Mother Goose in Prose by L. Frank Baum
by the author of The Wizard of Oz - There was a man in our town

There was a man in our town
And he was wond'rous wise;
He jumped into a bramble bush
And scratched out both his eyes.
And when he saw his eyes were out,
With all his might and main
He jumped into another bush
And scratched them in again!

Our town is a quiet little town, and lies nestling in a little valley
surrounded by pretty green hills. I do not think you would ever have
heard our town mentioned had not the man lived there who was so wise
that everyone marvelled at his great knowledge.

He was not always a wise man; he was a wise boy before he grew to
manhood, and even when a child he was so remarkable for his wisdom
that people shook their heads gravely and said, "when he grows up
there will be no need of books, for he will know everything!"

His father thought he had a wond'rous wise look when he was born, and
so he named him Solomon, thinking that if indeed he turned out to be
wise the name would fit him nicely, whereas, should he be mistaken,
and the boy grow up stupid, his name could be easily changed to Simon.

But the father was not mistaken, and the boy's name remained Solomon.

When he was still a child Solomon confounded the schoolmaster by
asking, one day,

"Can you tell me, sir, why a cow drinks water from a brook?"

"Well really," replied the abashed schoolmaster, "I have never given
the subject serious thought. But I will sleep upon the question, and
try to give you an answer to-morrow."

"But the schoolmaster could not sleep; he remained awake all the night
trying to think why a cow drinks water from a brook, and in the
morning he was no nearer the answer than before. So he was obliged to
appear before the wise child and acknowledge that he could not solve
the problem.

"I have looked at the subject from every side," said he, "and given it
careful thought, and yet I cannot tell why a cow drinks water from a
brook."

"Sir," replied the wise child, "it is because the cow is thirsty."

The shock of this answer was so great that the schoolmaster fainted
away, and when they had brought him to he made a prophecy that Solomon
would grow up to be a wond'rous wise man.

It was the same way with the village doctor. Solomon came to him one
day and asked,

"Tell me, sir, why has a man two eyes?"

"Bless me!" exclaimed the doctor, "I must think I a bit before I
answer, for I have never yet had my attention called to this subject."

So he thought for a long time, and then he said, "I must really give
it up. I cannot tell, for the life of me, why a man has two eyes. Do
you know?"

"Yes, sir," answered the boy.

"Then," said the doctor, after taking a dose of quinine to brace up
his nerves, for he remembered the fate of the schoolmaster, "then
please tell me why a man as two eyes.

"A man has two eyes, sir," returned Solomon, solemnly, "because he was
born that way."

And the doctor marvelled greatly at so much wisdom in a little child,
and made a note of it in his note-book.

Solomon was so full of wisdom that it flowed from his mouth in a
perfect stream, and every day he gave new evidence to his friends that
he could scarcely hold all the wise thoughts that came to him. For
instance, one day he said to his father,

"I perceive our dog has six legs."

"Oh, no!" replied his father, "our dog has only four legs."

"You are surely mistaken, sir," said Solomon, with the gravity that
comes from great wisdom, "these are our dog's fore legs, are they
not?" pointing to the front legs of the dog.

"Yes," answered his father.

"Well," continued Solomon, "the dog has two other legs, besides, and
two and four are six; therefore the dog has six legs."

"But that is very old," exclaimed his father.

"True," replied Solomon, "but this is a young dog."

Then his father bowed his head in shame that his own child should
teach him wisdom.

Of course Solomon wore glasses upon his eyes--all wise people wear
them,--and his face was ever grave and solemn, while he walked slowly
and stiffly so that people might know he was the celebrated wise man,
and do him reverence.

And when he had grown to manhood the fame of his wisdom spread all
over the world, so that all the other wise men were jealous, and tried
in many ways to confound him; but Solomon always came out ahead and
maintained his reputation for wisdom.

Finally a very wise man came from Cumberland, to meet Solomon and see
which of them was the wisest. He was a very big man, and Solomon was a
very little man, and so the people all shook their heads sadly and
feared Solomon had met his match, for if the Cumberland man was as
full of wisdom as Solomon, he had much the advantage in size.

They formed a circle around the two wise men, and then began the trial
to see which was the wisest.

"Tell me," said Solomon, looking straight up into the big man's face
with an air of confidence that reassured his friends, "how many
sisters has a boy who has one father, one mother, and seven brothers?"

The big wise man got very red in the face, and scowled and coughed and
stammered, but he could not tell.

"I do not know," he acknowledged; "nor do you know, either, for there
is no rule to go by."

"Oh, yes, I know," replied Solomon; "he has two sisters. I know this
is the true answer, because I know the boy and his father and his
mother and his brothers and his sisters, so that I cannot be
mistaken."

Now all the people applauded at this, for they were sure Solomon had
got the best of the man from Cumberland.

But it was now the big man's turn to try Solomon, so he said,

"Fingers five are on my hand;
All of them upright do stand.
One a dog is, chasing kittens;
One a cat is, wearing mittens;
One a rat is, eating cheese;
One a wolf is, full of fleas;
One a fly is, in a cup
How many fingers do I hold up?"

"Four," replied Solomon, promptly, "for one of them is a thumb!"

The wise man from Cumberland was so angry at being outwitted that he
sprang at Solomon and would no doubt have injured him had not our wise
man turned and run away as fast as he could go. The man from
Cumberland at once ran after him, and chased him through the streets
and down the lanes and up the side of the hill where the
bramble-bushes grow.

Solomon ran very fast, but the man from Cumberland was bigger, and he
was just about to grab our wise man by his coat-tails when Solomon
gave a great jump, and jumped right into the middle of a big
bramble-bush!

The people were all coming up behind, and as the big man did not dare
to follow Solomon into the bramble-bush, he turned away and ran home
to Cumberland.

All the men and women of our town were horrified when they came up and
found their wise man in the middle of the bramble-bush, and held fast
by the brambles, which scratched and pricked him on every side.

"Solomon! are you hurt?" they cried.

"I should say I am hurt!" replied Solomon, with a groan; "my eyes are
scratched out!"

"How do you know they are?" asked the village doctor.

"I can see they are scratched out!" replied Solomon; and the people
all wept with grief at this, and Solomon howled louder than any of
them.

Now the fact was that when Solomon jumped into the bramble-bush he was
wearing his spectacles, and the brambles pushed the glasses so close
against his eyes that he could not open them; and so, as every other
part of him was scratched and bleeding, and he could not open his
eyes, he made sure they were scratched out.

"How am I to get out of here?" he asked at last.

"You must jump out," replied the doctor, "since you have jumped in."

So Solomon made a great jump, and although the brambles tore him
cruelly, he sprang entirely out of the bush and fell plump into
another one. This last bush, however, by good luck, was not a
bramble-bush, but one of elderberry, and when he jumped into it his
spectacles fell off, and to his surprise he opened his eyes and found
that he could see again.

"Where are you now?" called out the doctor.

"I 'm in the elderberry bush, and I 've scratched my eyes in again!"
answered Solomon.

When the people heard this they marvelled greatly at the wisdom of a
man who knew how to scratch his eyes in after they were scratched out;
and they lifted Solomon from the bush and carried him home, where they
bound up the scratches and nursed him carefully until he was well
again.

And after that no one ever questioned the wond'rous wisdom of our wise
man, and when he finally died, at a good old age, they built a great
monument over his grave, and on one side of it were the words,

"Solomon; the Man who was Wond'rous Wise."

and on the other side was a picture of a bramble-bush.


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