Chapter IX. Back to the Store
 

The moment he had fallen into the barrel of sugar the Bold Tin Soldier scrambled to his feet and wiggled around until he got his head sticking up above the pile of sweet, white grains.

"If I don't do that, I may drown," he thought. "It would be strange to drown in a barrel of sugar! I don't want to do that!"

So he wiggled around until he could stand upright, buried to his neck in the sugar, but with his head out so he could look around with his painted tin eyes and breathe through his tin nose. Otherwise he would have smothered.

The barrel was not full of sugar. In fact, it was only about a foot deep on the bottom, but that was enough to more than cover the Bold Tin Soldier from sight if it should get over his head. And, being low down in the barrel as he was, the sides of it hid him from the sight of Arnold and the cook.

"These are good cookies, Susan," said Arnold, as he ate the last crumbs of the dainty the cook had given him.

"I'm glad you like them," she said. "Would you care for another?"

"Thank you, yes," the boy answered. And just as Susan was giving him one, and also passing another to Mirabell, Dick, the boy from next door, cried:

"Come on out into the yard, Arnold. I have a new little kitten!"

"Oh, I want to see it!" shouted Mirabell.

"So do I," added Arnold. "And please, Susan, may I have a cookie for Dick?"

"Yes," answered the good-natured cook.

So out to the yard rushed the children, Arnold forgetting all about his Tin Captain. And as Susan was very busy, she gave no thought to the Bold Tin Soldier. In fact, if she had thought of him at all, she would have imagined that Arnold had taken his toy with him.

So while the children were out playing with Dick's new kitten, and while the cook worked in the kitchen, the Captain stayed in the barrel of sugar.

"Well, this is certainly an adventure," thought the Captain, "and, though it is a sweet one, I can not say I altogether like it. I wonder how I can get out of here? I must get back to my men, or they will think I have deserted them. That would never do for a soldier!"

He looked up toward the open top of the barrel. It seemed far above his head, but he thought if he could cut little steps in the wooden sides of the barrel with his shiny tin sword he might be able to climb out.

"But of course I'll have to wait until night, when everything is still and quiet," thought the Captain to himself. "It would never do for me to be seen cutting my way up out of a barrel of sugar. That would give away the great secret of Toy-land--that we can move of ourselves. Yes, I must wait until after dark."

So, buried up to his neck in sugar as he was, the Bold Tin Soldier stood in the sweetness like a sentinel on guard. He was doing his duty in the barrel, as he had done it when he cut down the Calico Clown and saved that chap from burning at the gas jet.

"I should like to see the Clown now," thought the Captain. "It is lonesome here. But if the Calico Clown saw me he would make up some joke or riddle about me, very likely."

Then all of a sudden there was a loud, banging noise and it became very dark.

"Hello! what's that?" said the Bold Tin Soldier to himself. "It's as dark as night in here now, but I never knew evening to come as suddenly as that."

Truly it was as dark as night in the sugar barrel now, but it was not because night had come. It was because the cook had put the cover on the barrel, for she had finished her baking for the day.

But the Captain thought it was night, and since he was sure no one could see him now he drew his sword from the scabbard, or case, and started to get ready to cut little steps in the sides of the barrel to make a place where he might climb to the top.

While this was going on Arnold and Mirabell were out looking at Dick's pet kitten. Truly it was a little fluffy one, and so soft that the children loved to pet it. But after a while Arnold thought of his Bold Tin Soldier.

"Oh, I left the Captain on the shelf in the kitchen," said the little boy. "I must go get him and put him with the others."

Back to the kitchen he ran.

"What is it now?" asked Susan, who was getting ready to go out, for it was her afternoon off. "Do you want more cookies, Arnold?"

"No, thank you. I want my Tin Captain," he answered. "I left him here."

"Oh, you mean your Soldier," said the cook. "I haven't seen him. I don't believe you left him here."

"Oh, yes I did!" declared Arnold.

But the Bold Tin Soldier was not in sight, of course, being down in the barrel of sugar, as we know. And though Arnold and the cook looked for him they could not find him.

"Oh dear!" sighed Arnold, when he could not find the commander of his tin army, "where is he?"

"You must have taken him out into the yard and forgotten about it," said the cook.

"No I didn't," said the little boy.

"Then it is among your other playthings," the cook went on. "You had better look."

So Arnold looked, and his mother and Mirabell and Dick helped him, but the Bold Tin Soldier could not be found. He was not with the others in their box, and, look as he did, Arnold could not find his toy anywhere.

"I'll never get another like him," sighed the little boy. "He was so nice, with his shiny medal-button!"

"And he was such a good Captain!" added Dick.

And all this while the Bold Tin Soldier was in the dark barrel of sugar and was getting ready to climb up and out if he could!

No one was in the kitchen now. The cook had gone away and it was not yet time for supper. So, all unseen as he was in the barrel, the Tin Soldier could do as he pleased.

With his tin sword he began cutting little niches, or steps, in the wooden sides of the barrel. But as the wood was quite hard, and as the tin sword was not very sharp, it was not very easy work for the Captain.

As the afternoon passed, the other Soldiers in their box on a shelf in the playroom closet began to wonder what had become of their Captain.

"Some of us ought to go in search of him," said the Sergeant.

"Yes, but we can't go until after dark, when no one will see us moving about," answered the Corporal. "That's the worst of being a toy--we can not do as we please."

"I hope the Captain has not deserted us," said a private soldier.

"Deserted! I should say not!" cried the Sergeant. "Our Captain would never desert!"

Evening came. The cook came back and began to get supper. And by this time the Captain, in the sugar barrel, had cut several little niches in the sides of the barrel. He was working away so hard that he never heard the cook come into the kitchen and start to get supper.

Then, all of a sudden, the cook, as she went to the pantry to get some flour, stopped near the barrel of sugar. She heard a queer little sound coming from it.

"I declare!" exclaimed the cook, "a mouse is trying to gnaw into the sugar barrel! The idea!"

The sound the cook heard was the Captain's tin sword as he cut steps in the side of the barrel, so he might climb up. But this noise sounded exactly like the gnawing of a mouse.

"Get away from there!" cried the cook, and she quickly lifted the cover off the sugar barrel, letting in a flood of light, for it was now night and the electric lights were glowing. "Get out!" cried the cook, thinking to scare away the mouse, as she thought it was.

Now of course as soon as the sugar barrel was opened, and the moment the cook looked in, the Captain had to stop work. Back into its scabbard went his sword, and he settled down among the grains of sugar again. He was now being looked at by human eyes, and it was against the toy rule for him to move.

"Well I do declare!" cried the cook, as she glanced at the Bold Tin Soldier lying in the sugar. "Here is Arnold's Captain he has been looking for. He is in the kitchen, after all, but how did he get in this barrel? And where is the mouse that was gnawing?"

Of course there was no mouse--it was the Captain's sword making the noise. But the cook did not know that.

She leaned down and picked the Captain up in her fingers. So he got out of the sugar barrel after all, you see, without having to cut a ladder in the wood.

"Arnold! Arnold!" called Susan up the back stairs. "I have found your Tin Captain!"

"Where was he?" asked the little boy, who was playing with the other soldiers, and wishing he had their commander.

"He was in the barrel of sugar," was the answer. "You must have dropped him in when you were eating cookies this afternoon."

"Maybe I did!" said the boy. "Oh, I am so glad to get you back!" he went on, as he carried the Captain upstairs. "Thank you, Susan!"

Then the Bold Tin Soldier was placed at the head of his men on the table, and they were together once more.

"What happened to you? Why were you away from us so long?" whispered the Sergeant to the Captain, when Arnold went out of the room a moment.

"I was in a barrel of sugar," was the answer. "I'll tell you about it later."

And that night, when all was still and quiet in the house, the Captain told his story.

"That was a wonderful adventure!" said the Corporal.

"Yes," agreed the Captain, "it was. I wish the toys back at the store could hear it. I rather think it would surprise the Calico Clown."

Arnold was playing with his tin toys one day when his mother called to him.

"Arnold, get on your overcoat. I am going to take you and Mirabell down to the toy store. I want to get a little Easter present for your cousin Madeline."

"Oh, what fun!" cried Arnold, and before he thought what he was doing he thrust the Tin Captain into his coat pocket and took him with him when he went with his mother and sister to the store; that's what Arnold did.

"Dear me! what is going to happen now?" thought the Bold Tin Soldier, as he found himself in Arnold's pocket on his way back to the store.