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Title: The Magic Makers and the Bramble Bush Man
Author: Sutton, Margaret
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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  _THE MAGIC MAKERS AND_
  THE BRAMBLE BUSH MAN

    BY
    MARGARET SUTTON

    [Illustration]

    _With Pictures by_
    PELAGIE DOANE

  GROSSET & DUNLAP
  PUBLISHERS      NEW YORK



  COPYRIGHT, 1936, BY
  GROSSET & DUNLAP, INC.

  _All Rights Reserved_

  _Printed in the United States of America_



  [Illustration:
    GILLY GILLY GALOO-OO
    I WONDER WHO ARE YOU-OO!
  ]



  _To Peggy-Muffins,
  the little artist in
  our family_



[Illustration: THE BRAMBLE BUSH MAN]



THE EXPEDITION BEGINS


Madeline Moffet stood on the corner beside the big sign that said USE
DRAGON MOTOR OIL. She liked to think of the sign as a warning, BEWARE
OF DRAGONS and the dragons as Mr. and Mrs. Lippett who lived in the
farm house beside the sign. Muffs boarded with them. She had been
told to go out and play but there was no one to play with except the
chickens. They made little friendly noises and tilted their heads.

“Talk! Talk!” they said and flocked after her.

Muffs wanted to talk with somebody. The dragons had an idea that
children should be seen and not heard and so she had kept everything
she wanted to say all bottled up inside herself. She thought the
chickens felt differently about it until she tried to catch one. Its
squawking frightened her and she dropped all of it but one long tail
feather which came out and was left waving in her hand.

“I’ll make b’lieve I’m an Indian,” she said to herself and stuck the
feather in her yellow hair.

Indians were supposed to follow trails. Muffs looked up the big road
with its little stores and shops and farm houses scattered in between
and decided at once that wouldn’t do for a trail. Then she looked down
the little road that went through the woods to the house where the
Tylers lived. Overhanging trees made it seem like a long tunnel. It
reminded her of the subway and shopping trips at home with her mother.
She walked slowly, thinking of her mother and their little apartment
in New York. They called it “the studio” and it was a tiny place with
paintings hanging all about and Muffs’ own little bed hidden behind
a green and gold screen. Last night her bed had been hidden behind a
curtain on the train. The curtain was green, like those overhanging
trees. Suddenly Muffs began to feel very sad and homesick. Then she
heard something. It was the strangest sort of thing she had ever heard:

  Gilly gilly galoo-oo,
  I wonder who are you-oo!

It sounded like a song and it came from a tree almost above her head.
She looked up. There, in the branches of the tree, was a little boy
about her own age. He was looking down at her with a friendly sort of
grin as he kept on chanting the song.

“I wonder who you are too-oo!” Muffs sang back to him.

“I’m a great discoverer,” he said, sliding out of the tree and leaning
against its trunk. “My name’s Tommy Tyler.”

“And I’m Miss Muffet. I’m staying with the dragons who live at the end
of this road. Didn’t you see the big sign, BEWARE OF DRAGONS? That
means Mr. and Mrs. Lippett.”

“I live at the other end,” said Tommy, “with Mom and Daddy and Great
Aunt Charlotte and Donald and Mary and the baby.”

“My! What a lot of people!” Muffs exclaimed. “In my family there’s only
Mother and me. Daddy went off and left us when I was just three years
old. I touched some of his things and he went to the ends of the earth
because there aren’t any children there.”

“Did he _say_ that?” questioned Tommy, coming closer to Muffs. He liked
this strange little girl from somewhere else. She was so different from
his sister, Mary, and all the children he knew at school.

“I don’t exactly remember what he said,” Muffs admitted, “but I do know
he stomped out of the room and pushed the elevator button so hard he
caught his finger----”

“What’s an alligator button?”

“_Elevator_ button,” said Muffs. “It’s to call the elevators. In New
York you go up and down in elevators like little moving houses. The
stairs go up and down sometimes too and the subways go _right under the
river_.”

“Ooo! Don’t you get all wet?”

Muffs laughed. “’Course not. It’s a tunnel. It goes under where the
water is.”

“I’ve got a tunnel,” Tommy said importantly. “I discovered it. It goes
under the floor in the workshop.”

Now it was Muffs’ turn to question and Tommy’s to answer.

“Can you go in it?”

“Yes, but you have to crawl and you’re all dressed up. I made a house
in there for the Gilly Galoo Bird and Thomas Junior. _They_ like it but
you wouldn’t. The dust makes you sneeze.”

“Don’t the Gilly Galoo Bird and Thomas Junior sneeze?”

“Thomas Junior’s too busy catching rats and the Gilly Galoo Bird can’t
sneeze ’’cause he’s made of iron. He’s a magic bird and lives in
Daddy’s carpenter shop. Want to see him?”

Muffs did want to see him. The carpenter shop sounded as new and
strange to her as her elevators and subways did to Tommy. Each felt
that the other was a little unreal. Afraid to take each other’s hands,
they started up the road side by side. A big black cat darted out from
somewhere in the bushes and began following them.

“That’s Thomas Junior,” Tommy explained. “He likes to go places with me
’cause I’m his master. There’s the house,” he added, pointing to it as
they turned the bend in the road.

Muffs saw two houses, like twin shadows, against the white sky. A walk
connected them and at the far end of the walk on a little flight of
steps, sat a girl whom she knew must be Mary. She was rocking a baby
carriage gently back and forth and singing a lullaby that fitted the
tune of Rock-a-bye Baby, and went like this:

  Go to sleep, baby. You are so dear.
  Go to sleep, baby. Sister is near.
  Go to sleep, baby. Mother will come.
  Go to sleep, baby and sister will hum
  Mmmmm, Mmmmm, Mmmmm, Mmmmm ...

But while she was humming, Tommy and Muffs came into the wood yard.

“It’s plain as plain,” Tommy announced. “We’re not real people at all.
Ellen is the baby in the tree-top, I’m Tommy Tucker and you’re the
contrary Mary who had the garden. And this,” he added, making a low bow
and waving one hand toward Muffs, “is little Miss Muffet who sat on a
tuffet only she’s frightened away by dragons instead of spiders.”

Mary stopped humming and looked up in surprise.

“Is your real name Little Miss Muffet?” she asked.

“It’s Madeline Moffet,” the little girl explained, “but Mother’s name
is Madeline too so people call me Miss Muffet or Muffins or just plain
Muffs.”

“She’s from New York,” said Tommy. “She rides in alligators under the
river. I wanted to show her Balo.”

“What’s Balo?” asked Muffs.

“It’s what I call the workshop when I’m playing,” Tommy explained. “All
of Daddy’s tools come to life and talk and walk an’ everything. The
hammer is a snake, the monkey wrench a gilly galoo bird and Daddy’s old
broom is a tailor with a funny face.”

“Are they alive now?” asked Muffs as she stood on tiptoe and peered
into the shop window.

“No, because we’re not playing Balo. We’re being make-believe people
out of books.”

“I’m being myself,” said Mary, “and I don’t want to play.”

“You are playing! You are playing!” Muffs and Tommy both shouted.
“You’re being contrary and that makes you Contrary Mary.”

“I am not contrary and you don’t sing for your supper either, Tommy
Tyler, because you can’t carry a tune.”

“I can sing-song,” said Tommy, “and it sounds magic. Muffs can
sing-song too because she sing-songed back at me when I was calling
gilly-galoo out of the tree. That makes us not real and everything we
do all day MAGIC.”

“What’s that feather in your hair?” asked Mary eyeing the new girl
doubtfully.

[Illustration]

“I was playing Indian,” Muffs explained. “I was following a trail.”

“It was just our road,” Tommy put in. “That’s too wide for a trail. But
I know where there’s a real trail we could follow. It’s somewhere over
in those woods.” He pointed to the hillside beyond the apple orchard.
“Remember, Mary, we started to follow it once----”

“Oh, yes!” Mary exclaimed. “I remember. But it’s a long trail. It would
take all day.”

“We could pack some lunch,” Tommy suggested.

“I’ll go in and pack some now!”

So Mary, as eager for a picnic as the two younger children, wheeled the
baby around to the front porch and left Great Aunt Charlotte minding
her. Then she ran into the kitchen and asked Mrs. Tyler if she might
have a basket. Together they filled it with bread and cookies as well
as a big jar of strawberry jam.

“Here we are,” said Mary, opening the kitchen door and running along
the narrow walk that the children had named the Way of Peril. She
jumped over the One Way Steps and almost spilled the basket. “Here we
are! All ready to start on the expedition.”

Tommy had whittled out a whistle from an elderberry branch while she
was packing the lunch.

“I’ll be the leader!” he cried, blowing the whistle.

“No, I will,” cried contrary Mary.

“But I thought of it,” Tommy insisted. “I should be the leader.”

“No, I should!”

It began to sound like a quarrel and, as the day was much too fine for
quarreling, Muffs sat down on the One Way Steps to think of a way out.
It had been a quarrel that had sent her father to the ends of the earth
and she didn’t want anything to spoil this expedition.

“I’ll tell you what,” she exclaimed. “We’re supposed to be story book
people so let’s all say Mother Goose rhymes and the one who thinks of
the most can take the lead.”

Mary and Tommy looked at each other doubtfully, but both of them loved
a game and so it was agreed that they should begin by saying the rhymes
that fitted their own names. More and more followed until Mary could
not think of another one and had to drop out. Tommy thought of three
rhymes after that but Muffs knew at least a dozen more.

“I’ll say a beautiful one this time,” she said with a toss of her
yellow curls.

“No, an ugly one,” said contrary Mary.

“I like the funny ones best,” declared Tommy. “Then we could start off
laughing.”

Miss Muffet scratched her curly head a minute and then her eyes began
to dance as they always did whenever she thought of something clever.

“I’ll tell you what,” she cried. “I’ll say a rhyme that’s the prettiest
and the ugliest and the funniest all together!”

“You couldn’t!”

“Oh, yes, I could,” and to prove it she began reciting:

  There was a man in our town and he was wondrous wise.
  He jumped into a bramble bush and scratched out both his eyes.
  Then when he saw his eyes were out, with all his might and main
  He jumped into another bush and scratched them in again.

“What’s beautiful about that?” asked Mary when she had finished.

“The two words ‘wondrous wise’,” she replied. “And the ugly part
is where he scratched his eyes out and the funny part is where he
scratched them in again.”

“Yes,” said Tommy thoughtfully. “There can be a real Miss Muffet and a
real Tommy Tucker and a real Contrary Mary, _but there couldn’t be a
really-and-truly Bramble Bush Man_.”

“I think there could,” said contrary Mary. “Let’s play he lives at the
end of the trail.”

“Oh, let’s!” cried Muffs, clapping her hands. “Won’t it be the most
fun? Only I can’t be the leader,” she added a minute afterwards,
“’cause I don’t know the way.”

“We’ll get you a Guide then. Here’s a hat for him,” said Tommy handing
her his own tall straw hat. Muffs stuck her feather in to make the
Guide look more like an Indian.

“But where is the Guide?” she asked presently.

Mary pointed to a clump of bushes where Tommy was busily whittling away
at something.

“I think he’s making him,” she whispered.

And, sure enough, when Tommy returned he had the Guide by the hand.
He was very thin and very tall and his hands had leafy fingers. His
twig nose pointed straight ahead of him and his eyes were very sharp.
Tommy’s sharp jack-knife had cut them deep into his head and the gash
that served as a mouth was wide and smiling. Muffs slipped the hat over
his head and it fitted exactly. Holding the Guide ahead of them, the
children started off.

[Illustration]



IN A BRAMBLE BUSH


Tommy walked beside Muffs in order to give directions although that was
properly the work of the silent Guide. Mary trudged on behind as it
was her turn to carry the basket of lunch. They had passed the apple
orchard and were following the trail which might, if their play came
true, lead to the Bramble Bush Man’s house. There couldn’t be a real
Bramble Bush Man. At least the children couldn’t see exactly how a man
could scratch his eyes out and then scratch them in again and still be
wondrous wise. But they were looking for the impossible. The trail was
narrow and crooked and held no end of mystery.

“Anything might happen,” Muffs said in a whisper.

It did seem that way. First they were in a patch of woods so thick they
could hardly see the sunshine. Then there would be a grassy field; then
woods again. And sometimes a rock that they could hide behind. These
were the jolliest games of hide-and-seek that the children had ever
played.

They had been in the deep woods for quite some time when Tommy stopped
short.

“Whew!” he exclaimed. “This isn’t the path I found. See that hollow
stump. I never saw that before.”

“It’s beginning to go down hill again,” cried Mary after another five
minutes of tramping.

“Do you suppose,” questioned Muffins doubtfully, “that a wondrous wise
man would live in the woods as far away from other people as this?”

“Wise men like to be alone,” said Tommy knowingly.

“They like company,” contradicted Mary.

“I think you’re both right,” Muffins declared. “Sometimes they like to
be alone and sometimes they like company. I’m that way too,” she added,
seating herself on a stone to rest.

“Little Miss Muffet sat on a tuffet,” sang out Tommy in his tuneless
voice.

“That stone is not a tuffet.”

But this time Tommy would not quarrel with Mary. It might spoil the
magic of their play. “Well,” he said slowly, “if it isn’t a tuffet,
then what is?”

None of them knew. Such a simple little word and yet they hadn’t an
idea in the world what it meant. They asked the Guide and he only
stared at them out of his sharp eyes and the tap-tapping of his feet on
the trail was their only answer. But the Bramble Bush Man would know.

“We’ll ask him, first thing,” agreed Muffins. “Then if he tells us the
answer to that we’ll start asking him other things.”

“What other things?”

“Oh, millions of ’em. How to make my mother happy and what people mean
by the ends of the earth.”

“I know what they mean by the _ends of the moon_,” Mary put in. “It
really does have ends sometimes, just like the two ends of a horn. We
could ask him why.”

“I know that,” said Tommy proudly. “That’s the earth’s shadow.”

“Is it?”

Miss Muffet gazed at him for a minute and then Mary said, “But you’re
not wondrous wise ’cause you don’t know what a tuffet is.”

Where the trail was steep the Guide helped Muffins climb. When she grew
tired she rested on his arms. She even shared her lunch with him. Soon
the basket was nearly empty.

“We’d better save the little that’s left,” Mary suggested, “and pick
berries if we’re hungry.”

There were plenty of berries along the path. In the cleared places
tall barberry bushes grew but their bright red fruit was too sour
and too filled with seeds. There were many kinds of berries that the
children didn’t dare eat for fear they might be poison--and there were
blackberries and tangles of brambles hanging over the trail.

“Now that we’ve discovered the brambles,” Tommy declared, “it will be
lots easier to find the Bramble Bush Man!”

Muffs and Mary agreed that his house would probably be covered with
blackberry vines. Half believing their play, they looked cautiously at
either side of any bushes before they dared pick berries from them. The
Bramble Bush Man might be cross if he caught them picking berries from
his own private bushes.

“I think a wise man would be cross,” Muffins said.

But Mary, as usual, was contrary and thought he would be kind. He would
have to be very old too and yet young enough to jump into brambles.
They would keep on talking like that until the whole thing got too
puzzling. Then they would have a game of hide-and-seek and forget it
until, suddenly, the question of the Bramble Bush Man’s wisdom would
bob up again.

They had come to a regular forest of blackberry briars and, once more,
were playing hide-and-seek. Tommy was “it.” He had borrowed the Guide
to help him hunt. They had already found Mary, and Muffs could hear
them trampling in among the brambles looking for her. She crouched
under a particularly tall and brambly bush and plopped a berry in her
mouth to keep herself quiet.

“All out’s in free!” she heard them calling.

She scrambled to her feet and then, all in a flash, she saw something
sparkling in the late afternoon sun. It made little flickers of light
dance across the bramble bushes. Could it be--someone’s eyes? The
Bramble Bush Man’s?

[Illustration]

Muffs called, “Mary! Tommy! Come here--QUICK!!!”

They came, pushing through the brush as fast as they could and then
they saw her pointing. There, with one bow looped over a bramble, were
the oddest looking pair of spectacles that they had ever seen.

“I--I thought they were eyes at first,” Miss Muffet stammered.

“They are eyes,” said Tommy solemnly as he unhooked the bow. “Great
Aunt Charlotte calls her glasses eyes and maybe the Bramble Bush Man
does too.”

“Then whoever puts them on will be wondrous wise,” Muffs said.

“Let’s put them on the Guide then,” Mary suggested. “If he’s wondrous
wise he can surely show us the way to the Bramble Bush Man’s house.”

“If he’s wondrous wise,” said Tommy, “then he is the Bramble Bush Man
and it’s his house we’re looking for.”



THE MAGIC WAND


There were so many things to be discovered along the trail they were
following that the children thought they would be wondrous wise
themselves before they reached the end of it.

The greatest discoverer of all was the Guide. He wore the Bramble Bush
Man’s glasses on his twig nose and peered out of the thick lenses
for all the world like a college professor studying maps of strange,
undiscovered places. He pointed ahead with his leafy arms and Muffs
followed eagerly after him. Tommy still insisted that the Guide was the
Bramble Bush Man but Muffs and Mary had set their hearts on finding the
real owner of the glasses.

“You know yourself,” Mary said practically, “that the Guide didn’t lose
the glasses and so they couldn’t be his.”

“Maybe he did. Maybe he lost them when he was still a tree.”

“If he could talk,” Muffs said, “I might b’lieve he was wondrous wise
but he doesn’t say a word.”

“Wise people don’t talk,” declared Tommy, “unless they have something
to say. But look! He’s pointing. He’s pointing to that bird’s nest
right over our heads.”

Muffs had never seen a nest with eggs in it. The Guide hooked an arm
over the branch and bent it to show her the eggs but she saw baby birds
instead. Five of them! And all five had their bills open like cups. By
standing right back of the Guide she could see them through his glasses.

“It’s magic,” she cried. “The birds have turned into baby dragons.”

Tommy looked too and, sure enough, everything was twice as big through
the glasses. He caught a small worm and held it in his fingers.

“Here’s a snake for you, baby dragons,” he said.

Muffs and Mary fed them crumbs of bread and cookies. Soon all five of
the funny bills were closed and five pair of eyes were blinking off to
sleep. Shadows grew longer. The children hurried a little faster and
forgot to look through the glasses.

“My, it’s a long trail!” Muffs sighed after an hour or so of hurrying.
“Seems as if it must go to the ends of the earth.”

“The earth is round,” said Mary. “Round things haven’t any ends.”

“Then there isn’t any such place?” asked Muffs, dismayed. But Tommy
pointed through the trees to where the earth and sky seemed to meet
each other.

“That looks like the end of the earth,” he declared. “If we just keep
on following the trail we’ll get there by night.”

“It’s night now,” said Muffs with a shiver as she leaned heavily on the
Guide. “I can’t even see the trail through his glasses. You take the
lead, Tommy. Maybe he’ll show you the trail.”

She handed him the Guide and for some time they walked on without a
word. The noise of their feet in the brush sounded louder now as if
they were waking someone from sleep. Birds chirped at them from the
trees and twice a woodchuck crossed in front of them. He sat up like a
dog and seemed to listen.

“He thinks we ought not to be here,” Tommy said. “He wants us to go
home.”

“Well, aren’t we going home?” Mary asked.

But her little brother had stumbled over a log and was busy picking
himself up. Then he had to look for his whistle. A tiny black beetle
found it before he did and crawled inside. Through the glasses he
looked like some giant eclipsing the sun. Tommy puffed out his cheeks
and blew very hard, trying to get him out. Mary saw him doing it and
edged over to Muffs.

“I don’t believe he sees the trail at all,” she whispered. “Could we be
lost?”

“Then Tommy could blow the whistle.”

“He’s trying to, but it won’t work,” Mary returned. “Even if it did
blow, no one would hear it way off here in the woods.”

Muffs had not thought of that. In New York people heard whistles and
there were always kind policemen to take lost children home. Here they
had nothing except the wooden Guide and his head was too small to
hold many brains. No one believed in his wisdom now but Tommy. He was
holding him close to his face and peering anxiously through the glasses.

“Tommy!” Muffs called. “Can you really see the trail through those
glasses?”

“I can see it _through the glasses_,” he called back, “but when I look
again, it’s gone.”

“Then we are lost!” Mary cried. “I knew it! Tommy had no right to take
the lead.” And she began to cry.

Muffs felt like crying, too. Night made her think of her own little
bed back in the studio. Her mother was always there, just outside the
screen. Muffs had only to peep through a crack to see her working away
at her painting. Perhaps it would be a painted woods as green as the
one they had just passed through, or a sky as bright as their sky had
been before the sun sank in a pool of red clouds. She thought of all
this and then remembered that, for the first time in her life, she
would have to go to sleep without her mother’s kiss. There would be no
green and gold screen, no little bed, not even a blanket ...

“I s’pose we’ll have to cover up in leaves like the babes in the
woods,” she said, her lip trembling.

Mary did not answer. She stood watching the trees grow darker and
darker as the last red cloud was swallowed up by the hill. Tommy headed
for the valley.

“We’re bound to come out somewhere,” he said hopefully.

“We are not,” Mary sobbed. “Lost people just keep going ’round and
’round in circles.”

“Then we aren’t lost,” Tommy declared. “We haven’t passed the same
thing once and we’ve had a Guide to lead us all the way.”

Too tired to argue, Mary nodded and her hand tightened on Muffins’ arm.
The air felt chilly and a wind was whistling overhead in the branches.
Louder than Tommy’s whistle sounded its ooo-ooo! Louder than their
voices when they called! Did the wind always make such a noise, Muffs
wondered. Was that a light ahead of them or only a star showing through
the trees?

All at once Tommy gave a shout and pointed.

“A house!”

It was indeed! And the queerest little house that ever was. It had no
door and the roof sloped nearly to the ground. None of them had seen it
before although it must have been there. A house couldn’t move. And
yet this house seemed to have appeared by magic.

“Maybe it’s growing up out of the ground and isn’t all up yet,” Muffs
said in a whisper.

“It looks that way,” Tommy agreed, “’specially the window.”

“It’s the Bramble Bush Man’s house!” exclaimed Mary. “Didn’t I tell you
there could be a really-and-truly Bramble Bush Man?”

“You didn’t believe it yourself when you said it.”

“Well, now I do,” she answered and turned again to look at the house
that couldn’t be a house at all. It kept right on growing out of the
ground as they walked toward it. Now they could see all of the window.
A long, narrow walk went up to and right through it. Certainly nobody
on earth except the Bramble Bush Man would live in a house without a
door.

“He might be a burglar,” said Muffs in a whisper. “Then he’d be used to
going in windows.”

Mary thought he was either a giant or a college professor but Tommy
still insisted he was the Guide. Whatever he was, they were curious and
kept on. If they paused it was only to wonder something else and soon
all three of them were walking along the plank. It tilted this way and
that and felt something like standing up on a see-saw. They found the
window halfway open and it was easy to crawl through. Mary went first
and Muffs and Tommy followed her. They were dragging the poor Guide
after them. He made a scraping sound of protest as he slid over the
window sill. “Don’t do it! Don’t do it!” he kept repeating but he had
been silent all afternoon so now the children wouldn’t listen.

The first thing they saw was three other children scrambling into
another window on the opposite side of the room. They started walking.
So did the other children. They stopped and the other children stopped
too. The wooden Guide bowed to another wooden Guide and suddenly
everybody began to giggle.

“Why, it’s only us,” said Mary when she had stopped herself from
laughing.

“Then,” said Tommy, “it must be a giant’s looking-glass.”

“Oooo!” squealed Muffs. “The Bramble Bush Man must be a giant. He’ll
cook us and eat us if he finds us here!”

Mary looked hard at her. “Do you think,” she asked seriously, “that a
wondrous wise man would cook and eat little children?”

“He’d be very kind,” Tommy added, “almost as kind as Daddy. He’d let us
play with the things in this room just like Daddy lets us play with his
tools in the carpenter shop.”

“Would he really?” asked Muffs. And then, all at once, she knew
perfectly well that the Bramble Bush Man was kind. For there, on a long
table, was a delicate cage of gold wire and in it a little white rabbit
was hopping about and twitching his funny nose. He looked well cared
for and nobody but a very kind man would trouble himself to take good
care of a rabbit.

Other things were on the table too, things so strange that only a
wondrous wise man would know how to use them; rings and hoops and balls
and bottles and a deck of cards big enough for a giant to play with.
They were all reflected in the mirror so that, for every one, there
were really two, but Muffs could see only the rabbit. She had forgotten
the Guide who lay there beside the cage with his tall hat askew. Mary
and Tommy had forgotten him too. They poked their fingers through
the cage to feel the rabbit’s velvety nose and then Tommy found an
odd-looking stick and poked that in too.

What happened then was so surprising that none of the children ever,
ever forgot it. The Guide gave one leap, all by himself, and then
clattered to the floor, leaving his hat and glasses behind him. A
small, flat piece of metal clattered after him and knocked off one of
his arms. Then he lay still and turned quietly back into a stick.

The children were so busy watching him that, for a minute, they didn’t
look at the table but, when they did look, both the rabbit and the cage
were gone. They were gone! They weren’t anywhere on the table. They
weren’t on the floor. They weren’t reflected in the Bramble Bush Man’s
big mirror. They simply weren’t anywhere!

“Gee!” exclaimed Tommy, looking first at the stick in his hand and then
at the stick in the mirror. After a little while he said, “Gee!” again.
It was all he could say.

Mary couldn’t say anything but Muffs found herself talking all at once
as if she would never stop.

“It’s a magic wand!” she cried. “We’ve really turned into story book
people. We’re not real and the rabbit wasn’t real and I don’t b’lieve
even the house is real. But we can make things real again with the
wand. Touch something else, Tommy, and see what happens.”

“Aw, you touch something,” he said, handing her the stick as if he were
glad to get rid of it.

“What shall I touch?” she asked, circling around the room. Nothing in
it seemed very solid and she had never outgrown her fear of breaking
things.

“Try this,” suggested Mary, pointing to a large vase of flowers that
stood on an equally large stand. “Maybe you can change them into gold
the way King Midas did in the story.”

“I’d love golden roses,” Muffs said softly. She had a feeling that she
was acting on a stage and that those three reflections were really
watching her. Even the floor felt wabbly. It was more like a stage than
ever when she played fairy princess and reached out with her wand to
touch the roses.

Then she forgot to act! It wasn’t a bit like a play any more because
something perfectly dreadful had happened. Muffs had broken the vase!
She hadn’t meant to break it. She had only tapped it ever so gently but
the moment the wand touched it the whole bottom fell out. It left a
great hole that went right on through the stand and looked deep enough
to go through the floor too, through the floor and through the earth
until it came to China on the other side. Flowers, soil, everything was
swallowed up in this enormous hole. Muffs wanted to crawl into the hole
too and hide forever so that nobody would ever know the awful thing she
had done.

“You’ve broken it,” Mary was scolding her. Two Marys were scolding her,
the real Mary and the Mary in the looking-glass. Two Tommys stood there
big-eyed, staring at what was left of two Guides with leafy fingers.

“I guess he wasn’t the Bramble Bush Man,” Tommy’s voice said
sorrowfully. “Let’s beat it before the real Bramble Bush Man comes
home.”

“But that wouldn’t be fair,” Muffs said and took one of her curls to
wipe away the tears that just would come. “He’ll know anyway if he’s
wondrous wise. I’ve got to fix it.”

She bent over the vase, trying to find the piece that had fallen out.
Was it something like this, she wondered, that had sent her father to
the ends of the earth? Muffs felt sure that wise men could get very,
very angry.

Just then a door opened somewhere. The children didn’t stop to wonder
where. They only heard the creak of its hinges, the rattle of the knob
and somebody’s big footsteps coming.

“It’s the Bramble Bush Man!” cried Muffs in a panic.

Tommy stuffed the glasses in his pocket and Muffs grabbed the tall
straw hat while Mary grabbed both their hands and pulled them through
the window. They didn’t turn their heads to see the three frightened
children in the Bramble Bush Man’s big mirror. Sliding, falling,
picking themselves up as they ran, they never looked behind them until
they stumbled into a road.

[Illustration]



THE PUBLIC NOTICE


“Whew!” exclaimed Tommy, taking a breath. “Jiminey! Where are we?”

They all looked about. There they were standing in the middle of
the big, dusty road right where it branched and went on up Lookoff
Mountain. At their left was the schoolhouse with its shutters closed
for the summer. At their right was the grange hall where pie socials
and spelling bees were sometimes held. Beyond, the church raised its
lofty steeple and behind them was the Millionaire’s House, big and
imposing as ever. Nothing was different. The Bramble Bush Man’s queer
little house was nowhere to be seen.

“You were right, Muffs. It wasn’t real,” said Tommy in an awed whisper.

“No,” agreed Mary. “It wasn’t. A real house couldn’t disappear any more
than a real rabbit could. But we’re real again and I think it’s time we
went home. Let’s take the short cut.”

But, in the meantime, Muffs had looked inside the Guide’s tall hat. She
looked to see what made it so heavy and two bright pink eyes looked
back at her. Two long ears went back and a soft nose twitched as much
as to say, “You didn’t know I was here, did you?”

“No, I didn’t,” said little Miss Muffet, just as if the rabbit had
really spoken.

“Didn’t what?” asked Tommy.

“Didn’t know there was a rabbit in the Indian Guide’s tall hat.”

Mary looked and her dark eyes grew round as saucers.

[Illustration]

“Goodness Sakes Alive!” she exclaimed. “It’s the same rabbit that
disappeared in the Bramble Bush Man’s house!”

Tommy gave a whistle of surprise. “So it is! Gee willikins, Muffs! How
did it get there?”

“The same way we got here, I guess. Magic.”

“There isn’t any such thing,” said Mary trying to be practical but
she might as well have said, “There isn’t any such thing as air,” for
it was all around them. First the glasses, then the house and now the
rabbit. Muffs stroked his silky ears and they flattened down on his
round little body so that he looked like a soft white ball.

“I never had a pet,” she said. “You have your white cat, Mary. And
Tommy has Thomas Junior and now I have Bunny Bright Eyes.”

“The name fits him,” said Tommy.

“Just the same you can’t keep him,” Mary declared. “The Bramble Bush
Man will know.”

“Oh,” she cried. “I hope we never meet him. He’ll be madder than ever
if he thinks I stole his rabbit and we can’t take it back when the
house is gone.”

“I think we’re dreaming,” Tommy announced loud enough to wake himself
up if he had been.

“Maybe it’s the glasses,” suggested Mary. “Feel in your pocket, Tommy,
and see if you still have them.”

Yes, the glasses were there, their thick lenses looking more like eyes
than ever. It wasn’t nice, having the eyes of a wondrous wise man
watching everything the children did. They made things look bigger.
Even the naughty things they had done that day looked much, much bigger
through the glasses.

“I’d like to get rid of them,” Tommy confided.

“You should have left them in the Bramble Bush Man’s house.”

“But, Mary, we couldn’t leave anything in the ghost of a house,” said
Tommy with a shiver. “I s’pose the Guide’s a ghost by now and we’d
have been ghosts too if we hadn’t run away.” Then he turned to his new
little playmate. “Muffs, you’re from the city and know a lot. Why don’t
you think of something?”

So Muffs sat down on a curb stone, still holding the rabbit carefully
in the Guide’s tall hat. But all she could think of was how angry the
Bramble Bush Man would be when he found the broken vase and missed his
rabbit. Then she thought of Mr. and Mrs. Lippett and how they would
scold her and wished she were home in her own little bed instead of
sitting on a cold stone trying to think. Her bed was so warm and cozy
and safe behind the green and gold screen. Then the screen made her
think of her mother’s paintings and the paintings, strangely enough,
reminded her of signs. The rest was easy.

“We might put up a Public Notice,” she announced.

“But where?”

“I know where!” Tommy cried excitedly. “On the walls of the Post
Office. Everybody comes in there after mail.”

Muffs thought she ought to hide the rabbit and stroked its ears so that
they would lay flat and not show over the brim of the tall hat. People
didn’t carry rabbits in hats when they went to the Post Office.

The big doors were hard to swing open and Tommy was just tall enough to
reach the desk. He found a pen and first he tried to write the Public
Notice on one side of a blotter. The ink all soaked in and it looked
like shadow writing. Then he tried the other side and wrote this:

  [Illustration:
    WE FOUND A PARE
    OF EYEZ IN A
    BRAMBLE BUSH

    IF YOUR WONDROUS
    WIZE PLEAZE CUM
    AND GET THEM
  ]

He stopped writing and held his pen in the air. Neither he nor Miss
Muffet noticed that it spattered a round spot of ink on the back of her
good dress.

When they reached the corner house, Tommy and Mary ran on home and left
Muffs to face the dragons alone. She felt that Mr. and Mrs. Lippett had
actually changed themselves into two huge dragons with fire in their
eyes. Both of them were waiting on the porch. Both of them had deep
scowl lines in the center of their foreheads. When they saw Muffs’
dirty face and torn dress with the big ink spot on the back the scowls
grew bigger but they didn’t say a word until Bunny Bright Eyes poked
his head out of the tall hat.

“Good land!” exclaimed Mrs. Lippett. “She’s got a rabbit.”

“Now where did that come from?” asked Mr. Lippett, looking like a
thundercloud.

Muffs’ face was burning red but for a moment she couldn’t say a word.
When she did speak it was only to stammer. “I--I met some children--the
Tyler children--and we went on a--a _exposition_. They let me take
their hat and this rabbit got into it. None of us know how.”

“Nonsense!” the thundercloud exploded. “A little girl doesn’t come home
with a pet rabbit in her hat and not know where she got it.”

“I think it belongs to someone,” Mrs. Lippett declared. “You had better
take it right back where you found it.”

“I found it in the hat,” Muffs insisted. “I thought maybe it was magic.”

“A magic trick, that’s what,” roared Mr. Lippett. “But you’ll see,
young lady, that tricks don’t work in this house. You’ll either get
rid of that rabbit or find another place to board. Now scoot!”

Muffs turned and ran as if the dragons were after her. There was only
one place she could go and that was back to Tylers. She could see the
light shining through their windows and that helped guide her along the
dark little road, over the bridge and past the swamp that seemed to be
filled with voices calling:

“You cheat! You cheat! You cheat!”

“I am not a cheat!” Muffs called back to the frogs. “I didn’t take the
rabbit on purpose. So there!”



THE FIRE THAT WASN’T


Muffs’ face was streaked with tears as well as dirt when she finally
rapped on the door. Mr. Tyler came to answer it.

“Please, mister, will you keep my rabbit?” she said, handing him the
hat, rabbit and all.

“Bless you!” he exclaimed. “Of course we’ll keep your rabbit but first
you must come in and tell us what’s the trouble.”

Muffs came in. Mary and Tommy and their big brother, Donald, were
seated around a table in the kitchen eating alphabet soup. Mrs.
Tyler was serving them from a steaming yellow bowl and, when she had
finished, she dished out another serving for Muffs. “Come here to the
basin,” she said, “and wash away those tears. We can talk while your
soup is cooling.”

That was all she said. She didn’t ask Muffs if she’d had supper. She
just seemed to know that the little girl was tired and hungry and
wanted nothing more than to sit down in someone’s clean kitchen over a
steaming bowl of alphabet soup.

Tommy was telling the day’s adventures while Thomas Junior mewed about
the table just as if he felt hurt that he had been left out. Mary added
to the story and soon Muffs joined in and told about the rabbit.

Great Aunt Charlotte, who had finished supper long before, sat in her
chair rocking and holding baby Ellen. The baby was asleep and would
have been in bed if Mrs. Tyler hadn’t been so interested in the story
the children were telling. Once she did say something about it being
made up but Donald defended them.

“One thing’s sure,” he said. “They didn’t make up the rabbit.”

“I made up a name for him,” said Muffs. “It’s Bunny Bright Eyes.”

“And a bright little rabbit he is too,” agreed Donald, “to get inside
the hat without your knowing it.”

“Mr. Lippett says I played a trick,” Muffs told him sorrowfully. “But
_I_ wasn’t playing any trick. It was Bunny Bright Eyes played a trick
on me.”

Mrs. Tyler had to laugh at this, but Great Aunt Charlotte kept looking
at Muffins as if she were not telling the truth. Mary and Tommy didn’t
say anything because they were busy eating the alphabet soup. Muffs ate
her soup too and a little while after that Mr. Tyler came in again.

“The rabbit’s all fixed up for the night,” he said. “I put him in an
A-coop until someone comes for him.”

Muffs wanted to ask what an A-coop was but just then it was decided
that Donald should go for her things and, if Mr. and Mrs. Lippett were
willing, make arrangements for her to sleep all night with Mary.

“She’s far too tired to walk back there herself,” Mrs. Tyler said. Then
she showed Muffs the high bed where she and Mary were to sleep and told
her Mary would be up as soon as she had finished drying the dishes.

Muffs undressed herself quickly and slid between the blankets. She lay
there listening to the clatter of dishes downstairs and thinking. At
first she thought it was strange that she had been sent to bed ahead of
Mary. Then she thought how tired she was and how warm the alphabet soup
made her feel. Maybe the letters spelled w-a-r-m down in her stomach.
They ought to spell s-l-e-e-p. The rabbit was probably asleep now in
his A-coop. What a funny name! Muffs made up a little song about it and
sung it to herself. The song went like this:

  A-coop, B-coop, could there be a C-coop?
  Could a rabbit in a C-coop
  See a little girl eating alphabet soup
  In an A-coop, B-coop, C-coop, D-coop ...

and so on clear through the alphabet.

It wasn’t a very sensible song but people don’t often think sensible
things when they’re almost asleep. All night long Muffs dreamed about
her mother. They went shopping together on the subway the way they
often did at home. How she loved that! She would scramble for the front
train so that she could look out of the window and play she was flying.
There were all the colored lights along the tracks. They flashed green,
telling the train to go; then big and red, telling the train to stop.

Muffs sat up in bed. That big red light wasn’t a stop light at all. It
was shining right in her eyes. Opening her mouth, she screamed, “Fire!”
and was going to scream it again but Tommy clapped his hand over her
lips and she could only whisper, “What’s the matter?” through his
fingers.

[Illustration]

“The Public Notice. It’s got to have our names on it or the Bramble
Bush Man won’t know where to come for his glasses. Don’t you see?”

Muffs didn’t see very well because she was too sleepy. Besides, the
lantern Tommy was holding blinded her and she couldn’t quite get over
the feeling that it was really a fire. Mary, who had somehow managed
to creep into bed without disturbing Muffs, was now asleep herself and
even Tommy’s Shaking wouldn’t rouse her.

“Wake up, Mary! Come on, Muffs!” Tommy was calling in an excited voice.
“We could fix it up now and get back before anyone missed us in the
morning.”

Mary turned over in the bed and didn’t answer.

“Take that light out of my eyes,” said Muffs. “I was having such a
nice dream about the cars when you woke me up. My mother sold some of
her pictures and we were spending the money for hats and dresses and
dolls--and--carriages----”

“But Muffs! We’ve got to fix up the public notice,” cried Tommy. “We’ve
got to put in about the rabbit too or it wouldn’t be fair.”

“He’s asleep--in an A-coop. What’s an A-coop, Tommy?”

But Muffs went back to sleep while he was telling her and didn’t know
the answer until morning. Mrs. Tyler’s voice calling Tommy sounded
dimly through her dreams but at first she thought it was only her
mother talking to someone in the studio. She reached out to touch the
green and gold screen but her hand found only empty air.

“Someone must have taken the screen away,” she thought sleepily. The
room looked big and empty without it. Her heart felt empty too when she
heard the voice again and knew it was not her mother at all. It was
Mrs. Tyler and she kept calling:

“Tom-mee! Tom-mee!”

An echo came back from the big barn door and soon Muffs and Mary were
both wide awake. Mary’s clothes were ready and she dressed herself
quickly but Muffs had to hunt for hers in the suitcase Donald must have
brought in while she was sleeping. She found a pair of green socks and
a blue linen dress that was a little wrinkled from being packed so
long. Her clothes weren’t like that at home. They were kept on hangers
in neat little rows and her mother always told her what to put on. Mrs.
Tyler didn’t tell her. She just kept on calling Tommy.

“He’s a bad boy not to answer,” said Mary impatiently.

Muffs had a feeling that something had happened to him in the night but
she couldn’t remember what it was. Together, she and Mary went over
to the window and looked out. There was Mrs. Tyler walking toward the
barn still looking for Tommy. Right beside the barn was what Muffs knew
must be the A-coop because a dear little white rabbit was jumping about
inside of it.

“They call it an A-coop because it’s in the shape of an A,” Mary
explained, “only there are too many bars across it.”

“I think so too,” Muffs agreed. “Bunny Bright Eyes must feel as if he’s
in prison. Let’s go down and talk to him.”

When they were halfway there they met Mrs. Tyler and her eyes were red
as if she had been crying.

“Have you seen Tommy?” she asked.

Muffs tried harder than ever to remember what had happened in the
night. He had come into her room and whispered something. It must have
been something about a fire.

“I think,” the little girl said in a voice that didn’t sound sure, “I
think that he went to see a fire.”

Mrs. Tyler put her hand to her heart. “Don’t tell me, child! Whatever
makes you think that?”

So Miss Muffet told what she remembered of Tommy’s visit to their room
in the night.

“Were you asleep, Mary?” her mother asked.

Mary said she was. “But I woke up early,” she went on, “before it was
time to get up and I did see Tommy through my front bedroom window. I’m
sure it was Tommy. I could just see him through the trees and he was
running along the big road so fast I thought he must be going to see a
fire.”

“But he would have told us--” his mother started to say.

“Not if he thought you wouldn’t let him go.”

“He’s a good boy, Mary,” said Mrs. Tyler and all at once she was crying
again and saying between sobs, “Suppose he’s been hurt! Oh, my poor
little boy!”

Mary went over and put her arm around her mother and pressed her own
cheek against that other cheek where the tears were.

“Don’t cry, Mom,” she said. “We’ll go and get him. Maybe he’s still
watching the fire.”

“You are a comfort,” said Mrs. Tyler. “Maybe you know what you’re
talking about after all. Tommy’s gone and he must have gone somewhere.
It wouldn’t do any harm to walk down the road a bit and ask about
fires.”



THE FIRE THAT WAS


Muffs tried to remember something about the Public Notice. It was
something important that she should have remembered before. Tommy had
told her. He had told her in the middle of the night when she was too
sleepy to listen. Now, after she had mixed things up and frightened
everybody, she remembered all about it. She had told Mrs. Tyler that
Tommy went to see a fire when it wasn’t a fire at all but only his
lantern shining in her face. He had really gone to the Post Office to
fix up the Public Notice before people came for their mail. He hadn’t
hurried right back the way he said he would and, with things appearing
and disappearing the way they did, something terrible might have
happened to him.

“Oh, dear! Oh, dear!” thought Muffs. “What a perfectly awful mess! What
am I going to do?”

She looked at the side of Mrs. Tyler’s face and wished that she would
smile. Maybe she’d dare tell her then. She looked at Mary, walking
along on the other side of her mother, and knew she couldn’t tell her
either. Mary would argue and Mrs. Tyler would never believe that she
had forgotten. It would be like her story about the rabbit. She guessed
nobody ever would believe what she said any more. After that queer
expedition to the ends of the earth she and Mary and Tommy (if they
found him) would be like three children in a fairy tale. Only it was
easier for Mary because she wasn’t afraid to argue with grown-ups.

New York and her own mother seemed very far away to Muffs as she
hurried along the road, trying to match her small steps to Mary’s and
Mrs. Tyler’s. She felt the way she had done when she broke the vase and
when Mr. and Mrs. Lippett scolded her for having Bunny Bright Eyes in
her hat. Little girls were supposed to know so much when they were away
from home. And it was hard to tell dreams from real things, especially
when the real things were stranger than the dreams.

“We might--we might just look for Tommy in the Post Office,” Muffs
suggested timidly as they turned onto the big road.

“Why the Post Office?” Mrs. Tyler asked.

“Maybe--there wasn’t a fire. Maybe he really went to the Post Office to
fix up the Public Notice.”

“But you said he went to see a fire.”

“I thought he did--and then I remembered he didn’t.”

“You mean you made up what you told me about the fire?” demanded Mrs.
Tyler.

Muffs nodded. She didn’t think it would do any good to keep on saying
she thought it was true at first.

Mrs. Tyler’s-lips went into a straight line. “What is this Public
Notice?” she asked. “It must have been dreadfully important that Tommy
should get up in the middle of the night and go to fix it.”

“It was dreadf’ly important,” Muffs declared. “He had to get there
before people came for their mail. You see, we put up the notice and
forgot to write our names on it.”

“Did we?” exclaimed Mary. “That’s so,” she remembered. “We did.
Then that must be where Tommy went. He was running just as if he had
forgotten something dreadfully important.”

The Public Notice was all fixed up when they looked for it in the Post
Office. It had the three names on it:

  [Illustration:
    M. MUFFET      T. TYLER      M. TYLER.
  ]

There was also a P. S. about Bunny Bright Eyes:

  [Illustration:
    IF ENNYONE LOST A RABBiT
    WE FOUND HiM IN THE GIDEZ HAT.
  ]

But there was no sign of Tommy.

Farther up the road were shops and stores and the grange hall. Tommy
might be playing there. Or possibly in the school yard or along the
road that went up Lookoff Mountain. The air was misty and smelled queer
but Muffs wouldn’t let herself think of fires any more. Tommy was lost
and it was partly her fault that Mary looked so serious and Mrs. Tyler
so worried.

Then they came in sight of the tailor shop, or what had been the tailor
shop. The queer, crooked smokestack wasn’t there any more and the
roof had a gaping hole right through the shingles. Just about all the
children in the valley were crowded around and among them was Tommy.

“I saw you!” he cried, and came running toward them. “Where were you
going?”

“Looking for you,” his mother answered. “Tommy! Tommy! What happened to
you?”

“I was watching the fire.”

“The fire! What fire?”

“The tailor shop fire. I turned in the alarm,” said the little boy
proudly.

Muffs was speechless except for one excited squeal. Things were growing
queerer and queerer. Here she had told a story that she thought was
true and just when she remembered that it was only a story, up bobs
Tommy saying that he has been to see a fire after all.

Mrs. Tyler drew him closer to her. “You brave boy!” she said. “Tell me
how you knew.”

“That’s easy,” he answered. “I smelled something burning. You know how
it smells when you forget the iron and leave it on the board too long.
Well, it smelled like that only worse and pretty soon I saw some smoke
coming out of the roof of the tailor shop. I waked up the grocer and
the man in the gas station and we stayed to help fight the fire. I
guess you’d want to help fight a fire if you had turned in the alarm
your very own self and everybody thought you were a hero.”

“I guess I would,” his mother agreed and patted his shoulder.

It was all a little confusing and she was anxious to hear more about
the Public Notice so Tommy told her about the glasses and how they had
found them in the woods and put them on the Guide’s twig nose. He took
them out of his pocket to show her and she agreed that someone might
need them badly.

“Everything would have been all right,” she said, “if Muffs hadn’t said
you went to see a fire.”

“Well, he did, didn’t he?” Mary asked.

“Yes, but Muffs didn’t know it. She had us all worried with her story
of lights and cars and fires. I didn’t know _what_ to make of it.”

“I’m sorry, Mom,” said Tommy. “I guess I scared her with my lantern
shining in her eyes. She went back to sleep while I was talking and
prob’ly dreamed part of it. Don’t you s’pose we could go back and just
let Muffs and Mary see where the fire was? It’s all been burned black
inside and it’s wet from the pails of water and shines like anybody’s
new shoes.”

Mrs. Tyler laughed. “I guess we could. I’ll tell your father and Donald
that you’re safe. I had them out hunting for you. Then I’ll stop in at
the Lippett’s. There was something I wanted to talk over with them----”

“Oh, Mom! Couldn’t we play around where the fire was while you talk?”

Muffs was afraid to coax. She couldn’t believe it was true until she
saw Mrs. Tyler walking on down the road. She had left them to play
alone.

[Illustration]



THE HEADLESS MAN


The burned tailor shop had stopped smoking but there was still a
crowd around the ruins and the queer little tailor was still hopping
about and talking of his loss. He was a thin man with big glasses and
very bushy hair. It stood straight up under his hat and looked almost
like the splints on the broom that Tommy had made into a make-believe
tailor. Tommy and Muffs and Mary edged closer to hear what he was
saying.

“Twenty pair of pants!” he said sorrowfully.

“What’s he talking about?” Tommy asked an older boy.

The boy grinned. “Twenty pair of pants.”

“We heard that. But what about them?”

“He burned them up,” answered the boy. Then he looked at Tommy. “Sa-ay!
Aren’t you the fellow who turned in the alarm? Come and I’ll show you.”

So the big boy led the way through the ruins of the tailor shop. It
wasn’t very safe but nobody was paying any attention to that. Muffs
touched the blackened wood as they passed and thought of the charcoal
that her mother used to draw pictures with. She broke off a piece and
drew a picture on the back of the big boy’s white shirt.

“What’s this?” asked Mary. She kicked something hard that lay on the
burned place where the floor boards used to be.

“It’s his iron!” exclaimed Tommy. “I’d like to bet that’s what started
the fire.”

[Illustration]

He picked it up and ran outside to show the tailor but the tailor had
gone. Everybody had gone except a few children who took turns holding
the iron to see how heavy it was. It was pretty heavy for any of them
to carry but Muffs had an idea. She took off the hair ribbon that she
was wearing Alice-in-Wonderland style about her head and tied one end
of it through the holes in the iron where the handle, if it hadn’t
burned up, was supposed to go.

“Now it’s a duck,” she said. “It’s Fannie Flatbreast.”

She pulled the duck about the ruins of the tailor shop and its flat
breast sounded clank! clank! whenever they went over a crack.

The next discovery was an old broom. It was made of fibre and only a
part of it had burned. The red strings that bound the fibres together
looked even more like a mouth than the strings on Tommy’s broom in the
workshop. The Bramble Bush Man’s glasses provided eyes and made the
creature look wondrous wise as well. Tommy hid himself behind the broom
and made believe it was the tailor. He was hopping around, nodding
his head and explaining the fire to a group of play customers when
along came a real customer. He stood still for a moment, then muttered
something to himself and turned to go away.

“Look at him!” called all the children. Several of them pointed their
fingers at his back with oh’s and ah’s of surprise. Muffs skated to the
burned door of the shop with Fannie Flatbreast and what she saw was the
strangest sight on earth.

“Why, he hasn’t any head,” she squealed. “He hasn’t any, any, any, any
head!”

[Illustration]

The other children laughed and squealed too and before long they had
all caught up her song and were calling at the top of their voices: “He
hasn’t any, any, any, any head! He must be a ghost! He must be a giant!
He must be the Headless Horseman of Sleepy Hollow! He hasn’t any, any,
any, any head!”

“He has so!” cried Mary. “He’s only covering it up with that coat on a
hanger!”

[Illustration]

“He’s a fake!” shouted Tommy and started running after him, waving the
scary-looking broom-tailor. The other children followed. They were all
laughing and shouting. None of them stopped to think how they would
feel if they came with a coat to be cleaned or mended and found the
tailor shop burned down. They didn’t know how heavy the coat was or
how far the man had carried it held above his shoulders on a hanger.
Of course they knew it was only a coat on a hanger and that he was
holding it above his shoulders. But it looked so queer! And it was
such fun to chase him and play he was a headless man.

Other children joined the chase until there were more than a dozen.
Older people looked out of windows and stopped in the road wondering
what the noise was all about. A dog set up a furious barking. But still
the children kept on running.

“Who are you?” called Muffs and Mary and Tommy.

The headless man did not answer. He ran and ran and ran until at last
he turned in at the Millionaire’s House. He slammed the door shut and
left the children still singing outside.

“He hasn’t any, any, any, any head! He must be the Headless
Horseman----”

“He must be somebody important to live in a house like that,” Muffs
interrupted them in a loud voice.

Then they all stood still and looked up at the house. It was the same
one that used to belong to old Mr. Pendleton and he had sold it. Nobody
knew who lived there now but, whoever it was, he must be another
millionaire. On the top floor of his house was one room all of glass
and filled with flowers.

“Maybe he got rich selling flowers for funerals,” Muffs suggested.

“I think he’s a miser,” said Mary. “He probably sits upstairs all day
counting his money.”

“I wish we knew what his face looks like,” Tommy put in. “Muffs, I dare
you to walk up on his front porch and ring the doorbell.”

“I dare you! I dare you!” shouted all the other children, jumping up
and down and clapping their hands.

So Muffs marched straight up to the door and rang the bell. She was
laughing and panting because she was out of breath. But she stopped
laughing when the headless man opened the door and she saw his face. He
was very, very angry.

“What do you mean by ringing my bell?” he demanded.

“I--I just wanted to see what you looked like----”

“Well, you’ve seen,” he said and was about to slam the door when Tommy
darted in and planted his sturdy little body between Muffs and the
headless man.

“She’s not used to having doors slammed in her face,” he said.
“Besides, she’s really a princess doomed to live with a couple of
dragons who are mean to her and I think it’s about time someone treated
her like royalty.”

The man looked surprised for a moment. His face was a nice face and his
eyes looked as if they might twinkle when he wasn’t so angry.

“Princesses don’t chase strangers through the public highways,” he
said. “Princes don’t either. So get out!” and the door closed with a
bang.

“Aw, heck!” muttered the older boy with the picture on the back of his
shirt, “he would have to be a sore head and spoil all the fun.”

“He can’t be a sore head,” sang out contrary Mary, “if he hasn’t any,
any, any, any head!”

Other voices joined her and the children were singing again. Tommy
waved the tailor, and Muffs swung Fannie Flatbreast on her ribbon. The
others took hold of hands and paraded back and forth across the grass
on the man’s neatly trimmed lawn. They jumped over his hedge and broke
off pieces of shrubbery to wave like flags as they sang:

  “Headless man! Headless man!
  Come and catch us if you can!”

The boy who had made up this new and still more tantalizing song banged
on the door with a piece of primrose tree.

“You’ll break the glass!” cried Muffs in a fright. “Come away and leave
him alone. Maybe he’s got a headache.”

“He can’t have a headache! He hasn’t any, any, any, any head!” called
all the children. “Headless man! Headless man! Come and catch us----”

“I’ll catch you and wring your necks,” he cried, bursting open the
door. He had a stick in his hand and shook it at them as he shouted,
“Get out of here! I’ve had enough of children. It’s a pity a man can’t
have peace in his own house what with children banging on doors and
breaking in windows----”

“Did someone break in his window?” asked one of the older boys, looking
a little frightened.

“He’ll get us in trouble yet,” said another as the group scattered.

“Go on home!” the headless man was shouting. “Go on home to your
mothers, every last one of you!”

“I can’t go home to mine,” Muffs said sadly.

“Why not?” the man demanded. He came right down the steps to look at
her as if he had seen her somewhere before and wanted to remember.

“I can’t go home because my mother’s in New York and I’m here,” the
child replied. “That’s why.”

“She ought to take better care of you,” snapped the headless man as
Muffs turned and ran with the others. Tommy was ahead. He was still
waving the broom and shouting but Muffs’ flat-iron duck had grown heavy
and hard to pull.

“Tommy! Tommy!” she called after him. “Don’t run so fast! I can’t keep
up with you.”

So Tommy turned around and the Tailor turned around and, for the first
time, the headless man saw that he was wearing glasses. The bows were
hooked securely to his fibre ears, giving him the appearance of a
creature half-man, half-cat.

“Wait a minute!” he shouted. “Whose glasses are you carrying around on
that ridiculous-looking broom?”

“Whose glasses!” gasped Tommy, stopping for breath.

“Oh, mister,” Muffs put in, “I’m sure they’re not yours. They belong to
a wondrous wise man and we’re keeping them until he comes for them.”

“So!” snorted the headless man and looked angrier than ever. “I’m sure
no wondrous wise man would trust his glasses to a gang of reckless
children.”

“I don’t see why he shouldn’t,” Muffs replied.

“Humph! Wise men have more to do than chase around after children.”

“Just what do you know about wise men?” Mary asked. She had a way of
making people feel uncomfortable and the headless man must have felt
very uncomfortable then. He pulled his coat collar up around his neck
and walked away.

“Headless man!” said Tommy under his breath. “Gee! He looks like a
headless man with that collar turned up.”

“Anyway,” said Mary, “he lost his head. That’s what Great Aunt
Charlotte tells me I do when I’m angry.”

Muffs’ face clouded. “I guess that’s what Mrs. Lippett will do when she
hears about this. She’s sure to hear ’cause everybody saw us running
with the Tailor and I’d rather go right into a dragon’s cave than go
back there alone.”

“We’ll go with you,” Tommy offered.

Mary thought it wouldn’t be wise to take the Tailor and Fannie
Flatbreast so, after many fond goodbyes, they were left in the ruins of
the tailor shop. Muffs’ ribbon was left there too, but all the children
carried home tell-tale smudges on their hands and faces.

When they neared the corner house they saw there was reason for going
in together for Mrs. Tyler and Donald were both standing on the porch
talking with Mrs. Lippett.

“Well, it’s about time--” Mrs. Lippett began but, because of something
that was felt rather than said, she waited and let the children
explain. Their reasons for chasing the headless man sounded funny to
Donald. He had seen them running with the scary-looking broom and had,
though he did not confess it until later, cheered them and whistled.
Mrs. Tyler, however, was grave and Mrs. Lippett red-faced and angry.
She scolded. She complained because the check Muffs’ mother had sent
for her board was smaller than she thought it ought to be.

“With all this trouble,” she declared, “it’s worth twice what Mrs.
Moffet gives me.”

“Perhaps you don’t understand children,” Mrs. Tyler suggested.

“I don’t understand this one. The Lord knows I’d be grateful if someone
would take her off my hands.”

“Couldn’t we?” Mary whispered.

Mrs. Tyler looked very stern. “Do you really think, Mary, that you and
Muffs and Tommy should be rewarded for acting like little hoodlums
instead of well-behaved children?”

“But, Mom--” Donald began. “You told Mrs. Lippett----”

“Never mind what I told her,” Mrs. Tyler stopped him. “The fact remains
that the children have been very thoughtless and very unkind. They
must be made to realize that such a thing must never happen again.”

“I’m sure we’d never chase the headless man again, would we?” Mary
asked and Muffs and Tommy agreed that they never would.

“Anyway,” Tommy said grandly, “we left the broom and the flat-iron in
the tailor shop and it’s a buried city as far as we’re concerned.”

“Let’s bury the whole thing and go home,” Donald suggested.

So they went home together--Mrs. Tyler, Donald, Mary, Tommy and Muffs
who knew for sure now that she wouldn’t have to go back to Lippetts and
face the dragons alone. When Mr. Tyler heard about it he only laughed
and said, “Children will be children.” Baby Ellen waved her arms about
and called “How-do” to Muffins. Even Great Aunt Charlotte gave her pink
peppermints and the sun came out and shone all afternoon.



BUNNY TAG AND A PRIZE FOR THE WINNER


[Illustration]

All this time Bunny Bright Eyes was sitting like a prisoner in the dark
little A-coop. Muffs was the first one to remember him. She and Mary
and Tommy ran across the yard and out into Mrs. Tyler’s garden. They
brought lettuce and carrots and spinach leaves to hold in their hands
while the rabbit nosed through the bars and ate.

It was fun to watch him eat. But it was more fun when they let him out
of the coop and he followed them over the grass. At first they watched
him very carefully for fear that he would run away or one of the cats
would get him although Mary and Tommy felt perfectly sure that neither
Tabby nor Thomas Junior would harm an innocent little white bunny.

Before long they learned that Bunny Bright Eyes would come into the
Guide’s tall hat just the way a canary bird comes into a cage. Some one
had trained him and the children felt sure it was the Bramble Bush Man.
They played right close to the house and kept watch for him.

After a week had passed without anyone coming for Bunny Bright Eyes,
Muffs began to think maybe he was hers to keep. She and Mary and Tommy
were playing Bunny Tag around the A-coop. Bunny Tag was a new game they
had made up themselves. You couldn’t be tagged if you were hopping like
a bunny. Baby Ellen, who could creep far better than she could walk,
enjoyed the game and Bunny Bright Eyes played and never was tagged at
all.

[Illustration]

“I think we ought to give him a prize,” announced Tommy.

“We haven’t any,” Mary objected, but Tommy wouldn’t say anything. He
just looked mysterious and later they heard him talking with Donald
about taking a trip to Balo.

“What does he mean?” Muffs asked.

So Mary told her about the secret charm Tommy had made up a long time
ago.

“He plays Balo is another world and the walk that we call the Way of
Peril is a path of light.”

“And it’s really only the carpenter shop?” asked Muffs.

“Yes, but you mustn’t breathe a word because you’re supposed to believe
it else it won’t come true.”

“I’ll believe it,” said Muffs.

“Then shut your eyes and keep on believing.”

Muffs shut her eyes and believed as hard as she could. Soon she began
to see things that looked like shooting stars behind her eyelids.

“Could we ride there on a shooting star?” she asked.

“We’ll try it,” said Mary and, taking her hand, led her carefully along
the walk.

“This is our own private magic,” she said. “Now you’re a Magic Maker
too.”

Before they were halfway across the Way of Peril they heard the
tap-tapping of a hammer pounding something.

“That’s the Hammer Headed Snake welcoming us to the Land of Balo. May
we come in?” Mary called.

“Maybe it wasn’t a welcome,” Muffs said doubtfully.

“May we come in?” Mary called more loudly through the door and Tommy
swung it open.

“Spies!” he shouted. “Spying on Bunny’s prize.”

“We didn’t mean to spy,” said Mary penitently. “We came quite properly
on a shooting star.”

“It sounds like a declaration of war to me,” observed Donald with a
fierce scowl. He was nailing something while Tommy stood with a bunch
of nails in his hand, giving them to Donald one by one. There on the
bench beside them was the dearest little house Muffs had ever seen. It
was even nicer than the doll houses in New York stores at Christmas
time.

“The people of Balo made it,” Tommy said proudly.

“With us to help, of course,” Donald added. “It’s a prize for Bunny
Bright Eyes. Think he’ll like it better than the A-coop?”

“He’ll _love_ it,” cried Muffs. “Look, Mary! Don’t you love it too?”

“We wouldn’t have come if we’d known it was such a nice surprise,” she
said. “I guess we spoiled it.”

“Not by a long shot,” laughed Donald, forgetting his declaration of
war. “Now you can help too. Tommy hurried things up a lot by sawing off
pieces of wood and holding the hammer and nails. I made a bird house
this Spring and this is made the same way only bigger. Of course,” he
went on with some pride, “I had to fix the roof so that half of it goes
back on hinges.”

“Oh,” said Muffs, admiring it, “that’s so we can put Bunny Bright Eyes
in.”

“And this chicken wire,” Donald continued, showing her how carefully he
had nailed it, “is so he can see out.”

Muffs thought of the funny little rhyme she had made up and told it to
him.

“There could be a C-coop after all,” she said. “This house must be a
C-coop ’cause Bunny can see out.”

“And because you sneaked in to _see_ it,” added Donald with a laugh. He
had finished nailing on the roof and now he was carefully cutting out
a round window in the peak. When that was done he announced that the
house was all finished but the paint. “Here’s green for the roof and
red for the house,” he continued, taking down two paint pails from a
shelf above the work-bench.

Tommy noticed the dim outline of the chalk faces he had once painted on
them when they stood guard over the gates of the City of Balo. He knelt
before them.

“Oh, knights in tin armor,” he pleaded. “Your humble servants desire
some of your blood.”

Mary found three brushes in a rack on the wall and the Sawhorse lent
his brushy tail so that there were enough to go around. Soon everybody
was spattering paint on Bunny’s house. Muffs painted the right side.
Mary painted the left side while Tommy did the back and Donald the roof.

“Guess Bunny Bright Eyes will think this is a palace after that dirty
A-coop,” he said.

“How long will it take to dry?” Muffs asked.

“Not more’n a day. Better give Bunny a farewell feast. He’ll be moving
into his new house tomorrow.”

So Muffs and Mary and Tommy started toward the garden while Donald,
careful to do as his father had told him, stayed to clean up the
brushes. The garden was at the right of the house and a little nearer
than the barn and the A-coop where the children supposed Bunny was
waiting for his very special feast. They picked only the young
vegetables because they tasted sweeter and then ran down hill to
surprise him.

“Bunny!” Muffs called softly. “Bunny Bright Eyes!”

The little rabbit did not hop up to the bars of his coop as she had
expected.

“He must be asleep,” Mary said, and called a little louder.

“He isn’t there!” exclaimed Tommy going nearer to the A-coop and
looking in. “Muffs, you promised to put him back the last time we
played Bunny Tag.”

“I did put him back. I know I did.”

“Then Mom must have taken him out,” said Tommy. “Let’s go in the house
and see.”

[Illustration]

Muffs and Mary lifted their dresses high because they were full of
lettuce and spinach leaves. Tommy held his hands straight out at his
sides dangling yellow carrots. Mrs. Tyler was sitting at the kitchen
table peeling potatoes when they entered the house. She looked up.

“Oh, you’ve gathered lettuce for dinner,” she exclaimed. “How nice of
you to think of it.”

Muffs emptied the lettuce into a pan without a word.

“And carrots,” Mrs. Tyler went on, taking them from Tommy’s hands. “How
young they are! Almost too young to cook, but I guess we can eat them.”

“Mom, where’s Bunny Bright Eyes?” Mary asked.

“A man came for him.” She stopped speaking when she saw the blank way
that the children were looking at her.

“Who was the man?” they asked.

“He didn’t give his name. He asked about the glasses but I’d forgotten
where you put them. I called and called.”

“We were in the workshop.”

Tommy didn’t say, “painting a house for Bunny Bright Eyes.” He felt
there was no need of saying that. His mother would say the children
were foolish to plan on keeping the rabbit. She would be right too. But
what a shame that they had missed seeing the Bramble Bush Man!

“Maybe he’ll come for his glasses another time and we can see him,”
Mary said hopefully.

“I don’t want to see him,” sobbed Muffs. “He’s taken Bunny Bright Eyes.”

For days after that Muffs was very quiet, refusing to play and half the
time refusing to talk. Then, one morning, she borrowed Mary’s pencil
and paper and went out into the workshop alone.

“She’s walking the Way of Peril,” Mary whispered. “She’s like you used
to be, Tommy. She’d rather be alone in the Land of Balo.”

“She’s got a secret then,” he declared. “People always want to be alone
when they’ve got secrets. Let’s wait here and see if she won’t tell us
when she comes out.”

So they waited on the One Way Steps. It was nearly noon when Muffs came
out of the workshop. She was walking along the Way of Peril, holding
the paper in one hand and a post card in the other and smiling to
herself.

  [Illustration:
    PUT THE EDGE OF THE CARD HERE |
                               \|/
    /|\
     |  AND HERE

    NOW PUT YOUR NOZE DOWN ON
    THE OTHER EDGE
    AND LOOK!
  ]

“Wait a minute!” called Mary. “Can’t we see it too?”

Muffs turned around in surprise and held out the paper. “Look!” she
cried. “I’ve made him come back again. I’ve made Bunny Bright Eyes go
into his little house!”

On the paper was the picture she had drawn, first the house and then a
rabbit that looked for all the world like Bunny Bright Eyes.

“But he isn’t in the house,” Mary objected.

“_Now_ he is,” said Muffs and, placing the edge of the post card
between the rabbit and the house, she bent closer and looked. Tommy
looked too. At first the rabbit didn’t go all the way in, but when he
looked a little closer, sure enough, there he was inside his own little
house. He sat there behind the wire screen until Tommy took the card
away.

“It’s magic,” said Mary. She helped Muffs print directions so that
other people could work the magic too.

But to Muffs it was more than magic. Whenever she longed to see Bunny
Bright Eyes, she could look at the paper bunny and play he was real.
She could even forgive the Bramble Bush Man for taking the real bunny
away.



CAKES AND TEA


As time passed the children became more and more determined that they
must see the Bramble Bush Man. Tommy often spoke of it and blamed
himself for forgetting the Guide.

“We could have a _play_ Bramble Bush Man anyway,” he said, “if I hadn’t
been so scared. We could play he was wondrous wise and make him answer
important questions.”

“He couldn’t answer anything we didn’t know ourselves,” said Mary.

“He couldn’t tell me where the ends of the earth are,” Muffs put in.
“Besides, the man that came for the glasses was real because your
mother saw him.”

“He’ll come again,” said Mary hopefully and whenever anyone came to the
door they ran to see who it was. Once, when they were playing in the
front yard, Muffs saw a man coming up the road and felt sure it was
the Bramble Bush Man. She ran towards him, eager to make friends, and
bumped into--not the Bramble Bush Man at all, but the cranky headless
man.

“’Scuse me!” she murmured and ran back to tell Mary and Tommy. “He’s
coming to put us in jail! Quick! Hide somewhere!”

They were darting this way and that looking for a safe place when the
headless man turned right into the yard.

“Where’s your mother?” he called out. “I want to see her.”

Muffs, who was really braver than she supposed she was, crawled out
from a good hiding place she had just discovered underneath the porch.

“I told you,” she said simply. “My mother is in New York.”

“His mother then,” he demanded, pointing to Tommy.

“She’s letting me board here,” Muffs explained. “She went shopping.”

The headless man was losing his temper again. He turned to Mary who had
just emerged, dirty and looking rather ashamed, from underneath the
A-coop.

“Where’s your mother? I’ve got to see somebody.”

“My mother’s the same as Tommy’s mother,” Mary said. “But if you must
see somebody I think Daddy’s home. He’s working out in that house at
the end of the walk. It’s his carpenter shop.”

“I’ll see him later. What were you doing in there?” he asked, scowling
at the A-coop.

“Hiding,” Mary confessed. “That’s where we used to keep Bunny Bright
Eyes. He was a rabbit. The man that owned him came and got him while we
were busy making him a house.”

“Look!” cried Muffs, holding up the picture she had drawn. “This is
the house and if you know the trick you can make Bunny Bright Eyes hop
right into it.”

“Who drew that picture?” demanded the headless man.

“I did. I did it so I wouldn’t miss him so--I mean the rabbit.”

“Who taught you how to draw like that?”

“My mother. She’s an artist,” Muffs added proudly. “She sent me here
while she goes to school.”

“Your mother goes to school?”

“Yes. Art school so she can sell her pictures and we can move some
place else ’cause it’s such a little place and the landlady doesn’t
like children.”

“I see. I see. And so you were making the rabbit a house----”

“Donald, that’s my big brother, made it,” Mary spoke up. “He made it
out in the workshop. We call it the Land of Balo. The paint pails came
to life and gave us their blood to paint it with. We made a stick come
to life too and went on an expedition. Then we found the glasses----”

“Oh,” said the man, “so you are the children who put up that sign?”

“I wrote it,” Tommy explained with pride. “Did you read it?”

“I tried to, but it didn’t make sense. Where did you find the glasses?”

“’Way up in the woods. We were following a trail to the ends of the
earth. We found the glasses in a bramble bush so we called them eyes
and said they belonged to a wondrous wise man. That was because we
found them in a bramble bush. You know the rhyme?”

“What rhyme?”

“Why, the one about the man from our town,” Tommy answered. “Say it for
him, Muffs, won’t you?”

So Muffs made a curtsey and recited the nursery rhyme. She was
surprised that the headless man had never heard it.

“Everyone knows it,” she said. “It’s just one of those rhymes that you
hear everywhere.”

“Perhaps,” said the headless man thoughtfully, “I don’t go to the right
places to hear such rhymes.”

“He is nice,” thought Muffs. “He’s just as nice as he can be when he
isn’t angry.” Aloud she said, “You can come here and I’ll say them for
you. I think I like you.”

“But I’m not a very wise man, am I?” he asked.

Muffs shook her head. “I’m ’fraid not. There aren’t many wise people,
you know. I don’t believe I ever saw one.”

“Most little girls think their fathers are wondrous wise,” said the
headless man.

“Hers wasn’t,” Tommy put in. “He ran off to the ends of the earth just
because she broke some of his things. That wasn’t wise.”

“But the things might have meant a great deal to him,” the man said
with a queer look at Muffs. “What is your name, little girl?”

“Miss Muffet.”

“But I mean your real name, the name your mother gave you.”

“My father gave me my name,” said Muffs. “Madeline, after my mother. I
guess he used to love her.”

But the headless man had turned and seemed not to be listening. Without
speaking to the children again he started toward the workshop.

“He’s going to tell on us,” cried Muffs. “I didn’t think he would!”

[Illustration]

“Oh, dear!” sighed Mary. “I hope he doesn’t tell too much. I broke off
a flower in his yard and even Daddy would scold me for that.”

“We ought to write an apology,” said Tommy who was fond of writing
things.

“I’ll write it this time,” Mary said. “I’m older and can spell better
than you can. He said he couldn’t make sense out of the Public Notice.”

So they let Mary do the writing but Muffs and Tommy told her what to
say.

“It looks all right,” said Muffs after she had read it and passed it on
to Tommy. “Shall we mail it to him?”

“We don’t know his name and we haven’t any stamps. I’ll tell you what,”
Mary said. “We’ll walk right into the workshop and give it to him. Then
if he and Daddy are talking about us we can hear what they say.”

[Illustration: MARY]

Muffs and Tommy didn’t think they ought to sneak into the shop like
that. But Mary coaxed and at last they gave in. Holding each other’s
shoulders and stepping very carefully on the edge of the outside plank,
they played they were a three-headed monster creeping stealthily to his
lair.

Great Aunt Charlotte opened the kitchen door just in time to see them,
although to her they looked like ordinary children.

“Mary!” she called. “Can you hold a tray straight without spilling your
father’s tea?”

Mary, who was the monster’s head, turned around so quickly that the
middle section of the monster fell off the Way of Peril and landed in
a forest of needles. Anyway, Muffs said it felt like needles and the
monster’s tail curled ’round her and lifted her back on the walk again.

Tea and cakes served in the workshop! It was something that had never
happened as far back as the children could remember. Mary was now a
prim maid-in-waiting carrying the King’s tray. She lifted the latch of
the workshop door and Tommy dropped the apology in among the tea things.

“Bless my buttons!” exclaimed Mr. Tyler, looking up in surprise. “How
long have you children been there?”

“We’ve only been children for the last minute,” Tommy said solemnly.
“Before that we were a three-headed monster only our middle fell out
and now Mary’s a maid-in-waiting.”

“So I see. Great Aunt Charlotte must have suspected that I had an
important guest this afternoon,” Mr. Tyler said as Mary handed him the
tray. He passed the cakes, took one himself and then held up the paper.
“What’s this? The bill?” Then he saw it was addressed to _the headless
man_. “We all have heads here,” he chuckled. “Must be some mistake.”

“I am the headless man,” the guest announced and reached for the slip
of paper.

While he read it the children stood watching. They said things to each
other in whispers and nudges. He hadn’t told! He hadn’t come to tell on
them at all. Why, he was actually smiling over their apology.

  [Illustration:
    Dear Headless Man,

    We dident mean to teese you but
    you looked so funny without eny
    head. We thot you new how to
    play. This is sposed to
    be an apology

      Yours respecktfully
        The Magic Makers
  ]

“This is quite a document,” he said when he had finished reading it.
“Magic Makers, are you? Hmmm! What do you know about magic?”

“We know a whole lot,” Muffs answered quickly. “Tommy made up a secret
charm and whatever we play comes true.”

“Well, now that is a lot. His father was telling me....” Then a
mysterious look passed between them that left the children wondering
just what Mr. Tyler was telling. Whatever it was, the headless man
seemed pleased. He tucked the apology in his vest pocket as though it
were a treasure and then put some sugar in his tea and passed the cakes
around to the children.

“This is a new rôle for me,” he said.

“This is cakes,” said Tommy between mouthfuls.

The headless man laughed. “Oh, I see. This is cakes, not rolls at all.
’Twould take a magician to turn cakes into rolls, wouldn’t it?”

“I can turn ’em into sponges,” Tommy announced. He reached in his
pocket for the Bramble Bush Man’s glasses while the headless man and
Mr. Tyler both looked on in amazement. Muffs and Mary looked too and
saw the tiny cakes turn into sponges with holes large enough to put a
finger in.

“Wonderful glasses!” exclaimed Mr. Tyler.

“They ought to be when they belong to such a wonderful man,” Muffs said
as she handed them back to Tommy. “He even made his house disappear.”

“That’s strange,” said the headless man. “I never saw a house
disappear.”

“Well, we did,” the children assured him. And nothing would do but they
tell him all about it. With three of them to tell it, what one forgot
the others supplied and nothing was left out. They expected him to
say “Nonsense” to this and “Fiddlesticks” to that. But he didn’t. He
listened to every word just as if he believed in magic too.

There were tears in Muffs’ eyes when she told him about the vase and
how she had broken it. Such a pretty vase and she had barely touched it.

“I guess it’s just the way I am,” she sighed. “I’m always and always
breaking things. Even when I was a little baby----”

The headless man interrupted her with a cough and, all at once, Muffs
wondered if they weren’t telling too much.

“I don’t know you very well,” she said. “Mother says I mustn’t talk to
people unless I know their names.”

“The Headless Man fits me very well,” the stranger said sorrowfully,
“but perhaps even a headless man could do something.”

“You could if you knew the Bramble Bush Man. He lives in a house with
looking-glass walls----”

“He does indeed!”

“You’ll help us find him!” the children cried. “You really know him?”

“I believe I do.”

“And is he a wondrous wise man?” Muffs asked breathlessly.

The headless man nodded. “He’s growing wiser every day.”



THE MYSTERIOUS MOVING VAN


Muffs wrote all about the headless man in a letter to her mother. It
was the longest letter she had ever written all by herself and she
felt very happy when she slid the fat envelope through the letter drop
in the Post Office. She felt happier still a few days later when the
answer came back addressed to Muffs herself in care of Mrs. Tyler. It
was a long letter and Tommy helped her read it.

  Dear little Madeline Muffins Moffet: Whoever thought you could
  write such a letter? I think your headless man sounds nice. He
  must have looked funny but I’m glad you apologized for chasing
  him. It isn’t fun to make people cross, especially men. If I were
  you I would forget the Bramble Bush Man because he isn’t real and
  be nice to the real headless man.

“Are you sure the letter says the Bramble Bush Man isn’t real?” Muffs
asked, looking worried.

“That’s what it says,” Tommy replied. “I guess you didn’t tell your
mother that the headless man knows him.”

“Do you think he really does, Tommy?”

The boy nodded and Muffs, with a happy sigh, went on reading her letter.

  Now I have something important to tell you. Summer school will be
  over in just one more week and I am coming to take you home. I
  don’t know whether you will be glad or sorry but, till then--

  Goodbye, and all my love, Mother.

“Which will you be,” Tommy asked, “glad or sorry?”

[Illustration]

“A little bit of both. Glad to see Mother and sorry not to have you and
Mary to play with any more. I’ll miss Donald and baby Ellen too and
your mother and father and Great Aunt Charlotte--and the headless man.
He’s getting sort of--sort of mysterious, don’t you think?”

“And he promised to help find the Bramble Bush Man. Gee! You’ll miss
him too,” Tommy said. “Couldn’t you coax your mother to let you stay?”

Muffs shook her head. “My school begins in a week. But I do like it
here,” she added wistfully.

She and Tommy were sitting on the Way of Peril and everything around
them had grown dear to Muffs. She looked out across the swamp to the
trees and little stream beyond and thought how different the city
was--just hard pavement and children who had never learned how to
play. She tried to think of all the nice things she used to do in New
York but none of them were very exciting. They weren’t a bit like
the expedition or the burned tailor shop or painting the house for
Bunny Bright Eyes. There was no Way of Peril to walk, no make-believe
creatures and no children half as nice as Mary and Tommy. Donald and
Mr. Tyler were always doing wonderfully interesting things too and Mrs.
Tyler was a dear. So was Great Aunt Charlotte bedtimes when she passed
out pink peppermint candy pillows. Muffs’ little dream fairies slept on
them. And it was nice to have a baby in the house to pet and play with.
Even the cats were comforting when they sat in anyone’s lap and purred.
Thomas Junior wasn’t much given to sitting in laps but Tabby often sat
with Muffs. Her fur was soft and white and made the little girl think
of Bunny Bright Eyes, the only pet she had ever had.

“If only Mother would stay here,” she thought, “and I had Bunny Bright
Eyes again, everything would be just perfect and I wouldn’t care if we
never went back to the studio in New York.”

Then she saw Mary coming up the road, wheeling Ellen in her carriage.
She had just put her to sleep and now she was ready to play.

“Muffs’ mother is going to take her back to New York,” Tommy announced
as soon as Mary came into the wood yard.

To their surprise, Mary burst into tears and ran up the One Way Steps
and into the workshop.

“She’s gone to tell Daddy,” Tommy decided. “She tells Daddy and Donald
everything.”

“I didn’t know she liked me that much,” Muffs said.

[Illustration]

As the time for her to go home came nearer Muffs grew more and more
puzzled. There were days when they hardly saw Mary. Ever since that day
she went to the workshop crying she had acted as if she knew a secret.
Donald was in on it too and so was Mr. Tyler. The three of them had
taken the short-cut and gone somewhere without saying a word to Muffs
and Tommy.

“We could watch and see where they went,” Muffs suggested.

So she and Tommy, hand in hand, started along the short-cut. It went
through the swamp on stepping stones and then through the field and
over what Tommy called the fairies’ hills because they were only little
mounds with wintergreens growing on them.

“Want to taste a fairy apple?” he asked and Muffs, who had never tasted
a wintergreen berry before, thought the fairies had nicer apples than
those that grew on full-sized apple trees.

They crawled under the pasture fence and then, as they came in sight
of the grange hall, things began to appear strange. A big truck was
standing in the driveway and men were carrying things out of it and
into the grange hall.

“It’s a moving van,” Muffs exclaimed. “Somebody must be moving in.”

“People don’t move into public halls,” Tommy objected. “Maybe they
just bought some new furniture for the grange. But gee! What funny
furniture!”

“A new piano,” guessed Muffs as the moving men shouldered a box-like
object and carried it through the door.

“They have a piano,” said Tommy. “I know because they play it at
socials for the grown-ups to dance.”

“Then it isn’t a piano. Look-ee! I know what those are. Japanese
lanterns in all different colors. It must be a ball like Cinderella
went to. I wish we had a fairy godmother.”

The next thing to be unloaded was a pile of folding chairs. Then
another pile of folding chairs--and another and another.

“My! What a lot of chairs,” exclaimed Muffs. “They’ll be fun for
playing ‘Going to Jerusalem.’”

“We won’t be allowed to play,” Tommy said. “It’s prob’ly some grown-up
doings and they’re just going to sit. Muffs, do you suppose Daddy and
Donald and Mary are over there?”

“I thought I saw Mary, and look! There’s the headless man! He’s showing
the moving men where to put the chairs!”

“Gee!” exclaimed Tommy. “He’s not so good at keeping promises. I should
think he’d come and see us if he’s really trying to find the Bramble
Bush Man.”

“I don’t believe there is any Bramble Bush Man,” said Muffs suddenly.
“We just made it up.”

Tommy whirled on her. “You’re not a Magic Maker if you quit believing.
You’ll never have any fun. You’ll just grow up full of scowl wrinkles
like Mr. and Mrs. Lippett and people will call you a dragon. You
wouldn’t want that to happen, would you?”

“No-oo,” Muffs agreed doubtfully. “But you can’t keep on believing
forever when nothing happens.”

“We’ll make something happen then,” declared Tommy. “Pretty soon the
moving van will be empty and we can climb in and hide. Then when they
start to drive away we can pop up and surprise the headless man. He’ll
remember his promise all right then. He may even tell the men to drive
us around to the Bramble Bush Man’s house.”

This plan was a little too daring to suit Muffs. Things happened
sometimes and whenever things did happen she usually got the blame.

“They might not stop,” she said. “The headless man won’t tell his name
and those moving men may be kidnappers for all we know.”

“’Fraid Cat!”

“Well, I want Mother to _find_ me when she comes.”

“Oh, shucks!” said Tommy. “You’ll be going and we can’t have just one
last adventure. If you don’t see the Bramble Bush Man pretty soon
you’ll never see him.”

Still Muffs felt afraid.

“All right! Don’t!” Tommy said angrily. “I’ll climb into the moving van
and go to see the Bramble Bush Man myself.”

“Without me!” cried Muffs. “Oh, Tommy, not without me!”

He grinned. It was easy to make Muffs do what he wanted her to. Soon
they were crossing the road and stealing up to the empty moving van.
The men were still busy in the grange hall and it was easy to climb
in without being seen. There were a few old quilts and a mattress on
the floor of the truck. The mattress was clean and comfortable and the
children sat down on it to wait.

“They’re taking a long time,” said Tommy after about ten minutes of
waiting.

“Maybe they can’t find places for all those chairs,” Muffs replied. “I
hope they don’t put them back in here so we can’t lie on this nice bed.
I’m getting sleepy.”

Tommy yawned and sprawled on the mattress too. He and Muffs had played
hard that morning and both of them were tired.

“I’ll keep my ears open,” thought Tommy as he closed his eyes. But
ears have a habit of drifting off to dreamland too and so when the men
returned, talking and laughing, neither Muffs nor Tommy heard a sound.
And when the driver started neither he nor his helper nor the headless
man guessed that there were two children in the back of the van lying
on a mattress sound asleep.

[Illustration: MOVING VAN]



A PARTY IN THE AIR


The sun’s rays streaming through wide windows the next morning woke
Muffs from her long sleep. She sat up in a bed that she had never seen
before and looked about. Someone had taken off her shoes but she was
still wearing her dress and it was dreadfully wrinkled. She felt quite
untidy in such a clean little bed. The bed was just her size too and
had a gay spread with butterflies on it. There were butterfly curtains
at the windows too and beyond she could see a door opening into another
room, like a palace, with a ceiling all of glass. Along the window
sills in both rooms were flowers and growing plants. A long glass tank
had plants in it too and tiny fish that swam about and made silver
streaks through the water.

“I must be in fairyland,” thought Muffs, not quite sure that she was
fully awake.

She climbed out of bed and there were her shoes, side by side, on the
floor under the bed. She didn’t put them on at once because the soft
rug felt good to her bare feet. It was such a lovely room all green and
gold like the studio at home only much, much richer. It was a little
bare though. Muffs was used to seeing a great many things crowded into
two small rooms and so most places in the country seemed bare. She
began exploring first the room and then the hall. She tried to open
the door of the room across the hall but it was locked. Then she
looked out of the hall window and saw a lawn with hedges and farther
down the road was the school where Tommy went.

[Illustration]

“Why-ee!” she gasped. “This must be the headless man’s house. He found
me in the moving van and put me to bed. I wonder where Tommy is.
Tom-meee!” she called, beginning to feel rather frightened.

“Here I am,” cried an impish voice and a tousled head appeared at the
foot of the stairs. “Gee! I thought you’d never wake up. Look whose
house we’re in. The Bramble Bush Man’s!”

And to prove it he held up the Guide, his gash of a mouth smiling as
happily as before. Tommy had placed the glasses on his nose and he
looked the same as ever except for his withered leaves and one broken
arm.

“But this is the headless man’s house,” Muffs answered, more puzzled
than ever.

“Sure! The Bramble Bush Man lives with him. _This is the Bramble Bush
Man._”

Muffs looked long and hard at the stick creature and then opened her
mouth as wide as she could and let out one scream after another.

“I don’t want it to be the Bramble Bush Man! I don’t want it to be the
Bramble Bush Man!” she screamed. “I want the Bramble Bush Man to be
real and tell me where my daddy went.”

Tommy stood helpless, holding his beloved stick. It suited him all
right. It was real enough for him.

Then the headless man appeared and Muffs stopped a scream right in the
middle of it. The headless man would be as angry as he was that day the
children chased him.

But stranger things were happening by the minute. The headless man
wasn’t angry at all.

“There! There!” he said. “Stop this screaming and we’ll find the
Bramble Bush Man at once.”

“He isn’t--he isn’t a stick?” gasped Muffs, still sobbing a little.

“Tommy’s Bramble Bush Man may be a stick, but yours isn’t. He’ll find
your daddy for you if he has to go to the ends of the earth. Now dry
your tears and have breakfast with the lonesome old headless man.”

“Are you really so lonesome?” asked Muffs when they were seated around
the breakfast table. They had gone down two long flights of stairs and
into a spacious dining room.

“Yes,” said the headless man. “Very lonesome indeed. A big house like
this ought to have children in it.”

“It’s funny,” Muffs replied. “But Mother and I live in two tiny rooms
and the landlady doesn’t like children.”

“I thought I didn’t--once.”

[Illustration]

“I’m glad you’ve changed your mind,” Muffs said, smiling at him over
her grapefruit. He had put a cherry in the center just the way she
liked it and after that came Tommy’s favorite dish--pancakes. Muffs ate
five and Tommy had seven and an extra helping of jam. That was for the
Guide who sat in the chair beside him.

“Wise people like jam,” he said in explanation.

While they ate the headless man told how he had discovered them asleep
when he went back to the van to find something the moving men had
forgotten to deliver.

“Otherwise,” he said, “you might be on your way to Chicago with a load
of furniture that left at four o’clock this morning. It was taking an
awful chance to climb into an empty moving van. Why did you do it?”

“We wanted to surprise you,” Tommy explained. “We thought you had
forgotten about the Bramble Bush Man.”

“Indeed I haven’t and if it’s in my power you shall see him this very
day.”

Of course the children wanted to know when and where but the headless
man would say no more and hurried them away from the table.

“Come! Come!” he urged. “You mustn’t stay here any longer or you’ll
miss the party.”

“Party!” exclaimed Tommy. “It must be a surprise party. We never heard
about it.”

“It will be a surprise party,” he said.

Muffs looked puzzled. “Is it somebody’s birthday?” she asked.

“I’ll have to go along and see,” declared the headless man.

“Were you invited?”

He scratched his head as if he were thinking. “Now let me see,” he said
slowly. “I wasn’t exactly invited but if it’s a surprise party, don’t
you think I might go as a surprise?”

The children thought at first that he was joking but when he said
goodbye, his last words were, “I’ll see you both at the party.”

When they reached Tommy’s house someone was waiting on the porch. It
was someone with golden hair and golden brown eyes and cheeks as rosy
as Muffs’ own. It might have been Muffs herself except that this lovely
person was a lady instead of a little girl. She held out both arms and
Muffs rushed into them.

“Mother!” she cried, half laughing and half crying. “I didn’t think
you’d come for another week.”

“I had to come when my little girl was lost. Mrs. Tyler sent a
telegram. Muffs, _dear!_ Where were you?”

“Oh, Mother! The loveliest place, all light and flowers and pretty
colors. You would have painted it. It was so beautiful!”

“But how did you happen to go there? And why didn’t you come home
before?”

“She slept too long,” Tommy explained. “We went to sleep in a moving
van,” and he told Mrs. Moffet all that had happened and how kind the
headless man had been. He even told about the Guide and how he had
saved him. Tommy had the Guide under his arm and that proved everything.

“We’d have been to Chicago by now,” he finished, “if he hadn’t found us
and taken us to his house. He just let us sleep ’til we woke up. Then
we had pancakes! Mmmm! And can the headless man cook!”

Muffs’ mother laughed but there was a worried look in her face as well.
It might have happened so differently. She clasped her little girl very
close and held her for a long time.

“I must dress,” Muffs said finally. “We’re going to a party.”

“We can’t, darling. The train----”

“But we _must_,” Muffs interrupted. “It’s a surprise party but the
headless man told and he says it’s still going to be a surprise. He’s
expecting us to be there and I wouldn’t miss it for anything.”

“If that’s the case,” said her mother, “we’ll take a later train. Put
on your blue dress----”

“It’s got ink on it.”

“I spilled it there,” Tommy owned up. “I must have spilled it when we
wrote the Public Notice,” and he told about that too.

My! What a lot of things there were to tell. Muffs and Tommy chattered
all the time they were getting ready. Mrs. Moffet put on a fresh dress
too and stood waiting by the window. She could see across the pasture
to where crowds were already beginning to gather around the grange hall.

“We’re ready now,” Mrs. Tyler said, coming into the room with the baby
toddling at her side.

“But where’s Mary?” Tommy asked.

“She went on ahead with your father and Donald and Great Aunt
Charlotte.”

“Is Great Aunt Charlotte going too? Gee! What a funny kind of party.”

“It’s in the grange hall.”

“And we’re just going to sit? Aw, Mom! That won’t be any fun.”

“Won’t it?” she said with a knowing smile. “Hadn’t you better come
along and see.”

They took the short-cut. Muffs always wanted to take the short-cut now
so she wouldn’t have to pass the dragons’ house but she soon discovered
that Mr. and Mrs. Lippett and everyone else in the valley were coming
to the party. Not only that, there were big, expensive-looking cars
from the other side of Lookoff Mountain and a whole bus load of school
children. The road was full of parked cars and the grove at the end of
the short-cut was crowded with children. There was a great circle of
them playing “Drop the Handkerchief.” Muffs slipped into the circle
quietly but as soon as they saw her the whole crowd of children called
out, “Surprise!”

“But it isn’t my birthday,” Muffs objected.

“It’s a farewell party because you’re going, Muffs,” Mary whispered.

“Speech! Speech!” they all shouted.

“I--I can’t speak. I wouldn’t know what to say.”

“You can sing, honey,” her mother said softly.

So Muffs stood on tiptoe and her voice trilled an old love song her
mother had taught her. When she had finished she saw that the headless
man had been standing under a nearby tree listening to her. She waved
to him but he had his handkerchief out blowing his nose and didn’t
notice. Then Muffs turned to her mother, or to the place where she
thought her mother would be standing. There was no one there.

“Where’s Mother?” she asked Tommy.

He pointed to a chair. “She went over there and sat down,” he said.
“Her face got awful white. I guess she’s sick.”

Muffs ran to her and put her arms around her neck. “What’s the matter,
Mother?” she asked. “Did it make you dizzy to play the games?”

“No, dear,” Mrs. Moffet replied, rising to her feet in a hurry. “But we
must go, dear. We must go quickly! We must take the next train.”

“And miss the party!”

“Would you mind very much if we missed the party?”

Muffs stared at her mother without answering. She couldn’t think of
anything to say. Her mother knew she’d mind and she had said they could
take a later train. Then Mrs. Tyler saw that something was wrong and
came hurrying along the grass with baby Ellen snatching at timothy
heads as they passed and calling, “Pitty pussy. _Want_ pitty pussy.”

Muffs spoke in a voice that was full of bewilderment. “Mother says I
must go home. She says I must go home and miss the party.”

“Really, Mrs. Moffet,” Mrs. Tyler said, “hadn’t you better think it
over a little longer? You’re welcome to stay with us and besides--it
isn’t fair to Muffs.”

There was a long silence.

“No,” she said finally, lifting her head and looking into her little
girl’s anxious face. “I guess it isn’t. Run along, dear, and have a
good time. Don’t mind me. I’ve just got a headache.”

“We’ll ask the Bramble Bush Man what’s good for headaches,” said
Muffins brightly. “I forgot to tell you, Mother, but the headless man
knows him and he really is wondrous wise and we’re going to meet him
today. Look! Everybody is going into the grange hall. Mr. Tyler is
calling them.”

And so he was! He had a horn to his lips and his voice came out with a
hollow sound:

“THIS WAY TO THE BIG SHOW. MEET THE BRAMBLE BUSH MAN, THE WORLD’S
GREATEST MAGICIAN. WATCH HIS WONDERFUL TRICKS! COME ON, FOLKS! DON’T
MISS IT. IT’S THE SHOW OF A LIFE TIME!”

“He’s giving a show!” cried Muffs and her eyes were like stars.
“Mother! Do you hear it? The Bramble Bush Man is giving a show?”

“Whoops!” shouted Tommy. “Talk about a surprise party--and I thought we
were just going to sit.”

“We are,” exclaimed Mary, joining them and taking Muffs’ hand. “We’re
going to sit and watch the wisest man in the world and if you don’t
believe it, just ask him what a tuffet is. I asked him to make sure and
he said it was a round cushion.”

“You talked to him, Mary?”

She laughed. “Yes, and so did you. But just wait ’til you see him on
the stage. That’s the surprise!”



INTRODUCING THE MAGICIAN


In the grange hall rows and rows of chairs were lined up, like
soldiers, before the stage. Green and yellow streamers hung from the
ceiling and flowers were everywhere. Mary said she helped decorate.

“What did you do with all the colored lanterns?” Tommy asked.

“Oh, did you see them? They’re going to be hung out in the grove after
the show. There’s cake and ice cream and we’re going to bring the
chairs out and sit and talk with the Bramble Bush Man.”

Muffs felt too excited even to guess what he looked like. “The Bramble
Bush Man! The Bramble Bush Man!” her thoughts kept saying. “He’s real!
He’s true! I’m going to see him!”

“You’re going to be so surprised,” Mary went on. “I was. I couldn’t
believe it at first and then I began to get used to it and he isn’t at
all the way we thought he was and he’s studied so hard and tried out
every one of his tricks before that big mirror so that he’s _sure_ how
it will look to us down here in the theatre. Honest, now, doesn’t the
grange hall look something like a theatre?”

Tommy said it did although he hadn’t the ghost of an idea what Mary
was talking about. She seemed to have found out a lot all that time she
wouldn’t play.

“It seems as though Muffs would have guessed it. She must have
remembered a little of what he looked like,” and Mary kept talking
things like that until they had walked the whole length of the hall
and were standing beside the first row of chairs. A printed sign said
RESERVED but Mary turned it over and sat down, pushing Muffs and Tommy
into the two empty seats beside her.

“Mom’s out there in back with Ellen so she can go home early if she
cries. Daddy and Donald and Great Aunt Charlotte are helping and we’re
supposed to help too,” Mary whispered.

“But how can we help?”

“By sitting right up near the front so that I can go up quickly when he
calls on me.”

“When who calls on you?” asked Tommy, much mystified.

“Why, the Bramble Bush Man, of course. I’m to take part in his show.”

Tommy gave a whistle of surprise but Muffs did not even hear what Mary
was saying. She was busy looking at the stage. There everything was,
just the way she had seen it in the Bramble Bush Man’s queer little
house that day they came in through the window. There was the long
table with many strange things piled upon it. There was the plate and
the ball and hoops and rings and giant playing cards in a pile. Even
the vase was there and it looked as if it had never been broken. But
the flags and ribbons were not to be seen. Neither was the cage with
the rabbit in it.

“I wonder where Bunny Bright Eyes is,” Muffs said aloud. “I wouldn’t
like it if he wasn’t in the show.”

“Mary’s in it,” said Tommy reassuringly.

“Is she? Then why isn’t she on the stage?”

“I’m supposed to go up when he calls me. It’s near the end of the show.
I disappear.”

“You--what?”

“I disappear,” Mary repeated calmly. “The Bramble Bush Man makes me
disappear.”

“I don’t believe that,” declared Tommy. “Even a wondrous wise man
couldn’t make a girl disappear.”

[Illustration]

“He could too. He made his house disappear, didn’t he?”

“Will you come back?” Muffs questioned anxiously.

“Of course I’ll come back and when it’s over I’ll tell you how I did
it.”

“Will you tell us how the house disappeared?” asked Tommy.

“I can’t,” said Mary, “because I don’t know.”

More and more people came in. All the chairs were filled and the
doorway, too, was filled with people who had come to see the Bramble
Bush Man’s big show. Tommy had the magic glasses to his eyes and was
looking over the crowd.

“I wonder where Mother is,” Muffs said.

“Maybe she’s back there with Mom minding Ellen,” Tommy suggested.
“Maybe she’s afraid to come too close to a wondrous wise man.”

“I guess she’d be afraid to disappear like I’m going to do,” said Mary
importantly.

Muffs was thinking very hard. The Bramble Bush Man must be a rather
terrible person if he could make things disappear whenever he felt like
it. Even his house! She looked again at the stage, at the long table
and the big bowls and rings and playing cards upon it. She looked at
the vase that was whole again and shivered.

“I b’lieve he’s a giant after all,” she said.

Mary laughed and laughed. “Ha! Ha! Why, he isn’t even a big man. Look!
There he is now!”

She pointed but Muffs and Tommy could see no one who looked in the
least like a wondrous wise man. Mr. Tyler had walked up toward the
stage and he and the headless man stood there talking. Then he pressed
a button that made lights all around the stage. A blue light shone from
the ceiling, making everything shadowy and mysterious the way it had
been in the Bramble Bush Man’s own house.

“But where is he?” Muffs and Tommy both asked. “We don’t see him.”

“There he is! There! Right where I’m pointing.”

Mr. Tyler had gone back to his seat and left the headless man standing
alone. Soon he went up the little stairs that ended on the stage. Now
he was standing before them and smiling.

“He’s got a lot of nerve,” Tommy said.

Then everything was quiet for the headless man had begun to speak.
“Boys and girls, big and little,” he said. “I have come to introduce
the Bramble Bush Man, a wondrous wise magician. He owes his name to
three children who are sitting here in the front row. Also, I think,
his wisdom.”

“What does he mean?” whispered Tommy.

“He means us,” Mary whispered back. “Sh! He’s still talking.”

“Watch carefully now. Hokus! Mokus! Pokus! and PRESTO! You have the
Bramble Bush Man.”

There was a flash of light and a booming sound. The headless man
had disappeared and there, in his place, stood the Bramble Bush Man
himself. He wore a golden robe with black stars on it and a tall black
silk hat. He had a black moustache and black glasses but he was about
the size of the headless man.

“I bet he’s the headless man with a black and gold robe and a
make-believe moustache,” Tommy whispered.

He looked around, expecting Mary to say, “he is not,” but she and Muffs
were both busy watching the magician. He had pulled a hair from his
moustache. It couldn’t have been more than an inch long when he pulled
it out but now he was stretching, stretching it until it became the
length of his arm.

“There,” he said. “That is how we stretch a hair. Now that it is long
enough, I shall proceed to thread it through my hands.”

This he did, to the amazement and mystification of all who were
watching.

“Now,” he continued, “I shall sew it through my head.”

He put the needle, hair and all, into his mouth.

“He’s swallowed it,” cried Tommy.

This time Mary did contradict him. “No, he hasn’t! He’s sewing it
through his head. Watch now! He’s taking his hat off!”

First he felt for the hair and everyone expected him to pull it out of
his head but he searched awhile and couldn’t find it.

“Perhaps it’s in my hat,” he said at last and reached in one hand to
see. He drew the hand out and with it, a white rabbit. “One hare is as
good as another,” he chuckled and then made a low bow.

“That’s right,” said Mary in a hushed voice. “They do call a rabbit a
hare.” But Muffs said, not in a hushed voice at all but in a very loud
one, “It’s Bunny Bright Eyes!”

The bunny twitched his nose just the way he used to do and seemed to
say, “Yes, little mistress, it’s Bunny Bright Eyes and how glad I am to
see you again!”

“Will this little girl step up to the stage just a moment?” the
magician was asking.

“Who? Me?” cried Muffs. She looked at Mary. Surely he must mean Mary.

“Yes, you. Madeline Moffet. You’re the girl I want to hold this rabbit
while I make him a cage.”

Muffs walked uncertainly up the steps and onto the stage. She felt
afraid at first but all that feeling left her when she had Bunny Bright
Eyes in her arms again.

[Illustration: “ONE HARE IS AS GOOD AS ANOTHER,” THE MAGICIAN SAID.]

“Place this hat on the table,” said the magician. “Bunny Bright Eyes
has a little present for you.”

“What is it?” asked Muffs moving closer to the Bramble Bush Man and
wondering if maybe he wasn’t the headless man’s twin brother. He wanted
her handkerchief and she gladly gave it to him.

“I hope you don’t mind what happens to it,” he said as he began rolling
it into a ball. Soon the handkerchief was gone and in its place was a
round white egg!

“My handkerchief!” cried Muffs.

“Perhaps it’s in your pocket,” said the Bramble Bush Man.

“But what became of the egg?” Muffs asked.

He suggested that she look in the hat where Bunny Bright Eyes was. Sure
enough. There was the egg!

“Ha! Ha!” laughed the magician. “Now will you believe in the Easter
Rabbit? It’s a magic egg too. I’ll break it and show you.”

He gave it three taps on the edge of the long table. It broke and
a cage unfolded before the audience. It was the same cage that had
disappeared back in the Bramble Bush Man’s house.

“As a rule,” he said, “magicians don’t explain their tricks but a
certain little girl,” and he looked at Muffs, “would just love to know
something about this cage. Look, everybody!”

He touched the cage with the magic wand and it disappeared in his hand.
Then he held up a tiny piece of metal and unfolded the cage again.

“Easy! A folding cage inside a hollow wooden egg. You’ve seen a magnet
attract a pin or a needle. Well, the magnet on the end of my magic
wand attracts the spring that collapses the cage.”

He set the cage down on the table. “There’s a house for you, Bunny
Bright Eyes,” he said and the rabbit hopped into it.

Suddenly Tommy stood up in his chair. “Oh, Mr. Bramble Bush Man,” he
called. “We have a better house than that. Just wait!”

So everybody waited and the Bramble Bush Man entertained them with more
tricks until Tommy came back with the red and green house that the
children had painted. He walked boldly up on the stage and placed it on
the long table. “There!” said he, “It’s a prize for Bunny Bright Eyes.”

The audience thought this was part of the show. They watched the house,
expecting it to disappear but this house was solid. The rabbit could
live in it without any danger of having it vanish over his head some
cold night in winter. Tommy explained this in a loud voice and the
Bramble Bush Man thanked him.

“Boy! What a show!” said a voice below the stage.

Muffs and Tommy both took their seats soon after that for the great act
of vanishing a girl was about to begin. Muffs almost held her breath
and Tommy looked a little whiter than usual. It might be fun to watch
some stranger disappear. But Mary! They remembered how they had never
been able to find the Bramble Bush Man’s house again.

“Are you sure you’ll come back, Mary?” they both asked, holding her
hands until the last minute.

“Oh, yes,” she promised them. “I told you I’d come back only you
couldn’t guess in a million years how I’m going to do it.”



STAGE MAGIC


Muffs was glad when her mother slipped into the empty seat that Mary
had left. She looked beautiful with her face turned up toward the
stage. She wasn’t paying any attention to Muffs, only to the Bramble
Bush Man standing there in the blue shadows. Mary stood beside him.
Muffs had always thought of Mary as a big girl but now she looked
very, very small. Could people shrink, Muffs wondered. Could they
grow so small they couldn’t be seen and then grow big again? Alice in
Wonderland did but, of course, that was only a story. Muffs couldn’t
think of any other way that a girl could disappear. She wiggled and
turned in her seat. It was impossible for her to sit still when she was
so excited.

Oh! Mary was climbing up onto the long table! The Bramble Bush Man was
telling her to lie down!

“It doesn’t hurt to disappear, does it, Mary?” he was asking.

Mary laughed and said, “Of course not,” in a very happy voice. Nobody
seemed worried. Even Muffs’ mother who had been afraid sat there
watching just as if she felt sure everything would be all right.

“He isn’t going to put up a screen the way most magicians do,” she said
almost to herself. “He would be different. The dear man!”

[Illustration]

“What did you say, Mother?” Muffs asked.

“I said he was different,” her mother replied quickly. “Watch, darling!
He’s doing this for us.”

Muffs wondered why her mother said that. But there wasn’t much time to
wonder. The Bramble Bush Man was chanting something and waving his wand
over Mary. There was that same flash of light and then--Boom!

“She’s gone!” cried Muffs but nobody heard her because at the same time
exclamations of surprise went up from everyone else in the audience.
The table top was empty. The magician had done what he said he would
do. He had made a girl vanish right there on the stage.

“That’s magic,” he said, beaming. “But it wouldn’t be real magic if I
couldn’t bring the girl back again. Have you ever heard of Mistress
Mary Quite Contrary? Would you like to see how her garden grows?”

The clapping below the stage showed that everybody did want to see it
so the Bramble Bush Man, still holding his wand, walked over to the
edge of the platform where the large vase that Muffs thought she had
broken stood on its stand.

“We have to say a few magic words first,” he explained, “and then wave
the wand and presto! Up comes a rose bush. Why, hello, Mary! There you
are. I thought you disappeared a while ago.”

Right out of the vase, if it wasn’t some strange dream, grew first the
rose bush and then Mary herself smiling through the parted branches.

“They’re real roses too,” declared the magician, “not wooden like the
egg. Here they are! Catch this one! And this one!”

He and Mary were throwing all the roses out to the children who were
watching. Muffs’ mother caught one but instead of giving it to Muffs
she kissed it and put it away in her purse.

Soon the vase was as empty as it had been before the Bramble Bush Man
waved his wand over it.

“Ah, there!” he said. “I’ve given away all my flowers.”

“Grow some more,” Mary told him. She was still standing on the stage
and looked very lovely indeed for she had kept one of the roses and
fastened it in her hair.

“Grow a lily,” somebody in the audience shouted.

Almost immediately a tall, slender lily sprang up out of the pot.

“Who asked for the lily?”

“I did,” said a tall, gawky boy in the audience.

He came up on the stage to get it and everybody laughed as he took the
lily, sniffed it and some of the yellow pollen came off on the end of
his nose.

Tommy nudged Muffs and whispered, “He’s wondrous wise all right if he
can grow anything you tell him. Grow a Bramble Bush!” he shouted.

“Yes! Yes!” called several other children. “Grow a Bramble Bush.”

“That’s right,” the magician answered. “If I can’t grow a Bramble Bush
and scratch my eyes out in it I’m not the real Bramble Bush Man.”

“Gee! He can’t really scratch his eyes out!” Tommy exclaimed.

“He can so,” said Mary who had come down from the stage and squeezed in
the chair between Muffs and Tommy. “He can do anything!”

“Can he, Mother?” Muffs asked.

“Yes, dear,” she replied. “I think he can.”

The children were growing more excited now. They were standing up in
their chairs and calling when, all at once, everything became quiet.
The magician was saying his magic words and slowly, slowly, out of the
flower pot a real bramble bush spread its branches. It was bigger than
the rose bush and taller than the lily and it was covered with berries
which the Bramble Bush Man passed around for the children to taste.
All the time they kept watching him, wondering if he really meant to
scratch out his eyes.

They had not long to wonder. Soon the berries were gone from the bush
and the magician stood beside it again.

“_Hokus! Mokus! Pokus!_” he said in a mysterious voice. Then he gave
one leap and the bush seemed to leap toward him. The vase was empty
once more and the Bramble Bush Man was caught in a tangle of briars.
Laughter and squeals filled the room while he struggled to free himself
and then--it happened! He hadn’t any eyes.

“Don’t worry, folks,” he said cheerfully. “All I need to do is grow
another bush and scratch them in again.”

The audience was clapping now. Clap! Clap! Clap! went a hundred pair of
hands. Perhaps some of them guessed that the magician had only closed
his eyes so tightly that they appeared not to be there. Whether they
did or not, they knew it was the trick they had been waiting for. None
of them expected the surprise.

The Bramble Bush Man had turned around, jumped into the other bush
and scratched his eyes in again. He had scratched his eyes in again
_but_--he had scratched off his moustache. His black robe with the gold
stars was gone too and he not only looked like but he was the headless
man.

“Headless man! Headless man!” a few of the children who had chased him
began to call.

He put up his hand. “Not any more. From now on I want to be known as
The Bramble Bush Man. Have I earned the title?”

“Yes! Yes!” shouted a great many voices and almost at once as many
questions were shouted up from the audience:

“How did you stretch the hair? How did you make the bramble bush grow?
Where did Mary go when she vanished?”

There were others too, but Tommy asked the most baffling question of
all:

“How did your house disappear?”



THE TRICK HOUSE


The show was over. The Bramble Bush Man had left the stage saying very
briefly that magicians don’t explain their tricks and thanking the
people for watching him. Then Mrs. Tyler called out something about
refreshments being served in the grove and, in almost no time, the hall
was empty.

Out in the grove the Japanese lanterns were lighted and Great Aunt
Charlotte was passing out trays of food to several girls in white who
were serving. Muffs pulled her mother’s hand.

“There’s the Bramble Bush Man and he’s standing all alone. Let’s go
over and talk with him.”

“Not now, dear,” Mrs. Moffet said in a strange voice. Then she walked
swiftly away leaving Muffs there with Mary and Tommy.

“She didn’t stay for the ice cream!” they exclaimed all at once.

“No matter how grown-up I get,” Mary said, “I’m sure I’ll _always_ stay
for ice cream.”

“Shucks! We can go over and talk to the Bramble Bush Man anyway,”
declared Tommy. “He didn’t have a chance to explain about the house
disappearing.”

“He said magicians don’t explain their tricks.”

“But that wasn’t part of the show. Say, Mary! Maybe he made the house
disappear the same way he did that trick with you. You promised to tell
us.”

“I’d show you,” she said, “only I don’t know how to get in there under
the stage now that the table is closed up again.”

“What do you mean?” asked the other two.

Mary stood stock still and spoke in a mysterious voice that made her
secret seem even greater than it was:

“There’s a hiding place inside the table. You remember how thick
the top was? Well, there’s a sliding panel of thin wood and when I
disappeared the panel really slid out from under me and I dropped right
into the table.”

“Oh!” exclaimed Muffs.

“Gee!” said Tommy. “How did you get out?”

Mary laughed. “Oh, that was easy. I slid out through the table leg. It
was hollow and went down like a tunnel right under the stage. Donald
was down there to help make the flowers grow and he wrapped me all up
in the roses and pushed us both right up through the stand and through
the bottom of the vase----”

“You and the roses?”

“Of course. The thorns were all taken off so they wouldn’t scratch
me. They did though, just a little,” and she showed them the tiniest
scratch on her arm above the elbow.

“Well,” said Tommy after a moment of deep thought, “the house couldn’t
have disappeared the way you did, now could it?”

The disappearance of the house, they all decided, was something the
Bramble Bush Man alone might tell them. He seemed to be waiting for
them there under a tree. He even had extra plates of cakes and as soon
as he saw them coming he drew up their chairs and called to one of the
girls to bring more ice cream.

[Illustration]

“I thought we might have tea together again,” he said. “I wanted to
hear how you liked the show.”

The children were all silent for a moment. There weren’t any words big
enough for them to tell him how well they liked it. Finally, when Muffs
was seated and he had passed the cakes, she asked a question.

“My mother said you gave the show for us. Did you?”

“For you, angel girl, and your delightful friends. I did not flatter
myself to think that your mother would want to watch it.”

“She did!” Muffs told him, “and she kissed the rose you threw down to
her and put it in her pocketbook.”

At first Muffs thought maybe she had said the wrong thing because the
magician looked at her so strangely. It was hard to talk with him.
There had been so many things she wanted to ask--where the ends of the
earth were, how to make her mother happy and what had happened to his
house when it disappeared.

Mary and Tommy were asking things. Tommy was even forgetting to eat
his ice cream he was so interested in the wondrous wise man’s replies.
At last he asked about the house but, instead of answering him, the
magician began to draw pictures on a little note book that he took from
his pocket.

First he drew a large house. The children knew it at once. It was
the Millionaire’s House where the headless man lived and, since the
headless man was the Bramble Bush Man, it must be the house where he
lived also.

Next he drew a tiny house with only one window.

“That’s the house that disappeared!” cried the three children all at
once.

“Only,” Tommy added, “you forgot the walk that went up to the window.”

“The walk! The _walk!_ My stars! That was no walk!” exclaimed the
magician. “That was only a plank that the moving men placed there so
that they could move in my big table without carrying it up three
flights of stairs.”

“How could there be three flights of stairs in such a tiny house?”
asked Mary.

Without a word, the magician began drawing another picture. It was a
picture of the side of the house and now the children knew the secret.

“You see,” he explained, “it’s a trick house, although I swear when I
bought it I had no idea that it would ever fool anybody. I just wanted
a bigger lawn so I chose a house built back into the side of a hill.
It’s a steep hill. You must know that if you climbed down it. So the
house is only one story high where the hill cuts into it and three
stories high where it faces the road.”

[Illustration]

“And we ran away without looking!” exclaimed Muffs, “because we were so
scared.”

“You’re not afraid of me now, are you?” he asked gently.

“No. That is, only a little because you’re wondrous wise and I’m--I
guess I’m afraid to ask you some of the questions I wanted to. You see,
you might think the earth hasn’t any ends because it’s round but I know
it does have ends because my father went there.”

“That’s right,” said the Bramble Bush Man, “it does have ends. The ends
are mighty lonesome too.”

“Have you been there?” asked Tommy who was just about ready to believe
anything.

“I live there,” replied the Bramble Bush Man.

“Then that path did lead to the ends of the earth just like you said,
Muffins, only your father wasn’t there.”

“It’s just as well,” she returned with a grown-up air. “He was a cranky
man anyway and the Bramble Bush Man is nice.”

“I’m glad you think so.” He held out his hand. “Let’s shake on that. I
think you’re nice too.”

But the children thought he was shaking goodbye to them. They had
almost forgotten to thank him for his magic. Then, when they did
remember, he surprised them by turning the tables and thanking them for
theirs.



REAL MAGIC


“Our magic?” asked the children in bewilderment.

“Why, yes,” replied the Bramble Bush Man, sitting down in his chair
again. They saw that he hadn’t meant them to leave at all. “Certainly I
should thank you for your magic. It is a great deal more wonderful than
mine. I could never change glasses into eyes or a stick into a man. You
are Magic Makers of the first order while I am only a trick magician.”

“You are not. You’re wondrous wise,” said Mary forgetting to be polite.

“I was not always so,” he admitted. “Not so long ago I was a cranky
headless man--headless in more ways than one. It was your magic that
worked the change.”

They began to see what he meant. But still they did not quite
understand.

“I’m no good at explaining things,” the magician confessed. “My
business is mystifying, not explaining. Run and get your mother, Muffs
girl. She can explain.”

“My mother!” Muffs exclaimed. “She’s afraid of you. She said she didn’t
want to meet you.”

“I want to meet her,” he insisted. “Tell her the Bramble Bush Man wants
to meet her, that he won’t take no for an answer.”

“You’ll wait right here?” asked Muffs uncertainly. “And may Mary and
Tommy go with me? Mary’s good at getting her own way.”

The Bramble Bush Man agreed to this with a chuckle and sat there
smiling to himself as they walked away.

“He’s happy over his show,” said Tommy. “He has fun fooling everybody
and making them think he’s wondrous wise.”

“He is wondrous wise,” said Mary, “and he’s happy because we worked
magic on him.”

But Muffs was beginning to think that her mother might have something
to do with his happiness. It was hard to make her consent to seeing him
but, finally, she gave in. She walked with the children across the lawn
to the place where he sat waiting.

Muffs could not understand the timid way she approached him or why they
looked at each other for a moment and then kissed. Strangers didn’t do
things like that.

“Tommy,” she whispered. “Let me take those magic glasses for a minute.
I want to see something.”

[Illustration]

“Gee!” he exclaimed. “I forgot to give them to the Bramble Bush Man.”

“Never mind that now, Tommy. I must get a better look at him. Who is he
anyway?”

“He’s the headless man. I thought you knew.”

“He is not. He’s the Bramble Bush Man. He’s the wisest magician in
the whole world and I’m one of his helpers,” Mary added proudly,
remembering her part in the show.

Then Muffs put on the magic glasses. She was beginning to see it
anyway, but now, with the glasses to help, she saw as plainly as day.

“Why, he’s my daddy!” she exclaimed. “Only he used to have a real
moustache like that make-believe one he wore in the show. He’s my daddy
that went away to the ends of the earth.”

The magician turned around and there was a new brightness in his eyes.

“My little girl!” he said. “Do you remember? Will you ever forgive your
blundering old daddy for running away and leaving such a wonderful
woman as your mother?”

“She never told me that you were a magician,” Muffs replied.

Mrs. Moffet hung her head for a moment, looking like a naughty little
girl who has been punished. Then she confessed.

“I didn’t think he was much of a magician, darling.”

“And I didn’t think your mother was much of an artist. Maybe that’s why
we didn’t get along.”

“Wise man,” she teased him.

Muffs and Mary and Tommy stood watching them. The party was over and
Mrs. Tyler had taken baby Ellen home long before. Great Aunt Charlotte
had gone too. Only Mr. Tyler and Donald were left. They strolled about
on the far side of the grove blowing out Japanese lanterns and when
Mary saw them she ran to keep them company.

Tommy was ready to go too but first he must return the magician’s
glasses. He reached in his pocket and held them out. “Here,” he said.
“I almost forgot these. I guess they’re yours.”

“They were once,” replied the Bramble Bush Man. “But I have a new pair
now and your Guide will want his eyes.”

“Why didn’t you tell us before?” asked Muffs. “You knew Tommy had them
and all you needed to do was to tell him they were yours.”

“You’re wrong, my dear,” he said. “I had to do a great deal more than
that. You were so sure the glasses belonged to a wondrous wise man that
I had to do something, well, rather wonderful.”

“You did!” cried Miss Muffet. “It was wonderfuller than wonderful. It
was the most wonderfullest show in the world!”

“My! What big words,” laughed her mother, “but I agree with all of
them.”

“You think I’m wondrous wise too?” he asked softly.

“Oh, yes you are. You’re changed!”

“It was the children’s magic and something else too--the words of that
song Muffs sang.”

“I know. I’ll sing it again,” she said happily and when she came to the
part that went:

  For Love has made me wondrous wise.
  Your eyes have told me so,

her father sang with her and looked into her mother’s lovely brown eyes.

Right then Muffs knew that they wouldn’t be taking the train back to
New York and the crowded little studio and the landlady who didn’t
like children. They would be moving into the Bramble Bush Man’s big,
beautiful house and all the bare places would be filled with her
mother’s dainty things. She could have the fairyland where she had
slept for her very own and perhaps her mother could have the glass
topped palace for a studio.

“It’s going to be so wonderful,” she said. “Mary and Tommy can play
with me all the time and so can Bunny Bright Eyes. We can help you with
your tricks too, can’t we Daddy Brambles?”

“I like that name,” he said.

“But can’t we help you?” she insisted.

He looked at her with the old scowl that the headless man used to wear.
“Magic Makers like you help me with my poor tricks?”

“You might even teach them a few,” her mother suggested.

“Nonsense! They’ll be too busy teaching me.”

But Muffs, who had learned a lot in a very short time, took her
father’s arm and then her mother’s arm and looking up at them she said,
“Come, let’s go home.”

It was almost midnight when they walked up the steps. The house seemed
to smile a welcome and its mysterious magic room held forth a promise
of more and more adventures for Muffs and Mary and Tommy.


THE END





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