The Garden of the Plynck
by Karle Wilson Baker
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"I—I'm sorry I was so useless," apologized the Plynck with deep humility, looking down upon her faithful friends. But they one and all began to protest that she had not been needed in the least. "It was for you as we done it, ma'am," Schlorge assured her, looking up into her tree with his shoe in his hand; and the poor Snimmy was so overcome by emotion that he was compelled to lie down at the foot of the Gugollaph-tree, with his debilitating nose on his little cold paws, and sniffle frankly.

"But how will they get back the lovely grass and flowers?" asked Sara of Pirlaps, softly. Her friends were saved; but her Garden still looked sadly afflicted.

"Well, perhaps it will snow," said Pirlaps, hopefully.

"Snow?" asked Sara. "Will that bring the grass and leaves back?"

"Why, certainly, Sara," said Pirlaps, looking down at her with his kind, amused smile. Pirlaps was often amused at her ignorance; but he was always so kind about it that Sara didn't mind at all.

Chapter V Crumbs and Waffles

Sara beheld such an entrancing sight the next morning that her dimples nearly escaped from her control while she was putting them into the dimple-holder. The Snimmy leaped up with a wild sniff, only to sink down again, trembling, as Sara shooed the little rollicking things safely down through the opening.

For it had indeed snowed in the night; the whole glittering Garden was as white as the Snoodle. The pool was unfrozen, and in her accustomed place within it sat the Echo of the Plynck, looking wonderfully happy and refreshed; the bark of the Gugollaph-tree was again a healthy, dazzling blue, and the branches were piled with little ridges of fluffy-looking snow, which produced a delightful effect. And among them, with her happy golden feet in the snow, and her rosy plumes fluffed out, sat the Plynck, looking as softly dazzling as a snowy sunrise. An army of Gunki were busily mowing the deep snow with scintillating long-handled ice-sickles. It flew up in clouds as they mowed, and another army of Gunki was engaged in catching it in baskets and spreading it smoothly down again. One and all, they seemed deeply absorbed in this useful work.

Still a third crew of Gunki were engaged in helping Schlorge reset the stump. They had got it nearly into place by the time Sara arrived. It was a tremendous engineering feat, and had evidently required any number of ropes and pulleys and things.

Sara could see that the ropes were made of taffy, but she could not imagine where they had found enough pulley-bones to supply all the pulleys. So she asked Schlorge about it, and he explained with great relish that they had used the wish-bones of the Fractions themselves.

"Oh, we've made 'em useful!" said Schlorge, triumphantly. "We've used everything about 'em except their conceit. We didn't want that, so we just raked it up into piles and burned it."

As he talked, Schlorge was busy fitting the stump exactly to the root that was left in the ground, so that it would grow back just right when the snow melted.

"I have to hurry," explained Schlorge, working away with an anxious expression, "because I have an announcement to make to you—a message from Avrillia."

"Oh, do hurry!" cried Sara, clapping her hands so recklessly that Schlorge looked up from his work to say, "Take care—I don't mend them knuckles ones, you know."

So Sara sat down very quietly on the snow near by, keeping a watchful eye out for the Gunki with the keen ice-sickles, and sitting very still so that she would not disturb Schlorge. And in a very little while, indeed, the work was finished, and Schlorge scrambled eagerly upon the stump and arranged his hands. Then he began:

"I'm requested to say On this glickering day That Avrillia is feeding the Birds; And if Sara will come She will find her at home, With waffles and welcoming words."

Schlorge jumped down and began scrambling his tools together; then he went rushing wildly, as usual, down the road to the Dimplesmithy. "Go see her, Sara!" he shouted back over his shoulder encouragingly. "You'll enjoy it! Go on!"

So Sara, who really needed no urging, went smiling down the little path (it was curly again, though very white) toward the little arch in the hedge. And from there she looked out upon another exhilarating scene.

Now I did not think it necessary to say that the snow in the Garden was of powdered sugar, as it is in all well-informed stories; but beyond the hedge, as far as the eye could reach (and Sara had quite a long eye for her age—her mother was kept busy letting out hems) the snow was of powdered silver. I am sorry to say it was not good to eat at all; but it was so much more beautiful than the common garden kind that I do not believe you would have minded, any more than Sara did. It was, of course, fairy snow, while the other was just the plain imaginary kind.

But the scene before her was so strange and animated that even the snow could not hold Sara's attention for long. (It was slippery, for one thing; and, besides, the crust was thin, and Sara's attention was so excited and skippy that it was continually breaking through.)

Beyond Avrillia's house on one side, in the direction Sara had gone with Pirlaps to see his relations, was a long, delightful hill; and there all the seventy children were coasting and snowballing. Every one of them had on a cap that seemed to be made of a tiny red pepper, and their little mittened fists looked exactly like holly-berries. Their sleds were of curled rose-petals, and Sara knew without being told that it had cost their mother quite a struggle to spare so many from the supply she had collected to write poems on. Sara had watched them for several minutes before she noticed that they always coasted uphill and dragged their sleds down. And all the time the air flashed with snowballs so big that they looked like the tantalizing silver balls which sometimes occur in the nicest boxes of chocolates.

It was some time before Sara could disengage her attention (it had become entangled in the rope on one of the smaller children's sleds) to examine the extraordinary scene near at hand. For, on the lawn at one side of Avrillia's house, opposite the rose-garden, where Pirlaps usually sat painting under the fog-bushes, a large table had been placed; and around it were assembled a group of the most remarkable-looking persons Sara had ever seen. If they had not been so large, Sara would have been sure that they were birds; but the largest one was a head taller than Sara herself, and the very smallest was at least as large as her youngest cousin.

Pirlaps, who was helping Yassuh put some sort of food on the table, looked up and saw Sara; and in a moment he put down the dish he had in his hand and seemed to slip away unnoticed, to come to her. Sara wondered at this, for Pirlaps was always so polite; it would have been much more like him to excuse himself with a courteous bow to his guests.

"Good morning, Sara," he said in a low tone, when he reached her side. "A glorious morning, isn't it? Avrillia thought you would enjoy seeing the Birds fed, and the children at their winter sports. Avrillia herself is very busy just now; the suet gave out and she's gone to order some more. But I daresay she'll have time to speak to you after a while. Meantime, I'll tell you who they are: it isn't polite to introduce them to anybody. Indeed, I must tell you that their ways are very peculiar, and they are very easily offended; so try to be careful. For instance, you must never speak aloud in their presence, but only behind your hand, in a whisper; and if you wish to make the best impression, do not seem to see them at all. Also, if you should care to partake of any of the food, remember not to touch it with your hands: that is the very worst of bad manners. Always take it with your beak—I mean your mouth."

Sara stood perfectly still, watching; never had she been so charmed and astonished.

"Who are they?" she asked, after a moment.

"Well, the tallest one, with the high blue beaver hat, is the Popinjay," said Pirlaps. "He's just about the cock of the walk, and he's quite self-important and touchy. The one with the very long bill, and the stiff, stumpy tail that he uses for a cane, is the Redpecker. The one in the checked suit, with the black necktie, yellow satin sleeve-linings, and white patch on his coat-tail, is the Snicker. He's full of fun and a good fellow, but rather crude—for he'll sometimes talk to you a little if he's sure the others aren't looking. Ants are his favorite food, but Avrillia didn't put up any this summer, so I had to send Yassuh down to the colony to get one of my uncles for him. Poor Uncle," said Pirlaps, looking very sad for a moment, "I hated to do it; but he was only a half-uncle and quite old, and lately he had grown so thin that he was hardly more than a three-eighths one. However, he was plenty for the Snicker," he added more cheerfully, "he's not as exacting as most of them. The little lady in brown, with the bustle, is a When; like the Snicker, she's really quite a charming little person, though of an interrogative turn of mind; and they all frown on her sociable ways. The fierce-looking old gentleman with the Roman nose is the Squawk; he has a worse disposition, even, than the Popinjay. That beautiful little lady with the deep blue velvet cloak and the vest that looks like ploughed fields in March, is the Skybird; she is lovely and gentle, and reminds me of Avrillia. But she's quite absent-minded. Besides, she's very careful of her manners; so don't expect her to speak to you. Now come on, and watch them eat."

Sara was very curious, but a little timid, the visitors looked so large and so strange; so she held tight to Pirlaps' hand as they stole carefully up to the group and stopped near the table. The Popinjay, the Squawk, the Redpecker and the Skybird went on eating as if nothing had happened, so Sara felt sure she had been sufficiently polite; but the little When, who was hopping about from one side of the table to the other, cast a bright, questioning glance at her that made her whisper, behind her hand, and under her breath, "Next August!" And then she was sure she heard the Snicker wink.

All this time Sara had been aware of an irresistible curiosity about the table. It looked somehow familiar and unpleasant; and yet it was of a beautiful primrose yellow, decorated with blue roses. At last she put up her hand and whispered to Pirlaps, "The table! Where did you get the table? It wasn't here the other day!"

Pirlaps laughed softly. "Ah, Sara," he said, "you aren't easy to hoodwink! That's the Seven-Times table. Avrillia and I had a regular battle about it. Of course we never really quarrel," he explained seriously, "but we sometimes have a lively clash of wills. After we finished off the Fractions yesterday, I was determined to save that table for a memento. Avrillia hated the idea, and positively refused to have it in the house; and then I won my point by remembering that we'd never had a table large enough for the birds to eat from when it snowed. I told her we'd keep it on the lawn. She tried to persuade me to order a plain Time-Table from your country, instead; saying that, though it would be bad enough to have our nice clean eternity cluttered up with a Time-Table, it would be better than one of these. But I finally brought her around, by promising to paint it and make it as pretty as possible. She'll forget its real nature after a while, and I shall always value it greatly for its historical interest."

Sara's mind was distracted toward the close of this explanation by the peculiar, not to say angry, behavior of the Popinjay and the Squawk, who, she was sure, had become displeased about something. One peculiarity of the Popinjay's she had not noticed until she came near the table. It was that, though he had two perfectly good feet, they seemed to have grown to a sort of perch, which was fastened crosswise to a sharp peg; and when he wished to move he had to hop from place to place, sticking this peg into the snow. He was now hopping round and round the table with loud, incoherent cries, while the little When flitted from place to place to keep out of his way, and the Snicker laughed softly in his yellow satin sleeve. Sara touched Pirlaps on the arm.

"Mercy me!" cried Pirlaps, speaking softly, but forgetting in his excitement to cover his mouth with his hand. "The table is quite empty, and Avrillia has not come with the rest of the suet! Yassuh should have brought more crumbs long ago. Let's go to the house and see what's the trouble, Sara!"

They hurried to the house, and began looking everywhere. They even opened the door of Avrillia's own bed-room, which was upholstered entirely in pink morning-glory satin, with hangings of opalescent mist; Sara thought it was quite the most ravishing place she had ever seen; at least she though so until Pirlaps distractedly led her down into the basement to Avrillia's kitchen. A smell of something delectable scorching enveloped them as they opened the door. And there beside the stove, all deliciously sticky and comfortable, lay Yassuh, fast asleep and half melted; while little wisps of smoke curled out of the crack between the oven and the door. The stove was almost as big as the tin one Jimmy had given Sara for Christmas, but much more massive and efficient-looking. On the table, looking so delicious that they made your mouth water, were the ingredients with which Yassuh had been working: a bubble-pitcher of milk-weed cream, a bowl of butterfly eggs (the daintiest things!), a silver panful of flour from the best white miller, and a large silk sack of snow-sugar from the Garden. Sara had to put her hands behind her back.

"Yassuh!" shouted Pirlaps; and Sara had never before heard him speak angrily. "The messy little rascal! I can't even kick him to wake him up—I'd never get my foot out! Where are the tongs? Here, Sara, you take the poker, and help me with him!"

So saying, Pirlaps picked the soft and sleeping Yassuh up gingerly with the tongs, and Sara put the poker crosswise under the softest part of him to keep him from pulling apart, and together they carried him to the door and dropped him outside, where he made a delicious-looking brown puddle on the silver snow.

"You stay and watch him till he hardens," called Pirlaps, hurrying back toward the kitchen, "and don't let him go to sleep again. As soon as he's hard enough, send him straight in here to me."

Sara stood on the doorstep watching Yassuh, who was now awake and grinning, and she was very much interested to see how, as he hardened, he wriggled himself back into shape, like a chrysalis that has just shed its caterpillar skin. She was sure this was no new experience to Yassuh.

Presently she thought he was hard enough to be taken back into the kitchen; and there they found Pirlaps, sitting with flushed face upon his own fast-melting step, taking little muffin-pans full of fresh-baked crumbs out of the oven. One panful, alas, was burnt to a crisp, and some of the others were a shade too brown; but oh, they did smell and look so very delightful! Considered as muffins (and they looked so like them that Sara could not help being reminded of them) they were certainly the tiniest things imaginable; considered as crumbs (and that was what she had heard Pirlaps call them) they were considerably above the average in size. For all that, what discouragingly small crumbs for such appallingly large birds! No wonder Pirlaps was so worried, and looked so unnaturally hurried and strenuous!

"Here, Yassuh!" he called, without stopping to scold him. "You empty these into the baskets and take them right out to the table; and then you hurry right back and get another batch into the oven as quick as you can. Roll!"

Yassuh, apparently quite refreshed by his nap, went tumbling out with the fragrant baskets, and Sara hurried after Pirlaps in his anxious search for Avrillia. At last they thought of the balcony; and as they ran up the stairs, there, indeed, they saw Avrillia, with her white arm outstretched above the balustrade, watching a curled rose-leaf as it floated down, down, down.

"Avrillia!" called Pirlaps. "Where is the suet?"

Avrillia was leaning far out over the balcony, gazing down into Nothing. She straightened up and turned around, looking at them with eyes that hardly saw them.

"It didn't stick," she murmured.

"Avrillia! the suet!" cried Pirlaps, laying his hand on her arm and shaking it ever so little. "The suet!"

He was not cross—he couldn't be cross with Avrillia—but Sara thought he was for once almost half impatient. Avrillia's mind came back into her beautiful eyes and she cried remorsefully,

"O Pirlaps, I forgot. Is it all gone? What will they think of me?"

"Every bit," said Pirlaps, relenting at once. "And Yassuh went to sleep and burnt up a whole panful of crumbs."

"Oh, dear!" cried Avrillia, "how dreadful! The suet came quite a while ago, but while I was slicing it I thought of a poem about snow; and then I happened to think that maybe the air over the Verge might be a little warmer than it is here, and so the poem might melt a little as it fell, and, maybe, stick. But it didn't," she finished, growing abstracted again.

"Too bad," said Pirlaps, peering down into Nothing with real sympathy in his voice. Then, with a start, "But the suet, Avrillia?"

"Oh, let's go get it," cried Avrillia. "I laid it on my dressing-table when I went to get a fresh handkerchief just before I sat down to write."

So they flew to Avrillia's pink bed-room, and there was the suet, in the midst of Avrillia's lacy pin-cushions and crystal toilet-bottles. They gathered it up and hurried out to the Birds, who were now eating crumbs and looking fairly good-natured; though you could tell by the way Yassuh's knees trembled that he had found them in a dreadful state.

Well, you can hardly imagine how busy they were kept, all that afternoon—Sara and Yassuh and Pirlaps and Avrillia—supplying crumbs and suet to those thankless Birds. The lovely Skybird did, toward sundown, trill a beautiful little song of gratitude; but she addressed it to nobody in particular, and looked all the time straight into a fog-bush—because of course it would have been very bad manners, as she thought, to pay any attention to her hosts. The little When cast a bright look at Avrillia, who whispered, when no one was looking, "Next year, dear—the first snow," and the Snicker, who was the most reckless of all, nudged Sara with his elbow and said in a stage-whisper, "Certainly did have a good time," and then snickered loud and long. But the Popinjay and the Squawk and the Redpecker departed without a word of thanks for all the food they had eaten and all the trouble they had caused.

As soon as they were gone Pirlaps and Avrillia drew a long, relieved breath; then Pirlaps tossed his step to Yassuh and seized Avrillia about the waist, and whirled her up and down the silver paths in the gayest, most fantastic little dance Sara had ever seen. Presently they stopped before Sara.

"Now for the waffles, Sara," said Pirlaps; and Avrillia stooped and kissed her and said, "Come, Sara, and see what I can cook!"

Sara thought the notion of Avrillia's cooking must be an odd and pretty fancy, but she skipped back with them to their little house, holding a hand of each. Through the windows she could see the fairy lights gleaming, for it was growing late and cold. They led her again down into the little shining, warm kitchen, where the lights from the glowing stove danced upon the silver bowls, and the air was full of delicious, spicy smells.

"Lie down, Yassuh, and go to sleep," cried Avrillia; and so saying she took down her kitchen-apron from the gold-headed pin where it hung and began to flit about the cook-table—measuring out snow-sugar and breaking butterfly eggs into her shining cups and bowls. Then she got out the silver waffle-irons (Sara wanted them for her toy stove) and buttered them, and put them on the stove to heat while she beat up the batter.

Meantime, Sara helped Pirlaps to set a dainty little round table (not at all like a multiplication table) with pink shell dishes, and put on a jar of honeysuckle honey and a pat of buttercup butter. Then Avrillia baked the waffles and they sat down to eat.

Avrillia had hardly taken the first mouthful when she cried, "I forgot the children!" and sprang up and flitted to the door.

As she opened the door Sara heard faint little cries and tinkling laughter, drifting back from the hill where the children still played and frolicked in the snow. Presently Avrillia shut the door and came back to her place at the table.

"Bless their hearts!" she said, smiling, "I think I'll just let them stay out and play all night—they're always begging me to let them. And they're having such a good time I can't bear to vanish them. They won't bother us," she added, daintily pouring honeysuckle syrup on her waffle.

The waffles were so tiny and delicious that, every time she had swallowed one, Sara almost thought she had dreamed it.

"I didn't know you could cook, Avrillia," she said, shyly and admiringly.

Avrillia looked pleased. "Oh, anybody can cook!" she said, lightly. Sara understood from her tone that not everybody could write poems on rose-leaves.

"We do this every year, Sara," said Pirlaps, "the first time it snows. It's our favorite philanthropy. It's a big undertaking, and rather too much of a strain for Avrillia, but we can't make up our minds to give it up."

"And then, when it's all over," continued Avrillia, "I make waffles (aren't they good, Sara?) and we eat down here in the kitchen, and relax, and have a lovely, cozy time. And it makes it doubly pleasant when we have some congenial person to help us celebrate—like you, Sara."

Sara's little heart swelled with love and pride. Her eyes traveled once more over the shining little table, and the friendly faces of Pirlaps and Avrillia, and the glowing little kitchen, and out through the little window, where the fog-bushes were making long blue shadows, and the fairy lights danced on the silver snow.

Never before had she stayed so late. But neither had she ever had such a lovely time.

Chapter VI The Little Lost Laugh

Sara had always intended to take her dolls with her to the Garden, but every morning before the sixth morning she forgot it. On the sixth morning, however, her arms were so full of dolls that she could not take off her dimples. She had not foreseen that difficulty.

She had not really intended to bring them all. But the Brown Teddy-Bear looked so fiercely sad that she decided at the very outset that she could not leave him. He was not really a doll, of course, but as Sara kept him dressed in a kerchief and full skirt, he had the effect of a doll—a sort of Wolf-Grandmother-of-Red-Ridinghood doll. And the Billiken looked so cheerful that Sara decided that she must surely take him along, to reward him for being so unfailingly pleasant. And the Japanese doll had to go, because he was the newest, and because he was the only one who was large enough to wear the pink tulle lady-doll's hat Sara's aunt had sent her on her birthday. His head was as bare as an egg, because the little rosette of black hair that distinguishes a Japanese doll had come unglued. This made the effect of the hat a little odd; still, he could wear it. The Kewpie was just too cunning to leave—that was all there was to that; and no right-minded mother ever left the baby. So that made it necessary to take the Baby doll with the long clothes. (That is, she should have been wearing long clothes, but Sara's dolls never wore the clothes that belonged to them; and this morning the Baby was tastefully attired in a wide red sash, with the Japanese doll's paper parasol stuck through it, like the dagger in a comic opera.)

So there was Sara, with five dolls in her arms, and the Snimmy shuddering deliciously from head to foot because he was beginning to smell dimples in his sleep.

"What in the world shall I do?" wondered Sara, half aloud.

"What in Zeelup, my dear," corrected the Teacup, leaning out from her perch with sympathetic interest.

And then, what do you think the Teacup saw? She saw the Kewpie, who was always a friendly little soul, reach up and take off Sara's dimples himself!

"I'll do it for Sara," he said, helpfully, as he dropped them safely upon the whipped cream cushion.

And then what do you think happened? Why, the daintiest little creature sprang right out from between Sara's lips and went skipping and leaping and tumbling and running over the ice-cream bricks around the pool, across the blue plush grass, and, before you could tell it, disappeared around the turn of a little dim path Sara had never followed.

Sara stood gazing after him. She had never seen anything that looked like that before. Some of Avrillia's children came nearest to looking like it: but not even they were so tinkly or so bubbly or so altogether gay-looking. And how nimble it was—disappearing like a drop of water trickling down a rock!

"What in the world?" breathed Sara again.

"—In Zeelup?" breathed the Teacup, quite as softly. But Sara hardly heard her: she was so astonished at the babel of small voices that started up about her feet. She had been so startled at the appearance and the disappearance of that strange little creature that she had not noticed that all the dolls were wriggling out of her arms and sliding down her skirts and legs like schoolboys escaping from a burning dormitory. Not that they were afraid of anything: it was only that they were so glad to be able at last to move and talk.

"There he goes!" cried the Japanese doll, pointing excitedly: and indeed they did catch one more glimpse of the fleeting sprite between the shrubs. "He was mighty jolly," said the Brown Teddy-Bear enviously, in his deep, mournful voice; and "Let's go catch him!" cried the Baby, where it sat flat on the bricks, crowing and clapping its hands.

"I'll have to get off these togs, then," said the Billiken, who was always fat and cheerful, but seldom spoke. He was driven to it this time by the fact that Sara had dressed him in the Baby's long clothes.

"But what is it?" asked Sara, still bewildered.

"Why, it's your laugh, child," said the Echo of the Plynck, who, all this time, had been watching the scene with much amusement. "Don't you know your own laugh when you see it?"

"I never saw it before," said Sara with a wondering smile. "I guess I've heard it."

"Now, isn't that odd—and interesting!" said the Echo to the Plynck. "The child says she has heard it, but never seen it. Here," she added, turning to Sara, and speaking in a louder tone, "we see a great deal of laughter—but we never hear it."

"Well, and are you going to stand there all day staring?" suddenly put in the wife of the Snimmy from the prose-bush. "Ain't you going to go after it and ketch it? What'll your Maw say if you come home without your laugh? And your Paw?"

Sara had not thought of that. But when she did think, she realized that it would be dreadful. What would Father think when he told her his funniest story and she did not laugh?

"But—but what shall I do?" she wondered, half to herself.

The dolls at her feet set up a clamor of plans, but as they were all talking at once (except the Brown Teddy-Bear, who looked even more pessimistic than usual) their suggestions were not very helpful. Sara and her other friends stood knitting their brows in perplexity. (Sara was just learning to knit, so she had her needles and a ball of yarn sticking out of her apron pocket. She was delighted to find brows so much easier to knit than yarn.)

Suddenly the Snimmy's wife spoke again. "Send for Schlorge," she said. "He'll know what to do."

No sooner were the words out of her mouth than they saw a Gunkus running down the path toward the Dimplesmithy to tell Schlorge.

"In the meantime, Sara, you'd better dress me more suitably," suggested the Billiken kindly. Sara had never heard him object before to wearing the Baby's long dress; but he was evidently looking forward to a race and did not wish to be handicapped.

So Sara sat down on the blue plush grass, and undressed the Billiken while they waited for Schlorge. She had time now to notice that the snow had melted and left everything beautifully fresh and bright, just as Pirlaps had assured her it would do. She had never seen the Garden look so lovely and spring-like. She was glad, too, to see that the stump had grown back exactly as it was; they had even removed the ropes and scaffolding.

She took the Baby's clothes off the Billiken, and left him all free and unimpeded in his own, fat, white, furry body. You see, she always called the Teddy-Bear the Brown Teddy-Bear because the Billiken was his first cousin, and had a white Teddy-Bear body; it was only their colors and their heads that were different. Oh, yes,—and their dispositions; for the Billiken was a supremely cheerful person, while the Brown Teddy-Bear was a misanthrope. Sara had always known that he had something very depressing on his mind; and she was planning, now that he had learned to talk, to ask him what it was at the first suitable opportunity.

When she had got the clothes off the Billiken, she started to put them on the Baby; but the Baby behaved as it had never done before. It had always been a good baby, adapting itself amiably to any schedule its mother saw fit to adopt. Sara saw at once that animated babies are not so easy to manage as inanimate ones; for the Baby kicked and cried and positively refused to be dressed. So Sara, who was really a very young mother, and had not yet trained herself to be firm and self-willed and contrary, put the Baby's clothes in her pocket with the yarn and knitting needles and a ginger-snap she had brought, and set the stubborn Baby down on the blue plush grass, where it rolled around quite happily again in its red sash and parasol.

And just at that moment she saw good old Schlorge hurrying down the path from the Dimplesmithy with the Gunkus at his heels.

Of course they all had to tell Schlorge about it at once, even the dolls (all except the Brown Teddy-Bear), so that Schlorge looked quite wild, and scratched his head a good deal before he was finally quite clear what had happened. Then he turned and looked thoughtfully down the path they had pointed out to him, and scratched it some more. Finally he said slowly,

"I tell you what we'll have to do,"—and then, looking about him all at once very wildly,—"where's the stump—I'll have to tell Sara! Where's the—"

But this time he found it without loss of time; and scrambling upon it, he adjusted his hands and shouted loudly,

"Over hill, over dale, Thorough bush, thorough briar, Over park, over pale, Thorough flood, thorough fire, We'll have to follow everywhere, If Sara's laughter we would snare. I will go and lead the van, You may follow if you can. Sara's would be an awful plight To go home laughterless tonight."

Then he sprang from the stump and went rushing straight down the little dim path, shouting back over his shoulder, "Come along, all of you! Sara, ask the Plynck to come, too!"

Down the path they went tumbling—the Snimmy, his wife, a crowd of Gunki, and all the dolls. Sara and the faithful little Teacup stayed behind to see if the Plynck would come, and the Snoodle was still asleep.

"Will you come with us, dear Madame Plynck?" asked Sara, softly, looking up into the tree; and "Do you think you could stand it?" fluttered the Teacup solicitously.

"It's against my rules to leave the Garden," said the Plynck, and Sara's heart sank; for she really thought the search would be a sort of picnic, and she had hoped that the lovely Plynck would go, too. It sank clear to the bottom of the pool, and the Plynck's Echo fished it up and handed it back to her, all wet and shiny, just as the Plynck finished her sentence, "So I think I'll go."

Sara clapped her hands, and to add to her pleasure she heard just then the most delicious crashing sound: the kind of sound she had imagined when she stood at the top of the basement steps at home with the glass pitcher in her hands, wishing she could hurl it down upon the cement because Mother would not let her wear her new short-sleeved dress. She saw at once that the Plynck had broken the largest rule she had, and dropped it upon the pile at the foot of the tree; and now she was moving her plumes softly for flight, so that the golden spice was falling in Sara's hair. The Teacup was looking intensely pleased and flustered, and both of them had forgotten the poor Echo, who was scrambling about the rim of the pool like a swimmer trying to draw himself out of the water by a slippery bank. When she saw Sara looking at her, however, she stopped trying, and sat down stiffly in her usual place.

"I can't go, of course," she said with dignity, "but go ahead—don't mind me."

"Oh, my dear, I'm so sorry!" said the Plynck, hovering over her softly. "I wish you could!"

"Go ahead," said the Echo, trying hard not to look sulky and virtuous; and so Sara ran down the path after the others, with the Plynck and the Teacup fluttering gracefully over her head. As she passed through the hedge she cast a backward look at the Garden, which was now so still that she thought it looked like a picture in a dream—shimmering and bright and clear, without a soul left at home but the Plynck's cerulean Echo and the sleeping Snoodle.

As soon as they passed through the hedge they found themselves in a picturesque broken country, rather difficult to traverse, but very prettily decorated with rocks, streams, and waterfalls. Little groves of cedars, the exact size and shape of Christmas-trees, grew out of the rocks; the candles were already full-grown, but Schlorge sent the Japanese doll running back to tell Sara that she must not light them, as they would not be ripe till Christmas Eve. Sara had never seen a prettier place, but she was rather worried by a maternal anxiety about the dolls. For it was certainly not a very safe place for them. Of course the Brown Teddy-Bear and the Billiken were all right, though the latter might come to grief if he should fall on his head. The Japanese doll, who had lost a hand, was unbreakable; but unbreakable only means that you may be dropped from a reasonable height upon hard-wood floors, but not from a second-story window on concrete or asphalt. That was how the Japanese doll had lost his hand (it would have been his head, but for the fact that the accident happened while he was indisposed from neuralgia, and had his head pinned up in the Baby's flannel petticoat). And these rocks certainly looked as hard as any pavement. And even as Sara worried, the worst happened: she heard a dreadful cracking sound, followed by a shrill clamor from the dolls and a hoarse cry from Schlorge, and the grim, excited voice of the Snimmy's wife. It was by no means a pleasant sound, like the cracking of breaking rules: no, it was the familiar, heart-rending sound that makes the heart of any mother of dolls turn cold. Sara went leaping and scrambling down the rocks, with the Plynck and the Teacup hovering anxiously over her. In a few moments she reached the scene of the accident, and found them all gathered around the Kewpie, who lay in the lap of the Snimmy's wife with both legs broken. Sara ran and knelt beside her.

"Now, here, don't you go and burst into tears," said Schlorge, speaking in the gruff tone an anxious doctor uses toward an excitable patient. "I'll have my hands full mending your baby here, without having to mend you. He has no internal injuries," he added, turning the Kewpie upside down and peering down the stumps of his legs (which were hollow) into a perfectly pink and smooth and healthy-looking interior, "and you might have. Besides, we'll fix it up all right."

"Can you really, Schlorge?" asked Sara. There were tears in her voice, but, by trying very hard, she did keep from bursting into them.

"Of course I can!" said Schlorge, speaking quite crossly to conceal his sympathy. "Here—you Gunki! A stretcher!"

So the Gunki came running with a stretcher made out of a large mullein-leaf, and they put the Kewpie and his legs tenderly upon it. He was a trifle pale, but still smiling, and insisted that he did not suffer at all.

"Only it's inconvenient, you know, not to be able to walk," he explained, "and I didn't want to miss the fun. Would it be too much trouble—could you take me this way? These gentlemen, now—"

"Sure!" said the four Gunki at once, in tenor, baritone, bass, and second bass. Sara, even in her distress, was charmed; for that was the first time she had heard a Gunkus speak.

"Are you sure you won't faint from loss of air?" asked Schlorge looking at the patient anxiously; and indeed the air was pouring in a steady stream out of the Kewpie's inside.

"I'll be all right—only take me along," maintained the Kewpie, valiantly.

So they all started on again across the rough, uncharted country.

Now, all this time they had not had so much as a glimpse of Sara's laugh. The Snimmy ran along ahead with his long, quivering, debilitating nose to the ground; and two or three times he raised it, and said in an excited undertone, to Schlorge, "It touched here." And then they would all look anxiously about, under every rock, and behind every stump, without finding a trace of it.

But after they had gone a long way, and were all getting tired and thirsty (not to say hungry) they came to a most inviting little grove around a spring; and here, with one accord, they all threw themselves down to rest. The Teacup, with an arch look, dropped down to the spring, filled herself with water, and fluttered up to Sara's lips, saying softly, "Allow me, my dear!" Sara drank, in delight and wonder, and found that the spring was not made of water, but of a sort of super-lemonade, the most delicious beverage she had ever tasted. After she had drunk, the Teacup took a drink to the Plynck, explaining to her with an apologetic smile, "I served her first, my dear, because she was the guest of honor—so to speak," and the Plynck assented most graciously. Then the kind-hearted and democratic little Teacup performed the same gracious office for the whole company, one after the other—even the Baby doll and the Gunki who bore the stretcher. But the Billiken did look very funny drinking out of the Teacup; and it was just at that moment that they were startled by a little gurgling sound in the tree above them (as if a Brownie had overturned a blue honey-pitcher, and the little drops were tumbling over each other upon a silver floor) and Sara's lost laugh sprang from the top of the tree to the ground, and went tinkling off again among the rocks. They all looked after it with their mouths open, as a fisherman gazes at the hook from which he has just lost the largest fish that ever was on sea or land.

"There, now! If we had only been more watchful!" exclaimed the Japanese doll. The pink tulle lady-doll hat had slipped far back on his perspiring head; he looked as if he had come a long way.

"I thought I saw something moving up in the tree—I was just going to speak about it," said the plucky little Kewpie, who, being compelled to lie on his back, had been gazing straight up into the branches.

"Well!" said Schlorge grimly. "It won't do that again."

They all saw that Schlorge had something on his mind, and began to watch him as he took his gimlet out of his pocket and began to cut a small willow wand.

"What are you going to do, Schlorge?" asked the Japanese doll, who was a good sort of a person, but a little lacking in tact.

"Never mind me," said Schlorge, "the rest of you take a nap!"

Sara saw that his professional pride, as the leader and practical man of the party, had been hurt by the escape of her laugh; and he spoke so crossly that they all turned around and began to try to make conversation to cover their embarrassment. But they didn't succeed very well; and presently the Baby spoke the thought that was uppermost in everybody's mind.

"I'm hungry!" he said.

Alas, so were they all! It was no use trying to disguise it! So the Snimmy said, almost tearfully, "Why didn't we think to bring some lunch?"

"Humph!" retorted his wife. "You'd never think of anything—except dimples!"

So saying, she took down a large hamper which she had been carrying on her head, and removed the cloth which was tucked neatly over it. They had all noticed the hamper, but supposed it was Avrillia's wash, which the Snimmy's wife always took home on Poppyday.

Now it proved to be packed full of a rich and varied picnic luncheon, the sight and aroma of which made even the Brown Teddy-Bear look eager. The Snimmy's wife set all the viands out on the grass, and the Plynck graciously drifted down and took her place at the head of the table. There was a trifle too much sand in the sandwiches, but everything else was perfect; and they all ate as immoderately as people do at picnics.

Sara found herself seated next to the Brown Teddy-Bear. After he had eaten a pickle or two and begun to look cheerful, she asked him, tactfully, what he had had so long on his mind.

"I'll tell you, Sara," said the Brown Teddy-Bear candidly and mournfully. "I'm so ephemeral."

Sara opened her eyes, and looked at him carefully. What new affliction was this? "Do you mean you're sick?" she asked, after a while.

"No, Sara," said the Teddy-Bear, smiling sadly. "You don't understand. What I mean is, I'm already old-fashioned; I've had my day. Twenty years from now, nobody will know what you mean when you speak of a Teddy-Bear."

"I will," said Sara, squeezing his paw affectionately.

"Well, perhaps you will, Sara," admitted the Teddy-Bear, "because you'll remember. But the children won't, and they're the only ones that matter."

"I'll tell mine," insisted Sara stoutly.

"Ah, yes, Sara," said the Teddy-Bear, still more sadly, "but such loyalty as yours is rare. I have but a frail hold upon posterity. The same is true of many of my colleagues—the Billiken, for instance, and the Kewp. But the Billiken is a philosopher, and doesn't care; and the Kewp is a careless child. But I feel it, Sara; I have to confess to you that I am a prey to the 'last infirmity of noble minds.'" After a moment he added, less sadly but more irritably, "That creature, now, brainless as it is, is just a doll. And dolls are immortal."

"It's a Baby doll," said Sara, wishing to offer consolation, but really not knowing what to say.

"Humph," said the Brown Teddy-Bear disgustedly. "Babies are as universal as dolls."

Sara was still trying to think of something pleasant to say to him, when she noticed that the Plynck, having finished her luncheon, had flown up to a bough of the tree just over the spring; and suddenly she heard her speak.

"Well!" she said in astonishment. "Where did you come from?"

And looking down, Sara saw the Echo of the Plynck in the water. She looked quite imperturbable again, and quite cerulean. "Oh, I have ways of doing things," she answered, preening her feathers. And the Plynck was so mystified that she did not say another word.

Really, she didn't have time, for Schlorge strolled back into their midst at that moment, carrying a butterfly net he had just finished. The stick was made of the willow wand Sara had seen him cut; and the bag was made of two thicknesses of spider's web. "Now I'll get him," said Schlorge grimly. "Pack up now, and let's start out again."

So all together they started out, climbing hills, and jumping across tumbling streams, and scrambling over rocks. It was quite hard for the stretcher-bearers, but they bore up manfully; and the Kewpie never lost his arch, heroic smile.

Suddenly Schlorge, who was ahead, came stealing back to them. "Hist!" he cried, and all the Gunki hissed venomously. "I saw it light in an am-bush just to the left of that big rock. Now, I want you all to spread out and form a large circle, with the bush in the centre; then, if I miss it, everybody must try to shoo it back toward the middle. Don't let it pass over you."

So they all stole to the places Schlorge indicated, and then waited breathlessly while he stealthily approached the am-bush. The little laugh, feeling over-confident, must have been dozing; for it did not see him until he was within a few feet. Then it flew out wildly, with a sound like that made by the wings of a mother bird who leaves her nest at the last moment. But it was caught at last. With one skilful, triumphant swoop Schlorge had it.

And then how it did titter and twitter and giggle and struggle! It fanned its wings as furiously as a Zizz; it was as wild as a moon-moth in a net, or a bird you hold in your hand. And all the time, it was about to die with amusement.

They all gathered around to see what a darling little thing it was. Even Schlorge admired it openly; and the Snimmy's wife said grudgingly, "It sure is pretty." As for the Snimmy, he buried his face in his hands. "I can't stand it!" he groaned, and the gum-drops began to squeeze through his fingers. "It makes him think of dimples," his wife explained, in a low tone, to Sara.

"'So near and yet so far,' you know," fluttered the Teacup, sympathetically.

The next thing was to decide how to get their captive home. Schlorge was quite sure it couldn't break the net; still, he thought it best to accept the Brown Teddy-Bear's suggestion that they put it, net and all, into the Snimmy's wife's basket, and tie the lid securely.

"'Specially since we have to go around by the Smithy," he added, "and patch up our brittle friend, here."

So they made the little laugh secure in the basket, and went on toward the Smithy. It kept them all amused by the happy, ridiculous little sounds it made, giggling and scuttling and fluttering about in the basket. Even the Brown Teddy-Bear smiled once or twice.

Toward sundown they reached the Smithy, and Schlorge had soon turned his anvil into an operating table, on which they laid the uncomplaining little sufferer. The Snimmy's wife said there were plenty of onions at home in the sugar-bowl, and Schlorge offered to send a Gunkus after them; but the Kewpie would not hear of it, so Schlorge mended him quite quickly and neatly without an anaesthetic at all. He declared himself able to walk, at once, but they persuaded him to let the Gunki carry him to the gate on the stretcher. And so they all escorted Sara and her dolls back to the dimple-holder in state.

The Snoodle was awake, and howling lonesomely; but he was soon frisking happily about their feet. The Plynck flew at once to her branch and looked into the pool, and there sat her Echo.

"Have a pleasant day?" the latter asked, inscrutably.

But the Plynck was so puzzled that she said nothing at all. However, when she was leaving the Garden, Sara heard her say to the Teacup, as she slipped on an iris-colored kimono and shook down her back plumes,

"I think I won't break any rules tomorrow. I think I'll just rest."

Chapter VII Accepting an Invitation

The next morning Sara took with her only the Kewpie and the Baby. The Japanese doll was perfectly willing either to go or stay; he was not at all temperamental, and anything suited him. She could tell from the Billiken's smile that he didn't mind staying in the least; and the Brown Teddy-Bear looked tired. He couldn't talk, of course, on the everyday-side of the ivory doors; but with the new insight she had acquired into his character, Sara felt sure his expression meant, "I think I'd rather just sit in the corner. At my age a little excitement goes a long way." As for the Kewpie, Sara was determined to take him, as a reward for the distinguished fortitude he had shown the day before; and the Baby, on the other hand, had behaved so badly that she felt uneasy about leaving him. If he should act that way again—for instance, when Lucy disturbed him in dusting the room—why, Lucy might spank him! So the Kewpie was rewarded for being good, and the Baby was rewarded for being bad, and Sara slipped through the ivory doors with both of them tucked under one arm.

Almost immediately a Gunkus in livery stepped up and handed her a note from Avrillia. He made a low bow, holding his shoe in his right hand over his heart.

It was written on a rose-leaf, of course, and it had a delightful faint odor, not only of roses, but of isthagaria. Sara opened it, and read,

"We're leaving on the early boat. Would you like to go with us? We'll be gone all day."

There was no answer to that but to run as fast as she could down the little curly path. This morning it was not so much curly as melodious; but Sara was in such a hurry that she hardly noticed. She forgot to dismiss the Gunkus, but left him standing in front of the dimple-holder, still bowing low, with his left shoe in his right hand over his heart.

Pirlaps was standing on the front steps, all ready to start, and beside him grinned Yassuh, carrying the step in one hand and an enormous traveling-bag (almost as large as Sara's mother's leather purse) in the other.

"Good-morning, Sara," said Pirlaps, in his unfailingly delightful way, "I'm glad you got here in time. Avrillia will be ready in a second or two."

Sara could hardly keep from skipping, she was so pleased at the prospect of a day's expedition with Pirlaps and Avrillia. She did not know where they were going, but that didn't matter: she was sure to see something interesting. She edged up to Yassuh, taking care, however, not to get close enough to brush against his chocolate outside, which might come off on her clean apron. "What's in your bag?" she coaxed, mischievously.

"Only my extra trousers, Sara," said Pirlaps, smiling; and then Sara remembered that, though he did so many useful things (when he was not asleep), she had never once heard Yassuh speak. He only grinned and rolled his white eyes as Pirlaps continued, "We're taking twelve extra pairs."

Just then Avrillia came out of the door. Avrillia could not be ungraceful or abrupt, but she was evidently in a hurry. Her motions were rather like that of a wisp of white sea-fog that is blown ahead of a rising wind.

"There was so much to do before I could get off!" she explained a little breathlessly. "The children came unexpectedly, too, and I had to vanish them. Then, while I was dressing, I thought of a poem I had to write about hair-pins—and oh, it almost stuck! It acted as if it were going to, so I watched it longer than usual. But now I guess we're off," she ended turning to fasten the door behind her. Sara noticed that she fastened it with a hook and eye exactly like the ones on Mother's prettiest waist—only this one was more valuable, being of gold.

"Well, it's quite a long walk down to the landing," said Pirlaps, leading the way, "and we don't want to miss the boat."

So they started off in the direction Sara had never gone before, following a path that presently began to wind down among the cliffs, giving them a blue view of the sea. Sara could hardly follow the path for looking. Before long they could look back and see Avrillia's balcony, with the little box-trees on the marble balustrade, and, far below it, the gray abyss of Nothing. It was very strange and beautiful, but it gave Sara a queer, empty feeling somewhere under her little apron; and she was glad to turn her eyes back to the sea, which beckoned far below them, a dancing blueness; and to the golden cliffs, laughing in the sunlight far and near. The path was quite steep and winding and unexpected, and Yassuh scrambled about a good deal; but he managed to keep hold of the step and the bag. As for Sara, she had never seen a more fascinating place, and she supposed these great cliffs must form a part of the walls of the amphitheatre she had seen from Schlorge's stump. Presently, at one especially wild, golden place, where the path followed the edge of a chasm, Pirlaps paused a moment and said,

"You can hear a lovely reflection from here, Sara. Shall I call?"

"A reflection?" said Sara, wonderingly.

"Surely," said Pirlaps. "Listen." Then he cupped his hands about his lips and called clearly,


"'Rillia!" came back the wild, eerie syllables, so distinctly that Sara's heart leaped.

"Oh, an echo!" she cried, clapping her hands. "How beautiful!"

"Bless the child!" said Pirlaps, smiling at Avrillia. "You hear a reflection, Sara; you see an echo."

"Like the Echo of the Plynck in the pool," supplemented Avrillia. "Don't you remember, Sara?"

Sara was sure her father had told her it was just the other way around; but she was too happy to argue. So, to change the subject, she asked Pirlaps very respectfully where they were going.

"To Zinariola, Sara—to the City. You've never been there, have you?"

Never, never had Sara been there; and she began immediately trying to build that lovely city in her mind—the frail spires, and the rich bazaars, dusky and spicy and full of brocades and silks, and the little narrow, climbing streets. But, though it was a pleasure to try, she knew she could not imagine anything so strange and charming as the real City of Zinariola would be.

All this time they had been winding steadily down to the sea. And presently they caught sight of the boat, riding at anchor near the landing place, with a little skiff drawn up on the sand. Of course you know that the boat was a scallop-shell, with sails of gossamer; but Sara had been expecting an ordinary boat, and she was perfectly delighted. Of course it was large enough to hold Sara, as well as the rest of the party; but just barely. And the sailors were no larger than Pirlaps, though of course more rugged-looking and not so smooth-shaven. And not one of them said a single word, during the entire voyage, except "Yo-ho!" They sang that out continually; but as their voices were small and musical (though hoarse) one didn't mind the monotony of it.

The sea was very smooth that morning, and not one of the party was seasick; and Sara, who had been gazing, fascinated, into the water in front of the bow was just beginning to suspect that the boat was being drawn by a very large amber-colored fish who kept just ahead of it and just under the surface (with the sails chiefly for ornament) when Avrillia called suddenly from the stern, "You can see Zinariola now, Sara!"

Ah, there was the magical city!—for that it was magical the most matter-of-fact person could see at a glance. Of course it was not just imaginary, like the one Sara had built up in her mind, for this little city was shining upon the cliffs; but for all that it was not a common city—it was a toy one, and enchanted at that. And it was even more strange and beautiful than she had dreamed. For streamers of violet fog blew up its streets from the sea, and a wild light from behind the farthest cliff struck across its green roofs and gilded weather-vanes. Just as they drew up to the quay they heard a tinkling sound of music and much laughter; and an organ-man with a monkey came spilling out of one of the little streets, followed by a crowd of clapping children. They were somewhat like Avrillia's children, only quite foreign-looking, with green and red and yellow kerchiefs. The organ-man was not so large as Yassuh, and the monkey was about the size of a small spider. As for the organ, it looked strangely like the music-box that belonged to Sara's dolls.

Sara had never before seen a city simply swarming with fairies. Any city was a wide-eyed place to Sara; so what of the wonder of a fairy city? To be sure, many of them were foreign-looking, like the ones who followed the organ-man, and in other ways, too; still, as Zinariola was a seaport, it was very cosmopolitan, and one saw all sorts of people on its streets. Many were just natural-looking people, like Pirlaps and Avrillia; but some were of chocolate, like Yassuh, and some were Chinese, with long pigtails of black buttonhole-twist; and some were Parisians, with hats exactly like the one that the Japanese doll wore so unbecomingly. (Yes, Sara knew in her heart that it was unbecoming, though she would not have admitted it, even to you.) On the gay Parisian lady-fairies, however, these hats were charming—but hardly more striking than the many-colored headdresses, made of humming-bird's feathers, that attracted so much attention when a band of wild Indians went whooping down one of the principal streets. And everywhere one saw sailors—rolling along the sidewalks and greeting each other with loud "Yo-ho's!" (Loud, that is, for their size, but always hoarsely musical.)

This visit of Sara's took place before automobiles were introduced into Zinariola, and the carriages were drawn by devil's horses. Of these Sara was frankly afraid—they reared so, and turned their heads so weirdly on their long green necks. Sara noticed one in particular, which was drawing a carriage in a wedding procession that was just leaving a church. This was a closed carriage, occupied by the bride and groom; and the devil's horse was not looking where he went at all; he had turned his head completely around, and was staring through the little window straight into the carriage! Sara was afraid to cross the street in front of horses that never looked where they stepped. It took all her courage to attempt it, and you may be sure she held fast to Pirlaps. And when Pirlaps had to leave them in order to go to a barber-shop (Avrillia had not insisted upon his bringing his shaving things today, but he went to a barber-shop every two hours) she would not cross the street, but stayed on the sidewalk. Pirlaps changed his trousers at the barber-shop, too, whenever it was necessary; but today there were so much to do and see that he did not sit on his step as much as usual, and so did not need as many.

For they had a good deal of shopping to do, besides showing Sara the sights. In the first place, Avrillia had to go to the stationery store and get a new supply of swan's-quill pens. "That's one store I always know where to find," she said. "The others change about so that I always have to ask somebody." Then, Pirlaps needed some new trousers (two or three pairs had worn out and he only had forty-four or five left) and some shaving soap. "And besides," said Avrillia, smiling at Sara mysteriously, "we want to get some presents."

"And you'll have to make your usual visits of charity. Oh, I know you, Avrillia," said Pirlaps. "If we don't hurry we won't catch the evening boat."

So they went first to the stationery store (which, just as Avrillia had said, was in the usual place), and then to a bazaar where they disposed of their household buying. While Sara was feasting her eyes on the strange, delicious-looking fruits, the old candlesticks, and the bolts and lengths of rich-looking cloth with stories woven into it, she heard Avrillia say, "Now a set of self-buttoning buttons, please."

The jolly little old leather-colored man who kept the bazaar winked at Sara as he brought out the buttons for Avrillia's inspection. They looked very much like ordinary buttons, except that they were, of course, more intelligent-looking, and they were on a pink card instead of a white one; also, they were in a shiny lacquer box, the lid of which was watched over by gold dragons.

"They will do very nicely," said Avrillia. "Now a thimble—a really good one, please, that is thoroughly finger-broken, and has a tractable disposition and some sense. The one this little girl has now is simply abominable, and wouldn't push a needle through cobweb—not to mention the heavy textiles they are obliged to use in her country. Now, some knotless thread, please," she continued, having decided upon a thimble after much careful thought. "Oh, no—not that! I don't mean the kind that won't take a knot at the end; what I want is the kind that won't tangle and snarl, even if a child's fingers are tired. There, that's it!" and she tucked a smiling little spool into Sara's apron pocket.

"Now, Sara," she asked, "is there any other simple little thing you'd like to have? They have self-washing hands and self-learning lessons, and such things, but they're very expensive, and I know your mother wouldn't want you to accept expensive presents," and she smiled at Sara affectionately.

Sara wanted terribly to ask for a set of self-learning multiplication tables, but she knew Avrillia was right, and that her mother wouldn't like it. Besides, how could she ever get all that furniture home on the boat?

So she assured Avrillia that she was more than satisfied—as, indeed, being a dear child, she was. And then Avrillia nearly took her breath away by saying, "Well, then, we'll go up and fit the dollies—just for good measure. I know a shop where the loveliest doll clothes may be bought for a trifle."

And, would you believe it, that was the first time that Sara had remembered the Baby doll and the Kewpie! However, one could tell from the Kewpie's delighted smile that no harm had been done, so far as he was concerned; and the Baby, for a wonder, was asleep.

So Avrillia took them to the oddest little shop, the shape of a Dutch teapot, kept by a little old-lady doll who was delighted to show them everything. They bought a complete wardrobe for the Kewpie, who had never had any clothes, and was charmed by the novelty of possessing them; but the Baby nearly spoiled everything by waking up and kicking and squalling and refusing to try on a thing! "You'd better behave, you little rascal," said Pirlaps, "it will be a long while before you'll ever have another chance like this!" But the Baby only kicked the harder. However, the little shop-keeper doll was very patient, and by measuring him between kicks they managed to fit him out with a very nice layette. And then Avrillia insisted on buying all sorts of things for the dolls at home—gorgeous oriental costumes for the Japanese doll, sailor-suits for the Billiken, and a handsome fur overcoat, of a conservative style and cut, for the Brown Teddy-Bear.

"Now," said Pirlaps, "we'll have luncheon—it's getting rather late—and then I suppose Avrillia will have to call on her poor families."

He led them to a little Chinese restaurant where a dumb-waiter with a pigtail noiselessly served them with very good things to eat—though Avrillia said the prices were outrageous. As they were dipping their eyelashes daintily in the finger-bowls, Pirlaps said,

"Well, Sara, shall we go with Avrillia, or would you rather stay here?"

"Oh, let's go!" cried Sara. She would have stayed anywhere with Pirlaps, but if there was more to see, she wanted to see it.

"Have you had the measles?" asked Pirlaps.

Sara had; she could not be mistaken about it.

"And the mumps?" Again Sara nodded, swallowing hard as she thought of lemons and vinegar.

"All right, come ahead," said Pirlaps. And they started off.

"But the Baby hasn't!" suddenly remembered Sara. "The Kewpie has, but the Baby hasn't."

"Then it will never do to take him," said Pirlaps, decisively. "Here, Yassuh, you stay here and keep the Baby."

Pirlaps saw a look of doubt and reluctance in Sara's eyes as he was about to consign the Baby to Yassuh's sticky care. So he handed the Baby back to Sara and darted into a store near by where he got some clean wrapping-paper. He then rolled the Baby, in its nice white dress, up in the paper, taking care to leave its nose out, so it could breathe. Then he handed it over to Yassuh, and Sara felt quite comfortable and contented. "Keep out of the sun," he called back to Yassuh, "and mind you don't melt!"

The next thing, Avrillia said, was to stop in a drug store. They found one quite readily, and Sara watched with astonished eyes while Avrillia purchased a very large stock of drugs. Even a fairy drug store is a disagreeable place to a child with a past like Sara's, and if this one had not had a show-case full of candies for her to look at she would have been exceedingly restless. But the bonbons were charming—of all shapes and colors, and almost as large as a pinhead.

Sara was really suffering from curiosity to know what Avrillia was going to do with the medicines, but she had already asked so many questions that she thought she would try to be very polite, and wait. Waiting was made easier by the fact that the poorer quarter of the city, through which they were now walking, was very queer and interesting. It was like most such places, but Sara had not seen many, and she was fascinated by the babies tumbling about on the sidewalk, and the clothes-lines on the upstairs porches with clothes drying on them. Once a goat in an alley looked up and spoke to her—but she did not understand what he said. His mouth was full; for he was eating a tin can that looked strangely like Sara's old thimble.

Presently they stopped before a mean-looking house and Avrillia knocked. Now, you often hear that word applied to quite innocent houses that are only plain and poor; but this one really was mean-looking. And Sara noticed with wonder that there was a red flag over the door.

A disagreeable-looking woman with watery eyes and her handkerchief to her nose opened the door; and then, at the sound of Avrillia's voice, there swarmed out from the rooms on both sides of the hall a crowd of the most unattractive children! They fairly mobbed Avrillia, all talking at once and snatching at the bottles which they could see sticking out of Avrillia's basket. They had the reddest faces Sara had ever seen, and no manners at all; for without even asking permission they began to drink out of the bottles, quarreling among themselves into the bargain.

Sara drew as far away from them as she could; and while Avrillia was talking kindly to the woman and the children (who didn't listen to her), and also to an old man who sat hunched over a stove in the corner, she whispered to Pirlaps, "Who are they?"

"Why, the Measles, of course," said Pirlaps. "I told you we were coming to see them! They live with their mother, Mrs. Sneeze, and their grandfather, Old Man Cough. Avrillia thinks she can help them, but they're a shiftless lot. Haven't a particle of get-up-and-go! Always waiting for somebody to take 'em!"

Avrillia was too much interested to notice what Sara and Pirlaps were doing. "Now, children," she was saying kindly but severely, "I shall expect to find you better the next time I come. No, you can't have that bottle—that's for the Mumps."

Sara found, as they left the house, that the Mumps were an old couple who lived only a few doors down the same street. Old Mr. Mump had once made a fortune in the pickle-business; but he had had reverses, and was now very old and poor.

They found the old couple sitting in front of their rickety grate, with their jaws tied up in red flannel. The old man evidently had a vicious temper, but he was plainly glad to see Avrillia. The old lady was more mild and tearful; and both were overjoyed to get the medicine.

As they went out into the street again, Sara gave a sigh of relief; but Avrillia looked quite rapt and uplifted.

Sara was anxious to see if any mishap had overtaken Yassuh and the Baby; but when they had hurried back to the restaurant they found Yassuh still awake and the Baby still asleep. Pirlaps took off the sticky paper and handed him, as clean as ever, back to Sara, who was very glad that she had not exposed him to those dreadful diseases.

They caught the scallop-shell boat, though they had to run for it, and they were quite quiet all the way home. Avrillia sat by the rail, watching the gulls, and dreaming; and Sara strained her eyes for a long time to catch the last glimpse of the little magic, toy City of Zinariola. She was still lost in memories when the boat scraped on the beach; and then they climbed the little path among the cliffs through the sunset. As soon as they reached the house Pirlaps sat emphatically down on his step, remarking, "My, but it's good to be at home!" But Avrillia hurried off to her balcony, murmuring absent-mindedly, "I must write a poem about streets!"

As for Sara, she sped along the little curly path in the dusk toward the ivory doors. And there, in front of the dimple-holder, stood the Gunkus in livery, still bowing low, holding his left shoe in his right hand over his faithful heart.

Sara was much ashamed of having forgotten him, and she had no money with her; but she had a postage stamp in her pocket, from which the puppy had licked the mucilage. This she gave him.

It was, in all other respects, a perfectly good stamp. And the faithful Gunkus seemed much pleased.

Chapter VIII The Vale of Tears

Such a thing had never happened before, and how it happened this time I am at a loss to understand: but when Sara entered the Garden on this particular morning her eyes were full of tears. She had to fumble blindly around for her dimples, and when she did find them they were buried quite deep in her little wet cheeks. She would have strayed right on into the Garden without removing them, except that as soon as she saw the Snimmy's wife, absorbed in some simple domestic task, and sitting on her own toadstool at the door of the prose-bush with her tail wrapped so tightly around the base, she felt that she might smile after a while, and then it might be too late to save the dimples from the Snimmy. But before they had touched the whipped cream cushion in the bottom of the holder, two Gunki rushed forward in great excitement, and seizing her by the arms, began to hurry her through the Garden, crying hoarsely,

"She's crying! She's crying! She mustn't cry here!"

Sara had never had a Gunkus touch her before; but, though they hurried her so fast that she was breathless, and the tears hung where they were on her lashes without having time to fall, they were as gentle with her as possible, and she understood that their anxiety was all on her account. She was further reassured when she saw the Teacup fluttering and hopping along—now on one side, now on the other, and now in front—and murmuring, "What in Zeelup, my dear?" with the utmost solicitude expressed on her gentle old face. Sara knew that the Teacup was timid, and seldom left the Garden; and she realized that her affection and concern for her must be very deep, to bring her fluttering along with her in this fashion, without stopping to ask the Plynck, or to think of the consequences to herself and her consanguineous handle.

By this time they had passed through the hawthorn hedge that bounded the Garden, and could see just below them a beautiful little Vale, with a rainbow arching over the entrance to it, like a gate. Inside the Vale the view was not very distinct, for streamers of light mist blew across its green moss, and its white boulders, and the little stream that wound down the middle of it. It was rather a sad-looking little place, of course, but not bitter-looking or very long; and now and then a sun-pencil struck across it, and for a moment made more rainbows like the one at the entrance.

As soon as they had passed through the hedge the Gunki stopped, breathing heavily and mopping their brows with their hatbands.

"Rest a minute, dear, and try to keep them from falling," said the Teacup, who was also breathless, but very kind. "Of course, if they should fall here it wouldn't be so bad; still, if you can keep them on your lashes till we reach the Vale—"

"What would they do," asked Sara, in awe, "if they fell in the Garden?"

The Teacup and the Gunki looked at each other with wide, horrified eyes, each waiting for the other to speak.

"Well, you see, none ever have fallen in the Garden," said the Teacup, at last, speaking in a voice that was hardly more than a whisper. "Before my Saucer was broken—"

"She's a widow, Miss," explained the Gunki, whispering to Sara behind their hands. One whispered in baritone, one in bass.

"Before my Saucer was broken," continued the Teacup, with a grateful look at the thoughtful Gunki, "I've heard him say that a little girl came into the Garden one day with tears in her eyes, and that one would have fallen, if a Gunkus had not caught it in his shoe. Haven't you noticed the old, gray-haired Gunkus, who always wears a wooden medal on his coat-tail—"

"Our grandfather," whispered the Gunki, behind their hands. This time they whispered in second bass and tenor.

"Yes, the grandfather of these dear boys," said the susceptible old lady. "He was showing the little girl about the Garden, and so had his shoe in his hand out of respect for her; so he caught the tear in his shoe with the greatest presence of mind, and ran down here with it before any actual harm was done. What the child was crying about I can't imagine; though, for that matter, why any nice child should bring tears into the Garden—"

"Would it be worse than the Fractions?" asked Sara, hastily.

"It would," said the First Gunkus, in bass.

"It would," said the Second Gunkus, in the solemnest second bass.

"Much, much worse," said the Teacup, in her soft, anxious tremolo. "One snow remedied that, you see; but if a tear fell—but oh, dear, let's don't talk about it! My handle is so consanguineous, and I forgot to ask the Plynck—and—and—"

The poor old lady was evidently growing hysterical herself; so the faithful Gunki hastily put up their hatbands, seized Sara by the arm, and again began hurrying toward the Rainbow Gate. The Teacup, having again to put her mind on the task of keeping up with them, regained her composure—at least as much of it as she had ever had since her Saucer was broken.

Once inside the little arch, the Gunki stopped and relaxed their hold on Sara's arm. "Now you can cry, Miss," they said, with evident relief.

"But I don't want to, now," said Sara, wonderingly.

"Treatment successful," said the First Gunkus.

"That's what usually happens," explained the Teacup. "At least I've heard my Saucer say that that's what happened to the other little girl. But here, boys, you must attend to these two she's already cried."

The two Gunki stepped up with alacrity, a little ashamed of having to be reminded of their duties.

"Mad or sad?" they asked.

"Wh-what?" stammered Sara.

"Mad or sad?" repeated the Gunki, twirling their thumbs.

"They mean, my dear," explained the Teacup, "were you crying because you were angry, or for some more or less legitimate reason—because you cut your finger, for instance, or broke one of the charming children you had with you the other day? Because—"

"It was because Jimmy wouldn't play what I wanted—" began Sara, hanging her head, and thinking she might as well get it out and over with.

"Mad!" commented the Gunki in unison, with great professional interest. "Then they'll have to go to the fishes. Steady, now—"

As he said the last words the First Gunkus stepped up and deftly removed the tear from Sara's right eyelashes, while the Second Gunkus, with almost equal skill, captured the one from her left ones. They ran with them toward the little stream, and Sara was so curious to know what they meant to do with them that she followed unconsciously.

Now this was, indeed, the saddest little stream Sara had ever seen. Its source was hidden in mist, and after it passed through the rainbow arch it disappeared somewhere, as if the earth had swallowed it. But all along its banks, where Sara could see it, sat great frogs, with their green pocket handkerchiefs to their eyes; and every now and then the most dismal sounds escaped them. Sara did not need to be told that they were Sobs—anybody would have known it.

Looking closely, Sara could see in the water hundreds of little black fish, decorated with silver dots and streaks. As the Gunki approached the stream with Sara's tears, all the Sobs began to sob at once, and at the sound the little black fish all stuck their wide, greedy mouths up out of the water. The Gunki fed the tears to the two nearest, and then they all sank again, with a great splashing and flouncing.

"You see, Miss," explained the First Gunkus (who seemed to have taken a great liking to Sara, in spite of all the trouble she had caused him), "we have to feed 'em all the mad tears. The sad ones turn into these."

Sara looked where he pointed, and there, at her feet, she saw numbers of little blue-eyed flowers. They were extremely pretty, and by far the pleasantest things she had seen in this Vale; but even they had a sad little fragrance, and each eye had a dewdrop on it. Sara found that, if she looked at them long, she felt a lump coming in her throat; and at last she turned to her friends and said what she had been trying to get up courage to say from the first, "Please—I don't like this place! I want to go!"

"There, there, dear," said the Teacup, soothingly, looking as if she had been dreading the worst, and it had come.

"We has orders, Miss," said the First Gunkus, stepping up, "that we must keep you here three-quarters of an hour, and show you the whole Vale, Miss."

"Whose orders?" faltered Sara.

For a moment the Gunki looked quite wild and disorganized. Then the First Gunkus collected himself and said quite firmly,

"Just orders, Miss—without any whose."

"But I can tell you why, dear," interrupted the Teacup soothingly, as if she hoped to distract Sara's mind. "I've heard my Saucer say why. It's so children can understand what kind of a place mothers have to stay in, when they cry. So cheer up, dear, and try to enjoy the scenery. The trip through the Vale won't last long."

Sara felt a good deal like crying again—but it was like carrying coals to Newcastle to cry in a place like this! Besides, she was thinking of what the Teacup had said about mothers. Was it possible that she brought anything like this on her own dear, self-willed Mother every time she indulged in a few natural tears?

And the more she thought of it, the more strongly she decided that she just wouldn't cry. And just at that moment one of those lovely pencils of sunlight, that looked brighter in this misty green place than anywhere she had ever been, fell across her path.

"What's that?" she asked the Teacup.

"Why, dear, that comes from the Smiles. They live just over the way, you know. We'll go by and see them on our way home."

Here was good news, indeed! Sara had never felt more relieved. But at that very moment she drew back; for she had seen several disheveled, cross, black-browed children peering at her out of a sort of cave in the rock. Behind them was a very ill-natured-looking old man.

"Those are the Frowns," said the Teacup, holding Sara's hand reassuringly. "They live in that cave with their step-father, Old Man Scowl. Just come on by, as if you didn't notice them. But remember how they look. And listen to those sighs!"

So that was the doleful noise she had been hearing, up in the little pine-trees? Sara looked up, and for a minute could see them quite distinctly—little wispy, gray creatures, blowing about in the wind. They were better than the Frowns and the Sobs, she decided,—but dear me! Why should anybody be so dismal?

They had now followed the windings of the little Vale till they came to a great wall of rock that rose across it. In the rock was an opening closed by a sagging, worm-eaten door, and in front of the door hung a rusty black curtain.

"Children don't go in there, dear," said the Teacup, as Sara stood gazing at it, fascinated. But indeed she had no wish to go in; and it was with a skip of joy that she heard the First Gunkus say, "Time's up, Miss!"

At that word, back they all went scampering through the Vale, till they came to a bridge, which was made of another rainbow. On this bridge they crossed the stream, and found themselves at the entrance of a little opening between the hills that shut in the Vale. The sunshine streamed through it, and looking down it Sara could see that it opened into a meadow full of daffodils and buttercups and black-eyed Susans. There seemed to be children playing in it, and a few lambs; and down the path toward it waddled a long line of snowy geese. Altogether, it seemed to Sara she had never beheld so peaceful and ravishing a scene.

"This way out," said the First Gunkus, touching Sara's arm, and pointing up to a signpost, marked "Exit," beside the path. Drops of water, like tears, dripped continually from this sign; but the sunshine falling upon them from beyond the valley made them look like jewels.

The Teacup had told Sara that the Smiles lived in a peaceful village just beyond the valley; so she knew that the children playing among the flowers were their children. She would have been glad to stop and join in the gay, fairy-like games the little Smiles were playing; but she could see that the Teacup was getting a little nervous, and anxious to be back in the Garden. And, since the kind little Teacup had broken into her regular habits, and braved so many dangers and discomforts just to keep her company through the dismal Vale, she felt that she ought to be very considerate. So she followed her down the path, which was now turning into a little lane, though she walked backward part of the way, with her eyes on the children and the lambs.

When she turned around she could see a lovely little old village ahead of her. It nestled at the foot of a mountain, and it had vine-covered cottages with thatched roofs, and spreading trees that made a velvety shade underneath and winked in the sunshine above. The air was full of the prettiest sounds; and Sara, listening, thought they must come from the mountain. The mountain itself looked like Fairyland; it was covered with ferns and blossoming laurel and festoons of jessamine; and the sounds that seemed forever playing and skipping about from wall to wall and rock to rock were like the echoes (or was it the reflection?) of happy bells. Sara thought she ought to know what they were, but she could not quite make out.

"Why, that's where Laughter lives, my dear," said the Teacup when she asked her. "That's where your own little Laugh was making off to, the day you caught him. Listen—there are some as little as he was."

And indeed Sara could distinguish many sorts—small, gurgly Baby-Laughs, dimpled Little-Girl Laughs, Chuckles like Jimmy's, soft Laughs like Mother's, and—almost the pleasantest of all,—deep, delighted Father-Laughs that almost made her homesick. They seemed to be having such a very good time up there that she would have liked to listen to them forever; besides, she kept thinking she might catch sight of one. But, though she several times saw the vines swaying, or something flashing behind a laurel-bush, she was obliged to go on without really seeing any.

At the shady door of almost every cottage a pleasant Smile in a very white, old-fashioned kerchief and cap sat spinning at a queer sort of wheel; and the Teacup explained to Sara that this was where the dimples were made.

"It's the chief occupation of the women," said the Teacup. "The thread they use is something like spun-glass, and this is the only place in the world where the secret of making it is known. They weave it into this fabric that looks something like cloth, and then cut it into the different shapes with their scissors. You see now why dimples are so fragile."

The Smiles all spoke to them with pleasant looks, and gladly stopped their work to talk to Sara, as she stood admiringly beside their wheels. She saw a good many gentleman Smiles going happily about their work—drawing water, watering the flowers, or (since it was getting late) milking the little buttercup-colored cows. Here and there, too, a happy Smile, too little to go with the other children, rolled about and gurgled at its Mother's feet like a Cupid escaped from a Valentine.

All this time Sara had been struggling with a plan that had been shaping itself in her mind as she looked at basket after basket full of shimmering, shining dimples, sitting beside the spinning wheels. After trying to start several times, she finally managed to ask of one of the pleasantest Smiles,

"Do you—do you sell them?"

"Well, we don't usually sell them here," she answered doubtfully. "We ship them, you see, to the Stork. He takes our entire output. But, if you like, I could let you have a dozen for a kiss or two."

Sara clapped her hands, and drew the Teacup aside. "I'd like to take some to the Snimmy," she explained. "He wanted mine so. Do you think I might?"

"Why, bless the child!" cried the Teacup. She looked pleased and flustered and doubtful, all at once; for she wasn't used to taking so much responsibility. "That's very dear and generous of you, I'm sure. It's never been done, has it?" she asked, turing to the Gunki, who, for their part, were so surprised that they only blinked. "No, I'm sure it's never been done; but I don't see how it can do the least harm. Why, yes, my dear—I wouldn't refuse you the pleasure."

So Sara picked out a dozen of the largest dimples, and paid gladly with two kisses. Then, though she could hardly bear to leave the pretty village, with the laughter always echoing over it like bells, she grew all at once terribly impatient to take the Snimmy his dimples.

"It will be such fun to feed him," she said.

For a while Sara was too much absorbed in anticipation to notice that something was the matter with the Gunki. Then, all of a sudden, she noticed that they were looking crestfallen and chagrined.

Sara was sorry to notice this because they had been very kind to her all through this rather trying day. She began to feel sure that she had in some way hurt or offended them; and while she was wondering how she could have done it, and how she might make amends, the First Gunkus saw her looking at him.

"I'd be willing to do anything I could for you, Miss," he blurted out, turning his shoe awkwardly round and round in his hand.

"What's more, we done all we could," said the Second Gunkus, looking deeply hurt.

"Oh!" said Sara, who now understood. "Why-why! You've been so kind to me! I'd love to repay you in some way! I haven't any money with me," she went on doubtfully,—"or any postage stamps,—or any ginger-snaps— Do you—do you like kisses?"

The First Gunkus drew the back of his hand across his mouth and giggled.

The Second Gunkus dropped his shoe, and fumbled about trying to pick it up.

"Don't we, though!" said both of them, at last.

So Sara gave the faithful creatures two kisses apiece, which left them beaming.

"Do—do you like them as well as dimples?" she asked. "Because, if you'd like dimples, I'll give you some of the Snimmy's."

But the Gunki felt themselves honored beyond any Snimmy who had ever sniffed. They stuck their noses into the air and strutted along like drum-majors.

"Dimples is for folks with tails," said the First Gunkus.

It was blue dusk and starlight when they reentered the Garden. Sara, with her friends standing a little apart to enjoy the fun, slipped unseen quite close to the prose-bush, where the Snimmy lay with his long debilitating nose on his paws, looking up at the stars. Sara waited until the nose began to quiver and twitch; and then she suddenly emptied her whole handkerchief full of dimples out before him.

Sniff-gobble-gulp! Was there ever such haste and excitement? Sara jumped up and down with delight, and everybody in the Garden laughed. As for the Snimmy, he was quite overcome, and began to shed gum-drops of joy.

"For once he's had a full meal," said his wife, grimly indulgent. As for Sara, she ran off, laughing, to tell Jimmy how funny he had looked.

The Plynck waked up from her first nap and rustled her fragrant plumes.

"Was that Sara?" she asked of her Echo.

"Of course," said the Echo. "You've been asleep."

"Then it wasn't Sara this morning—the strange child with the tears?"

Her more practical Echo shrugged her wings. "Go explain to her," she said to the Teacup.

So the little Teacup, very glad to be safe at home again, fluttered up to her place beside her mistress; and they talked about Sara and her strange adventures far into the night.

Chapter IX Cheers and Butter

You would have followed the Snoodle, too, if he had wagged himself at you in that delightful, insinuating fashion, rolled over and over across your foot, and then gone frisking down the path, looking back beguilingly over his shoulder.

So of course Sara did, as soon as she had properly disposed of her dimples. She went skipping along so eagerly that she did not notice that it was an entirely different path—neither pink nor curly—until she had gone through a new arch in the hedge and found herself in the meadow, with the Equine Gahoppigas, all saddled and bridled, waiting for her.

She had known from the first, just from his general expression, that the Snoodle was going to lead her to something interesting; but she was not prepared for this.

It was clear, of course, that she was expected to ride the creature; but what it was she could not at first make out. It was about the size of a large hobby-horse, and, in respect to its beautiful, wavy mane and tail, much resembled it. Otherwise, it was exactly like a grasshopper. And it was rearing and snorting in a most alarming manner. As Sara stood considering, however, she caught a backward look out of its wild eyes that said, "Oh, come on; it's all a joke."

So Sara took her seat in the saddle. Just as she gathered up the reins the Snoodle leaped up behind her—exactly as the trained dog in the circus leaps up behind the monkey on the big Newfoundland. (Only, don't fall into the error of thinking that the Snoodle was a dog; you remember his mother was a snail.)

It was a novel and exhilarating sensation to Sara (that means the way you feel when you shoot the chutes at the Park) to go bounding through the sunny air on the back of the Gahoppigas. The soft wind whistled through her hair, and blew past her so strongly that she was not even conscious of the Snoodle's drawback, though he sat so close to her. At the end of every leap the Gahoppigas rested for an instant upon a daisy head, and Sara saw that the heads of these daisies were as big as her own.

Now, though Sara was really a nice child, there were two things she had always been rather greedy about: and they were flowers and butterflies. She had often wished, of a spring morning, wandering along her own garden paths, and gazing at the velvety brightness of the daisies, and the marvelous patterns of the butterflies who uncoiled their long tongues above them, that she might some day discover a meadow full of flowers as large as moons, perpetually fluttered over by butterflies as big as peacocks! Here, at last, were just such flowers; and since the grasshoppers were as large as hobby-horses—no, it was not a grasshopper, it was an Equine Gahoppigas! Still, it was more like a grasshopper than anything else she had ever seen.

You must not be surprised that Sara's thoughts were quite jerky and disconnected, for she had never before traversed a meadow in soaring leaps, with only a minute now and then to take breath—and even that minute spent among the flying yellow hair of a swaying daisy. Still, all through the enjoyment and excitement, she managed to keep tight hold of one wish—if only there would be butterflies as big as peacocks!

Well, there were, of course; on that side of the ivory doors you cannot wish for anything as hard as Sara did without getting your wish. To be sure, they must have been there long before Sara wished; for the Butterfly Country on which Sara now rested her astonished eyes had the look of a long-settled community. I need not tell you that it was so beautiful it fairly took your breath: you would know that it had to be, with those great flowers nodding everywhere, and those great gay wings drifting, and sailing, and soaring, and zigzagging, and crossing over them. But, all of a sudden, Sara made a discovery that stopped her heart in a breath. In a country where the butterflies were as big as peacocks, the caterpillars were as big as boa-constrictors! Sara didn't know the exact size of a boa-constrictor, having met them only in her Geography: but surely they couldn't be any bigger than these! Certainly they were big enough to swallow her as easily as the big black snake Jimmy had killed swallowed the egg.

Now, if you can imagine a country inhabited by sea-serpents, of bright green and brown and pink and yellow, with all kinds of assorted horns and knobs and prickles, you can imagine what Sara saw as the Gahoppigas took its last flying leap and alighted on a flaming marigold at the foot of the palace-steps. Well, of course you would have to imagine the palace, too; and part of it would be quite hard to imagine. It was a gorgeous place, of a beautiful amber color, and was built of solid blocks of honey-comb,—which, however, had been treated by the builders so that they had a hard glaze, to prevent the wings and feet of the butterflies from sticking when they touched the walls. The roof was a woven affair, very cunningly made so that the top surface was a sort of thatch of flower-stems, while the ceiling was a solid sheet of flowers. Of course, in this climate, they were always fresh. The butterflies had their beds on the ceiling; indeed, as Sara arrived rather early, a few roistering young blades who had been out late the night before were still hanging with closed wings from the roof, fast asleep.

Sara could see all this through the open door, which was made of an enameled lily-pad (extra-size, like the other things in this luscious place). But the thing that startled her most, and that you would have found it most difficult to imagine, was the strange way in which the roof was supported.

A very elegant butterfly, who seemed to be an officer in uniform, was standing on his hind legs at the right of the entrance. His waist was very slim, his wings were very rich, and he was curling and uncurling his proboscis languidly. Sara slid off the Gahoppigas and approached as near as she dared.

At that moment a little gong sounded somewhere (like a temple-gong in a Japanese fairy-story) and the Butterfly-Officer straightened up and called out in a sharp, military voice, "Shift Three!"

Instantly the caterpillars that were supporting the roof began wriggling out from under it, and a new relay that appeared as if by magic began taking their places, planting their tails firmly on the floor and adjusting their heads against the ceiling, and pressing upward by making their long bodies very stiff and straight. Of course they did not all do it at once, or the roof would have floated off into the sky; on the other hand, they relieved each other a few at a time, with admirable precision and with no disorder whatever, as if they had had long drill in this complicated manoeuvre.

The caterpillars who had been relieved seemed to be very much relieved indeed; they stretched out their long, cramped bodies luxuriously, and went lumbering off together by twos and threes, with their hands in their pockets. Sara started to follow a bristly comma-caterpillar who went off alone, but he was so big that she just couldn't make up her mind so do it. She had once fed one for three weeks in a fruit jar, and she knew that kind couldn't hurt her—still— She felt she was just compelled to talk to somebody; but she believed she would rather try the Butterfly-Officer who was on duty at the entrance. He looked bored and supercilious, but his wings were beautiful.

She drew near after a while and said, as pleasantly as she could,


"Yes," said the officer, without looking around.

Sara was a little taken aback, but he looked so conceited, as he stood there coiling and uncoiling his watch-spring tongue, that she suddenly felt herself growing quite provoked.

"That isn't the right answer," she said.

The Butterfly-Officer turned his lazy eyes and looked her over for some time without speaking.

"You said it was a good morning, didn't you?"


"And I agreed, didn't I?"

"Yes," said Sara.

"Well, then," said the Butterfly-Officer, turning away and beginning to coil and uncoil his spring.

This was not a very promising beginning. Sara would never learn anything at this rate. She must be more direct.

"Whose palace is this?" she asked.

"The Monarch's."

"Might—might I go in?"


What a baffling person! He agreed to anything, apparently, and yet one never learned anything. Sara wandered past him, presently, quite subdued by his elegant scorn.

She strayed on into the palace. She was speechless with admiration—even if there had been anybody to talk to. There were numbers of courtiers and ladies-in-waiting about, but nobody seemed in the least surprised to see her, and they all seemed too languid to talk. Sara heard them exchange a word occasionally, but for the most part they simply stood about, fanning themselves and coiling and uncoiling their springs. Never, however, had Sara seen such sumptuous costumes. Such court-trains, and velvet breeches, and rainbow-colored cloaks!

Presently, since nobody seemed to mind, Sara wandered straight into the throne-room; and there sat the Monarch dozing on his throne, while fourteen courtiers took turns in fanning him with their wings. At Sara's entrance, however, he awoke with a start; and Sara was terribly startled herself, because it was the first time anybody had really taken any notice of her.

"Bring her some butter!" he commanded.

At his command four of the courtiers drifted away, and presently returned carrying a silvery-white cloth, very rich and lustrous, woven of many thicknesses of milk-weed-silk. This they spread on the green-tiled floor in a corner of the throne-room, near a little fountain that trickled continually a sort of silver-colored syrup, which made a drowsy sound as it fell. Then they flew away again, and after a good while returned carrying a pat of butter in a large magnolia petal. The magnolia petal was about the size of Mother's best turkey-platter, and as white and fragrant as the magnolias at home. And the pat of butter was about as large as a veal loaf. Of course it did not look in the least like a veal loaf; it looked exactly like butter—a delectable, golden yellow, and all dewy-looking, as it used to come out of the spring-house at Grandmother's.

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