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   Chapter 6 IN THE TOY-SHOP

The Admiral's Caravan By Charles E. Carryl Characters: 14209

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03


"'IT IS A SHELF!' SHE EXCLAIMED."

The first thing that Dorothy did was to draw a long breath over her narrow escape, and the next thing was to look up into the air to see what had become of the tree, and she saw the braided floor of the garden floating away, far above her head, with the flapping trunks of the trees dangling from it like a lot of one-legged trousers. This was a rather ridiculous spectacle, and when the floor presently shriveled up into a small brown patch, like a flying pancake, and then went entirely out of sight, she said "Pooh!" very contemptuously and felt quite brave again.

"It wasn't half so solemn as I expected," she went on, chattering to herself; "I certainly thought there would be all kinds of phenomeners, and, after all, it's precisely like nothing but a big basket of old clothes, blowing away. But it's just as well to be saved, of course, only I don't know where I am any more than I did before. It's a kind of wooden floor, I think," she added, stamping on it with her little shoe; "and, dear me! I verily believe it's nothing but a shelf. It is a shelf!" she exclaimed, peeping cautiously over the edge; "and there's the real floor ever so far away. I can never jump down there in the world without being dashed to destruction!"-and she was just thinking how it would do to hang from the edge of the shelf by her hands and then let herself drop (with her eyes shut, of course) when a little party of people came tumbling down through the air and fell in a heap close beside her. She gave a scream of dismay and then stood staring at them in utter bewilderment, for, as the party scrambled to their feet, she saw they were the Caravan, dressed up in the most extraordinary fashion, in little frocks and long shawls, and all wearing sunbonnets. The Highlander, with his usual bad luck, had put on his sunbonnet backward, with the crown over his face, and was struggling with it so helplessly that Dorothy rushed at him and got it off just in time to save him from being suffocated. In fact, he was so black in the face that she had to pound him on the back to bring him to.

"THE HIGHLANDER, WITH HIS USUAL BAD LUCK, HAD PUT ON HIS SUNBONNET BACKWARD."

"We're disguised, you know," said the Admiral, breathlessly. "We found these things under the bed. Bob Scarlet isn't anywhere about, is he?" he added, staring around in an agitated manner through his spy-glass.

"About?" said Dorothy, trying to look serious. "I should think he was about five miles from here by this time."

"I wish it was five thousand," exclaimed Sir Walter, angrily, smoothing down his frock. "Old Peckjabber!"

"Why, what in the world is the matter?" said Dorothy, beginning to laugh in spite of herself.

"Matter!" exclaimed the Admiral, his voice fairly trembling with emotion; "why, look here! We was all shrinking away to nothing in that wanishing garden. Bob Scarlet himself was no bigger than an ant when we came away."

"And we wasn't any bigger than uncles," put in the Highlander.

"You're not more than three inches high this minute," said Sir Walter, surveying Dorothy with a critical air, with his head cocked on one side.

"Goodness gracious!" exclaimed Dorothy, with a start. "It seems to me that's extremely small. I should think that I'd have felt it coming on."

"It comes on sort of sneaking, and you don't notice it," said the Admiral. "We'd have been completely inwisible by this time if we hadn't jumped overboard."

"It was an awful jump!" said Dorothy, solemnly. "Didn't it hurt to fall so far?"

"Not at all," said the Admiral, cheerfully. "The falling part of it was quite agreeable-so cool and rushing, you know; but the landing was tremenjious severe."

"Banged us like anything," explained the Highlander; and with this the Caravan locked arms and walked away with the tails of their shawls trailing behind them.

"What strange little things they are!" said Dorothy, reflectively, as she walked along after them, "and they're for all the world precisely like arimated dolls-movable, you know," she added, not feeling quite sure that "arimated" was the proper word,-"and speaking of dolls, here's a perfect multitude of 'em!" she exclaimed, for just then she came upon a long row of dolls beautifully dressed, and standing on their heels with their heads against the wall. They were at least five times as big as Dorothy herself, and had price-tickets tucked into their sashes, such as "2/6, CHEAP," "5s., REAL WAX," and so on; and Dorothy, clapping her hands in an ecstasy of delight, exclaimed: "Why, it's a monstrous, enormous toy-shop!" and then she hurried on to see what else there might be on exhibition.

"Marbles, prob'bly," she remarked, peering over the edge of a basket full of what looked like enormous stone cannon-balls of various colors; "for mastodons, I should say, only I don't know as they ever play marbles,-grocery shop, full of dear little drawers with real knobs on 'em,-'pothecary's shop with true pill-boxes," she went on, examining one delightful thing after another; "and here's a farm out of a box, and all the same funny old things-trees with green shavings on them and fences with feet so they'll stand up, and here's the dear fam'ly, same size as the trees and the houses, of course, and-oh! I beg your pardon," she exclaimed, for her frock had touched the farmer and knocked him over flat on his back. "And here's a Noah's Ark, full of higgledy-piggledy animals-why, what are you doing here?" she cried, for just at that moment she suddenly discovered the Caravan, all huddled together at the door of the ark, and apparently discussing something of vast importance.

"We're buying a camel," said the Admiral, excitedly; "they've got just the one we want for the Caravan."

"His name is Humphrey," shouted the Highlander, uproariously, "and he's got three humps!"

"Nonsense!" cried Dorothy, bursting into a fit of uncontrollable laughter. "There never was such a thing."

"They have 'em in arks," said the Admiral, very earnestly. "You can find anything in arks if you only go deep enough. I've seen 'em with patriarchs in 'em, 'way down at the bottom."

"Did they have any humps?" inquired the Highlander with an air of great interest.

Dorothy went off again into a burst of laughter at this. "He's really the most ignorant little creature I ever saw," she said.

"I thought they was something to ride on," said the Highlander, sulkily; "otherwise, I say, let 'em keep out of arks!" The rest of the Caravan evidently sided with him in this opinion, and after staring at Dorothy for a moment with great disfavor they all called out "Old Proudie!" and solemnly walked off in a row as before.

"I believe I shall have a fit if I meet them again," said Dorothy to herself, laughing till her eyes were full of tears. "They're certainly the foolishest things I ever saw," and with this she walked away through the shop, and was just beginning to look at the toys again, when she came suddenly upon an old dame sitting contentedly in the shop in a great arm-chair. She was eating po

rridge out of a bowl in her lap, and her head was so close to the edge of the shelf that Dorothy almost walked into her cap.

"Drat the toys!" cried the old dame, starting so violently that her spectacles fell off her nose into the porridge. "Drat the new-fangled things!"-and here she aimed a blow at Dorothy with her spoon. "They're enough to scare folks out of their senses. Give me the old-fashioned kind-deaf and dumb and blind and stiff"-but by this time Dorothy, almost frightened out of her wits, had run away and was hiding behind a doll's sofa.

"She's a nice person to have charge of a shop," she exclaimed indignantly, as she listened to the old dame scolding to herself in the distance. "The idea of not knowing human persons when you see them! Of course, being so small is rather unusual, and it's really quite dangerous, you know," she went on, giving a little shiver at the thought of what might have happened. "Just fancy being wrapped up in a piece of stiff paper by mistake-shrieking wouldn't do the least good because, of course, she's deaf as anything-"

"How much are you a dozen?" said a voice, and Dorothy, looking around, saw that it was a Dancing-Jack in the shop-window speaking to her. He was a gorgeous creature, with bells on the seams of his clothes and with arms and legs of different colors, and he was lounging in an easy attitude with his right leg thrown over the top of a toy livery-stable and his left foot in a large ornamental tea-cup; but as he was fastened to a hook by a loop in the top of his hat, Dorothy didn't feel in the least afraid of him.

"Thank you," she replied with much dignity, "I'm not a dozen at all. I'm a single person. That sounds kind of unmarried," she thought to herself, "but it's the exact truth."

"'YOU KNOW YOUR SIZE DOES COME IN DOZENS, ASSORTED,' CONTINUED THE JACK."

"No offense, I hope," said the Jack, looking somewhat abashed.

"No-not exactly," said Dorothy rather stiffly.

"You know, your size does come in dozens-assorted," continued the Jack, with quite a professional air. "Family of nine, two maids with dusters, and cook with removable apron. Very popular, I believe."

"So I should think," remarked Dorothy, beginning to recover her good nature.

"But of course singles are much more select," said the Jack. "We never come in dozens, you know."

"I suppose not," said Dorothy, innocently. "I can't imagine anybody wanting twelve Dancing-Jacks all at the same time."

"It wouldn't do any good if they did want 'em," said the Jack. "They couldn't get 'em,-that is, not in this shop."

Now, while this conversation was going on, Dorothy noticed that the various things in the shop-window had a curious way of constantly turning into something else. She discovered this by seeing a little bunch of yellow peg-tops change into a plateful of pears while she chanced to be looking at them; and a moment afterward she caught a doll's saucepan, that was hanging in one corner of the window, just in the act of quietly turning into a battledore with a red morocco handle. This struck her as being such a remarkable performance that she immediately began looking at one thing after another, and watching the various changes, until she was quite bewildered.

"It's something like a Christmas pantomime," she said to herself; "and it isn't the slightest use, you know, trying to fancy what anything's going to be, because everything that happens is so unproblesome. I don't know where I got that word from," she went on, "but it seems to express exactly what I mean. F'r instance, there's a little cradle that's just been turned into a coal-scuttle, and if that isn't unproblesome, well then-never mind!" (which, as you know, is a ridiculous way little girls have of finishing their sentences.)

By this time she had got around again to the toy livery-stable, and she was extremely pleased to find that it had turned into a smart little baronial castle with a turret at each end, and that the ornamental tea-cup was just changing, with a good deal of a flourish, into a small rowboat floating in a little stream that ran by the castle walls.

"Come, that's the finest thing yet!" exclaimed Dorothy, looking at all this with great admiration; "and I wish a brazen knight would come out with a trumpet and blow a blast"-you see, she was quite romantic at times-and she was just admiring the clever way in which the boat was getting rid of the handle of the tea-cup, when the Dancing-Jack suddenly stopped talking, and began scrambling over the roof of the castle. He was extremely pale, and, to Dorothy's alarm, spots of bright colors were coming out all over him, as if he had been made of stained glass, and was being lighted up from the inside.

"I believe I'm going to turn into something," he said, glaring wildly about, and speaking in a very agitated voice.

"Goodness!" exclaimed Dorothy in dismay; "what do you suppose it's going to be?"

"I think-" said the Jack, solemnly,-"I think it's going to be a patchwork quilt," but just as he was finishing this remark a sort of wriggle passed through him, and, to Dorothy's amazement, he turned into a slender Harlequin all made up of spangles and shining triangles.

Now this was all very well, and, of course, much better than turning into a quilt of any sort; but as the Dancing-Jack's last remark went on without stopping, and was taken charge of, so to speak, and finished by the Harlequin, it mixed up the two in a very confusing way. In fact, by the time the remark came to an end, Dorothy didn't really know which of them was talking to her, and, to make matters worse, the Harlequin vanished for a moment, and then reappeared, about one half of his original size, coming out of the door of the castle with an unconcerned air as if he hadn't had anything to do with the affair.

"It's dreadfully confusing," said Dorothy to herself, "not to know which of two persons is talking to you, 'specially when there's really only one of them here"; but she never had a chance to find out anything about the matter, for in the mean time a part of the castle had quietly turned upside down, and was now a little stone bridge with the stream flowing beneath it, and the Harlequin, who was constantly getting smaller and smaller, was standing with one foot in the boat as if he were trying to choose between taking a little excursion on the water and going out of sight altogether.

"Excuse me-but did you say anything?" said Dorothy, feeling quite sure that there was no time to be lost.

"All that I said was 'quilt,'" replied the Harlequin; "I suppose there's no particular harm in that?"

"Oh, dear, no!" said Dorothy, hastily; "only it seems a rather queer way of beginning a conversation, you know."

"It's as good as any other way if it's all you have to say," said the Harlequin, and by this time he had both feet in the boat, and had evidently decided on the water excursion, for, before Dorothy could think of anything more to say to him, he sailed away under the bridge and disappeared.

"HE SAILED AWAY UNDER THE BRIDGE."

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