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The Story of a Bold Tin Soldier(Chapter1)

2006-08-22 21:40

  Chapter I. A Make-Believe Fight

  "Attention!"

  That was the word of command heard in the toy section of a large department store one night, after all the customers and clerks had gone home.

  "Attention!"

  "Dear me, what is going on?" asked a Calico Clown, as he looked around the corner of a pile of gaily colored building blocks.

  "Has the Sawdust Doll come back to see us?" inquired a Candy Rabbit.

  "That would be good news, if it were true," said a Jumping Jack.

  "But it isn't true," announced a Monkey on a Stick, as he climbed up to the top of his perch and looked over the top of a Noah's Ark. "I don't see the Sawdust Doll anywhere, nor the White Rocking Horse, nor the Lamb on Wheels. It isn't any of our former friends who have come back to visit us."

  "Who is it, then?" asked the Calico Clown, reaching up to get hold of a long string, for he thought perhaps he could turn somersaults like the Monkey on a Stick or the Jumping Jack.

  "Attention, Soldiers!" suddenly called again the first voice that had spoken. "Ready, now! Attention!"

  "Oh, it's the Bold Tin Soldier!" said the Jack in the Box, who was the Jumping Jack's cousin. "What's the matter down there in your barracks, my Bold Tin Soldier?" went on the Box-Jack, as he was sometimes called for short.

  "I want my men to get ready to march," answered the Bold Tin Soldier. "We are going to have a fancy drill to amuse you, my friends. Would you like to see me march my men around the counter?"

  "Very much, indeed," answered the Candy Rabbit. "It is night now, and there are no human eyes to see what we do. So we toys may come to life and move about and make believe we are real as much as we please. We haven't had very much fun since the jolly sailor came and carried away the Lamb on Wheels."

  "Has any one heard anything from her since she left us?" asked the Calico Clown.

  "Oh, yes, the Lamb has a lovely home with a little girl named Mirabell," answered the Jack in the Box. "And Mirabell has a brother named Arnold, and those two children live next door to Dorothy, who has our dear friend the Sawdust Doll."

  "Really?" asked the Jumping Jack.

  "Really and truly," added the Box-Jack. "And Dorothy's brother, whose name is Dick, owns the White Rocking Horse who used to be here with us."

  "Why, that is quite remarkable," said the Monkey on a Stick. "I hope we all get homes with such nice children when we are sold and taken away."

  "You may well say that," came from the Bold Tin Soldier. "Some children are not as kind to their toys as they might be. But now, if you want to see me and my men march around in fancy drill, please take your places and keep out of the way."

  "Yes, indeed, we must keep out of the way," said the Candy Rabbit. "I don't want to get pricked with a soldier's bayonet or tickled with the Captain's sword."

  "And be sure to keep well back from the edge of the counter," went on the Bold Tin Soldier. "I don't want any of you falling off when the guns are fired."

  "Oh dear me! has any one a bit of cotton?" asked a Rag Doll, who sat next to a picture book.

  "Cotton? Why do you want cotton?" asked the Calico Clown.

  "Didn't you hear what the Bold Tin Soldier said?" asked the Rag Doll. "He spoke about guns going to be shot off, and I can't bear loud noises. If I can find some cotton I am going to stuff it into my ears so I won't be made deaf."

  The Box-Jack and the Jumping Jack stood side by side as cousins ought; the Candy Rabbit found a place near the Noah's Ark; the Monkey on a Stick found a place as near the parade grounds as the Bold Captain would let him come; and the Calico Clown moved over close to the Rag Doll.

  "If the guns should, by accident, shoot too loudly," said the Clown. "I will hold my hands over your ears, Miss Rag Doll."

  "That is very kind of you," she answered with a smile. "But please do not bang your cymbals, as they make almost as much noise as the soldiers' guns."

  "I'll be careful," promised the Calico Clown, who wore a gay suit of many colors, one leg being red and the other yellow, while his shirt was spotted, speckled and striped. On the end of each arm was a round disk of brass. These were called "cymbals," and when any one pressed on the Clown's chest he moved his arms and banged his cymbals together with a clanging sound.

  "Attention!" called the Bold Tin Soldier again, and at this word of command the other Tin Soldiers in the box with their Captain stood up and began to move into line, each one carrying his gun over his shoulder.

  As I have told you in my other books, the toys could pretend to come to life and move about after dark, when no one was in the store to see them. The toys could also move about by themselves in the day time, if no human eyes watched them. But as there was nearly always some one——either clerk or customer——in the store during the day, the toys seldom had a chance to do as they pleased during daylight hours. So most of their fun took place after dark, as was happening now.

  "Attention!" once more called the Captain. "Get ready, my brave men! Forward——March!"

  And then while some of the Soldiers who had fifes, drums, trumpets and horns played a lively tune, the others, led by their Captain, marched along. They went down the toy counter and paraded past the place where the Candy Rabbit sat watching them. Straight and stiff marched the Tin Soldiers, the music of the tin band becoming more and more lively.

  "Left, wheel!" called the Captain, and the Tin Soldiers turned to the left.

  "Right, wheel!" shouted the Captain, and the Tin Soldiers turned to the right.

  Then they marched around in a circle, and they marched in a square, and they marched in a triangle, and in all sorts of fancy figures. They swung around the Rag Doll, and the Captain waved his shiny sword so fast that the Calico Clown cried:

  "Oh, it is so dazzling bright that it hurts my eyes!"

  And then the Bold Tin Soldier Captain led his men up a hill made of a pile of building blocks.

  "Oh, I hope they do not fall off!" said the Rag Doll.

  "No, they won't fall," answered the Candy Rabbit. "I guess the Captain knows what he is doing."

  Straight up the building-block hill the Bold Tin Soldier led his men, and when they reached the top he cried:

  "Jump!"

  "Oh mercy me!" screamed the Rag Doll, "they'll all be killed!"

  And those Tin Soldiers, who, like other soldiers, must always obey their officers, jumped right off the top of the building-block hill.

  But they were not killed, nor was one of them hurt, I am glad to say. For at the bottom of the pile of blocks was a rubber football, and the Soldiers landed on this, bounced up and down, and then gently landed on the counter. The Captain knew the football was there, or he would not have told his men to jump.

  "My, that was a fine drill!" said the Rag Doll. "How exciting!"

  "Hush! They are going to do something else," said the Monkey on a Stick.

  And it did seem so, for part of the Soldiers, shouldering their guns, marched to one end of the toy counter, and the others, with their Captain at their head, remained near the pile of blocks.

  "Are you ready?" asked the Captain of a Sergeant who had charge of the second half of the tin soldiers.

  "All ready, sir!" was the answer.

  "Load! Aim! Fire!" suddenly cried the Captain.

  "Oh, they are going to shoot! Oh, it's going to be war! There is going to be a battle!" cried the Rag Doll.

  "Nonsense! It is only going to be a make-believe battle!" said the Calico Clown. "Our Captain told me about it. It is to be a sham battle to amuse us. See, they are aiming their guns at one another!"

  And as he spoke the Rag Doll looked and saw the two companies of Tin Soldiers ready to take part in a battle.

  "Oh, hold me! Hold me!" whispered the Rag Doll to the Calico Clown. "I know I am going to faint!"

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