Chapter IX. Back Home
 

The door of the house in which Arnold and Mirabell lived opened, and their daddy looked out toward the front yard. He had heard the grunt made by Jim when the little colored boy fell down and dropped the Calico Clown into a hole.

"Is anybody there?" asked Mirabell's father.

"I'se heah!" exclaimed Jim, as he slowly arose. "I was bringin' back de Calico Clown, an' I 'mos' fell into a big hole."

"There, Father! I told you that hole ought to be covered up!" exclaimed Mirabell's mother, who had also come to the door.

"Oh, no'm! I didn't fall in!" answered Jim, who heard what was said. "But I almos' did, an' I guess de Clown he fell in complete an' altogether."

"The Clown? What do you mean?" asked Daddy.

"De Clown what got in Mammy's basket of wash," explained the little colored boy.

By this time he had picked himself up, and in the light that streamed out from the open door of the house he saw the hole into which he had so nearly fallen. It was a hole dug by a man who had come to fix the sewer pipes that day, and when night came he had not finished. He left a deep, wide, gaping hole just beside the front walk.

Arnold, Mirabell and the others in the house knew of the hole, and kept away from it. In the daylight, when Mandy had taken away the wash, she had seen it and had not fallen in. But poor Jim, coming after dark, had stumbled in the thick grass and had nearly plumped himself in.

As for the Clown--well, there he was down in the dirt at the bottom of the hole!

"I wonder what is the matter with me!" thought the gay red and yellow fellow as he came to a stop in some soft dirt. "I seem to be very unlucky!"

"What does Jim mean about a Clown falling in the hole?" asked Arnold curiously.

"And a Clown being in the basket with the wash?" added Mirabell.

"I think I can tell you," their father answered, suddenly remembering what he had put in his pocket to bring home from the office. "But first I will put some boards over the hole the plumber left so no one else will fall in, or nearly fall in."

"You'll get the Clown up, won't you, Daddy?" asked Mirabell. "Maybe it's like the one Sidney had."

"Did Sidney have a Calico Clown with one leg red and the other leg yellow?" asked Daddy.

"Yes, and it did all sorts of funny tricks when you pulled the strings; and he clapped his cymbals when you punched him in the chest," said Arnold.

"Well, then this must be Sidney's Clown. But how it came in my pocket is more than I can guess," said Daddy. "Yes, I'll get the Clown up out of the hole, and then I'll put some boards over it."

A lantern was brought out and flashed down into the hole. There, on the bottom, lay the Calico Clown.

"I'll bring him up!" offered Jim, and quickly he climbed down, caught hold of the gay toy, and climbed out again.

"Thank you, Jim," said Daddy.

"Yes, that's Sidney's Clown," declared Arnold, when he had looked at the red and yellow chap. "But how did he get in the basket of clothes?"

"That's quite a long story," said Daddy. "Come into the house and I'll tell you. Did your mother send you back with the Clown, Jim?" he asked of the little colored boy.

"Yes'm--I mean yes, sah!" Jim answered. "He was in de basket all done wrapped up in hankowitches."

"Those were the handkerchiefs I took from my pocket and put in Mandy's basket when I met her at the gate," said Mirabell's daddy. "And so you found him, Jim!"

"Yes'm--I mean yes, sah! Me an' Liza Ann found him. He's a jolly good Clown; but Mammy, she wouldn't let us keep him 'cause as how she said he belonged to Mirabell or Arnold."

"No, he doesn't live here," said Arnold. "Oh, Sid will be so glad to get him back!"

"I suppose you and your sister felt bad about losing the Clown," said Daddy to Jim. "Didn't you?"

"I suahly did!" exclaimed the little colored boy. "So did Liza Ann."

Daddy and Mother talked softly together a moment, and then Mother hurried away to come back with something that made Jim's eyes sparkle and open wide.

For she had a little toy engine, which could be wound up with a key and sent whizzing along. And there was a fine Jumping Jack, which jiggled almost as nicely as did the Calico Clown.

"Here are two toys that Arnold and Mirabell are through with," said Mother, with a smile at Jim. "They are not broken, and they will each go. Perhaps you will like them almost as much as you did the Calico Clown."

"Oh, golly!" cried Jim. "We'll like 'em better! 'Cause dere's two of 'em--one fo' each of us! Oh, we's eber so much obligedness."

Clasping the two toys in his little brown hands, away Jim raced in the darkness to tell his sister the good news. The Jumping Jack was for her and the toy engine for him. And I may as well tell you now that the two children were made perfectly happy with their toys--just as happy as they would have been with the Calico Clown.

"Well, thank goodness, I think my adventures are over for the night," thought the Clown, as he was taken into Mirabell's house and the dirt brushed off his red and yellow trousers. "This has been such a day! Oh, such a day!"

And indeed it had been from the time he fell out of the tree into the Man's coat pocket until Jim stumbled with him and he fell into the hole.

"Sidney will be glad to get his Clown back," went on Arnold, when the toy had been set on the table where Daddy took his place to tell the evening story.

"I wish we could take it to him now," said Mirabell.

"Mayn't we?" asked her brother.

"It is getting late," said their mother. "You may take the toy over the first thing in the morning."

"But all the while Sidney will be wondering where his Clown is," objected the little girl.

"I know what we can do!" exclaimed Arnold. "We can telephone and tell him it's here."

"Yes, we can do that," said Daddy.

So, a little later, Sidney was told, over the telephone, that his lost Calico Clown had been found. The story was briefly told of how it had got into the wash-basket after having been found in Daddy's pocket and taken to the office.

"Oh, I'm so glad!" cried Sidney. "I'll be over the first thing in the morning to get him."

"But what I'm wondering about is how the Clown got in my pocket," said Daddy, with a puzzled look on his face. "If you children didn't put it there, who did?" and he looked at Mirabell and Arnold.

And I might say that this was always a mystery, as much so as the Clown's riddle about what made more noise than a pig under a gate.

Daddy told Mirabell and Arnold their usual good-night story. Then the children went to bed and Mother put the Calico Clown on the mantelpiece where he would be safe for the night.

"Whoever sees Sidney first in the morning," said Mother, as she, too, got ready to go to bed, "may be the one to give him his toy."

Then the lights were put out and the house was still and quiet. Ordinarily, when this time came, the Calico Clown, like the other toys, would have been at his liveliest. But now he was so tired, with all his adventures of the day, that he just gave a long sigh and said:

"I am not going to stir! I am just going to lie down here and sleep until morning! Enough has happened for one day."

So he stretched out, with a pen wiper for a cushion, and went to sleep.

Bright and early the next morning Sidney ran over to the house of his cousins.

"Is my Calico Clown here?" he cried.

"Yes," answered Arnold, who was also up. "I'll get him for you."

"Oh, thank you!" said Sidney, when he had his toy once more. And a little later the Calico Clown was back home. But his adventures were not over.