Chapter IV. Sliding Downhill
 

Arnold, who was a boy about as old as Dick, the brother of Dorothy, stopped short after slamming open the playroom door. He looked at his sister, then at the Lamb lying upside down in a corner, and then he looked at the jolly sailor.

"What did I do?" asked Arnold, who was taken by surprise by the way his sister called to him.

"You broke my new toy, the Lamb on Wheels," answered the little girl. "Oh, I hope she isn't killed!" and running to the corner, she picked up her new toy.

"Oh, I didn't mean to do that," said Arnold, who was sorry enough for the accident. "I didn't know you were in here," he went on. "I came to get my toy fire engine. I'm going to play with Dick and his express wagon. Where'd you get your Lamb on Wheels, Mirabell?"

"Uncle Tim brought her to me," answered the little girl.

Mirabell carefully looked at her plaything. And she was very glad to find out that no damage seemed to have been done. None of the four wheels was broken, the little wooden platform on which the Lamb stood was not splintered, and there was not so much as a bruise on the little black nose of the Lamb herself.

"I guess she is so soft and woolly that she didn't get hurt much," Mirabell said, turning the Lamb over and over. "She's so fat and soft-- like a rubber ball," she added.

"I'm glad of that," said Arnold. "Next time I come into a room I'll look near the door to see that there isn't a Lamb behind it"

"That's the boy!" exclaimed Uncle Tim. "And here is something I brought for you, Arnold. I didn't buy it in a toy store. It's a little wooden puzzle I whittled with my knife out of a bit of wood when I was on the ship."

Arnold looked at what Uncle Tim gave him. It was a puzzle, made of some wooden rings on a stick, and the trick was to get the rings off the stick. Arnold tried and tried but could not do it until his uncle showed him how the trick was done. Then it was easy.

"Oh, thank you!" cried the boy, when he had learned how to do the trick himself. "I'm going over and show Dick this puzzle. I don't believe he can do it. Want to come, Mirabell, and show Dorothy your Lamb on Wheels?"

"No, thank you, not now," Arnold's sister answered. "I'm going to get a comb and brush and make my Lamb's wool all nice and fluffy. She got all mussed when you banged her into the corner."

"I'm sorry," said Arnold again. "Do you want me to brush her off for you?"

"I guess not!" laughed Mirabell. "Once you tried to get the tangles and snarls out of the hair of one of my dolls, and you 'most pulled her head off."

"All right. Then I'll take this puzzle and show it to Dick and Dorothy," decided Arnold.

"Who are Dick and Dorothy?" asked Uncle Tim.

"The little boy and girl who live next door," Mirabell explained. "Dorothy has a Sawdust Doll, and Dick has a White Rocking Horse. They came from the same store where you got my Lamb on Wheels!"

"Is that so?" cried the jolly sailor. "Well, you'll have to take your Lamb over next door and let her meet her toy friends again."

"I'm going to," Dorothy said. "Oh, Uncle Tim, don't you believe Dolls, and Lambs, and things like that, really know one another when they meet?"

"I shouldn't be a bit surprised if they did," answered the sailor. "You take your Lamb over and see if she remembers the Sawdust Doll and the White Rocking Horse."

"I will!" promised Mirabell.

And when the Lamb heard this, though just then she dared not move by herself or speak, she felt very happy. For, as I have told you, though she dared not move when human eyes were looking at her, there was nothing to stop her from hearing what was said. The Lamb had ears, and what good would they be if she could not hear through them, I'd like to know?

"Oh, I am so glad I am going to see the Sawdust Doll and the Rocking Horse again," thought the Lamb. "I hope I get a chance to talk to them when no one is looking. I want to tell them about their friends that are still in the toy store."

While Arnold hurried next door with his toy fire engine, that pumped real water, to play with Dick and to show his puzzle, Uncle Tim went downstairs to talk to Mirabell's mother. Then Mirabell got her best doll's comb and brush, which were just the right size, and not a bit too small or too large, and with this comb and brush she smoothed the kinks and snarls out of the Lamb's wool.

For when Arnold had opened the door so suddenly, banging the Lamb into a corner, though he did not mean to do it, he had tangled the woolly coat of the toy.

"But I'll soon smooth it out," thought Mirabell, as she used comb and brush. "And I won't hurt you, either, my nice Lamb!"

And Mirabell was so careful that the Lamb never once cried Baa-a! as almost any other lamb would do if you pulled her wool.

The little girl had made her Lamb nice and tidy, and she was going downstairs, Mirabell was, to see what Uncle Tim was doing, when Arnold came back from Dick's house with the toy fire engine and the wooden puzzle the sailor had made for him.

"Oh, Mirabell, I know how we can have a lot of fun!" cried Arnold.

"How?" asked the little girl.

"With your new Lamb," went on her brother. "Come on, I'll show you. We must go down to the kitchen. It's a new trick. Dick told me about it. He did it with an old roller skate."

"What trick is it?" asked Mirabell. "I hope it won't hurt my Lamb."

"No, it'll be a lot of fun," said Arnold. "I told Dick and Dorothy about your Lamb, and they want to see her. I guess the Sawdust Doll and the Rocking Horse want to see her, too."

"I'll go over to-morrow," promised Mirabell. "Now show me the funny trick, Arnold."

The two children went down to the kitchen. There was no one in it just then, as the cook was out, and Mother was in the parlor talking to Uncle Tim, the sailor.

"First we've got to get the long ironing board," said Arnold.

"What are we going to do with that?" Mirabell asked.

"Make a sliding downhill thing for your Lamb," answered her brother.

"Why, how can you do that?" asked Mirabell. "There isn't any snow now, though there was some for Christmas. How can you make a sliding downhill thing without snow?"

"Ill show you," Arnold said. "Wait till I get the ironing board."

It was kept in the cellar-way, hanging on a nail, and Arnold went there to get it. But the board was so long and heavy that his sister had to help him lift it down off the nail.

"We'll put one end up on a chair, and the other end down on the floor," said Arnold. "That will make a sliding downhill place."

"Yes," replied Mirabell, as she saw her brother do this. "But it isn't slippery enough for anybody to slide down. You must have snow for a hill."

"Not this kind," Arnold answered, with a laugh. "You see your Lamb has wheels on her, and she can roll right down the ironing board hill, just like Dick made an old roller skate roll down. Look, Mirabell!"

Arnold took the Lamb from his sister's arms and set the toy on the high end of the slanting ironing-board hill. And when the Lamb looked down, and saw how steep it was, and how long, she said to herself:

"Oh, I'm afraid something dreadful will happen to me! I never coasted downhill before, though I have heard some of the sleds and toboggans in the toy department speak of it. Oh, he's letting go of me!" she cried to herself, as she felt Arnold taking off his hands by which he had been holding her at the top of the ironing-board hill. "He's going to let me go!"

And let go of the Lamb Arnold did.

"Watch her coast, Mirabell!" he called to his sister.

Slowly at first, the Lamb on Wheels began to roll down the long, smooth, sloping board. Then she began to go faster and faster. At the bottom she could see the shiny oilcloth on the kitchen floor. Beyond the end of the ironing board the kitchen floor stretched out a long way.

"Oh, I feel so queer!" bleated the Lamb as, faster and faster, she slid down the ironing-board hill. "Oh, what a strange adventure!"