Thursday, April 26, 2007

Letter Five: Sad Dragon, No Tea

My Dear Worried Thomisina,

First let me assure you that Ludwig and I are well. Our feet are freezing and our noses cold, but we are happy enough, even without hot tea.

Now I know why Boo Hoo Castle is so gloomy, Thomisina. The castle is very big and drafty; that is, cold air comes in all the time and chills everyone's toes and noses and fingertips. There are no fires in any of the fireplaces, and everyone, even Queen Clara herself, eats cold pickles straight out of a jar for supper. She cries the whole time!

Why is Boo Hoo Castle so cold and sad? Well, dear Thomisina, it was not always this way. Once fires burned hot and cheery in every fireplace; everyone had tea three times a day and warm crumpets with raspberry jam and hot chocolate before bed. Once everyone sat in a nice warm bubblebath every night and toasted marshmallows and told stories with shining, happy faces.

Yes, once Boo Hoo Castle was the snuggest place you could imagine. People knocked at the door all day to visit and eat hot pea soup.

But not anymore. You see, Boo Hoo Castle's dragon, Esmerelda, is sad. And when Esmerelda is sad, her breath-fire dries up. She refuses to light the fires or the stove or any of the candles. For a whole year now she has sat in the corner of the castle and cried, and not blown fire once to make Boo Hoo Castle warm and snug. Why? Nobody knows. Poor Queen Clara has tried everything: good stories, foot rubbings, and special treats like chocolate cake and vanilla pudding. But nothing works.

As you may have guessed, Thomisina, Queen Clara has hired us with the hopes that we will be able to cheer Elsmerelda and bring back cozy fires to Boo Hoo Castle.

I think we will succeed, though Ludwig the Noble is so grumpy without her hot tea that I don't suppose she'll be much help. But though I am cold and pink of nose, I am noble. And I am funny, too.

So do not worry, Thomisina. Tomorrow we will jolly the downcast dragon, collect our pennies, and head back to Gumberry Castle.

I remain your confident,

Chidester the Gumberry

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Query: Does Ludwig Like Chicken Jokes?

My Dear Sir Chidester,

I do know some funny jokes. Here is one of my favorites:

knock knock!
who's there?
Barbie who?
Barbie-qued chicken!

Does Ludwig like chicken jokes?


Lady J

My Lovely Lady J:

I have been chuckling all day over your joke, and a good thing you told it to me, too, since there is nothing much to laugh about here at Boo Hoo Castle. But I will tell you more about that tomorrow.

For now, I'll answer your question: does Ludwig like chicken jokes? I am not sure. Do you know any? If you tell me a good chicken joke, then I will see if Ludwig laughs or not.

But you must not be sorry if Ludwig doesn't laugh, because Ludwig does not like chickens. I think this is because his great, great grandfather, Ludwig the Wise, was once insulted by a red chicken. This chicken called Ludwig the Wise a very rude name (a buzzard, actually, which is the worst thing you can call a noble bird!), and the line of gumberius gumberius has, ever since, disliked chickens. Ludwig will never eat eggs for breakfast, no matter how they are cooked. How do you like your eggs?

Ludwig did like your joke, though! She laughed and laughed until her feathers stood up straight in the air. This is a good thing, for Boo Hoo Castle has made her rather grumpy; she has had to wear her furry socks because the floors are so cold!

So my dear Lady J, thank for the good joke. I hope you have a delightful day, full of cool rainshowers and warm tomato soup.

I remain yours most dotingly,

Chidester the Gumberry

Monday, April 23, 2007

Query: What Is Inside of Boo Hoo Castle?

Dear Sir Chidester,

I think maybe someone sad lives in Boo Hoo Castle! Maybe you and your bird can make them happy or see what is wrong.


Lady J


My Lovely Lady J:

I think perhaps you are right. The gloomy outside of Boo Hoo Castle may give us a hint of what or who might be inside!

If there IS someone sad inside the castle and my job is to cheer that person, I feel confident I will succeed. I am not boasting when I say that I, Chidester the Gumberry, am the funniest nobleman alive. (Only one funnier man existed, back in 1542: Count Coocoo, who kept his entire court in stitches; everyone was bent over laughing so hard that nothing got done and his castle fell into ruins!)

Just to prove that I am indeed the funniest man since Count Coocoo, here is my best joke:

What did the man say to the elephant?

Ooo, here is the answer, my dear: Pack your trunk, we're leaving!

Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha!

Not bad, if I do say so myself!

Ludwig the Noble Bird never laughs at my jokes. She thinks she is a rather funny bird (she enjoys dressing up and dancing):

Boo Hoo Castle, here I come! Chidester the Gumberry, hilarious man, is coming to save you! Fear not!

(Lady J, do you know any funny jokes?)

I remain your most admiring,

Chidester the Gumberry

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Letter Four

My dear nervous Thomisina,

When I last wrote to you, Ludwig the Noble Bird and I had lost all our pennies to a naughty man, sold Gumberry Castle to Lady Limabeard and her Awful Parrot, and had set out to find our fortune.

So far we have not made much progress. I mean to say, my dear Thomisina, that we have not one penny except one Ludwig found on accident in the middle of a red apple yesterday at tea time.

Nobody seems to want to hire a dashing, handsome man like Chidester the Gumberry.

Then one night, after a terrible sleep (I dreamt of Limabeard wrecking Gumberry Castle and filling my noble boots with stinky lima beans!) I awakened to find Ludwig chirping loudly in my ear.

"Go away!" I shouted (I was still dreaming of Limabeard the Awful Parrot), whereupon Ludwig the Noble gave my earlobe a little bite.

"Ouch!" I yelled, jumping to my feet. Ludwig flapped her red wings quickly about my nose until I followed her down the path and around the corner.

Before us rose a very sad castle. Though the sun had been shining brightly when I awakened, suddenly the sky was very gloomy, as if a thunderstorm might break upon us at any moment. Standing there looking at that castle, I felt like bursting into tears.

But Ludwig did not seem to be sad, and she flew over to a sign and perched on it. "Boo Hoo Castle. Help wanted," the sign said.

"Oh, no, Ludwig," I said, "This isn't the place for us. I'll bet the people who live in this castle serve nasty, warm tea and hard biscuits. No, we'll look somewhere else."

But then I gazed more closely at the sign. Underneath the "Help Wanted," the sign said, "MUST BE NOBLE!"


Who is more noble than I, Chidester the Gumberry?

Ludwig and I hurried up the path to Boo Hoo Castle. What good could we possibly do in such a gloomy place?

I hate to leave you in suspense, Thomisina, wondering what might happen to us next, but I must.

I remain your rather sad but QUITE NOBLE,

Chidester the Gumberry

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Sir Chidester: Letter Three

Dear Thomisina Basilina,

At last I am able to sit down and write you a few words! Oh, Thomisina, do you remember when I was a wee lad and refused to eat my brussel sprouts?

Now I would give half of Gumberry Castle (were it still mine) to eat just one brussel sprout.

What do you think? I have spent half the day trying to coax down Ludwig the Noble from the branch of a tree.

How did this happen, you may ask.

Well, Thomisina, dear pink-cheeked nursemaid of mine, I will tell you.

Yesterday we ate our very last green gumdrop. "Alas, Ludwig my dear companion," I said, licking the sugar from my fingers. "There are no more gumdrops!"

Ludwig hung her red head and seemed sad. All day today, as we walked on our path in search of our fortune, I thought hard about what my good bird friend might eat for tea.

Suddenly, as I walked into the shade of a tall ginko tree, I cried: "Bingo!" Ludwig popped down from her place atop my hat and flapped her wings.

"By George," I said. "By Basil! I know what we'll have for tea!"

For Thomisina, I had just remembered what you taught me when I was as short as your stockings.

Birds eat worms!

And there were plenty of those about. As Ludwig prepared our tea, I pushed the toe of my noble boot underneath a rock, and then with one deft FLICK! I flipped the rock over. Underneath were a wealth of worms.

I thought Ludwig would be delighted!

But when I presented the worm on the royal Gumberry platter, she squawked at me--yes, squawked!--and flew up into a tree.

"Oh, DO come down, Ludwig!" I yelled up at her, but it was no use.

Finally I decided I would show her how delicious worms really are!

My dear Thomisina, worms are NOT delicious. Even though I pretended I was a bird, the worm was NOT delicious.

And to make matters worse, Ludwig the Noble sat up in the tree and laughed at me.

"Our tea is getting cold!" I shouted up at Ludwig, in a very un-noble way. I did not feel happy.

I did think tea time was ruined, and an adventure is no fun at all without a good cup of hot tea.

But just as I was bowing my handsome head, Ludwig remembered she was a noble bird.

She flew away for a minute--I thought perhaps she would not come back!--but then she came back.

Ah, Thomisina, the tea was still warm. And though carrots are not quite as sweet as gumdrops, Ludwig and I enjoyed the crunch! for a change.

And as you know, the most humble of food is delicious when it is eaten with a friend.

I remain your well-fed and well-dressed,

Sir Chidester the Gumberry

Query: Lady Limabeard

Dear Sir Chidester,

Does Lady Limabeard have a beard? Is she nice? Will she keep Gumberry Castle clean and pretty? I hope you find some pennies soon.


My superb Lady J,

As usual, a pertinent question! ("Pertinent" means just the right one! Spot on!)

I cannot complain about the lovely Lady Limabeard herself. To all my jokes (and I, Chidester the Gumberry, always tell funny jokes), she laughs like this: Ah, ha, ha, ha, ha! In a very pleasant way, as you can see.

In fact, since I had to leave Gumberry Castle, Lady Limabeard would have been the perfect person to take care of its aged and beautiful towers.

But there is one terrible thing about the dear Lady. This one terrible thing makes me very worried about Gumberry Castle.

My dear Lady J, I am a neat person. Like you, I like my floor clean, my toys put away, and I line up my 595 shoes in a perfect row.

Lady Limabeard herself is tidy, too. She always washes her hands before meals and she always wipes her chin after she eats mashed potatoes.

And no, she does not have a beard, and in fact she hates lima beans (can you imagine? I adore lima beans, almost as much as I love macaroons).

Lady Limabeard owns a terrible, messy, grumpy, absolutely AWFUL parrot. This parrot is very old, and it is he who has a beard! Limabeard the Nasty Parrot once belonged to Lady Limabeard's Great, great, great, great, great, great, Greatgrandmother about 500 years ago.

Perhaps Limabeard the Parrot was not always messy, but with every birthday he becomes grumpier and grumpier. Every candle added to his green birthday cake just adds to his bad temper and sloppiness.

Limabeard the Parrot loves lima beans, and these he eats for breakfast, lunch, tea, and supper. Lady Limabeard must feed him lima beans exactly on time, or he becomes quite crotchety and beats his wings hard, knocking vases, books, and dishes to the floor.

What a mess! Limabeard the Parrot made such a mess in Lady Limabeard's castle that she moved out and bought mine instead. O, dear, dear, me. I become nervous just thinking about that grouchy bird in my home! I fear that Limabeard the Parrot may wreck my dear, sparkling Gumberry Castle.

You see why I must hurry to find more pennies! Ludwig and I must return to Gumberry Castle as soon as we can--before the Castle is in such a tiff it will never be clean again!

Thank you for your well wishes, dear Lady J. I do hope your day is splendid, filled with sunshine, lots of tulips, and a nice hot bath.

Now I must find something to feed poor Ludwig the Noble for morning tea. The poor fellow does miss his green gumdrops!

I am as always your true admirer,

Sir Chidester the Gumberry

PS. What do you think? Does Ludwig the Noble like Limabeard the Parrot?

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Sir Chidester: Letter Two

My dear Thomisina (who always smelled of peppermint sticks):

Yesterday I left you in suspense, gazing at the bad watch Mr. Charlatown made with my money. Of course you will have noticed that this watch has no hands! Who wants a watch that doesn't tell time? Truly, Thomisina, what good is it?

I was so terribly upset, thinking of the sneaky way Mr. Charlatown took all my money, that I had to stop writing immediately and stomp my noble boots into the grass. Even a noble Duke, Lord, Count, etc., has his moments of frustration, Thomisina, though I try to be as patient and gentle as possible.

I was so sad, thinking of Gumberry Castle, that I had to console myself with a scalding cup of tea. Since I lost my pennies, I have started making dandelion tea, which after all is not so bad. The trick is to pick the dandelions before they get white and fluffy. Chop them small, add boiling water--and presto! Ludwig the Noble Bird refuses to drink anything but Earl Grey, but she will come around. I hope. She is still rather upset about how I lost all our money to that naughty Mr. Charlatown.

But where were we?

Ah, yes. I had lost every last cent. Lady Limabeard bought Gumberry Castle, and I packed my royal suitcase.

The Royal Gumberry Cat refused to come with me. She meowed loudly when I invited her to come on my adventures. She is a lazy cat.

I wanted to take along some Gumberry biscuits for a picnic, but Mr. Charlatown had eaten every last one!

So here is what I took with me:

My royal Sir Chidester teacup, of course.

A picture of dear Gumberry Castle, to remind me that I must find my fortune so I can one day return.

I took along my spiffy suitcase, packed with an extra set of clothes in case it rains while we are adventuring. And of course accompanying me was my faithful friend, Ludwig the Noble.

I shed many tears as I stepped down the stairs of Gumberry Castle.

So long! Adieu! I called. Hasta la vista! Kwaheri! Toodle-pip!

At first I didn't know where to go, but Ludwig chirped in a southeasterly direction, so we followed the path in that direction.

What will we find? Who will we meet? How will we earn enough pennies so we can buy back Gumberry Castle?

And what in the world will we eat for our teatime now that all the gumdrops are gone?

But for the present I remain your handsome and adventurous,

Sir Chidester the Gumberry

P.S. Dear Thomisina Basilina, I am enclosing a small token of my love for you: a picture of myself and Ludwig when we first embarked on our adventures. I hope, when you see it, you will utter good wishes for your handsome Chidester. Adieu for now!

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Query: No Job, No Gumdrops

Dear Chidester,

What do you do all day? How do you feed Ludwig gumdrops if you don't have any pennies? Maybe you could get a job in a candy store and get gumdrops for your bird and save up your pennies to buy your castle back.

Lady J

My dear, what a good question. Lady J, when Ludwig the Noble Bird and I lost every last penny--NOT EVEN ONE LEFT IN THE ROYAL PIGGYBANK!--I wondered what I would do!

Ludwig the Noble was worried, too, for she began chirping loudly in my ear every time we sat down to tea. The Royal Green Gumdrops were almost gone. Poor Ludwig! And it was all my fault. I had insisted on being noble and where had that left me? Without a penny.

My poor castle was now for sale. There was only one green gumdrop left for Ludwig.

So one morning, I took my blue polkadotted umbrella and Ludwig the Noble and I went searching for a job.

I thought just what you did, dear Lady J: why not work in a candy shop? What better place to work? Wouldn't you love to live in a candy shop? And wouldn't you love to eat lollipops for breakfast, and gobstoppers for lunch, and swedish fish for dinner! Like the rest of the noble Gumberry family, I LOVE macaroons. . .

During our walk, I thought about working at the candy shop and eating macaroons all day. And Ludwig had started to become very excited about munching gumdrops again!

But when we reached the store, this is what we saw:

Oh, dear! What would we do?

It was then I decided I must embark on a journey, a journey full of adventure. I, Chidester the Gumberry, would travel the world in search of my fortune! And then I would someday return to buy back Gumberry Castle!

But I'll tell you more about the beginning of my trip tomorrow.

Thank you, Lady J, for your lovely letter. What a perfect lady you must be--do you always finish your broccoli at dinner? I hope so!


Chidester the Gumberry

PS. Ludwig the Noble chirps hello!

Sir Chidester: The First Letter

Stop worrying, my dear fragile nursemaid! Your sweet, handsome Chidester is alive!

Yes, I Chidester the Gumberry am alive, good Thomisina. Alive, but sad. Breathing, but bereft, for I have lost the strong towers of Gumberry Castle.
How can a person lose a castle? Well, I have not lost it through a hole in my pocket, nor have I dropped it in a corner, like an apple core. Chidester the Gumberry never has holes in his pockets! Chidester the Gumberry always eats his apple cores!

I feel very, very sad, Thomisina, when I think of Lady Limabeard living in the large, damp rooms of Gumberry Castle.

Here is how I lost my home.

I have a good friend, Mr. Charlatown. Mr. Charlatown and I play games every evening together, or at least we used to. Often we played Twister or Gumberry Land together, and no matter how hard I tried, Mr. Charlatown always won!


If only I had listened to you, my dear, plump nursemaid!

One night, after he had won the fifth game of Gumberry Land in a row, Mr. Charlatown sat back in his chair and said,

Chidester, old boy!

SIR Chidester to you! I said. I was feeling rather grumpy about losing for the 1,002nd time.

SIR Chidester, old boy! Mr. Charlatown started again. (Mr. Charlatown has a very LOUD voice!) I have a great business venture for you!
(At this point, Ludwig the noble bird began beating her wings around Mr. Charlatown's odd hat. I thought she wanted to eat his bananas, so I said, "Ludwig! Behave!" She settled on my top hat, but not before she glared at Mr. Charlatown.)

I noticed Mr. Charlatown was eating all of the Royal Gumberry biscuits out of the jar. But you, dear Thomisina Basilina, always told me that I should never complain, and so I watched quietly as Mr. Charlatown stuffed his great red face with my delicious Gumberry biscuits.
What is a great business venture? Well, dear Thomisina, what Mr. Charlatown meant was that he should make something useless and use my all my money to make it. Of course I didn't know he meant to STEAL all my money. I have always been a trusting sort of chap, since I am noble.
Ludwig the noble bird tried to warn me, Thomisina! Ludwig the Noble flew onto my shoulder and peeped loudly. He was trying to warn me. But I thought Ludwig was just after Mr. Charlatown's bananas, and so I shooed her away!

I should have listened to Ludwig! But I only know that now.

So Mr. Charlatown took all my money--every last penny! And he ate every last Gumberry biscuit!

Then the next week Mr. Charlatown came back with something in his pocket.
LOOK AT THIS, he said, and he was so excited to show me what was in his pocket that one of his bananas fell to the floor and split open. Ludwig did not eat the banana like I thought she would. And then I realized--Ludwig wasn't interested in

Ludwig was interested in being my friend! And I hadn't listened to her when she tried to warn me. Suddenly,

I knew I was in trouble.

And when Mr. Charlatown showed me what was in his pocket--what he had used all my money for--I KNEW I was in trouble.

Oh, dear, Thomisina. Here is what Mr. Charlatown spent every last Gumberry penny on.

"We'll sell millions of them, Chidester old chap!" he said.

"SIR Chidester the GUMBERRY to you," I said. In Mr. Charlatown's hand was a watch. And it was a handsome watch. But I knew right away we would never sell millions, and I knew right away I was in trouble.

Can you tell why, Thomisina?
Look closely with your old eyes, and then you will know why I felt so awful.
I knew I would not be able to keep Gumberry Castle. I was all out of pennies, and my noble piggy bank was empty.
What would I do?
I will tell you in my next letter.
But for now I remain truly your sweet and handsome
Chidester the Gumberry

Monday, April 16, 2007

Query: What sort of bird is noble Ludwig?

My dear Lady J, (for I feel I may call you so:)

You asked, what sort of bird is good, noble Ludwig?

He is not, as you were brilliant to guess, a cardinal, though he is indeed as red as cranberries.

Ludwig is not cardinalis cardinalis.

Ludwig is gumberius gumberius. In other words, he started as a bright blue egg. I found this egg nestled in my tea cup at Gumberry Castle one morning. I was about to crack it with my spoon, thinking it was an ordinary poached egg, when I heard a CRACK !

And out peeked a small pink bird with big, coal-black eyes. Yes, all gumberius gumberius begin a rather watery pink. Only as they age and have their tea every day do they begin to turn bright red.

I looked into my tea cup and said, "Good Gumdrops!"

And Ludwig the pink bird said, "To-eat, to-eat!"

It was then I realized that this little pink chick was peckish, and so I fed him the nearest thing I could find--a sip of Earl Grey tea and a sugary green gumdrop.

Because indeed, Lady J.--correctly guessed--he eats piles of green gumdrops for tea every day on a china plate.

Of course this is all before we had to leave the grand estate of Gumberry Castle.

But I will tell you that sad tale tomorrow.

Thank you, dear lady, for writing!


Sir Chidester the Gumberry

Sunday, April 15, 2007

The First Note from Thomisina Basilina

My dear friends:

I know you have been worried about Sir Chidester, noble duke, etc. of Gumberry Castle. Only last week, as I was eating my spaghetti, I dropped my fork in surprise as I read:

MISSING! NOBLE CHIDESTER THE GUMBERRY disappears from Gumberry Castle! Castle has been put up for sale, and has been bought by Lady Limabeard. Where has Chidester the Gumberry gone? NOBODY KNOWS.

I have been unable to sleep, even though I drink lots of warm milk before bedtime. Where has Sir Chidester gone? I often wonder as I lie in bed, counting mice as they skitter across my floor. One, two, three--oh, where can Chidester be?

I was his nursemaid. Perhaps you have heard of me. My name is Thomisina Basilina. I taught the noble boy how to add two and two.

2 + 2 =

I taught dear Chidester how to fold his socks and put them neatly away in his drawer. It was I, Thomasina Basilina, who patted Sir Chidester on his neatly combed head when he ate all his peas. And where is he now? Three, four five--is Chidester alive?

And then, one bright spring morning when the mice were hanging their wash out to dry in the sunshine, I reached into my post box and pulled out a letter. I held it with shaking hands.

I would know Chidester's handwriting anywhere! (Wasn't I, Thomisina Basilina, good nursemaid, the one who taught him to curl his Bs just so?)

Just to be sure, I flipped the envelope over and read the return address:

It's Chidester! I cried. The mice dropped their nice clean tablecloth into a mud puddle in surprise.

Six, seven, eight! I swung open the gate and hurried into the house to make myself a nice cup of basil tea. Then I sat down to open Chidester the Gumberry's letter.

Would you like to know what it said?