The Beast of the Tangled Western Woods

When, after a winter most long and dreary, spring returned to the Tangled Western Woods, a delegation of the dignified and magisterial forest creatures came to the house of Hoopla and Skiff, led by a great rabbit of the Woods (that moved in the manner of his kind like the ghost of man). A strange beast had come to the woods and made a great riot within its halls, and therefore did the creatures of the woods make petition to Hoopla, to adjudicate and mete out justice and punishment as needed. Hoopla listened solemnly to all that was said and swore to return rude peace to the woods.

Bread and goat’s cheese and four wrinkled apples Hoopla placed in a bag, and with Skiff set out into the Tangled Western Woods, in search of the beast that upset so the forest creatures. For two days they walked companionably on pathless ways, for well each knew that knotsome forest, and friends beyond much words they were, but of the creature no sign they found. At night Skiff curled up before their small fire, and Hoopla used the large black dog as pillow, as in the old days of the last war ever.

On the third day a crashing came through the branches, and a mass of creatures large and small came running through the woods, driven as before a fire. No response could Hoopla get, nor Skiff, beyond simply, “Run!”

The beast came swift and long-legged behind the stampede, and at the sight of that dreadfully physiognomy, the hearts of Hoopla and Skiff beat slow and uncertain. Three faces it had upon one massive, neckless head, one red, one blue, one bone-white. The red one smiled benignly, the blue one one glowered dreadfully, and one the color of driftwood high upon some arctic beach was still and placid, dreadful as death. All unclothed it was, and hairless, and bottle-green, and carried two clubs, two swords, and two sickles in its six hands. The blue face howled anger and hatred, and the beast shook its martial panoply and advanced on Hoopla and Skiff.