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Uncle Ebenezer's Umbrella

by James B. Marshall

 

"Oh, mamma, we're going to the orchard to play," said Archy. "May we take an umbrella to keep the sun off?"

Mamma Stewardson, being up stairs, called in a low voice over the baluster, "Yes, dears, and take a large one."

So Archy and Gertie took the very largest umbrella in the stand—an enormous one. Its ribs were whalebone, its cover green gingham, and the handle ended in a knob nearly as large as a door-knob. But that umbrella was very highly valued by Uncle Ebenezer Stewardson, its owner, who carried it with him wherever he went, rain or shine. Uncle Ebenezer's grown nieces and nephews thought it very odd in him to carry such a queer-looking umbrella. They often hoped that something would happen to it, so that when they went about with him—he was one of the kindest and happiest of uncles—every one wouldn't be attracted by that great green bundle. How Cousin Adolphus did despise that umbrella!

But Gertie and Archy took the umbrella, only thinking it was a splendid big one; and as Uncle Ebenezer was taking a nap, of course he couldn't know who was carrying off his precious property. As they passed out, Cousin Adolphus was arranging his sketching materials to go down to the pond back of the woods to make a drawing of the mill for a young lady.

Among the daisies in the orchard Gertie started up a rabbit, which ran slowly toward the woods. Gertie and Archy went skimming over the field after it, laughing and flourishing the great green umbrella at such a rate that the rabbit ran into the woods, where it could not be found.

However, they found a cleared space just within the edge of the woods that was covered with soft green moss, and in its midst stood the most inviting smooth-top tree trunk for them to rest on. And while they sat talking about the rabbit, a young man all dressed in green approached them. His face and hands were also green, and he carried a long green bag.

"Children, welcome into my woods," said he, in a queer but pleasant voice.

Archy was about to exclaim, "It's not your woods, but Uncle Eb's," when the man in green went on to say: "I'm the Green Wizard of the Forest, and take great pleasure in exhibiting my tricks to little folks. Would you like to see me perform some of them?"

"Yes, please," said Archy, drawing a long breath, and looking intently at the Wizard.

"My little girl, will you lend me your pocket-handkerchief?" asked the Wizard, in that same queer, pleasant voice. "Now, then," continued he, as he took off his green hat, and placed within it Gertie's handkerchief, "I'll make you some fine candies."

Striking a match, the Wizard seemed to set the handkerchief on fire, as he held the hat in the air. After a few moments he blew out the flame, and then took from the hat four large handfuls of fine bonbons.

"And your handkerchief is just as pretty as ever," said the Wizard, returning it to Gertie. Archy clapped his hands loudly and earnestly, as though he was at a regular show, and Gertie joined in.

"My next trick will be to turn an umbrella into a music-box," said the Wizard, shaking his green bag out to its full length. Even to think of such a trick caused the audience of two to laugh so heartily that it came near rolling off the stump. The Wizard picked up Uncle Ebenezer's umbrella, and holding it in one hand, and the green bag in the other, said "Presto!" three times, and then poked the umbrella inside the bag.

"Now, my little man, what do you see inside?"

Archy peeped, expecting to see the umbrella, but he saw nothing but a neat little music-box.

"Oh, he's done it, Gertie, sure as anything," said Archy, gleefully.

"Let's have some music; it will play three tunes," said the Wizard, lifting the music-box from the bag. It first played "Coming Through the Eye," then "Violets Blue," and next struck up a lively German waltz.

The instant the waltz began, the Green Wizard of the Forest went dancing all over the green moss with the long green bag for a partner, and merrily called for Archy and Gertie to join in. When the music stopped, they did also, but looking around for the Wizard, he was nowhere to be seen. After vainly waiting his return some time, they started home, and as Archy understood how to wind and start the music-box, they had music all the way.

Mamma Stewardson was seated on the veranda as the children came toward the house, and Uncle Ebenezer, in slippers and long linen summer coat, could be seen nervously pacing up and down the wide hall that led to the door.

"My dears," said mamma, as they came near, "you should not have taken Uncle Ebenezer's umbrella; but I hope you have taken good care of it."

Gertie looked at Archy and then at the music-box, and Archy looked at the music-box and then at Gertie.

"Please never take my umbrella again," said Uncle Ebenezer, coming out on the veranda. "I'll buy you as many umbrellas as you want, bless your hearts."

"But what have you done with it, Archy?" asked mamma, turning around as she rose to have a full view of the children, and not seeing the umbrella.

"Why, the Green Wizard turned it into this music-box; but we'll go right off and get him to turn it back. He was a real nice Wizard, and will do anything we ask."

"And he danced, and we danced," said Gertie, her eyes fairly dancing in her head.

Mamma Stewardson was much puzzled to know what all this meant, so she called Gertie and Archy to her, that they might slowly explain.

Uncle Ebenezer stood quiet almost a minute, running his fingers through his hair, until it stood on end like porcupine quills. "Ha! I have it," said he. "Some rascally tramp has taken my umbrella from these innocent children, and given them this trumpery music-box to amuse them while he escaped."

"Why, Uncle Ebenezer, the music plays splendidly," said Gertie.

"Yes, my dear; yet, though I can buy a thousand more boxes precisely like that one, there isn't one more such an umbrella. But where is Adolphus? He must go after that tramp."

"I think he is down at the pond sketching," answered mamma.

"Then I must go," exclaimed Uncle Ebenezer, reaching the hat-rack in exactly five steps. He clapped on the first hat he came to—it was mamma's sun-hat, all trimmed with wild grasses. Then running through the kitchen, as the nearest way, he spied old John's stable boots, into which he jumped, kicking off his slippers; and in a jiffy was on a full run toward the woods, with his long coat flying out behind, mamma's hat bouncing up and down on his head.

In the course of an hour Uncle Ebenezer came back, but without finding the umbrella or catching the Wizard. He told mamma privately that he thought the children must have fallen asleep in the woods and dreamed about the Wizard, and that the umbrella was lost there somewhere. However, you see, that wouldn't account for the music-box; and then Uncle Ebenezer was puzzled. But Cousin Adolphus was the most puzzled of all, and he shook his head and questioned the children as though he had never heard of anything quite so amazing.

The next time Adolphus came from the city he brought Uncle Ebenezer a present of a beautiful silk umbrella with an ivory handle, and it was so much lighter than the old green gingham one that Uncle Ebenezer was pleased with it at once.

One day, late that summer, while a merry party were out on the mill-pond fishing, Uncle Ebenezer caught something tremendous on his line. It proved to be that old great-handled green gingham umbrella; but then all torn, rusty, and muddied. Mamma said that Cousin Adolphus looked startled when he saw that poor umbrella drawn to the surface, and point its slimy ribs at him like long fingers, and that he seemed glad when the rusty frame was thrown back into the water.

About a month after that Uncle Ebenezer went to a masquerade party, and the following day he saw Gertie and Archy.

"Children, I caught the Green Wizard of the Forest last night," said he, exultantly. "He was dressed all in green, as you said, and his other name is Adolphus Stewardson—the rogue! He wanted to get rid of that umbrella, and now I don't blame him a particle because he did."