American Fairy Tales
L. Frank Baum
3:48 h Children Lvl 6.08
American Fairy Tales is the collection of fictional short stories written by L Frank Baum and released the year after The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. The satirical stories show a different side of Baum's fiction and often contain morals. Read these exciting shorts written by the mind behind one of the greatest stories of all time. American fairy Tales stand out as Baum's most tongue-in-cheek work ever.

American Fairy Tales

L. Frank Baum

Author of
Father Goose; His Book, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Etc.

The Box of Robbers

No one intended to leave Martha alone that afternoon, but ithappened that everyone was called away, for one reason or another.Mrs. McFarland was attending the weekly card party held by theWomen’s Anti-Gambling League. Sister Nell’s young man had calledquite unexpectedly to take her for a long drive. Papa was at theoffice, as usual. It was Mary Ann’s day out. As for Emeline, shecertainly should have stayed in the house and looked after thelittle girl; but Emeline had a restless nature.

“Would you mind, miss, if I just crossed the alley to speak a wordto Mrs. Carleton’s girl?” she asked Martha.

“‘Course not,” replied the child. “You’d better lock the back door,though, and take the key, for I shall be upstairs.”

“Oh, I’ll do that, of course, miss,” said the delighted maid, andran away to spend the afternoon with her friend, leaving Marthaquite alone in the big house, and locked in, into the bargain.

The little girl read a few pages in her new book, sewed a fewstitches in her embroidery and started to “play visiting” with herfour favorite dolls. Then she remembered that in the attic was adoll’s playhouse that hadn’t been used for months, so she decidedshe would dust it and put it in order.

Filled with this idea, the girl climbed the winding stairs to thebig room under the roof. It was well lighted by three dormer windowsand was warm and pleasant. Around the walls were rows of boxes andtrunks, piles of old carpeting, pieces of damaged furniture, bundlesof discarded clothing and other odds and ends of more or less value.Every well-regulated house has an attic of this sort, so I need notdescribe it.

The doll’s house had been moved, but after a search Martha found itaway over in a corner near the big chimney.

She drew it out and noticed that behind it was a black wooden chestwhich Uncle Walter had sent over from Italy years and yearsago — before Martha was born, in fact. Mamma had told her about itone day; how there was no key to it, because Uncle Walter wished itto remain unopened until he returned home; and how this wanderinguncle, who was a mighty hunter, had gone into Africa to huntelephants and had never been heard from afterwards.

The little girl looked at the chest curiously, now that it had byaccident attracted her attention.

It was quite big — bigger even than mamma’s traveling trunk — and wasstudded all over with tarnished brassheaded nails. It was heavy,too, for when Martha tried to lift one end of it she found she couldnot stir it a bit. But there was a place in the side of the coverfor a key. She stooped to examine the lock, and saw that it wouldtake a rather big key to open it.

Then, as you may suspect, the little girl longed to open UncleWalter’s big box and see what was in it. For we are all curious, andlittle girls are just as curious as the rest of us.

“I don’t b’lieve Uncle Walter’ll ever come back,” she thought. “Papasaid once that some elephant must have killed him. If I only had akey — ” She stopped and clapped her little hands together gayly asshe remembered a big basket of keys on the shelf in the linencloset. They were of all sorts and sizes; perhaps one of them wouldunlock the mysterious chest!

She flew down the stairs, found the basket and returned with it tothe attic. Then she sat down before the brass-studded box and begantrying one key after another in the curious old lock. Some were toolarge, but most were too small. One would go into the lock but wouldnot turn; another stuck so fast that she feared for a time that shewould never get it out again. But at last, when the basket wasalmost empty, an oddly-shaped, ancient brass key slipped easily intothe lock. With a cry of joy Martha turned the key with both hands;then she heard a sharp “click,” and the next moment the heavy lidflew up of its own accord!

The little girl leaned over the edge of the chest an instant, andthe sight that met her eyes caused her to start back in amazement.

Slowly and carefully a man unpacked himself from the chest, steppedout upon the floor, stretched his limbs and then took off his hatand bowed politely to the astonished child.

The bandits unpack themselves from the box.

He was tall and thin and his face seemed badly tanned or sunburnt.

Then another man emerged from the chest, yawning and rubbing hiseyes like a sleepy schoolboy. He was of middle size and his skinseemed as badly tanned as that of the first.

While Martha stared open-mouthed at the remarkable sight a third mancrawled from the chest. He had the same complexion as his fellows,but was short and fat.

All three were dressed in a curious manner. They wore short jacketsof red velvet braided with gold, and knee breeches of sky-blue satinwith silver buttons. Over their stockings were laced wide ribbons ofred and yellow and blue, while their hats had broad brims with high,peaked crowns, from which fluttered yards of bright-colored ribbons.

They had big gold rings in their ears and rows of knives and pistolsin their belts. Their eyes were black and glittering and they worelong, fierce mustaches, curling at the ends like a pig’s tail.

“My! but you were heavy,” exclaimed the fat one, when he had pulleddown his velvet jacket and brushed the dust from his sky-bluebreeches. “And you squeezed me all out of shape.”

“It was unavoidable, Luigi,” responded the thin man, lightly; “thelid of the chest pressed me down upon you. Yet I tender you myregrets.”

“As for me,” said the middle-sized man, carelessly rolling acigarette and lighting it, “you must acknowledge I have been yournearest friend for years; so do not be disagreeable.”

“You mustn’t smoke in the attic,” said Martha, recovering herself atsight of the cigarette. “You might set the house on fire.”

The middle-sized man, who had not noticed her before, at this speechturned to the girl and bowed.

“Since a lady requests it,” said he, “I shall abandon my cigarette,”and he threw it on the floor and extinguished it with his foot.

“Who are you?” asked Martha, who until now had been too astonishedto be frightened.

“Permit us to introduce ourselves,” said the thin man, flourishinghis hat gracefully. “This is Lugui,” the fat man nodded; “and thisis Beni,” the middle-sized man bowed; “and I am Victor. We are threebandits — Italian bandits.”

“Bandits!” cried Martha, with a look of horror.

“Exactly. Perhaps in all the world there are not three other banditsso terrible and fierce as ourselves,” said Victor, proudly.

“’Tis so,” said the fat man, nodding gravely.

“But it’s wicked!” exclaimed Martha.

“Yes, indeed,” replied Victor. “We are extremely and tremendouslywicked. Perhaps in all the world you could not find three men morewicked than those who now stand before you.”

“’Tis so,” said the fat man, approvingly.

“But you shouldn’t be so wicked,” said the girl;“it’s — it’s — naughty!”

Victor cast down his eyes and blushed.

“Naughty!” gasped Beni, with a horrified look.

“’Tis a hard word,” said Luigi, sadly, and buried his face in hishands.

“I little thought,” murmured Victor, in a voice broken by emotion,“ever to be so reviled — and by a lady! Yet, perhaps you spokethoughtlessly. You must consider, miss, that our wickedness has anexcuse. For how are we to be bandits, let me ask, unless we arewicked?”

Martha was puzzled and shook her head, thoughtfully. Then sheremembered something.

“You can’t remain bandits any longer,” said she, “because you arenow in America.”

“America!” cried the three, together.

“Certainly. You are on Prairie avenue, in Chicago. Uncle Walter sentyou here from Italy in this chest.”

The bandits seemed greatly bewildered by this announcement. Luguisat down on an old chair with a broken rocker and wiped his foreheadwith a yellow silk handkerchief. Beni and Victor fell back upon thechest and looked at her with pale faces and staring eyes.

When he had somewhat recovered himself Victor spoke.

“Your Uncle Walter has greatly wronged us,” he said, reproachfully.“He has taken us from our beloved Italy, where bandits are highlyrespected, and brought us to a strange country where we shall notknow whom to rob or how much to ask for a ransom.”

“’Tis so!” said the fat man, slapping his leg sharply.

“And we had won such fine reputations in Italy!” said Beni,regretfully.

“Perhaps Uncle Walter wanted to reform you,” suggested Martha.

“Are there, then, no bandits in Chicago?” asked Victor.

“Well,” replied the girl, blushing in her turn, “we do not call thembandits.”

“Then what shall we do for a living?” inquired Beni, despairingly.

“A great deal can be done in a big American city,” said the child.“My father is a lawyer” (the bandits shuddered), “and my mother’scousin is a police inspector.”

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