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The Admiral's Caravan By Charles E. Carryl Characters: 12518

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03

It was a very curious thing that the storm seemed to follow the Caravan as if it were a private affair of their own, and the paragondola had no sooner disappeared than Dorothy found herself sailing along as quietly as if such a thing as bad weather had never been heard of. But there was something very lonely about the sideboard now, as it went careering through the water, and she felt quite disconsolate as she sat on the little shelf and wondered what had become of the Caravan.

"If Mrs. Peevy's umbrella shuts up with them inside of it," she said mournfully to herself, "I'm sure I don't know what they'll do. It's such a stiff thing to open that it must be perfectly awful when it shuts up all of a sudden," and she was just giving a little shudder at the mere thought of such a thing, when the sideboard bumped up against something and she found that it had run into a tree. In fact, she found that she had drifted into a forest of enormous trees, growing in a most remarkable manner straight up out of the lake; and as she looked up she could see great branches stretching out in every direction far above her head, all interlaced together and covered with leaves as if it had been midsummer instead of being, as it certainly was, Christmas day.


As the sideboard slowly floated along through this strange forest, Dorothy presently discovered that each tree had a little door in it, close to the water's edge, with a small platform before it by way of a door-step, as if the people who lived in the trees had a fancy for going about visiting in boats. But she couldn't help wondering who in the world, or, rather, who in the trees, the people went to see, for all the little doors were shut as tight as wax, and had notices posted up on them, such as "No admittance," "Go away," "Gone to Persia," and many others, all of which Dorothy considered extremely rude, especially one notice which read, "Beware of the Pig," as if the person who lived in that particular tree was too stingy to keep a dog.

Now all this was very distressing, because, in the first place, Dorothy was extremely fond of visiting, and, in the second place, she was getting rather tired of sailing about on the sideboard; and she was therefore greatly pleased when she presently came to a door without any notice upon it. There was, moreover, a bright little brass knocker on this door, and as this seemed to show that people were expected to call there if they felt like it, she waited until the sideboard was passing close to the platform and then gave a little jump ashore.

The sideboard took a great roll backward and held up its front feet as if expressing its surprise at this proceeding, and as it pitched forward again the doors of it flew open, and a number of large pies fell out into the water and floated away in all directions. To Dorothy's amazement, the sideboard immediately started off after them, and began pushing them together, like a shepherd's dog collecting a flock of runaway sheep; and then, having got them all together in a compact bunch, sailed solemnly away, shoving the pies ahead of it.

Dorothy now looked at the door again, and saw that it was standing partly open. The doorway was only about as high as her shoulder, and as she stooped down and looked through it she saw there was a small winding stairway inside, leading up through the body of the tree. She listened for a moment, but everything was perfectly quiet inside, so she squeezed in through the doorway and ran up the stairs as fast as she could go.


The stairway ended at the top in a sort of trap-door, and Dorothy popped up through it like a jack-in-the-box; but instead of coming out, as she expected, among the branches of the tree, she found herself in a wide, open field as flat as a pancake, and with a small house standing far out in the middle of it. It was a bright and sunny place, and quite like an ordinary field in every way except that, in place of grass, it had a curious floor of branches, closely braided together like the bottom of a market-basket; but, as this seemed natural enough, considering that the field was in the top of a tree, Dorothy hurried away to the little house without giving the floor a second thought.

As she came up to the house she saw that it was a charming little cottage with vines trained about the latticed windows, and with a sign over the door, reading-


"I suppose they'll take me for a customer," she said, looking rather doubtfully at the sign, "and I haven't got any money. But I'm very little, and I won't stay very long," she added, by way of excusing herself, and as she said this she softly pushed open the door and went in. To her great surprise, there was no inside to the house, and she came out into the field again on the other side of the door. The wall on this side, however, was nicely papered, and had pictures hanging on it, and there were curtains at the windows as if it had been one side of a room at some time or another; but there was a notice pasted up beside the door, reading-


as if the rest of the house had gone out for a walk, and might be expected back at any time.

Now, as you may suppose, Dorothy was quite unprepared for all this, and she was looking about in great astonishment when she suddenly discovered that the furniture was at home, and was standing in a rather lonely manner quite by itself in the open field. It was, moreover, the strangest-looking furniture she had ever seen, for it was growing directly out of the floor in a twisted-up fashion, something like the grapevine chairs in Uncle Porticle's garden; but the oddest part of it all was a ridiculous-looking bed with leaves sprouting out of its legs, and with great pink blossoms growing on the bed-posts like the satin bows on Dorothy's little bed at the Blue Admiral Inn. All this was so remarkable that she went over to where the furniture was standing to take a closer look at it; and as she came up alongside the bed she was amazed to see that the Caravan, all three of them, were lying in it in a row, with their eyes closed as if they were fast a

sleep. This was such an unexpected sight that Dorothy first drew a long breath of astonishment and then exclaimed, "Jiminy!" which was a word she used only on particular occasions; and, as she said this, the Caravan opened their eyes and stared at her like so many owls.

"Why, what are you all doing here?" she said; at which the Admiral sat up in bed, and after taking a hurried look at her through his spy-glass, said, "Shipwrecked!" in a solemn voice and then lay down again.

"Did the paragonorer shut up with you?" inquired Dorothy, anxiously.

"Yes, ma'am," said the Admiral.

"And squashed us," added Sir Walter.

"Like everything," put in the Highlander.

"I was afraid it would," said Dorothy, sorrowfully; "I s'pose it was something like being at sea in a cornucopia."

"Does a cornucopia have things in it that pinch your legs?" inquired Sir Walter, with an air of great interest.

"Oh, no," said Dorothy.

"Then it wasn't like it at all," said Sir Walter, peevishly.

"It was about as much like it," said the Admiral, "as a pump is like a post-captain"; and he said this in such a positive way that Dorothy didn't like to contradict him. In fact she really didn't know anything about the matter, so she merely said, as politely as she could, "I don't think I know what a post-captain is."

"I don't either," said the Admiral, promptly, "but I can tell you how they behave"; and sitting up in bed, he recited these verses:

Post-captain at the Needles and commander of a crew

On the "Royal Biddy" frigate was Sir Peter Bombazoo;

His mind was full of music, and his head was full of tunes,

And he cheerfully exhibited on pleasant afternoons.

He could whistle, on his fingers, an invigorating reel,

And could imitate a piper on the handles of the wheel;

He could play in double octaves, too, all up and down the rail,

Or rattle off a rondo on the bottom of a pail.

Then porters with their packages, and bakers with their buns,

And countesses in carriages, and grenadiers with guns,

And admirals and commodores, arrived from near and far

To listen to the music of this entertaining tar.

When they heard the Captain humming, and beheld the dancing crew,

The commodores severely said, "Why, this will never do!"

And the admirals all hurried home, remarking, "This is most

Extraordinary conduct for a captain at his post."


Then they sent some sailing-orders to Sir Peter, in a boat,

And he did a little fifing on the edges of the note;

But he read the sailing-orders, as, of course, he had to do,

And removed the "Royal Biddy" to the Bay of Boohgabooh.

Now, Sir Peter took it kindly, but it's proper to explain

He was sent to catch a pirate out upon the Spanish Main;

And he played, with variations, an imaginary tune

On the buttons of his waistcoat, like a jocular bassoon.

Then a topman saw the Pirate come a-sailing in the bay,

And reported to the Captain in the customary way.

"I'll receive him," said Sir Peter, "with a musical salute!"

And he gave some imitations of a double-jointed flute.

Then the Pirate cried derisively, "I've heard it done before!"

And he hoisted up a banner emblematical of gore.

But Sir Peter said serenely, "You may double-shot the guns

While I sing my little ballad of 'The Butter on the Buns.'"

Then the Pirate banged Sir Peter and Sir Peter banged him back,

And they banged away together as they took another tack.

Then Sir Peter said politely, "You may board him, if you like"-

And he played a little dirge upon the handle of a pike.

Then the "Biddies" poured like hornets down upon the Pirate's deck,

And Sir Peter caught the Pirate, and he took him by the neck,

And remarked, "You must excuse me, but you acted like a brute

When I gave my imitation of that double-jointed flute."

So they took that wicked Pirate, and they took his wicked crew,

And tied them up with double knots in packages of two;

And left them lying on their backs in rows upon the beach

With a little bread and water within comfortable reach.


Now the Pirate had a treasure (mostly silverware and gold),

And Sir Peter took and stowed it in the bottom of his hold;

And said "I will retire on this cargo of doubloons,

And each of you, my gallant crew, may have some silver spoons."

Now commodores in coach-and-fours, and corporals in cabs,

And men with carts of pies and tarts, and fishermen with crabs,

And barristers with wigs, in gigs, still gather on the strand-

But there isn't any music save a little German band.

"I think Sir Peter was perfectly grand!" said Dorothy, as the Admiral finished his verses. "He was so composed."

"So was the poetry," said the Admiral. "It had to be composed, you know, or there wouldn't have been any."

"That would have been fine!" remarked the Highlander.

The Admiral got so red in the face at this, that Dorothy thought he was going into some kind of a fit; but just at this moment there was a sharp rap at the door, and Sir Walter exclaimed, "That's Bob Scarlet, and here we are in his flower-bed!"

"Jibs and jiggers!" said the Admiral, "I never thought of that. What do you suppose he'll do?"

"Pick us!" said the Highlander, with remarkable presence of mind.

"Then tell him we're all out," said the Admiral to Dorothy in extreme agitation, and with this, the whole Caravan disappeared under the bed with all possible despatch.

"We are out, you know," said Dorothy to herself, "because there's no in for us to be in"; and then she called out in a very loud voice, "We're all out in here!" which wasn't exactly what she meant to say, after all.

But there was no answer, and she was just stooping down to call through the keyhole when she saw that the wall-paper was nothing but a vine growing on a trellis, and the door only a little rustic gate leading through it. "And, dear me!-where has the furniture gone to?" she exclaimed, for the curly chairs had changed into flower-pot stands, and the bed into a great mound of waving lilies, and she found herself standing in a beautiful garden.

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