Chapter VI. Down the Coal Hole
 

Mirabell and Arnold had been told to be very careful whenever they played in the sitting room, if a fire were burning on the open hearth. But, for the moment, the little girl forgot about this. All she thought of was that her Lamb on Wheels might be burned by the blazing paper, which had been set on fire by a spark popping out from the blazing logs on the hearth.

"Oh, my Lamb! My poor Lamb!" cried Mirabell.

"Look out!" shouted Arnold. "Don't go too close!"

"Why not?" asked his sister. "I have to get my Lamb on Wheels away from the fire!"

"No, you mustn't!" Arnold said. "Your dress might catch on fire!"

The piece of paper was burning on the wide brick hearth of the fireplace, and not on the carpet, and the Lamb was close to the piece of paper that was on fire. Altogether too close to the fire was the Lamb. She was in great danger.

"But I've got to save her! I must save my pet Lamb!" cried Mirabell. She was going to rush forward, but her brother caught hold of her and held her back.

"Wait!" cried Arnold. "I can put out the fire and save your Lamb."

"How!"

"With my fire engine! It has real water in it, and I'll pump some on the paper and save your Lamb from burning up. Watch me, Mirabell, but don't go near the blaze!"

The piece of paper, close to the Lamb on Wheels, was now sending up a bright blaze. It would have been pretty if it had not been so dangerous.

Arnold quickly wheeled his fire engine as close to the blazing paper as he felt it was safe to go. The engine had a little pump on it, as I have told you, and it spurted out real water, with which it was now filled.

"Toot! Toot! I'm a fireman, and I'm going to put out a real fire!" cried Arnold.

He pressed back the little catch that held the pump from working. There was a whirring sound as the wheels spun around, and then the little rubber hose on the pump of the engine filled with water.

A moment later a small stream spurted out, and Arnold aimed it right for the piece of blazing paper. The water fell in a small shower on the fire, and then with a hiss and spluttering, and sending up a cloud of smoke, the paper stopped burning.

"Toot! Toot! The fire is out!" cried the boy, making believe blow his engine whistle. "Now your Lamb is saved, Mirabell."

"Oh, I'm so glad! Thank you, Arnold!" exclaimed his sister.

She ran forward and picked up her Lamb on Wheels. And, I am glad to say, the wool was not even scorched, not the least, tiny bit.

"Oh, she's all right! She's all right! My Lamb isn't hurt a bit, Arnold," cried Mirabell.

"I told you I'd save her," said the boy. "But you mustn't ever run near a fire yourself, Mirabell. Wait for me to put it out with my engine. That's what fire engines and fire departments are for."

"Dear me! that came near being a terrible adventure for me," thought the Lamb on Wheels, as Mirabell carried her back from the fireplace. "In another minute I would have been all ablaze from that paper, and wool does burn so fast!"

When the Lamb had been saved, the mother of the two children came into the sitting room.

"What is burning?" she cried. "Have you been playing with fire?"

"No, Mother," answered Arnold, and he told what had happened.

As the days passed Mirabell came to love her Lamb on Wheels more and more. Sometimes the little girl would tie a string to the wooden platform, on which her toy stood, and pull the Lamb around the house, as Arnold used to pull his little express wagon.

"I like to ride that way," thought the Lamb. "It is much more fun than it would be to be crowded into a Noah's Ark like the Wooden Lion and thrown into the flooded bathtub."

The Lamb was wishing Mirabell would take her next door, to see the Sawdust Doll, but, as it happened, Dorothy was ill, and it was not thought best for Mirabell to go in for a few days. However, Mirabell could look from her windows over to those in the house where Dick and Dorothy lived. And though Dorothy was too ill to be out of bed, Dick was not.

Dick would stand at the window in his house, and Mirabell and Arnold would stand at the window in their front room, and look across. The children waved to one another, and Dick would hold up the head of his Rocking Horse for Mirabell and Arnold to see.

Once Mirabell held up her Lamb on Wheels at the same time that Dick had his Rocking Horse close to the window, and the two toys saw each other for the first time since they had been separated.

"Oh, there is my old friend, the White Rocking Horse!" thought the Lamb on Wheels. "How I wish I could talk to him."

The Horse wished the same thing, and he even thought perhaps he might get a chance to run over some evening after dark and talk to the Lamb. But the doors of both houses were locked each night, and though the Horse and Lamb could roam about and seem to come to life when no one was watching them, they could not unlock doors. So they had to be content to look at each other through the windows.

"I wish I could see the Sawdust Doll," thought the Lamb, when she had looked over at the Horse one day. "I'd like to speak to her."

There came a few days of bright sunshine, when the weather was not so cold. One afternoon Arnold said to Mirabell:

"I'm going to take my little express wagon out on the sidewalk in front of the house. Why don't you bring out your Lamb?"

"I will, if Mother will let me," said Mirabell.

And Mother did. Soon the two children were running up and down in front of the house, Mirabell pulling her Lamb along by a string, and Arnold pretending to be an expressman with his wagon.

"Oh, there comes a man to put some coal in Dorothy's house!" called Arnold, as a big wagon, drawn by two strong horses, stopped in front of the place where the Sawdust Doll and the White Rocking Horse lived. "Let's go down and watch!" he said.

"All right," agreed Mirabell. So she pulled her Lamb on Wheels down the sidewalk, and Arnold hauled his express wagon along.

At Dorothy's house the coal bin was partly under the pavement, and to put in coal a round, iron cover was lifted up from a hole in the sidewalk, and the coal was dumped through this hole. As the children watched, and as Dorothy, who was now better, stood at the window with her brother Dick, also looking on, the coal man took the cover off the hole in the sidewalk, so he could dump the black lumps through the opening into the bin.

"I wouldn't want to fall down there!" said Mirabell to her brother.

"I should say not!" exclaimed Arnold. "You'd get all black!"

The coal man, after opening the large, round hole in the sidewalk, climbed back on his wagon to shovel off his load. And just then Carlo, the dog belonging to Dorothy, ran barking out of the side entrance of the house where he lived. Carlo always became excited when coal was being put in the sidewalk hole.

"Bow-wow! Wow!" barked Carlo.

"Look out you don't fall down the hole!" cried Mirabell.

Just then Carlo gave a jump around behind the little girl, and, somehow or other, he became entangled in the string that was tied on the Lamb.

"Look out, Carlo! Look out!" cried Mirabell. "Be careful or you'll break my Lamb's string!"

But Carlo was not careful. He did not mean to make trouble, but he did. He barked and growled and jumped around until his legs were all tangled up in the cord.

"Oh, look!" suddenly cried Arnold. "Look at your Lamb!"

And, as he spoke, Carlo gave a big jump to get the tangling string off his legs. The string broke, but, as it did so, the Lamb started to roll toward the open coal hole. And, at the same moment, the driver of the wagon began shoveling some of the black lumps down the opening.

"Oh! Oh! Oh!" cried Mirabell.

And then the white, woolly Lamb on Wheels rolled across the sidewalk, and disappeared down into the dark coal hole!