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The Iceberg Express (8)

2006-09-07 21:00

    Candy City

    Just then a little bird began to sing:

    "In the valley, green and neat, I see the print of little feet, And way, way yonder in the glen I see a host of little men."

    "Dear me!" sighed Mary Louise. "I am too tired to walk any further."

    "Jump on my back!" cried a happy voice, and up trotted a little pony named Dapple Gray.

    "Oh, how nice," laughed Mary Louise, and climbing up on the saddle, rode off on this pretty little pony, and pretty soon, not so very far, they came to the place where the little men were at work. And what do you suppose they were doing. Why, you'd never guess if I gave you until the th of July.

    They were making maple sugar out of the sap from the maple trees. First they boiled the sap in great big pots and then put it away to cool in queer little dishes of various shapes, and when the sugar hardened it was in the forms of funny little fish, queer little houses, strange animals, and, goodness knows, what not.

    "Oh, we are the Sugar Candy Men, And we work all day in the snow To make the maple sugar cakes To sell in the town below,"

    sang one little man who wore a red peaked hat and long turned-up pointed shoes.

    But when little Mary Louise rode up, they all stopped their work and looked at her, and the little man with the long turned up pointed shoes pulled off his red peaked cap and asked:

    "What brings you here, Mary Louise? Are you fond of maple sugar candy?"

    "I know lots of little boys and girls who are," answered Mary Louise with a smile.

    "Well, hold open your pockets," said the little man, and he stood up on a stump alongside Dapple Gray and filled her pockets to overflowing. Wasn't that nice of him?

    "You're very generous," said Mary Louise. "What can I do for you?"

    "Go to yonder town and tell the dear old lady who keeps the 'Goody Sweet Tooth-Shop' that we will bring her candy tomorrow morning just as-

    "The little red rooster From his home on the hill Sounds his merry cock-a-doo Like a whistle shrill."

    "All right," answered Mary Louise, and off she went to the little town down in the valley.

    Well, by and by, after a while, and many a mile, and a song and a smile, for Mary Louise felt very happy with all those nice candies in her pocket, she came to a bridge over a river, on the other side of which nestled a little town among the trees.

    Now there was a toll keeper, a funny little old lady with a crutch under her arm, at the entrance to the bridge.

    "Give me a penny, Mary Louise, For that is the toll you must pay, If you would cross over the river to Dover, Dover, just over the way."

    Sang the little old lady toll keeper.

    "Here is the penny," laughed Mary Louise, leaning down from Dapple Gray and dropping it into the old lady's apron, which she help up in both hands.

    "Pass on, little girl," she said, opening the gate, and in a few minutes Dapple Gray was clattering over the bridge. And pretty soon he drew up before the Goody Sweet Tooth Shop.

    "I bring you good news from the little men of the glen," cried Mary Louise to the little old woman who just then looked out of the door.

    "What is the news, dearie?" she asked, shading her eyes with her withered hand.

    "Tomorrow morning, just at dawn, When the little red rooster blows on his horn, The maple sugar candy hearts, Cute little cupids and candy darts, In a great big box will be laid at your door to give to the children who come to your store."

    said little Mary Louise. And how she ever could have spoken in poetry is more than I can tell, but perhaps the fairy maple sugar candy, which she had eaten on her way to town, had lent magic to her tongue. Then the little old woman made a curtsy, and Mary Louise continued on her way, and by and by, after a while, she came to a great big bear sitting on a stone by the roadside. On the ground by his side was a big bundle tied with a thick leather strap.

    Well, as soon as the bear saw Mary Louise, he took off his cap and said,

    "I wish I had a pony, Either brown or gray, So I could ride whate'er betide For many miles away."

    "Why, what's the matter?" asked little Mary Louise.

    "I have a splinter in my foot," answered the bear.

    So Mary Louise dismounted and looked at the bear's foot, and when she found the splinter, she said:

    "Now don't you cry, and don't you pout, And I will pull the splinter out."

    And would you believe it, in less than five hundred short seconds, she held the splinter under the bear's nose so he could see it, for the bear was very near sighted and couldn't even see the end of his toes.

    "Dear me," sighed little Mary Louise, "I wish I were safe at home with Mother," she set out once more, and by and by she came to Candy Town.

    Now I guess many a little boy and girl wonders where all the Christmas candies come from, but they wouldn't if they had once seen Peppermint City, all painted white with red stripes, just like a stick of peppermint candy.

    Each house was built of white candy with columns of peppermint sticks supporting the roof. On either side the door stood lovely peppermint statues and striped pillars held up the little porches and big piazzas.

    The opera house was guarded by a candy lion, and a fountain in the middle of the town spouted maple syrup. Rock candy crystal chandeliers hung from the ceilings in the rich man's house and little peppermint candlesticks made light for the workman's hut. Even the lamp posts on the corners were peppermint sticks and so were the barber poles.

    "Goodness me," said Mary Louise to herself, "I wonder what would happen if it rained." But you see it never rained in Candy Country, which was mighty lucky.

    "What do you wish?" asked a Chocolate Man, as she knocked on the Candy Town Gate.

    The next moment the gate swung open and out marched a regiment of Lemon Soldiers dressed in Lemon Khaki Uniforms.

    "Oh, I'm just lost," replied Mary Louise with a sigh.

    "I'm a little traveler who goes For miles and miles upon her toes. But sometimes when I'm tired out I think I hear a kind of voice shout, 'Come, ride with me upon my Goose,' And other times it is a Moose, And then again a steed with wings; Or maybe some kind stranger brings A ship that sails the ocean wide, And so instead of walk, I ride."

    "Well, well, your a little poetry maker," said the Chocolate Man. "Now you are the very person to write pretty little verses on our round peppermint candies." And then he held out his chocolate hand and drew tired Mary Louise inside the gate, after which he locked it with a silver key.

    "Come with me to our Candy Factory," and he ran down the street, which was paved with little red brick candies, until he came to a big Rock Candy Building.

    "Look here," gasped Mary Louise, all out of breath with running, for that Chocolate Man was the best athlete in all Peppermint City, "I said I was lost. I'm not a poetry maker. I wouldn't make poetry for anything. I want to see things, not dream about them!"

    "Dear me," said the Chocolate Man, and he let go the lollypop door handle, "I'm sorry. I thought you'd like to stay here."

    "Don't feel badly about it," said Mary Louise as he shook hands and said good-by. "I must find my way home. I've no time to lose."

    "Heigh ho, this is a big river," she exclaimed a little later as she stood on the bank of a swiftly flowing stream.

    "There isn't any bridge, how can you get across, There isn't any boat and you haven't any horse That could swim across this river with you upon its back, So I guess you'll have to turn about and go back upon your track,"

    sang a cross voice. "She won't have to do anything of the sort," answered a kind voice and a little white duck in a boat rowed up to the bank.

    "Come, jump aboard," quacked Commodore Drake, for that was the name of this duck sailor.

    Mary Louise jumped in and away they went down the river to the deep blue sea. And after a while, maybe a mile, and perhaps a little more, they came to the restless ocean.

    "Now," said the duck, with a wheezy, breezy quack, "I'll take you to the Hotel Wave Crest."

    Presently they came to an island where a lovely coral building shone pinky bright in the rays of the sun. Right in front of it were two bell buoys who rang little bells to tell the man who owned the hotel that somebody wanted a room with a fresh salt water bath.

    As soon as Commodore Drake had fastened the little boat to the wharf, he and Mary Louise walked up the steps and into Wave Crest Hotel.

    When the proprietor, a nice old Dolphin, saw Mary Louise's lovely sea green coat, he at once asked where she had bought it.

    "The King of the Crabs gave it to me."

    "You don't tell me," exclaimed the old Dolphin. "Do you know that coat is a magic one?"

    "What can it do?" asked Mary Louise, even more surprised than you are.

    "Why, anybody who wears it can swim like a fish," answered the good-natured Dolphin. "It's better than a pair of water wings," and he turned over three times and began to sing,

    "Oh, many a mile I've swum in the sea Like a hoop that rolls on the ground, Over and over and over again, Round and around and around, But I always come right side up at last, Out in the deep blue sea, You bet I can do the loop de loo High diddle diddledy dee."

    As he finished speaking, the good-natured Dolphin turned a somersault, and after that I guess he thought he'd done enough to amuse Mary Louise, and the little white sailor duck, so he went inside the hotel and stood at the desk behind the big register book.

    Just then a great whale came swimming by, blowing a stream of water high in the air. Maybe a piece of seaweed had tickled his nose, for when a whale spouts he's really sneezing, I'm told.

    And after that a pretty Cat Fish began to purr, and I guess she would have asked Mary Louise a lot of questions if all of a sudden a Dog Fish hadn't barked, which so frightened the pussy cat fish that she went into her room and locked the door, dropping the kin in her vanity bag which she hid under her pillow.

    "If you'll stay awhile," said the old Dolphin, "I'll give you the finest fish dinner you ever ate,

    "A whale fish steak, And some sea gull eggs, And a pint of sea cow's milk, Green sea weed sauce And water cress And oysters served on silk."

    But, would you believe it, little Mary Louise didn't feel hungry. Instead she asked the duck sailor to take her back to the boat and to sail away, over the ocean's misty spray, until they should come to the Land of Nod where sleep is sent by the Little Dream God.

    As soon as she and the little white duck reached this wonderful little land, they became sleepy and their eyes winked and blinked and pretty soon they both lay down on the soft grass and went sound to sleep. And then the twinkle, twinkle star shone down with its pretty golden eye and sang a sleepy lullaby,

    "Over the ocean cool and sweet Up to the sea grass's waving feet Blows the wind from the rainbow west Whispering low, 'It is time for rest.'"

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