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Authors: Edward Eager

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It shrank to the size of a small Pekingese, and the cats and kittens approached it and rattled their claws against its sides.

"This is unendurable," said the dragon. "You tickle."

It shrank until it was the size of a mouse, and the cats played with it, batting it to and fro.

It shrank until it was the size of a small lizard or salamander (or newt or eft). And its protesting voice died away in a faint squeak like the huffle of a snail in danger.

Fredericka stood up and stretched herself and looked down at the shrunken dragon. It was laughable to think of its eating her now. She might more easily have eaten
it.
But she would have disdained to.

It was someone else who did.

As the five children watched in horrified fascination, the smallest kitten pounced on the dragon and gobbled it down as easily as it might have swallowed a fly. Then it looked around with a surprised expression. Then it purred.

"Is that real purr, do you suppose?" said Abbie. "Or is it the dragon growling down there?"

The kitten did not enlighten her. It went hurrying off to join its relations, who were trying to make friends with the field mice in a nearby cornfield (only the mice wouldn't).

And now the crowd, which had been waiting at a safe distance, came up and surrounded the round gentleman and Mrs. Funkhouser, and more people appeared from the neighboring village, and they all cheered and some let off fireworks.

"Three cheers for the wonderful wizard Oswaldo! And may he reign over us and rule the land forever! Three cheers for the respectable witch, too!" cried all the people.

The round gentleman smiled and bowed and waved his hat. As for Mrs. Funkhouser, she pretended to be fussed and embarrassed, but you could tell she was enjoying the applause just as much as he was.

"That wizard didn't do a thing, really," muttered Abbie to the others, under cover of the noise the people were making. "Mrs. Funkhouser and the cats did it all!"

"I guess that's the way with wizards," said Barnaby. "They let the witches do the work and then take the credit. It's the same way in stories."

"Why, yes," said Fredericka. "Even the Wizard of Oz was a humbug. Remember?"

Then she broke off. She had had an exciting thought. And the more she thought of the thought, the more exciting it was. "You know what?" she said. "This could
be
Oz, back in prehistory times. Before the books tell about it. Nobody knows
what
it looked like, then. Mr. Oswaldo could even be the real Wizard of Oz. This could be how he got there in the first place. And we're in it from the beginning!"

"But in the book the real Wizard tells Dorothy he came in a balloon," objected Abbie.

"Yes," Fredericka admitted, "but in the book the real Wizard doesn't always tell the truth. Think back."

Everybody thought back.

Fredericka went up to the nearest cheering peasant and tapped him on the shoulder. "Please," she said, "what country
is
this?"

"We be called Dragonland," said the peasant, "up till now, but now all that be changed. Have to think up something new. Oswaldoland, maybe."

"You see?" said Fredericka to the others. "It all works out. The name could have got shortened in the mists of time. Anyway, I'll always think it
was
Oz. I'll feel part of it from now on."

"Or if it isn't," said Abbie, "it's someplace else just as interesting!"

And all agreed.

"And now," said Barnaby, "I guess it's time to go."

"How do we
do
that?" said John.

"I'm not sure," said Barnaby. He went up to Mrs. Funkhouser and the round gentleman, and the other four followed. "Are you really going to stay and rule the country?" he asked.

"I must do as my public demands," said the round gentleman. "They want me. Listen to them cheering."

"I suppose I'll have to stay, too," said Mrs. Funkhouser. "
Somebody
'll have to see that you're picked up and kept out of trouble!"

"They've offered us a lovely palace," confided the Wizard (if it was truly he). "The one the princesses used to live in that the dragon ate."

"Thirty rooms!" said Mrs. Funkhouser grimly. "Think of the dusting!"

"Come, come, dear lady," said the round gentleman (who might be the Wizard) in rather a lordly way. "The maids of honor will attend to that."

"I," said Mrs. Funkhouser, "have never trusted a maid yet and never will!"

"Could we have our book now?" said Susan. "We'll be taking it home with us. Are you sure you'll be all right here without it?"

"Just let me take one more quick glance," said the round gentleman. He studied the first three or four pages briefly."There! That'll give me enough new tricks to stay in business for years!"

Susan offered Mrs. Funkhouser a look at the book, but she waved it away.

"I won't be needing it. Just use my common sense. All a matter of good housekeeping."

"What method of travel were you planning to use?" the round gentleman asked the five children.

"That's just it," said Susan. "We're not quite sure."

"Vanishing cream," said Mrs. Funkhouser promptly, without so much as a glance in the book's direction. "There's some in my top bureau drawer." And Fredericka ran to fetch it.

"Shall we let her?" whispered Abbie. "What if we just
vanish
? And don't turn up anywhere?"

"Trust the book," counseled Barnaby. "It's done pretty well so far."

And then Fredericka returned with the jar of vanishing cream, and Mrs. Funkhouser rubbed a little on the foreheads of each.

But Susan clasped the book tight and wished, too, just in case.

 

You may wonder what vanishing feels like. The answer is that it feels like nothing at all. One second the five children were standing in a magic country (that might or might not be Oz), watching a wizard (who might or might not be
the
Wizard) give a demonstration of One Hundred Easy Card Tricks, while a crowd of peasants cheered.

The next second they found themselves sitting on the front steps of Barnaby and Abbie and Fredericka's little white house in Connecticut.

"Back from the library already?" said Barnaby and Abbie and Fredericka's mother, coming out the door on her way to try to sell someone a split-level colonial ranch house. "You were quick."

"I don't
feel
quick," said Abbie, when her mother had driven off. "I feel as if I'd been away for years. Do you suppose that place really was Oz?"

"If it was," said Fredericka, "I'm disappointed. I'd have thought we'd meet famous people, Dorothy and the Scarecrow and all those."

Barnaby shook his head. "I don't think that's how it works. I think it's more like this. Everybody has to go to Oz—or any other magic country—in his own way. The adventures that are written down in books have already
been.
If we tried to horn in on them, we'd be just tagging along. So we have to make our
own
adventures. It's as if there were different doors."

"That's what the dragon said," said Fredericka dreamily.

"It did?" said Barnaby, interested. "What else did it say?"

"I forget," said Fredericka. "But it was interesting at the time. That dragon had a nice side, in a way. I'm kind of sorry it's gone."

"Maybe it isn't," said John. "Maybe its better self will merge with the kitten."

"Or maybe its
worse
self will," said Abbie. "Maybe the kitten will grow up with man-eating tendencies. They'll have to watch over it and curb it and mold its infant mind."

"Only we'll never know whether they did or not, or what happened." Susan sighed.

There was a silence.

"Anyway, we're started now," said Barnaby. "It's your turn tomorrow."

Susan shook her head. "Tomorrow's Sunday."

"What of it?" said Fredericka. "It's summer. There's no Sunday school."

"Even so," said Susan. "Magic's not a Sunday thing. Not that it's sinful or anything, I don't mean. But they just wouldn't mix."

"How'll we get through a whole day?" said Abbie. "The thought might be father to the wish."

"Better shut the book up somewhere safe," said Barnaby.

"I'm going to," said Susan.

"Without reading the chapter, now it's finished?" Fredericka wanted to know.

"Dwell in the dead past if you want to," Barnaby told her. "I
know
what it says."

"I'd kind of like to look," said John. And he took the book from Susan and began to read.

"It's got illustrations," reported Fredericka, hanging over his shoulder. "Is that what I look like? That isn't what I look like!"

And then the Good Humor man came driving along the road, ringing his bell, and everyone ran to catch up with him, and magic was forgotten in the cooling joy of sheer sherbet.

But first Susan ran across the street to her own house and put the book away carefully in her top bureau drawer.

And later that day, just before supper, without saying anything to the others, she took a walk along lower Weed Street.

As she rounded the familiar bend, she wondered whether she would see a mere hole in the ground where Mrs. Funkhouser's house had been. But to her surprise the house was still there, the same as always. The sign by the driveway was still there, too.

But when Susan came nearer, she saw that the sign didn't say, "Slow. Cats, et cetera" anymore.

The sign said, "For Sale."

And when she went up close to the house and peered through its windows, she saw that every stick of furniture inside was gone.

It was nice to know that whatever the name of the magic kingdom where Mrs. Funkhouser now reigned, she apparently had her salt and her ammonia and other useful supplies for a respectable witch with her. She had prob'ly moved her possessions to the palace, thought Susan, and then prob'ly she hadn't wanted the house there to remind her of her humble origins; so she had prob'ly rubbed vanishing cream on it, too.

And maybe some of the magic from the book had got
into
the vanishing cream so that it still worked. Or maybe Mrs. Funkhouser (unlike the late dragon) had started believing in her own power so much that she was beginning to be a real witch now, though Susan was sure she would always be a respectable one.

While she was thinking these thoughts, a woman had come out on the porch next door and was regarding her curiously.

"If you're looking for Mrs. Funkhouser and Mr. Oswaldo," said the woman, "they've moved. All of a sudden, as ever was. And they do say," she went on, "that
he
's gone back into vaudeville."

Susan thought of the round gentleman as she had last seen him and of Mrs. Funkhouser and her housewifely witchcraft.

"Yes," she said slowly. "Yes, I guess you might say they
both
have. In a way."

And she started walking home.

3. Taming It

"This time no magic kingdoms," said Susan, "and no dragons." And the others (all but Fredericka, who, having survived one dragon, was ready to tackle another) agreed.

It was the second day after the five children had found the book, and they were assembled on John and Susan's front porch.

Sunday had been a day of rest, by Susan's decree.

At first Fredericka had fretted and Abbie had sighed and even Barnaby had wanted to make plans. But Susan had been unusually strong-minded and had put a stop to it.

"If we start all that, we'll be tempted and we might give way," she said. "Let's not even
think
about the magic."

This didn't seem possible, but later it turned out that it was. Books were read and games were played and walks taken, and a few good deeds were even done, to be on the safe side, though nothing good enough or interesting enough to tell about. And the hours passed.

And now at last it was Monday, and here the five children were with the dishes and other chores out of the way and Grannie established at the parlor table just inside the front window with a particularly hard jigsaw puzzle that should keep her out of harm's way for half an hour, at least.

And the time was ripe, and it was Susan's turn.

"No dragons," she repeated, "and no witches. I like it better in the Nesbit stories and those other ones where the magic's more sort of tame."

"Tame is blah," said Fredericka.

"Maybe tame isn't what I mean," said Susan, "but where at first everything starts out real and sort of
daily.
Then when the magic comes it's more..." She paused, seeking a word.

"Of a contrast," supplied Barnaby.

There was a silence.

"Aren't you going to ask anything more?" said John.

"I don't want to know any more," said Susan. "I want us just to go about our business and wait for whatever happens."

"There are entirely too many blue pieces in this puzzle," said Grannie from inside the window. "They can't all be sky or if they are, it's monotonous."

John and Susan went inside and got her started on another corner where some of the blue sky might be somebody's dress. With that settled, the five children left the porch and walked along the road to town as if it were any ordinary Monday.

They passed Mrs. Funkhouser's empty house and discussed where its former occupants were now, and Fredericka wished she had Ozma's magic picture so she might see what they were doing at this moment.

But she did not have the book in her hands; so the picture did not appear.

On Main Street the five children compared finances. Susan had sixteen cents and Abbie had eleven. John had a dollar he'd earned cutting lawns, and Barnaby had fifty cents he'd made selling magazine subscriptions (he had sold one so far). But this money was to be saved toward their college educations.

Still, twenty-seven cents divided by five gave everyone a nickel each with two cents over toward tomorrow. So the candy store was the next stop.

But nothing magic happened there, either (save for the magic that lies in Turkish Taffy and Chocolate Almond-Butterscotch Delight).

It was when they came out of the store and turned the corner that Susan noticed the strangeness first.

"The street's different," she said. "Look."

BOOK: Seven-Day Magic
13.87Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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