Chapter II. Saving the Clown
 

"Ready! Take aim! Fire!" cried the Bold Tin Soldier Captain.

"Bang! Bang!" cracked the tin guns, some in the hands of one "army" and some shot off by the other "army." The Soldiers had divided themselves into two "armies," to give a make-believe fight to amuse the other toys.

"Crack! Crack! Bang! Bang!" rattled the tin guns.

But the guns were so small and there was such a little bit of the make-believe powder in each one that the noise they made would not have broken an egg, to say nothing of hurting the ears of a Rag Doll.

"Are you going to faint?" asked the Calico Clown of the Doll. He stood with his arms stretched out, ready to catch her in case she did.

"No! No, I don't believe I shall faint!" she answered. "Ha! Ha! Ha!" she suddenly laughed.

"What is so funny?" asked the Calico Clown. "I didn't tell a joke or ask a riddle, did I?" For that is what he sometimes did to make the toys in the department store laugh.

"No, you didn't do anything," answered the Rag Doll. "It is just that you look so funny, standing there ready to catch me with those brass things on your hands. Ha! Ha!"

"Those are my cymbals," said the Clown. "I can't let go of them. They are fastened on. Sometimes I get tired of them, but I cannot get rid of them."

"I know it, and it was too bad of me to laugh at you," answered the Rag Doll. "I did not mean to make fun of you, and it was very kind on your part, to be ready to catch me if I fainted. But you did look so funny!"

The Bold Tin Soldiers were doing their best to make some entertainment for the other toys.

"Ready! Aim! Fire!" cried the Captain to his men, again and again.

"Ready! Aim! Fire!" shouted the Sergeant to his men, for he had been given command of half the toy Soldiers for this sham fight.

The guns popped, the Soldiers rushed back and forth on the toy counter. Some pretended to be hit and fell down as natural as anything.

But at last the Bold Tin Soldier Captain and his men seemed to be winning. Most of the Captain's Soldiers were up on their feet, while quite a number of the Sergeant's men had fallen over.

"Surrender! Surrender! Give up!" shouted the Captain, as he rushed with his men toward the Sergeant and his men. "Surrender! Hoist the white flag!"

"All right, it is hoisted!" answered the Sergeant, and he tied his handkerchief on the end of his gun, where the stickery thing, called a bayonet, was fastened. "We surrender!" said the Sergeant.

"All right! Stop firing!" called the Captain to his men. "We have captured the enemy and the battle is over."

"I'm so glad it was only a make-believe one, and no one was hurt," sighed the Rag Doll.

"It was very jolly, all right," said the Candy Rabbit. "This is the first make-believe fight I ever saw. Are you going to have another, Captain?"

"Not to-night," was the reply. "My men are tired, but we are glad if you toys enjoyed our efforts."

"We certainly did," declared the Monkey on a Stick. "I wish I had joined the army instead of going through life on a stick, climbing to the top and climbing down again," he added, with a sigh.

"Oh, well, we cannot all be soldiers," said the Jack in the Box.

"No, indeed," agreed the Candy Rabbit. "If I had a gun I should not know what to do with it. It is only brave men, like our Bold Captain and his men, who know how to use swords and guns," he concluded.

"Thank you," said the Captain, waving his shiny sword. "We are glad you liked our drill and make-believe fight. Form in line, ready to go back to your box, my men," he went on.

Led by the Sergeant, under whom some of them had fought in the pretended battle, the Tin Soldiers formed in line, ready to march back to the box in which they were kept on the toy counter.

"I wonder what will happen to-day," remarked the Calico Clown, as he looked out through a distant window. "It will soon be morning," he went on. "I can see the sun beginning to redden the sky in the east. I wonder if any of us will be sold and taken away."

"It might happen," said the Bold Tin Soldier. "If I have to go I hope my men may come with me."

"Oh, of course they'll go with you," said the Rag Doll. "Who ever heard of a Soldier Captain without some men under him? You will all go together, for you belong in the same box."

"I'm sure I hope so," went on the Captain. "I suppose I shall be bought and given to some boy. Girls, as a rule, don't care very much for soldiers. They would rather have a Sawdust Doll or a Lamb on Wheels. And if I am given to some boy, I hope he will be like the boys we have heard about--Dick, the brother of Dorothy, and Arnold, the brother of Mirabell."

"Yes, they are nice boys, from what I have heard," said the Calico Clown. "Well, it will soon be bright daylight, and then we shall see what happens," he added.

"Yes, we'll see," said the Captain. Then, turning to his men, he commanded:

"Ready--March."

Off to their box marched the Tin Soldiers led by the Sergeant, who was next in command to the Captain. There ought to have been a First and Second Lieutenant, but the man who made the tin toys had forgotten them.

So the Sergeant led the Tin Soldiers back to their box after the make-believe battle. And, like good and proper soldiers, they stood themselves in straight rows. No standing around in a crowd, or lying down in hammocks, or stretching out under trees for these Tin Soldiers!

No, indeed! They stood up as straight and stiff as their own guns!

"Did you like our drill and sham battle?" asked the Bold Tin Soldier Captain of the Rag Doll, strolling over to speak to her before going back to join his men.

"Very much, indeed," she answered. "At first I thought I might faint when the guns shot off, but they were fired so gently that I did not, and the Calico Clown did not have to catch me in his arms."

"I don't let my Soldiers use too much powder in their guns," answered the Captain. "It is a sort of tooth powder we use in these make-believe fights, and then no one is hurt."

"It will be lonesome if you go away from us," said the Rag Doll, with a sigh, as she looked at the Bold Tin Soldier.

"Thank you for being so kind as to say that," said the Bold Tin Soldier. "But I have no notion of going away until I have to."

However, he little knew what was going to happen nor that he was to be taken away much sooner than he expected.

"I had better be getting over to the box with my Soldiers, I think," said the Captain, as he thrust his shiny sword back into the scabbard at his side. "Our fun for to-night is over."

"No, not quite yet," said the Calico Clown. "The sun has not yet risen, and it will be ten minutes before the watchman comes in to turn out the lights and get the store ready for the day's trade."

"But what can be done in ten minutes?" asked the Rag Doll.

"I can do a funny trick for you," said the Clown. "I have not yet done my share towards the night's fun, so I will do my trick now."

"Are you going to tell a joke or ask a riddle?" inquired the Candy Rabbit. "If you are, I wish you'd tell that one about what makes more noise than a pig under a gate."

"No, I am going to do a funny trick. Do you see that string there!" he asked the other toys, pointing upward.

"Do you mean the one hanging near the gas jet?" asked the Box Jack.

"Yes," answered the Clown. "Well, I am going to climb that string and hang by my toes."

He quickly walked over to a long string that hung down from the ceiling. At Christmas time it had held some wreaths of holly, but now nothing was fast to it.

"Up I go!" cried the Clown.

It was hard work for him to climb the string with the cymbals fast on the ends of his arms, but he managed to get up nearly as high as the flaming gas jet which lighted the store at night, so the watchman could see his way around.

"That's high enough--don't go up any farther!" cried the Bold Tin Soldier.

"Yes, I am high enough now," said the Clown. "Watch me hang by my toes!"

He began turning over as he clung to the string, and, as he did so, he began to sway to and fro, like the pendulum of a clock.

"Look out! Look out for the blazing gas light! You'll be burned!" suddenly called the Rag Doll.

And as she spoke, the Clown on the dangling string came too near the gas flame. His baggy trousers, one leg red and the other yellow, began to smoke.

"Oh, the Calico Clown is burning! He will catch fire!" cried the Candy Babbit. "Will no one save him?"

"Yes, I'll save the Calico Clown!" cried the Bold Tin Soldier, and he drew his shining sword. "I will save him!"