Chapter VI. Saving the Sawdust Doll
 

The bird was just going to flutter down and pull some more wool from the back of the Lamb on Wheels, when the Bold Tin Soldier, waving his sword, happened to strike it on the iron wheels of the wooden platform on which Miss Lamb stood. The shiny sword made a clanking sound, and, hearing this, the bird, instead of fluttering to the Lamb's back, perched on the porch railing.

"Well, you'd better not come and pull any more wool from my friend, Miss Lamb!" said the Soldier Captain.

"Oh, please excuse me!" chirped the bird. "Oh, what a mistake I have made! Why, you are only a toy lamb, aren't you?" he asked the plaything.

"Of course I am a toy," answered the Lamb on Wheels. "But I can talk and move around when no human eyes watch me."

"That's just the trouble," said the bird. "I took you for a real lamb, and that is why I pulled some wool from your back. I wouldn't have done it for the world if I had known you were a toy! Please excuse me. I made a mistake."

"Do you mean to say," asked the Bold Tin Soldier, "that you could pull wool from the back of a real, live lamb?"

"Of course I could!" chirped the bird.

"What for?" asked the Wooden Doll.

"To line my nest with, of course," answered Mr. Bird. "You see I am helping my wife make a nest. She is going to lay eggs in it and hatch out baby birds. And we want the nest nice and soft for the little ones. So, when I saw the woolly Lamb here on the porch, I flew down to pick some soft stuff from her back. I never thought she was a toy."

"Don't the real lambs mind if you pull wool from their backs?" asked the Wooden Doll.

"Not at all," was the answer. "The real lambs, down in the green pasture by the brook, often have loose bits of wool on their backs. Other birds and I fly down, take off the loose pieces, and line our nests with them. Sometimes, when I can not get wool, I take the soft fluffy cotton from the milkweed plant, but I like lambs' fleece the best. It is so soft and warm for the little birds. But don't worry, Miss Lamb, I will not bother you again."

"I am sorry I can not let you have more of my wool," went on the Lamb on Wheels. "But, you see, not being real, my wool is glued fast to my back, and every time you take some off it pulls. And I can't grow any more like a real lamb."

"Yes, I know," chirped the bird. "Well, now I will fly to the green meadow and get some wool from a real lamb. Please forgive me, friends, for making trouble."

"Oh, that's all right," said the Bold Tin Soldier, putting away his shiny sword.

So, when the bird had flown away, the three toys were happy together again--the Bold Tin Soldier Captain, the Lamb on Wheels, and the Wooden Doll. Then the children came back to have more fun, and the toys had to be very still and quiet, moving about only as Arnold or Mirabell moved them.

When supper time came Arnold put his Tin Soldiers back in their box, and set them away on a shelf in the dark closet. He also put his wooden cannon there, while Mirabell put her Doll and other toys on the floor of the closet, as she could not quite reach up to the shelf.

"Do you think you are going to like it here, Captain?" asked one of the Tin Soldiers, when the closet door was shut and the toys could do as they pleased, since no eyes could see them.

"Yes, I think this will be a nice place," was the answer. "Arnold is going to be kind to us, I can see that."

"Yes, sir, he is a fine boy."

"I shouldn't think you would like being made to fight so often," said the Wooden Doll. "Dear me, you seem to do nothing but go into battle and shoot your guns or draw your swords!"

"That is a soldier's life," said the Captain. "That is what we were made for, to fight and protect the weak. If ever you need our help, just call on us, Miss Doll."

The next morning Arnold opened the closet and took out his box of Tin Soldiers where they stood in their places straight and stiff, with their Captain at their head.

"What are you going to do, Arnold?" asked Mirabell.

"I'm going over to Dick's house to have some fun," he answered. "I will let him play with my Soldiers, and he will let me ride on his White Rocking Horse."

"Oh, then I'm going over and take my Lamb!" exclaimed Mirabell. "I'll let Dorothy play with her, and maybe she'll let me take her Sawdust Doll."

"Come on. We'll have lots of fun," said Arnold.

So the children, with their toys, went next door to the house where Dick and Dorothy lived. Mirabell and Arnold found their friends out on the lawn, and Dick had his Rocking Horse while Dorothy was playing with her Sawdust Doll.

"Oh, now we will have some dandy fun!" cried Dick. "Let me see your new Tin Soldiers, Arnold."

The grass was nice and smooth, and soon the Bold Tin Captain and his men were set up in rows, just as if they were on parade. Dick took half the Tin Soldiers and Arnold the other half, and then the little boys pretended to have a battle, only, of course, no one was hurt.

"May I ride your Rocking Horse?" asked Arnold, presently.

"Of course," answered Dick. "You take a nice, long ride, while I play with your Soldiers."

And while this was going on Mirabell and Dorothy played with the Sawdust Doll and the Lamb on Wheels. And how the toys did wish they were alone, so they could talk to one another! Of course the Sawdust Doll and the Rocking Horse, living in the same house, saw each other very often, and at night they could talk and play together. But it had been some time since either of them had seen the Bold Tin Soldier and his men, and the Doll and Horse were very anxious to hear the news from the store.

"Oh, my dear!" whispered the Lamb on Wheels to the Sawdust Doll, when they had a chance to talk together alone for a moment, which was when Dorothy and Mirabell went into the house to get some crackers for a play party, "you have no idea what an exciting story the Bold Tin Soldier has to tell you!"

"What about?" asked the Sawdust Doll.

"About how he saved the Calico Clown," was the answer. "He'll tell you about it when he has the chance."

"I shall be glad to hear it," said the Sawdust Doll. "But I hope nothing serious happened to the Clown."

"No. But it might have," answered the Lamb. "Hush! Here come the children back. We may not talk any longer."

But a little later on there was a chance for all four of the toys to talk among themselves. And there was quite an adventure, too, for the Bold Tin Soldier and the Sawdust Doll.

After they had played for some time, Dorothy and Mirabell and Dick and Arnold saw Patrick, the gardener, get out the hose.

"Oh, may we sprinkle a little?" cried Dick.

"Yes, please let us squirt some water on the flowers," begged Dorothy.

"If you'll be very careful not to get wet you may," said Patrick.

Over the lawn ran the four children, leaving their toys on the grass. And, seeing this, the Bold Tin Soldier said:

"Ah, now we have a chance to do as we please!"

"Then you must please tell me how you saved the Calico Clown," begged the Sawdust Doll.

"Shiver my sword!" cried the Soldier, laughing, "have you heard that story, also? It was nothing--just a little happening. We soldiers must do our duty, you know."

"Yes, but tell me about it," begged the Doll, and the Captain did.

"My, how brave you are!" said the Sawdust Doll, when he had finished. "And now tell me about the Candy Rabbit, the Monkey on a Stick, the Elephant on Roller Skates, and all the others."

"Yes, do tell her," urged the Lamb.

"Yes, I want to hear about the Elephant," said the White Rocking Horse. "He tried to race with me once. Ha! Ha! That was funny!"

So the Bold Tin Soldier told of the happenings in the toy department of the store, and the toys were having a good time among themselves when, all of a sudden, into the yard ran a big dog. He was much larger than Carlo, the poodle dog that had once carried off the Sawdust Doll in his mouth.

With a wiff-wuffing bark this dog ran right among the toys who were talking together.

"Oh dear me!" cried the Sawdust Doll.

"Ha! what is the matter with you?" asked the dog, who was neither very good nor very polite. "What are you 'oh dearing' about? I guess I'll just take you home to let my puppies play with you!"

He sprang towards the Sawdust Doll and was just going to pick her up in his mouth, when the Bold Tin Soldier drew his sword.

"Keep away from my friend, the Sawdust Doll!" cried the Captain.

"Who says so?" barked the big dog.

"I do!" answered the Tin Soldier. "I will save the Sawdust Doll from being carried away!"