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   Chapter 12 THE CARAVAN COMES HOME

The Admiral's Caravan By Charles E. Carryl Characters: 11605

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03


The letter was lying on a flat stone, with several lumps of sugar laid on it like paper-weights to keep it from blowing away. It wasn't at all a nice-looking letter; in fact, it looked as if it had been dragged over the ground for a long distance; and Dorothy, after observing all this, was just turning away when she chanced to look at the address and saw that the letter was intended for her. The address was written in a very cramped little hand, and the writing was crowded up into one corner as if it were trying to get over the edge of the envelope; but the words were "To Dorothy," as plain as possible.

"What a very strange thing!" she said to herself, taking up the letter and turning it over several times rather distrustfully. "I don't think it looks very nice, but it may be something important, and I s'pose I ought to read it"; and saying this, she opened the letter. It was printed in funny little letters something like bird-tracks, and this was what was in it:

We are in a bad fix. The fix is a cage. We have been seezed in a outburst of ungovernerubble fury by Bob Scarlet. He says there's been too many robbin pies. He goes on, and says he is going to have a girl pie. With gravy. We shreeked out that we wasn't girls. Only disgized and tuff as anything. He says with a kurdling laff we'll do. O save us. We wish we was home. There is no male and we send this by a noble rat. He is a female.

The Caravan.

"Now, that's the most ridiculous letter I ever got," said Dorothy, gazing at it in blank astonishment; "and I don't think it's spelled very well either," she added rather doubtfully as she read it again; "but of course I must go and help the poor little creatures. I ought to feel frightened, but I really feel as brave as an ox. I s'pose that's because I'm going to help the unfortunate"; and putting the letter in her pocket, she started off.

"It's perfectly surprising," she said to herself as she ran along, "the mischief they get into! They're really no more fit to be going about alone than so many infants"; and she was so pleased with herself for saying this that she began to feel quite large and bold. "But it was very clever of 'em to think of the rat," she went on, "and of course that accounts for the sugar. No one but a rat would ever have thought of using sugar for paper-weights. If I wasn't afraid of a rat I'd wish it hadn't gone away, though, for I haven't the slightest idea where the Caravan is, or which way I ought to go."

But it presently appeared that the noble rat had arranged the whole matter for her; for as Dorothy ran along she began to find lumps of sugar set up at intervals like little mile-stones, so that she shouldn't miss the road.

"It's precisely like Hop-o'-my-thumb and his little crumbs of bread," she said, laughing to herself when she saw these, "only better, because, you see, the birds can't carry them off."

The rat, however, seemed to have had a very roundabout idea of a road, for the lumps of sugar were scattered zigzag in every direction, and, at one place, led directly through a knot-hole in a fence as if nobody could possibly have any trouble in getting through that; but, as the little mile-stones appeared again on the other side of the fence, Dorothy scrambled over and ran on. Then she found herself climbing over rocks and wading through little puddles of water where the sugar was set up on stones in the most thoughtful way, so that it shouldn't melt; and in another place the lumps were stuck up in a line on the trunk of a large tree, and, after leading the way through a number of branches, suddenly descended on the opposite side of the tree into a little bog, where Dorothy stuck fast for several minutes and got her shoes very much soiled. All this was very provoking, and she was beginning to get a little out of patience, when the lumps of sugar suddenly came to an end at a small stone wall; and, looking over it, she spied the Caravan in their cage.

The cage proved to be an enormous rat-trap, and the Caravan, with remarkable presence of mind, had put their legs through between the wires at the bottom of it, and were walking briskly along, holding up the cage with their hands. The news of this extraordinary performance had evidently been spread abroad, as the Ferryman and a number of serious-looking storks were escorting the Caravan with an air of great interest, and occasionally taking to their heels when the Admiral chanced to look at them through the wires with his spy-glass. There was a door, to be sure, in the side of the trap, quite big enough for the Admiral, and Sir Walter, and the Highlander to come out of, all in a row if they liked, but they evidently hadn't noticed this-"and I'm not going to tell 'em about it, just yet," said Dorothy to herself, "because they deserve to be punished for their capers. But it's really quite clever of 'em to put their little legs through in that way," she went on, "and extremely convenient-that is, you know," she added thoughtfully, "so long as they all want to go the same way"; and, with this wise reflection, she scrambled over the wall and ran after the procession.

The Admiral and Sir Walter seemed greatly mortified when Dorothy appeared, and she saw that Sir Walter was making a desperate attempt to pull up his legs into the cage as if he hadn't anything whatever to do with the affair. The Highlander, however, who always seemed to have peculiar ideas of his own, shouted out "Philopene!" as he caught sight of her, and then laughed uproariously as if this were the finest joke in the world; but Dorothy, very properly, took not the slightest notice of his remark.

"How did you ever get into this scrape?" said she, addressing the Admiral as the head of the family.

"It was easy enough to get into,

" said the Admiral, peevishly; "we just fell into it through the hole in the top. But there wasn't any scrape about it until we tried to get out again. Then we got scraped like anything."

"Needles was nothing to it," added Sir Walter, solemnly.

"Nor cats," put in the Highlander.

"I'm very sorry," said Dorothy, compassionately; "and are you really going to be made into a pie?"

"Oh, dear, no!" said the Admiral. "We got excused."

"Excused?" exclaimed Dorothy, very much surprised.

"Well, it was something like that," said Sir Walter, confusedly. "You see, Bob Scarlet didn't exactly like to come in here after us-"

"Unconquerabubble awersion to cages," explained the Admiral.

"And so he goes off after hooks to pull us out with," continued Sir Walter-

"And we inwents this way of going about, and comes away!" added the Admiral triumphantly.

"And where are you going now?" said Dorothy; for by this time they were running so fast that she could hardly keep up with them.

"BY THIS TIME THEY WERE RUNNING SO FAST THAT SHE COULD HARDLY KEEP UP WITH THEM."

"We're going to the Ferry," said the Admiral, "and these pelicans are showing us the way"; and as he said this the whole party hurried through a little archway and came out at the waterside.

An old stage-coach without any wheels was floating close up against the river-bank, and quite a little party of the dancing animals was crowding aboard of it, pushing and shoving one another, and all talking in the most excited manner; and as Dorothy found herself next to her old friend the Sheep, in the crowd, she inquired anxiously, "Where are you all going?"

"We don't know exactly," said the Sheep, "but we've all taken tickets to different places so as to be sure of getting somewhere"; and with this remark the Sheep disappeared in the crowd, leaving Dorothy very much bewildered.

By this time the Caravan had, by great exertions, climbed up on top of the coach and were sitting there in the cage, as if it had been a sort of cupola for purposes of observation; and, indeed, the Admiral was already quite absorbed in taking in various points of interest with his glass. The storks, meanwhile, had crowded into the coach after the animals, and had their heads out through all the windows as if there were no room for them inside. This gave the coach somewhat the appearance of a large chicken-coop with too many chickens in it; and as Dorothy didn't fancy a crowd, she climbed up on the box. As she did so, Sarah, the Camel, put her head out of the front window and, laying it in Dorothy's lap, murmured, "Good-evening," and went comfortably to sleep. The next moment the fiddles in the air began playing again and the stage-coach sailed away.

Dorothy never knew exactly what happened next, because everything was so confused. She had an idea, however, that they were all singing the Ferry Song, and that they had just got to a new part, beginning-

"It pours into picnics and swishes the dishes,"

when a terrible commotion began on top of the coach, and she saw that Bob Scarlet had suddenly appeared inside the cage without his waistcoat, and that the Caravan were frantically squeezing themselves out between the wires. At the same moment a loud roaring sound arose in the air, and the quadrupeds and the storks began jumping out of the windows in all directions. Then the stage-coach began to rock violently, and she felt that it was about to roll over, and clutched at the neck of the Camel to save herself; but the Camel had slipped away, and she found she had hold of something like a soft cushion-and the next moment the coach went over with a loud crash.

"IT SLOWLY CHANGED TO A BIRD-CAGE WITH A ROBIN SITTING IN IT."

Dorothy gave a little scream as the coach went over, and then held her breath; but instead of sousing into the water as she expected, she came down on top of it with a hard bump, and, very much to her astonishment, found herself sitting up on a carpeted floor. For a moment the rat-trap, with Bob Scarlet inside of it, seemed to be floating around in the air like a wire balloon, and then, as she rubbed her eyes and looked again, it slowly changed into a bird-cage with a fat robin sitting in it on a perch, and peering sharply at her sideways with one of his bright little eyes; and she found she was sitting on the floor of the little parlor of the Blue Admiral Inn, with her little rocking-chair overturned beside her and the cushion firmly clutched in her hand. The coach, and the dancing animals, and the Ferryman and his storks had all disappeared, which was a very fortunate thing, as there wasn't room for them in the parlor; and as for the roaring sound in the air-why, Uncle Porticle was fast asleep in his big arm-chair, with his handkerchief spread over his face, and I think it more than likely that he had something to do with the sound.

Dorothy stared about for a moment, and then, suddenly remembering the Caravan, she jumped up and ran to the window. It was snowing hard, and she saw through the driving snowflakes that the Highlander and Sir Walter Rosettes were standing on their pedestals, complacently watching the people hurrying by with their Christmas parcels; and as for the Admiral, he was standing on his pedestal, with a little pile of snow like a sugar-loaf on top of his hat, and intently gazing across the street through his spy-glass.

THE END.

Transcriber's Note.

Illustrations have been placed as close to the original position as layout allows; where the illustration has had to be moved to a different page the page reference in the List of Illustrations has been updated.

Some illustrations named in the List of Illustrations do not have captions shown in the main text; this is consistent with the original book.

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