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THE LIZARD OF OZ


Copyright 1974, 1988 by Richard Seltzer

 

Illustrated by Christin Couture

 

This is a new, expanded version of the underground classic.



CHAPTER ONE: THE HUMBUG

CHAPTER TWO: THE REDCOATS

CHAPTER THREE: THE POTHOLE

CHAPTER FOUR: POTHEAD LAND

CHAPTER FIVE: SIR REAL

CHAPTER SIX: EGGHEAD LAND

CHAPTER SEVEN: THE LIBRARY

CHAPTER EIGHT: BIG MACK

CHAPTER NINE: PRINCE FROG

CHAPTER TEN: THE RIVER

CHAPTER ELEVEN: THE UNDERWORLD

CHAPTER TWELVE: THE LOWEST COURT

CHAPTER THIRTEEN: THE ROAD TO EL EASY ONE

CHAPTER FOURTEEN: CAMELOT

CHAPTER FIFTEEN: THE MOTHERS OF FACT

CHAPTER SIXTEEN: THE MUSES

CHAPTER SEVENTEEN: CLOUD NINE

CHAPTER EIGHTEEN: MR. SHERMIN

CHAPTER NINETEEN: REVIEW OF THE TROOPS

CHAPTER TWENTY: REDLAND

CHAPTER TWENTY-ONE: THE MOORS

CHAPTER TWENTY-TWO: MISS MORGAN'S DREAM

CHAPTER TWENTY-THREE: THE MOUTH OF THE NILE

CHAPTER TWENTY-FOUR: CAPTAIN AHAB

CHAPTER TWENTY-FIVE: NATURE AND SCIENCE

CHAPTER TWENTY-SIX: THE GREAT DRAGON OF OME

CHAPTER TWENTY-SEVEN: WINTHROP

APPENDIX: FOOD FOR THOUGHT


 

CHAPTER ONE: THE HUMBUG

 

Once or twice, long ago the fire of enchantment burnt low, and children and even grownups found nothing new in the world, nothing worth seeing or doing or bothering about; nothing, that is, except machines.

 

The disenchantment spread just about everywhere, until it reached the basement classroom in Winthrop, assachusetts, where a pair of fish, Mrs. O'Rourke and Mr. Shermin, lived in a fishbowl. It was there that began the quest that took an entire class to Oz and to Ome, to bring back fire to the world.

 

It all began one morning when the whole class was there: Eugene and Mark and Linda S. and Linda Crotty and Cindy and Donny and Joey and Timmy and Kevin and Peter and Gaynell and Kathy and the two teachers -- Miss Morgan and Miss Prysby. That morning no one was smiling or laughing or playing: they all looked blank and bored.

 

"Joey, stop sulking and sit down," shouted Miss Morgan.

 

"Kevin! Eugene! Stop fighting this instant," insisted Miss Prysby.

 

When Mrs. O'Rourke, the fish, saw them, she was frantic that maybe they were all disenchanted. So she went wiggling to the other end of the fishbowl, where Mr. Shermin lived. Mr. Shermin knew most everything: he used to be a teacher, till he decided he wanted to be a fish, and then he knew how to make himself a fish, which not many people, even teachers, know how to do.

 

"Mr. Shermin," she said, "please, Mr. Shermin, Please wake up."

 

"What? What is it, Mrs. O'Rourke?" he answered drowsily.

 

"How can you sleep with the world this way?"

 

"What? What?" He rubbed his eyes with his fins.

 

"Why just look at these kids; just listen to them."

 

Miss Prysby was saying, "Settle down now, class. Settle down, sit up, and pay attention."

 

The class groaned in chorus.

 

"Miss Prysby," whined Timmy, "Can we go home now?"

 

"But, Timmy, you just got here, and none too soon -- you were ten minutes late."

 

"But can't we go home?" he whined again. "I just want to go home."

 

"Sometimes you kids are just insufferable," she said.

 

"What's 'insupperable' mean, Miss Prysby?" whined Gaynell.

 

"Suffer! Suffer!" exclaimed Miss Prysby in exasperation. "As in 'Suffer the little children.'"

 

"What..." began Gaynell.

 

"No, no, don't ask me that, too."

 

Back in the fishbowl, Mrs. O'Rourke asked, "What is it Mr. Shermin? Whatever is the matter with them?"

 

And Mr. Shermin said, "It's the Humbug."

 

"The Humbug?" asked Mrs. O'Rourke.

 

 

"Yes, the Humbug. He's been flying around beating on his humdrum and disenchanting everybody. I was afraid we'd start to hear him down here. It was just a matter of time."

 

"But where can we go? What can we do?"

 

"Calm down now, Mrs. O'Rourke. Calm down." Mr. Shermin was just as concerned as she was, so he tried really hard to think of some way to break the disenchantment. And since the water around his head started to boil, you could tell that he was getting warm and would soon have an answer. So Mrs. O'Rourke calmed down and cheered up and calmed down -- up down, up down, just like on a sea-saw, only she wasn't at sea, just in a fishbowl, so it wasn't quite as much fun as riding up down on the waves, but she did have a lot of fun waiting for Mr. Shermin to figure out how to get the world back to its usual enchanted self.

 

"The only way to break the disenchantment is to make the Humbug change his tune; but the only person in the whole universe who can make him do that is the Lizard of Oz."

 

"The Lizard?"

 

"You've probably heard of the Wizard of Oz," explained Mr. Shermin. "Everybody's heard of him and his emerald city. You remember how he made people wear green glasses so everything looked green to them, and how it turned out that he was just an ordinary person with no magic powers at all, and that things weren't anywhere near as marvelous without the glasses. Well, that story was written by the Humbug. He wants everybody to think that enchantment is just make-believe or dreams or foolishness. He doesn't want people to know about the Lizard. So he named his story The Wizard of Oz, hoping people would confuse it with the Lizard; and he made it a very good story so everybody would remember it and forget the Lizard; and that's just what happened."

 

"But who is the Lizard of Oz?"

 

"He lives in the green green grass of Ome."

 

"Ome?"

 

"Yes, Ome is the nicest part of Oz, with lakes and trees and lots of grass for kids to roll in."

 

"Can we get there on the MBTA?" asked Mrs. O'Rourke.

 

"The best way to get there is in a little green VW."

 

And Mrs. O'Rourke remembered that Miss Morgan had a little green VW. But before she could ask anything else, she looked up and saw Eugene standing next to the fishbowl.

 

"Can I help?" he asked.

 

"Holy mackerel!" exclaimed Mrs. O'Rourke. "Eugene, you nearly frightened me out of my scales. Mr. Shermin, I thought you said they were all disenchanted?"

 

Mr. Shermin explained, "They've been down here in the basement at school so they haven't heard much of the Humbug, and they're nowhere near as disenchanted as everybody else; though it's sad to say that some of them are pretty far gone."

 

Just then they heard ever so faintly through an open window:

 

"Humdrum Humbug

 

beating on his humdrum;

 

humdrum Humbug

 

beating on his humdrum..."

 

"Quick, Eugene!" shouted Mr. Shermin. "Put cotton in your ears and get everybody to put cotton in theirs. Maybe it's not too late. Maybe you're all just enchanted enough to get to Oz and roll through the green green grass of Ome and find the Lizard and get him to change the Humbug's tune."

 

 

CHAPTER TWO: THE REDCOATS

 

Eugene got everybody to put cotton in their ears, so they couldn't hear the humdrum. Then Mr. Shermin told them why they should all go to Oz and Ome and find the Lizard.

 

It being such a beautiful spring day, Miss Morgan had wanted to take them all on a field trip; so she agreed right away that they should all go to Oz.

 

Kevin didn't want to go. "I'm too big for that kids' stuff."

 

But Miss Prysby said, "The fresh air will do you good." So Kevin had to come too.

 

They all piled into Miss Morgan's little green VW; and that was a very crowded little green VW with Eugene and Mark and Linda S. and Linda Crotty and Donny and Joey and Timmy and Miss Morgan and Kevin and Peter and Miss Prysby and Gaynell and Kathy and Cindy, who got to hold the fishbowl, because she's very careful, and it takes a very careful person to hold a fishbowl when you're sitting on Linda S., and Linda S. is sitting on Eugene, and Kathy is stretched across your belly, and your knees are touching the ceiling. The VW was really rather crowded, but Mr. Shermin had said that the best way to get to Oz is in a little green VW, and Mr. Shermin knows most everything; so there really wasn't anything they could do but all ride in the little green VW.

 

When they got to the first intersection, Miss Morgan hesitated. It didn't particularly matter to her where they went. She was happy just to get out of the classroom for the day. So she decided to play along with Mr. Shermin's story. "Which way is Oz?" she asked.

 

 

And Donny told her, "Just follow the yellow-brick road."

 

"That may sound easy," she said. "But who has ever seen a yellow-brick road?"

 

Mr. Shermin answered, "No trouble, Miss Morgan. No trouble at all. I have a magic coin. I'll flip it at every intersection.

 

Heads we'll turn right. Tails we'll turn left. And if it stands on end, we'll go straight ahead. We'll be to Oz and to Ome in no time."

 

Miss Morgan laughed. She and Miss Prysby never knew quite what to make of him. They had been quite surprised to find this pair of talking fish when they started teaching at Winthrop in the fall. The kids explained that Mr. Shermin was their teacher the year before, and he was one super teacher. He was smart enough to turn himself into a fish, and smart enough to teach Mrs. O'Rourke, who always was a fish, how to talk like a person.

 

No one else in the school knew about Mr. Shermin and Mrs. O'Rourke. The fish never talked when the principal or other teachers or parents or even other kids were around; so Miss Morgan and Miss Prysby didn't tell anyone. They might lose their jobs if they tried to convince people about something so crazy and impossible as talking fish.

 

Besides, Mr. Shermin had a way of telling tales that made all the kids want to read story after story. So they learned to accept and even love Mr. Shermin and Mrs. O'Rourke, not just as magical fish, but as co-teachers.

 

Lately, the fish had been quiet and withdrawn, and the kids had been irritable and ill-behaved. It was good to hear Mr. Shermin again, and have him get the class excited about a field trip.

 

As for Oz, sometimes Miss Morgan thought Mr. Shermin really believed the wild tales he told. She suspected his judgment might be a bit off -- after all, if you had magical power, why would you ever choose to live in a fishbowl?

 

But it was a beautiful day, and the kids, although crowded, were in good spirits. So Miss Morgan decided to do just what Mr. Shermin said.

 

Soon they were blocks and blocks away from school, and nobody knew where they were, except Mr. Shermin. So every once in a while Miss Prysby would ask Mr. Shermin where they were so she could give the class a geography lesson. "Travel is very educational," she said. And she, too, was learning the names of the streets; and she could never have known them if Mr. Shermin hadn't told her, because there weren't any street signs.

 

Mr. Shermin explained, "They built the streets without signs back in the days of the Revolution to confuse the British. Every once in a while you can still see a troop of redcoats marching through the streets. Most people assume that it must be some sort of parade; but no, it's just the redcoats trying to find their way home."

 

"Thank you, Mr. Shermin," Miss Prysby chuckled. "That's very amusing."

 

But the kids all started looking for the redcoats.

 

"Gosh, they look awfully tired," said Donny, adjusting his brand new glasses.

 

"Who?" asked Miss Prysby.

 

"Those guys over there."

 

Miss Prysby strained to see over the pile of kids. "You mean the ones in the red ..."

 

"Yes, the Redcoats."

 

"Mr. Shermin explained, "Yes, of course, Donny. The Redcoats are very tired. They've been marching for two hundred years."

 

The Redcoat Sergeant waved like he wanted to ask something; so Miss Morgan stopped the VW and the Sergeant said, "Pardon me, ma'am, but could ye tell me 'ow to get 'ome from 'ere?"

 

Donny said, "Gosh, they're going the same place we are."

 

Miss Prysby corrected him, "No, Donny, we're going to Ome, but he wants to go home. You see, some of the British don't pronounce their h's; so when they mean to say 'home', they say ''ome'."

 

And Miss Prysby was very pleased that this field trip was turning out to be so educational.

 

But Mr. Shermin said, "Not so fast, Miss Prysby. You never know about these things. It just may be... It just may be ... Tell me, Sergeant, what sort of place is this Ome you're looking for?"

 

The Sergeant didn't answer, so Miss Morgan repeated the question; and he said, "Oh, I long for the green green grass of 'ome."

 

Mr. Shermin explained, "Oh, it's a sad sad case, a sad case indeed. They're all disenchanted and very efficient: you can see how smartly they march after two hundred years of marching; and they can probably go on marching for another two hundred years. But they still remember what Ome is like; and the more disenchanted they get, the more they feel they need to get there. But only enchanted people can ever get there."

 

Miss Morgan told the Sergeant what Mr. Shermin had said, because he was disenchanted and couldn't hear Mr. Shermin himself. The Sergeant didn't seem to understand anything but that they couldn't help him; so all he said was, "Oh-'um," very softly, and the soldiers started marching again, smartly, but wearily, through the unmarked streets.

 

 

CHAPTER THREE: THE POTHOLE

 

So far everybody was just having fun: bouncing up and down with the bumpy road, counting buildings and cars and telephone poles, singing "row row your boat" and "found a peanut" and "the ants are marching one by one." At every intersection, Mr. Shermin flipped his magic coin with his flipper and told Miss Morgan which way to go. Then, just as the ants were marching a thousand by a thousand, the VW came to a sudden stop.

 

"What is it?" asked Gaynell. "I can't see a thing back here."

 

"Gosh," said Donny, who was in the front seat on the very top of the pile of kids on Miss Prysby's lap, "it looks like a pothole, but it's huge. I bet it's big enough to hold at least three VWs."

 

"Donny," warned Miss Prysby, "don't lean out the window."

 

"But, Miss Prysby," he answered, "this hole doesn't have any bottom."

 

Miss Morgan said, "It looks like the road to Oz is closed. Maybe we should go to the Children's Museum instead."

 

But Mr. Shermin said, "No, Miss Morgan, we're right on course. Straight ahead. Drive straight ahead. The magic coin just stood on end and the magic coin is never wrong."

 

Linda S. said, "I've been to the Children's Museum before, and it's a really nice place." Nobody seemed very anxious to drive right into a bottomless pothole.

 

"I don't think driving into bottomless potholes could be very educational," said Miss Prysby. "We all know perfectly well it would be awful. Gaynell, don't lean out the window. Cindy, Kathy, watch what you're doing. How can Miss Morgan drive with children tumbling all over her? Don't ..."

 

Miss Morgan was all set to turn around when Gaynell accidentally tumbled onto her lap and the VW lurched forward and fell.

 

"Gosh," said Donny, "the whole car rolled over."

 

"It's like we're on an elevator," added Gaynell. "Only there aren't any lights to tell us what floor we're on -- no lights at all."

 

"And we're up-side down," said Donny.

 

Miss Prysby, who was on top now and trying very hard not to squash anybody, explained, "No, Donny, you see we're falling very fast and it just seems that we're up-side down."

 

"But it's so dark," said Kathy. "How can you tell if we're right-side up or left-side up or up-side down?"

 

"You're right, Kathy," admitted Miss Prysby. "But if we were right-side up and squashed against the ceiling, something would be very wrong. That would mean that we aren't just falling. If we were just falling, nobody would be squashed. We'd be weightless, like on a spaceship. We'd only be squashed like this if something stronger than gravity had hold of the car and were pulling it down. And in this world, some things, like that, are simply impossible."

 

"Mr. Shermin!" called Miss Morgan.

 

"Yes, Miss Morgan?"

 

"Which way should we go now, Mr. Shermin?"

 

"Ask the next witch you see," he answered confidently.

 

"Witch?"

 

"Down here, where there aren't any streets to turn left or right or straight ahead on, my magic coin isn't much good. But any witch can show us the witch way to Oz."

 

So all the kids started looking for a witch.

 

"Donny!" called Miss Prysby, "don't lean out that window. You know perfectly well there's nothing to see in all that dark."

 

"But what's that over there, Miss Prysby?" asked Donny.

 

"That's a ... a ..."

 

"A witch, dearie," answered the Witch, who was sitting on a bucket and riding a red broomstick. She had headlights on her head, footlights on her feet, and a belly light on her belly.

 

Before Miss Morgan could ask her anything, the Witch said, "So you want to go to Oz?"

 

"How did you know?"

 

"What else would you be doing, flying down a pothole in a little green VW stuffed with sixteen people?"

 

Mark asked, "Why are you sitting on a bucket? It looks awfully uncomfortable."

 

"All the latest models come equipped with bucket seats: you don't have much choice." Then she leaned back, and started flying away.

 

"Wait!" called Miss Morgan. "Miss ... Miss Witch, which way should we go?"

 

The Witch yelled back,

 

"You'll get ahead if you get a head;

 

so go straight ahead,

 

and get an empty head that's gone to pot;

 

then go behind

 

and you will find

 

the spot

 

you have in mind."

 

"Whatever could she mean?" asked Miss Morgan as the witch's lights faded in the distance.

 

"Well, hurry up; do like she said," ordered Mr. Shermin. "Drive straight ahead, or we'll miss the intersection."

 

Miss Morgan couldn't see any intersection or any road, for that matter, and she knew they wouldn't go anywhere if she hit the gas, but she did so all the same.

 

 

CHAPTER FOUR: POTHEAD LAND

 

Suddenly, there was light. Eugene and Mark and Miss Prysby groaned because they were on the bottom again. Cindy screamed because the water had spilled out of the fishbowl; and Kathy shrieked because she was soaking wet and Mr. Shermin and Mrs. O'Rourke were squirming all over her belly.

 

"Help!" hollered Mrs. O'Rourke.

 

"What's going on?" asked Gaynell, wiping water from her face.

 

"Gosh," said Donny, "look at all the funny people."

 

"I don't know who you're talking about, Donny. I can't see from here. But whoever they are, you shouldn't make fun of them," Miss Prysby corrected him. "You shouldn't make fun of anyone."

 

"But it looks like a bunch of flowerpots walking around," he answered.

 

"Really?" asked Timmy.

 

Kathy and Gaynell giggled.

 

Miss Morgan asked, "Where are we, Mr. Shermin? You got us here. Can you explain what's going on?"

 

"Well, if I don't miss my guess, this must be Pothead Land. Here, everybody has flowerpots instead of heads; and since they can't see where they're going, they're tripping all the time ..."

 

"What's that one?" asked Gaynell, pulling herself up to the window.

 

"That's a cute little pot-bellied pothead," said Kathy. "He just tripped. I hope he didn't hurt himself."

 

"Gosh, he's covered with mud," Donny said.

 

"We're down to earth people," replied the Pothead, as he tried to get back on his feet. "Earthenware is our natural dress. That and wonderwhere."

 

"Wonderwhere?"

 

"Yes, I wonder where my head's at."

 

"Oh, there's a water fountain," said Miss Morgan, opening the door and letting everyone out. "We'd better fill up the fishbowl for Mr. Shermin and Mrs. O'Rourke."

 

As they walked over to the fountain, Miss Prysby read the sign, "'Potable water.' 'Potable.' That's a good long word for you to learn today. It means it's clean enough to drink and clean enough for Mr. Shermin and Mrs. O'Rourke."

 

So Cindy, who was carrying the fishbowl, stepped up to the fountain.

 

"Not so fast," said the Pot-bellied Pothead. "That's a potable water fountain."

 

"Yes, I know," said Cindy, and she smiled; and Miss Prysby smiled, too, because Cindy learned the lesson. But when Cindy went to fill the fishbowl, the water wouldn't go in; it just splashed all over her till she was nearly as wet as Kathy.

 

"I told you so. That's a potable water fountain. It'll only pour water into pots."

 

"Well, what can we do?" asked Miss Morgan.

 

"You'll just have to find somebody empty-headed enough to help."

 

"But..."

 

"Wow!" Mark interrupted.

 

"Gosh," asked Donny, "what's this one?"

 

"Yes, what is it, Mr. Shermin?" asked Miss Morgan, staring in disbelief.

 

"Quite clearly, that's an empty-headed pothead. Can't you see? He's petaling an icicle, and his head's low so he can go faster."

 

"Petaling an icicle?" asked Miss Morgan.

 

"Yes, of course. Can't you see? He's sitting on an icicle, and the wheels are huge sunflowers."

 

"Mister, why doesn't the icicle melt?" asked Mark.

 

"It's cool, man, cool."

 

"How do you get it to go so fast?"

 

"That's flower-power, man, real flower-power."

 

"Pardon me, sir," asked Miss Morgan, "I noticed that your head, I mean, you pot was empty, and..."

 

"Yes, it's empty. And don't go making fun of it either. Some of these guys'll put anything in their head just to have something there; but I've been waiting till I find something worth putting in."

 

"Well, if it wouldn't inconvenience you, we'd greatly appreciate it if you'd help us fill our fishbowl."

 

"Fishbowl? You mean to say fish are drowning because they don't have any water to breathe? Why didn't you say so?"

 

In a minute, Mr. Shermin and Mrs. O'Rourke were breathing freely in a bowl full of fresh, clean water.

 

Gaynell recited,

 

"You'll get ahead if you get a head

 

so go straight ahead

 

and get an empty head that's gone to pot,

 

then go behind

 

and you will find

 

the spot

 

you have in mind."

 

She was very proud that she remembered all of the Witch's poem.

 

"That's the one," said Mr. Shermin.

 

"The what?" asked the empty pothead.

 

"The empty head that's gone to pot. You're the one the Witch told us to find and take back.

 

"Witch? You mean one of those old ladies that ride around on broomsticks? You've got to be kidding, man, you've got to be kidding. That's just too far out."

 

"Well, come along with us and take a look for yourself," suggested Mr. Shermin. "Just hop up on top of the car. We'll take you places you've never dreamed of."

 

So the empty pothead left his icicle and hopped on the VW, and they all went riding back to where they came from.

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER FIVE: SIR REAL

 

Soon the VW fell into another deep dark pothole.

 

"Man, this is some trip," said the empty-headed pothead as he clung to the roof of the VW.

 

"Hey, there's the witch again!" shouted Donny.

 

"Wow! What a broomstick," said Mark. "Look at that thing go."

 

"Please, Miss Witch, please," pleaded Miss Morgan, as the witch whizzed past, "please stop and tell us ..."

 

 

The witch called back, just before she faded from sight,

 

"For a real meal

 

see Sir Real;

 

then egghead south

 

to the mouth

 

of the Nile

 

and find the tooth

 

the whole tooth

 

and nothing but the tooth

 

for smiles and smiles

 

till suffer-time."

 

"Well," said Miss Prysby, "maybe we'll finally get something to eat. It seems like we've been on the road forever. I could use a 'real meal.'"

 

"Oh, I do wish she'd explain herself," said Miss Morgan.

 

"Quick, do as she said," urged Mr. Shermin. "Don't wait around. Hit the gas, or we'll miss the intersection."

 

Miss Morgan hit the gas, then right away, she hit the brakes, and the car stalled. Somebody was standing in the middle of the road.

 

"Gosh," said Donny, "that must be the cereal, like the Witch said. He's got a bowl of raisin bran instead of a head."

 

"The name is Sir Real," said the man. "And that's not ordinary cereal up there -- that's raisin brain."

 

"Certainly, sir, certainly," said Miss Prysby. "Donny didn't mean to insult you. He just sees things the way they are; I mean, the way he's used to seeing them. He's got a lot to learn. We all have a lot to learn. But could you please tell us where we could find a restaurant? You see, we're going to Oz and Ome, and it's rather a long trip, and we're all very hungry."

 

"Well," answered Sir Real, "you can get plenty of food for thought in the library, just on the other side of the block."

 

"What block?" asked Donny. "I don't see any block."

 

"Naturally, it's a mental block. Just do as I say, and we'll be there in a minute."

 

So Sir Real climbed on top of the VW, next to the Empty-Headed Pothead, and Miss Morgan hit the gas.

 

"Welcome aboard, mister," said the Pothead.

 

"The name is 'Sir Real,' son."

 

"Yes, siree, this is some trip."

 

"I don't believe I caught your name, son."

 

"I don't believe I have one."

 

"No name?"

 

"People call me 'Empty' because of my empty flowerpothead. But that's just till I find something worth putting in it."

 

"A commendable ambition, I'm sure," said Sir Real, somewhat put off that he had to sit next to such a crude character. "Miss," he called to Miss Morgan. "Speed it up, please. It's not far at all. Just left, then left again, right, left, right, up, down, around, and we'll be there in no time."

 

"Excuse me, Mr. Real," she asked, "what was that again?"

 

"That's 'Sir,' miss, 'Sir Real.'"

 

"Yeah, man," said Empty, "that's Sir Real all right."

 

"You're doing just fine, miss. Just another left, right, up, down, around."

 

"But that's impossible," said Miss Morgan.

 

"Of course, miss. How could it be a mental block if it didn't

 

seem impossible?"

 

 

CHAPTER SIX: EGGHEAD LAND

 

"Gosh," said Donny, "we must be getting near the restaurant. I see food walking all over the place."

 

"Yes, the Library's not far, my boy, not far at all. But those are people: eggheads, to be exact."

 

The car stopped and the kids all piled out.

 

"To be or not to be? -- that is the question," boomed a deep voice."

 

"Who's that?" asked Mark.

 

"Looks like an omelet," said Donny.

 

"Yes, indeed," confirmed Sir Real. "That's Omelet, Prince of Denmark. He and his cousins, the scrambled eggs, like to read their books up-side down. They tend to be a bit gloomy, a mite over-done. The young ladies who are sunbathing while they read are cheery sunny-side-up eggs. The ones reading the business news are mostly hard-boiled."

 

"Who is that leaning against the wall?" asked Gaynell. "He must be the saddest egghead in the whole world."

 

Sir Real explained, "That's Humpty Dumpty. He's in the dumps right now. Really depressed. You see, he's in love with a wallflower, that light blue one right up there on top of the wall. He and she had been sitting up there for years, never paying any attention to each other, just watching people go by and reading good stories. Then one day, by accident, they got to talking; and Humpty fell for her, fell all the way down to the ground. And when he saw that he couldn't climb back up, he was all broken up about it. And there he's sat ever since."

 

"Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall," recited Kathy and Gaynell.

 

"Humpty Dumpty had a great fall."

 

"Gaynell, Kevin, don't climb those trees," called Miss Prysby. "Linda Crotty, this is no time to go wandering off. Timmy get down off that wall."

 

But Timmy stayed on the wall and walked right up to the wallflower, "Can I take it home?" he asked. He was all set to reach out and pick it.

 

"No, Timmy," said Miss Prysby, "this is a very special flower. She has thoughts and feelings just like you and me, and it wouldn't be right to hurt her."

 

"You're so nice to protect me," said the Wallflower. "But what's the use? I was just a quiet little flower before I met Humpty. I was too scared to ever say a word. All I wanted was just for nobody to pick me or step on me. And since I was on top of a wall, not many people walked near me. And since I was so homely, not many people would want to pick me. And the homelier I was the safer I'd be. Every day was just the same as another; but at least I was safe. And then I got to know Humpty, and everything was different, and I came to life and started to talk. And more than anything in the world I wanted him to pick me, even if it would be the death of me. But just as he started to reach for me, he tottered and fell. And I've been so alone and miserable that I just can't go on. And I'd be glad if anybody, just anybody would pick me and end it all."

 

"I wish I could help, miss," said Miss Prysby. "But I've never read anything about how to cheer up sad little wallflowers."

 

"I've got an idea," said Kathy.

 

"What is it?" asked Miss Prysby.

 

Kathy whispered to her. Then the two of them whispered to Mr. Shermin.

 

"Brilliant, my dear, brilliant!" he exclaimed. "Kathy, you lead the empty flowerpothead over to the wall."

 

"Watch out now, Kathy," warned Miss Prysby. "Remember, he can't see where he's going, and if he trips, he might hurt himself."

 

"Mark, Eugene, fill that empty flowerpothead with some good rich dirt," ordered Mr. Shermin. "Timmy, dig up the little blue wallflower -- very gently. Be sure not to hurt the roots."

 

Soon they had planted the Little Blue Wallflower in the flowerpot. Then Cindy poured in some of the water from the fishbowl.

 

Suddenly, the pothead started staggering. Miss Prysby and Mark and Eugene and Kathy, who were all right there, tried to hold him up. And Humpty got up for the first time since his fall and came running to help.

 

"Heavy, man, heavy. Where's my head at?" And he reached for the flowerpot like he wanted to lift a great weight from his shoulders.

 

"Somebody stop him!" shouted Miss Prysby. "Fast! He looks like he's going to pull his head off."

 

Only they couldn't stop him. With a sudden yank, he did rip the flowerpot right off.

 

Joey and Peter and Linda Crotty screamed and hid their eyes.

 

"Gosh," said Donny, "he's got another head. Can you do that again, mister?"

 

Miss Prysby said, "What beautiful blue eyes he has."

 

Mr. Shermin said, "Those are blue irises."

 

"Yes," explained Miss Prysby, "the iris is the part of the eye that is colored." She was very pleased that Mr. Shermin had reminded her so she could tell the class.

 

Mr. Shermin went on, "The iris is a kind of flower, too. That little blue wallflower is an iris; and it looks like it was planting the iris in his empty head that made it so the pothead could see."

 

"Man, I feel like a new man," said the former pothead as he handed Humpty the flowerpot.

 

Mr. Shermin said, "Well, that's what we'll call you then, Mr. New Man."

 

"He looks just like Paul Newman," said Miss Prysby.

 

Kathy and Gaynell giggled, and Miss Prysby blushed.

 

"Paul Newman? Who's that?" asked Empty. "Some football player or something?"

 

"No," said Mr. Shermin, "that's your new name. With a new head, it's only right that you have a new name.

 

"But Paul Newman?" he asked.

 

"I'm sure that one day you'll make that name famous," said Mr. Shermin.

 

Meanwhile, the Little Blue Wallflower and Humpty Dumpty were very happy to be together again. They thanked Miss Prysby and Mr. Newman and the rest of the class time and again.

 


 

 

CHAPTER SEVEN: THE LIBRARY

 

"Man, I'm hungry," said Paul Newman.

 

"Yes," echoed Miss Prysby, "it is high time we got something to eat."

 

"No problem at all," said Sir Real. "Right this way, folks." He walked through a door in the wall. Nobody had noticed the door before, but there it was -- wide open. Everybody ran in, because everybody was very hungry.

 

Donny said, "Gosh, this isn't a restaurant. There's nothing but books."

 

"Here's something," said Kathy. "Miss Prysby, do you have any salt and pepper? I just found the biggest most perfectly delicious looking piece of bacon in the whole world."

 

Everybody rushed forward to get a piece of the bacon.

 

"Cannibals! Barbarians!" hollered the bacon. "Whoever let this horde of ruffians into my library?"

 

Sir Real introduced him, "This is Mr. Bacon, Mr. Francis Bacon, the librarian."

 

"Excuse us, Mr. Bacon," said Miss Prysby. "We didn't mean any harm. We're just a class on a field trip to Oz, a very educational trip. We're all very hungry; and when we asked the way to a restaurant, this gentleman directed us here. Apparently, there's been some mistake."

 

"No mistake, no mistake at all," insisted Mr. Bacon. "The library is the best place to get food for thought. Help yourself. We have a wide selection. Some books are to be tasted, others swallowed, and some few chewed and digested."

 

Eugene grabbed the first book in sight, ripped out a page and started chewing it. "This doesn't taste much like food," he said.

 

"Barbarians! Absolute barbarians!" Mr. Bacon was sizzling with anger. "Didn't anyone ever teach you how to eat a book?" He picked up a little book from his desk and read, "'Once upon a space there was a time, a cute little time; her name was Now.' That's how to eat a book," he said.

 

"But that's just reading," said Miss Prysby. "That could never satisfy these hungry children."

 

"And why not?" asked Mr. Bacon. "I myself find it very satisfying."

 

"Hey, Miss Prysby," said Timmy, "here's one all about Huckleberry Finn and his dog, Huckleberry Hound."

 

"Yeah," said Eugene, "get this one will you -- The Quest for the Golden Fleas. Now, why would anybody want fleas -- even golden ones?"

 

Timmy suggested, "Maybe what they really want is the dog who has the fleas."

 

"What?" asked Eugene.

 

"Well," answered Timmy, in all seriousness, "maybe it's a golden retriever."

 

Meanwhile, Mr. Newman asked Miss Prysby, "What's all this stuff about books?"

 

"Oh, that's right, Paul. You wouldn't know, would you? You never learned to read when you were a flowerpothead."

 

"What do you mean 'read'? What's it all about?"

 

"All these books tell stories."

 

"What stories?"

 

"Well, here's one that tells about a little prince and how he loved a rose, just like Humpty Dumpty loves the Little Blue Wallflower."

 

"I guess there are lots of flower children in the world. And what about this one here?"

 

"I don't know that story. But it says on the cover that it's all about King Arthur and Sir Ridesalot and the other Knights of the Merry-Go-Round Table."

 

"And this one?"

 

"That's the story Mr. Bacon just read from. It's called 'Now and Then.' And here's a whole stock of stories by the same author -- 'Julie's Book: the Little Princess,' 'Mary Jane's Book: the Book of Animals,' and 'The Little Oops Named Ker Plop.' There's even a big one called The Lizard of Oz."

 

Soon all the kids were reading and had forgotten all about food.

 

"Miss Morgan," said Donny, "just look at this. It's about the Trojan Rockinghorse and how people traded a whole city just for a chance to ride on it."

 

"Rockinghorse?" asked Miss Morgan.

 

"Yeah, and here's another story about a huge amusement park built by the same company. They call it The Oddest Sea, and it looks like it's even better than Disneyland."

 

"The Oddest Sea?"

 

"Yeah, have you ever heard of it? You go sailing from one funny land to another, and there are all sorts of wild rides and monsters along the way. There's even a Circus Island where you not only get to look at the animals, you get to be an animal yourself. Can we go there, Miss Morgan? Can we, please?"

 

"That's something new on me, Donny," she admitted. "I'll have to read up on it."

 

"Help me first, Miss Morgan, please," asked Kathy. "I've been reading this story..."

 

"Yes, I see -- A Midsummer Night's Dream."

 

"Yes, it's all about this magic potion that makes people fall in love with the first person they see. I want to find out where I can buy some of that love potion."

 

"Miss Morgan, Miss Morgan," Gaynell interrupted.

 

"Yes?"

 

"Oh, Miss Morgan, isn't it wonderful that there are lots of rabbitholes and potholes in the world so people can fall through them to other worlds and have adventures to tell good stories about."

 

Nearby, Mr. Bacon and Sir Real were discussing the state of the world. "Have you eaten today's news?" asked Mr. Bacon.

 

"Yes, and I'm fed up with it," replied Sir Real. "Things just keep getting wars and wars and more wars."

 

"It's hard to say just what it'll all lead to," added Miss Morgan. "Only time will tell."

 

"Now, Miss Morgan, where did you get that silly notion?" asked Mr. Bacon. "You should tell time; not wait for it to tell you. What do you go to school for but to learn to tell time?"

 

"Well," she admitted, "I really couldn't say..."

 

A big bearded man joined them, "What is the world coming to? Children and even grownups ... Just look at this one here -- the big one with the scruffy hair they call 'Mr. Newman.' Just look at them all -- reading fantasy, fairy tales, fables and legends. You'd think there was nothing serious or important in the world, nothing worth seeing or doing, nothing worth studying and changing."

 

"Oh, Miss Morgan," said Sir Real, "I'd like you to meet Mr. Marx, a frequent visitor at the library."

 

"How do you do, Mr. Marx?"

 

"Are these your children, miss?"

 

"Yes, Mr. Marx, they are my pupils."

 

"Then why do you let them befoul their minds with this trivia, this fantasy. Why not set them to studying the problems of the world, problems of social and economic injustice?"

 

"But, surely, you must admit that stories are important for children?"

 

"Only insofar as they relate to the real world."

 

"Mr. Marx?" asked Mark.

 

"Yes, son?"

 

"Are you one of the Marx Brothers?"

 

"The Marx Brothers?"

 

"You know. The guys who make jokes."

 

"No, son. My field is history and economics. And that's no joke."

 

"Can you teach me economics?" asked Kathy. Please, Mr. Marx. Mommy says that the more economical you are, the more you can buy. And I want to buy lots of things. So I want to learn lots of economics."

 

"No, my dear. You mean 'home economics.' That's another field altogether."

 

"Oh, do you teach Ome economics instead?"

 

"No, no. You see, economics isn't just a matter of what you buy in the store. It's a very complicated subject, dealing with such things as work and money and class."

 

"We're a class."

 

"Yes, yes, but I mean a different kind of class, like the working class."

 

"We work pretty hard, don't we, Miss Morgan?"

 

"You certainly do," she answered.

 

"I'm sure you do," Mr. Marx continued. "But, you see, the way society is now, there are many classes -- economic barriers determining the kind of life a man can lead. But one day there will be a classless society."

 

Eugene asked, "You mean we won't go to school anymore?"

 

"You'd like that wouldn't you?" Mr. Marx replied indulgently.

 

"No, I like school. Miss Morgan, they aren't going to stop us from going to school, are they?"

 

"No, my boy," said Mr. Marx. "Nobody's going to stop you from going to school. All I mean is that someday there will be justice in the world."

 

Donny said, "You mean the good guys will get goodies, and the bad guys will get spanked?"

 

"Something like that."

 

"And everybody will live happily ever after?" asked Kathy.

 

"Now, look, children," Said Mr. Marx. "I'm not talking about fairy tales. I'm talking about the real world."

 

"You mean you're not talking about the Underworld?" asked Donny.

 

"Underworld?"

 

"You know," Donny explained, "like in the book The Oddest Sea -- the place where there are judges and everybody ..."

 

Just then, the clock struck three.

 

"My goodness," said Miss Morgan. "It's getting late. Come along now, children. We have to be going."

 

"But, Miss Morgan ..." said Eugene.

 

"It's three o'clock," she insisted. "I'm sure your parents are wondering where you are."

 

"Gee whiz," said Timmy, "I was just getting to the good part."

 

"Now, you heard Miss Morgan," added Miss Prysby. "It's time to go."

 

"Can't we stay a little longer?" pleaded Gaynell.

 

"Please?" added Kathy.

 

"I don't want to go anymore than you do," said Miss Prysby, "but three o'clock is three o'clock."

 

"Thank you very much, Mr. Bacon, Sir Real, and Mr. Marx," said Miss Morgan. "It was so nice meeting you. Thank you for showing us around and explaining things. We all had a good time, and I'm sure we'll be coming back soon."

 

"But, Miss Morgan," asked Eugene, "what about our trip to Oz and to Ome? What about the Humbug and the disenchantment? Don't we still have to save the world?"

 

"I'm sorry, Eugene, but the world will just have to wait another day to be saved. It's high time we got you children home ... Oh, Cindy, don't forget the fishbowl. We don't want to leave Mr. Shermin and Mrs. O'Rourke behind.

 

All Miss Morgan and Miss Prysby could think of was that it was late, and they pulled the kids away from their books and herded them back into the little green VW. So off they went: two teachers, twelve kids, two talking fish in the car, and Mr. Newman riding on the roof.

 

 

CHAPTER EIGHT: BIG MACK

 

Miss Morgan was sure that all she had to do to get back to Winthrop was to do everything in reverse. So she backed up and once again fell into a pothole. But this time the VW started flying up, like it was on an elevator.

 

Miss Morgan was sure that meant they were heading back to Winthrop this time. She was very proud that she had learned so much about the world that she didn't have to ask Mr. Shermin which way to go. "Yes," she thought, "Miss Prysby is right -- travel is very educational."

 

"Donny," chided Miss Prysby, "how many times do I have to tell you? Don't lean out the window. Gaynell, don't..."

 

Just then Gaynell tumbled onto Miss Morgan's lap, the wheel turned, the car lurched, and suddenly they were lost in another land. It was dark and smoggy. There was water on the ground, and the air tasted awful.

 

"This place is spooky," whispered Gaynell.

 

"I want to go home," murmured Peter.

 

Donny was the first to step outside the car. "Gosh," he said, "this must be the Underworld -- just like in that book, The Oddest Sea."

 

A deep voice boomed from the nearby shadows, "What's going on here?"

 

"Nothing, sir, really," answered Miss Morgan. "We're just trying to get home to Winthrop."

 

"Well, what are you doing in my sewer?" the huge shadowy figure took several steps closer, splashing hard in the puddles.

 

"This is the Underworld, isn't it?" asked Donny. "Are you Achilles the Heel?"

 

"No, I never heard of the guy. I'm Mack the Knife -- Big Mack to you, kid."

 

"He sure is big," whispered Kathy.

 

"Even bigger than that bacon back there," Gaynell answered softly.

 

"Pipe down over there!" Mack yelled at the girls. "Now you," he said, glaring at Donny. "What's this you know about the Underworld?"

 

"Well, there's a ferryboat and a three-headed dog and a courtroom where they give out goodies."

 

"Courtroom?" asked Mack.

 

"Yes, the good guys get the goodies, and the bad guys get spanked and..."

 

"What are you driving at, kid?"

 

"Well, that's the way it is in the Underworld," Donny insisted bravely.

 

"And how do you get to this Underworld you're talking about?"

 

"Most people get there by dying, I think."

 

"Well, you get here by trying to stay alive. And that's not easy kid, believe me."

 

"Gosh," admitted Donny, "then this can't be the real Underworld."

 

"It's real, all right. This knife here isn't make-believe, kid. And these scars aren't, either. And we've seen plenty of dead people around here. But I don't mess around with three-headed dogs. And I've never heard of any thug named 'Achilles the Heel.' Are you with some gang, kid? Did somebody tell you to tell me that? Are you talking some kind of code, kid? "

 

As Mack glared down at Donny, Paul Newman stepped between them. "Look, Mack, don't pick on the kid."

 

"And who do you think you are, buster?"

 

"Well, man, that's a tough question. You see, they call me Newman, Paul Newman. But I'm not sure who that is, I mean, who I am yet."

 

"What the..."

 

Miss Prysby, too, stepped up and added nervously, "Oh, pardon Paul. He means no harm. And Donny, too. They've just been reading a lot lately, and they're very suggestible. But we really do need your help, sir."

 

"Yes," said Miss Morgan, quickly joining them, "you see, Mr. Mack, we're a class on our way home from a field trip to Oz and to Ome, and we've lost our way. And we'd greatly appreciate it if you could show us the way back to Winthrop."

 

"Lost? Have things gotten that bad up there? You mean, you can't tell the difference between the sewer and the street? And who are these other guys?"

 

"Gosh, it's the Redcoats!" exclaimed Donny.

 

Indeed, the Redcoats were splashing steadily toward them out of the gloom.

 

"The what?" asked Mack

 

"The Redcoats," explained Miss Morgan. "We met them before. They've been lost for two hundred years. Now, I guess, we're just as lost as they are."

 

The Sergeant, too, stepped up to Mack. "Pardon me, sir; but could ye tell me 'ow to get 'ome from 'ere?"

 

"Okay, buddy, okay. This is getting ridiculous. You've got no business down here. Just because your world's falling apart doesn't give you the right to come barging in on mine. It may be a filthy sewer, and I may hate it; but I'm not about to share it with anybody. Turf's turf, and this is my turf. Go look for your home or your Ome someplace else.

 

"But, Mr. Mack," pleaded Miss Morgan, "how can we get out of here?"

 

"Right up this pipe. Just follow me. And no snooping along the way."

 

So Mack the Knife led the class and the redcoats through the slushy murky mess that was the Underworld.

 

"Paul," whispered Miss Prysby as they followed Mack in the VW, "I can't say this is exactly my idea of a field trip. There's nothing very educational about driving through a sewer pipe."

 

"Yeah, man. This is sure some pipe dream."

 

Soon they found themselves in a town that looked very much like Winthrop: the same kinds of hamburger stands and gas stations and ice cream shops.

 

By now, Miss Morgan couldn't hear Mr. Shermin, and Mr. Shermin was sure that she was disenchanted. So Mr. Shermin flipped his magic coin with this flipper and told Eugene which way to go, and Eugene told Miss Morgan. She still thought it was silly to try to find your way by flipping a coin, but she followed the directions anyway, because she was sure they'd soon come across a street she knew -- everything looked so familiar. So off they went through the unmarked streets, with the Redcoats running hopefully behind.

 

 

CHAPTER NINE -- PRINCE FROG

 

On they went, through the winding streets, until in the middle of a dark woods, the road suddenly ended. It was night, and the woods were dense and wild and scary. The class could hear crickets and locusts and frogs, and nobody knew where they were.

 

"I can't understand it. I was sure I knew just where we were. But here we're lost again. We'll just have to turn around and try again, children," said Miss Morgan. "Your parents must be frantic by now. But we can't be far from home. I know we can't."

 

Suddenly, they heard a voice that seemed to come from a bush, "Hello, miss, can I help you?"

 

Miss Prysby screamed.

 

Mr. Newman, who was still riding on the roof of the car, reassured her, "Don't worry, Miss Prysby. I'll protect you."

 

Gaynell whispered from the bottom of the pile of kids, "What is it, Kathy? I can't see a thing down here."

 

"It's a tall handsome prince," answered Kathy.

 

"How can you tell?" asked Gaynell.

 

"He has a crown on, so I can tell he's a prince. And even with nothing at all on, I can tell that he's very handsome."

 

The kids started giggling.

 

Indeed, a tall, handsome, naked prince was standing right by Miss Morgan's window.

 

Miss Morgan just sat there, staring for the longest while, without saying anything. So the prince said, "My name's Prince Frog."

 

Miss Morgan said, "I'm Miss Morgan, I mean Judy. Pleased to meet you." She got out of the car and shook his hand politely.

 

"Enchanted," replied the prince.

 

Then Timmy asked, "Gee, Miss Morgan, aren't you ever going to ask him how to get home from here?"

 

Miss Prysby whispered loudly, "Let's get out of here, Judy." Then she said louder, "Judy." Then she shouted, "Judy!" Then she called up to the roof, "Paul, she doesn't even hear me!"

 

Mr. Newman answered, "Maybe he's some sort of magician, and he's put her under a spell."

 

"Now, Paul, you know there's no such thing as magic."

 

Miss Morgan and the prince were standing very close to one another, looking very quietly into one another's eyes.

 

Donny said, "Gosh," and looked the other way.

 

Eugene laughed and said, "Go ahead and kiss him."

 

They probably didn't hear anyone, but in a minute, without either of them seeming to move, they were kissing.

 

Suddenly the prince turned into a frog. Miss Morgan would have screamed, but she had a frog on her throat.

 

"You don't love me?" The frog was hopping mad; so he hopped right down to the ground.

 

Donny said, "Gosh, that was neat. Can you do that again?"

 

"Mr. Shermin! Mr. Shermin!" shouted Mrs. O'Rourke.

 

"Calm down now, Mrs. O'Rourke," said Mr. Shermin. "Calm down."

 

"But Mr. Shermin," Mrs. O'Rourke persisted, "the prince just turned into a frog, and he's the handsomest frog I've ever seen."

 

Meanwhile the frog told Miss Morgan, "All these years I've been looking for somebody who'd love me, and I did everything imaginable to make myself so somebody would love me. I even changed myself into a prince, which not many frogs can do. And I thought finally it had worked, and you had fallen in love with me, and I could relax and go back to being a frog again and live happily ever after. But you didn't really love me." And he sobbed big frog tears.

 

Miss Morgan felt sorry for the frog and felt bad about making him so sad. "Didn't you like being a prince?" she asked, and smiled, hoping that maybe he'd turn himself into a prince again.

 

"Well, I feel sort of amphibian about it. I don't really know what I want to be. It's so good to be loved, at least I'm sure it must be; but then it's so comfortable being a frog. I think I'll go down to the river and croak."

 

"No, don't do that."

 

"Everybody croaks sooner or later. Frogs just do it more often."

 

Miss Morgan could tell that he was getting really depressed, and she was getting depressed herself. So she said, "We were trying to get home, and the road suddenly ended, and we'd very much appreciate it if you could show us a way out of here."

 

"You passed a way a few miles back," he said.

 

"We didn't see it."

 

"Well, you must have passed a way. Nobody ever gets to the Underworld without passing away."

 

"The Underworld?" she asked. "Not Mack the Knife again ..."

 

"Mack the who? Well, whoever you want, you can meet him in the Underworld. If he isn't there now, just wait a while."

 

"Is this the Underworld?"

 

"We're very close," he said. "We just have to go down to the river. Maybe you can give me a lift. Just keep going."

 

"Well, I guess we have no choice. Which way is it?"

 

"Any way at all. All paths lead there sooner or later."

 

So the frog hopped into the fishbowl, and Miss Morgan decided to take him to the river because she felt she owed him something and because she didn't know where else to go.

 

"Didn't I tell you, Mr. Shermin?" said Mrs. O'Rourke. "Isn't he the handsomest frog you've ever seen?"

 

 

CHAPTER TEN -- THE RIVER

 

There where the road ended, windy paths just wide enough for a VW branched and branched again through the woods.

 

Miss Morgan didn't know what to expect, the way things had been going. The kids, who were tired of being crowded in the car, wanted to walk with the Redcoats, and Miss Morgan was too tired to chase them all down. So she just drove very slowly, taking this path, then that, at random.

 

Miss Prysby was bewildered by the prince turning into a frog. She didn't know how to explain it. She just sat in the car, and Mr. Newman sat beside her.

 

On the way to the river, the woods were full of wild flowers, Mr. Newman started asking her about them, and the kids started picking them and bringing them back to the car. Soon she was teaching the whole class about flowers.

 

Kathy picked daisies and pulled off petals. "He loves me. He loves me not ..." But no matter which way it came out, she picked another one and did it again.

 

Gaynell stuck forgetmenots all through her hair.

 

Linda S. picked sunflowers and stuck some on the sides of the car to give it flower power. She gave a big one to Mr. Newman. It was almost as tall as he was. He stuck it in a buttonhole, and the stem went all the way down through his left pantleg and into his shoe, and the sunny top was up by his right ear.

 

When they arrived at the river, Miss Morgan asked Cindy for the fishbowl. "Prince, I mean, Mr. Frog, Prince Frog," Miss Morgan asked, "now where do we go from here?"

 

But the frog didn't answer. He just croaked and hopped out of the fishbowl into the river.

 

"No, please don't go away without telling us..." she pleaded.

 

Then Mrs. O'Rourke, who had been getting along swimmingly with the frog, croaked too and jumped in after him.

 

"No, not Mrs. O'Rourke, too," cried Miss Morgan.

 

Mr. Shermin said, "I must admit, I'm feeling a bit amphibian myself. One can get awfully lonely in a fishbowl."

 

"Please, Mr. Shermin," said Miss Morgan. Please stay. How could we ever find our way out of the woods without you?"

 

"Who's that guy over there on the raft?" asked Donny.

 

"All aboard!" the stranger hollered.

 

Timmy walked right up to him and asked, "Are you Huckleberry Finn?"

 

"No, Charon's the name?" he replied, "Mr. Charon the ferryboatman. Where do you want to go?"

 

Miss Morgan answered, "We want to go home."

 

And the Redcoat Sergeant asked, "Could you please tell us 'ow to get 'ome from 'ere?"

 

"Home or Ome," Mr. Charon answered, "I wouldn't want to go either place myself. But then everyone to his own taste, and either way it's quite an undertaking; so I guess you'll need me to take you under."

 

"Under where?" asked Miss Morgan.

 

"Under the world, of course. I'm the undertaker. Mr. Charon's the name."

 

"But why should we go under the world?" she asked. "We just want to go home."

 

"Do you know where you are or how you got here or where to go next?"

 

"No, that's why I asked you."

 

"Yes, yes, the same old story, but if I understand, it doesn't do you any good. You've got to understand yourself; so I've got to take you down under the world so you can stand under it and understand it. That's my job. Let's get on with it. But first you'll have to pay the toll."

 

"Toll?"

 

"Yes, of course. Do you think I work for nothing? That'll be one magic coin please."

 

"But..." began Miss Morgan.

 

"Mister," asked Donny, "do you know Achilles the Heel?"

 

"Of course, son," answered Mr. Charon.

 

"And the three-headed dog?"

 

"You mean the underdog?"

 

"Underdog?"

 

"Yes, Sir Berus is his name. He guards the Underworld. He makes sure that nobody gets in without paying the toll."

 

"This guy's the real thing, Miss Morgan," said Donny. "We'd better give him the magic coin."

 

"What magic coin?" asked Miss Morgan.

 

"He means the one Mr. Shermin flips to tell us which way to go," explained Eugene.

 

"Mr. Shermin, do you think you could... ?" asked Miss Morgan.

 

"Yes, Miss Morgan," Mr. Shermin answered. "No trouble. No trouble at all."

 

Mr. Shermin gave his magic coin a big flip with his flipper, and it flew right out of the fishbowl, onto the ground, and stood on end. So Miss Morgan drove the VW straight ahead onto the ferryboat. The kids all ran aboard, then the Redcoats. Then Mr. Charon gave a big push with his pole, and the raft went speeding down the river.

 

 

CHAPTER ELEVEN: THE UNDERWORLD

 

When they reached the opposite bank, they saw a huge dog with three heads. Linda Crotty and Peter hid in Miss Morgan's lap; and everybody else, even Miss Prysby and Mr. Newman, went scurrying to the far end of the raft, nearly tipping it over. Everybody, that is, except Timmy, who walked right up to him and held out his hand and let the dog lick it with all three tongues.

 

Soon all the kids ran ashore and crowded close so they could get a chance to pet the dog.

 

Then Kathy started giggling and whispered to Gaynell; and Gaynell started giggling and whispered to Kathy; and finally Kathy asked, "Mister, why are you walking around in your underwear?" Both Kathy and Gaynell blushed and giggled some more.

 

The man in underwear answered, "Of course I'm in underwear. What else would you wear in the Underworld?"

 

Kathy was still puzzled, "Somehow that just doesn't seem right."

 

"But of course it's right," he answered. "Everybody here writes. Perhaps you've heard of me. I'm Lewis Carroll."

 

"Yes," said Gaynell. "I remember that story you wrote about your friend Alice and how she fell down into the ground through a rabbithole."

 

"That's right. And the gentleman over there is William Shakespeare. And the one fishing on the riverbank is Mark Twain."

 

"Miss Prysby," asked Paul Newman, "what's going on? What's it all about? Who are these guys, anyway?"

 

"It's all very confusing, Paul," she answered. "They seem to be writers, writers who have been dead for many years. I don't understand how they got here; or how we got here. But I'm sure it could be quite educational talking to them."

 

Timmy walked up to Mark Twain and stared at him for a while and finally asked, "Mister ... Mister Twain, what's that you're eating?"

 

"Huckleberries, of course," answered Mr. Twain. "Here, try some. Just pull up some ground and cool your feet in the water. Don't be afraid. It's a friendly river. When you get to know it, you'll feel like you've always lived near it, even before you can remember."

 

Meanwhile, Kathy walked up to Shakespeare and asked him, "Mr. Shakespeare, could you please tell me where I could find some of that love potion you mention in your play?"

 

"Look to the power in a flower," he replied.

 

"But what flower?"

 

"The flower of youth."

 

"I never heard of that flower. Is it anything like a rose or a forgetmenot? Is it like the sunflower Mr. Newman wears in his buttonhole? Is it like an iris, like the Little Blue Wallflower?"

 

"A rose by any other name would smell as sweet."

 

"As sweet as what, Mr. Shakespeare? Where can I find it? Where can I buy it?"

 

"What can be bought can be sold; and what sold, can stolen be. True magic is not so easily had nor lost nor even seen. Gently it grows within you unawares, and shows itself in unlikely ways. Perchance, you may not even know you've blossomed, till you find yourself the flower of someone's eye, just like the iris."

 

Paul Newman was staring at Mr. Carroll. "Miss Prysby," he asked, "who is this hotshot guy with the girl's name who goes around in underwear? What'd he write?"

 

"You mean Carroll, Mr. Lewis Carroll?" she answered. "He wrote Alice in Wonderland and other children's books."

 

"Kids' books? Just kids' books? No point in fillin' my head with that stuff."

 

"Well, it's said that they can be understood on many levels."

 

"You mean like going up and down on an elevator?"

 

"Yes, you might say that," answered Miss Prysby.

 

"Hey, that's cool. Where's the buttons? I want to try that trip."

 

Gaynell asked, "Mr. Carroll, do you really understand everything?"

 

"No, of course not. I only stand under the world. There are others, much lower, who stand under us. Yes, there are many levels of understanding."

 

Miss Morgan shook her head. "We may be standing under the world right now," she said, "but I really don't understand any more than I did before. If anything, I understand less. Nothing seems to make any sense, and I'm lost, and I've gotten the whole class lost with me."

 

"Nothing lost, nothing grained," he answered.

 

"Grained?" asked Miss Morgan.

 

"Yes, surely you want to be born a grain. Otherwise you wouldn't have fallen into the earth."

 

"I'm sorry, Mr. Carroll, but I really don't understand any of this. Couldn't you please tell us how to go home?"

 

Then the redcoat sergeant stepped forward and asked, "Could you please tell us 'ow to get 'ome from 'ere?"

 

"Well," answered Mr. Carroll, "I don't know how to get to either place myself, and I've heard some pretty bad things about both of them. But, if you like, I can take you down to the next underworld, and maybe there somebody can help you."

 

"Oh, thank you, thank you so much," said Miss Morgan, greatly relieved that someone would help.

 

"Not so fast," added Mr. Carroll. "Before I can take you anywhere, we'll have to check the weather report."

 

"Weather report?" she asked.

 

"Yes, whether or not you can go any further."

 

"But, Mr. Carroll, surely you must be kidding? We're in a terrible hurry, and why on earth should we need a weather

 

report?"

 

"You forget, my dear, we're not on earth, we're under it."

 

Just then they heard a sneeze and another sneeze and a loud hoarse cough.

 

Donny said, "Gosh, that was some cough, mister. Can you do that again?"

 

The man was wearing a white jacket, was carrying a brown doctor's bag, and had a stethoscope hanging round his neck. He coughed again and again and again and shook all over.

 

Donny quickly apologized, "I'm sorry, mister. I didn't mean for you to get sick. He looks awfully sick, Miss Morgan."

 

"Yes," replied the man, "I'm sick of the whole world."

 

"I hope it isn't serious," said Miss Morgan.

 

"That depends on how you take the world. For myself, I just can't take it seriously."

 

"This is the Weatherman," Mr. Carroll introduced him.

 

"The Weatherman?" asked Miss Morgan.

 

"He's under the weather right now," explained Mr. Carroll. "But that's the best way to understand it."

 

The man hobbled up to Miss Morgan, still coughing and shaking. She tried to get out of his way. "Please don't get so close, sir," she insisted. "I don't want to catch those germs and pass them on to the children. What's he trying to do?" she asked Mr. Carroll.

 

"Relax," said Mr. Carroll. "He's just going to take your weather report."

 

So Miss Morgan stood still, and the Weatherman opened up his doctor's bag and started checking her temperature and taking all sorts of measurements in the air around her.

 

"Hmmm, indeed," mumbled the Weatherman. "Cloudy and heavily overcast, with a thick ground-level fog. Visibility near zero. Temperature near freezing. Air pollution index -- critical."

 

"It's just like I suspected," explained Mr. Carroll. "Nothing personal, Miss Morgan. It's just the air up there. Polluted. You get used to it so you don't even notice it. But it sticks to you. It's a deadening atmosphere. Disenchanting. You all have it, and you'll have to wash it out before you can go any further. Right this way. Right in that big room over there."

 

Mr. Carroll led the way.

 

"Come along now, Paul," urged Miss Prysby.

 

"Where's this Carroll guy takin' us?" he asked. "That doesn't look like an elevator to me. Looks more like a lighthouse with a dunce cap on top. What a blast! What a wayout way out!"

 

"I can't say I'm all that happy about walking inside something that looks as weird as that," admitted Miss Prysby. "But we don't have much choice, and it could prove educational."

 

Once everyone was inside the big room, Mr. Carroll stepped out and shut the door on them.

 

"Mr. Carroll! Mr. Carroll!" shouted Miss Morgan. "What are you doing? Open that door at once! How dare you!"

 

"It's dark in here," whined Timmy.

 

"Aren't there any windows?" asked Eugene.

 

"I want to go home," said Kathy.

 

"He must be some kind of kook," said Mr. Newman.

 

"He wouldn't lock us in here for no reason at all," noted Miss Prysby. "There must be some explanation."

 

"I should never have trusted a total stranger," sobbed Miss Morgan. "But he seemed like such a nice man."

 

"Miss Morgan, maybe it's like in his book," suggested Gaynell. "I bet there's a mushroom somewhere, and we're supposed to eat it and get really small and go out some little hole we can't even see now because we're so big."

 

"No, Gaynell," said Miss Morgan. "I'm afraid I made a terrible mistake. I should never have trusted him."

 

"Paul, what are you trying to do?" asked Miss Prysby.

 

"Just tryin' to get us out of here. I'm tryin' to kick the wall in, but it's just a pile of mush."

 

"Yeah, gosh," said Donny. "Feel that wall. It's all mushy."

 

"Maybe we're in a mushroom," suggested Gaynell, "a huge mushroom. Here, Miss Morgan, try a piece of the wall. It tastes just like a mushroom."

 

All the kids grabbed chunks of the wall and started eating.

 

"What!" boomed a deep hollow voice from all around them. "Are you fed up with yourselves? Why do you go around eating other people?"

 

There was a whistling noise as air was sucked out of the room. Soon everybody was breathing hard and fast, as if they'd been running and were short of breath. Then there was no air at all, and they were all breathless, waiting for something awful to happen.

 

Suddenly, a door flew open, and everybody rushed to get to the air and took a deep breath and found themselves falling into the river.

 

The water felt better than any water had ever felt: bright and sparkly, crisp and clean. Soon they were swimming and playing splashing games with Mr. Carroll and with each other.

 

At first, Miss Morgan was scared that the kids would be in over their heads. But it was a funny river: no matter where anybody was, it wasn't over their depth -- just deep enough to have fun in.

 

Bit by bit they got all played out and came ashore to lie on the beach or build sand castles or pick up shells. Miss Morgan lay there on the beach and looked out at the moon reflected on the water and the woods beyond and said, "Beautiful. It's just beautiful."

 

"Yes," Mr. Carroll added, "It's breathtaking."

 

Miss Morgan felt good all over, lying there on the beach beside Mr. Carroll. Kathy and Gaynell would have giggled and whispered to one another, but they and the rest of the kids were already sound asleep.

 

CHAPTER TWELVE: THE LOWEST COURT


The next morning they were all awakened by a loud voice, "Hear ye! Hear ye! Order in the court! Order in the court!" A tall man in a black robe came marching by, pounding on the ground with a staff and shouting these commands.

 

"Gosh," said Donny, "the judges are coming."

 

"Who's that doing the talking, Donny?" asked Mark.

 

"Oh, that must be the quirk."

 

"The what?"

 

"The quirk of the court."

 

"No," said Miss Prysby. "don't be silly, Donny. You mean 'clerk', not quirk. A quirk is an idiosyncrasy."

 

"Oh, yeah," said Mark, "video, like TV, like those trials they have on TV -- a quirk's a videosyncrasy."

 

"No," said Donny, "a quirk's just a quirk. Courts always have lots of quirks, to keep records and make announcements and stuff."

 

"Oh," said Mark.

 

"Hear ye! Hear ye!" announced the Quirk. "The court of final judgment is in session. Judge Plus, Judge Equals and Judge Minus presiding."

 

Three men followed him. They were all bald, with long gray curly beards, and they were all wearing long black robes, each with a big white symbol on the front -- plus, equals and minus.

 

"Mr. Minus," called Donny. "Mr. Minus..."

 

"Quiet in the court!" ordered the Quirk. "Quiet!"

 

"That's all right, Quirk," said Mr. Minus. "Let the children come forward. And the grownups, too."

 

"Is this where the good guys get goodies and the bad guys get punished?" asked Donny.

 

"That's the general idea, son. We try to right the wrongs of the world."

 

"I'm sure this is all very educational, sir," said Miss Morgan. "But we're lost, very lost and we're trying to find our way home to Winthrop."

 

"And how far is this home of yours from here?"

 

"It's hard to judge," said Miss Morgan. "We've been gone for more than a day now."

 

"Now let's start at the beginning. If this home of yours is so important, why did you leave it?"

 

"Well, you see, we were trying to get to Oz and to Ome to find the Lizard of Oz, in hopes of saving the world from disenchantment."

 

"Yes, indeed, you tried. I might have thought as much. That's how you got here -- by trying very hard."

 

Eugene said, "Sometimes Miss Prysby says we're very trying."

 

"Yes, indeed. I'm sure you all helped. Not many cases reach the court of last judgment."

 

"Stop! Will you please stop!" shouted Miss Morgan. "I've had enough of this nonsense. Doesn't anyone here speak plain English? I just want to go home."

 

"We just want to go 'ome," echoed the Redcoat Sergeant.

 

"To get home or Ome -- either way you'll have to try," insisted the Judge.

 

"Yes, there's no stopping now, Miss Morgan," agreed Miss Prysby. "We couldn't possibly turn back. We don't even know where 'back' is. And besides," she added, "this trip is really very educational."

 

"That's the spirit, young lady," added Judge Minus. "Keep trying."

 

"But we keep making mistakes," objected Miss Morgan.

 

"Trial and error, that's how we learn. This is the trial. Next comes the error."

 

"Now don't tell me there's a Mr. Error just waiting to come marching in," moaned Miss Morgan.

 

"Yes, I can just imagine," suggested Miss Prysby. "Error Flynn will come swinging by on a rope with a sword in his hand. That's the way things happen here, isn't it? I just love these crazy lands we've been stumbling into."

 

"No, miss," Judge Minus corrected her. "I was thinking of the various condemned persons you're likely to meet near here."

 

"You mean, Mack the Knife?" asked Miss Morgan, nervously.

 

"No, I can't say I've ever heard of him. I was thinking of Mr. Sissyfoot, Mrs. Tantrum, and Achilles Heel."

 

CHAPTER THIRTEEN: THE ROAD TO EL EASY ONE


"Hey, look at that rock group," said Mr. Newman.

 

"It must be five o'clock," explained Judge Minus. "Here comes Mr. Sissyfoot. He works eight hours a day pushing that rock up the hill. Then at five o'clock, he let's go and heads home, and the rock rolls back where it was to start with."

 

Mr. Sissyfoot was tall, with huge arm muscles bulging from a dirty white tee shirt. In contrast, his bare and battered feet were small and dainty.

 

"Poor Mr. Sissyfoot," said Miss Prysby.

 

"I'd hardly call him poor, miss," noted the Judge. "He gets a fair wage for what he does."

 

"It's not that bad," admitted Mr. Sissyfoot. "I did the same sort of thing for a living up topside, before I croaked. Only I didn't get paid as much for it, and the work was more tedious. This job's really simple. All I've got to do is roll the rock. No deadlines. No pressure. I spend most to the time just daydreaming. Look, there are plenty of guys up who'd love to have this job.

 

"Lord only knows why the judges want this done. But they pay me. And, like I say, it's pretty simple to do. Sure, I work up a sweat, but it's good exercise, and there are no chemicals around to poison you. It's a hell of a lot better than working back in the plant."

 

"Plant?" asked Gaynell. "Did you work in the mushroom?"

 

"No, but that sounds neat -- a real living plant. I'll have to check that out."

 

"Hey!" said Cindy. "There's a television over here, and there are soap operas on."

 

Everyone went running toward the television.

 

"Yes," explained Judge Minus, "Mrs. Tantrum spends her whole day watching television."

 

"Are the shows that good?" asked Cindy, open-eyed.

 

"No," admitted Mrs. Tantrum. "It's not the shows I like to watch -- it's the commercials. All those things they have to sell -- they're just so tempting, and I haven't a dime to pay for them. I just sit here thinking about what I'd do if I had the money."

 

Mrs. Tantrum was a middle-aged lady with her hair in curlers. Her bright red bathrobe was in tatters.

 

"But that's awful," said Miss Prysby. "How could the judges be so cruel as to make you do this?"

 

"Make me? You've got to be kidding, dearie. My husband bought this set for me, my dear departed husband."

 

"Husband?"

 

"Yes. Oh! Watch your step there, children," warned Mrs. Tantrum. "There's a big hole there, but it's hard to see. You've got to learn to be careful, kids. Don't fall into debt. Once you get in that hole, it's all but impossible to get out. That's my husband down there. He fell in getting me this color TV. Wasn't that sweet of him?" She threw him a kiss.

 

"That's terrible," said Miss Prysby, staring down into the darkness.

 

"Gosh, that's deeper than the pothole," said Donny.

 

"You think that's bad?" asked Mrs. Tantrum. "You should have seen the hole we were in back home."

 

"But it seems such a waste," insisted Miss Prysby. "Why should you spend your life, I mean, your death like this? Why do this, when right over there are beautiful fields of flowers?"

 

"Excuse me, dearie. Please step aside," requested Mrs. Tantrum. "My favorite commercial is coming on now -- the one with Mr. Adam selling real estate."

 

"What state's that?" asked Mark. "Is it anywhere near Massachusetts?"

 

"No, he's selling condominiums at Eden Estates, just outside El Easy One City. I just love that pitch of his, 'It's the next best thing to paradise. Believe me, I've been there.' He's so cute wearing nothing but a fig leaf."

 

"Come along now, children," urged Miss Prysby. "I think you've seen enough."

 

So the kids went running into the fields.

 

"What's that music?" asked Linda Crotty.

 

"Just birds singing," said Miss Prysby.

 

"Those are no ordinary birds," said Judge Minus. "That's the 'Hymn to Joy' they're singing. These are the El Easy One Fields."

 

"Hey!" said Donny. "There's Achilles the Heel."

 

"You mean the naked guy with the spear?" asked Kathy. "The one walking hand-in-hand with the beautiful lady?"

 

"Yes, indeed," said the Judge, "that's Achilles Heel and Helen Troy."

 

"Oh, not again," moaned Miss Prysby.

 

"Yeah," said Mr. Heel, "when will they stop that infernal music?"

 

"Oh, Achy, you're such a pain," said Miss Troy. "I think El Easy One is perfectly divine." She pushed back her long blond hair with a dramatic stroke. She looked like she was performing in a shampoo commercial.

 

"Well, it's somebody else's idea of paradise, not mine," complained Mr. Heel. "How are things back up in the world?" he asked the newcomers.

 

"Wars and wars and more wars," answered Mr. Newman, remembering what was said at the Library.

 

"Sounds wonderful," said Mr. Heel. "Tell me all about it."

 

CHAPTER FOURTEEN: CAMELOT

 

They spent the night there in the El Easy One Fields. Mr. Heel entertained them with tales of the Trojan Rockinghorse and his victories in the Olympic games, and Miss Troy told about the beauty contests she had won. They sounded sad talking about the past: like all they really wanted out of death was to do what they had done in life all over again, and they couldn't.

 

"How could you be so cruel?" Miss Morgan asked Judge Minus the next morning. "Mr. Sissyfoot, Mrs. Tantrum, and Mr. Heel are all miserable, each in their own way. How could you do that to them?"

 

"But it's they who condemned themselves. We gave them the chance -- trial and error. They tried and they failed, but they never knew they failed. Whether in life or death, they just kept making the same error over and over again and didn't try to move beyond it."

 

"But how could they move beyond? How could they know what to do or where to go any more than we do? There are no signs."

 

"No signs? Of course, there are signs, at least down here there are. Minus, plus and equals."

 

"What?"

 

"Just lesson. Lesson carefully."

 

"Hey, yeah, just listen to that!" said Joey.

 

"What?" asked Mr. Heel. "I don't hear a thing but that infernal music."

 

"No, mister. This is music, too, but it's different," insisted Joey. "Come on guys! I hear a merry-go-round. I'll race you there."

 

Joey went running up a nearby hill, and the kids chased after him. Miss Morgan, Miss Prysby, Mr. Newman, Mr. Carroll, and Cindy, who had to be very careful carrying the fishbowl, rode in the VW. And the Redcoats marched along behind.

 

Indeed, from the top of the hill, off in the distance, they could see a merry-go-round.

 

"That's the Merry-Go-Round Table," explained Mr. Carroll. "We must be in Camelot."

 

"Hey, far out, man," said Mr. Newman. "Just like in the book -- The Knights of the Merry-Go-Round Table."

 

The knights were riding round and round on the merry-go-round horses. Some were facing forward and others backward. They were all playing chess with one another. Mr. Carroll introduced them, "There's King Arthur and Sir Percival and Sir Galahad and St. George and Sir Bedivere and Sir Tristram and Sir Kay and Sir Gareth and Sir Gawain and Sir Murray and Sir Prize and Sir Ridesalot and Sir Lancelot."

 

"Gosh," said Donny, "they're as crowded as we are."

 

King Arthur asked, "Who are these young knights that have come to grace our court?"

 

"The Knights of the Little Green VW," answered Mr. Carroll.

 

And St. George asked, "Where are you going?"

 

"Home, St. George," said Miss Morgan.

 

"'Ome, St. George," said the Redcoat Sergeant.

 

"Do you know the way?" asked St. George.

 

"We were told by a prince, I mean a frog, that we had passed a way." answered Miss Morgan.

 

"Well, I sincerely hope that you can find it again. I always thought that there was only one true way -- a long straight and narrow path, much too narrow for a VW, just wide enough to walk down single file. But the times are changing, and maybe somebody's made new inroads and outroads."

 

"We drove in through a pothole -- a big hole in the pavement," she noted.

 

"Yes, things really have changed up there. Why in my day, there were no pavements -- just grass and trees for miles and miles."

 

"And while we were flying down the pothole, a witch told us the witch way to Oz and Ome," she added.

 

"Do you believe in witches?" St. George asked her.

 

"Well, I never did before; but the way this field trip has been going, I don't know what to believe."

 

"You shouldn't believe them," he advised. "They're not to be trusted. They'll give you what you ask for, but they won't tell you the dangers or give you anything to defend yourself with; and you'll wind up wishing you'd never asked for it."

 

"I was just taking them to the next underworld," said Mr. Carroll. "I think they're so far lost that only the muses can show them the way out to Ome or Home."

 

"Well, while you're here, I'd better give you some pointers on dragon fighting."

 

"Dragon fighting?" asked Mark. "Couldn't we have chess lessons instead?"

 

"I could teach you that," answered Sir Murray. "Come on over here," he told Mark. "I'll teach you the dragon defense."

 

"Dragons? Dragons? What do dragons have to do with anything?" insisted Miss Morgan.

 

"Well," explained King Arthur, "you're going to need to know dragon fighting to get where you're going. Of course, you could simply rely on trial and error, but I suggest you get whatever lessons you can."

 

"But what does dragon fighting have to do with getting home?" asked Miss Morgan.

 

St. George answered, "In the midst of Oz lives the Great Dragon of Ome, the famous fire-breathing Lizard of Oz, the Leaping Lizard himself."

 

Mr. Newman whispered, "Hey, Miss Prysby, what's this bit about dragon fighting. You never said anything about dragon fighting."

 

"Why, of course not, Paul. None of us wants to fight dragons. We just want to go home. But we'd better listen. It isn't every day you get a chance to learn about dragon fighting from St. George himself."

 

Everybody got very quiet and listened to St. George as he showed them the upper cut, the back stroke, the breast stroke, the stroke of luck, and the stroke of genius. The other knights helped, too, playing dragon and correcting their moves, as the kids practiced again and again.

 

Miss Morgan didn't know what to think. Mr. Shermin had never mentioned anything about the Lizard being dangerous, and she still hoped to go home instead of to Ome; but just to be safe, she borrowed a pad of paper from a court scribe and took careful notes on everything St. George said.

 

 

CHAPTER FIFTEEN: THE MOTHERS OF FACT

 

After the lessons, Mr. Carroll led the class and the redcoats on a windy road that led back to the river. He had a pocketful of magic coins, so they had no trouble getting back on Mr. Charon's ferry, and in no time at all they were in another underworld.

 

As soon as they got ashore, Kathy said, "Why I've never seen such pretty clothes in all my life. Could you please teach me how to make clothes like that?"

 

One of the three old ladies who were spinning and sewing said, "As a mother of fact, that could be very difficult."

 

Mr. Carroll introduced them, "These are the Mothers of Fact: Miss Hap, Miss Fortune, and Miss Take."

 

Kathy said "I'd like to learn to sew like that?"

 

"Sew what?" asked Miss Fortune.

 

"Sew pretty clothes like you're making."

 

"Those are very special clothes. They're costumes for our spring fete."

 

"Fate? What's a fate?" asked Kathy.

 

"Oh, that's a party. The way we do it, it's a masquerade party, and everybody wears pretty costumes and acts out silly parts. Our job is to make the costumes."

 

"Can I help? Please? Pretty please?" Kathy pleaded.

 

"Well, I'm afraid it's probably beyond you; but if you want to try, here's a needle and thread."

 

"But what can I use for cloth?"

 

"Use the fabric of time," answered Miss Fortune. "That's what we use."

 

"But..."

 

"Once you get into it, it's really quite simple, nine times easier than regular sewing -- just a stitch in time."

 

Kathy felt silly sitting there with a needle and thread and no cloth; but she would have felt even sillier to ask again; so she just pretended she was sewing.

 

The other kids gathered round her and stared.

 

"What are you doing, Kathy?" asked Mark.

 

"I'm sewing, silly. Can't you see?" she answered.

 

"But you don't have any cloth. How can you sew without any cloth?" he asked again.

 

"I'm just stitching time," she said.

 

Miss Fortune confirmed, "Yes, and she's doing a fine job of it. She'll soon have it all sewed up."

 

Miss Hap added, "Why that's lovely, perfectly lovely. Why that's finer than anything we've ever made. That's a very special costume. Fit for a king."

 

"For an emperor," said Miss Fortune. "That'll be the emperor's new clothes."

 

Kathy wasn't sure whether they were just being nice, or if they were making fun of her, or if they meant something she didn't understand.

 

Donny said, "You mean emperors don't wear anything at all, not even underwear?"

 

Kathy giggled and whispered to Gaynell; and Gaynell giggled and whispered to Kathy.

 

But Miss Fortune said "There's a very special fiber for making it visible. Yes, moral fiber. The emperor has to supply that himself. It's really indecent for an emperor to go around with no moral fiber."

 

Mark asked, "What's moral fiber?"

 

"Cotton grows on some plants; wool grows on some animals; and moral fiber grows on some people. They're a rare breed."

 

"I'd like to buy some moral fiber," said Kathy.

 

"Well, you don't see plants buying cotton or animals buying wool, do you? They've got to grow it themselves. Well, people can't buy moral fiber either. They've got to grow it. It grows on you. Till you're all grown up."

 

Mark said, "Well, Miss Morgan's a grownup. She must have some."

 

Everybody looked at Miss Morgan, and she blushed.

 

Donny said, "I don't see anything."

 

Miss Morgan blushed some more.

 

But Miss Fortune explained, "Just give her time, and it'll show. Yes, matched with the right time, moral fiber can be quite beautiful -- bright red and blue and green. Really very becoming. Becoming even more beautiful."

 

 

CHAPTER SIXTEEN: THE MUSES

 

Mr. Carroll asked the Mothers of Fact, "Could you please direct us to the home of the muses?"

 

"Certainly," answered Miss Fortune. "Their sorority house is on Mount Parnassus."

 

When they got to the base of Mount Parnassus, Mr. Carroll said, "Okay, Judy, it's up to you to invoke the muses."

 

"But what should I say?" asked Miss Morgan.

 

"Whatever you feel."

 

So she said, "Please, Muse, we're very lost and very confused. We don't know how we'll ever find our way out of here if you don't help us."

 

A hollow echoing voice asked, "Which muse do you want to see?"

 

"A muse. Just a muse," she answered.

 

"Yes," said the voice, "the A-muse is my favorite, too. Right this way. Third cave on the right."

 

Mr. Carroll introduced the speaker, "That's Mr. Plato. He's the speaker of the house. He helps the muses talk to strangers. He interprets their signs and strange words so people can understand them."

 

Plato led them deep into the dark cave and had the class sit down facing the wall. Miss Prysby, Mr. Newman, and the Redcoats all sat with them. The A-muse -- a young lady in a light blue evening gown -- sat by the fire behind them, making shadows dance on the walls. She was very good at it, and soon the kids were all laughing at the funny shapes and having a great time.

 

Miss Morgan stood off to the side with Mr. Plato and Mr. Carroll. She was very concerned, "Muse, Miss Muse," she called. "I hate to interrupt. I'm sure the children enjoy those shadow pictures you're making. And any other time I would enjoy them, too. You're quite good at it, really. But, you see, we're lost, very lost. And I'm sure the children's parents are worried sick."

 

The Muse didn't say a word in reply. She just kept making funny shadow pictures on the wall of the cave, and the kids kept laughing.

 

"Mr. Carroll," Miss Morgan asked, "why doesn't she answer me? Why does she just keep playing those shadow games for the children?"

 

"She's answering you in her own way," he said. "The children understand."

 

"Well, I don't understand," she complained, her voice trailing off in despair, "... if there is anything to understand." She felt very empty and very helpless.

 

"Come with me," offered Mr. Plato. "I'll explain in words." He led her deeper into the cave, and told her the story the Muse was showing with her shadows.

 

"Once upon a time there was a world and an unworld. People lived in the world, and unpeople lived in the unworld. The world was very much like the unworld; and the people were very much like the unpeople. The sun spent half its time in each place; and everyone lived and grew and died and was happy.

 

"The name of the world was 'Home'' and the name of the unworld was 'Ome.'

 

"In the middle of Home was a huge machine. It could wash your dishes and your clothes. It could cook your food or keep it cold. It could do all sorts of thing. The people of Home were very happy with their machine. It saved them so much time in doing things they'd never enjoyed doing. And it had potential -- it could be made to do many more things.

 

"So people worked on the machine and worked on it. Soon it could move you from one part of Home to another at great speeds. It could even tell you how great it was and show you pictures of how much everybody loved it and depended on it. That made it easier for people to work harder for the machine so it could give them all the things they'd ever dreamed of."

 

Miss Morgan could hear the kids reacting to the pictures.

 

"Gosh," said Donny, "that looks just like pictures on TV."

 

"Like Star Trek, maybe," said Mark.

 

"Or like astronauts on the moon," said Eugene.

 

Mr. Plato continued, "The more people worked for the machine, the more benefits the machine could offer, and the more the machine thanked them and paid them and reminded them of what great new benefits were waiting for them. So they used their pay to buy more parts for the machine; and in their spare time, they enjoyed seeing and hearing and reading about all the things the machine could do and how happy everybody was and would be."

 

"The only trouble was the atmosphere. The machine gave off fumes. You got used to it after a while; so you hardly ever noticed it except on what would have been a clear bright sunshiny day, but the fumes were always there. It was a deadening atmosphere. Plants and animals started dying. But man adapted. He learned to breath machine air instead of plant air. He learned to use machine light instead of sunlight. If he, like the plants, had kept needing the sun to grow, he would have withered and died. But he adapted. He came to depend more and more on the machine. He could no longer see the sun, and what plants and animals remained were ugly stunted creatures. There really wasn't much of anything to look at but the machine. And since there was less to distract him, man worked more efficiently, and the machine gave him more benefits, and he enjoyed them.

 

"He worked and enjoyed, worked and enjoyed. He used the machine, and the machine used him to make itself better so he could use it better, and there was great progress throughout the world.

 

"Back when the sun could be seen, plants and animals and men used to grow up toward the sunlight. Now, instead, they grew toward the machine light. And they thanked the machine for letting them see. And they thanked the machine for letting them grow. And by the light of the machine, they saw the machine and other people working for it and enjoying its benefits. So they grew toward the machine, grew close to it. And the machine built them houses, much warmer and more comfortable than caves. There in their houses, men sat night after night, watching the moving shadows that the machine's light cast on the walls, watching the shadows of how wonderful their world was. And they were very pleased.

 

"Meanwhile, without anyone noticing it, the sun left. It wasn't just behind the clouds anymore. Maybe just as plants and animals and people used to need the sun to live and grow and die, the sun needed the plants and animals and people. But whyever it was, the sun just left the world and went to the unworld.

 

"Before, it used to shine equally in both places, revolving around so it spent half its time in each. Now it just stayed in the unworld named Ome. And strange things started happening there. The unanimals and unplants and unpeople who lived there weren't used to all that light. They started growing and growing. Soon there were all sorts of monsters. Little lizards grew to the size of dinosaurs and dragons, and strange beasts of all kinds filled the unworld.

 

"The unpeople feared that if the sun kept shining that way, the monsters would get out of control and kill them. So the unpeople captured and tamed the biggest dragon they could find; and they taught him to jump, till he could jump all the way up to the sun. And he did. And he swallowed it and came back down to the ground with the sun in his belly."

 

"Gosh," said Donny, "can you do that again?"

 

Mr. Plato went on, "As the unpeople had hoped, the monsters couldn't stand the change in climate -- the plants they needed to survive stopped growing. Soon the only monster left was the dragon with the sun in his belly, that somehow the sun had made deathless.

 

"The sunlight diffused through the dragon's skin like light through a shade, but still the light was so intense that many unpeople were blinded, all but those who wore sunglasses.

 

"Before, plants and animals had felt drawn toward the sun, but gravity had held them back -- they hadn't been able to run to it; they could only grow toward it. Now with the sun on the ground, gravity no longer restrained them -- they surged forward, crowding toward the source of the light.

 

"It was unlike any light they had ever seen, unlike even sunlight seen from a distance -- it was so pure and bright. As they got close, they were speechless: awe-struck and spell-bound by the sight. Ever after that, they never moved. Spell-bound to a single spot, they just chanted over and over, "Ome, Ome, Ome..." as an expression of their awe and perhaps of their joy at being in this place and seeing this sight.

 

"In the old days when the sun shone equally in both places, people and unpeople used to travel freely between the world and the unworld," Mr. Plato continued. "But when the machine got so big and so efficient that it did most everything people ever dreamed of and even did their dreaming for them, people stopped going to the unworld -- they were too attached to the machine to want to go.

 

"A few unpeople kept coming to the world. They were singers and tellers of tales. While others were speechless in the presence of the light, they tried to put it into words; and they stuffed what words they had with light around them. A few met the Muses and learned to put their words together so the light shone through. And they all arrived at Home with tales of the unworldly monsters and dragons and unworldly things that had been happening. People listened, and the machine recorded; and the machine told and retold the stories in different, more familiar words, and in other ways made it so people could enjoy the stories with no effort at all.

 

"One of the very best stories the machine retold was The Wizard of Oz. It called the land "Oz" because that sounds very far away, and it's much more fun hearing about some far away place than some place that sounds like 'Home.' And it said that the sunglasses unpeople wore to keep from being blinded were green-tinted glasses a fake magician used to fool people. And they were very good stories the way the machine told them -- so very good that most people forgot the stories the unpeople told. But a few people did remember them dimly and passed them on from generation to generation. To the few who remembered, the dragon came to be known as the Lizard of Oz, the Great Dragon of Ome, or the Leaping Lizard.

 

"It's said that once there was no machine in Home, that a giant named Prometheus had somehow stolen fire from the sun -- not just the light but some of the fire itself -- and brought it to earth for man. And there was just enough of the fire so man was enchanted and very happy, but not enough to spell-bind him. And so things were for many, many years, until the fire burnt out.

 

"Nobody knows why the fire went out, but it did. And suddenly, man felt a great emptiness, and it was that emptiness that drove him to begin building the machine.

 

"Some say that Prometheus returned from wherever he had gone and tried to bring back fire from Ome; but that this time he failed and was spell-bound to a great rock at the dragon's feet.

 

"I've heard that things are changing fast at Home, that a humbug has been flying around beating on his humdrum, and most everyone has been picking up the beat, getting into the rhythm of the machine. They say that people are getting much more efficient -- all working at the same rhythm, the rhythm of the machine. But the Humbug is hardly the cause of it all. He's just part of a long, long process. He's just speeding things up a little. And nothing will really change the direction of things unless somebody brings back fire."

 

"I'm sorry, Mr. Plato," said Miss Morgan, "but I'm still very confused. We've seen so much so fast. The pieces just don't seem to fit together. These potheads and eggheads and everything -- who are they? And what do they have to do with Home or Ome?"

 

"At one time or another, for one reason or another, there have been people and unpeople who didn't like living in Ome or at Home. They found a rabbithole or a pothole or some such place, and just dropped out, like you did. They all fell to their own level -- suspended between Home and Ome. There are quite a few colonies of them."

 

"Well, being under the world, do they understand things?"

 

"Most of them aren't sure where they are, much less what's above them. The underworld's something else altogether. It lies under and underlies everything, even the unworld."

 

Miss Morgan thought for a while. Then she admitted, "I really don't understand. I've never seen a machine like that at home, and I'm sure if there is such a thing, it's very expensive and not many people can afford it. And the sun hasn't left. It shines in Winthrop sometimes. I saw it just yesterday before we fell down that pothole."

 

"Are you sure that was the sun you saw and not just something the machine made?" asked Mr. Plato. "I hear it's been making moons and stars and flowers and fruit that look more bright and fresh and real than the things they're copies of; but they are, nonetheless, mere lifeless copies."

 

Miss Morgan wasn't sure what was real anymore, but she did know that something was wrong -- very wrong. And she knew that she had to get the class home. But now she also felt that she ought to help bring fire back to the world, because, whatever it meant, (and she wasn't at all sure what it meant), it seemed like something that really ought to be done.

 

CHAPTER SEVENTEEN: CLOUD NINE

 

When the shadow show was over. Mr. Plato led them to the top of Mount Parnassus. They could tell that they were very high, and they could have seen far in every direction, but clouds got in their way -- light fluffy little clouds.

 

Donny stuck his head in a cloud. "Gosh," he said, "it's really nice in here, all silvery and everything."

 

"Yes, every cloud has a silver lining," explained Mr. Plato. "But the best of them all is Could Number Nine. Right over there, kids."

 

All the kids went rushing to Cloud Nine.

 

Mr. Plato turned to Miss Morgan, "I gather that you and the Redcoats here aren't particularly interested in Cloud Nine.

 

"No," she said sadly. "We must be going... wherever it is that we're going."

 

"Well, the path to the right leads to Ome. That to the left leads to Home."

 

The Redcoat Sergeant was ecstatic, "Right face!" he ordered. "Forward, double-time, march!" So the Redcoats went running down the path to Ome.

 

"What's wrong, Miss Morgan?" asked Mr. Plato. "You hesitate. You don't seem to know where you want to go."

 

"It's all so confusing," she admitted.

 

"Then maybe you really would prefer Cloud Nine. You know, if you like, you can stay at the amusement park there forever and ever. In any case, take this package -- you may need it."

 

The kids and Miss Prysby and Mr. Newman were already inside the cloud, and Miss Morgan was curious anyway; so she took a look.

 

"Come on in," called Donny. "It's unreal how much fun it is in here."

 

"Yes, come on in," urged Gaynell. "I'm having a simply marvelous tea party with the Mad Hatter."

 

"I need you, Miss Morgan," pleaded Kathy. "How am I ever going to decide? There are all these Prince Charmings riding around on white chargers, and I can't make up my mind which one I want to be rescued by."

 

Miss Morgan couldn't resist. She stepped in, and Mr. Carroll followed her. They stood under an apple tree and watched the kids play.

 

Mr. Carroll said, "I've been here before, but I'm not sure when; and I don't know what ever brought me back down to earth. It's a great place, with none of the cares of the world or the unworld or even the underworld. The cloud just floats here, there, and everywhere. It doesn't really matter where the cloud is, because things are always the same inside -- always wonderful, protected from sadness by the silver lining."

 

They both felt happy there inside Cloud Nine. Then Miss Morgan remembered, "My goodness, how could I be so forgetful? Mr. Plato handed me this package, and I just walked off with it, without thanking him or even asking what it's for."

 

"Well, open it up," urged Mr. Carroll. "If Mr. Plato gave you a package, he must have had a reason."

 

Inside she found a couple dozen pairs of sunglasses and a big stick.

 

Mr. Carroll explained, "The stick is a torch. It catches fire easily. It would come in handy if you ever went to Ome. But there's no reason to go to Ome now, or Home either. The kids are having the time of their life right here. And there's no point in trying to change the world. Most people are happy with it just as it is. Those who aren't can just drop out, like you did. There's certainly no reason for you to worry about them."

 

Miss Morgan looked very thoughtful. "I just don't know," she muttered softly.

 

Mr. Carroll noted, "You look like you're in another world."

 

"Or unworld," she answered. "I'm sorry." She smiled and took his hand, and they played together all day and listened to the wonderful music that seemed to come from everywhere. But from time to time, she got that thoughtful look again.

 

That night while Mr. Carroll was asleep, Miss Morgan got up very quietly and gathered the class together. She asked them to be careful not wake Mr. Carroll. They did as she said, figuring they were going to play hide-and-seek or something like that.

 

As they passed Mr. Carroll on the way out, Miss Morgan borrowed a forgetmenot from Gaynell and laid it very softly beside him.

 

CHAPTER EIGHTEEN: MR. SHERMIN

 

The cloud was still on top of Mount Parnassus. (They were lucky that it hadn't drifted away). So Miss Morgan gave everybody sunglasses, and they all climbed in or on the little green VW and rode slowly and carefully down the path to the right -- toward Ome.

 

They went down, down, down. It wasn't at all like going up. Nothing looked the same, and it seemed they'd never get to the bottom of it all; but they did. And there at the foot of Mount Parnassus stood Mr. Bacon's Library.

 

Miss Prysby went right back to teaching Paul Newman how to read. She picked up one of the books they had looked at before, "...

 

Her father was Yesterday and her mother was Tomorrow. And they loved her very much."

 

Miss Morgan went to the stacks and found a copy of Alice in Wonderland -- one that had a picture of Mr. Carroll in it. After that, she always carried that book wherever she went.

 

Cindy went running to find her. "Mr. Shermin's acting awfully funny, Miss Morgan," she said. "He's swimming back and forth in the fishbowl, and the water around his head is boiling."

 

"Boiling?" asked Miss Morgan. "I hope nothing's wrong. He hasn't said anything in the longest time."

 

Lots of the kids were gathered around the fishbowl.

 

"He looks awfully depressed," said Gaynell.

 

Mr. Shermin said in a voice that everyone could hear, "What's the point of it all? I don't know most everything. There are all these lands that I never even dreamed of. I don't even know all the questions, much less the answers. I've just been living in a fishbowl."

 

"Gosh," said Donny, "he's knocking his head against the wall."

 

"Quick!" ordered Miss Morgan. "Hand me that fishbowl! If we don't stop him, he might crack up."

 

She reached in to try to stop him, but no, the fishbowl cracked, and the water split all over everyone.

 

Mr. Bacon came rushing up, "Barbarians!" he shouted. "What are they doing now? Breaking fishbowls and spilling water all over my library." But he stopped short, in shock, for there stood Mr. Shermin, the teacher, wearing glasses, smoking a pipe, and standing in a puddle of water and broken glass.

 

"Gosh," said Donny, "it's the real Mr. Shermin. He's come back from Fish Land."

 

"Welcome... I mean .... how do you do?" said Miss Morgan. "I mean, welcome back, Mr. Shermin," she stumbled on, trying to figure out what had happened and what might happen next.

 

The kids were awfully glad to have Mr. Shermin back as a teacher. "You're a lot more fun as a teacher than as a fish," Gaynell said, giggling.

 

Mr. Shermin said, "Not so fast, now. I'm not about to go back to my old ways. No, I won't be a teacher, and I won't be going back to Winthrop. No, not right away, at least. I want to return to the Underworld and maybe talk to Mr. Plato. But it's hard to say. It just may be, it just may be that you'll be seeing me again soon. Ah, Mr. Bacon," he continued. "You're just the man I wanted to see. I'll be needing a backpack and some climbing boots and books -- lots of books. I'll need a lot to eat along the way."

 

Mr. Bacon was very helpful. So soon Mr. Shermin started the long trek back up the mountain -- all alone.

 

CHAPTER NINETEEN: REVIEW OF THE TROOPS

 

After Mr. Shermin left, Miss Morgan gathered everybody by the VW. There they stood: the Knights of the Little Green VW -- Eugene and Mark and Linda S. and Linda Crotty and Cindy and Donny and Joey and Timmy and Kevin and Peter and Gaynell and Kathy and Paul Newman and Miss Prysby.

 

Eugene, the tallest of the kids, wasn't even as big as Miss Morgan; and Linda Crotty, the smallest, was very very little. But together they were supposed to change the world.

 

Miss Morgan had no one to turn to. Paul Newman was big, but he was still a bit light-headed, having been empty-headed for so long. As for Miss Prysby, she hadn't heard Mr. Plato; and Miss Morgan hadn't understood what he had said well enough to explain the importance of this quest to anyone else.

 

Mr. Shermin, as a teacher, would have been some help. She appreciated him now that he was gone. Even when he was a fish and even when he wasn't talking, it had always been a comfort knowing somebody was along who knew more than she did.

 

Miss Morgan had a stick, some sunglasses, and a few rough notes on how to fight dragons. Their only source of strength was flower power -- flowers they had picked in the forest by the river and in the El Easy One Fields -- Gaynell's wilted forgetmenots, Paul Newman's slightly crushed sunflower, and Kathy's petalless daisies. That was it -- some arsenal, some army.

 

So Miss Morgan turned to Mr. Bacon and asked, "Please, sir, could you come along with us and help us? It seems that the Lizard of Oz is actually a great fire-breathing dragon; and none of us has an experience fighting fire-breathing dragons."

 

"Sorry, miss," he replied. "Sorry, but I can't leave my library. There's no telling what would happen if I were to leave my library. Barbarians, I tell you, barbarians are everywhere. They'd destroy these books without knowing what they were doing, and the world would starve. No, I can't go with you."

 

So Miss Morgan turned to Sir Real, "Please, sir, could you please help us? It's all very confusing, and I'm not sure what's real anymore; but I do know that we simply must bring back fire to the world."

 

"You don't know what's real?" said Sir Real. "Why I'm real, and my father was before me, and his father before him. But I don't think I should be going on any dangerous expeditions. You see, I don't have a son; and if anything should happen to me, no one would be real anymore. It's my duty to stay behind and protect myself. But maybe you can find some help along the way. You'll have to cross Redland and the moors on the way to the Nile."

 

Gaynell recited,

 

"Egghead south to the mouth

 

of the Nile

 

and find the tooth

 

the whole tooth

 

and nothing but the tooth

 

for smiles and smiles

 

till suffer-time."

 

She was very proud that she remembered all of the witch's poem.

 

"Redland and the moors?" asked Miss Morgan.

 

"Yes," explained Sir Real, "if you get past Redland, the moors are a wasteland, so bleak that trees won't grow there. But people live there, pioneers who have worked hard to close the wilderness."

 

"Excuse me, sir," interrupted Miss Prysby. "You must mean 'open' the wilderness." She told the class, "We all know how much we should be grateful to the pioneers for opening the wilderness. "No, Miss Prysby," Sir Real explained. "That was in the old days that the pioneers opened the wilderness, tamed nature, chopped down trees and made the place livable. But as soon as it got livable, people moved in; and soon there were so many of them that it was unlivable again. There wasn't anything the pioneers could do with that new wilderness. There was no way to chop down the forest of buildings. So they went back and found scraps of land that had been left behind. And they did everything they could to close off those little bits of wilderness and keep them wilderness, because they found that sort of wilderness a lot easier to deal with than the new kind. So instead of frontiersmen, now we call them 'backtiersmen.' Whether they'll do anything for you, I can't say; but I'm sure they'll sympathize."

 

"But first they have to get past the Reds," added Mr. Bacon.

 

"Indeed," confirmed Sir Real.

 

"And who are the Reds?" asked Miss Morgan.

 

"Yes," said Sir Real, "the Reds are exiles. There are all sorts of them: redcoats and redskins and redheads. They left the world years ago because they couldn't stand the way things were. And ever since, they've been plotting and planning and waiting for the right moment to go back and change the world. But that moment never seems to come."

 

Miss Prysby said, "They sound dangerous to me, Miss Morgan. "We've been fighting redcoats and redskins and reds for years."

 

Miss Morgan replied, "But the redcoats we met were very nice. I'm sure they'd help us if they could." She turned to Sir Real and asked, "How can we get to Redland from here?"

 

"It just so happens that a redhead is visiting the library right now. He stops by often to get a bite to eat. You remember Mr. Marx, don't you? Karl, could you lead this young lady to Redland?"

 

"Capital idea, sir. Capital," replied Marx.

 

So the kids all piled into the little green VW. Paul Newman hopped on the top, and Mr. Marx climbed up next to him and showed them the way to Redland. 

 

CHAPTER TWENTY: REDLAND

 

"Gosh," said Donny, "there are the Redcoats."

 

"Yes," said Marx, "here we are at Redheadquarters. Pull up right by that building with the big sign over the door -- 'Better a readhead than a deadhead.'"

 

Across the street were billboards saying "Long live King George," "Hail Britannia," and "Our country right or wrong."

 

"Gosh," said Donny, "there's a xylophone."

 

"No," explained Mr. Marx, "that's an exile-ophone. We exiles use it to send each other notes."

 

"I was hoping we'd find our old friends here. But these don't seem to be the same redcoats," said Miss Morgan. "I don't recognize any of them. Then again, maybe I'm wrong. In those uniforms, they all look so much alike."

 

Mark asked, "Why do you all dress the same? Are you twins or something?"

 

"It's just-is," answered a redcoat.

 

"Justice?"

 

"No, just-is. It just is that way. It's part of the Uniform Code of Military Just-Is."

 

"What sort of code is that?"

 

"It's hard to say exactly. To find out what it really means, I'd have to break it. But they've got all sorts of nasty punishments for people who break the Code of Just-Is. So all I know is the general drift of it -- that to be right you have to do everything the same as everybody else, and that it's important to be right about clothes because clothes make the man."

 

"Pardon me, sir," asked Miss Morgan. "Would you happen to know a sergeant who was lost for about two hundred years?"

 

"Do you know that turncoat?"

 

"Turncoat? What did he do?"

 

"He turned in his coat yesterday; said he'd had enough of this marching business, and he was going 'ome."

 

"I can't say that I blame him," said Miss Morgan. "How do you ever expect to change the world this way?"

 

"We have to fight fire with fire, miss. They have a modern army; so we have one. We'll beat them at their own game. It's really most efficient."

 

"Gosh," said Donny, "what's that?"

 

Mr. Newman said, "What a pile of bull."

 

"Paul!" warned Miss Prysby. "Watch your language!"

 

An Indian appeared out of nowhere and answered, "Whiteman has keen eye. Here comes bull man. Big Chief Sitting Bull. I am Crazy Horse."

 

"Crazy, man, crazy," said Mr. Newman.

 

"No, not Crazy Man, Crazy Horse. Maybe you help redman get back his lands?"

 

"Glad to help, chief," said Mr. Newman. "But what can I do?"

 

Crazy Horse said, "We use Indian headband. Headband sign of Indian good will. Good will prevail."

 

"Man, that sounds like a pile of bull to me."

 

"Paul!" said Miss Prysby. "I can't believe the language you're using."

 

Just then, Sitting Bull raised his hand, and a band started playing "Joshua at the Battle of Jericho . . . and the walls came tumbling down."

 

"Music might strong medicine," said Crazy Horse.

 

"Man, that blows my mind," said Mr. Newman. "What's that far-out sound coming from?"

 

"That little big horn," explained Crazy Horse. "Many a redman died that we hear that sound. Someday soon, it bring us back our land."

 

"Man, this is where it's at." Paul Newman put on beads and painted his face.

 

"Why, Paul, what are you doing?" asked Miss Prysby. "You look like a regular savage."

 

Mr. Newman shook hands with the members of the headband. "Hey, man," he said, "lend me that horn a minute, will you?" They handed him the little big horn, and he started playing "Cherokee Nation."

 

"Whiteman play well," said Crazy Horse. "Make good Sioux."

 

Mark asked, "Why does an Indian tribe have a girl's name?"

 

"Sue very fine squaw," answered Crazy Horse. "Strong back. Carry heavy load. Sue best of squaw, squaw backbone of Indian nation."

 

"You mean that women carry your loads for you?" declared Miss Prysby. "Why that's outrageous! Just let me talk to this Sue. She need to be educated in the ways of the modern world."

 

"Squaw not complain," said Crazy Horse. "We give 'em plenty good backrub. You like 'em backrub, too?"

 

Miss Morgan said, "No, thank you, chief. We really don't have time for that. Like you, we want to change the world, to make it a better place to live in; but we've heard that to do that we have to take back fire to the world, a special kind of fire. We were hoping that you might help."

 

"Redman glad to help. Here plenty firewater, plenty whiteman's firewater -- poor in spirit."

 

"No," explained Miss Morgan, "the fire I'm talking about doesn't mix well with water. We're supposed to get it from a fire-breathing dragon."

 

"That very hot air. Hard to swallow. You wait. We see. maybe dragon cool off."

 

Miss Morgan asked Mr. Marx, "Do you think anyone here might help us take back fire to the world?"

 

"Fire?" asked Mr. Marx. "Yes, we all know that we have to bring back fire to the world. But we're far from agreeing on what we mean by this fire. Everybody's got his own idea of how the world should be. Some young hotheads think ordinary match fire will do. But if they use that, there won't be much of a world left when they're done. Somewhere there has to be another kind of fire."

 

"Dragon fire," suggested Miss Morgan.

 

"Dragon fire?" repeated Mr. Marx.

 

"Yes, we have to cross the moors and get to the mouth of the Nile and get to Ome and find the Lizard."

 

"Do you really mean that?" he asked. "When you mentioned dragons before, I thought it was just a metaphor, that you were looking for the same thing I am. Dragon fire?" he laughed. "No, the answer to the world's problems isn't to be found in fairy tales."

 

"Well, we have to get to Ome," Miss Morgan insisted. "I don't know how we'll find our way, but we simply must."

 

Crazy Horse said, "Redman make good guide. Me famous track star. Can track down anything."

 

"Do you know the wasteland called the moors?"

 

"Know wasteland and unwastedland. Know good lands and bad lands." But Miss Morgan still looked depressed, so Crazy Horse added, "Sad face no good. Need lift? Redman raise spirits, give 'em plenty good lift."

 

"Gosh, it's a giant," said Donny.

 

"How," said Mark.

 

"How indeed... " said Miss Morgan, in awe of an eight-foot tall Indian woman.

 

"My name is Sue," she said. "How do you do?"

 

Sue lifted the little green VW and started walking off with it.

 

"Put that car down this instant," ordered Miss Prysby. "You have equal rights, young lady. There's no reason why you should do all the carrying, even if you are... rather large."

 

So Sue put down the VW and sat on the roof. Then off they drove into the wilderness, with Crazy Horse and Paul Newman running on ahead.

 

CHAPTER TWENTY-ONE: THE MOORS

 

"This is a good time for a geography lesson," said Miss Prysby. "First, let's take the word 'moor.' A moor is a treeless wasteland, children. But the word is used primarily in England. I saw a few myself when I was over there, in the southwestern part of the country. There was the Exmoor and the Dartmoor and ..."

 

Linda S. asked, "What about the Nevermore?"

 

Miss Prysby laughed, "Oh, that's something else altogether."

 

"But I read about it last time we were in the library. There's this really scary, lonely place called the Nevermore, and a little girl named Lenore lives there. She has raven-black hair and she's really beautiful."

 

Everybody started looking for Lenore. But the weeds were so tall and thick it was hard to see anything.

 

"My, we really are in the boondocks," said Miss Prysby.

 

"White woman has keen eye," said Crazy Horse. "Boonesville very near."

 

Just around the next bend was a big sign, "Boonesville. Daniel Boone sole inhabitant. Private property -- keep out. Untouched wilderness -- do not touch."

 

"Who goes there?" boomed a deep voice, and out stepped a tall unshaven man, wearing a nylon jacket and a coonskin cap.

 

Crazy Horse answered, "Big Chief Crazy Horse and Paul Newman and Sue and Eugene and Mark and Linda S. and Linda Crotty and Cindy and Donny and Joey and Timmy and Miss Morgan and Kevin and Peter and Miss Prysby and Gaynell and Kathy."

 

"It's too much!" said Daniel Boone. He threw down his rifle and curled up on the side of the road and started crying. "It's just too much," he whined. "I just wanted to get away from it all; to lead a quiet simple life, close to nature. But no, now I have to spend all my time chasing people away. Every day there are more of them. I don't know what's going on up there, but something's driving them this way. I've done my best to close this bit of wilderness, but the people just keep coming and coming. And now this -- a whole tribe at once. It's just too much to take. Too much." He cried some more.

 

"I'm sorry, Mr. Boone," said Miss Morgan. "We didn't mean to disturb you. We were just passing through on our way to the mouth of the Nile and to Ome. We did hope that you might help us change the world . . ."

 

"Change the world?" Daniel Boone suddenly stood up and smiled. "You're going to change the world? You're going to make it so people won't want to leave it?"

 

"Yes," said Miss Morgan. "That's what we hope to do."

 

"Then welcome. Welcome. I'll do anything I can for you. First I'll cook you supper."

 

Miss Morgan would have jumped for joy, but there wasn't any room to move in the little green VW.

 

"Marvelous!" exclaimed Miss Prysby. "It's been ages since we had anything to eat."

 

"You can spend the night and rest up," continued Mr. Boone. "You have a long journey ahead of you. You can get an early start in the morning. Best of luck to you."

 

"But you'll join us, won't you?" asked Miss Morgan, hopefully.

 

"No, of course, not," said Mr. Boone. "I have to stay behind and guard the fort."

 

"Oh," said Miss Morgan very softly.

 

Miss Prysby wasn't too pleased with the supper. She whispered to Miss Morgan, "Now I know why they call him a backtiersman -- there's bacteria all over everything."

 

But they all got a good night sleep -- all, that is, except Miss Morgan. 

 

CHAPTER TWENTY-TWO: MISS MORGAN'S DREAM

 

All these things had worked strangely on Miss Morgan's mind. That night her sleep was weary and restless. She dreamed that she was home in Winthrop, and everything was as it had been before. She thought that the trip to Ome had just been a dream. Then she woke up and found herself in the middle of a wasteland, lying on the floor of Daniel Boone's cabin.

 

She slept again and dreamed that she was home in Windsor -- no, in Camelot; and she knew her name was Miss Morgan La Faye.

 

It was the day of a great tournament, a tennis tournament. Thousands of people had gathered in the grandstands at King Arthur's court to watch the finals. She paid Attention at the gate, then found a seat in the back of the bleachers.

 

It was E.B. White versus Alfred Lord Tennyson. They had very different styles. Tennyson kept rushing the net, with hard smashes and fancy spins. It was hard to imagine how he could catch his breath, running around the way he did. White played a leisurely, seemingly effortless game from the back line. He'd tap the ball so it just dribbled over the net, or he'd lob one high over Tennyson's head.

 

It was a close match with long volleys, as they struck and struck again. Then, suddenly, the match lit, and the whole place was on fire, with people running and screaming. And there stood Miss Morgan La Faye, all alone, weeping, amid the charred ruins.

 

"There was a flaw," said a deep sad voice. Miss Morgan knew it was Merlin speaking. "It seems there's always a flaw," he continued. He was a short, pudgy old man, wearing a black dunce cap. "Maybe they need more practice. Oh, well, nothing to do, I guess, but just keep trying."

 

It rained heavily. A thick fog moved in. Miss Morgan was standing in a cloud, and the cloud was Cloud Nine. Gaynell went riding by on a unicorn, and Kathy was reading Merlin's book of charms. Nearby lay Mr. Carroll, sound asleep.

 

Miss Morgan stepped up to him very softly, kneeled and kissed him. He woke suddenly. He didn't see her. She didn't see herself. She screamed, but made no sound.

 

"Judy?" he asked. "Where are you, Judy?"

 

He looked so alone and helpless. She reached out, but couldn't touch him. She was somewhere else, somewhere on the road to Ome and Home. There was really nothing she could do.

 

The clouds went away, but the sun didn't come out. Miss Morgan screamed again, this time loud and clear, "Help! Help!" But there was nobody around to hear her -- nobody but Merlin.

 

"I'd like to help," he said, "but I'm much too old and tired. Arthur and his knights would help, too, but they're caught on that Merry-Go-Round Table, that carousel of time."

 

"Will they ever get off?" asked Miss Morgan.

 

"Arthur will return. His day will come again. But don't hold your breath. For one brief shining moment, they had it. They really had it. And the world was ablaze with the fire that doesn't burn. Then it was gone. And there was the emptiness, and chasing after false fires to fill the emptiness. But they had it for that moment, and it was splendid. Ah, those were the days.

 

"But no need to wait for King Arthur. Why the world could be enchanted and disenchanted dozens of times before he returns; and chances are he won't be back for long. It seems there's always a flaw. But here. Take this stick and have a go at it."

 

It was the same stick that Plato had given her.

 

"But . . ." she started. Merlin was gone, and she had a book in her hands. She knew it was about Arthur, but was shocked by the contemporary cover, with a non-Arthurian title -- They've done it; you can do it. She opened it again. It was about Arthur. She looked again at the cover, and under the title was an epigraph in Victorian type:

 

"They've done it; you can do it;

 

Whither you've known the shadow of its secret glow.

 

Or was it "sacred glow" or "secret vow" or "sacred vow?"

 

She woke up trying desperately to remember the words. And the more she tried to remember, the more muddled and uncertain it all became, till all she knew was that they could do it. Why or how -- she didn't know, but they could and would bring back the fire.

 

CHAPTER TWENTY-THREE -- THE MOUTH OF THE NILE

 

The next morning, Miss Morgan made sure everyone got up at dawn. After a hurried breakfast, she packed the kids into the VW. Sue sat on the roof again.

 

Daniel Boone gave Paul Newman a coonskin cap.

 

"Is that real coonskin?" asked Mark.

 

"No, of course not," said Mr. Boone, "There's no point in killing a critter just for a hat."

 

With his new hat and his face paint and beads, Paul Newman looked like a real Indian scout, running ahead with Crazy Horse.

 

About noon, Donny spotted the Redcoat Sergeant. He was on the porch of a little cabin, smoking a pipe and rocking in a rockingchair beside his wife. He looked very happy. "'Ome is where the 'eart is," he said. But Miss Morgan, curious as she was, had no time to find out what the place he was at had to do with the place she was going to. She just had to get to Ome; and nothing was going to stop her or slow her down.

 

They kept driving and driving, crossing more and more moors. Miss Prysby whispered to Miss Morgan, "You don't think we're lost, do you? I'd hate to be lost in a wilderness."

 

"There's nothing to worry about, Miss Prysby," Miss Morgan reassured her. "Crazy Horse is a good guide. He knows the way."

 

Miss Prysby was amazed at how confident Miss Morgan was now. It put her somewhat at ease; but still Miss Prysby bit her fingernails and kept trying to shift to a more comfortable position, which is hard to do with a pile of kids on your lap.

 

"Surely, we'll have to stop somewhere to eat," she groaned.

 

Just then, Paul Newman shouted, "Man alive!"

 

Donny said, "Gosh! It's raining bread."

 

Miss Prysby caught some and ate it. "Like manna from heaven."

 

"Yes," said Miss Morgan, "it probably is."

 

Everybody was gobbling it up. Between gobbles, Mark asked, "What's manna?"

 

"Well," said Miss Prysby, "it's usually just a figure of speech. But since we're approaching the Nile, this just may be the real thing. I certainly don't know what else it could be. Probably some sort of local phenomenon, due to the climate and everything. You see, long ago, there was a man name Moses, who led the children of Israel out of Egypt."

 

Mark asked, "How many kids did Israel have?"

 

"Oh, many, many kids," answered Miss Prysby.

 

"As many kids as our class?"

 

"Oh, more, many more than that."

 

"Gosh," said Donny.

 

"And Moses led the children of Israel across the Red Sea."

 

Mark asked, "Were they in Redland, like us, Miss Prysby?"

 

"No," explained Miss Prysby, "they were in exile in Egypt."

 

Donny asked, "Did they send notes to each other on an exile-ophone?"

 

"No, I don't think so. But they did finally leave their place of exile and head for their promised homeland."

 

"Gosh," said Donny, "everybody's looking for Home or Ome."

 

They all started looking for the children of Israel.

 

But Miss Prysby explained, "That was a long, long time ago."

 

Mark asked, "You mean they're all grown up now?"

 

"Yes, I suppose they are. You see, after they crossed the Red Sea, they wandered lost in the wilderness for forty years."

 

Eugene said, "I guess it's like in Winthrop -- without any street signs or anything."

 

"Yes, I suppose it was," Miss Prysby agreed. "But they finally found their promised land."

 

"Did they live happily ever after?" asked Gaynell.

 

"For a while, yes. But what I started to tell you was that while they were in the wilderness, a bread-like substance they called 'manna' rained on them, and it was that that kept them alive through their long journey."

 

Cindy said, "That's a good story, Miss Prysby."

 

"I thought you'd enjoy it. History is full of good stories. Some people say that history repeats itself, and that's why we should read it. That's a silly idea, what with the way things change and people learn and progress and everything. But history's got so many good stories that there's really no need to think up reasons for reading it. When we get back to school, maybe you'll want to read some."

 

"Gosh," said Donny, "what a big mouth."

 

Miss Prysby was taken aback that Donny would say a thing like that about her. She didn't know what to say, until she saw the mouth herself -- a huge wide-open mouth, swallowing manna. "That must be the mouth of the Nile," she said.

 

Donny said, "It's a whale's mouth, and there's somebody inside."

 

"Oh," said Miss Prysby, "that must be Jonah."

 

"No," said the person in the whale. "My name is Joan, and this is the Ark. Haven't you ever heard of Joan of Noah's Ark?"

 

Miss Prysby explained, "Long, long ago, there was a great flood that covered the whole earth. Some people say that it happened because people were evil."

 

"What's 'evil,' Miss Prysby?" asked Mark.

 

"That's when people are naughty all the time," explained Miss Prysby.

 

Eugene asked, "What was wrong with them. Were they disenchanted or something?"

 

"That's one way of putting it. Probably, they were bored and disenchanted, and that was what made them naughty. But there were a few people who weren't that way. Noah was one of them. He built a big boat called the 'Ark' and took aboard two of every animal he could find. And when the flood came, he and his family and the animals just sailed away and had a long boat ride."

 

"That sounds like fun," said Cindy.

 

"When the flood went down, they went ashore and started the world all over again," Miss Prysby added.

 

Cindy asked, "What happened to all the other people?"

 

"They drowned.

 

"Euh! That's awful."

 

"If you'll just step aside," said Joan, "I'll let down the gangplank and let the gang out. It's suppertime, and they're all very hungry."

 

Thousands upon thousands of animals came rushing out -- two of every kind imaginable.

 

"The whale comes here every time he and his friends get hungry," explained Joan. "And they get hungry often -- so often that some people call him 'the mouth of the Nile.'"

 

Gaynell recited,

 

"Egghead south to the mouth

 

of the Nile

 

and find the tooth

 

the whole tooth

 

and nothing but the tooth

 

for smiles and smiles

 

till suffer-time."

 

She was very proud that she still remembered all of the witch's poem.

 

Soon all the kids were playing with the animals. Linda Crotty was talking to a friendly little pig. Donny was letting an owl try on his brand-new glasses. Timmy was sliding down the trunk of an elephant. Kevin and Joey were climbing all over the whale.

 

Kevin said, "Maybe this is that big white whale that Sinbad the Sailor was looking for."

 

"I don't know that story," said Miss Prysby, "but I do know one about a man named Ahab."

 

"What happened to Ahab?" asked Kevin.

 

"He drowned."

 

"That's not a very good story," said Kevin. "Sinbad just kept having more and more adventures. I bet he's still having adventures."

 

Donny walked up to Miss Prysby with his owl; and with glasses on, the owl looked very human. "Miss Prysby," said Donny, "maybe this is like Circus Island, and these are all really people who were turned into animals."

 

"That sounds like reincarnation," said Miss Prysby.

 

"Is that some kind of milk?" asked Donny.

 

"No, it means being born again. You see, some people think that all animals were once people and all people were once animals. They say that every living thing has a soul and feelings -- just like the Little Blue Wallflower -- and people should be careful not to hurt them."

 

Gaynell was riding a unicorn, and Kathy had found a white charger and was loking all over for its rider. It all seemed strangely familiar to Miss Morgan, as if she had been here before.

 

Everything was turning out so well. The whale would take the class to Ome, and everybody would live happily ever after.

 

Crazy Horse and Sue said their good-byes, "We give 'em music. Music mighty strong medicine." And they started singing, "Joshua at the Battle of Jericho . . . and the walls came tumbling down."

 

The class knew the words this time, so they all joined in.

 

 

CHAPTER TWENTY-FOUR: CAPTAIN AHAB

 

"What's 'suffer-time,' Miss Prysby?" asked Gaynell. "You know, in the witch's poem, what's suffer-time?"

 

"I'm sure it's just a mistake," said Miss Prysby. "The witch just mispronounced it. She said 'tooth' when she must have meant 'truth,' and 'suffer' when she must have meant 'supper.'"

 

Suppertime was over, and Joan was brushing the whale's one huge tooth. "You have to brush up on the tooth every once in a while," she explained. "Otherwise it'll decay; and there's nothing worse than having to go around with a false tooth."

 

"Why are you wearing armor?" asked Mark.

 

"Oh," answered Joan, "that just moral rearmament."

 

Kathy asked, "Is it made of moral fiber?"

 

"What a sweet idea," said Joan. "No, my dear, it's made out of stainless steel. It's much stronger and lighter than the old iron-type armor. With relatively little scrubbing, you can keep it immaculately clean."

 

She whistled "Onward Christian Soldiers" as she brushed up on the tooth.

 

"How did you ever get here?" asked Miss Prysby.

 

"Oh, I came on a lark," answered Joan. "That big one right over there. I meant to go to Ome, but when I got here, I saw the error of my ways.

 

"I used to be a maid -- a simple maid, scrubbing floors and pots and pans. Then voices started speaking to me, heavenly voices, telling me to fight the Lord's battles. Unfortunately, the lord at the time happened to be a weak-kneed king, who had all sorts of battles that needed to be fought. I knew I was performing the will of heaven, but all around me raged the hell of battle. The ways of God are indeed mysterious. A body could get mixed up.

 

"When I arrived here on my way to Ome, the place was a terrible shambles. All these animals were rambling about, and there was no one to clean up after them. And the whale's tooth hadn't been brushed since Noah left.

 

"I said to myself, 'Joan, now who are you to be running off to sit yourself in the light of God's glory? And what will you be doing when you get there?' I was never very comfortable with courts and kings and important people. It might very well be that I wouldn't feel right in the presence of God either. And once I was there, I couldn't just turn around and run off. So I decided to stay here. I know my place. There's work to be done, and it's work I know.

 

"Some interesting folks pass this way now and then. Some decide to stay. Sometimes I think I'm running a half-way house: half-way to Ome and half-way back, with a bunch of half-wits. One goes around in his left mind, cause he finds it more comfortable than his right one. Another keeps trying to lose his marbles so he can have a marble-less time, but his friends keep bringing them back to him.

 

"It's a strange crew we've got in our ship of fools. There are some, like me, who have never been to Ome, who heard voices and spent their lives following the mysterious and difficult commands. There's a man from Penzance who was told to be a pirate. Someone else was told to be a writer of wrongs, and he's written many thousands. Then there are the inorganic food eaters -- they can't bear the thought of eating any living thing, so all they eat is dirt and rocks.

 

"They're all well-meaning folks, even the Captain; but they seem to have gotten something mixed up. God works in mysterious ways -- especially when he uses words. It's so easy to mix up words. They can mean so many things at once. Thank the Lord that I understood Him. But these others -- some of them are really pitiful; though far be it from me to sit in judgment.

 

"And then there's the Captain... Well, speak of the devil..."

 

Everybody turned to see an old sailor with a peg leg standing at the top of the gangplank.

 

"It's the ancient mariner himself -- old Captain Ahab," said Joan. "There are those who like his talk, who think it's good for the soul. Well, I'm not one of them."

 

She went back to her brushing, ignoring Ahab as he walked down the gangplank in all his halting dignity.

 

"Gosh," said Donny, "he's got a false leg. Did he forget to brush it or something?"

 

Joan didn't answer. No one answered. There was silence -- an unnatural silence. Not an animal stirred.

 

Then Ahab burst forth, "All right, ye landlubbers, enough of fun and games. It's suffer-time."

 

All the animals suddenly rushed back inside the whale.

 

"What's the meaning of this?" asked Miss Prysby.

 

"It means it's time to suffer, missy," declared Ahab. "All my life I was weeping and whaling and weeping and whaling. Then a voice cried out to me, 'Suffer the little children,' and I discovered the joys of suffering and making suffer: it's good for the soul, I tell ye. All aboard -- children first."

 

"But sometimes these children are insufferable. You should have seen them just this morning," began Miss Prysby.

 

"None of that back-talk, missy. I know my job -- I'm here to usher ye into the very jaws of Hell. Now all aboard, I tell ye."

 

Miss Morgan said, "I'm sorry, sir. Apparently, there's been some mistake. We're on our way to Ome, but it seems we've chosen the wrong way to get there. I made the mistake of believing in a witch. I'm afraid we'll have to miss this boat."

 

"If ye be feared of yonder whale, as well ye might, then should ye be a thousand times more feared of the fires of Ome. They'll burn yer very soul."

 

"Everyone in the car," called Miss Morgan.

 

"Run if ye like," said Ahab. "If ye think ye can. But ye'll never escape the darkness within ye. The wise stay. They suffer for their sins and learn to love to suffer. They pay penance."

 

Eugene said, "I've got a few pennies."

 

Miss Prysby bit her fingernails, and everybody piled into the little green VW.

 

Miss Morgan hit the gas. But maybe she put the car in the wrong gear by mistake, because suddenly they were falling into the mouth of the whale, and the mouth shut.

 

Ahab's ominous laughter echoed in the pitch dark caverns of the huge white whale. 

 

CHAPTER TWENTY-FIVE: NATURE AND SCIENCE

 

Inside the whale, the darkness was filled with every imaginable danger.

 

Miss Prysby screamed.

 

Peter hid in Miss Morgan's lap.

 

Linda S. said, "This is scary, Miss Morgan. This is really scary. I've never been this scared before, not even in the Fun House."

 

Kevin said, "Fun House? Aw, that's kids' stuff. I saw this Dracula movie once . . ."

 

"Dracula?" said Joey, "That's nothing. You should have seen..."

 

Everybody had a more horrible horror story they wanted to tell. Miss Morgan told one called "The Dance of Death," about the Boogey-Woogey Man, who hypnotized people with his music so they danced themselves to death.

 

Soon they were singing songs, like "The worms crawl in" and "Found a peanut," and "Fifteen men on a dead man's chest."

 

"Music mighty strong medicine," said Paul Newman.

 

"My, this is exciting," said Miss Prysby. "It's just like being swallowed by Nature. I feel, so so natural." And she stretched out on the whale's soft tongue and took a nap.

 

Soon everybody was taking a nap.

 

Then the whale's belly started to twist and turn. Everybody woke up and huddled together. A great retching noise came from somewhere way down deep, and the whale threw up, and the whole class was thrown up on the shore.

 

"Man, I feel like a new man," said Paul Newman. It sounded funny hearing him say that again after all they'd been through together, but everybody was feeling great and knew what he meant.

 

Miss Morgan checked the VW. It had landed right-side up; and by some miracle, it still worked. "Don't go running off," she told the kids. "There's no telling where we might be. This could be Ome, you know. Everything feels so good it just must be Ome. So everybody put on your sunglasses now. We'll all be perfectly safe, I'm sure, if we keep our sunglasses on."

 

So they put on the sunglasses and stretched out on the beach with the waves coming up to tickle their toes. They felt even better than that time on the river after they had been in the mushroom. Maybe they were relieved to be safe after all the danger they'd been through. Maybe it just felt so good thinking the quest was ending -- finally they were in Ome, and soon they'd be Home.

 

"Gosh," said Donny, "that bush over there is on fire."

 

Everybody went running to the burning bush. Timmy got really close.

 

"Watch out there," shouted Miss Prysby. "You'll get burnt."

 

But Timmy said, "It isn't burning."

 

"Of course it's burning," said Miss Prysby. "You can see it's on fire."

 

But when she got closer, she saw it wasn't burning. "I wish Mr. Shermin were here," she said. "He was always so good at explaining things. I learned so much from him."

 

"Why that's the fire that doesn't burn," said Miss Morgan, and she rushed forward with the stick that Plato had given her.

 

"What are you doing?" asked Joey.

 

"I want to see if this stick will catch fire, so we can bring the fire back home."

 

The stick glowed for a while when she put it in the bush; but when she took it out, the glow faded.

 

"Do you think it's God?" asked Miss Prysby.

 

"Beware," a voice boomed out, like it was coming from a loudspeaker.

 

Miss Prysby screamed, "The bush is talking!"

 

But Donny said, "Gosh, no, Miss Prysby. It's that astronaut over there."

 

On top of the hill two men in space suits were walking toward them, waving as frantically as they could with all that cumbersome equipment on. "Stand back from that bush," they said. "Return to the water. This area is contaminated. Radioactive material."

 

Everybody ran back to the water and got up to their waists in it. Slowly but surely, the spacemen plodded close to them.

 

"What's wrong?" asked Miss Morgan. "Did somebody drop a bomb or something?"

 

"No, miss, it's a natural phenomenon," answered one of the men. "Alpha and omega particles. It's long been a mystery, but we're very close to a break-through. Research has been going on here for quite some time. They named the land Ohm because they thought the phenomenon was electrical, and an ohm is a measure of electrical resistance. But just last week we successfully separated and identified the two major forms of radiation: the alpha particle and a new particle we've christened the ohm-ega particle. It's an event of cosmic significance."

 

Miss Prysby explained, "That means it's very important."

 

"Well, not really," he answered. "You see, alpha and omega particles are cosmic rays and are very significant for the study of cosmic rays; but nobody's sure how significant cosmic rays are in elementary particle physics."

 

Miss Prysby explained, "Elementary means basic. The most important things, the building blocks you need for further study are elementary. Our school is an elementary school."

 

"Well, it's rather different in physics. You see, elementary particles are really very advanced. Not that we've advanced that far in our knowledge of them, but that only advanced students ever study them. Actually, very few people study them, and we know very little about them and how they relate to the world of ordinary experience."

 

"You mean they don't matter?"

 

"Brilliant, my dear, brilliant!" he exclaimed. "Particles 'matter.' The very word I've been looking for. It's so difficult to talk about matter and energy at the subatomic level. Sometimes it only makes sense to talk of matter, and other times, it makes sense to talk of energy. Neither concept alone is sufficient, and yet the concepts of energy and matter seem mutually exclusive. When we try to put them together, we wind up with strange sounding things like 'matter waves.' It all makes perfectly good sense in terms of equations; but when we try to tell people what we're doing, language keeps leading us into the most perplexing difficulties -- meaning more than we mean it to mean.

 

"We have to be very careful with our words, for they can imply whole systems of thought, and no single system of thought or set of concepts is adequate for describing the world around us. We are faced with the difficult task of using several contradictory sets of concepts, now using one and now another, according to the needs of the moment. It's a complicated business. It has to be learned by experience. There are no signposts to tell us when to use which."

 

"Gosh, said Donny, "Winthrop's just like that. There aren't any signs, and it's awful easy to get lost unless you've got a magic coin."

 

Miss Prysby started to reprimand Donny for interrupting, but the scientist just kept talking. "Particles 'matter,'" he said. "It's beautiful. A simple pun might make it so much easier to talk about these things. Yes, 'matter' is a verb as well as a noun, and on the subatomic level it makes more sense to use the word as a verb. Light isn't matter as a noun, but it is matter as a verb. Language, for all its pitfalls, is capable of unexpected beauties. Its very imprecision can be the source of the greatest clarity. Light matters. Electrons matter. Elementary particles matter. Perhaps even matter matters."

 

"I certainly hope so," said Miss Prysby. "I'd hate to think people spend their lives studying things that don't matter."

 

The scientist laughed, "There it does it again. The words keep meaning more than we mean them to mean. If we aren't careful, we might find ourselves talking about values and morals and other things that have nothing to do with physics."

 

"All these theories are quite fine, I'm sure," said Miss Morgan. "But are these children in danger here? What's wrong? Why all this radiation?

 

"As far as we know, miss, it's a natural phenomenon. Cosmic rays -- the sun is believed to be our major source of them. It's quite puzzling to find such a strong source here."

 

Miss Morgan explained, "Oh, then it's perfectly natural. You see, the Dragon of Ome, sometimes called the Lizard of Oz, swallowed the sun. It's in his belly."

 

"Dragon?" asked the physicist. "I must admit I don't know anything about dragons. They weren't in the curriculum. You mean to say there are dragons around here?"

 

"Why, yes, there is one dragon -- a very big one," said Miss Morgan. "We haven't seen him ourselves, but we have heard about him from a very reliable person. If you've been studying the source of these cosmic rays, surely you must have seen the dragon."

 

"Can't say that I have. But that really doesn't rule out the possibility that there is such a beast. You see, I might have stood right next to it, even touched it, without recognizing that it was a dragon. It's this protective suit, you see. I get everything second-hand, like hear-say. I don't see directly anymore than I hear or speak directly. The sense data are translated into electrical impulses, which are then re-translated inside the suit into recognizable stimuli. The equipment reports what it has been programmed to report. 'Dragon' simply doesn't compute. The way I get the message, there's a powerful source of cosmic energy in the form of alpha and omega particles diffused through a shield of organic material. Come to think of it, it's perfectly possible that the organic material could be a dragon's belly."

 

"Is it really dangerous, sir?" asked Miss Morgan. "You see, we've come a long way to find this dragon and bring back some of this fire that doesn't burn. But now you tell us it's dangerous radiation; and when I tried to light my torch on that bush over there, it didn't catch; it just glowed a short while and went out."

 

"We've noticed such things ourselves," noted the scientist. "It seems to be some sort of induced effect. The bush radiates because it has long been near the source of radiation. Somewhat like induced magnetism. If such a bush is separated from the source, its radiant properties diminish. As for the dangers, I think you'd better consult my colleague, an expert on the psycho-physiological effects of this unique variety of radiation."

 

"It's a source of psychic attraction," explained the other scientist, "the most powerful source of psychic attraction known to man. To the human mind and emotions, it's a sort of magnetic North Pole. It's incredibly attractive. If you don't wear protective equipment, why even from this distance, it's practically irresistible."

 

Kathy asked, "Is it really that attractive? Does it use a special perfume? Or a love potion?"

 

"I really couldn't say. The science of behavior doesn't concern itself with the physical form of these stimuli. It could be a dragon or a man or a pile of stones. What matters is what it does to people.

 

"As I was saying, the closer you get to the source, the greater the danger. You see the way that bush seems to be burning? Well, this source can do the same thing to a person that it has done to that bush. It can change a man so that he in turn can endanger others. Take a look at that patient over there." He pointed to a man on a stretcher on the beach. "No, don't get too close to him without protective equipment. We're waiting for a rescue team to carry him away," he explained. "Notice the strange glow around the head -- somewhat like that bush. We call it the 'halo effect.' It's possibly the origin of the myths about halos.

 

"This source, whatever it might be, destroys the will and the sense of self. The more extreme cases can no longer distinguish between themselves and the world. They seem to lose the power of human speech. They go into a sort of coma, mumbling meaningless syllables. Then physiological changes begin to appear -- abnormally low breathing rates, a slowing of the heartbeat, a slowing of all bodily processes.

 

"I'm here to conduct tests and to do what I can for the relief of the victims. It's rather difficult because they evince no desire to be cured and they early lose the will to coherently communicate. But perhaps one day we will be able to cure these poor unfortunates and make them productive members of society."

 

Mark asked, "What's he talking about, Miss Prysby?"

 

"He wants to cure that sick man with the halo. He wants to make it so that man can hold down a job and earn a living wage."

 

"You mean that guy won't have his halo anymore?"

 

"No, I suppose he won't."

 

"That's a shame," said Mark. "He looks neat with that halo."

 

CHAPTER TWENTY-SIX: THE GREAT DRAGON OF OME

 

The water was cold, and it had been so comfortable lying on the beach that soon everybody was straggling ashore, and Paul Newman and Kathy and Kevin and Eugene were wandering up the hill.

 

"Hey! Come back here!" ordered Miss Prysby. "Don't you understand -- it's dangerous."

 

Then she decided to run after them and bring them back. But as she ran up the hill, she started forgetting what she was running for, and she just wanted to get to the top, and everybody was running there.

 

From the very top, off in the distance, across the green green fields of Ome, they saw the huge shape of the Great Dragon of Ome, the Lizard of Oz, the Leaping Lizard himself.

 

Peter and Linda Crotty hid in Miss Morgan's lap. And Linda S. said, "The zoo's a really nice place to go to see strange animals. There are bars and everything; and it's really very safe."

 

But somebody started singing "Puff, the Magic Dragon," and soon everybody was singing it. And they were all laughing and playing and rolling in the green green grass of Ome.

 

From way off in the distance, they heard the sound, "Ome, Ome, Ome . . ." repeated over and over again by what sounded like a huge chorus of people.

 

Joey asked, "Why do they keep saying 'Ome,' Miss Prysby?"

 

"It must be a football game or something," she answered. "They're probably chanting the name of the home team. But it's funny -- if I shut my eyes, I could think I was in the Far East in some Buddhist monastery."

 

"Where's the Far East?" asked Mark. "Is it in Maine somewhere?"

 

"No, it's on the other side of the world. You see, the world's a very big place. The sun shines here half the time and there in the East the other half. When it's day here, it's night there. And when it's night there, it's day here. There's no real difference between their side of the world and ours. But by some strange coincidence, all the major religions of the world have originated in the East."

 

"Miss Prysby, come quick!" shouted Gaynell. "Somebody over here's in chains."

 

"Don't free me," said the man. "Please, don't free me. I don't trust myself. I can't trust myself. I know it'll destroy me, but I'm drawn to it. Please, don't free me." He pulled at the chains, trying with every muscle in his body to rip himself free. The chains cut through his flesh to the bone. Then he fell back, exhausted, relieved that he hadn't broken free. His arms and legs were scarred and bloodied by such repeated attempts. "The sirens, it's the sirens, I tell you. It isn't that good. It can't be. It's an illusion. They're trying to get me to crack up." Then he jumped up again and pulled again, screaming with pain.

 

Someone else was praying, "Oh radiant being, light of lights, very God of very Gods . . ."

 

A girl was writhing on the ground, saying, "Stop! It hurts. Please don't pull me there. Please. I don't think I can stop myself. It feels too good."

 

Miss Morgan said, "Everyone back on top of the hill. We shouldn't expose the children to this. I'll run ahead and get what we came for. If I go fast, I think it'll be all right."

 

So Miss Morgan went running down the hillside with the stick in her hand. At first she was scared, but soon she started to feel that she didn't need anyone bigger than herself, that she had nothing to be afraid of -- she could handle anything that might happen. Then she realized there was someone bigger. She couldn't say who it was; but she felt there was someone, and felt he was with her.

 

"Gosh," said Donny, "look at all the pretty colors."

 

Miss Morgan's clothes had suddenly changed color.

 

"That's the strange intense light," explained Miss Prysby. "It plays tricks on your eyes. It can make a perfectly ordinary dress look like it's fit for a queen."

 

"Fit for an empress," said Kathy. "That's moral fiber."

 

Miss Prysby laughed, "What a beautiful idea. Children say the sweetest things."

 

"Man," said Paul Newman, "she can't fight that dragon all by herself." He went running to the rescue.

 

"Stop, Paul!" Miss Prysby shouted. "Come back!"

 

But he kept running, and the kids all wanted to follow him. Miss Prysby held them back; so they practiced the dragon-fighting strokes that St. George and the other Knights of the Merry-Go-Round Table had taught them; and they cheered Miss Morgan and Paul Newman on.

 

When Paul Newman started out, he was a bit scared. But the closer he got to the dragon, the better he felt. He could feel his muscles growing with every step. It would be child's play to kick that little dragon for a field goal. The empty corners of his mind filled with new strength and confidence. It was no mystery to him how people turned themselves into fish and fish turned to frogs and frogs to people. He felt the life force surging within him, the force that in an acorn can crack huge boulders, the power to change the world and to change oneself.

 

All around him, other people rushed forward then crawled back, fighting themselves and fighting this force that drew them onwards. Hundreds shouted that they were Caesar or Napoleon.

 

One shouted that he was an atom bomb.

 

Paul Newman passed Miss Morgan. He had forgotten that he was running to rescue her and fight the dragon. Now he was running to that source of strength, and all around him he heard "Ome, Ome, Ome . . .," and he had to fight his way through masses of immobile humanity chanting over and over "Ome, Ome, Ome . . ."

 

Meanwhile, Donny was moving forward, too. Miss Prysby was so busy trying to see Paul Newman and Miss Morgan that she didn't notice that Donny had slipped by. He hadn't meant to go far; but with every step he took, he saw clearer and brighter and sharper. Soon he was seeing through things with x-ray vision, like Superman. Then he knew what it must be like to be one of those judges in The Oddest Sea who could tell at a glance who was a goodie and who a baddie -- he felt he could literally see what was right and wrong.

 

Kathy, too, was slowly edging her way ahead. Not that she meant to disobey Miss Prysby, but her feet just sidled that way of their own accord, while she was daydreaming about the love potion in A Midsummer Night's Dream. Then she saw a robin with a hurt wing. She bent down and picked the robin up and petted it. She just loved the little robin, and it looked so much like it wanted to fly toward the dragon. It had probably hurt itself from trying so hard. So she ran forward with the robin in her hand, and it seemed to gain strength with every step she took, and it sang for joy and flew off toward the dragon. And Kathy felt good all over.

 

Next Mark started running toward the dragon; and as he ran, he felt he could answer all the questions he had ever wanted to ask. Then he felt he had the answers to hundreds of questions he'd never even thought of asking. Then he didn't even know what the questions could be, but he knew he was finding answers and the answers were important -- so very important.

 

Without realizing it, Miss Prysby, too, was slowly moving forward, and the rest of the class with her. She felt she had never known so much in all her life. She felt she didn't even know how much she knew. But she nearly tripped.

 

"I have to tell someone," said the man she almost tripped over. "I have to put it into words. You see, I went to Ome singing, and I returned from Ome singing, and the light was in my words, and the light shone through my words. My beloved heard the song and came running to see what I had seen. But while I put what I saw into words, she was speechless; and it filled her; and she was spell-bound.

 

"I can see from her face that she's happy. But all she sees is that light -- that cursed light, that bless light. And I'll go mad if I can't tell someone, keep telling someone." And he ran off to tell someone else.

 

"We have to do something," said Miss Prysby. "This dragon business is dangerous. I thought so before, but now I know it. And we ought to put it into words; I know we ought. Our only protection is to put it into words; but I don't know how."

 

Linda S. started singing "Joshua at the Battle of Jericho," and everybody joined in. Then they piled into the little green VW, and Miss Prysby drove as fast as she could toward the Great Dragon of Ome, the Lizard of Oz. Everybody kept singing as loud as they could "Joshua at the Battle of Jericho."

 

They picked up Mark and Kathy and Donny along the way. Then they slowed to push their way through the mob. They had to sing really loud to hear themselves over the great roaring chant of "Ome, Ome, Ome . . ." But it was a bit of a challenge, and the kids loved to sing loud anyway, and they were really good at singing loud.

 

They picked up Paul Newman and Miss Morgan near a huge giant who was stretched out at the feet of the dragon. And still they sang loud and clear "Joshua at the Battle of Jericho and the walls came tumbling down."

 

Then the kids piled out of the car and started climbing all over the dragon. Gaynell put wilted forgetmenots between his toes. Kathy stuck petalless daisies under his scales. Paul Newman took out his slightly crushed sunflower and hit the dragon's belly with it. And Eugene and Kevin and Joey kept hitting the dragon with upper cuts and back strokes and breast strokes, just like St. George had taught them. The dragon really didn't know what to make of it all.

 

Then Cindy, who had climbed all the way up the dragon's back, carefully, very carefully crawled to the top of his head, and stroked him very gently behind the left ear. It was a stroke of genius. He purred and lay down and looked incredibly happy. And soon he was sound asleep.

 

Paul Newman and Eugene and Kevin and Mark and Joey and Donny and Peter and Timmy and Kathy and Gaynell and Linda Crotty and Linda S. all held the dragon's mouth open, and Miss Morgan reached with the stick, way, way down the dragon's throat. When her arm came out, the torch was glowing bright and clear, with the fire that doesn't burn.

 

 

CHAPTER TWENTY-SEVEN: WINTHROP

 

They had no trouble at all finding their way Home. Everything was incredibly familiar, as if they'd always lived in Ome and Home was the place next-door.

 

As they got away from the dragon, the supernatural effects gradually wore off. They went back to feeling human; but it felt good, really good to be human and enchanted.

 

Miss Prysby told Paul Newman what to expect and how to behave. "You're going out into the world now -- the real world. It's so wonderful, and I'm going to be with you when you see it all for the first time -- brand-new and full of surprises. Oh, brave new world!"

 

Miss Prysby had learned all the street names when Mr. Shermin had told her at the beginning of the trip. So when they arrived in Winthrop, she told Miss Morgan which way to go, and soon they were back at school.

 

The kids all piled out of the little green VW, and Miss Morgan started walking up the front steps with the torch in her hand. Just then, overhead, they heard airplane noises; and as the plane got closer, they heard:

 

"Humdrum humbug

 

beating on his humdrum;

 

humdrum humbug

 

beating on his humdrum . . ."

 

Morgan was caught off balance. She tripped on the top step and fell. The torch hit the door, and the door was ablaze and the building was ablaze, and all Winthrop was ablaze, and the whole world was ablaze with the fire that doesn't burn.

 

"Out of sight," said Paul Newman.

 

"Gosh," said Donny, "everything's beautiful."

 

Mark asked, "Miss Morgan, why wasn't it always this way?"

 

"I don't know, Mark," she answered. "I just don't know."

 

Mr. Newman asked, "You mean it wasn't always this way?"

 

The sound above them changed. It was still a drum, but it was a different beat -- a wild dance beat.

 

"Man," said Mr. Newman, "that Humbug's turned into one humdinger of a drummer."

 

Miss Morgan looked up toward the sound, but all she saw was clouds -- light fluffy little clouds. She wondered if maybe one of them was Cloud Nine. She wondered if Mr. Carroll was still there.

 

The sun came out. Maybe, as Plato said, it wasn't the real sun; but it shone brightly.

 

Miss Morgan stood up, brushed herself off, and picked up the torch. It was hard to say if it had lost anything in the fall. She opened the blazing door of the school and walked in.

 

Just then, Mr. Shermin came running and stumbling and dancing toward the school. "Marvelous!" he exclaimed, fighting hard to catch his breath. "It's simply marvelous. I never really believed it could be this way.

 

"I came rushing back, thinking you'd all be depressed and run-down after going through all that for nothing. I hoped that what I had learned would console you a bit -- maybe give you some hope. And I'm greeted with this. It makes my head swim -- like when I changed myself into a fish."

 

"What did you learn, Mr. Shermin?" asked Miss Prysby.

 

"All I can say is what I thought I learned. I really don't know what to make of this. You see, Mr. Plato didn't tell the whole story; or, rather, the story didn't have all the answers. No story could hope to have all the answers.

 

"You see, it suddenly struck me that just a few days ago this very class was enchanted. Regardless of what was going on in the world around them, regardless of what had developed through the centuries, these children were enchanted.

 

"Then I realized that Plato's explanation, or at least the way I took it at first, was too heavily weighted on the side of environment.

 

"Enchantment is in you. It's a spark in you that glows and fades, and maybe it never totally goes out. Lord, I hope it never totally goes out. But it's in you. That's what I came to tell you -- the fire is in you. You don't have to go chasing to the ends of the earth -- it's in you.

 

"But now I see this . . ."

 

 


APPENDIX: FOOD FOR THOUGHT

 

from The Upanishads

 

Yama said: "That word or place which all the Vedas record, which all penances proclaim, which men desire when they live as religious students, that word I tell thee briefly, it is Om." ...

 

The Self, whose symbol is Om, is the omniscient Lord. He is not born. He does not die. He is neither cause nor effect. This Ancient One is unborn, imperishable, eternal: though the body be destroyed, he is not killed. ...

 

Smaller than the smallest, greater than the greatest, this Self forever dwells within the hearts of all. When a man is free from desire, his mind and senses purified, he beholds the glory of the Self and is without sorrow. ...

 

As fire, though one, takes the shape of every object which it consumes, so the Self, though one, takes the shape of every object in which it dwells. ...

 

But those who are devoted to the worship of the Self, by means of austerity, continence, faith, and knowledge, go by the northern path and attain the world of the sun. The sun, the light, is indeed the source of all energy. It is immortal, beyond fear; it is the supreme goal. For him who goes tot he sun there is no more birth nor death. The sun ends birth and death. ...

 

Evil touches him not, troubles him not, for in the fire of his divine knowledge all evil is burnt away.

 

from Finnegan's Wake by James Joyce

 

The fall (bababadalbharaghtakamminarronnkonbronntonnerronntuonnthunntrovarrhounawnskawntoohoohoordenenthurnuk!) of a once wallstrait oldparr is retaled early in bed and later in lie down through all christian minstrelsy. The great fal of the offwall entailed at such short notice the pftjschute of Finnegan, erse solid man, that the humptyhillhead of humself prumptly sends an unquiring one well to the west in quest of his tumptytumtoes: and their upturnpikepointand place is at the knock out in the park where oranges have been laid to rust upon the green since devlinsfirst loved livvy.

 

from Frogs by Aristophanes

 

CHARON: Now stop this silly clowning. Brace your legs and row... row like a good one.

 

DIONYSIS: Never learned -- complete landlubber... most unnautical. How can I row?

 

CHARON: Easily. You will hear, once you have started, lovely songs...

 

DIONYSIS: By whom?

 

CHARON: Our minstrel frogs... wonderful!

 

from The Greeks and Their Gods by W.K.C. Guthrie

 

In his dealings with homicide, it was above all this question of miasma, or pollution, which concerned Apollo. As it was he who pronounced a city or an individual to lie under its cloud, so it was he who could grant the ritual purification that would set them free.

 

from Faust, Part II by Goethe

 

MEPHISTOPHELES: Loth am I now high mystery to unfold:

 

Goddesses dwell, in solitude, sublime,

 

Enthroned beyond the world of place or time;

 

Even to speak of them dismays the bold.

 

These are The Mothers.

 

FAUST: Mothers?

 

MEPHISTOPHELES: Stand you daunted?

 

FAUST: The Mothers! Mothers -- sound with wonder haunted.

 

MEPHISTOPHELES: True, goddesses unknown to mortal mind,

 

And named indeed with dread among our kind.

 

To reach them, delve below earth's deepest floors;

 

And that we need them, all the blame is yours

 

from The Sovereignty of Good by Iris Murdoch

 

We do not simply, through being rational and knowing ordinary language "know" the meaning of all necessary moral words. We may have to learn the meaning; and since we are human historical individuals the movement of understanding is onward into increasing privacy, in the direction of the ideal limit, and not back toward a genesis in the rulings of an impersonal public language. ...

 

When Plato wants to explain Good, he uses the image of the sun. The moral pilgrim emerges from the cave and begins to see the real world in the light of the sun, and last of all is able to look at the sun itself.

 

from Idylls of the King by Tennyson

 

[description of the birth of King Arthur]

 

Shrunk like a fairy changeling lay the mage;

 

And ;when I enter'd told me that himself

 

And Merlin ever served about the King,

 

Uther, before he died; and on the night

 

When Uther in Tintagil past away

 

Moaning and wailing for an heir, the two

 

Left the still king, and passing forth to breathe,

 

Then from the castle gateway by the chasm

 

Descending thro' the dismal night -- a night

 

In which the bounds of heaven and earth were lost --

 

Beheld, so high upon the dreary deeps

 

It seem'd in heaven, a ship, the shape thereof

 

A dragon wing'd, and all from stem to stern

 

Bright with a shining people on the decks,

 

And gone as soon as seen. And then the two

 

Dropt to the dove, and watch'd the great sea fall,

 

Wave after wave, each mightier than the last,

 

Till last, a ninth one, gathering half the deep

 

And full of voices, slowly rose and plunged

 

Roaring, and all the wave was in a flame;

 

And down the wave and in the flame was borne

 

A naked babe, and rode to Merlin's feet,

 

Who stoopt and caught the babe, and cried, 'The King!

 

Here is an heir for Uther!' And the fringe

 

Of that great breaker, sweeping up the strand,

 

Lash'd at the wizard as he spake the word,

 

And all at once all round him rose in fire,

 

So that the child and he were clothed in fire.

 

And presently thereafter follow'd calm,

 

Free sky and stars. ...

 

from Moby Dick by Herman Melville

 

[on "the whiteness of the whale"]

 

Bethink thee of the albatross, whence come those could of spiritual wonderment and pale dread, in which that white phantom sails in all imaginations? Not Coleridge first threw that spell; but God's great, unflattering laureate, Nature. ...

 

Is it that by its indefiniteness it shadows forth the heartless voids, and immensities of the universe, and thus stabs us from behind with the thought of annihilation, when beholding the white depths of the milky way? Or is it, that as in essence whiteness is not so much a color as the visible absence of color, and at the same time the concrete of all colors; is it for these reasons that there is such a dumb blackness, full of meaning, in a wide landscape of snows -- a colorless, all-color of atheism from which we shrink? And when we consider that other theory of the natural philosophers, that all other earthly hues -- every stately or lovely emblazoning -- the sweet tinges of sunset skies and woods; yes, and the gilded velvets of butterflies, and the butterfly cheeks of young girls; all these are but subtle deceits, not actually inherent in substances, but only laid from without; so that all deified Nature absolutely paints like the harlot, whose allurements cover nothing but the charnel-house within; and when we proceed further, and consider that the mystical cosmetic which produces every one of her hues, the great principle of light, forever remains white or colorless in itself, and if operating without medium upon matter, would touch all objects, even tulips and roses, and with its own blank tinge -- pondering all this, the palsied universe lies before us a leper; and like the willful travelers in Lapland, who refuse to war colored and coloring glasses upon their eyes, so the wretched infidel gazes himself blind at the monumental white shroud that wraps all the prospect around him. And of all these things the Albino whale was the symbol. Wonder ye then at the fiery hunt?

 

from Physics and Philosophy by Werner Heisenberg

 

For instance, the great scientific contribution to theoretical physics that has come from Japan since the last war may be an indication for a certain relationship between philosophical ideas in the tradition of the Far East and the philosophical substance of quantum theory. It may be easier to adapt oneself to the quantum-theoretical concept of reality when one has not gone through the naive materialistic way of thinking that still prevailed in Europe in the first decades of this century. ...

 

A clear distinction between matter and force can no longer be made in this part of physics, since each elementary particle not only is producing some forces and is acted upon by forces, but it is at the same time representing a certain field of force. The quantum-theoretical dualism of waves and particles makes the same entity appear both as matter and as force. ...

 

But the problems of language here are really serious. We wish to speak in some way about the structure of the atoms and not only about the "facts" -- the latter being, for instance, the black spots on a photographic plate or the water droplets in a cloud chamber. but we cannot speak about the atoms in ordinary language. ...

 

In answer to the first question, one may say that the concept of complementarity introduced by Bohr into the interpretation of quantum theory has encouraged the physicists to use an ambiguous rather than an unambiguous language, to use the classical concepts in a somewhat vague manner in conformity with the principle of uncertainty, to apply alternatively different classical concepts which would lead to contradictions if used simultaneously. In this way, one speaks about electronic orbits, about matter waves and charge density, about energy and momentum, etc., always conscious of the fact that these concepts have only a limited range of applicability. when this vague and unsystematic use of language leads into difficulties, the physicist has to withdraw into the mathematical scheme and its unambiguous correlation with the experimental facts.

 

from The Tao of Physics by Fritjof Capra

 

The following chapters will show that the basic elements of the Eastern world view are also those of the world view emerging from modern physics. They are intended to suggest that Eastern thought -- and, more generally, mystical though -- provides a consistent and relevant philosophical background to the theories of contemporary science; a conception of the world in which man's scientific discoveries can be in perfect harmony with his spiritual aims and religious beliefs. The two basic themes of this conception are the unity and interrelation of all phenomena and the intrinsically dynamic nature of the universe. The further we penetrate into the submicroscopic world, the more we shall realize how the modern physicist, like the Eastern mystic, has come to see the world as a system of inseparable, interacting, and ever-moving components, with man as an integral part of this system. ...

 

At the atomic level, matter has a dual aspect: it appears as particles and as waves. Which aspect it shows depends on the situation. ... It has taken physicists a long time to accept the fact that matter manifests itself in ways that seem to be mutually exclusive; that particles are also waves, waves also particles. ...

 

Faced with a reality which lies beyond opposite concepts, physicists and mystics have to adopt a special way of thinking, where the mind is not fixed in the rigid framework of classical logic, but keeps moving and changing its viewpoint.

 

from Blindness and Insight by Paul de Man

 

The unity of appearance (sign) and idea (meaning) -- to use the terminology that one finds indeed among the theoreticians of romanticism when they speak of Schein and Idee -- is said to be a romantic myth embodied in the recurrent topos of the "Beautiful Soul." The schone Seele, a predominant theme of pietistic origin in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century literature, functions indeed as the figura of a privileged kind of language. Its outward appearance receives its beauty from an inner glow (or feu sacre) to which it is so finely attuned that, far from hiding it from sight, it gives it just the right balance of opacity and transparency, thus allowing the holy fire to shine without burning.

 

from The Orphic Voice by Elizabeth Sewell

 

It is of the nature of mind and language together, that they form an instrument capable of an indefinite number of developments. it matters very little whether the particular devisors or users of the instrument saw, at the point in time when they flourished its full implications. ...

 

We always say more than we know. this is one of the reasons for language's apparent imprecision. It is no reason for refusing language our confidence.

 

from Valerius Terminus by Francis Bacon

 

So as whatsoever is not God but parcel of the world, he hath fitted it to comprehension of man's mind, if man will open and dilate the powers of his understanding as he may.

 

from "Of Studies" by Francis Bacon

 

Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few chewed and digested; and that is, some books are to be read only in parts; others to be read, but not curiously; and some few to be read wholly, and with diligence and attention.

 

from Revelation

 

Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon; and the dragon and his angels fought, but they were defeated and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world -- he was thrown down to the earth and his angels were thrown down with him. ...

 

Then I saw another beast which rose out of the earth; it had two horns like a lamb and spoke like a dragon. It exercises all the authority of the first beast in its presence, and makes the earth and its inhabitants worship the first beast, whose mortal wound was healed. It works great signs, even making fire come down from heaven to earth in the sigh of men; ...

 

This calls for wisdom: let him who has understanding reckon the number of the beast, for it is a human number, its number is six hundred and sixty-six.

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