Chapter IV. A Bean Battle

"Well, Arnold, do you think you will like your Bold Tin Soldier and his men?" asked the boy's father.

"Oh, yes, Daddy! I'm sure I shall!" was the answer. "I'll take them over to Dick's house, and we'll have a make-believe battle on the floor in the playroom."

"That is strange," thought the tin Captain, as the girl clerk was wrapping him and his men up in a large paper. "Very strange! Where have I heard those names before--Dick and Arnold? I wonder--I wonder----"

But just then the girl turned the box upside down to tie a knot in the string she was putting around it, and the Captain and his men had all they could do to keep in their places.

"Stand fast, every one of you!" said the Captain in a low voice to his tin men. "We are perhaps going on a long trip."

The boy paid over his dollar of pocket money, his father added another dollar, and then the box of toy Tin Soldiers was taken away.

Just what happened on their trip from the store of course the Captain and his men did not know. They could feel themselves being jiggled about, and at one time they were put on the seat of an automobile, though they did not know it. And finally they were set down with a jingle and a jangle, the guns of the men rattling against the tin legs of the soldiers, and the sword of the Captain tinkling in its scabbard.

"Now I'll have some fun with my Soldiers!" cried the boy, whose name was Arnold.

The paper was taken off, the box was opened, and once more the Bold Tin Soldier and his men saw the light of day. They looked about them curiously.

The Captain and his men saw that they were in a pleasant, sunny room. The box, which might have been called their "barracks," was on a table, and, bending over it, was the boy, Arnold.

"Forward--March!" called Arnold, and one by one he took the Tin Soldiers out of the box and set them in rows on the table, with the Captain at the head of his men. That is the proper place for a Captain, you know.

Of course if Arnold had not been there, and if no other human eyes had been looking at the Tin Soldiers, they could have marched out of the box by themselves. But, as it was, Arnold had to lift them out. He did not know, of course, that his toys, and all other toys, have the power of pretending they are alive at certain times.

As Arnold was standing his Soldiers in rows on the table, the door of the room opened and a little girl came in.

"Oh, Arnold! what did you get?" she asked. "Oh, aren't they nice!"

"These are my new Soldiers, Mirabell," said the boy. "Daddy took me to the store and I bought them with some of my pocket money. But Daddy gave me a dollar, too. Want to see my Soldiers fight?" asked Arnold, as he stood the Corporal and the Sergeant where they could help the Captain take charge of the men.

"Oh, no, Arnold! I don't want to see any soldiers fight! They might shoot me!" cried the little girl, pretending to shiver.

"Nope! They won't shoot anybody!" said Arnold. "They have only make- believe guns, and I'll only make-believe shoot 'em. I yell 'Bang! Bang!' and that's all the shooting there is. Now watch, Mirabell."

The boy divided the tin toys into two companies, just as the tin Captain himself had done with his men when he gave the fancy drill on the counter before the Calico Clown swung from the string and nearly caught fire. One of the companies was commanded by the Captain, while the Sergeant, who had red stripes on his sleeves, was in charge of the other.

"Now for the battle!" cried the boy. "Ready! Aim! Fire! Bang! Bang!" And he yelled so loudly that his sister Mirabell put her hands over her ears, just as, in the store, the Rag Doll had covered her ears.

"Mercy, don't shout so loud, Arnold!" cried Mirabell. "Oh, not so loud!"

"I have to. This is a big fight!" the boy answered. "Bang! Bang! Bang!"

Then he knocked some of the soldiers over, pretending they had fallen in battle, and he moved some forward across the table and some he moved back.

"One side is winning and the other side is losing," said the boy. "The losing side is running away. Bang! Bang! Bang!"

"This is too much for me!" said Mirabell. "There is too much bang- banging. I'm going to play with my Lamb on Wheels."

The Bold Tin Soldier Captain heard Mirabell say that, even above the noise made by Arnold.

[Illustration: "I Just Arrived," Answered the Bold Tin Soldier.]

"Ha! Now I know where I heard those names before!" thought the Captain. "The Sawdust Doll told us about these children when she came back to the store to visit that day. They live next door to Dick and Dorothy. Oh, I am in good company!"

Back and forth across the table the boy moved his two companies of Tin Soldiers. Sometimes he would make believe one side was winning the battle, and again he would let the other side seem to win.

The Captain and his men had little to say about it, for they could not move by themselves nor talk when Arnold was looking at them. And when he and his men were being moved back by the boy, and losing the pretend battle to the Sergeant and his men, the Captain sighed and said:

"Oh, if we could only do as we pleased! Then I'd show this boy how a real Tin Soldier can fight!"

But of course the Captain could not do that. He had to be content to let Arnold move him about. And the boy had fun with his company of Tin Soldiers.

He fought several battles with them, but at last, like all boys, he wanted to do something else. He was just wondering what he could do when the door opened, and Mirabell came in dragging behind her a rather large, woolly Lamb on Wheels.

"Come on out on the porch and play with me!" begged Mirabell of her brother. "It is nice out there, and you can bring your Soldiers with you."

"Yes, so I can," said Arnold. "I'll do it. Wait until I get the little wooden cannon that shoots paper bullets. I'll put that in the war."

"And I'll get my little Wooden Doll and pretend she is a Red Cross Nurse," said Mirabell.

Together the children ran from the room, leaving the Tin Soldiers on the table and the Lamb on Wheels on the floor.

"Well, of all things!" bleated the Lamb, when she saw the Bold Tin Soldier. "Just fancy seeing you again! When did you get here?"

"I just arrived," answered the Captain, for, there being no one in the room then, he and the Lamb could talk and move by themselves.

"I'm so glad you are here," went on the woolly pet "Tell me all that has happened at the store since I was taken away. Is the Candy Rabbit there yet? And the Monkey on a Stick and the Calico Clown? Are they all there?"

"Yes. But the Clown had a sad accident just before I came away," said the Captain.

"Dear me, how dreadful! Was he hurt?" eagerly asked the Lamb on Wheels, rolling over a little closer to the table on which stood the Tin Soldiers and their Captain. None of the Soldiers spoke while their Captain was talking, as that was not considered polite.

"No, the Clown wasn't exactly hurt," said the Captain, "but his trousers were scorched."

"Oh, his lovely red and yellow trousers!" bleated the Lamb. "How sad! Tell me about it, please!"

"Well, you see, the Clown was doing a few tricks to amuse us, and----"

"Hush, sir! Quiet if you please, sir!" exclaimed the Sergeant, saluting his Captain. "Some one is coming, sir! I hear them, sir!"

And just then the door opened and Mirabell and Arnold came running back into the room, the boy carrying a little wooden cannon and his sister with a Wooden Doll in her hand--the doll that was to be a Red Cross Nurse.

"Oh, Arnold! Look!" cried Mirabell.

"What's the matter?" asked her brother, as he began gathering up the Tin Soldiers.

"Why, look at my Lamb on Wheels!" went on Mirabell. "I left her over by the door, and now she has rolled over near the table."

"I guess the wind must have blown her," said Arnold.

"But the door wasn't open, nor the windows," went on Mirabell. "So how could the wind blow her? Oh, Arnold, once before my Lamb moved when I left her alone! Wouldn't it be wonderful if she could really be alive and move by herself?"

"Yes, it would," admitted Arnold. "But your Lamb can't move by herself any more than my Tin Soldiers can."

However, he little knew what went on after dark, when he and Mirabell were asleep in bed, did he?

"Now we'll go out on the porch and have some fun," said Arnold, putting his Soldiers back in their box.

It was a warm, sunny day, and soon the two children were having a good time out on the porch of their house. Arnold set his Soldiers in two rows, with the Captain at the head of one row and the Sergeant at the head of the other. Then the boy put some paper bullets in his toy, wooden cannon, and Mirabell wheeled her Lamb to a safe place.

Arnold was just going to shoot his cannon and pretend to have the tin guns of the Soldiers go bang-bang when, all at once, a shower of hard, dried beans fell on the porch. Some struck the Soldiers, some hit the Red Cross Doll, and some pattered on Mirabell and Arnold.

"Oh, some one is shooting bean bullets at us!" cried the little girl. "This is a bean battle! Are your Tin Soldiers shooting bean bullets, Arnold?"