Glinda of Oz
The Cleverness of Ervic
We must now return to Ervic the Skeezer, who, when he had set down the copper kettle
containing the three fishes at the gate of the lonely cottage, had asked, "What next?"
The goldfish stuck its head above the water in the kettle and said in its small but distinct
"You are to lift the latch, open the door, and walk boldly into the cottage. Do not be
afraid of anything you see, for however you seem to be threatened with dangers, nothing
can harm you. The cottage is the home of a powerful Yookoohoo, named Reera the Red,
who assumes all sorts of forms, sometimes changing her form several times in a day,
according to her fancy. What her real form may be we do not know. This strange creature
cannot be bribed with treasure, or coaxed through friendship, or won by pity. She has
never assisted anyone, or done wrong to anyone, that we know of. All her wonderful
powers are used for her own selfish amusement. She will order you out of the house but
you must refuse to go. Remain and watch Reera closely and try to see what she uses to
accomplish her transformations. If you can discover the secret whisper it to us and we
will then tell you what to do next."
"That sounds easy," returned Ervic, who had listened carefully. "But are you sure she will
not hurt me, or try to transform me?"
"She may change your form," replied the goldfish, "but do not worry if that happens, for
we can break that enchantment easily. You may be sure that nothing will harm you, so
you must not be frightened at anything you see or hear."
Now Ervic was as brave as any ordinary young man, and he knew the fishes who spoke
to him were truthful and to be relied upon, nevertheless he experienced a strange sinking
of the heart as he picked up the kettle and approached the door of the cottage. His hand
trembled as he raised the latch, but he was resolved to obey his instructions. He pushed
the door open, took three strides into the middle of the one room the cottage contained,
and then stood still and looked around him.
The sights that met his gaze were enough to frighten anyone who had not been properly
warned. On the floor just before Ervic lay a great crocodile, its red eyes gleaming
wickedly and its wide open mouth displaying rows of sharp teeth. Horned toads hopped
about; each of the four upper corners of the room was festooned with a thick cobweb, in
the center of which sat a spider as big around as a washbasin, and armed with pincher-
like claws; a red-and-green lizard was stretched at full length on the window-sill and
black rats darted in and out of the holes they had gnawed in the floor of the cottage.
But the most startling thing was a huge gray ape which sat upon a bench and knitted. It
wore a lace cap, such as old ladies wear, and a little apron of lace, but no other clothing.
Its eyes were bright and looked as if coals were burning in them. The ape moved as
naturally as an ordinary person might, and on Ervic's entrance stopped knitting and raised
its head to look at him.
"Get out!" cried a sharp voice, seeming to come from the ape's mouth.