the dimple lay on the taffy (looking very much like a fragile bit of a Christmas-tree ornament), was a real Snimmy, vest-pocket and all. His tail was longer than that of most Snimmies, and his nose was sharper and more debilitating, but you would have known him at once, as Sara did, for a Snimmy. She thought, too, that he trembled more than most of them, and that he was whiter and more slippery. Ordinarily, she had never felt afraid of Snimmies; but the startling shriek of the Plynck, and the exposed position of her dimple, set her to jumping wildly up and down. And, indeed, the worst would have happened, had not the Echo of the Plynck, with great presence of mind, cried out', "Cover it! Cover it!" And at that cry the Teacup fluttered hastily down and turned itself upside down over the piece of dimple. And there it sat, panting a little, but looking as plump and pleased as possible, though the Snimmy was still dancing and sniffing ferociously around its rim.
"There!" said the Plynck in her own gentle voice, though it still shook with excitement. "It's a mercy you settled without breaking." Then, turning to Sara, "And goodness knows how we'll ever get it out, Sara. It will take at least three onions to anaesthetize the Snimmy."
Now, this was indeed dreadful. Sara had been conscious enough before this announcement of the havoc she had wrought by her carelessness; and now to have brought down upon herself a word like that! She was almost ready to cry; and to keep from being quite ready, she suggested, tremulously, "Do you suppose I could go after the onions?"
The Plynck looked at her in surprise. "Why, didn't you bring them with you?" she said. Then, suddenly, she noticed how threateningly the Snimmy was dancing and squeaking around Sara's feet, and how Sara was shrinking away from him.
"He won't hurt you," she began. "He's perfectly kind and harmless, aside from his mania for dimples. He still smells the piece under the Teacup." Then, all at once, she grew rigid, and her golden eyes began to leap up and down like frightened flames.
"It's the ones in your hand!" she shrieked. "In your hand! Sit down for your life!"
Sara at first thought she had said, "Run for your life," and had indeed taken two-elevenths of a step; but when she realized that the Plynck had said, "Sit down for your life," she sat down precisely where she was, as if Jimmy had pulled a chair out from under her, on the very ice-cream brick her feet stood on. She realized that in a crisis like this obedience was the only safe thing. And the instant she touched the pavement, the Snimmy gave a great gulping sob and hid his face in his hands; and small, grainy tears the size of gum-drops began to trickle through them and fall into his vest-pocket.
The Echo of the Plynck in the water gave a rippling laugh of relief. "Well," she said, "it's a mercy you remembered that. Perhaps you don't know, my dear," she said, turning to Sara, "that no Snimmy can endure to see a mortal sit down. It simply breaks their hearts. See, he's even forgotten about the dimples."
And indeed, the Snimmy was standing before her, overcome by remorse. He was holding his shoe in his hand in the most gentlemanly manner, and Sara forgave him at once when she saw how sorry and ashamed he was.
"I—hope you'll try to—to—to excuse me, Miss," he sobbed, humbly offering her a handful of gum-drops. "Them dimples—" here, for a moment, his nose began to wink and his feet pranced a little, but he looked closely to see that she was still sitting down, and controlled himself. "Them dimples—" he began again; but he could say no more. The gum-drops began falling all around like hail-stones, so fast that Sara felt that she ought to help him all she could—without getting up—to get them into his vest-pocket.
The clatter of the gum-drops again attracted the attention of the Plynck's Echo, who said, kindly, "Go and take a nap, now, Snimmy, and you'll feel better."
The Snimmy lifted his shoe and tried to reply, but he only gave a respectful sob. So he turned away and crept back to his home in the prose-bush—where, all this time, his wife had been sitting in plain sight on her own toadstool, grimly hemming the doorknob. At her feet lay her faithful Snoodle.
Up to this time, Sara had not ventured to address the Teacup. But, as she looked around and saw her still sitting there, so pleasant and bland and fragile, and with such a consanguineous handle, she felt a sudden certainty that the Teacup would always be kind and helpful; so she suggested timidly,
"Then we shan't need the onions?"
"Oh, dear, yes," answered the Teacup, in a soft, wrinkled voice. "We'd never in Zeelup be able to get the pieces of the dimple to Schlorge without first anaesthetizing the Snimmy."
Sara jumpled: that awful word again! Her head reeled (exactly as heads do in grown-up stories) as she realized how many things there were in this strange place that she didn't know. Who was Schlorge, for example? And how was she to get anything to anybody without getting up? And "anaesthetize"?
She hated to disturb the Teacup; she was knitting so placidly, and murmuring over and over to herself, "Never in Zeelup." She looked up into the tree; the Plynck, too, had fallen asleep, worn out by the unwonted excitement of the morning; and her lovely Echo also slept in the amber pool. Sara now noticed that, though the Plynck was rose-colored, her Echo was cerulean.
The great, soft, curled plumes of the Plynck and her Echo rippled as they breathed and slept, rather like water or fire in a little wind; and with every ripple they seemed to shake out a faint perfume that drifted across Sara's face in waves. And they both looked so lovely that she could not think of disturbing them, either. So she looked about to see if there might be any one else who could enlighten her.
And there at her elbow, as luck would have it, stood a Koopf. Up to this time, Sara had not been able to tell a Koopf from a Gunkus. To be sure, there isn't any difference, really; but you would think that any fairly imaginative child ought to be able to tell one. However, Sara now saw that the ground was swarming with Gunki.
"Do you know who Schlorge is?" asked Sara, rather timidly.
At first the Koopf only grinned. "Guess I do," he managed to say at last. Then he surprised and rather startled her by winking his left ear at her. "He's the best dimplesmith ever," he said at last. "He's—he's—" he began looking all about him, vaguely and a little wildly. But, just as Sara was growing a little afraid of him, his attention suddenly came back to her with a kind, businesslike interest. "Need some repairs?" he asked. "Some fractured dimples, maybe?"
"Yes, sir," said Sara, earnestly. "I have most of them here in my hand." She opened her hand and showed him the pretty little pieces.
"Where's the rest?" he inquired, with another grin. "Your plump friend, here, sitting on 'em?"
The Koopf stooped and picked up one of the gum-drops that had rolled out of the Snimmy's vest-pocket. "Thought so," he said. "Happens every now and then. Only lately there ain't been anybody here that was dimpliferous, to speak of."
Then, suddenly, as if somebody had told him his house was on fire, he turned and set off down the path as fast as he could run. "Bring 'em to the shop!" he shouted back over his shoulder, excitedly. "Bring 'em to the shop!"
While Sara was looking after him, and wondering where the shop might be, and whether she dared try to get up without waking the Snimmy, the Koopf suddenly stopped running, and started thoughtfully back up the path toward her. "Don't know how I happened to forget it," he said, "but I—well, fact is, I'm—where's a stump? Where's a stump?" He looked hastily about him, and this time, seeing a stump near by, he clambered upon it, thrust one hand into his bosom and the other behind his back, like the pictures of Napoleon, and repeated, solemnly,
"I am Schlorge the Koopf, King of Dimplesmiths.
"Under the gright Gugollaph-tree The Dimplesmithy stands; The smith is harder than the sea And softer than the lands; He mends cheek-dimples frank and free, But will not work on hands."
And as soon as he had finished he started wildly down the path again, shouting back, "Bring 'em to the shop!"
Sara sat looking down the path, then at the dimples in her hand. "Well," she said aloud, "I'm glad they're cheek-dimples, anyhow. But what in the world shall I do about the onions?"
"What in Zeelup," corrected the Teacup gently, counting her stitches. "Milder than swearing, my dear, more becoming, and quite as effective."
Sara wanted to tell her she wasn't swearing, but just at that moment the wife of the Snimmy remarked, with some disgust in her voice,
"Well, if you'd of asked me sooner, I could of told you. I have them in the sugar-bowl, of course. Do you suppose I'd be without, and him subject to such fits?"
And so saying, she replaced the doorknob, which was now neatly hemmed, on the front door of the prose-bush, and came down the steps to Sara, carrying three large onions. She was not a bad-looking person, though an amnicolist.
She then proceeded to slice the onions very deftly with a tuning-fork, after which she rubbed the ice-cream of the pavement with the slices, making a circle all around the Teacup, and another all around Sara, somewhat like the ring they used to burn about a fire in the grass, to keep it from spreading. All this time she was talking to them grumblingly, though she never once looked up.
"I should think anybody'd know better than to bring dimples around where he is," she said, "and I have my opinion of such. A poor, hardworking man like him, that tries to act moral. I should think—"
She kept on saying things like this, that made Sara feel very uncomfortable. But at last she finished her work, and looking watchfully back over her shoulder at the sleeping Snimmy, she said grudgingly to them both, "Now get up careful."
Sara rose to her feet, and the Teacup lifted her dainty little skirt ever so slightly. The minute the perfume from the dimples reached the Snimmy (he couldn't smell those in Sara's hand, of course, so long as she was sitting down), he sprang to his feet, quivering; but almost immediately he caught a whiff of the onions, and sank down again, entirely overcome, into a deep sleep.
The Teacup arose and shook out her skirts. She picked up the tiny, sparkling piece of dimple she had been protecting so long, and handed it prettily to Sara. "Now, my dear," she said, "I think I shall return to my mistress. I would suggest that you take your dimples to the shop immediately." So saying, she hopped up into the tree and settled quietly down beside the dreaming Plynck, taking great care not to disturb her. And Sara started down the path toward the Dimplesmithy.
The path turned presently into a wide road, very pleasant and peaceful-looking, and so deep with pollen-dust that Sara's shoes soon looked as if they were powdered with gold. Sunset sheep came wandering down the road now and then, and lines of white geese, and once she passed a little pond where green ducks were quacking and paddling; the road was so pretty, indeed, that it was hard for her to keep her mind on finding the Dimplesmithy. There were tall Gugollaph-trees all along the road, here and there, but Sara felt sure she would know the right one when she saw it. And sure enough, there it was, with the smithy in the shade of it, and the Koopf blowing up the fire in his forge with a pair of puff-ball bellows. She knew now why he had hurried home so fast: it was to put on his apron. It was of the finest mouse-hide, and he was plainly very proud of it.
He took the dimples from Sara at once, and showed a keen professional interest in them. He assured her that he had never seen a finer pair. "But you must take better care of them," he said.
He seemed so kind and interested that Sara thought perhaps he would help her with a problem she had been revolving in her mind ever since the accident. (She had fastened the problem on a little stick with a pin, like the paper windmills Jimmy made, so that she could turn it around very easily, and so see all sides of it.) So she asked the Koopf, quite respectfully,
"What ought I to do with them, when I shut the doors and come in?"
"Well," said the Koopf, judiciously, "the Plynck's Echo should have seen to that, first thing. Ought to have had a dimple-holder at the gate. Ought to know the Snimmy, by this time. A good fellow—can't help his failing. We used to keep a dimple-holder there all the time, but it's been so long, as I told you, since we've had anybody come along that was dimpliferous, to speak of. We've got sort of careless, I guess. I've got a very nice stock, here; I'll put one up before you go, so you'll know where to find it next time." As he spoke he took down from a shelf behind him a sort of receptacle which looked rather like a soap-bubble, rather like a gazing-globe; except that it had a tiny opening at the top, and a cushion of whipped cream in the bottom. Then he picked up from his bench the dimples, which he had been mending as he talked.
"It's a good thing the Snimmy can't see 'em now," he said, holding them off at arm's length and looking at them with frank admiration. "They're as good as new. Now let me show you what to do with 'em next time you come."
So saying, he dropped them into the holder, where they looked very pretty sparkling on the whipped cream cushion.
"Now," he said, "you carry them, and I'll bring the pedestal."
He tucked the pedestal under his arm, and they started back down the road together. It was very lovely to be trudging along under the late clear sky, through the sweet-smelling pollen-dust, and now and then meeting the sunset sheep, who, by this time, had found their little lambs. When they got back to the Garden, and stood in front of the gate through which Sara had entered, Schlorge had Sara sit down at once. It was really an unnecessary precaution, he said, since the holder was a non-conductor of dimple-waves, and not even the Snimmy could detect their presence when they were inside of it. "Still," said Schlorge, "I'll feel safer about 'em when they're on the pedestal out of his reach," and with that he took the globe from Sara's hands and fastened it deftly on the pedestal. Sara had never enjoyed herself more than she did as she sat by the amber waters in the fading light, watching the kind, clumsy Koopf (who was yet so skilful at his own work) place the pretty globe with so much pride and pleasure. She kept sniffing, meanwhile, at the tantalizing perfume that seemed to sift downward from the feathers of the Plynck, as she stirred, ever so softly, in her dreams.
At last the Koopf took a large slice of onion, which the Snimmy's wife had left convenient, and rubbed it all around the base of the pedestal.
"Now," he said, "if you'll always remember to stand inside of that circle, when you take 'em off and put 'em on, there won't be any more trouble. And take 'em off as soon as you shut the doors. If you dilly-dally a minute—"
At that moment the Plynck awoke and saw Sara. She stretched her warm, shimmering feathers and smiled.
"Avrillia's at home," she said, gently.
Chapter II Avrillia
"I make it a rule," the Plynck was saying, as Sara dropped the curtain behind her the next morning, "to fly around the fountain at least twice every day." As she spoke, she reached out and took, from a bundle that lay within easy reach in a crotch of the Gugollaph-tree, something that looked like a little ivory stick. She snapped it easily with one golden claw, dropped the fragments, and reached out with careless grace for another.
"Oh," breathed Sara, clasping her hands. And she could not help adding, shyly, "If I could only see you when you fly—Madame Plynck!"
Sara was very proud of herself after she had said that. She had never called anybody "Madame" before, but she had read it in books, and it seemed just the title for a creature so beautiful and gentle and stately as the Plynck. It seemed so suitable that it gave her courage to repeat, "If I could only see you fly!"
"But I don't do it often, you see," answered the Plynck, quietly.
"Why—!" exclaimed Sara. "I thought you just said—" Not for worlds would she have seemed rude or impolite to the Plynck, but she was completely puzzled.
The Plynck looked very kind. "I said I make it a rule," she said, gently. "I didn't say—you explain it to her," she said suddenly to her Echo in the pool, who had been looking on with rather an amused expression.
The Echo fluffed out her deep blue plumes a little and took up the task. "What are rules for, my dear?" she began.
"Why—to keep, I guess," ventured Sara, a little flustered. "Aren't they?"
The Echo glanced up at the Plynck with a twinkling smile. "Do you hear that?" she asked. "Bless the child! She says rules are made to keep!" She laughed to herself a little longer, then she turned to Sara more soberly. "As far as your country is concerned, my dear, you are doubtless right, and I suppose it's important for you to keep that fact in mind. But here it's very different. Our rules are made to break. Don't you hear the Plynck breaking them?"
So that was what she was doing! For the first time, Sara understood why she had so enjoyed the delightful little snapping sounds, which made her think of corn dancing against the lid of a corn-popper—or of the snapping of little dry twigs under the pointed shoes of a brownie, slipping through the woods alone on Christmas Eve. She thought it was the most completely satisfying sound she had ever heard. She thought, too, that the broken rules under the tree made a charming litter, and wished that the Gunki who were raking them up would leave them there instead. But they went on piling them into wheelbarrows and trundling them down the road toward the smithy.
"They are taking them to be mended," said the Echo of the Plynck, who had been watching her. "We believe in conservation, you see. Schlorge mends them one day, and she breaks them the next, and so we usually have plenty."
Sara was charmed. But as she stood gazing at the Plynck she remembered what she had heard her say as she came in. "Will—will she fly?" she whispered to the Echo.
"Well, I don't know," said the Echo of the Plynck. "There's a rule that she must, and so it's quite an effort. And there's a rule that she must not sit on that particular branch of the Gugollaph-tree. So of course she usually sits there. You wouldn't think, yourself, that she'd want to sit there, day after day, if there wasn't—would you?"
Sara was speechless; she was wondering why anything that seemed so reasonable and familiar should sound so strange. But it was a blissful wonder, and she stood spellbound, while the sound of breaking rules continued to fall with an enchanting effect upon the still air of the Garden. All at once she was startled nearly out of her wits by the Plynck, who dropped an unbroken rule and shrieked,
"Look! Be careful! Oh, dear, oh, dear, it's in!"
"Oh, what is it?" cried Sara, afraid to move, yet longing to clap her hand to her cheek; for she knew by a sudden terrible tickling there that something had happened to her southwest dimple—and she had meant to be so careful! And yet she had allowed herself to get so interested in the talk of the Plynck and her Echo that she had walked right past Schlorge's beautiful dimple-holder. "What is it?" she cried, jumping up and down. "Oh, what is it?"
"It's one of the Zizzes!" cried the Plynck. "Where are the forceps? Run for Schlorge—won't somebody please run for Schlorge?"
She sat fluttering her lovely pink plumes and gazing around with her sweet, wild, golden eyes in such acute distress that the sight of her grieved and terrified Sara even more than the awful tickling. "I'll go—" she began, desperately.
But that seemed to frighten the Plynck more than ever. "Oh, don't you go," she cried, more wildly than before. "You stay right here where I can watch it! Oh, somebody—"
"I can't come out of the pool," panted her Echo, fluttering around the rim distressfully.
"I know I could never in Zeelup get there, with this consanguineous handle," hesitated the Teacup, in tears.
And just then they saw one of the Gunki rushing off down the road as fast as his feet could carry him.
The Plynck drew a sobbing breath of relief. "Don't cry, dear—stand still," she said, finding time at last to feel sorry for Sara. "We'll soon have it out now, when Schlorge gets here."
Sara stood as still as she could, for the tickling. "What is it?" she ventured to ask, tremulously.
"It's a Zizz, dear," said the Plynck, soothingly. "He flew into your dimple and got stuck in the sugar left there from your last smile. You should have wiped it off," she added, very gently. "Standing so close to the pool has made it sticky, and now the poor little Zizz—"
"I meant to take off my dimples entirely," said Sara, her lip beginning to tremble again.
"Never mind, dear," said the Plynck. "It will be all right now. I see Schlorge coming with his forceps."
And sure enough, in a moment Schlorge came panting up, with his forceps in his hair, as usual. Very deftly he extricated the poor little Zizz, and held it out for Sara to see, still buzzing its wings as furiously as it could, with so much syrup on them.
The Teacup fluttered down, and they all looked at it with mingled sympathy and curiosity. The mixture seemed to agree with it, too, for the familiar faint, pale-blue "zizzing" sound began to come from its wings.
"Poor little thing!" said the Echo of the Plynck. "Why will they persist in doing it? Flying right into the syrup like that!"
"It's on account of the bitterness of their tails," explained Schlorge absently, without looking up from his work.
"Oh, yes," said Sara, though she didn't quite understand. "Will it ever be able to fly again?"
"Well," answered Schlorge, "I'm afraid you'll have to dry it." He looked about him. "Where's the stump?"
He found it presently, and led Sara to its mossy base; then he gently pressed one of her shoe-buttons, and she was lifted upon it in safety.
"Now," he explained, "you got it all sticky with your smile, and you'll have to frown on it to dry it. I know it's hard to do, here, but if you keep your mind on it, you can. I'll hold the Zizz's wings out, and it won't take long. Think of something very unpleasant—something you came here to escape. Come, what shall it be?"
"Fractions," said Sara.
"All right," said Schlorge. "Now think hard. And frown."
So Sara sucked in the corners of her mouth to keep from smiling, and tried hard to feel very cross indeed. But, as you will imagine, it was not easy to do in that place. As you have already guessed, the place into which Sara went when she shut the ivory doors was a sort of garden, but not an ordinary one. To be sure, it had the pool, and the fountain in the middle, and the moon-dial, like most gardens, and the Gugollaph-tree where the Plynck sat, and a good many prose-bushes besides the one with the hemmed doorknob where the Snimmy lived with his wife. But not many gardens have such charming little openings in the flowery hedges that shut them in, through which little paths run out as if they were escaping through sheer mischief, and on purpose to lead you on. And not many are placed, as this one seemed to be, in the middle of a sort of amphitheatre, with distant mountains rising like walls about it, golden and pansy-colored, a million miles away. The space that lay between the hedge and the mountain-walls seemed to be filled with sunrises and sunsets, like the Grand Canyon. I said, all around; but, really, the walls of the amphitheatre didn't quite meet. On one side, over the hedge, Sara could see a marble balcony, with box-trees in vases on the balustrades; and beyond and beneath it there was Nothing—Nothing-at-All. Sometimes, as Sara afterward learned, the sun came to that place to set; but usually it was too lonesome, and he set nearer the Garden.
You may well imagine that it was not easy for Sara to look cross in such a strange, delicious place. But she knew she owed it to the poor little Zizz, so she tried with all her might to think only of fractions and asparagus. (Her mother had an obstinate conviction that that, too, was good for children.)
They were all so interested in listening to the deepening blueness of the sound the Zizz made that they kept quite still. Suddenly Schlorge thought of something.
"Where's the Snimmy?" he asked, sharply.
"He's gone with his wife to bathe the Snoodle," answered the Echo of the Plynck. "They have to bathe it every three days, you know, in castor oil. That's what keeps it white. And there isn't any here."
"Thank goodness!" thought Sara, who had nearly jumped off the stump at the sound of those baleful syllables. It would be good to think of, anyhow, she decided; and as she thought of it, the wings of the Zizz began to dry so fast that they fairly sang. And suddenly it zizzed right out of Schlorge's forceps and went buzzing straight off to the flowery hedge.
"Well!" said Schlorge, with much satisfaction, "that's over." Then, as Sara's face twinkled into smiles, he added, excitedly, "Bless my bellows! She's still got on her dimples! Won't you learn, Sara? Course I didn't notice 'em while you frowned. Come, now—"
"And it's time for the Snimmy to be back," interrupted the Teacup, who had fluttered down and perched on the edge of the moon-dial to see what time it was. "They said they'd only be gone two hours."
"Then there's no time to lose," said Schlorge. He pressed Sara's shoe-button decidedly and she floated softly down upon the blue plush, like a milk-weed seed in the fall. And then Schlorge deftly took off her dimples—it felt very funny to have them removed with the forceps—and put them in the dimple-holder where they belonged. Then, drawing a deep breath, he rubbed his hands and smiled at her, saying, "What's the next thing you'd like to do?"
Sara saw that, though he was still rather bashful, Schlorge had taken a great fancy to her. It pleased her very much; he was such a useful and accommodating person. While she was trying to decide which one of several places she would ask him to show to her, the Plynck remarked, gently,
"Avrillia's at home."
Avrillia—that was it! Sara clapped her hands again, and this time no harm was done; for her cheek-dimples were safe in the dimple-holder, and her hand-dimples were on the outside, so that the clapping only jarred them a little. It was funny, she thought, that Schlorge scorned to work on hand-dimples, and even the Snimmy scarcely noticed them. But it didn't worry her. Avrillia—that was it. She had come this time especially to see Avrillia.
"Do you know where she lives?" she asked Schlorge.
"Avrillia? I should say so. Everybody knows Avrillia. At least I know her to speak to. As to what goes on inside of her, I can't say. She's queer. She writes poetry, you know."
"But she's nice?" asked Sara anxiously.
"Oh, she's pleasant-spoken," said Schlorge, "and pretty. Some like her, and some don't. The Plynck, here," he spoke respectfully, though dissentingly, "thinks the sun rises and sets in her. For myself, I like folks of a more sensible turn."
"Even fairies?" asked Sara, half inclined to protest.
For the first time Schlorge was almost rude to her. "Well, do you take me for a human? And I can do something besides write poetry on rose-leaves." He replaced the forceps in his hair with obvious professional pride—and, of course, when he put them in in that way, they stayed.
But Sara echoed delightedly, "On rose-leaves?"
"Well, go and see her, then," said Schlorge, ungraciously. Then, relenting a little, "Come on, I'll take you—if you're stuck on verse-writing females."
He took Sara by the hand, and of course his hand was kinder than his voice. To Sara's joy they struck into the curliest of the little paths, which slipped suddenly through a half-hidden arch in the hawthorn hedge, and then skipped confidingly right up to Avrillia's door. Avrillia's house was right on the Verge, but the Verge was quite wide at this point, and very lovely. It was more like a beach than anything else; and the sands, of course, like those of most beaches, were of gold; but instead of being bare, like most beaches, it was sprinkled quite thickly with lovely clumps of fog-bushes, which were of a different color every hour of the day and every day of the year; and the shells had stems and leaves, and were prettier even than most shells. And Avrillia's house had sails, instead of curtains. Still, it was not a boat, because it had star-vines climbing all over the terrace (the flowers were of all colors, except square, and only opened in the evening) and it had the marble balcony, with the box-trees in urns. For, without knowing it, it was Avrillia's balcony that Sara had seen from the stump.
"Well, there's Pirlaps," said Schlorge, lifting his shoe politely and turning back toward the Dimplesmithy. "He'll tell you where to find Avrillia."
Sara was left looking at a middle-aged fairy-gentleman with a little pointed beard, who was sitting on a sort of stool or box before an easel, hard at work. He had on white tennis-flannels, and an odd but becoming sort of cap. Usually Sara was very shy of strangers; but this gentleman looked so pleasant that she had almost made up her mind to speak to him when she saw Schlorge running wildly back up the path. "Where's a stump?" he panted. "I forgot—where's a stump?"
He spoke so loudly that the gentleman in tennis-flannels heard him and looked around. "Oh, it's you, Schlorge," he said. "Why, there isn't any stump here, you know—but you may use my step, if you like."
He had lovely manners, even with a plain dimplesmith like Schlorge; and he rose as he spoke, with his palette in his hand, and made a pleasant gesture to indicate that Schlorge was quite welcome to it. But Schlorge looked at it doubtfully; and, indeed, Sara saw that it was of chocolate, and rather soft where the gentleman had been sitting on it. "I don't want to soil my soul," mumbled Schlorge, standing on one foot and looking down at the sole of the other, very much agitated and embarrassed.
"That's true," said the gentleman politely; "I never stand on it." At that Sara could not help showing that she noticed the large black spot left by the chocolate on the seat of his trousers. He saw her look at it, and spoke to her kindly.
"That's all right, little girl," he said. "Avrillia will have me change them in a minute."
Then he noticed Schlorge's dreadful impatience for something to stand on, and rang a little bell in his left ear.
Immediately a small servant, also of chocolate, came tumbling out of the house. He was the most attractive-looking person you can imagine. His eyes and teeth were exactly like the filling in a chocolate cream, and how his eyes rolled and his teeth twinkled! But it was the inside of his mouth that fascinated Sara most. It was of the lovely, violent red of certain jelly-beans she had known, and she caught the most tantalizing, cavernous glimpses whenever he grinned.
"Yassuh," said his master, "go at once and get a piece of plain white satin for Mr. Schlorge to stand on. You'll find a bolt in the tool-box."
Yassuh scrambled off down the path. (He was very bow-legged, because his mother had allowed him to go out in the sun too much, when he was a baby, and, being of chocolate, his legs had softened into that shape.) Almost immediately he came rolling back with the white satin, which he spread on the box.
All this time Schlorge had been in an agony of impatience. Almost stepping on Yassuh in his eagerness, he jumped upon the box, and, arranging his hands as before, shouted loudly, "Pirlaps, this is Sara, a little girl! Sara, this is Pirlaps, Avrillia's step-husband!" Then he sprang down and went running down the path again, shouting excitedly, "See you again, Sara! See you again!"
"Well, Sara," said the pleasant fairy-gentleman, taking her hand, "how are you? Did you come to see Avrillia?"
"Yes, sir," said Sara, looking up at him from under her lashes and thinking she had never see a shaving-person, except her own father, so delightful.
"I think you'll find her on her balcony," said Pirlaps, kindly. "I just heard a poem drop over the Verge. Here, Yassuh," he said, "take this little girl to your mistress."
Sara followed Yassuh along the path of silver gravel that led around the house, and then up a little outside staircase of marble to the balcony; and there, on the third step from the top, she paused.
Has any mortal but Sara ever seen Avrillia? Certainly there never was another fairy so wan and wild and beautiful. When Sara caught sight of her she was leaning over the marble balustrade, looking down into Nothing, and one hand was still stretched out as if it had just let something fall. She seemed to be still watching its descent. Her body, as she leaned, was like a reed, and her hair was pale-gold and cloudy. But all that was nothing beside Avrillia's eyes.
For she turned around after a while and saw Sara, and smiled at her without surprise, though she looked absent-minded and wistful.
"It didn't stick," she said.
"What didn't?" asked Sara. Her words may not sound very polite; but if you could have heard the awe and wonder in her little voice you would have pardoned her.
"The poem," said Avrillia. What was it her voice was like? Sheep-bells? Sheep-bells, that was it. Sheep-bells across an English down—at twilight! Sara had never seen more than three sheep in her life; and those three didn't wear bells; and she had never heard of a down. And yet, Avrillia's voice sounded to Sara exactly as I have said.
Moreover, it drew Sara softly to her side. Her dress smelled like isthagaria; and it was very soft to touch. For Sara touched it as confidingly as she would her own mother's.
At that Avrillia seemed to remember her. Sara saw at once that Avrillia never remembered anybody very long at a time. She was kind, and her smile was entrancingly sweet; but her mind always seemed to be on something else. Probably on her poetry, Sara decided.
Now, however, she remembered Sara, and asked, "Would you like to look over?"
"What's down there?" Sara could not help asking.
"Nothing. Would you like to see it?"
Sara drew nearer the balustrade, full of awe, and uncertain whether she wished to look or not. But presently curiosity got the better of her, and she leaned over the balustrade and looked down into Nothing. It was very gray.
"Do you throw your poems down there?" she asked of Avrillia, in inexpressible wonder.
"Of course," said Avrillia. "I write them on rose-leaves, you know—"
"Oh, yes!" breathed Sara. She still thought she had never heard of anything that sounded lovelier than poems written on rose-leaves.
"Petals, I mean, of course," continued Avrillia, "all colors, but especially blue. And then I drop them over, and some day one of them may stick on the bottom—"
"But there isn't any bottom," said Sara, lifting eyes like black pansies for wonder.
"No, there's no real bottom," conceded Avrillia, patiently, "but there's an imaginary bottom. One might stick on that, you know. And then, with that to build to, if I drop them in very fast, I may be able to fill it up—"
"But there aren't any sides to it, either!" objected Sara, even more wonderingly.
Avrillia betrayed a faint exasperation (it showed a little around the edges, like a green petticoat under a black dress). "Oh, these literal people!" she said, half to herself. Then she continued, still more patiently, "Isn't it just as easy to imagine sides as a bottom? Well, as I was saying, if I write them fast enough to fill it up—I mean if one should stick, of course—somebody a hundred years from now may come along and notice one of my poems; and then I shall be Immortal." And at that a lovely smile crossed Avrillia's face.
Sara stood a long time, thinking. She couldn't help loving Avrillia, although she knew that Avrillia was not nearly so fond of her as the Plynck, or Schlorge, or even the Teacup. Yet she would have loved Avrillia, even if she had not been kind to her at all.
Now she attracted her attention again by timidly touching her dress.
"It—it seems a waste," she murmured. I think probably she was thinking of the rose-petals rather than of the poems. All those lovely "rose-leaves"! And she had never seen even one blue one. But Avrillia was thinking of the poems.
"That's the regular way to do about Poetry," she said, with a pretty little air of authority. "First, you write it, and then you drop it over the Verge into Nothing. But it must be very good—otherwise, it isn't worth while to spend your time on it." But just then the thermometer went off.
Yes, the thermometer. Well, perhaps you do set the alarm-clock; but Avrillia was a poetess, and a fairy besides, and she set the alarm-thermometer. It sounded very pleasant to Sara, like soda-water running through a straw on a hot afternoon; but Avrillia seemed to find it rather nerve-racking.
"There it goes," was all she said, however. Sara noticed that her voice and manner were extremely quiet and controlled; but she had a suspicion that it was because her eyes were so very wild. Oh, yes, they were beautiful, but wild—wilder even than the Plynck's. The Teacup, however, had quite tame eyes; it must be confessed that, when Sara saw the effect of the thermometer upon Avrillia she wished for the Teacup, a little.
But Avrillia merely called Yassuh in her sweet, controlled voice, and, when he appeared, said to him quietly,
"Go tell your master it's time for him to change his trousers and shave."
When Yassuh was gone she turned to Sara again—rather as one entertains a visitor when one really wants to be doing something else—and said, politely, "I suppose you know he's my step-husband. That makes it rather troublesome."
Sara, remembering Pirlaps and his white trousers, looked so eager and so uncomprehending that Avrillia evidently felt called upon to explain further.
"It makes it necessary for him to sit on the step constantly, you see. And it's of chocolate. That's unfortunate, too, but it can't be helped. It's all right in winter, of course, but in summer it's a great deal of trouble. When we were first married he used to wear black trousers in summer; but I soon put a stop to that. I have him trained now so that he always wears white ones, and I set the thermometer and remind him to change them every two hours. That's my part of the bargain. He has forty-seven pairs. And, every time he changes them, he has to shave. That's part of the agreement, too."
"Why," began Sara, "I thought he had—"
"To be sure he has," said Avrillia, looking a little amused. "It grows so fast, you see."
Sara turned this over in her mind for several moments. Then her thoughts returned to the step. She simply couldn't help making suggestions to Avrillia. She seemed, for all her little haughty politenesses, so helpless.
"You might put something over it—" she began.
"I have suggested that," said Avrillia, "but he would not consent to it. He says it would be circumnavigating Nature. Of course, when it's necessary to offer it to guests—"
But just at that moment Pirlaps himself came out of the house, wearing a fresh, immaculate pair of trousers. His little pointed beard was gone; but Sara thought she could see it already coming back. Yassuh came along behind him, carrying the step.
"You see, marriage is very civilizing, Sara," he said, in his gay, kind way. "I wouldn't do this for anybody but Avrillia. How's the poetry, Avrillia?"
"Doing nicely, thank you," said Avrillia, pleasantly. "How's the painting?"
"Flourishing," said Pirlaps, cheerfully. "How are the children?"
"I haven't seen them this week," said Avrillia. "I vanished them last Roseday."
Pirlaps' face fell a little—perhaps an inch, altogether. But Sara cried out, clapping her hands again with impunity (try doing it that way, sometime—it's great fun),
"Oh, are there children?"
"Yes," said Avrillia.
"Oh, about seventy," said Avrillia, a little languidly.
"May—may I see them?" asked Sara.
"I hope so," said Avrillia. "Perhaps you'll come some day when they're not vanished."
Sara, somehow, felt herself to have been politely dismissed; and she soon found herself walking beside Pirlaps down the little marble stairs. She slipped her hand into his as she would into her own father's, and, looking up into his face, said, enthusiastically, "Oh, isn't she lovely?"
Pirlaps seemed very much pleased, and looked down upon her more kindly than ever. "You like Avrillia?" he said. "That's good. It isn't everybody that appreciates Avrillia."
He stopped before a lilac-colored fog-bush and put his step down before his easel. Sara did not dare remonstrate, but she cast an agonized look first at the step and then at his lovely white trousers.
"Is—is that what is meant by step-relations?" was all she could say.
"Why, yes," said Pirlaps, sitting firmly down on the chocolate. "Are you interested in relations?" he asked eagerly, after he had adjusted his easel. "Because, if you are, we'll go to see mine, some day. I have a lot."
Chapter III Relations
Sara was determined, when she shut the ivory doors behind her the next morning, to do two things, no matter what happened; first, she would put her dimples in the dimple-holder immediately; and, second, she would go right on to find Pirlaps, and not be beguiled into lingering around the pool by the fascinating talk of the Plynck and her Echo. For, ever since she left him, she had been thinking of the offer Pirlaps had made to take her to see his relations; and she had been growing more and more curious and interested.
And this time she did remember her dimples; she saw them sparkling on the whipped cream cushion, all safe and contented, before she so much as lifted her eyes from the blue plush grass. But alas, for her resolution not to loiter! For although, on the other days, there had been such a variegated murmur of delighted sound—the Echo of the Plynck in the pool, and the lovely crackling of breaking rules, and the deep-blue singing of the Zizzes' wings, and the melodious snoring of the Snoodle (like that of a tuning-fork when it sleeps on its side) —yet everything had been as still and motionless to the eye as an April daydream. But this morning it was the other way around. Not a sound was to be heard; but what a scene! You see, for the first time, the Snoodle was awake, frisking soundlessly around the fountain; and the Plynck—the Plynck was flying!
Now, it is true that a Plynck at rest is a beautiful sight; but it is nothing to the charm and wonder of a Plynck in motion. (The same, as we shall see in a moment, is true in a lesser degree of a Snoodle.) Its long, rosy plumes, like those of an ostrich, only four times as long, went waving through the air with an indescribably dreamy grace; and now Sara could actually see the perfume, which before she had only smelled. It rained down through the air, as the Plynck circled slowly round and round the fountain, and looked rather like a sort of golden spice. And as Sara stood watching, spellbound and sniffing, she knew she had been mistaken in thinking that, there was no sound at all. There was just one: a little soft, straining sound the Plynck's cerulean Echo made as it circled round and round in the pool and tried to keep up with the Plynck. Her motions would have been exactly as lovely as those of the Plynck, if they had not been just a trifle labored, owing to the difficulty of flying under water; and her breathing was distinctly perceptible. Sara could hear it, too; and it sounded like the ghost of a dead breeze in a pine-top.
As soon as Sara could take her ravished eyes from the sight, she looked down to see what was nuzzling about her shoe-buttons; and, just as she had suspected, it was the Snoodle, frisking and tumbling and rolling about her feet to make her notice him. And, indeed, when he was awake, the Snoodle was irresistible. Not that he looked like anything Sara had ever seen before. He might, perhaps, have looked like a dog, except that he was so very long—his length, indeed, gave him a haunting resemblance to a freshly cooked piece of macaroni. (Sara was later to find out the reason for this; but at the moment she was puzzled, just as you are when you meet a stranger who looks like somebody else, and you can't remember who else it is.) And his head, which was not very clearly defined, was finished off with a neat little cap that looked like a snail-shell, and seemed to be fastened to him. His eyes, which stuck out several inches in front of his face on long prongs, were delightfully mischievous and confiding; and he was covered with the most beautiful snow-white, curly hair. But he had one drawback; and Sara discovered that when she started to pick him up. It was a sort of little window in the exact middle of his back, with an ising-glass cover, like the slide-cover of some boxes. The minute you touched him, this little slide drew back, and from within there escaped an odor of castor oil. It, too, was distinctly perceptible; Sara could even smell it. As soon as she did so, she herself drew back, and contented herself with looking admiringly at the confiding, playful little Snoodle.
As she stood watching his pretty antics she became aware that the Snimmy's wife had stopped her work and was watching them with a grim smile. Sara saw that she had just unscrewed the knob of the prose-bush, and was still holding the doorknob and the corkscrew in her hand. As far as Sara could tell, the doorknob seemed as neatly hemmed as ever; so, overcome by curiosity, she asked the Snimmy's wife what she was going to do with it.
"This is the day to unhem it," she answered rather glumly. "I unhem it every Pinkday, and hem it every Lilyday. I used to hem it only oncet a month, but Avrillia said that wasn't civilized, and whatever she says, goes. At least," she added, glancing up at the Plynck, who was still circling beautifully around the fountain, "she thinks so. And as long as I live neighbor to her it's sort-of up to me to respect her standards."
Avrillia! Ah, now Sara remembered! She had meant to go straight to find Pirlaps and Avrillia! She glanced around to see if she could find the curly little path; but she could not really start until she had asked a few questions about the darling little Snoodle.
"Is—isn't he lovely?" she began, aware of a vague necessity of pleasing the wife of the Snimmy, if one wanted to find out anything. However, she was quite honest; she really did think the Snoodle was lovely—except for his drawback.
"You think so?" answered the Snimmy's wife, trying hard not to show how foolishly pleased she really was. "He's the only child we have."
If Sara had thought a minute, she would not have asked the next question—certainly not of so formidable a person as the Snimmy's wife. But she didn't think. She just asked, eagerly,
"Is he a—a sort of—dog?"
"A sort of dog?" echoed the Snimmy's wife, in the most outraged italics.
"A kind of—PUPPY?" said the Snimmy's wife, in perfectly withering small capitals. Then she said, in the loftiest large capitals Sara had ever seen,
"HIS MOTHER WAS A SNAIL—SHE HELD THE WORLD'S RECORD FOR SLOWNESS. AND HIS FATHER WAS A PEDIGREED NOODLE."
Sara looked at him in awe; now she understood the cap, and the prongs, and the extreme length. But, in spite of the Snimmy's wife's indignant mood, she had to ask one more question.
"But you said he was your child," was the way she put it.
"I didn't," retorted the Snimmy's wife, with undisguised contempt. "I said he was the only child we have. We have him, haven't we?" And with that she sat down with her back to Sara on her own toadstool, and curled her long white tail around the base with quite unnecessary tightness. Her nose was not quite so debilitating as the Snimmy's; still, it nearly stuck into the doorknob as she hemmed.
Sara saw there was nothing further to be got out of her, and she did not wish to pick up the Snoodle on account of his drawback; so she decided to go on to Avrillia's without further delay, and began to look around her again for the little curly path. It was pink, this time, instead of curly, but that made it all the more attractive; so she struck into it at once, and went skipping happily toward the arch in the hawthorn hedge. Just before she reached it she heard Avrillia's thermometer go off, so she knew that she was on the right path.
The minute she got through the hedge she saw Avrillia, and, oh, loveliest of wonders! What were those? Flying around her hair, clinging to her silken skirts, dancing among the shell-flowers, swarming over the balcony, playing a dainty game up and down the marble stairs—oh, it was the children! The children were at home!
And when Avrillia saw Sara she came toward her with the loveliest look of welcome, the children hanging all around her like rose-garlands. And if Sara had loved Avrillia the day before, she could simply find no words now to express her adoration. For Avrillia knelt down among the shell-flowers, and held out her arms (which were like the necks of swans) to Sara; and she really seemed to see her this time. And when she smiled at her, her eyes were hardly at all wild, but quite playful and gentle; and so sweet that Sara, for a moment, had a dizzy conviction that if she were a Zizz she would fly right into them. (Though, of course, the Zizzes' tails were bitter.) Besides, Avrillia held her at that minute tight to her breast, which was as soft as her own perfect, contrary mother's, and had, besides a most entrancing, faint perfume of isthagaria.
When she had finished hugging Sara, she held her off at arms' length, and said to her, smiling, in that lovely voice,
"Well, Sara, you see the children are here. Aren't they nice?"
And once more Sara could find no words to express their niceness. And she could no more have described them to you than if they had been so many endearing young charms. But one of the queerest, prettiest things she was sure about: their faces were all dimples! Moreover, they were much more becoming to them than ordinary features would have been.
"How old are they?" asked Sara, in the most delighted bewilderment. The friendly little things fluttered and chattered and chirruped around her in the most distracting way, brushing her face with their wings in their eagerness to get acquainted, and even getting their silver sandals tangled in her hair.
"Well," said Avrillia with great exactitude—Sara had already discovered that Avrillia had a weakness for being considered practical—"fourteen of them are six and three of them are two and thirty are seven and ten are nine, and five are six months."
"My!" said Sara, in doubt and wonder. And right there she had a suspicion that that was one reason she had loved Avrillia from the first: she couldn't do arithmetic! To be sure, Sara herself couldn't add all that mixture in her head—at least not with all those lovely children about—but it sounded like a great deal more than seventy; and there certainly looked to be a million. So, as she stood and gazed, she said, more in wonder than with any idea of correcting Avrillia, "And you said there were just seventy?"
For a moment Avrillia's eyes again grew distraught and doubtful, and she answered, uncertainly, "I think there are just seventy." Then she called to Pirlaps, who was sitting on his step in the light of a glorious flame-colored fog-bush, hard at work, "Pirlaps, have we had any children since Sara was here yesterday?"
"Not one," said Pirlaps, smiling at her with a look of pleasant amusement. "Don't you remember that you dropped poems over the Verge all day?"
"I thought so," said Avrillia, with relief, "but Sara seemed to think there were more than seventy." Then her eyes fell upon the trousers of Pirlaps, who had risen and was coming toward them now, with Yassuh rolling along behind with the step.
"O Pirlaps," said Avrillia, her sweet voice full of reproach, "you haven't changed your trousers! That's just the way things go," she added, beginning to look wild and worried and distraught, "when the children are here! I can't keep up with everything! And the thermometer went off fifteen minutes ago! I heard it, but I was busy with the children. And your shaving-water will be perfectly cold!" She grew more and more agitated.
"Never mind, Avrillia," said Pirlaps, soothingly, and Sara noticed that his pleasant, cheerful ways always had a wonderfully calming effect upon Avrillia. "I'm going right in now to change; and then I have a plan that will straighten things out and please everybody."
"What is it?" asked Avrillia, looking more hopeful.
"It's too soon to tell yet," said Pirlaps, with a delightfully wise air, and he went on up the steps, with Yassuh tumbling after him, leaving them all feeling very much relieved.
Avrillia, making a brave effort to recover her composure, began playing with the children again, and they were having almost as delightful a time as if nothing distressing had occurred, when Pirlaps reappeared, all fresh-shaven and immaculate.
"Put the step out in the sun where it will keep soft, Yassuh," he said. "I shan't need it this afternoon."
They all stopped playing and looked at him in wonder.
"I'm going to take Sara to see my relations, as I promised her I would," he explained, taking Sara kindly by the hand.
"Oh, that's lovely," said Avrillia, looking at Pirlaps gratefully out of her speaking eyes. "There's nobody like you, Pirlaps."
Pirlaps looked wonderfully pleased with himself; and, since there was not a bit of chocolate on his trousers, he looked unusually spruce and handsome, too. Sara skipped along beside him delightedly; only, sometimes when she looked back, she wished she could stay with Avrillia while she was in such a lovely mood, and all those interesting children. Still, Sara's dear, self-willed mother had taught her to be a considerate little girl, and she reflected that she really ought not to bother Avrillia with another child, when she already had seventy to look after. The thoughts of Pirlaps also seemed to be running in the same channel (indeed, Sara could catch glimpses of them, trickling along under that thin, funny cap he always wore), and he presently said,
"It's too bad to bring you away when the children are at home, Sara, but you know they are a great deal of care to Avrillia, and when they're at home I try to do everything I can to relieve her. Now, you see, she won't have to bother about my trousers for the whole afternoon."
"But how can you get along without your step?" asked Sara. She knew this was a personal question, but she felt, somehow, that Pirlaps would not think her impolite.
He looked down at her and smiled, just as her own father did when she asked questions which showed her youth and inexperience.
"I'm not a step-man, Sara," he said, his eyes twinkling with amusement at her lack of information, "only a step-husband. When I'm away from Avrillia I don't need the step."
All this time they had been walking along hand in hand. Sara noticed that they had left the Verge behind, and were following a very pleasant sort of ridge, from which they could see down into a sort of hollow for smiles and smiles, and, beyond the hollow, the buff-colored hills and mountains that formed the walls of the amphitheatre. There were not so many Gugollaph-trees as there were in the Garden and along the road to the Dimplesmithy, owing to the different topography of the country; instead, there were a good many poker-bushes.
"My relations live in a colony," said Pirlaps. "There used to be nearly seven hundred of them; but now there are only eight hundred and three."
And just at that moment they came in sight of the colony. It consisted in a large number of odd, attractive-looking little houses grouped around an open space covered with pleasant red grass, which Pirlaps told her was an uncommon. In the middle of the uncommon was a sort of platform, and upon the platform there was something which Sara, at first glance, took to be an enormous statue. But even at that distance she could see it move; so she hastened to ask Pirlaps what it was.
"Why, that's my Great-Great-Great-Great-Grandfather," said Pirlaps, with a good deal of pride. "He occupies the Post of Honor in the colony, you know, because he's the oldest and the largest. He's really great, and quite pleasant; you'll enjoy meeting him."
By this time they were going down a little shady road that led straight to the uncommon. Sara was so struck by the large number of curious and interesting people she saw on all sides, going quietly about their regular occupations, that she could hardly look where she was going. But Pirlaps led her right to the foot of the post, and the first thing she knew he was introducing her. "This is Sara, Great-Great-Great-Great," he was saying; and Sara looked up and saw, sitting in a sort of easy chair on top of the post, the very largest person she had ever seen. In size he was a veritable giant, or even an ogre; but anybody could see that in disposition he was as far as possible from being either. Indeed, his disposition was evidently very like that of her own grandfather (who wasn't great at all, at least not in comparison with this one), even to the bag of marshmallows in his pocket. Sara could see it sticking out—but such enormous marshmallows! Why, each one was larger than the biggest, fattest sofa-pillow Sara had ever seen. And, of course, beside the marshmallows, the Great-Great-Great-Great had beautiful white hair, and twinkling eyes, and all the usual equipment of a grandfather.
"Why, good afternoon, Pirlaps," said the Great-Great-Great-Great, in a little high, cracked voice that seemed very odd. ("As they get greater, their voices get smaller," explained Pirlaps, who had noticed that Sara jumped when the old gentleman spoke.) "Would you like a marshmallow?" he continued, tossing one down to her; and Sara saw that it would have tipped her over, as Jimmie's missiles sometimes did when they had a pillow-fight, if Pirlaps had not caught it. While she was wondering what would be the polite way to eat so huge a marshmallow, she saw the other Grandfathers coming toward her. She knew them because there were four of them, marching in single file, with their hands on each other's shoulders. The Great-Great-Great, who was next in size to the one on the Post of Honor, was leading, and they were arranged in order down to the plain Grandfather, who was not much above the usual height.
At the same moment she saw the Grandmothers coming from the opposite direction, in the same manner. Only, the mate to the Great-Great-Great-Great was leading, and they were coming straight toward the vacant Post. Sara watched them with extreme interest. They, too, were of quite the usual grandmotherly pattern, but were equally variable and extraordinary in size. When they reached the Post they made a sort of living stepladder, like the acrobats in the circus; that is, the plain Grandmother stooped over, like a boy playing leapfrog, and the Great mounted on her back; then the Great-Great mounted on her back, and so on, until finally the Great-Great-Great-Great got upon the very top and so stepped upon the Post. She took her seat in an arm-chair like the one on the other Post, and Sara noticed that her kerchief was exactly the size of one of Mother's hemstitched sheets. She was indeed a handsome, venerable and distinguished-looking old lady, if you stood far enough away to see her all at once.
"Well, Sara, should you like to see the cousins?" asked Pirlaps, when this interesting manoeuvre had been completed and the other Grandmothers began to disperse. "We'll be just about in time for the drill."
"Yes, indeed," cried Sara, who was very fond of watching drills. So Pirlaps led her to a level place which he told her was the cousins' drill-ground. It was hard and smooth, and marked off with lines like a tennis-court, only much more intricately. And there were numbers of cousins standing about, each one looking very erect and alert, with his hand on the back of a chair. Just as Sara came up, the captain of the cousins stepped out in front and called, "Attention!"
The cousins looked so attentive it was almost painful.
Then he called out, "First Cousin once removed!" and the First Cousin marched out very stiffly and set his chair down accurately on the first mark, after which he sat down in it with military precision. Then the captain called, "Second Cousin once removed!" and the Second Cousin marched out and sat down in the right place quite as impressively.
Well, you can imagine how it went on, as far as Tenth Cousin eighth removed; and after they had gone through it straight the captain began skipping them around. It was very lively and exciting; but when Pirlaps heard Sara give a little sigh, and asked her, with a twinkle, how she liked it, she was obliged to answer, "I like it, but—it makes my head turn around. It's so much like arithmetic."
"That's what Avrillia says," answered Pirlaps, smiling. "Well, let's walk around a bit. And then I'll show you the Strained Relations."
Sara thought that sounded very interesting; and, besides, she was glad to walk after standing still so long. So they strolled about, enjoying the pleasant afternoon, and the oddity of the people and their ways. There were any number of step-relatives, mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters, sitting around on their various steps, or carrying them jauntily under their arms. She noticed that none of them had a servant to carry them, however, from which she concluded that they were not so well-to-do as Pirlaps. But then, none of the steps were of chocolate. They were of various materials, however, even yellow.
Once, in crossing the uncommon, they met one of Pirlaps' half-sisters. She was divided lengthwise, and so had only a profile; but, as her profile was very pretty, the effect was not at all unpleasant. While they were talking to her, one of his half-brothers came up, but he was divided crosswise, and so had no back. However, from the front, of course, you hardly noticed it.
"Well," said Pirlaps, at last, glancing at the small clinical thermometer he carried, "we'll just have time to take a look at the Strained Relations, and then I must get back and help Avrillia vanish the children."
He led Sara to a distant corner of the uncommon that was fenced off from the rest by a high wire netting. It looked rather like the high nets about a tennis-court, except that it was made of silver wire, with a mesh as fine as a milk-strainer. Inside the wire, in a sort of little private park, she could see a number of very haughty-looking persons moving about.
"Don't speak to them," said Pirlaps, as they drew near. "They're entirely too snobbish to be spoken to."
Sara approached in awe, and they stood gazing at the pale, supercilious-looking creatures, who returned their gaze through monocles, lorgnettes, and other contemptuous media.
"You see," explained Pirlaps, "nobody speaks to them. Every time they go in or out, they pass through the strainer, and that strains out all of their red corpuscles and leaves only the blue. That's why they are so superior and exclusive. Of course, too, it makes them very thin, and gives them that sheer, transparent look." And, indeed, Sara noticed that she could see quite through one of the thinnest ones, who wore a very high-necked dress buttoned in the back.
Pirlaps was now growing anxious to be at home, so after saying good-by to the important personages on the Posts of Honor, they started back.
As they drew near, they saw Avrillia in the rose-garden near the balcony, looking very lovely as she moved among the flowers.
"Ah," said Pirlaps, "she's already vanished them. She's gathering rose-leaves for tomorrow's poems."
As he spoke, Avrillia, looking up, waved a blue rose to them, and disappeared within the house. In a moment she reappeared, wearing the sweetest smile Sara had ever seen.
Pirlaps looked greatly pleased and touched. And no wonder; for Avrillia was coming out to meet him, bringing him his step with her own hands.
Chapter IV The Invaders
When Sara dropped the curtains behind her the next morning she paused in horror, with her hand poised above the dimple-holder. What had happened to her lovely Garden in the night?
It looked exactly as her own little garden was accustomed to look three days after a hard freeze. Blighted—that was the word: it was blighted. The leaves hung limp and brown from the trees; the blue plush grass, and even the blue bark of the Gugollaph-tree, had turned a most sickly green. The water was frozen in the pool; and, imprisoned below it, she could see the Echo of the Plynck, perfectly stiff, and looking as if she were in some sort of awful trance. The Plynck, on the other hand, drooped on her accustomed branch like the leaves on the trees, as if she hardly had strength to hold her loosened plumes together. The Snimmy's wife sat on her own toadstool, rigid and angry-looking, with her tail wound tightly around the base, and with the half-hemmed doorknob forgotten in her lap; the Snimmy lay watchfully at the door of the prose-bush, with his long, debilitating nose on his paws, shivering terribly; and the Snoodle looked as if somebody had put salt on his mother. And the poor, timid Teacup looked like a gentle, fat little old lady who has just been shot out of a volcano.
Avrillia and Pirlaps were standing together in the little arch, looking with passionate and indignant eyes upon the general distress and havoc, and especially upon the insolent creatures who had caused it. For Sara saw, after a few minutes of bewilderment, that the beautiful place with its gentle inhabitants had been overrun in the night by a horde of Fractions.
For there they sat, grouped insolently around the fountain, drinking tears out of mugs of enormous sighs, and hammering with their fists upon the peculiarly disagreeable-looking tables at which they sat. These tables were of various sizes, but they were all very ponderous and slippery-looking; and observing them closely, Sara saw that her instinctive aversion was well founded—for they were multiplication tables. The Two-Times table was nearest to her, being placed just to the left of the dimple-holder; and they increased regularly in size up to the Twelve-Times table, at which the officers were sitting. The whole crowd of invaders were disgustingly haughty and self-important—worse even than the Strained Relations, Sara thought; but the officers were the worst of all. From the Least Common Multiple up to the Greatest Common Divisor, from the thin, poker-like Quotient with the fierce white moustache to the enormous, puffy Multiplicand, Sara thought they were the most pompous lot she had ever seen. However, since they were officers and units, she could imagine that they might have some excuse; but what possible excuse could there be for conceit in the Fractions, every one of whom had something missing about him? Some of them, of course, lacked only an ear or a little finger; but numbers of them had only one leg or one arm, and many of them were much worse off! Why, at the farthest side of the Three-Times table Sara saw a Fraction who consisted entirely of one eye!
There was one table, to be sure, the Eleven-Times, the noisiest of all, that was occupied entirely by Improper Fractions; but aside from their table-manners and general behavior, which were shocking, Sara thought they looked even worse than the proper ones. For one of them had two faces, another three feet, and a third one had as many arms as an octopus. Sara positively refused to look at them.
While Sara stood gazing in horror and dismay, and feeling so grieved for her friends that she could not bring herself to ask anybody what had happened or what could be done, she saw Schlorge coming at a run down the path from the Dimplesmithy. He looked as wild and distracted as any of them, but Sara felt a great relief when she saw him, because she knew he was so clever and practical. She felt, too, that she could ask him what the trouble was and he could bear it—better than the Teacup, for instance, who, she feared, would go all to pieces, or the Echo of the Plynck, who was clearly all in. So she ran up to him and touched his elbow and asked, almost crying, "What is it, Schlorge? How did it happen?"
Schlorge, even in his excitement, was comforted by her sympathy, and evidently very glad to see another ally. "Why—a—" he began, and then, remembering, he cried excitedly, "Where's the stump—where's the stump? I have to tell Sara about it!"
But alas, the invaders had razed the stump to the ground, apparently out of wanton malice, for they had made no use of it. All over and around it were strewn plus-signs, minus-signs, and other weapons; and Sara noticed that the dots from the divided-by signs were rolling about everywhere on the withered grass. Manifestly, Schlorge could not get upon the fallen stump, through such a thicket of debris, and he dared not move them nor step on them; besides, it is doubtful if he could have told Sara about it unless the stump were right side up.
At this juncture, however, Pirlaps stepped boldly forward and once more offered Schlorge his step. Schlorge sprang upon it without noticing the chocolate, but he was so agitated that he put his left hand into his bosom and his right behind his back, instead of the other way around. However, it was in a loud, firm voice, with fierce, defiant looks at the invaders, that he informed Sara:
"The Fractions came down like a wolf on the fold: Their ears are acute but their noses are cold. They know nothing of poetry, music or art— So why in Sam Hill should they think they're so smart?"
"Why in Zeelup?" corrected the Teacup, from above, in a tremulous, weeping voice; but even had it been louder it would have been drowned in the clamor that rose from the tables.
"Silence, impudent clown!" roared the fat, fierce-looking Multiplicand. "Ignoramus! nothing of music! Why, you don't know Common Time!"
Sara quaked; only yesterday she had got all tangled up trying to tell the difference between three-four time and two-four time; and she knew Schlorge was wrong and the dreadful creature was right. But Schlorge was beside himself with fury and beyond the reach of fear or reason.
"Oh, go on!" he shouted fiercely. "You don't know nothing about the insides of music—that's only the outsides! Besides, what time does a bird sing by? That's music, ain't it?"
But before the Multiplicand could answer, his henchman, the Multiplier, called out, "And what do you know of art, Oaf? Don't you know that modern art is colored geometry?"
"And poetry?" squeaked the Quotient, fiercely, "Don't poets have to count their feet to write poems?"
But at that juncture they were all electrified to see Avrillia stepping forward, looking so beautiful and so queenly and so transfigured by righteous indignation that even the invaders merely blinked. "Not modern poets," she said, with an icy authority that sent a hostile shiver up and down the multiplication tables. "They do not count anything—not even the cost."
It was not so much what Avrillia said, as the way she said it, and the way she looked, that cowed even the all-powerful invaders for a moment. Pirlaps, at her side, said, "Good for you, Avrillia!" under his breath; and Schlorge glared at the Fractions with triumphant scorn and continued,
"Like leaves of the forest when summer is green Our beautiful Garden at sunset was seen; Like leaves of the forest when autumn is flown, You see it this morning all withered and strown."
As he finished this stanza Schlorge seemed to rise to twice his full height (indeed, he seemed to Sara for a moment almost half as tall as her waist) in his eloquent fury, as he continued:
"But we will lambast you, you straight-waisted pigs, As sure as black's yellow and thistles is figs! Yea, surer than squashes our vengeance we'll wreak; If it isn't today, why, we'll do it next week!"
Sara had a distressed feeling that this was rather a weak ending, but nobody else seemed to notice it; indeed, several of the Fractions were so incensed at the bold threat that two or three of them called out, "Shoot him at sunrise!" The Greatest Common Divisor, however, merely gave him a savage and contemptuous glance over his tear-mug, as much as to say that he would annihilate him when it was quite convenient.
In a few moments they were again entirely absorbed in their drinking and carousing, and then Pirlaps cautiously touched Schlorge on the arm. "Let's have a council of war," he said, in a very low voice, drawing him a little to one side. "I have an idea. Where shall we go?"
"Better come down to the Smithy," said Schlorge. "They haven't discovered it yet."
Very quietly then, while the Fractions were busy drinking, Schlorge and Pirlaps and Avrillia and Sara and the Snimmy and the Snimmy's wife slipped out of the Garden and down the path to the Dimplesmithy. They didn't think it necessary to tell the Plynck, who was too much crushed to be of use, or the Teacup, for whom they dreaded the slightest shock. The Echo of the Plynck might have been useful, only she was still frozen into the pool.
The farther they got from the Garden the less blighted and the more natural everything looked; and by the time they reached the road, they would not have suspected, from the look of the country, that destruction was lurking so near.
When they reached the Dimplesmithy, they sent the Snimmy to sniff out the neighborhood carefully with his debilitating nose, to see if there were any spies about; and when he returned, Pirlaps carefully unfolded his plan.
"I am convinced," he said earnestly, "from what I have observed this morning, that Poetry will be absolutely fatal to these hateful intruders who have descended upon us. The only question in my mind is, How shall we apply it? After thinking about it most carefully, I have worked out a tentative plan. Avrillia, I am sure, can furnish us plenty of ammunition." (Sara, glancing admiringly at Avrillia, saw the thrilling look of high resolve that shone in her face.) "And Schlorge will have to make us two or three more pairs of bellows. Are you strong enough to wield a pair, Sara?" he asked. Even in the stress of this dire moment he spoke so kindly that she loved him more than ever; and she told him proudly that she was sure she could. Schlorge had already dragged down from a shelf three extra pairs of bellows—one brand-new one and two old ones; and he was busy at his forge mending and putting them in order. All the while, however, he was listening anxiously to Pirlaps.
"The only part I haven't been able to work out," said Pirlaps, with a worried look, "is this: How can we reduce the Poetry to a powdered form fast enough to be effective?"
This was a problem indeed; and everybody thought deeply and desperately. Avrillia, Sara could see, was already so absorbed in making the poems that she didn't even hear; but it was an agonizing moment for the rest of them. It did not last long, however; for the Snimmy's wife stepped forward and said triumphantly, in her deep, cross voice, "My coffee-mill!"
"Ah, these practical people!" cried Pirlaps, rubbing his hands delightedly. "Now for our organization. Avrillia, have you plenty of rose-leaves?"
"An extra supply," answered Avrillia, raptly. "Yassuh filled the leaf-closet only yesterday. How fortunate!"
"Then the problem of transportation," said Pirlaps, greatly pleased. "There must be no break—"
"The Gunki will bring 'em," said Schlorge, decisively. "Here, you!" he shouted; and a swarm of Gunki came tumbling out from under the adjacent bushes. "Bring your coal-scuttles!" he shouted; and each Gunkus scuttled back, reappearing in a moment with the desired receptacle.
"Good!" said Pirlaps. "Stand at attention until I give you further orders." And each Gunkus stood perfectly still and straight, holding his coal-scuttle by the handle between his teeth, and dropping his eyes into it. They hit the bottom of the scuttle with a ringing, martial sound.
"Now," said Pirlaps, "how many hands for the bellows? Avrillia will be busy writing poems; Mrs. Snimmy will be busy grinding them. That leaves Schlorge, Sara, Mr. Snimmy and myself. Four pairs of bellows—how fortunate!" He then explained to the Gunki that they were to march straight to Avrillia's balcony and form an unbroken line from there to the Snimmy's wife's coffee-mill, on the front porch of the prose-bush; and that they were to pass the scuttles full of loaded rose-leaves in a steady stream, as fast as they could. The last Gunkus was to empty the scuttles into the coffee-mill.
In a very short time they had this plan in execution. When they slipped back into the Garden they found that the Fractions had been drinking so heavily that many of them were snoring loudly under the multiplication tables; and the rest were carousing so uproariously that they took no notice whatever of the preparations for their overthrow. The Snimmy's wife took her station grimly at the coffee-mill; Pirlaps, Schlorge, Sara and the Snimmy grouped themselves about her, and in a very few minutes the first scuttleful of poems arrived. The first Gunkus emptied them into the mill; Mrs. Snimmy began to grind violently; the gunners, with hands trembling with excitement, loaded their bellows. Even in this terrible moment Sara could not help noticing what a lovely stuff the powder was—a blue and silver dust, with a delicate fragrance like sachet powder. Surely it could not harm anybody! She felt a sinking of the heart; but she kept her eyes on Pirlaps, and his splendid, confident bearing helped to reassure her. And when he said, "A—B—C!" they all fired simultaneously. And oh, glorious success! It was clear that the poem-dust was absolutely deadly to the enemy. At the first shot the Least Common Multiple and a number of privates fell out of their chairs, as dead as if they had been caught between the covers of an arithmetic! Moreover, the poem-dust that filled the air seemed to tend to stupefy the others; so that, though there was a terrible uproar and a desperate scramble for weapons, victory for the defenders was certain from the start. There was only one defect in the organization; one thing had escaped Pirlaps' wonderful foresight. There was no efficient way to get the powder from the coffee-mill to the bellows; and in the loading much time was wasted and much ammunition spilled. While Pirlaps was looking about him with great anxiety, trying to think of some way to remedy the trouble, the little Teacup came fluttering tremulously down from above. "Let me do it!" she cried; and while they all looked on in admiration (though with only one eye apiece, since the other was busy aiming at the enemy) she proceeded to load one pair of bellows after another, with the utmost nicety and plenty of poetry-powder. A little was spilled, to be sure, because she trembled so terribly; still, it was an enormous improvement, and they all praised and congratulated the Teacup.
"Ah, these sheltered women!" said Pirlaps. "How an emergency does bring them out!"
The battle must have raged for nearly an hour; but at the end of that time there was not so much as a One-Twenty-Second left alive. The Greatest Common Divisor, as befitted his rank, was the last to succumb; and when he went down the defenders of the Garden threw down their weapons and began tossing their shoes into the air and shaking each others' hands and talking all at once. The Gunki passed the word down the line to Avrillia, who presently came floating in, with her wild eyes shining and her pale-gold hair rumpled, and her golden swan's-quill still in her hand; and everybody fell upon her with congratulations. But, indeed, everybody was congratulating everybody else, and calling him or her the hero or heroine of the day. Schlorge was doubly cordial to Avrillia because he felt that he had underestimated her; and for the same reason Pirlaps was particularly delighted with the Teacup and the Snimmy's wife—whom, to tell the truth, he had always considered very ordinary women. The Teacup fluttered and laughed nervously, murmuring, whenever anybody praised her, "If my handle hadn't been so consanguineous—" But the Snimmy's wife merely smiled grimly, as much as to say that she had always thought they would all come to their senses sooner or later.
Presently the Snimmy, who had been sniffing about the fallen invaders, suggested, "What's to be done with the remains, begging everybody's pardon?"
"Don't make such long speeches, Snimmy," said his wife, "and don't beg anything. Didn't you blow as hard as any of 'em?"
But Schlorge was already deeply interested in the problem. He began walking around among them, now and then turning one over with his foot. Of course there had never been an ounce of flesh and blood among them; they were as dry as bones—which, indeed, they much resembled.
"I could make them into first-class rules," he said, picking up the waist-line of an Improper Fraction and snapping it easily across his knee. "They'd keep the Plynck supplied a whole winter."
The Plynck! In the excitement of victory they had all momentarily forgotten the Plynck, though, when the fight was hottest, it had been the sight of her tragic drooping plumes among the blighted leaves that had nerved them to redoubled effort. Now Avrillia stepped softly under the tree and called gently, "O Plynck, dear Plynck! They're all dead, and Schlorge is going to make them into rules for you to break!"
A shiver ran through the soft, rosy plumes of the Plynck; she opened her terrified eyes, and when she saw that the good tidings was indeed true, she began to shine and smile down upon them again like a convalescent rainbow. The Gunki had already formed a line to Schlorge's smithy, and were briskly sending scuttlefuls of the hateful fragments down the line.