The Story of Calico Clown by Laura Lee Hope
Chapter I. The Giant's Swing
"To-night we shall have a most wonderful time," said the Elephant from the Noah's Ark to a Double Humped Camel who lived in the stall next to him.
"What kind of a time?" asked the Camel. He stood on the toy counter of a big department store, looking across the top of a drum toward a Jack in the Box who was swaying to and fro on his long spring. "What do you call a wonderful time, Mr. Elephant?"
"Oh, having fun," replied the big toy animal, slowly swinging his trunk to and fro. "And to-night the Calico Clown is going to give a special exhibition."
"Oh, is he?" suddenly asked a funny little Wooden Donkey with a head that wagged up and down. "Is he going to climb a string again and burn his red and yellow trousers as he once did?"
"Indeed I am not!" exclaimed the Calico Clown himself. The Clown was leaning against his friend Mr. Jumping Jack, who was a cousin of Jack in the Box. "I'm not going to give any special exhibition like that," went on the Clown. "I'm just going to do a few funny tricks, such as standing on my head and banging my cymbals together. And, I am not sure, but I may ask a riddle."
"Will it be that one about what makes more noise than a pig under a gate?" inquired a Celluloid Doll. "Well, yes, it will be that riddle," replied the Clown, trying to look very stern.
"That's the only riddle he knows," whispered the Elephant.
"What I should like to know," said the Camel, "is why a pig should want to get under a gate, anyhow. Why didn't he stay in his pen?"
"Oh, there's no use trying to make you understand," sighed the Clown. "I'll just have to dance around, do a few jigs, bang my cymbals together, and do things like that to amuse you."
"Well, we'll have a good time to-night, anyhow," said the Celluloid Doll. "We really haven't had much fun since the Candy Rabbit and the Monkey on a Stick went away. I wish--"
"Hush!" suddenly called the Calico Clown. "Here come the clerks. The store will soon be filled with customers."
The toys became very still and quiet. This talk among them had taken place in the early morning hours, after a night of jolly good times. But when daylight came, and when clerks and customers filled the store, the toys were no longer allowed to do as they pleased. They could not move about or talk as they could on other occasions.
The Calico Clown was a jolly chap, and he seemed to stand out among all the other toys on the counter. He wore calico trousers of which one leg was red and the other yellow. He had a calico shirt that was spotted, speckled and striped in gay colors, and on each of his hands was a round piece of brass. These pieces of brass were called "cymbals," and the Calico Clown could bang them together as the drummer bangs his cymbals in the band.
I say the Calico Clown could bang his cymbals together, and by that I mean he could do it when no boys or girls or grown folk were looking at him. This was the rule for all the toys. They could move about and talk only when no human eyes were looking. As soon as you glanced at them they became as still and as quiet as potatoes.
But any one who picked up the Calico Clown could make him bang his cymbals together by pressing on his chest. There was a little spring, and also a sort of squeaker, such as you have heard in toy bears or sheep.
Besides being able to clap his cymbals together, the Calico Clown could also move his arms and legs when you pulled certain strings, like those on some Jumping Jacks. The Calico Clown was a lively fellow, as well as being very gaily dressed.
But now all the toys were still and quiet. They sat or stood or were lying down on the counter, waiting for what would happen next. And what generally did happen was that some customers came to the store and bought them.
Already a number of the toys had been sold and taken away. There was the Sawdust Doll. She was the first to go. Then the White Rocking Horse had been bought for a boy named Dick, a brother of Dorothy, who now owned the Sawdust Doll. The Lamb on Wheels had been purchased by a jolly sailor, and when the Lamb saw him she feared she would be taken on an ocean trip and made seasick. But the sailor gave the Lamb to a little girl named Mirabell. And, in the course of time, her brother Arnold was given a Bold Tin Soldier and some soldier men.
The Candy Rabbit--about whom I have told you in a book, as I have told you of these other toys--the Candy Rabbit was given as an Easter present to a little girl named Madeline, and her brother Herbert had, later, been given the Monkey on a Stick.
The Calico Clown was looking over at the Celluloid Doll, thinking how pretty she was, and he was also thinking of the Sawdust Doll, whom he had liked very much, when, all of a sudden, it seemed as if a whirlwind had blown into the toy department.
A boy with a very loud voice and feet that tramped and stamped on the floor rushed up to the counter.
"I want a toy! I want something to play with!" cried this boy. "I want a Jumping Jack and I want a Noah's Ark! You said you'd get me something if I let the dentist pull that tooth, and now you've got to! I want a lot of toys!" he cried to the lady who was with him.
"Yes, Archibald. But please be quiet!" begged his mother. "I will get you a toy. Which one do you want?"
"I want this Elephant!" cried the boy who, I am afraid, was rather rude. He caught the Elephant up by his trunk, and twisted the poor animal around.
"Goodness me, sakes alive! I'm getting dizzy," thought the Elephant. "I hope this boy is not to be my master!"
And this, it would seem, was not going to happen. Suddenly the boy dropped the Elephant.
"I don't want this toy! He can't do anything!" the boy shouted. "I want something that jiggles and joggles and does things! Oh, I want this one!" and, as true as I'm telling you, that boy caught up the Calico Clown.
"Well, I guess this is the last of me!" thought the Calico Clown. "I will not last very long in the hands of this rude chap."
The boy had grabbed up the Calico Clown and had thrown the Elephant down so hard that the Celluloid Doll was knocked over.
"Be careful, little boy, if you please," gently said the girl clerk.
"Oh, I've got to have this Clown!" went on the rude boy. "I don't care for other toys. Does this fellow do anything?" he asked of the clerk, while his mother looked on, hardly knowing what to say. Archibald had just been to the dentist's to have a tooth pulled, so perhaps we should forgive him for being a little rough.
"The Clown plays his cymbals when you touch him here," and the clerk pointed to the spring hidden in the chest of the gay fellow, under his speckled, striped and spotted calico jacket.
"Oh, I'll touch him all right! I'll punch him!" cried the boy, and he jabbed the Calico Clown so hard in the chest that the cymbals rattled together like marbles in a boy's pocket.
"He's dandy! I want him!" cried the boy. "What else does he do?" he asked.
"He moves his arms and legs when you pull these strings," was the answer, and the clerk showed the boy how to do it.
"Oh, he's a jolly toy!" cried Archibald. "I'll have some fun with him when I show him to the other fellows. Hi! Look at him jig!" and he pulled the strings so fast that it seemed as if the poor Clown would turn somersaults.
"I can see what will happen to me," thought the Clown. "I shall come to pieces in about a week, and be thrown in the ash can. Why can't he be nice and quiet?"
But Archibald was not that kind of boy. He seemed to want to make a noise or do something all the while. Most of his toys at home were broken, and that is why his mother had to promise to get him another before he would let her take him to the dentist's to have an aching tooth pulled.
"I want this Clown!" cried Archibald, making the cymbals bang together again and again.
"Very well, you may have it," his mother replied.
"I'll wrap it up for you," said the clerk, and the poor Clown was quickly smothered in a wrapping of paper around which a string was tied.
"Here is your toy, Archibald," said his mother, when the plaything came back ready to be taken out of the store. The mother had taken it from the clerk, and now she handed it to her little boy.
And so he carried the Calico Clown away, without giving the poor, jolly fellow a chance to say good-bye to the Elephant, the Camel or the Celluloid Doll.
"Now our good time for to-night is spoiled," sadly thought the Elephant. "Our jolly comrade is gone!"
All the way home in the automobile Archibald kept punching the red and yellow Clown in the chest and banging the cymbals together until the boy's mother said:
"Oh, Archibald, please be quiet! My head aches!"
"All right, I'll make my Clown jiggle!" said the boy, who really loved his mother, though sometimes he was rude.
Then he pulled the strings until the poor Clown thought his arms and legs would come off, so fast were they jerked about.
When Archibald reached home with his new toy he ran out into the street to find some of his playmates. He saw a boy named Pete and another named Sam.
"Look what I've got!" cried Archibald.
"A Jumping Jack!" exclaimed Sam.
"It's a Calico Clown, and he can do everything," said Archibald. "He's like one in a circus, and he can do funny tricks. He can jiggle his arms and legs and play the cymbals. I'll show you!"
He worked the Clown so fast that the red and yellow chap grew dizzy again.
"That's fine!" said Sam. "I wish I had a Clown like that."
"Can he do the giant's swing?" asked Pete.
"What's the giant's swing?" Archibald wanted to know.
"It's something the men do in a circus," was the answer. "Here, I have some string in my pocket. We'll make a trapeze in your back yard and we'll have the Calico Clown do the giant's swing."
"Oh, that'll be fun!" cried Archibald.
"Yes, it may be fun for you," thought the Calico Clown, "but what about me? What is the giant's swing, anyhow? Oh, I wish I were back on the toy counter!"