Now and then in the land of Lingaloon, where everyone speaks when spoken to, the talk would turn to long-ago times and soon-enough days.
As it did late one evening around the fire they all shared.
“All our yesterdays are but simple stones with which we built a path to tomorrow,” said the Rather-Blathers.
“Yes, but a grassy path ensures a more comfortable journey,” said the Quibbletons.
“We know exactly where we’re going – straight to bed,” said the Bonny Mots.
And with that, the Bonny Mots wandered off and went to sleep, followed by the Quibbletons, and then finally the Rather-Blathers.
Now that they’re asleep, this might be a good time to tell you – quietly – about the peoples of Lingaloon, or the Galoons, as they were all called together.
They had lived where they lived for the longest time, longer than anyone could really say.
The Rather-Blathers lived just a little ways from the river, in and around the shade of the towering trees.
The Quibbletons lived near. And the Bonny Mots lived nearer still.
And though there were many, many Rather-Blathers – 722, the last time they counted – they all spoke as one. The same with the Quibbletons (436 of them) and the Bonny Mots (299, with another one on the way).
They all slept as one as well. And worked, and played, as one. And even got their hair cut as one, in a giant cutting circle.
The next day dawned fresh and fully. Though there was not a cloud in the sky, the Rather-Blathers were troubled.
“There is thunder on the move. Me-thinks it carries more than a pattering rain,” they said.
“Perhaps, and yet ‘me-thinks’ is hardly the correct word when there are 722 of you,” said the Quibbletons.
“We-thinks our bellies are rumbling – let’s eat,” said the Bonny Mots.
And eat they did, all of them, at long, long tables laid end to end, munching and crunching so loudly on apples and toast that they could not hear the heavy boots tromping through the woods toward them.
“CHARGE!” an enormous voice bellowed, and the Galoons looked up from their breakfast to find themselves surrounded by a vast army of short, stern soldiers.
One of the soldiers, shorter and sterner than the rest, stepped forward and walked slowly behind a row of quivering Quibbletons.
“I AM BARON VON BELLICOSE, THE HIGH COMMANDER OF THE STENTORIAN HORDE. WHO IS IN CHARGE HERE?”
The Rather-Blathers gasped.
The Quibbletons blinked.
The Bonny Mots let out a low whistle.
Baron Von Bellicose’s eyes narrowed.
“I WILL NOT ASK YOU SO KINDLY AGAIN. WHO RULES AMONG YOU? STEP FORWARD SO THAT HE MAY BOW BEFORE ME!”
"Forgive us, but we stand in amazement that you alone are given to words,” said the Rather-Blathers.
“Quite right, even though we find ourselves sitting at the moment,” said the Quibbletons.
“For a high commander, he certainly stands low to the ground,” said the Bonny Mots.
“SILENCE!” growled Baron Von Bellicose. “I ALONE SPEAK FOR MY ARMY AND TO MY FOES."
“FOR MANY A DAY NOW WE HAVE BEEN ON THE MARCH TOWARD GUTTERUNG, WHERE FATE AND TRIUMPH AWAIT US. BUT MY MEN REQUIRE A REST, SO CONSIDER YOURSELVES OUR HOSTS. AND NOW WE WILL ENJOY OUR WELCOMING MEAL.”
“HAR-OOMPH,” grunted the Stentorian Horde, who pushed aside the Galoons and sat down to gobble up all the apples and toast.
From that day forward, the Galoons did the Baron’s bidding. Everything the Stentorian Horde needed doing, the Galoons were made to do: the fetching of food and drink and especially the polishing of their shiny boots and barbed, brassy helmets.
They even had the Galoons build a towering fortress within sight of the river. The Galoons were forced to live in a dungeon below.
The Galoons were too fearful to speak – not even a whisper – because all the whispers taken together would be much too loud for the Baron, and punishment would be swift.
In their silence, the Galoons did their best to talk without words.
“Alas and alack, there must be some way by which others could be made to hear of our plight,” said the Rather-Blathers, their lips silently mouthing the words.
“That seems unlikely given that we have no voice,” said the Quibbletons, their fingers darting back and forth, drawing letters one by one in the air.
“Well, you can’t very well expect to have peace AND quiet,” said the Bonny Mots, their feet tapping out a code that only the other Galoons could understand.
It continued that way, for days on end, until early one morning found the Galoons lying in the dungeon, unable to sleep – again – because of the Stentorian Horde’s snarling way of snoring.
A “hup-hup-hup-hup” sort of sound, ever so faint, began to fill the dungeon. It grew louder – “HUP-hup-hup-hup HUP-hup-hup-hup” – but not so loud as to wake the Stentorian Horde.
The Galoons looked out through the bars of the dungeon.
There before them stood row upon row of tall, taut soldiers. In the front, one of them – taller and tauter than the rest – held a finger to his lips.
The Galoons nodded.
The taller, tauter soldier stepped closer. “Baron Von Bellicose!” he shouted. “Awake to your peril!”
The Baron scrambled to the top of the fortress and looked down. “WHO DARES DISTURB MY SLEEP?” he barked.
“It is I, Major Cadence, and the mighty Huptuits,” the soldier proclaimed. “Surrender or be silenced!”
“HAH!” huffed the Baron. “YOU WILL NEED MORE THAN BOMBAST FOR THAT. STENTORIAN HORDE, ASSEMBLE AND FIRE AT WILL!”
Quickly lining the rim of the fortress, the Horde fired off their blare guns. A swarm of volleys arched high, high overhead and then, as they fluttered to the ground, let loose torrents of noise – harsh, wailing sounds that streamed down onto the Huptuits.
The Huptuits were slowed but not stopped. They advanced on the fortress, their cackling guns at the ready.
“Steady, men,” Major Cadence called out. “Don’t fire until you see the lobes of their ears … steady ... steady … now!”
The heavy din of CACKLE-cack-cack CACKLE-cack-cack pelted the fortress and sent some of the Stentorian Horde to their knees, their hands covering their ears.
The Baron, by now much alarmed, cried out, “TOOTY SHOOTERS TO THE FRONT!”
A new line of gunners rushed to the rim and took aim. They aimed well. Screaming salvos cascaded down upon the Huptuits – A-WHOP-BOP-A-LOO-BOP-A-WHOP-BAM-BOOM!
The Huptuits stood there, all a-daze. “Fall back! Fall back!” yelled Major Cadence, and they managed to retreat into the near forest.
“HAH! WE WON’T BE HEARING FROM THEM AGAIN,” chortled the Baron.
And for a time, they didn’t.
But now, from the near forest, the Huptuits reappeared in their rows. All of them were wearing small shields on their ears. The rows parted in the middle, and in that space, giant cannons of a sort the Baron had never seen were pushed forward by a different group of soldiers, four to a cannon. None of these soldiers wore ear shields.
These were the Concusstidors, earless and fearless. They trained their weapons on the fortress.
Major Cadence held up his hand, then brought it down, signaling “Fire!” to the Concusstidors.
Oh, the sound of it all.
The sky grew thick with the deep pounding blasts of
One after another after another the cannon shots exploded over the fortress. In their confusion, the Stentorian Horde stumbled about and shouted what they could, but their shouts grew weaker and weaker until at last they raised their hands and said hoarsely, “We surrender.”
Baron Von Bellicose said not a word. He just glared.
Slowly and silently, the Galoons emerged from the dungeon. The echos of battle still hung heavy in the air.
Major Cadence approached the Galoons. “Is this your land?” They looked at one another hesitantly. “Speak up.”
“Are we now free to have our say?” asked the Rather-Blathers.
“Or should we talk louder?” asked the Quibbletons.
“Tell us what happened – we’re all ears,” said the Bonny Mots.
Major Cadence explained, “We’ve been after the Stentorian Horde for a long while now. We got word from the Chattering Classes that you’d been overrun. But you’re safe now. We’ll take the Horde and give them a good soundproofing.”
As the major spoke, Baron Von Bellicose was being led away.
“Any last words, Baron?” said Major Cadence.
“The time will come again when the ground trembles before our battle cry,” said the Baron in a small whisper.
“What’s that? Couldn’t hear a word you said. … Get him out of here,” Major Cadence muttered.
“Our eternal gratitude for sparing us a most intolerable fate,” said the Rather-Blathers.
“On this point we must concur,” said the Quibbletons. The Rather-Blathers, shocked by this, looked warmly at the Quibbletons.
“What’s next, a group hug?” said the Bonny Mots.
With the battle over, and the armies gone, an occasional quiet settled over the land.
The Galoons tore down the fortress and built in its place three towers of bunk beds, one for each people. Each bed was slightly wider than the one above it, in case anyone rolled over and fell out during the night.
Late one evening they all lay in bed, talking.
“And so another fine day is spent. May you all be well-slept,” said the Rather-Blathers.
“That we shall, unless we are unrested again by your talking in your sleep,” said the Quibbletons.
“Surely, you are mistaken. Our sleep is as peaceful as Lingaloon itself,” said the Rather-Blathers.
Replied the Quibbletons: “Say what you will, but while we lay last night, there arose a chorus of gibberish …”
“Hey, we thought we always had the last word!” said the Bonny Mots.
“Have you not heard? We are embarked on a new discourse,” said the Rather-Blathers.
“Yes, a new word order,” said the Quibbletons. “No longer will you need to conclude our discussions. We are free to converse as we choose.”
The Bonny Mots started to speak, then paused … murmured among themselves … smiled and said, “Let us be the first to say, we like the sound of that!”