Chapter I. The Lamb's Wish

Out of his box the Jack popped his head. The funny, black fringe of whiskers around his face jiggled up and down. His queer, big eyes looked around the store.

"Hurray!" cried the Jack in the Box. "We are alone at last and now we can have some fun! Hurray!"

"Are you sure?" asked a Bold Tin Soldier, who stood at the head of a company of his men in a large box.

"Am I sure of what?" inquired the Jack, as he swung to and fro on the spring which made him pop out of the box.

"Are you sure we are alone?" went on the Soldier. "It would be too bad if we should come to life when any one could see us."

"There is no one in the department but us toys," said a Calico Clown, and he banged together some shiny cymbals on the ends of his arms. "The Jack is right--we are all by ourselves."

"I am glad of it," said a woolly Lamb on Wheels, who stood on the floor, just under the edge of the toy counter. She was rather too large to be up among the smaller toys. "Yes, I am glad of it," went on the Lamb. "I have kept still all day, and now I have something to tell you all, my friends."

"Something nice?" asked a Candy Rabbit, who stood next to a Monkey on a Stick.

"I think it is nice," said the Lamb. "But, as you know, I could not move about or speak so long as any of the clerks or customers were here."

"That's so," agreed the Bold Tin Soldier.

For it was one of the rules of Toyland, as you know, that none of the folk who lived there could do anything while human eyes were watching them. The Dolls, Soldiers, Clowns, Rocking Horses, Lambs were not able to move, talk, or make believe come to life if a boy or a girl or any one at all looked at them.

"But now we are alone we can have some fun," said the Jack in the Box. "Let's have a jumping race, to see who can go the farthest. Come on! I'm ready!"

"Yes, you are always ready to jump out of your box as soon as the cover is taken off," remarked the Lamb on Wheels. "But the rest of us are not such high kickers as you are. I cannot jump at all. I can only run around on my wheels, just as the White Rocking Horse, who used to live here, could only go on his rockers."

"Well, what shall we do then?" asked the Jack. "I'm ready to do anything."

"Suppose we have the Calico Clown play us a little tune on his cymbals," suggested the Bold Tin Soldier. "My men and I like to hear his music. After that we will march around and then--"

"Then we must listen to what the Lamb has to say," cried the Monkey on a Stick. "She said she had something to tell us."

"Oh, excuse me," came from the Bold Tin Soldier Captain, with a wave of his shiny sward. "Perhaps you want to tell us your story now, Miss Lamb?"

"No," she answered. "Later will do. It is not exactly a story--it is more of a wish. But first I should like to listen to the Calico Clown."

"All right! Here we go!" cried the jolly Clown. He was a gaily dressed fellow, and his calico suit was of many colors. One leg was red and another yellow, and his shirt was spotted and speckled and striped.

The Calico Clown stood up near the box where the Bold Tin Soldier was ready to lead his men in a march. And the Clown banged together his shiny cymbals.

"Bang! Bung! Bang! Bung!" clanged the cymbals, making music that the Toy Folk liked to hear, though I cannot say you would have cared much for it.

"Now it is your turn to march, Captain!" called the Candy Rabbit. "Show us what you and your men can do. That will amuse us." "All right!" agreed the Bold Tin Soldier. "Attention, men!" he cried, "Ready! Shoulder arms! Forward--March!"

Out of their box, following their Captain, came the tin soldiers. Around and around the toy counter they marched, the Calico Clown making music for them on his cymbals.

"Isn't this jolly!" cried the Monkey on a Stick.

Once more around the toy counter marched the Bold Tin Soldier and his men. They were careful not to get too near the edge, for they did not want to fall off.

"There, how did you like it?" asked the Captain, as his men stopped to rest.

"It was fine!" answered the Candy Rabbit. "Now we will listen to the Lamb on Wheels."

"Oh, I'm sure I haven't so very much to say," said the white, fuzzy toy. "But I was thinking, to-day, of the Sawdust Doll, and--"

"Do you mean the Sawdust Doll who used to live here with us ?" asked the Calico Clown. "Excuse me for interrupting you," he said politely, "but I just couldn't help it. I was thinking of the Sawdust Doll myself. And I was wondering if you meant the same one that used to be here."

"Yes," answered the Lamb, "I did. It was of her I was thinking. She was on our toy counter about the same time the White Rocking Horse lived with us."

"And she went away just before he did," said the Monkey on a Stick. "The Sawdust Doll comes back, once in a while, to see us. But the Rocking Horse does not."

"It is harder for him than for her," said the Lamb. "The little girl, whose mother bought the Sawdust Doll, often brings her back to see us. And the Sawdust Doll once told me she had a lovely home with a little girl named Dorothy."

"And I think I heard her say that the White Rocking Horse lived in the same house with her, and belonged to a boy named Dick," said the Bold Tin Soldier.

"Yes, that is true," said the Lamb. "Well, what I was going to tell you about was a little girl who came in to look at me to-day. She was one of the nicest little girls I ever saw--fully as nice as the Dorothy who has the Sawdust Doll."

"And did this little girl buy you--or did her mother ?" asked the Calico Clown. "I should hate to see you leave us," he went on. "Of course we want you to get a nice home, but it will be lonesome if you, too, go away." "That's so," said the Bold Tin Soldier. "We have lost our Sawdust Doll and our White Rocking Horse, and now, if the Lamb on Wheels goes away from us--dear me!"

"I have no idea of going away!" answered the Lamb. "All I was going to say was that a beautiful little girl came to the toy department to-day with her mother, and she admired me very much--the little girl did. She patted my back so softly, and she rubbed my head and she asked her mother to buy me."

"And did she ?" asked the Calico Clown.

"No, I think not," replied the Lamb. "At least, if she did, I was not taken away. But I wish, oh, how I wish I could get into a nice home, such as the Sawdust Doll has."

"I trust you will get your wish," said the Calico Clown. "And I think we all have the same wish--that we will have kind boys and girls to own us when we go from here. But now let us be jolly. I'll tell you a funny riddle."

"Oh, yes, please do!" begged the Lamb. "I love riddles!"

"Let me see, now," mused the Calico Clown, softly banging together his cymbals. "I think I'll ask you the riddle about the pig. What makes more noise than a pig under a gate?"

"What kind of gate?" asked the Monkey on a Stick.

"It doesn't make any difference what kind of gate," said the Clown.

"I should think it would," the Monkey stated. "And while you are about it, why don't you tell us what kind of pig it is?"

"That doesn't make any difference either," said the Clown. "The riddle is what makes more noise than a pig under a gate."

"Excuse me, but I should think it would make a great deal of difference," went on the Monkey. "A big pig under a small gate would make more noise than a little pig under a big gate. If we only knew the size of the gate and what kind of pig it was, we might guess the riddle."

"Hark! I hear a noise! Some one is coming!" cried the Bold Tin Soldier, and all the toys became as quiet as mice.