Title: Peggy in Toyland
Author: Archibald Marshall
Illustrator: Helen M. Barton
Release date: August 14, 2022 [eBook #68749]
Original publication: United States: Dodd, Mead and Company, 1920
Credits: Charlene Taylor, Amber Black and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team at https://www.pgdp.net (This file was produced from images generously made available by The Internet Archive/American Libraries.)
Author of “Exton Manor,”
“Sir Harry,” etc.
HELEN M. BARTON
DODD, MEAD AND COMPANY
By DODD, MEAD AND COMPANY, Inc.
I DEDICATE THIS STORY
WHICH WAS BEGUN FOR HER MOTHER
|I||Introduces Peggy and Some of Her Friends||1|
|II||Peggy’s Surprising Adventure Begins||16|
|III||The Royal Ark and the Bad Behaviour of Wooden’s Aunt||31|
|IV||Momentous News is Brought by a Dutch Doll||46|
|V||Arrival at the Royal Palace of Dolltown||59|
|VI||King Selim Holds an Audience||74|
|VII||They All go to Prison||90|
|VIII||Peggy Bathes a Baby and has a Surprise||107|
|IX||They Discuss a Plan of Escape||124|
|X||Peggy Talks to a Royal Prisoner||137|
|XI||The Release of Peggy and Wooden||151|
|XII||Peggy Stays in a Real Dolls’ House||165|
|XIII||The Dolls Talk It all Over||176|
|XVI||Colonel Jim Attempts a Rescue||216|
|XIX||Selim is Captured||252|
PEGGY IN TOYLAND
PEGGY IN TOYLAND
Peggy was just eight years old. She had very long rather straight hair, blue eyes, a dear little pudgy nose, and a small mouth. She lived with her father and mother in a nice house in the country with a big garden round it. It was about five miles from the sea, and she was sometimes taken there in the motor-car, to paddle and to play on the sands.
The place she used to go to had only one house near it. This was a large bungalow belonging to some friends of Peggy’s father and mother. It was built right on the beach, but there was a little lawn beside it, and on the edge of the lawn were two wooden figures that had been once figure-heads of ships. They were both ladies, and it was difficult to tell whether they were old or young, because one of them had had her nose broken off, and the other had lost every bit of paint[Pg 2] off her face. But there was something agreeable in the appearance of both of them, and Peggy used to think she would have liked to know them when they were leading a more active life, perched up in the very front of the ships to which they belonged, and travelling over the sea to all sorts of strange places. But they still looked over the sea, which was better than being broken up and burnt, with the rest of the ships; and of course they always looked in one direction, straight across the water to the big Island on the other side of it.
Peggy had never been to the Island, and when she was playing on the sands she would sometimes look at it, and wonder what it was like there. She could see a little town and a little church, and a few houses scattered about among the hills; and she wondered what sort of people lived in them.
Well, when she was eight years old she found out, and she also got to know a good deal more about the two wooden ladies of the bungalow. What she found out was so remarkable that it is doubtful if any little girl has ever seen anything like it before, and I am going to tell you the story of it.
But before I begin I must say this: that if Peggy had not had a kind heart she would never have found out[Pg 3] anything. I do not mean to say that she was never naughty; but she was never naughty in that most horrid of all ways, by being cruel or unkind. She had several pets—two rabbits and four guinea-pigs, a bantam cock and hen, two white pigeons, and a kitten, which she liked best of them all. If she had once been cruel to any of these pets, just to see what they would do, it is quite certain that she would never have been taken to the Island. And if she had made fun of old people or poor people, she would never have gone either, because that is an extremely unkind and horrid thing to do. But Peggy had never done any of these things, because she was a really kind little girl, and if something horrid inside her whispered: “Now, just be a little bit cruel,” she was almost as much ashamed of it as if she had really been cruel, and she never listened to the whisper for a moment. So when she was eight years old she was taken to the Island in the extraordinary way I am going to tell you about.
Peggy had a good number of toys, and amongst them two dolls, which will now engage our attention.
The elder of the two was a wooden doll, which she had had for some time, and the story of this doll is rather interesting.
When Peggy was five years old she had a doll given[Pg 4] her called Rose. Rose was well-dressed, in clothes that would come on and off; and rather a nice hat came with her. But somehow Peggy could not get to like her much. She took her about everywhere for quite a week, undressed her every night and dressed her again every morning, and sometimes gave her a bath,[Pg 5] but not with water in it, because her body was stuffed, although her head was composition. She also took her out in the new pram that had been given to her at the same time, and put up the hood if it was sunny. In fact she did everything that a nice little girl could to make Rose feel that she had come to a kind and loving home.
But at the end of a week she didn’t feel that Rose really loved her. Most little girls know dolls like that. You may do all you can for them, and they don’t seem to appreciate it at all. Well, Rose was one of those dolls.
One morning Peggy went out with her nurse, and took Rose with her in the pram. They went down through the village, and along the road on the other side, and presently they came to a cottage where a lot of children lived. Their mother was not very kind to them, and so they were not very kind to each other, but were always fighting and squabbling.
One of these children was a girl a year older than Peggy, called Mabel, and just as Peggy and her nurse came up to the cottage they saw Mabel banging the head of an old wooden doll on the hard road.
Now children and dolls are sometimes naughty, and must be corrected, but their heads should never be[Pg 6] banged against anything hard. There are plenty of ways of correcting them without doing that, and every nice mother knows it. Peggy knew it as well as anybody, although she was a year younger than Mabel;[Pg 7] so directly she saw what was being done she cried out to her nurse how cruel it was.
Mabel stopped beating the wooden doll’s head against the road, and stared at Peggy, and at Rose, who was sitting in the pram; and she must have fallen in love with Rose at first sight, because her face became quite different when she looked at her.
While Mabel was looking at Rose, Peggy was looking at the wooden doll; and the more she looked the more her heart went out to her. She was not what you would call a beautiful doll, and perhaps never had been. One of her legs had been amputated at the knee, one of her arms at the shoulder, and the other at the elbow. Her face was round and open; so were her eyes. Her nose was gone. The less said about her hair the better; she would never need another shampoo. She was dressed in a loose frock of spotted red flannel, tied round the waist with an old piece of black hair-ribbon.
Such was this doll, who was destined to play so large a part in Peggy’s life, as she first saw her; and it may seem odd to some people that she should instantly have loved her. Perhaps being such a kind little girl, and feeling so dreadfully sorry to see the doll so badly treated, had something to do with it; but[Pg 8] it could not have been only that. No, there was something about this wooden doll which made Peggy love her at once, and when you have read this story, perhaps you will be able to understand what it was.
Peggy told Mabel that she ought not to knock her doll’s head on the road, and Mabel pointed at Rose, and said: “If I had a doll like that, I wouldn’t want to knock ’er ’ead on the road.”
It was then that the idea first came to Peggy that she would much rather have the wooden doll than Rose; and she asked her nurse if she might give Rose to Mabel, and ask Mabel to give her the wooden doll instead.
Nurse said: “The idea of such a thing!” and told Peggy to come on. Of course she was right not to let Peggy exchange dolls there and then, because she didn’t know whether Peggy’s mother would like it. But where she was wrong was when she said, “Fancy wanting to exchange a beautiful doll like Rose for an ugly old wooden thing like that!” She didn’t understand that what she called beauty had nothing to do with it at all. You don’t love a person for their looks, but just because you can’t help loving them. And Peggy was quite right to love the wooden doll more than Rose, as afterwards turned out.
Fortunately, Peggy’s mother understood these things better than the nurse. The end of it was that Peggy was allowed to give Rose to Mabel, with all her clothes except the hat, which had come on the same birthday as she had, but had not belonged especially to her. And Mabel gave Peggy the wooden doll, but without its red flannel dress, which Peggy’s mother thought might contain germs.
Now that the wooden doll belonged to Peggy she had to give her a name. She called her Daffodil, because the daffodils were out in the garden when she came. But the name never stuck to her. She was always called Wooden in the family circle; and presently it was forgotten that she had ever had any other name.
The first thing that happened to her was that she underwent an operation for restoring the limbs that were lost. It was a serious operation, and she was under chloroform for about a week. The chauffeur, whose name was Herbert, performed the operation, and when it was over Wooden had two arms and two legs just like everybody else. One of the legs sometimes came off at the knee, and both arms at the elbows. But Herbert, accustomed to making quick repairs, was always ready to perform other minor[Pg 10] operations, and Wooden was seldom without her full number of limbs for long together.
Wooden went through the usual illnesses, and was carefully nursed by Peggy. Perhaps she suffered rather more than most dolls, but Peggy’s father was a doctor, and there was always help at hand if anything serious happened. And of course Peggy knew more about cases, and nursing, than other little girls whose fathers were not doctors. Wooden had whooping-cough, croup, mumps, scarlet-fever, chicken-pox, measles, German-measles, swollen glands, general debility, bronchitis, typhoid, and lung trouble, all in the ordinary way. For some little time she was a spinal case, and had to be kept on her back. But she was always good and uncomplaining through her ailments, and Peggy loved her more because she was a trifle delicate than if she had always been in robust health.
In fact, the longer Peggy had Wooden the more she loved her. She played with her more than with her other dolls, and Wooden was always the one she took to bed with her. Peggy had a large Teddy bear, which she also loved and took to bed with her. But there could be no jealousy between Wooden and Teddy, because they were so different. If Peggy sometimes dressed Teddy up in a jacket and skirt belonging to[Pg 12] Wooden, it was always treated as a joke. As a rule he went about with nothing on but his own thick fur.
Wooden had all the clothes of Peggy’s dolls’ wardrobe to wear, if they fitted her, and was better dressed than most dolls. And as everybody liked her when they once came to know her, she had plenty of things given her as time went on. When Miss Clay came to the house for a week or two to sew, she would generally make something for Wooden out of the material left over. Once she made her a purple velvet jacket, and once a tailor-made skirt. As for nightgowns, and petticoats, and things like that, trimmed with lace, and sometimes with pink and blue ribbon, Wooden was so well supplied that Peggy’s father said her laundry bill was becoming quite a serious item. So it will be seen that Wooden was very much better off than when she had belonged to Mabel, and had only had one red flannel dress.
We now come to the other doll of Peggy’s, of whom mention has been made.
Her name was Lady Grace. She came on Peggy’s eighth birthday, and was really a beautiful doll, as everybody who saw her bore witness. She had been born in France, although she herself was English, and the clothes that came with her were finer than any of[Pg 13] Wooden’s. Her face was wax, and she had beautiful hair. Her eyes opened and shut, and she had the sweetest little hands and feet, with pink toes and fingertips.
Peggy loved her at once. This was not altogether because of her beauty, for Rose had been beautiful—though not so beautiful as Lady Grace—and Peggy had never been able to love Rose at all. There was something about Lady Grace which made Peggy feel that she must look after her and pet her. And she never felt, as she had felt with Rose, that all her petting was of no use. Lady Grace might not say much, but she showed that she was grateful to Peggy for all the care she took of her by being always sweet and good; though she was, as I have said, rather helpless.
Now, although Peggy loved Lady Grace from the first, it must not be supposed that she loved Wooden any the less. It was just as it is with children. When a new baby comes, the mother adores it, but she loves her other children just as much as she did before.
But, just at first, it must be confessed that Wooden had rather less attention; and if she had not been so sensible she might have felt jealous. I don’t think she did, or she would have told Peggy so afterwards. She[Pg 14] probably knew exactly how things were, and that, when Lady Grace had been made to feel quite at home, her turn would come again.
Well, one night when Peggy went to bed, she took Lady Grace and Teddy with her, and left Wooden on the top of a chest of drawers with all her clothes on. And then Wooden might have felt a little sad, because it was the first time that such a thing had ever happened to her; and she might have begun to wonder whether, after all, Peggy loved her quite as much as she had done before.
But fortunately for this story, which might not otherwise have been written, as you will presently see, soon after Peggy had been tucked up and left to go to sleep, she remembered that she had not undressed Wooden. So she called her nurse, who was in the next room with the door a little open, and asked her to give Wooden to her.
The nurse would not let her have two dolls in bed with her. Teddy didn’t matter because he was so soft. So Peggy asked her to put Lady Grace in the dolls’ cot, and give her Wooden instead. She felt dreadfully sorry that she had forgotten about Wooden, and wanted to make it up to her. Lady Grace would have to get used to sleeping in the cot some time or other,[Pg 15] and Peggy thought she might just as well begin now.
So Peggy went to sleep hugging Wooden in her arms; and Teddy lay on his back on the pillow on the other side of her, with one paw stuck up in the air and the rest of him under the bedclothes.
By-and-by the nurse came in to look at her, and then went to bed in the next room. Then her father and mother came in and kissed her, but she did not wake up. Then the house became quiet and dark, and everybody in it was fast asleep.
And then things began to happen.
Peggy was awakened by the noise of a motor outside. It sometimes happened that her father had to go out at night, and she heard the car start off. But she generally went to sleep again as soon as ever the noise had died away.
But this time the car, instead of standing throbbing for a few minutes before the door, and then starting off down the drive and leaving everything as quiet and still as before, seemed to be coming nearer and nearer. In fact, it seemed as if it was being driven right into the room, and made such a noise that Peggy opened her eyes. And when she did open them, she opened them very wide indeed, for the car was in the room, standing right at the foot of the bed. And who should be driving it but Teddy, whom she had last seen lying on the pillow by her side?
And that was not nearly all, for everything was changing all around her. The apple-blossoms on the[Pg 18] wall-paper had become real apple-blossoms, and were dancing in a bright spring breeze; the ceiling had melted away into blue sky; and suddenly the little birds that had been sitting in a long row on the bough which ran round the top of the paper flew up all together and filled the air with their singing.
Peggy sat up in bed and rubbed her eyes. When she looked again there was Wooden standing by the side of the bed, smiling at her.
“Get up, dear,” said Wooden in the kind and gentle voice that Peggy had known she would speak in if she ever spoke at all. “I am going to take you to Toyland.”
Teddy spoke at the same moment. He waved a paw in the air and said, “What ho! What larks!” and sounded his motor-horn.
Now the moment that Wooden and Teddy spoke, Peggy left off being surprised altogether. Everything seemed quite natural, and she jumped up full of pleasure at the idea of an adventure.
The moment her feet had touched the floor, lo and behold! she was fully dressed, in a clean blue over-all, with her outdoor shoes and her big straw hat trimmed with daisies. Her face and hands were washed, her nails scrubbed, and her teeth cleaned; and her long[Pg 19] hair, which was always plaited for the night, was brushed and tied up with her blue ribbon.
“Come along, dear,” said Wooden, taking her hand. “We must start at once. Are you quite ready, Lady Grace?”
“Yes,” said a soft, musical voice. Peggy looked towards the dressing-table, and there was Lady Grace pinning on her hat. She came and kissed Peggy. “I am sure you will like Toyland, dear,” she said, “and it is a great honour to be taken there.”
Both Wooden and Lady Grace seemed to be grown up all of a sudden, and ready to take care of Peggy, instead of her taking care of them. Lady Grace had on the beautiful French clothes in which she had come, and Wooden was dressed in her purple velvet jacket and her grey tailor-made skirt. She wore the straw hat that had come at the same time as Rose, and looked very nice altogether, but a little different, because her nose was now perfect, and her face and eyes and hair had got all their colour back. She had a wonderfully kind and simple expression of face, and Peggy felt that it would be quite safe to go anywhere with her.
Teddy was also life-size. Peggy had always known that he was of a very cheerful nature, for his face[Pg 20] had always seemed to be laughing at some joke. But he seemed to be rather forward in his manners, for as Lady Grace kissed Peggy he said with a sort of crow,[Pg 21] “What ho, girls! You jump up and sit alongside me, my lady, and we’ll have a nice little chat as we go along.”
“Be careful, Teddy,” said Wooden in a warning voice.
“Oh, I’ll be careful all right,” said Teddy encouragingly. “Oh, what larks we’re going to have!”
Lady Grace got up in front of the car, and Peggy and Wooden behind. It was not Peggy’s father’s car, but a toy one which had been given to her. But it was now big enough to hold all four of them comfortably.
Teddy sounded his horn and gave a whoop of joy, and the car drove straight out of the bedroom into the garden, though how it got there from her nursery on the first floor Peggy could never remember.
Now, although it had been winter when Peggy went to bed, and the thermometer on the pergola outside had registered two degrees of frost, it had suddenly become the most delicious spring and summer weather combined. When Peggy saw the garden she clapped her hands with delight. Never was seen such a blaze of colour. Everything was out at once—all the trees, and all the shrubs, and all the flowers. The house was smothered in roses and honeysuckle and clematis. The[Pg 22] daffodils were dancing in the grass. The rhododendrons and azaleas flamed against the green of the darker shrubs. Every flower in the long border was in full bloom, from the scarlet anemones of the early spring to the yellow sunflowers and Michaelmas daisies of the late autumn; and so were the lilacs, white and purple, the guelder roses, the syringas, the may-trees and laburnums, the pink almond, and the Pyrus Malus Floribunda, which was Peggy’s favourite tree, though she never quite got its name right. There were thousands of blooms in the rose garden; the climbing roses trained over the pergola were as gay as gay could be; and even the newly-planted nut-walk had grown twelve feet in a few hours, and made a shady green tunnel through which you could see the park beyond.
But there was not much time to take in all the wonders of the garden, for Teddy whirled them through it in no time, out into the road and down to the village. The car seemed to be going faster than Peggy’s father’s big new one, but it travelled so easily and so smoothly that Peggy, who was a little nervous of motors going very fast, said, “What a nice drive we’re having!” As they passed the clock over the Abbey gateway the hands were pointing to twelve o’clock, and Peggy, who could of course tell the time, knew somehow[Pg 23] that it was really twelve o’clock at night, and not twelve o’clock in the daytime, although the sun was shining with all its might. And as they turned and[Pg 24] drove up the village street all the windows had their blinds down, and there were no people about.
“Where are we going?” Peggy asked.
“We are going to Toyland,” said Wooden. “We all go there every night when people are asleep, and it is a lovely place; I am sure you will like it, dear. And I must tell you that it is very seldom we are allowed to take little girls there. When you were so kind to me, and rescued me from Mabel, I told the Queen about it, and asked if I could bring you. And she said that if you went on being kind to me for three years and a week I might bring you; but if you once grew tired of me and neglected me, the three years and a week would have to begin all over again. You can’t think how I have been looking forward to it, dear. Yesterday I was able to tell the Queen that you had never once neglected me, and Lady Grace said the same. She is one of the Queen’s ladies-in-waiting, and she thinks a deal of her. So the Queen said, ‘I shall be very glad to see such a nice little girl. Bring her tomorrow.’”
When Wooden told her this Peggy remembered that she had not been quite so attentive to Wooden since Lady Grace had come, and wondered what would have happened if she had left her to sleep on the chest of[Pg 25] drawers with all her clothes on that very night. It would have been too awful if she had had to begin the three years and a week all over again, after so nearly getting through it once.
But Wooden did not refer to that at all, and Peggy felt grateful to her, and took hold of her hand and squeezed it. And Wooden squeezed Peggy’s hand in return, and smiled at her and said again, “Toyland is a wonderful place. I am sure you will like it.”
When they had passed through the village Teddy took the road towards the sea. He drove very well, and talked all the time to Lady Grace, sometimes leaning towards her and saying something in his gruff, hearty voice, and sometimes throwing his head back and laughing loudly. Lady Grace seemed to be receiving his attentions kindly, but Wooden looked a little anxious, and leant forward sometimes and joined in the conversation.
“Lady Grace is engaged to Colonel Jim of the Lifeguards,” she explained to Peggy. “The Queen takes a great interest in the young couple, and I promised her that I would give an eye to Lady Grace. The Queen trusts me, you know, dear.”
“Shall I see the Queen?” asked Peggy. “What is she like?”
“She is not very well,” said Wooden sadly. “I don’t know whether you will be able to see her, but I hope so.”
“What is the matter with her?” asked Peggy.
“Well they told me last night at the Palace that they were afraid she had a mump.”
“What is that?”
“Why, you know all about that, don’t you? You have had mumps yourself—several of them. If a doll has more than one it is generally fatal. But I quite hope that the Queen has not got any; and if she is better I am sure she would like to see you. You asked what she was like. Well, she is wax, of course, and she is about a hundred years old, or perhaps a thousand, or a million, but quite as beautiful as ever. She was one of the first wax dolls ever born, and they made her Queen because they admired her so.”
“Is there an elective monarchy in Toyland?” asked Peggy, who had got on quite a long way in history.
Wooden did not seem to understand the question fully, but she answered in her soothing voice, “No, dear, all the animals are tame; you need not be afraid of any of them.”
They drove on towards the sea, and when they got[Pg 27] within sight of it Peggy cried out, and clapped her hands with pleasure.
For the sea was full of boats crowded with dolls all going to the Island. It was the prettiest sight. There were hundreds of toy yachts with their white sails, steam-boats and motor-boats and clockwork boats and rowing boats, and even boats made of paper, and walnut shells. The sun was shining brightly on this gay scene, and the water was as calm as possible, so that there was no chance of anybody being seasick.
“Why, they are all going over to the Island!” said Peggy. “Are we going there, too?”
“Oh, yes,” said Wooden. “The Island is Toyland; I forgot that you didn’t know that. That is where all the dolls live. Those who are finished with your world live there always, and the others go there every night. At least it is night with you, but of course it is day with us. And when it is day with you it is night with us.”
“Like Australia,” suggested Peggy.
“Yes, dear,” said Wooden. “I like it very much.”
“But if you go to Toyland every night, and it is day there, you never have any real night at all,” said Peggy.
“No, dear,” said Wooden reflectively. “I suppose not.”
When they reached the shore Teddy turned to the right. “Are we going to the Bungalow?” asked Peggy.
“That is where we shall set sail for Toyland,” said Wooden. “And, you know, I have two relations there.”
Peggy could not think what she meant for the moment. Then she remembered the two wooden figure-heads, and asked Wooden if they were her relations. Wooden said they were. One was her mother and one was her aunt. “I’m sure you will like mother, dear,” she said. “Aunt has wonderful high spirits, and doesn’t always behave as she ought, through picking up sailors’ ways. But she says herself she never did no harm to nobody, so we must overlook it.”
It was well that Wooden had given Peggy this warning about her aunt, or Peggy might have been rather surprised at her behaviour when the car drew up before the grass-plot by the Bungalow. The two figure-heads, now full length and moving about freely, were waiting for them, and when she saw them coming Wooden’s aunt gave a loud screech and rushed forward[Pg 29] to meet them, but caught her foot on a root of gorse and fell full length in front of the car.
Teddy very cleverly stopped the car at once, or he might have run over her. Then he jumped down and lifted up Wooden’s aunt, who was not hurt at all, but screeched with laughter again. Teddy seized her round the waist and waltzed up and down the grass with her, kicking up his legs and being very silly. Peggy was surprised to see him going on like that, but Wooden’s aunt seemed to enjoy it thoroughly, and when he had finished she sat plump down on the grass, with her legs sticking out in front of her, and simply roared with laughter, and said, “Lawks! you are a one!”
In the meantime Wooden had introduced Peggy to her mother, who was as fresh as paint could make her, but had a weather-beaten look, too, and a husky voice, owing to her having taken so many sea voyages that the fog had got into her throat. She said that she was very pleased to see Peggy, because she had heard a lot about her, and when they got on to the boat they must have a nice long talk.
“Aunt seems in very good spirits today, mother,” said Wooden, looking at her doubtfully as she was being danced about the grass by Teddy. Wooden’s aunt[Pg 30] was really being rather common, and Wooden would not like Peggy to think that her relations were common.
Just at that moment Wooden’s aunt sat down on the grass in the rather vulgar way already described, and Wooden’s mother said to her sharply, “Now, Polly, do adone now, and remember what company you’re in. Get up, and come and be introduced to the little lady.”
So Wooden’s aunt came and shook hands with Peggy, and gave her a smacking kiss, which tasted of salt. “Dear little precious! Bless her!” she said in quite a kind voice, which made Peggy like her a little better. “Lawks, Maria! She ain’t one to mind a body having a bit o’ fun.”
Lying tied to one of the groins, which seemed to have widened out into a sort of pier, was a rakish-looking clockwork steamer, with a red hull and a broad white line above it, all very smart and clean.
“Why, it’s my very own steamer,” cried Peggy, “just as it was when it was new, only much bigger.”
“Yes, dear,” said Wooden. “We use it every night to take us across to Toyland. You didn’t know that. You will see all your other toys when we get across, and some of them are coming with us.”
“Is the man who shoots pennies into my money-box coming?” asked Peggy.
“Yes,” replied Wooden. “He is the Queen’s head game-keeper. He shot the three china hares that stand on the nursery mantelpiece. He shot them with the sixpences you got out of the Christmas pudding.”
The steamer and the pier beside it were now crowded with doll sailors and doll passengers preparing to take[Pg 32] the journey across the water to Toyland, and the road along the beach in both directions was full of dolls hurrying to the various starting-places. Every row of piles along the shore had turned into a pier, and scores of boats were moored alongside them, in which dolls were embarking.
But still they came, from north, east, and west. Many of them were in motor-cars, others were packed into wooden carts, the babies were being wheeled in prams, and many were walking. Some way off Peggy saw a troop of lead soldiers riding down to the shore on black horses, and they looked very fine with the sun shining on their helmets and breastplates.
Lady Grace shaded her eyes and looked at them, too, and Wooden said to her, “Lady Grace, I believe that is Colonel Jim’s regiment.”
Teddy turned round and grinned at them, and said, “What ho, girls!”
Wooden said sharply, “Now behave, Teddy, and don’t let’s have any byplay.”
They all embarked in the toy steamer, and Peggy was pleased to find her own sailor doll acting as captain of it. Very well he did it, too, standing on the bridge and shouting his orders down a tube, while the steamer was loosed from the quay and started off[Pg 33] at a splendid pace, making a hundred knots an hour across the blue calm water.
It was a delightful voyage, pleasanter even than the motor drive had been. The sun was shining so brightly, and every one seemed so pleased to be going to Toyland. They could hear the dolls laughing and singing from the other boats, which were all round[Pg 34] them. On one of them was a toy piano with five notes, on which a gentleman doll with long hair was playing a tune so difficult that you would never have thought it possible if you had not heard him.
Wooden’s mother and aunt went forward and stood in the bows of the boat as she drove across the sea. They sniffed the salt breeze with rapture, and their brightly-coloured faces glistened in the sunshine. “This,” said Wooden’s mother, “is Life!” And Wooden’s aunt enjoyed it so much that until they came to the other side she said nothing vulgar or common.
But the moment the steamer began to move, although the water was as smooth as it could possibly be, Teddy became as green as pea soup and rushed downstairs to the cabin.
“He’s always like that, poor fellow,” said Wooden. “I suppose it comes from being a bear. He will be all right when we get to the other side.”
Very soon the voyage was over, and the toy steamer came alongside a quay carpeted with red felt. There were many other landing stages all along the shore, at which other boats were landing their doll passengers; but the steamer was the only one which came alongside this special quay. It was decorated with flowers and[Pg 35] flags, and round it stood a row of wooden soldiers, with shiny black bearskins, red coats, and spotless white trousers. They lined three sides of the square, and looked very smart, all of exactly the same height, and all standing at attention.
Wooden seemed to be rather embarrassed as the steamer made fast alongside this gaily decorated quay. “This is the royal quay,” she said to Peggy. “Only the Queen uses it. There must be some mistake.” And she asked the captain why they were landing there.
“Orders, ma’am, orders,” said the captain briefly, touching his cap.
“I expect,” said Lady Grace, “that it is to do honour to our little visitor.” She put her hand on Peggy’s shoulder and smiled at her.
Wooden’s honest face beamed with pleasure. “Now, I do call that kind of Her Majesty,” she said, “very kind indeed.”
The wooden soldiers all presented arms as Peggy stepped off the steamer between Lady Grace and Wooden, while Wooden’s mother and aunt followed them, and Teddy came up from below no longer looking green, but quite cheerful again and grinning all over. One of the soldiers let off his gun by mistake.[Pg 36] He had only lately joined the regiment, and did not quite understand the words of command. The captain of the wooden soldiers boxed his ears soundly, and nobody took any further notice of the episode, which, however, had far-reaching effects, as will presently appear.
Directly the party had landed, a band struck up and led the way along a broad carpeted passage, which was also lined on one side by wooden soldiers. On the other side was the water, for the royal quay was at the mouth of a broad river, and a little farther on was another quay towards which they were going. And here Peggy saw an extraordinary and pleasing sight.
There was a large, gaily decorated Noah’s Ark lying at the second quay. At each end of the house on the Ark was a big platform. The one in front was shaded by a gaily striped awning. There was also a carpet on it, and big pots of flowers, and comfortable chairs and little tables. On the platform at the back stood Mr. Noah in a long yellow robe, and Mrs. Noah in a blue robe. Mr. Noah had taken off his black shiny hat, and was bowing low, as Wooden and her party approached the Ark.
But the most curious thing of all was the long line[Pg 38] of animals that were standing two and two along the towing-path by the river. They were all in charge of the rest of Mr. Noah’s family, and were harnessed to the Ark, which they were evidently going to pull. There were two elephants and two camels, giraffes, zebras, cows, hyenas, leopards, and a lot more, all much the same size; and at the head of the procession were two antelopes. Hovering round the Ark were a great number of birds—wild geese, and rooks and parrots and peacocks and canaries and budgeree-gars and others, all flying in pairs.
“The Queen’s own Ark,” said Lady Grace. “It must have been sent down for somebody. I wonder who.”
“Do you think it could be for a specialist?” Peggy asked. “They do send for them, you know, if anybody is ill.”
“Oh, I do hope her mump isn’t worse,” said Wooden.
“I expect it’s sent down for me,” said Wooden’s aunt, with her vulgar laugh. “She knowed I was coming all right.”
“Now, Polly, behave,” said Wooden’s mother. “Mr. and Mrs. Noah are looking at us.”
Mr. Noah advanced to the side of the Ark and bowed[Pg 39] to Wooden. “I have been ordered to bring the Ark down for you and your party,” he said. “I hope we shall have a nice trip up the river.”
Wooden turned to Peggy with a pleased smile on her face. “Now that is an honour,” she said. “I am so pleased, dear. It is a most lovely ark inside.”
Then she asked Mr. Noah how the Queen was, and he shook his head and was just going to tell her how the Queen was when Wooden’s aunt gave a wild whoop, and picking up her skirts ran along the quay, kicking her feet out in front of her, and shouting, “Come on, girls! Here’s larks!”
And I am sorry to say that Teddy joined her, and they danced up the quay together and rushed down the bridge from the bank to the ark, jostling each other and quite spoiling everything by their behaviour.
“Oh dear, oh dear!” said Wooden’s mother in a vexed voice, “Really, Polly does carry on something awful.”
But Mr. Noah only laughed and said, “I like a little fun sometimes.”
Then he led the way to the platform in the front of the ark, and Mrs. Noah walked by Peggy and said to her, “I like your face very much. I am sure we shall be friends.”
The captain of the wooden soldiers now gave some words of command, and all his troops fell into their places ready to march alongside the ark. Mr. Noah blew a whistle, and his sons made themselves very busy unfastening ropes, pushing the ark out into the river, and getting ready to start the animals. Mr. Noah blew his whistle again when the ark was clear of the shore, and with a great deal of shouting and cheering, the procession of animals started off, and pulled the ark at a good pace up the river.
It was a very pleasant journey. The air was warm and the sky was blue. All the different animals that were pulling the ark were very interesting to look at, and the birds that flew in couples overhead were very pretty, too, and sang most melodiously.
They had not travelled very far before a smart servant doll in cap and apron came out of the house in the ark, and said, “Would you like to take a little light refreshment?”
Wooden’s aunt instantly jumped up from her chair and said, “I’m always ready for my grub.” Then she pushed in front of all the others and rushed into the house in the most vulgar and objectionable manner. And again, I am sorry to say, Teddy followed her.
Wooden blushed with annoyance at the behaviour of her relative, and Wooden’s mother said in an angry voice, “It is really too much. But please don’t think because she is my daughter’s aunt that she is my sister. Quite the reverse. I wouldn’t own her. My poor brother married much beneath him. He was a wooden Scotchman of irreproachable character, outside[Pg 42] a tobacconist’s shop, and a perfect gentleman in every way.”
Peggy smoothed the wounded feelings of Wooden and her mother, and said it didn’t matter. “I think I had better say a word to Teddy,” she said. “He is not behaving nicely.”
“Oh, she leads him on,” said Wooden’s mother, who was still very much annoyed.
“Teddy has always been flighty, for a bear,” said Wooden. “I haven’t liked to say anything, dear, but I think it would be a good thing if you were to speak to him. He would pay attention to you.”
When they got inside the house of the ark they found a most beautifully furnished apartment, with big windows on either side, through which the scenery on the banks of the river could be observed as they went along.
On the table was spread a most sumptuous repast. There was a dish of chicken, consisting entirely of wishing-bones; there was a pudding made of one gigantic chocolate cream; there were little baby bananas growing on a live tree in the middle of the table; there were sandwiches of toast and butter and watercress and blackberry jam and potted prawns, all mixed up together in the most ingenious manner, and[Pg 43] very seductive to the palate; there was a birthday cake and a wedding cake; there was a jelly that tasted of violets and another that tasted of carnations; there were delicious drinks, from the sweet and comforting chocolate of the cold north to the iced sherbet of the burning south; there were dozens of crackers, and every one of them contained a beautiful toy, a motto, a cap of coloured paper decorated with gold and silver, and a small but valuable piece of jewellery. In short, there was every delicacy of the season, and all in the utmost profusion.
Wooden’s aunt was already deep in the repast when they got inside. She was purple in the face, and beginning to breathe heavily.
“Such greed I never saw,” said Wooden’s mother, eyeing her severely. “She has not even washed her hands.”
Teddy, however, was nowhere to be seen, and the servant-doll said that he had gone out by another door into Mr. Noah’s cabin. Mr. Noah had invited him to have a steak and onions with him. Peggy was rather glad not to have to rebuke him before company, for she was fond of Teddy. She thought that if he were kept away from Wooden’s aunt he would probably behave all right.
The servant-doll had led them into a nice airy bedroom, which opened out of the main saloon, and Peggy washed her hands, and then put on a very pretty pinafore made of lace and chiffon, which the servant-doll gave her. When they were all ready they went into the saloon and sat down at the table, and much enjoyed their repast, while the ark was drawn rapidly along the winding river.
Unfortunately their enjoyment was marred by the continued bad behaviour of Wooden’s aunt, who went on as if she had really never been in respectable company before. When she could eat no more—and that was not for a long time—Wooden’s mother gave her a dose of Gregory powder, which she always carried about with her for such emergencies, or she would probably have died. As it was she felt very ill, and said so in a thoroughly vulgar manner.
Wooden was most distressed at her behaviour, but she was so kind-hearted that she could not help making excuses for her. “Greediness and vulgarity and vanity are her only failings, poor thing,” she said. “Otherwise she has a very charming character. We all have our little weaknesses, and we must not think too much of them.”
“I’m ashamed of her,” said Wooden’s mother.[Pg 45] “And I shall tell her so to her face directly she regains consciousness.”
For Wooden’s aunt was now stretched on one of the luxurious sofas of the saloon in a state of complete collapse.
“Let us leave her there,” said Lady Grace. “She will be better when we arrive at Dolltown.”
They left Wooden’s aunt in the saloon and went on deck again, and seated themselves in the comfortable chairs under the awning, from which they could observe the scenery. This was very beautiful.
They were now going through a mountain gorge. The river was narrow here, but deep. The mountains came steeply down into the water, and on one side of the river was a road cut in the rock, along which all the animals were walking two by two, pulling the ark at a smart pace. Perched up on the mountains here and there were pretty wooden Swiss chalets, large and small; and numberless clean wooden cows, with bells round their necks, were browsing in the mountain pastures, which were gay with flowers. The wooden peasants who were looking after them showed great interest in the progress of the ark. They came running down the steep paths to see who was on board, and shouted and waved their hats in their excitement.
By-and-by they had passed through the mountains,[Pg 48] and had come to a perfectly flat country, planted with wooden poplars of a vivid green. Here and there were farms—dear little wooden houses with doll-farmers living in them, and taking care of more wooden animals, cows and horses, and sheep and pigs. After a time they came to a small town consisting of streets of dolls’ houses, with a church built of toy bricks.
“Oh, I would like to go into one of those dear little houses,” said Peggy. “Can’t we stop here, Wooden?”
“We shall see much better dolls’ houses than those when we get to Dolltown,” said Wooden. “I have got a very nice dolls’ house myself, bigger than any of those. I shall take you there, dear, and you will occupy the spare room. And I will show you the Queen’s Palace, which is finer than any of them.”
At this moment Mrs. Noah came forward, and stood by them smiling, as if she would like a little conversation.
“Won’t you sit down, Mrs. Noah?” said Lady Grace politely; and Mrs. Noah thanked her and sat down.
Mrs. Noah was a large smiling woman who liked to make friends. She smiled at Lady Grace, and Wooden, and Wooden’s mother, and Peggy, and then said suddenly, “I thought you’d like to know how it all was.”
Of course they would like to know how it all was,[Pg 49] though they didn’t quite know what she meant. So they smiled back at her, and then she began.
“Of course he is wood,” she said, “begging your pardon, Lady Grace, and I ought to like him on that account. But the truth is that I don’t, and can’t.”
There was a little pause, and then Wooden’s mother said, nodding her head wisely, “Ah, I know who you mean, and I don’t much like him either. I suppose because he’s a foreigner.”
Wooden shook her head, but said nothing. Lady Grace said, “I hate him; but then I’m wax, you see.”
Peggy wondered who they were talking about, but just as she was going to ask Wooden, Mrs. Noah looked at her, and said, “Why, bless me! the little lady must be thinking that we’re talking in riddles.”
And then she told the following story:—
Some time before, a ship had been wrecked on the coast of Toyland, and all its passengers drowned except King Selim. He had been brought to Dolltown, and, because he was a king, Queen Rosebud had given him a set of rooms in her palace, where he had lived very comfortably ever since.
“What was he King of?” asked Peggy.
Mrs. Noah hesitated. “I really don’t know, dear,” she said. “Do you know, Wooden?”
“No,” said Wooden. “I never thought of asking.”
It seemed that nobody else had ever thought of asking either. They knew he must be a king because he said he was. Besides, he wore a crown. Everybody was very sorry for him, because his Queen had been drowned when the ship had been wrecked, but when some time had passed and he had got over that, he had become rather interfering, and he was not so much liked now as he had been, especially by the Waxes. For although all the dolls in Toyland generally lived happily together, still there was always apt to be a little feeling between the Waxes and the Woodens. The Waxes thought the Woodens were rather common, and the Woodens thought the Waxes were rather stuck up.
“Of course, speaking for myself,” said Mrs. Noah, “I’ve never had no quarrel with a Wax in my life, and, if I may say so, have as many friends among the Waxes as I have among the Woodens.”
She looked at Lady Grace, who said, “The Queen has always disliked having anything said against the Woodens, and has often told me that if she had not been born Wax she would have liked to be born Wood.”
There were murmurs of approbation at this speech, and Wooden’s mother said, “Wax is as wax does, I[Pg 51] always say. If all was as polite as the Queen, there wouldn’t be no trouble at all. But you haven’t told us about the Queen’s health yet, Mrs. Noah.”
“Well,” said Mrs. Noah, “it’s my belief that the Queen is dead.”
“Dear, dear!” said Wooden’s mother. “And such a nice lady as she was, too.”
“What makes you think that, Mrs. Noah?” asked Lady Grace. “Surely I should have heard of it if it had been true.”
“Well, perhaps you would, Lady Grace,” said Mrs. Noah. “Anyhow, she is alarmingly ill, and has appointed King Selim regent, to act in her place until she gets better. And if she dies, King Selim is to reign in her place. You see, the Queen having no children, naturally the only other royal person in Toyland has to reign instead of her.”
“Is that the law in Toyland?” asked Peggy.
Mrs. Noah looked at her affectionately. “Bless your pretty face, what questions you do ask, dear,” she said. “I don’t know nothing about the law, but it’s what King Selim says, and of course he knows, or else he wouldn’t say it.”
“Oh, no,” said Wooden decisively. “Some people don’t like him, but he isn’t as bad as that. Was it him[Pg 52] that ordered the royal barge to meet us, Mrs. Noah?”
“Yes, it was,” said Mrs. Noah. “Now I must be getting back to my old man. He says there ain’t no flavour in his pipe unless I fill it for him.”
“I hope the Queen isn’t really dead,” said Wooden, when Mrs. Noah had left them. “That would indeed be a sad pity. Look, dear, you can see Dolltown now. It won’t be long before we are there now.”
The ark had turned a bend in the river, and Peggy could see across the flat plains a large town with an enormous tower standing in the middle of it.
“That is the House of Cards,” said Wooden, in answer to her question. “It stands in the middle of the market-place, and is thirteen stories high.”
“What is it used for?” asked Peggy.
“It is used for going to the top of, dear,” replied Wooden. “You get a magnificent view of the surrounding country, and when you have looked at it you come down again.”
It was not long before they reached the outskirts of Dolltown. On either side of the river were rows of houses in which the poorer dolls, mostly wooden and rag, lived. The weather was warm, and many of the fronts of the houses stood wide open, showing the inside[Pg 53] of the four rooms into which each of them was divided. There were generally a kitchen and a dining-room on the ground floor, and a drawing-room and a bedroom above. None of these houses had staircases, and it was puzzling to think how the dolls could get into the upstairs rooms. Wooden explained, when Peggy asked her, that the dolls either climbed in through the windows, or, if the house-front was open, put a kitchen chair on the kitchen table, and scrambled up somehow. Those who were not strong enough to do so had to spend the night sitting on chairs in the kitchen or dining-room.
“Isn’t that rather uncomfortable for them?” asked Peggy.
“Well, dear, perhaps it is rather,” said Wooden. “But, you see, we’re not so particular as you are, so we don’t feel it so much.”
“But didn’t you say there wasn’t any night in Toyland?” asked Peggy.
“Perhaps, I did, dear. I say so many things in the course of time that I can’t possibly remember all of them. But there is one thing I should never do, and that is tell a lie.”
Peggy looked at her quickly, fearing that she might be offended, but her face still wore its amiable sweet-tempered[Pg 54] expression, and when Peggy gave her a kiss, just in case she might have said something to hurt her, she kissed her back, and called her a precious lamb.
Some of the dolls’ houses that they were passing were quite well furnished. Others had furniture a good deal too large for the rooms, but the dolls seemed all to be of one size, and Wooden told Peggy that, however large or small a doll might be in the nursery, when it got home to Toyland it became as large as life.
All the inhabitants of these small houses came thronging down to the banks of the river to see the procession of animals, and to cheer the royal ark as it passed along. Peggy noticed that the wooden dolls cheered more heartily than the wax dolls and china dolls and composition dolls. In fact one party of Dutch dolls became so excited as the ark passed that they all fell into the river, and had to be rescued by Mr. Noah’s youngest son, who was attending to the elephants. All were got safely to land, except the father of the Dutch doll family, who swam out and clung to the ark, and was dragged on board by Mr. Noah himself.
Just at the moment when this was happening Wooden’s aunt came out of the saloon, and seemed highly delighted at the scene. She bent down and[Pg 55] slapped her knees with both her hands, and then threw her head back and roared with laughter.
“Lawks! I wouldn’t have missed that for anything,” she said, when the Dutch doll had been led below. “Well, I’ve had a nice little nap, girls, and now I’ve come to cheer you all up a bit.”
“Then behave yourself, do, Polly,” said Wooden’s mother severely, “and don’t let’s have any more of your carryings on.”
When the Dutch doll was quite dry he insisted upon being led into the presence of “the company.” Mr. Noah had lent him his second-best yellow robe, in which he looked rather funny, as it was too long for him. He[Pg 56] came up the steps from the saloon, and, tripping over the skirt of the robe, fell flat at the feet of Wooden’s aunt, who roared with laughter at him again.
So far from getting up again as quickly as possible, the Dutch doll remained where he was, rubbing his forehead on the deck of the ark.
“Get up, man,” said Wooden’s mother sharply, “and don’t stop lying there like a silly.”
The Dutch doll got up, looking foolish, and bowed low to Wooden’s aunt. “I hope your Majesty is quite well,” he said. “I am very pleased to see your Majesty.”
“Lawks! he calls me ‘your Majesty!’” said Wooden’s aunt. “Well, I never! I shall die of laughing if this goes on.” And indeed it seemed likely that she would.
“The man’s silly,” said Wooden’s mother. “His ducking has turned his head. The Queen isn’t here. We’re only the party that the royal ark has been sent down for.”
But still the Dutch doll kept on bowing to Wooden’s aunt, and calling her your Majesty; and Wooden’s aunt enjoyed it.
Lady Grace intervened in her polite and aristocratic manner. “Don’t you know Queen Rosebud by sight?”[Pg 57] she asked. “In calling this lady your Majesty you are coming very near to telling a story.”
“Oh, I wouldn’t do that, my lady,” said the Dutch doll, much shocked. “Queen Rosebud is dead, you know.”
“I feared it,” said Wooden. “It is very sad.”
Lady Grace turned pale. “She was a loving mistress and a great Queen,” she said.
Wooden’s mother said, “Yes, she was. But crying out about it won’t bring her to life again, poor thing!” And Wooden’s aunt had the grace to leave off with her nonsense, and say, “I’m sure I’m sorry to hear the news. Then who is going to be Queen now?”
“You are, your Majesty,” said the Dutch doll, bowing to her again. “King Selim is going to marry you.”
“What, marry me!” exclaimed Wooden’s aunt, forgetting to be vulgar for once, in her surprise. “Well, I never! Why, I hardly know the gentleman.”
“Surely you are making some mistake,” said Lady Grace.
The Dutch doll looked offended. “Do you think I’d tell you a lie?” he asked.
“Oh, no, of course he wouldn’t do that,” said[Pg 58] Wooden hastily. “If he says so, of course it is so. But you’re not Queen yet, aunt.”
“No, nor never will be, if you don’t learn to behave proper,” said Wooden’s mother. “If I was you I should keep quiet till the wedding ceremony.”
Wooden’s aunt seemed to think this was good advice, for she gave no more trouble till the ark drew up at the royal quay in the middle of Dolltown.
The Royal Quay was a great open space carpeted with red felt, and decorated with palms and flowers. Wooden soldiers were standing all round the square, and inside it was a royal carriage with six wooden horses, and servants in scarlet liveries. A little troop of lead soldiers on black horses was drawn up by the carriage, and looked very gallant with their scarlet tunics, silver breastplates and helmets and waving plumes. Lady Grace blushed when she saw that the head of the troop was Colonel Jim, and said to Peggy, “The rather nice-looking officer is a friend of mine, dear. I will introduce him to you when I get an opportunity.”
Behind the wooden soldiers was a great crowd of dolls, all cheering themselves hoarse as the royal ark was being tied up by the quay, and the bridge was being run out. Peggy noticed that there were no wax dolls among them, and rather wondered at this, but had not time to ask about it in the excitement of the moment.
Just by the landing stage was a little group of gentlemen dolls. The most important person in it was an old gentleman doll of patriarchal aspect. He had no beard, but his head was completely bald, and he was dressed in a long gown of black velvet. As soon as the bridge between the quay and the ark was put into position, he came forward with his party on to the platform of the ark, and bowed low before Wooden, who happened to be standing a little in front of the rest.
“Welcome, your Majesty,” he said, “to the Capital of your kingdom of Toyland. I will explain why I thus address you later.”
Wooden was quite taken back, and could only stammer out, “But Mr.—Mr.—I don’t know your name, but——”
“My name is Norval,” said the old gentleman doll. “And I am the Lord Chancellor of your Majesty’s kingdom.”
“But why do you call me your Majesty, Mr. Norval?” asked Wooden.
“Lord Norval, at your Majesty’s pleasure,” corrected the Lord Chancellor. “I address you as a Queen because King Selim, successor to our late lamented Queen Rosebud, has intimated his intention of marrying you, and in these matters I feel that one cannot[Pg 62] begin too soon. Besides, it is his Majesty’s pleasure that you should be paid every possible honour, as his highly respected bride to be.”
“But Lord Noodle!” stammered Wooden, getting his name a little wrong in her perplexity, “this gentleman said that it was my aunt here that the king wanted to marry.”
She indicated the Dutch doll, and the Lord Chancellor looked at him in anger. “Did you say that?” he asked.
Wooden’s aunt broke in before the Dutch doll could speak. “Yes, he did say it,” she said. “And I ain’t going to give up my Selim for nobody. Him and me has always been friendly like, and I wasn’t a bit surprised to hear he wanted to marry me. Why should he want to marry a young thing like Wooden, I should like to know? Why she’s like a kid beside of him! It’s me that’s going to be Queen, not her.”
“Captain Cook,” said the Lord Chancellor to a lead soldier of his party, “arrest this Dutchman for telling a lie, and arrest this woman for telling another.”
“What, me!” cried Wooden’s aunt. “How dare you accuse me of telling a lie, you old creature with a head like an egg? How dare you? What lie have I told?”
“Arrest her again for insulting the Lord Chancellor,” said Lord Norval. “You said you were going to be Queen, and that’s a lie. King Selim wouldn’t look at you. He has confided to me that he has been in love with—with—I suppose I had better say Princess Wooden, for some time, and has reason to believe that she is not indifferent to him.”
“Well, he has looked at me sometimes,” said Wooden, “but I’m sure I never gave him any encouragement. I don’t like him very much, Lord Noodle. He’s a foreigner, you see, and I don’t like foreigners. Couldn’t it be arranged for him to marry my aunt, as she’s ready for him! I’d rather it was her than me.”
The Lord Chancellor looked muddled. “I couldn’t say anything without consulting his Majesty,” he said. “He might consent; but then again he might not. The best way will be for us all to go up to the Palace, as already ordered, and ask him. I am sorry your aunt will have to appear there under arrest, but as she has committed a crime, or rather two crimes, that can’t be helped.”
The situation was certainly awkward. Nobody quite seemed to know what to do about it. But Peggy, who had been listening with great interest to what had been said, ventured to make a suggestion. “If Wooden’s[Pg 64] aunt does marry the King,” she said, “then she wouldn’t have told a story, would she?”
Everybody brightened up, and the Lord Chancellor said, “That is one of the cleverest things I ever heard said. But who is this ingenious and attractive-looking young lady, may I ask?”
Wooden explained to him who Peggy was, and he bowed low to her, and said he was proud to make her acquaintance. “Well, after what you have pointed out,” he said, “I have no difficulty in unarresting this lady for telling a lie. But she has also insulted a high official. She said that my head was like an egg. It may be or it may not be, but nobody could say that it was a polite thing to point out.”
He looked at Peggy as if he expected her to make another suggestion, and would not be sorry if she made it.
Peggy could think of nothing better to say than, “I like eggs myself, especially if they are new-laid.”
The Lord Chancellor caught at this instantly. “Did you have a new-laid egg in your mind when you referred to my head, Madam?” he asked of Wooden’s aunt.
Wooden’s aunt, who was looking much more subdued than usual, standing by the officer who had arrested[Pg 65] her, said, “Well, there’s one thing I never would do, and that’s tell a lie. I can’t rightly say that I had a new-laid egg in my mind, because I won’t deceive you, I don’t know where my mind is. I went to sea early, and never had much schooling, and never learnt no physiognomy. There may be a new-laid egg in my mind, or there may not. I wouldn’t like to say.”
“What I would suggest to you, madam,” said the Lord Chancellor, “is that in likening my head to an egg you didn’t mean an old-laid egg, or an addled egg, or a bad egg, or anything of that sort. If it is like an egg at all, it was a fresh egg you meant.”
“Oh, lawks, yes,” said Wooden’s aunt. “I’d never be one for insulting a gentleman. I know what’s due to myself and my family better.”
“Then that is quite enough for me,” said the Lord Chancellor, evidently greatly relieved. “Captain Cook, unarrest this lady completely.”
“And the Dutch doll, too,” said Peggy, pleased at having succeeded so well.
“And the Dutch doll, too, of course, Captain Cook,” said the Lord Chancellor. “And my advice to you, sir, is to make yourself scarce. You have had a narrow escape, and let it be a lesson to you.”
The Dutch doll, whose knees had been knocking together[Pg 66] with fright, picked up the skirts of Mr. Noah’s second-best yellow robe, and ran away as fast as he could. He poked in between two of the wooden soldiers[Pg 67] guarding the quay, and was lost in the crowd. But he was an honest doll, for the next morning Mr. Noah received back his second-best robe by parcel’s post, with a note of thanks, which he could not read, as it was written in double-Dutch.
The party was now ready to land and get into the royal carriage, but just as they had stepped off on to the red carpet on the quay, the Lord Chancellor’s eyes fell upon Lady Grace, whom he seemed not to have noticed before.
His face darkened, and he said, “Why, what is this? A wax doll at large, after the royal proclamation that all Waxes are to be imprisoned! Captain Cook, do your duty instantly.”
Captain Cook stepped forward to arrest Lady Grace, who shrank away from him, while Wooden and her mother and aunt began to protest volubly against such an outrage, for they were all friendly to Lady Grace, who had always treated them with perfect politeness.
Peggy felt dreadfully frightened at the moment at all the hubbub, and at the idea of poor Lady Grace being taken off to prison; but just as she was trying to think what she could do to stop it there was an unexpected diversion. Colonel Jim, the officer in charge of the Lifeguards standing by the royal carriage, rode[Pg 68] forward with a clatter of harness and accoutrements, and said in a loud voice, “Unhand that lady!”
There was a moment’s pause. Then the Lord Chancellor said, “Colonel Jim, you are taking a great deal upon yourself. You know what the royal proclamation was. All Waxes are to be arrested and sent to prison.”
“What for?” asked Colonel Jim, with soldierly brevity.
“The general charge against them,” said the Lord Chancellor, “is giving themselves airs.”
“Has Lady Grace ever given herself airs?” asked Colonel Jim.
“No, that she never has,” said Wooden’s mother indignantly. “I will say this for her, Wax or no Wax, that a nicer-spoken or nicer-behaved lady never stept.”
“And she was a great favourite of Queen Rosebud’s, besides,” said Wooden. “She thought the world of her.”
And even Wooden’s aunt showed up well in the emergency. “If I’m to be Queen,” she said, “I shall have Lady Grace as my own lady-in-waiting. She shall put in my hairpins for me, which I never could do rightly myself. And how’s she to do that if she’s in prison?”
Colonel Jim rode back to his troop without saying[Pg 69] another word. But his interference had been successful, for the Lord Chancellor said, “Under the circumstances, I will not have Lady Grace arrested now. She can come with us to the Palace, and we will see what the King has to say about it.”
Then Wooden and her mother and aunt, and Lady Grace and Peggy got into the royal carriage, and the Lord Chancellor and his suite got into two other carriages. Colonel Jim and his Life Guardsmen formed themselves on either side, and with a clash and a glitter, the little procession started. The wooden soldiers all presented arms, and made a way through for them, and they drove off the quay and into the streets of Dolltown.
Peggy had been rather surprised that the dolls had not shown more grief at the sudden death of the Queen, though all of them had certainly spoken very nicely about it when the news had first come to them, and were evidently sorry that she had died. But she now began to understand that dolls do not take things in quite the same way as human beings. For one thing, there were no signs of mourning in the streets, but on the other hand there were flags on some of the houses, and all the people seemed to be out of doors watching for the royal procession, and when it appeared they[Pg 70] cheered heartily, and seemed as happy and pleased as possible. This was all the more remarkable because, if what the Lord Chancellor had said was true, which of course it was, as he would never have told a lie, all the wax dolls in the place had already been sent off to prison, and you might have thought that that would have sobered the rest. But even the four dolls in the carriage seemed to have forgotten it, and also the unpleasant episode of Lady Grace nearly being taken off to prison, too. They were all anxious to point out to Peggy the interesting sights to be seen on either side of them, and had nothing to say about anything else, not even about what might happen when they arrived at the royal palace. And as they seemed able to forget everything but the pleasure and interest of the moment, Peggy was able to do so, too.
What she saw of Dolltown enchanted her. It was like all the toys she had ever had, and her friends had had, and she had seen in shop-windows, all become real, and not only that, but of a size to be used. All little girls know what it is to wish that they could sometimes live in their own dolls’ houses, especially in the big ones, where there are staircases that they could go up and down if only they were of the right size, and all sorts of nice furniture, and dinner-sets and tea-sets,[Pg 71] and other things which they would like to use themselves and not always be making believe with. Well, in Dolltown, and in fact in the whole of Toyland, there was no making believe. Everything was as real as real, even the smallest things for the smallest dolls. Peggy could have used everything she saw herself, and it was really quite thrilling and delightful to feel that she could pretend to be a doll if she wanted to, and have all the fun for herself that little girls give to their dolls.
Just outside the royal quay was a large station, with platforms and signal boxes and bridges and lines of rails all complete, and a train waiting there with a bright green clockwork engine, ready to go off into the country. One of Peggy’s boy cousins had collected a splendid railway plant—his relations always gave him things for it at Christmas and on his birthdays—and Peggy had often wished she could go for a ride in it all round his playroom floor, and be shunted and go under the little tunnels, and stop at the stations, just as the tin soldiers he put into the carriages did. Well, it would be just as much fun going in this railway system, and she could get into the toy carriages just as easily as her cousin’s tin soldiers.
They crossed over the river on one of those suspension[Pg 72] bridges that you see in shop-windows, and then climbed a hill into the town. At the beginning of the hill was a large toy fort, crammed with tin soldiers, who were looking over the parapet and cheering them as they passed.
Then they went through a street of shops, and the joints of meat hanging in the butchers’ shops, and the fish lying on the slabs of the fishmongers’ shops, and the stores in the grocery shops were all real; and specially attractive were the highly-coloured fruits.
As for the shops where they sold the baby-clothes, they were too delightful. But the first one they passed brought a most disturbing thought to Peggy. She turned to Wooden and said, “Oh, Wooden, dear, where are all the long-clothes babies! Surely they haven’t been cruel enough to send them to prison, too!”
“Oh, no, dear,” said Wooden decidedly. “Nobody is cruel in Toyland.”
Peggy did not feel quite so sure of that, considering that Lady Grace had nearly been sent to prison already for being wax; and of course most long-clothes babies are wax, or composition. “Then where are they!” she asked.
“They are all having their morning sleep, dear,” said Wooden’s mother, and Peggy had to be content.
When they reached the more important streets of Dolltown, most of the houses were built of wooden or terra-cotta bricks, and very fine some of them were. But this part of the town was rather silent and deserted, for the owners of most of the fine houses were wax, and they had all been taken off to prison.
At last they reached the royal palace. It was a most gorgeous building, built of ivory, with windows made of enormous diamonds and rubies and emeralds and sapphires, all glittering in the sun.
The carriages drew up underneath an ivory porch. The Lord Chancellor was at the door of the royal one as soon as it was opened. “I will conduct you straight to his Majesty,” he said.
They were led through several magnificent ivory halls, with a great many looking-glasses in them but scarcely any furniture, and into the great Hall of Audience, where there was a lovely ivory throne on a daïs at one end, and on either side of the Hall a row of ivory chairs.
Here Peggy had two great surprises.
The first surprise was the new King, who was sitting on the throne. Directly she saw him, Peggy exclaimed, “Why, he’s a White Chess King!”
And so he was, though none of the dolls seemed to know it. His crown was on his head, and he had a face underneath it, which chess kings don’t have, and, although he was wood himself, his robes did not appear to be. But there was no doubt about his being a chess king, in spite of these differences, and the moment she saw him Peggy had the feeling that he ought not to be King of Toyland, for he wasn’t a real doll that children play with, but only part of a game for grown-ups.
The King was sitting on his throne when they came into the Hall, and standing by his side on the daïs was a lady doll. And this was Peggy’s second surprise. For the lady doll was no other than Rose, who had once been her own doll—the one she had given to Mabel in exchange for Wooden.
Now, as we know, Peggy had never really loved Rose; she had tried to, but had not succeeded. But she had not come to dislike her in any way, and had kissed her affectionately when she had given her up to Mabel, and told her that she would come to see her sometimes. And she had done this now and then, until Mabel’s father had left the village shortly afterwards, and taken Mabel and Rose with him.
But now, directly she set eyes on Rose again, and recognized her, Peggy felt that she did dislike her. She looked very proud, for one thing, and pride is not a quality that becomes anybody, least of all dolls, who are generally free from it. She also looked bad-tempered, and that again is a fault from which dolls are usually free. The only point to admire about her was her good looks, but as Peggy had never been able to love her because of them when she had been her own doll they did not recommend her now. Peggy felt once for all that she had been quite right in not liking Rose,[Pg 77] and also felt that it would be impossible ever to like her.
But we must get on. Directly the party introduced by the Lord Chamberlain made its appearance at the door of the Hall of Audience, the King rose from his throne. As they advanced up the Hall, he stepped down from the daïs, and approaching Wooden, bowed to her in a stately but somewhat foreign fashion, and took her hand. Then he said with great respect, “Madame, our wedding will take place in half an hour, and our coronation half an hour after that. I wish to get both ceremonies over before tea-time.”
He spoke in an imperious way, and although there was a sort of smile on his face as he looked at Wooden, showing that she was dear to him, it was not altogether a pleasant smile; nor did King Selim seem to Peggy an agreeable person. He was tall and fat and ugly, and looked as if he ate and drank too much.
Wooden was taken aback by the suddenness of the proposal. And no wonder! It must be remembered that she hardly knew King Selim, and had had no idea until half an hour before of anything in the nature of a marriage with him. And, although he had smiled at her, he had not uttered a word of love, nor even asked if she wanted to marry him or not. No lady would[Pg 78] like a gentleman simply to tell her that he was going to marry her in half an hour, even if the gentleman was a King.
“I don’t know, your Majesty,” she said hesitatingly. “Of course it’s a great honour you’re doing me. But I haven’t thought of such a thing, and—and——”
The Lord Chancellor stepped forward and bowed to the King. “Your Majesty,” he said. “I am empowered by this lady to make a suggestion to you. Would it be the same to your Majesty if you were to marry the lady’s aunt instead of her? She has the advantage of being wood, and of possessing considerable personal attractions. Wooden’s Aunt, kindly step forward, and display those attractions to his Majesty.”
Wooden’s aunt stepped forward, dropped a curtsy to the King, and smirked.
The King’s face darkened, and he was about to speak, when Rose, who was still standing by the throne on the daïs, interrupted. “Your Majesty,” she said, “this woman is not at all suitable for the purpose that has been suggested. She lives in the same part of the country over there as I used to, and I know all about her. She is quite a common woman—I believe she was[Pg 79] once a sort of stewardess on a ship—and, if I may so express myself, it is like her impudence to think of marrying your Majesty.”
Wooden’s aunt bridled. “And who are you, I should like to know,” she burst out, “to call me common? Common yourself! I dare say you think yourself very grand now, talking to a Majesty, but I’ve seen you dressed in dirty pink flannelette, and held head-downwards by one foot, over there. So there now, Miss Superior! Common, indeed! I’ll learn you!”
From these two speeches, Peggy understood that when dolls in Toyland talked about the world of real people they called it “over there.”
“Peace, woman!” ordered the King in an angry voice. “How dare you make a brawl in my royal palace?”
Wooden’s aunt was affected by the majesty of his demeanour, which was certainly that of a King, though not perhaps of a good king. She shrank back, and Selim went on: “I have no idea of marrying this woman, Norval, and I wonder at your suggesting such a thing. But before we talk about that I should like to know how it comes about that a wax doll is brought into my presence, when I have given orders that all[Pg 80] Waxes are to be imprisoned. And I should also like to know who this human child is, and how she comes here. It looks to me very much like prying.”
King Selim had very bushy eyebrows, and he bent them with a terrific frown upon Peggy and Lady Grace, as he spoke.
Lady Grace shrank back, evidently frightened by Selim’s anger. But Peggy wasn’t frightened at all. She knew somehow that she had nothing to fear from a chess king, however angrily he might look at her. She even thought that she might be able to do something to save Lady Grace, if the King tried to punish her for being wax. But at present she thought she had better keep quiet, and see what happened.
The Lord Chancellor did not seem to be frightened of the new King either. He said, in a chatty sort of way, “Now those are both very interesting questions, your Majesty, and I shall be delighted to discuss them with you. Then there’s the question of your marriage to be decided, and several other little matters, which will give us quite an agreeable discussion, if we take them one by one. What I say is, let’s have an Audience.”
The King stepped back on to the daïs and whispered to Rose, who shrugged her shoulders and looked disagreeable,[Pg 81] but did not seem to be able to object to the proposal.
“Very well,” said the King, seating himself on his throne. “We’ll have an Audience.”
The Lord Chancellor seemed pleased at the idea of an Audience. “Bring in the Woolsack,” he said to the royal servant dolls, who were standing round the daïs; and two of them went out, and came back with a large sack of wool, which they placed in the middle of the Hall. The Lord Chancellor took his seat on it, facing the throne, but it was so soft that he fell back into it, and it covered him up so completely that only two little thin legs could be seen sticking into the air. But the two royal servants quickly rescued him, and sat him in the middle of the sack, which bulged up all round him. He laughed in a very good-humoured way at his mishap, and said, “Now the rest of you take your seats, please, and then we’ll begin.”
All the company sat down on the ivory chairs on either side of the Hall, except Rose, who still stood at the right of the King on his throne.
“Now we must have everything quite in order,” said the Lord Chancellor cheerfully. “I don’t know who the lady is standing by his Majesty. I’ve nothing to say against her whatever. In fact, I’m sure she will[Pg 82] be of great assistance to us in our important deliberations. But I should like her to take her place with the rest, please.”
“I am advising his Majesty on behalf of the Composition dolls,” said Rose hastily. “It is his Majesty’s wish that I should keep by him. Please get on with the Audience, and don’t fuss.”
“Oh, if it’s his Majesty’s wish, I’ve nothing more to say,” said the Lord Chancellor genially. “I only thought you would be more comfortable sitting down. Now the first thing to be done is to announce what steps have been taken by your Majesty for the welfare of the Kingdom of Toyland. Let’s have it all, please, from the time you received the last wishes of our dear lamented Queen Rosebud.”
The King frowned. “I don’t want to have to go into all that again,” he said. “I want my questions answered.”
“All in good time, your Majesty,” said the Lord Chancellor. “But let’s have your statement first, please.”
Peggy quite expected that the King would refuse, and might even do something to the Lord Chancellor for giving him an order in that sort of way. But it seemed as if it was difficult for a doll to refuse to obey[Pg 83] any order, if it was given with enough firmness. At any rate, the King obeyed this one, although he frowned and looked very disagreeable about it.
“Well, if you must have it,” he said, “when the late lamented Queen Rosebud was nearing her end she told me that she wished me to reign over Toyland in her place.”
“Will you kindly make a note of this?” said the Lord Chancellor to his secretary, who was standing beside him. “Take it all down in shorthand; then we shall know where we are. Go on, please, your Majesty.”
“That’s all,” said the King. “Queen Rosebud said I was to reign, and I’m reigning.”
“Did his Majesty say it was raining?” asked the secretary.
“No, no,” said the Lord Chancellor testily. “The King said he was reigning—with a ‘g.’ Keep your ears open, please. Well, that’s all in order, then. Now what about the imprisonment of all wax dolls, your Majesty? Let’s have that explained, please.”
The King frowned again. “Have I got to explain everything I do, when I’m already King?” he asked.
“Yes, please, your Majesty,” said the Lord Chancellor firmly.
“Well, then,” said the King, “I was given reason to believe that there would be a revolution among the Waxes, when it was known that a wooden King was to succeed a wax Queen, and I took steps to prevent it, that’s all.”
“Who gave your Majesty reason to believe such a thing?” asked the Lord Chancellor. “I am China myself, but I have always lived on good terms with Waxes[Pg 85] and Woodens alike—Compositions and Rags, too, for the matter of that—and I believe I may say the same of most of the inhabitants of this happy country. I see no reason to believe that there would have been a revolution of any sort, when it was given out that Queen Rosebud had nominated you as her successor.”
“Did you say that she abominated her professor?” asked the secretary. “You talk so very fast.”
The King broke in before the Lord Chancellor could reply. “Are you giving me a lecture?” he asked angrily.
“Yes,” said the Lord Chancellor. “Will your Majesty kindly answer my question?”
“No, I won’t,” said the King. “It is enough to say that I gave orders that if there was any trouble among the dolls landing from over there, a gun was to be fired. The gun was fired, and I ordered the Waxes to be locked up at once.”
“The gun was fired by mistake,” said Wooden’s mother sensibly. “I saw the soldier’s ears boxed for firing it with my own eyes.”
“Did she say she fired it with her own eyes?” asked the secretary. “She does mumble so.”
“Mistake or no mistake,” said the King, “the gun was fired, and the Waxes were locked up. And now[Pg 86] we’ve finished all that, I should like to know what this lady is doing here, when she ought to be in prison.”
He frowned terrifically at Lady Grace, who was sitting between Peggy and Wooden. Peggy took hold of her hand. Although Lady Grace was grown up, and she was only a little girl, she felt that she must protect her. For after all she was her own dearly loved doll, and Peggy was not going to have her bullied by a chess king, if she could help it.
It was Wooden who answered, in her calm, kind voice. “Lady Grace was a favourite lady-in-waiting of dear Queen Rosebud,” she said. “I think it would be a great pity to send her to prison, and I hope you won’t do it, your Majesty.”
King Selim’s face grew softer as Wooden spoke. Her voice was evidently music in his ears. Perhaps he would have given way at once, but before he could say anything, Rose, who was still standing by the side of the throne, spoke. “It isn’t safe to leave any wax dolls free to go about,” she said. “They will only stir up trouble. Compositions are quite as good as Waxes, and anything that Waxes could do, such as acting as ladies-in-waiting to royalty, Compositions can do.”
“You’re not even Composition,” broke in Wooden’s aunt, who had been glowering at Rose all along, and[Pg 87] seemed to have forgotten her own fright. “You’re Composition down to the neck, and your hands and feet and the rest of you is stuffed rag. Yes, stuffed rag! So there, Sawdust!”
The Lord Chancellor held up his hand. “That is a very serious accusation to bring against a lady,” he said. “I understood the lady to claim that she was Composition. Do you mean to accuse her of telling a lie, madam?”
“I’ve seen her held upside down by the leg,” said Wooden’s aunt. “Composition below, sawdust above. Deny it if you can.”
Rose did not deny it. She looked as if she were going to, but her eyes rested on Peggy, and she knew that Peggy knew all the truth about her. She burst into angry tears. “It is most offensive to be addressed in that way by a vulgar creature like that,” she said. “Before gentlemen, too! She hasn’t got any legs at all, herself, over there. Nor a nose either. She’s a regular figure of fun.”
The King put out his hand to soothe her. “The first law I shall make,” he said, “will be that no doll in my dominions shall ever refer to the deficiencies of another doll over there, under pain of imprisonment. I feel very strongly on the subject. That is why I object to[Pg 88] human children being brought over here to pry, and perhaps to tell tales. I shall make a law forbidding that, too.”
“I think it would be a pity to do away with the good feeling that exists between us and human children,” said the Lord Chancellor. “Allowing one of them occasionally to visit us here is the only return we can make for special kindness. I shouldn’t make that law if I were you, your Majesty.”
“When I was at the head of my Pieces over there,” said the King, “there was a horrible child who used to put my head in her mouth. She had at the time only one tooth, but I bear the marks of that tooth upon me to this day.”
Directly he had spoken, a sudden memory came back to Peggy. A year or so before, her father had wanted to play a game of chess with a friend. The chess-men had been brought out, but it had been found that the white king was missing. Then it had come out that Peggy had had him to play with when she had been a baby, and he had not been seen since. Of course she had been too young to remember playing with him, but she felt almost certain that King Selim was the very same piece, especially as he was exactly the same in pattern as the black king, who still remained.
“Why, I do believe you’re our white chess king!” she cried out. “Father will be glad that you are found again.”
It would be impossible to describe the consternation that Peggy’s remark caused in the Hall of Audience. King Selim grew purple in the face with passion, and cried out in a terrible voice, “Arrest this Human instantly, and take her off to prison. She has spoken the truth, and it shall be her own undoing.”
Some royal guards stepped forward to do his bidding, and there was a great commotion among the other dolls in the Hall.
But before the soldiers could reach Peggy, the Lord Chancellor made his voice heard above the hubbub. “Half a moment! Half a moment! Half a moment!” he kept on calling out, louder and louder, and quicker and quicker, until the words sounded like “Ar-mo! Ar-mo!” The soldiers paused, and the noise died down, until he could make himself heard.
“It is rather a serious thing to arrest a Human, your Majesty,” he said. “I don’t think it has ever been[Pg 91] done before, and it may make a deal of trouble. We ought to be careful how we go.”
The King was still almost beside himself with rage. “Do you think I am going to let my enemy go, now I have got her in my power at last?” he cried. “Yes, that’s the odious child who made these scars.”
Since his face had become so red, a lot of little white marks had come out all over it. They were the marks of Peggy’s dear little first tooth, and she couldn’t help laughing as she looked at them, which made the King angrier still.
“How dare you laugh?” he cried passionately. “I’ll send you to prison, and keep you on bread and water and mustard. I’ll execute you. I’ll have your ears boxed three times a day, an hour before meals and half an hour after. If my mouth was big enough I’d bite your head, and see how you liked it. Arrest her instantly and take that wax doll with her as well, and the woman who dared to think she was going to marry me. Do it at once, and don’t you dare to cross my royal will any longer, Norval, or I’ll have you arrested, too.”
As the King had given way when the Lord Chancellor spoke firmly, so the Lord Chancellor now gave way when the King spoke firmly. He shrugged his[Pg 92] shoulders, and said, “Well, I think you are making a mistake, your Majesty, but if you say it is to be done, of course it must be done.”
Wooden rose from her seat as the officials prepared to carry out the King’s orders. “If they are to go to prison,” she said, “I shall go, too, and so will mother. Then we can all keep each other company. I expect they will take us to the House of Cards, dear,” she said in a lower voice to Peggy. “It is very nice there, and there is a lovely view.”
Now it might have been thought that King Selim would have hesitated before letting Wooden go off to prison, considering he had just told her that he intended to marry her in half an hour. But he was so beside himself with rage that he hardly knew what he was doing or saying. “Take the whole lot of them off,” he ordered, “and don’t let me see their ugly faces again.” Then he gathered up his robes and stalked off the daïs and out of the Hall, by a door at the back, which he banged after him.
The royal guards now approached the five prisoners, but did not take hold of them or put handcuffs on them, or anything of that sort. For the Lord Chancellor said to them, “Go easy, now! It’s only a little flash in[Pg 93] the pan, ladies. The King is rather irritable by nature, and I don’t think his lunch has agreed with him. But he will think better of this by-and-by, and you will all be let out again.”
“Not if I know it,” said a haughty, scornful voice.
It was Rose, who still stood on the daïs, and was looking at them with a cruel joy, which she made no effort to disguise.
Her contemptuous gaze fell upon each of them in turn, but when she came to Peggy it turned into one of absolute ferocity. She stretched out her forefinger, and pointed at her. “Base human,” she addressed her. “I never thought to get you into my power, but now I have you you will rue the day when you came across the path of Rose, who never forgets and never forgives.”
“Tut! tut!” said the Lord Chancellor. “These are hard words, madam, and quite out of order.”
“Silence!” cried Rose, in a terrible voice, and flashing a terrible look at him from her dark and flaming eyes. And the Lord Chancellor shrugged his shoulders again, and kept silence, until she had finished her oration.
“Was it not enough,” she said, “that I should be[Pg 94] born into the world over there as the property of a human child whom I despised and hated, but I must be treated by her with the grossest indignity?”
Peggy thought this was a little too much. She was not in the least frightened of Rose, nor of the King, nor of all the palace guards put together, and thought it would be rather amusing to go to a dolls’ prison, and see what it was like. But she was not going to be stormed at and told stories about by Rose.
“Why did you hate me?” she asked. “I was always kind to you, and I would have loved you if you had let me.”
Rose laughed her scornful laugh. “As if I wanted your love!” she exclaimed. “Or the love of any human child! I hate the whole tribe of them, and wish I could have them all over here, and tell them what I thought of them.”
“Oh, this is quite out of order, quite out of order,” said the Lord Chancellor fussily. “I wish you would finish what you have to say, madam, and let us get on with our work. You are keeping us all waiting.”
Rose took no notice of him, but went on. “You exchanged me,” she said, “for a battered wreck of a wooden doll, without a vestige of beauty such as mine, or indeed of any sort.”
“Who are you talking about, Miss Imperence?” said Wooden’s aunt, suddenly breaking in. “This young lady exchanged you for my niece, who is going to be Queen when she comes out of prison. You’d better be a bit more careful of what you say; that’s my advice to you. And don’t forget that what we can’t see of you is stuffed with sawdust.”
“Yes, I should leave off, if I were you,” said the Lord Chancellor. “You are not being polite, you know, and it is quite true what the lady says. It is the future Queen of Toyland that you seem to have been exchanged for, and his Majesty won’t like it if you call her names.”
Rose laughed her scornful laugh again. “She will never be Queen of Toyland,” she said. “I’ll see to that.” And with a toss of her head and a swish of her skirts she swept out of the Hall, by the door through which the King had already disappeared.
The Lord Chancellor completely recovered his good humour the moment she was gone. “What a very talkative lady!” he said, with a laugh. “However, we needn’t worry our heads about her. We’ve got plenty to occupy ourselves about, haven’t we?”
It really seemed as if they had. It is not every day that five ladies are taken off to prison, not knowing[Pg 96] when they will be let out again; and the experience would naturally make them think. But the four dolls did not seem to be much cast down by the prospect, and Wooden kept on assuring Peggy that the House of Cards was a very nice prison, and there was a magnificent view from the upper stories.
The Lord Chancellor proposed that they should walk to the prison, so that Peggy might see some of the life of Dolltown before she was shut up. “I should have liked to take you about myself,” he said politely, “and to show you some hospitality during your visit. It’s a pity you didn’t come when Queen Rosebud was alive. However, we must make the best of things, mustn’t we? I’ll see that you’re comfortable, and have plenty of pot-plants. We might buy a few as we go along. I like pot-plants.”
They set out. The Lord Chancellor gave the palace guards instructions to walk behind. “The people will think they are just a guard of honour,” he explained kindly. “If they were to put handcuffs on you, it would be different. But I have always been one for making things comfortable all around. Live and let live is my motto.”
He walked between Peggy and Wooden as they went through the streets, and turned out to be a pleasant,[Pg 98] chatty old gentleman, with a well-stored mind, and a fund of varied information. He told Peggy a good deal that interested her about the conditions of life in Dolltown, and she found it difficult to believe that she was really being taken to prison, and quite enjoyed her walk.
The streets were gay, and crowded with dolls of all sorts except those made of wax. A good deal of interest was aroused by the little procession, with the six palace guards bringing up the rear. Gradually a crowd of dolls gathered and walked with them, so that the streets became rather full, and the dolls who were driving the toy hansom cabs, and the toy motors, and the toy carts, had some difficulty in making their way along.
The Lord Chancellor seemed to enjoy the attention that was being drawn to them, but also to be a little anxious about being recognized. He called his secretary to him, and said, “You might just tell some of the people that the elderly gentleman in the velvet gown, with a learned and amiable expression of face, is the Lord Chancellor. Then they will hand it on to the others. We will go into this shop and buy some pot-plants.”
They went into a flower-shop, full of toy flowers in[Pg 99] very bright red pots, and the Lord Chancellor made a handsome purchase, and paid for it with toy money, which Peggy thought most fascinating. She wished she had brought some of hers with her, for she had had a lot given to her for a Christmas present, and would have been quite rich with it in Toyland. The pots were given to the guards to carry, and they said good-bye to the nice pleasant woman doll who kept the shop, and set out again.
While they had been in the shop, the Lord Chancellor’s secretary had been telling everybody who they were, and also that they were all on their way to prison. He had not been told to say this, but he was rather stupid. The only reason why he was kept on was that he was so willing. But this time he had been a little too willing, for a lot of the doll people were inclined to be angry at so much sending to prison, and some of them thought that the Lord Chancellor could have stopped it if he had liked.
So when they all came out of the shop, there were not quite so many smiles for them as before, and there were even a few boos and hisses as they continued on their way.
The Lord Chancellor looked surprised and pained. “Now I did think that when they were told who I was they would be pleased,” he said. “I must say that I do like people to like me, and it makes me positively miserable if they don’t. What can I have done? There isn’t a smut on my nose, or anything like that, is there?”
“No,” said Wooden. “There is only a small pimple that people might mistake for a smut if they were a little short-sighted.”
“Ah, then I expect that is it,” said the Lord Chancellor. “That pimple has been growing lately, and I always feared that it would bring me trouble.”
Peggy now began to be a little frightened, for the crowd of dolls was pressing more closely round them, and the hisses and the booing were beginning to get louder. Many of the dolls looked angry, too, and she found that it was one thing to laugh at a single chess king being angry, and quite another to have several hundred dolls as large as life jostling round her in a crowd.
You see, an angry doll is not what you are accustomed to, and you are always apt to be a little frightened at something that is quite strange.
But just as it was beginning to be difficult to move forward, because of the crowd, Peggy suddenly caught sight of something that took her mind off what was happening. This was the shiny black hat and yellow robe of Mr. Noah on the edge of the crowd, and not only that, but the brown coat and merry face of her own old Teddy. She had been so occupied with all the curious and interesting things that had been happening since she had come off the ark that she had had no time to think about Teddy, or to wonder what he[Pg 102] was doing. But evidently he had made great friends with Mr. and Mrs. Noah, and was going about with them.
Well, Teddy was peering between the heads of the people to see what was happening, and directly he caught sight of Peggy he pushed his way through the crowd, followed by Mr. and Mrs. Noah. All of them were tall and strong, and although there were some complaints from the dolls they elbowed aside, such as, “Now then, where do you think you are going?” and “Mind who you’re shoving, can’t you?” the three of them quickly got through.
“Now then, Mr. Man,” said Teddy to the Lord Chancellor, “where are you taking my young mistress off to?”
“Why, they’re taking them off to prison!” said an indignant voice from the crowd, and it was repeated by several other voices, equally indignant. “They’re taking them off to prison.”
The Lord Chancellor held up his hand. “Now then, my good people,” he said, “don’t disturb yourselves, I do pray and beg of you. It’s the King’s orders, you know, and you can really hardly call it going to prison. They are going to be his Majesty’s guests for a little time in the House of Cards. There’s a glorious view[Pg 103] from there, and they will get very good food. You see, we’ve just been buying pot-plants to brighten up their apartments for them. Here they are. The guards are carrying them. You can see them for yourselves. Do please let us get on. The ladies want their tea.”
The Lord Chancellor seemed to attach great importance to the pot-plants, and they did make some impression on the crowd, because they could all see them, and there was no doubt about them at all. They made way for the Lord Chancellor to go on for a few steps, followed by his charges.
But Teddy wasn’t at all satisfied. “Here, wait a minute, Mister,” he said. “What are you taking my young mistress to prison for? That’s what I want to know. And, why bless me! here’s Wooden, too, and Lady Grace, and Wooden’s mother and aunt. I say, this won’t do at all, you know. Are they all going to prison?”
“Oh, yes, but only—well, you might almost call it for a little fun,” said the Lord Chancellor. “It’s more like a first-class hotel than a prison, you know. And—and—well, look at the pot-plants! You can see for yourself!”
“Oh, blow the pot-plants!” said Teddy; and Peggy did not object to the vulgarity of the expression, as he[Pg 104] spoke as if he really meant to do something. “What are they going to prison for?”
“Three wooden dolls, too!” said Mrs. Noah. “And one of them was going to be Queen, we were all told. It doesn’t seem to me as if the new King was acting quite right, it doesn’t.”
There were murmurs among the crowd. Mrs. Noah seemed to have hit upon a feeling that they all shared, more or less. “No, it isn’t right.” “There was hardly any sending to prison in Queen Rosebud’s time.” “They don’t look as if they had done anything wrong either.” “Nice kind faces, all of them!” These were a few of the speeches that reached Peggy’s ears from among the dolls who were all round her.
The Lord Chancellor still kept his good-natured expression of face, as if they were all making a great fuss about nothing, but he would put up with it for the sake of pleasing them. “Now, look here,” he said in a persuasive voice, “I think there’s a great deal in what you say, and I should be the last one to want to go against you. A more intelligent and intellectual-looking crowd I have seldom set eyes on, and it’s a real pleasure to address you.”
There were murmurs of approval, and one smartly dressed lady doll standing near to Peggy, said, “Lord[Pg 105] Norval can be trusted. I know all about him, and I once met him at a garden party.”
“Now suppose we come to a compromise,” said the Lord Chancellor.
There were more murmurs of approval. Another lady doll near to Peggy asked, “What is a compromise?”
“Oh, don’t you know?” said the first lady doll. “It’s ‘If you give way, I’ll pretend to.’”
“What I suggest is this,” said the Lord Chancellor. “Let us all take these ladies to the House of Cards—it isn’t really like a prison at all, you know—and when we have made them comfortable there, and got them off our minds, then we’ll talk about what can be done. Now that strikes me as eminently fair.”
“Yes, that’s a compromise,” said the first lady doll, “and a very good one. But I knew that the Lord Chancellor could be trusted. A cook I once had had been kitchen maid to a great friend of his wife’s.”
Peggy did not think much of the Lord Chancellor’s compromise, but it seemed to satisfy the crowd, who greeted it with enthusiasm, and immediately made a way through for them, and went along with them. Peggy thought that Teddy would have seen that if they were once all shut up in prison it would be much[Pg 106] more difficult to get them out again than to prevent their going there. But he said no more. With an encouraging wave of the paw he took himself off, followed by Mr. and Mrs. Noah, and was lost to view. Peggy felt a little sad, but only for a moment, because she couldn’t help treating the whole business as a sort of game; and everybody knows that whatever dreadful things happen in dolls’ games, everything always comes right in the end.
So on they all went, and by-and-by they came to the House of Cards.
The House of Cards was a noble structure, and one which interested Peggy extremely. She had once built one herself, up to five stories, and had nearly finished the sixth before it tumbled down. But the House of Cards in Dolltown was of no less than thirteen stories, and towered high above all the other buildings. Each story was as high as the shops round the market-place, and not even the Post-Office, which was an imposing edifice of terra-cotta bricks, reached higher than its second story. It was built up of gigantic cards, just as Peggy had built hers with ordinary sized ones, but it seemed quite strong, and as if it would last for ever. There were windows and doors in the cards, and the ones that were laid flat at each story formed platforms and balconies, on which you could go out to look about you.
Just as the Lord Chancellor was ushering them in to the House of Cards, a lead Life Guardsman from the palace rode up on his black horse and handed him a[Pg 108] note. “Now I am rather sorry for that,” he said, when he had read it. “I had intended to shut you all up in the top story, for the sake of the view. But the King doesn’t wish that. You are to be imprisoned on the first floor. Those are his very words. Well, you will be able to see the life of the market-place, which is very entertaining. As a distinguished doll once said, ‘There is no cloud without its silver lining.’ You couldn’t do that so conveniently from the top story. Perhaps the King thought of that. There is a good deal of thoughtfulness in his nature, though he is apt to be a little irritable after meals.”
“It’s like his nastiness not to let us see the view,” said Wooden’s aunt. “I wouldn’t marry him now, not if he was to go down on his bended knees, I wouldn’t.”
Peggy would have liked to go up to the top of the House of Cards, but it turned out very well for them all that they were not shut up there, as will presently appear.
The cards of which the house was built were so enormous that each story had two floors of several rooms. They were taken upstairs by a policeman doll, and found themselves in a spacious apartment furnished with quite nice dolls’ furniture, and not like a prison at all. The Lord Chancellor rubbed his hands[Pg 109] as he looked round him, and said, “Well, this isn’t so bad, is it? With the pot-plants it will look quite home-like, and I should think, when you are set free, you will hardly like to leave it. You can go out on this balcony, see? We might go out now, and look at the people. I’m sure they will be pleased to see us all, especially me. The people have a great love for me, and it is very gratifying. I often think about it when I am alone, and it sometimes brings tears to my eyes.”
They went out on the balcony, and looked down at the crowd of dolls in the market-place. There were all sorts there except wax. Peggy looked to see if she could see Teddy or the Noahs among them. There were several Teddy bears, and one or two Noahs in the crowd, but although she might not have recognized the Noahs of the royal Ark, Peggy would have known her own Teddy anywhere. She was sure that he was not in the crowd, and wondered what had become of him.
The crowd of dolls cheered when they appeared on the balcony. The Lord Chancellor put himself in front, and bowed repeatedly, but the dolls seemed to be cheering Wooden more than him. This was probably because they had been told that she was to be[Pg 110] their Queen, and because any doll who knew her would have told their friends how nice and good she was. So the news would have spread, and Wooden would have become popular. At any rate the dolls kept on calling out, “Wooden! Wooden! Speech! Speech!”
The platform was too high above the market-place to make it convenient for anybody to make a speech from it, even if they had wished to. Wooden did not wish to, not being accustomed to public speaking, but her aunt offered to dance a Highland fling, which her late husband had taught her. This offer was refused, and Wooden’s mother told her to behave herself, and remember where she was.
“Now, I must leave you,” said the Lord Chancellor. “Good-bye, ladies, and a very pleasant imprisonment to you!”
He shook hands affably with all of them, and bowed himself out. He seemed already to have forgotten the compromise he had come to with the people, and they seemed to have forgotten it, too; for Peggy watched him go off, followed by the palace guards, and bowing to right and left. The dolls in the market-place cheered heartily, but none of them stopped him to say anything, and he disappeared round the corner.
“Dolls seem to have very short memories,” said[Pg 111] Peggy to herself. She could not help feeling a little unhappy at being shut up in a prison, though it was only a dolls’ prison, and quite different from the stone cells she had read about. She did think that her own Teddy might have done something more to help them. She knew now that he was rather flighty, but surely he need not have gone off like that, and have left his mistress and her friends to be locked up, without trying to do anything to rescue them! She supposed he was amusing himself with his new friends, Mr. and Mrs. Noah, and had forgotten all about her.
But she did Teddy an injustice there, as you will soon see.
The policeman doll came up to see if they wanted anything directly the Lord Chancellor had gone, and brought his wife with him. He was a large, amiable-looking doll, and his wife was nice too. She was dressed as a Swiss peasant, and when she saw Peggy she said, “Bonjour, Mademoiselle! Comment ça va t’il?”
Now Peggy knew a good deal of French already, because her father and mother took her to Etretat every summer for the holidays. So she said at once, “Merci, Madame, ça va bien. Et vous?”
The policeman doll’s wife was delighted to hear her[Pg 112] own language spoken, and asked Peggy if she might kiss her. The policeman doll beamed affectionately at them, and said, “Isn’t that clever now? I never could pick up her lingo.”
They said they would like some tea as soon as possible, and apricot jam with it. The policeman doll’s wife, whose name was Mrs. Emma, said that she would bring it up as soon as she had bathed her baby.
“Oh, have you got a long-clothes baby?” asked Peggy, clasping her two hands together.
Mrs. Emma said that she had, and Peggy begged her to let her go down and bathe it for her.
The policeman doll said he didn’t think he could allow that without orders, but Mrs. Emma persuaded him, and he said that as the outer door of the house was locked, perhaps it wouldn’t much matter after all; only she wasn’t to tell anybody. Peggy would have promised almost anything for the sake of bathing a real live baby doll, and promised this readily enough. So she left the four dolls, promising to come back soon, and went downstairs with Mr. and Mrs. Emma.
They lived in the basement, where they had a large and well furnished kitchen, spotlessly clean. In one corner of it was a pretty bassinette covered with muslin and ribbons, and inside it was the sweetest little baby doll, beautifully dressed in a hand-made robe of cambric and lace. Everything was so pretty and dainty that it might have belonged to a princess, and Mrs. Emma told Peggy that she took a great pride in having everything very nice for her baby.
Peggy lost her heart to the baby doll at once. She would have loved it even if it had been just like other[Pg 115] dolls, but when it smiled at her, and put out its little pudgy hands, and gurgled happily, she could almost have eaten it, it was so fascinating.
Mrs. Emma put on her a large bath apron, and got out a white enamelled toy bath, with a gold rim round it, and a cake of pink soap, and filled the bath with hot water. And then Peggy lifted the baby doll carefully out of the cot and undressed it and put it into the bath, first putting her own hand in the water to see that it was not too hot.
It was lovely, bathing that beautiful fat laughing baby doll. Mrs. Emma stood over the bath smiling at them both, but she soon saw that Peggy knew exactly what to do and how to do it, so she went away to her work in another part of the kitchen.
Peggy was so busy with the baby doll, and so wrapped up in it, that she did not pay much attention to what Mr. and Mrs. Emma were talking about. But she heard some of the things they said, and, although she did not pay much attention to them at the time, as I have said, they turned out to be important afterwards, as you will see.
When Peggy had bathed the baby doll, and dressed it and put it back into its cot, she was taken upstairs again. She found the Woodens and Lady Grace on[Pg 116] the balcony, where something interesting was just about to happen.
A Teddy bear had made its appearance in the market-place with an enormous pole, and just as Peggy went out on to the balcony he was balancing it on his head. Then he balanced it on different parts of his body, as he knelt or lay or stooped on the ground. The crowd of dolls who still filled the market-place was absolutely delighted with his performance, and when he shouted out that he would climb up to the top of the pole and balance himself on his head, if somebody would hold it for him, all the gentlemen dolls in the market-place wanted to have the honour of holding the pole for him.
But the Teddy bear said he must choose who should hold the pole himself, and chose out of the crowd four tall wooden dolls with shiny black hats and different coloured robes. Then he looked up at Peggy and the four dolls standing on the balcony of the House of Cards, and waved his paw and made a low bow, and told his four assistants to hold up the pole near the House, so that the ladies could see. The crowd of dolls was pleased at this, for they were sorry for the prisoners, and wanted them to have all the amusement that they could get.
Well, of course you have already understood that the Teddy bear who was so clever at his acrobatic feats was Peggy’s own old Teddy, who had not forgotten her at all, but had evidently chosen this means of getting at them. And the four tall wooden dolls who were helping him were Mr. Noah of the Royal Ark, and his three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japhet. It was rather clever of Teddy to have chosen them out of the crowd, as if he hadn’t known them before. But Teddy was clever, in spite of his flightiness, and faithful, too, as Peggy was very glad to see. She had recognized him at once, but the crowd had not. One Teddy bear is very much like another, unless he happens to be your own, and there were several of them in the crowd itself, as I have already said.
Teddy climbed carefully up to the top of the pole, and when he got there he stood on one foot and waved his paws about, and then changed to the other foot, and kissed his paw to the crowd, and to Peggy and the dolls on the balcony. Peggy was afraid that he might tumble, and almost forgot to listen for anything that he might say when he got near to them. But he seemed quite at home on his pole, and as he turned towards them and kissed his paw, he said in a mysterious voice, “One of you go to the other side.”
That was all he said, and the crowd down below could not have known that he was saying anything at all, he did it so cleverly. He was just on a level with the balcony, and could easily have jumped on to it if he had wanted to. Peggy had thought that perhaps he had meant to do that, so as to be with them, because he could not have got there in any other way. But he was too clever for that, for if he had stepped on to the balcony, all the dolls who had been watching him would have known at once that they had been deceived. And besides, he would only have been locked up with Peggy and the four dolls, and could have done nothing more to help them.
When Teddy had said, “One of you go to the other side,” he turned round again, and then stood on his head on the top of the pole, as he had promised to do. The crowd of dolls was wild with delight, and none of them suspected that he had given a message to the prisoners.
“What does he mean? What are we to go to the other side for?” asked Wooden.
“I expect there is somebody there,” said Lady Grace. “Shall I go?”
“No, I’ll go,” said Wooden’s aunt, who had largely recovered her spirits during Teddy’s performance, and[Pg 119] had danced a few steps of a Highland fling on her own account, while he was posturing on the pole.
“I think Peggy had better go,” said Wooden’s mother. “She has a slightly better head than any of us, because she is human.”
“Oh, yes, let Peggy go,” said all the others at once. So Peggy went round the balcony to the other side of the house, feeling proud at the trust reposed in her, but a little alarmed also at what should happen. But she hid that from the dolls, and walked with a firm and confident step.
There was as big a space in the market-place on the other side of the House of Cards as in the one in which Teddy was performing, but it was absolutely empty. Every doll was watching Teddy, and even the shops were deserted, as all the doll shopkeepers had gone round to the other side. A thief might have taken anything he liked from the shops, and nobody would have seen him. But dolls are never thieves, so it was quite safe.
Perhaps I ought not to have said that that side of the market-place was absolutely empty. It looked so to Peggy when she got there, but when she looked over the edge of the platform she saw a solitary doll figure standing below her, looking up. It was rather a disappointment[Pg 120] to her, for it was a gentleman doll wrapped up in a long black cloak, and he had his arms full of pot-plants, like the ones the Lord Chancellor had bought to brighten up their rooms. Peggy thought they had quite enough pot-plants to go on with, and, if the gentleman doll only wanted to sell them some more, it was hardly worth Teddy’s cleverness to get all the people round on the other side, so that he might do so without being observed.
And that was apparently all that the gentleman doll did want, for directly he saw Peggy looking over the platform at him he called up to her, “Kind lady, buy a few pot-plants from a poor man. I’ve got some lovely ones here.”
“No, thank you,” said Peggy. “We have plenty. Besides, I haven’t got any money; at least, not here.”
“I don’t want any money for them,” said the gentleman doll. “Let me come up and show you my lovely pot-plants.”
Now there was something in his voice that Peggy seemed to recognize. She thought she had heard it before, but she couldn’t remember where or when. However, she began to understand that the pot-plants were only an excuse for the gentleman doll to get into[Pg 121] the House of Cards, and that if he did so he might have something interesting to say.
“I should be glad if you could come up,” she said. “But the doors are locked, and I don’t suppose they will let you.”
“Yes, they will, if you say the word ‘pot-plants,’” said the gentleman doll. “Say that somebody has come from the palace with some pot-plants for you. Go quickly, before anybody comes.”
Peggy went back, and told Wooden and the others what had happened. “I don’t know who it was,” she said, “but I couldn’t help thinking that I had heard his voice before.”
“Was it the Lord Chancellor?” asked Wooden’s mother. “Perhaps this is his compromise.”
“I don’t think so,” said Peggy. “But hadn’t we better ask for him to be let in?”
Teddy had finished his performance, and was climbing down the pole. It was time to do something, for soon the crowd of dolls would disperse, and some would go round to the other side of the House.
“Yes, dear, we had better do that,” said Wooden. “It is a very good idea. Perhaps you had better go yourself, if you don’t mind, as it was you who heard what he said.”
Peggy would have been quite willing to go down, but the door of their room was locked. So after a little more discussion they rang the bell, and presently Mr. Emma came up to see what they wanted.
The dolls seemed to expect Peggy to speak, so she said, “There is a man outside who wants to come up and see us.”
Mr. Emma beamed affectionately upon her. “Bless your dear little heart!” he said. “I’d do anything to please you, but I can’t let anybody up to see you without orders. It would be as much as my place is worth.”
“He has come from the palace with some pot-plants,” said Peggy.
Mr. Emma’s face underwent a complete change. “Come with what?” he asked.
“With some pot-plants.”
“Oh, well then, I’ll let him up at once,” said Mr. Emma. “Oh, certainly.”
He went out quickly, but did not forget to lock the door behind him.
Just as he had locked it, and they thought he was on his way downstairs, he unlocked it again, and put his head into the room. “What did you say the man had come with?” he asked.
“With some pot-plants,” said Peggy again.
“Ah, that’s the word,” he said. “I wasn’t quite certain I’d got it right.”
Then he locked the door behind him again, and they heard his feet going heavily downstairs.
In a few minutes he came back again, unlocked the door, and came into the room with the gentleman doll, who was wrapped in his long cloak, and carried his pots in his arms.
“I’ll leave the gentleman with you for a bit,” said Mr. Emma, “as I’m just in the middle of my tea.”
He went out and locked the door behind him once more. The gentleman doll, who had put the pots down on the floor, stood up and threw off his cloak, and revealed the stalwart form and handsome features of Colonel Jim, of the Lifeguards.
The first thing Colonel Jim did when he had thrown off his disguise was to bow politely to all of them. But to Lady Grace he did more than that. He took her hand and kissed it respectfully, and then said, “Very sorry to see you here, my lady. Forming plans to get you out. Disgraceful affair altogether!”
Lady Grace looked pleased at the attention paid to her, and blushed. Peggy had not known before that dolls could fall in love, but it was quite plain that Lady Grace was in love with handsome Colonel Jim. It seemed plain also that he was in love with her. He spoke in short sharp sentences because he was a soldier, and loved deeds better than words. But there was a tenderness in his manner when he addressed Lady Grace which he did not show to anybody but her, though his manners were always courteous.
Wooden’s aunt gave a screech of enjoyment when [Pg 125]Colonel Jim kissed Lady Grace’s hand, and said,[Pg 126] “Lawks! I wish I’d got a handsome beau like that.” But nobody took any notice of her, as there was so much to talk about. Wooden’s mother requested Colonel Jim to take a seat, which he did, and proceeded to explain himself.
“Didn’t hear you were shut up till Teddy bear came and told me so,” he said. “Determined at once to use the pass-word for the day, which I knew, as commanding troops at palace. Pass-word ‘Pot-plants.’ So concocted plan with Teddy bear, and here I am.”
Peggy wondered that she had not known who he was under his disguise. But he had not then spoken in the military way he used now, as he had, of course, been playing his part as well as he could.
“And very pleased we are to see you, Colonel Jim,” said Wooden, in her nice gentle manner. “It’s a sad thing, this shutting up of Waxes and others. I’m sure dear Queen Rosebud would never have allowed it, if she had been alive.”
“It’s my belief,” said Colonel Jim, “that Queen Rosebud is alive.”
All the dolls exclaimed, in surprise. And Wooden said, after the pause which followed, “But King Selim said that she was dead, Colonel Jim. We all heard him with our own ears.”
“I know that,” said Colonel Jim shortly.
There was another pause of consternation. “Do you mean that you think the King has told an untruth?” asked Lady Grace, in an awestruck voice.
“Yes,” said Colonel Jim.
Another pause. “It would be a dreadful thing if he had,” said Wooden. “He wouldn’t deserve to be King if he could do a thing like that, would he?”
“He doesn’t deserve it,” said Colonel Jim.
Nobody spoke. The matter was too serious to be treated in a light conversational way, and it was felt that Colonel Jim must have more to tell them, if he could only get it out.
He seemed to feel, himself, that he owed them explanations, and must try to make them as clear as possible, for he spoke slowly, and in longer sentences than he usually employed. He could do this all right if he liked.
“It was Rose who put him up to it all,” he said. “She’s mad all the time because she isn’t Wax.”
“And only half Composition,” put in Wooden’s aunt.
“Well, that’s as may be,” said Colonel Jim. “Anyhow, she got him to let her nurse the Queen, and told him to give out that she was dead. She wasn’t dead at all, but getting better all the time.”
“Do you mean that she told a story?” asked Wooden, in a voice of consternation.
“Yes,” said Colonel Jim. “I do.”
“Well,” said Wooden, “I never liked her; but I did not think she would go so far as that.”
“It’s depravity,” said Wooden’s mother. “That’s what I call it; positive depravity.”
“Well, that’s as may be,” said Colonel Jim again. “Anyhow, that’s what she did.”
“How did you find out about Rose so cleverly?” asked Lady Grace.
Colonel Jim looked pleased at being called clever, which he wasn’t very. “One of my troopers is going to be married to Rose’s maid,” he said. “She heard them talking—Rose and Selim—and told him about it. He came and told me. Very proper thing to do. Made him a lance-corporal on the spot. He marries the maid tomorrow. Shall give them a wedding present. Silver pepper-castor.”
“Then, where is dear Queen Rosebud?” asked Wooden. “I am so glad she isn’t dead after all. I wish we could see her.”
“This is my month to be in waiting,” said Lady Grace. “Could you take me to her, do you think?”
“Afraid that’s impossible,” said Colonel Jim.[Pg 129] “Don’t know where she is. She was taken out of the palace and hidden somewhere.”
“How dreadful it all sounds,” said Wooden. “I shouldn’t have thought such things could have happened in Toyland. I do hope they give her enough to eat.”
“I expect she’s having her tea now,” said Wooden’s aunt. “If I was a Queen, I’d have herrings every day.”
It was a foolish remark, as many of Wooden’s aunt’s remarks were, but it turned out to be a lucky one, for it reminded Peggy of something she had heard downstairs, while she was bathing the baby doll.
“I suppose she couldn’t be the lady in the top story!” she said.
They stared at her. “What do you mean, dear? What lady?” asked Wooden.
“When I was downstairs just now,” said Peggy, “Mrs. Emma was getting tea ready for the lady in the top story, and Mr. Emma said he was sorry for her being shut up there, and he wondered if she would like a herring for her tea.”
“Did they give her one?” asked Wooden’s aunt.
“No,” said Peggy. “Mrs. Emma said that as she was Wax she might not like herrings.”
“It’s the best fish out of the sea,” said Wooden’s aunt, smacking her lips. “Lawks! How I wish they’d bring me one!”
“Adone, now!” said Wooden’s mother sharply. “We’re talking about the Queen in the top story, not about what you’d like to have for your tea.”
“I don’t know that it is the Queen,” said Peggy. “But there is a lady on the top story, and she is Wax. I know as much as that.”
“And it’s a good deal to know, dear,” said Wooden fondly. “It was very clever of you to find it out.”
“Oh, it’s the Queen, right enough,” said Colonel Jim. “Wonder we never thought of her being here before. Question is now how to get at her. I wish that Teddy bear was here.”
They all seemed at a loss what to do next, and the suggestions they made were not very helpful. Wooden thought that it would be a good thing if Teddy were to bring a very long pole and climb up to the top of the House of Cards. But it was quite certain that there wasn’t a pole long enough in the whole of Toyland, or anywhere else. Wooden’s mother suggested throwing the Queen a rope. But it was equally certain that nobody could have thrown it far enough. Wooden’s aunt said, why not telephone to her? But this was silly, because there was no telephone.
By-and-by they all looked at Peggy, as if they expected her to suggest something sensible. She did not like to disappoint them, as it was flattering the way they seemed to believe in her. So she knitted her brows hard, to see if she could think of something.
“We could do so much more if we weren’t locked up in prison,” she said at last.
All the dolls looked at one another in admiration, and Wooden said, “Now, that’s one of the cleverest things I ever heard said, dear. How these things come into your head I can’t think.”
Peggy didn’t think that what she had said was so clever as all that, though she had had something further in her mind when she had said it. But she was pleased at being praised; most of us are; and she wanted to be as helpful as she could.
“Did you and Teddy make any plan for getting us out of prison?” she asked, turning to Colonel Jim.
“Now, I wonder what made her think of that?” said Wooden’s mother.
“Well, we did make a plan,” said Colonel Jim; “though how you guessed it I don’t know, as you couldn’t have heard us talking. Our plan was this: When I’m ready to go out, I say to Mr. Emma, ‘I should like to look at the view.’ He says, ‘With pleasure,’ and takes me up to the top story.”
“But supposing he doesn’t say ‘With pleasure,’” suggested Wooden.
Colonel Jim looked worried. “Teddy bear said he’d[Pg 133] say ‘With pleasure,’” he said. “Never thought of asking what to do if he didn’t.”
“If Teddy said he’d say ‘With pleasure,’ I should think he would,” said Wooden. “Teddy is flighty, but I have always found his word reliable.”
Colonel Jim brightened. “Well, then, we go up to the top story,” he said. “Then I look at the view, and I say—let’s see, what is it I say? I’ve learnt it all up, but it’s difficult to remember. Oh, yes, I know. I say, ‘What’s that bird flying towards the sea?’ No, that’s wrong. I say, ‘What’s that bird over there?’ He says, ‘What bird? Where?’ I say, ‘Over there!’ pointing towards the sea. He turns to where I point, you see, and——”
“But are you sure there will be a bird to point at?” asked Lady Grace. “If not, won’t it be telling a story?”
“Do you think it will?” asked Colonel Jim. “I shouldn’t like to do that.”
There was a pause. “I like the plan,” said Wooden, “but that does rather interfere with it, doesn’t it?”
They all looked at Peggy as if they expected her to find a way out of the difficulty; and she did so at[Pg 134] once. “I think there are sure to be birds flying about,” she said, “and some of them will be flying towards the sea.”
Their faces brightened, and Wooden’s aunt slapped her knee. “Now, doesn’t that beat all?” she said. “How she do think of things, to be sure! Well, go on, soldier.”
“Directly he says, ‘What bird, where?’” proceeded Colonel Jim, “that’s my sign. I get behind him. I whip off my cloak. I throw it over his head. I tie the cord—it’s got a cord, you see—round his arms, so that he can’t move. Then I say to him, ‘Your keys, please.’ Then I come downstairs with the keys, unlock the doors, and off we go. Well, that’s the plan, and if it all goes right I don’t think a better plan was ever invented. It’s Teddy bear’s plan chiefly, but it was me who thought of saying, ‘Your keys, please,’ instead of ‘Hand over your keys.’ More polite.”
The plan was not received with the pleasure that Colonel Jim seemed to expect. Wooden said doubtfully, “Mr. Emma is a very nice man. He might not like to have a cloak thrown over his head.”
“Don’t you think he would?” asked Colonel Jim, in a disturbed way. “I never thought of that. What do you say, Peggy?”
“If you were to treat him as gently as you could,” said Peggy, “and tell him that he might go downstairs to Mrs. Emma and the baby in five minutes, when we had all got away, he might not mind so much.”
“He couldn’t do that,” said Colonel Jim. “His legs would be tied up too. I forgot to say that. Can’t keep everything in your head at once.”
“Try again, dear,” said Wooden hopefully.
“Well, supposing we told Mrs. Emma she could go up and untie him, as we went out!” suggested Peggy.
“The very thing!” exclaimed Wooden’s mother. “I should never have thought of that if I had tried for a week.”
They had no time to settle anything further, for at that moment the key was heard turning in the lock outside. Colonel Jim had just time to put on his long cloak again before Mr. Emma came into the room.
He seemed not to be in quite such a good temper as before. Directly he came in, he said to Colonel Jim, “Now, then, my man, you’ve been here quite long enough. Pot-plants or no pot-plants, it’s time you cleared out.”
Colonel Jim hesitated. Peggy was afraid for the moment that he had forgotten the words he had learned[Pg 136] so carefully. But they seemed to come to him all of a sudden. He straightened himself up, and said in a firm voice, but rather as if he were repeating a lesson, “I should like to go up to the top story and look at the view.”
Peggy heard Wooden say, “With pleasure,” under her breath, as if she were helping Mr. Emma to remember his part.
But unfortunately Mr. Emma had not learnt his part. What he did say was, “Oh, you would, would you? Well, I’m afraid I can’t oblige you. I’m almost run off my legs with work as it is. Now you come along down with me.”
Colonel Jim threw a despairing look at Peggy; she could just see it under the hood that he had put over his head. His carefully arranged plan had gone wrong at the very beginning, and he hadn’t the least idea what to do next. Of course, he might just as well have thrown his cloak over Mr. Emma’s head there and then, as done it on the top of the House of Cards, after pointing to a bird which might not have been there. But perhaps he did not like to exercise violence before ladies, or perhaps it never occurred to him to alter the plan so as to suit the circumstances. At any rate, he prepared to follow Mr. Emma downstairs without any further ado. If Peggy had not suddenly thought of something, there would have been an end of any good he had done by making his way in to them.
As they were going out, Peggy said to Mr. Emma, “If you and Mrs. Emma have got so much work to do, couldn’t I come down and help you?”
Mr. Emma turned round and beamed at her. “Now, you are a kind little lady!” he said. “And I don’t know as you can’t help us. Yes, you come along o’ me, dearie. My missus will be glad to see your pretty little face, anyhow, and you can talk to her a bit in her own lingo, which I never could fathom, nohow.”
Peggy was very glad at that moment that she had paid attention to her French, which gave her this opportunity of helping her doll friends, though she had been far from thinking that she would ever make such extraordinary use of it when she had talked as much as she could to French people during her holidays. She followed Mr. Emma out of the room, and he locked the door carefully after him, and led the way downstairs.
Now would have been Colonel Jim’s opportunity, either to throw his cloak over Mr. Emma, who was in front of him, or else to bolt upstairs instead of down. If he had done that, Mr. Emma would have had to follow him, and then they could have had it out together, and Colonel Jim would probably have won, as he was younger and stronger than Mr. Emma. But, though as brave as a lion, Colonel Jim had a brain that did not move very fast. All he could do, as they went downstairs, was to nudge Peggy with his elbow,[Pg 139] and that did not take them very far, for when she whispered to him, “What is it?” he had nothing to say.
So it rested with her to think of something, and she whispered to Colonel Jim, unheard by Mr. Emma, whose large feet were making a considerable noise, “I will try to get upstairs, and see if it is the Queen who is there; and you and Teddy must try to get in to us again. Then I will tell you what I have found out.”
Colonel Jim nodded his head repeatedly, and Peggy could only hope that he had understood what she had said, and would remember it, for she had not time to say it over again, as they had now reached the ground floor.
Mr. Emma unlocked the big door leading into the market-place, and Colonel Jim went out. Just as he was going down the steps, Peggy had another bright idea. She said to Mr. Emma, “We should like this man to bring us a few more pot-plants later on. I suppose you will let him in, if he comes.”
But Mr. Emma spoilt that little plan at the beginning, for he said, “No, dearie, I can’t do that. When he once goes out he stays out.” Then he locked the door.
Mrs. Emma was pleased to see Peggy again. She and Mr. Emma had had their own tea, and she was preparing trays to take up to the prisoners. Peggy helped her to do this, while Mr. Emma sat by the cradle of his baby doll, of which he seemed to be very fond. Peggy couldn’t help going over to have a look at it sometimes, and see it smile and gurgle; and it delighted Mr. Emma to see her so taken up with his baby doll. This was a very good thing, for when Peggy said, “Now, I will take up the trays, if you[Pg 141] like,” Mr. Emma replied, “I ought not to let you do it, I suppose, because I shall have to give you my keys. But I’ve been so rushed off my legs today that I shan’t be sorry to sit still for a bit; and you’re such a nice little lady that I really feel as if I could do anything for you.”
“It is more like Mademoiselle doing something for you,” said Mrs. Emma, with a laugh. But if she had only known, she might not have said that.
“I know you wouldn’t want to get me into trouble,” said Mr. Emma as he handed Peggy his keys. “You won’t tell the King now, will you? He’s Wood, and so am I; but he don’t seem above punishing Woods, if it suits him, any more than the rest.”
Peggy promised not to tell the King, readily enough. She was not quite sure that Mr. Emma might not get into trouble, if anything came of her taking his keys; but she made up her mind to speak up for him when affairs in Toyland came to be righted, as she hoped they would be. Selim was only a usurping King, after all, and if Queen Rosebud was restored to her throne he would not be able to do any harm to Mr. Emma, or to anybody else.
“First of all,” said Mrs. Emma, “you might take this tray up to the top story. There is a wax lady[Pg 142] there who hasn’t been very well. I should like her to have her tea first.”
Peggy was almost frightened at the easiness of it all. She had hardly taken any trouble to bring it about, and here she was with the key to the Queen’s prison, and her tea-tray in her hands. For she had little doubt now that it was the Queen who was shut up in the top story. Mrs. Emma had no idea who she was, but she said she had been ill, and Peggy knew that the Queen had been ill.
Just as she was going out with the tea-tray, Mrs. Emma said, “Don’t stay very long, because there are the other trays to take up. But you might just talk to her a little. She is a nice lady, and it is lonely for her up there, all by herself.”
This made it all the easier for Peggy, and she started upstairs, thinking how luckily it had all turned out.
It took her quite a long time to reach the top story. There were four flights of stairs to each story, and each flight had ten steps. Four times ten times thirteen are five hundred and twenty all the world over, and if you ever try going up five hundred and twenty stairs with a rather heavy tea-tray in your hands you will find that it is no light matter. However, Peggy got to the top at last, with one or two rests on the way—But[Pg 143] wait a minute. She did not have to go up the last two flights of stairs, which would have led to the roof, so that takes twenty off the total, and makes exactly five hundred steps, which is almost as serious as five hundred and twenty.
She put the tray on the floor outside while she unlocked the door. Then she knocked at it, and a voice inside said, “Come in.”
She opened the door a little, took up the tea-tray from the floor, and then pushed the door open with her elbow and went in.
The room was much like the one downstairs, and was quite as comfortably furnished, but was without the pot-plants which made theirs so bright and gay. So that it did look rather bare, and not altogether unlike a prison, in spite of the large window, which showed a magnificent view of the country. But perhaps what gave it the air of being a prison was not that, but the sad figure of the lady doll that was sitting in a chair by the window.
Peggy knew that it must be the Queen, directly she saw her. Indeed, it was surprising that neither Mr. nor Mrs. Emma had guessed who the prisoner on the top story really was.
For she looked very royal. She was most delicately[Pg 145] made of wax, and looked a little faded, which would have been accounted for by her great age. But she was beautiful, too, with young features; for, of course, dolls do not grow old like human beings, and when they are in Toyland even breakages do not count.
She wore a dress of rich brocade embroidered with seed pearls, rather like those that you see in pictures of Queen Elizabeth. It was quite possible that she might have been born about the same time as Queen Elizabeth, which would have made her very interesting, if she had had a good memory, and could have talked about all the changes she had seen. But dolls’ memories are short, and Peggy did not find out how old the Queen really was, and, indeed, it would not have been good manners to ask.
When Peggy came in with the tea-tray, the Queen looked surprised, and said, in a sad but gentle voice, “Who are you? Have you come to take me home? Why am I kept locked up here?”
Peggy put the tray down on the table, and said, “I am Peggy, your Majesty. Wooden brought me to Toyland. You said that she might.”
“Why do you call me your Majesty?” asked the Queen. “They said that if anybody called me that,[Pg 146] or I told anybody who I was, I should be locked up in a dungeon where I could not see the light.”
Peggy felt desperately sorry for her. She had called her “Your Majesty” quite naturally, for she was very royal, both in appearance and manner, although she was only a doll. It seemed quite dreadful that she should be locked up there, and be threatened with still worse imprisonment, and for no fault of her own at all.
“I know that you are the Queen,” Peggy said, “and I hope that you will soon be back in your beautiful palace again. They are making plans outside to rescue you.”
“I can’t understand it,” said the poor Queen, passing her hand wearily over her brow. “I have always been as nice as I could to everybody. And yet they told me that the people hate me, because I am Wax, and don’t want me to be their Queen any longer.”
“That isn’t true,” said Peggy. “That wicked Selim has told everybody that you are dead, and that you said that he was to be King after you.”
“Oh, I never said that,” said the Queen indignantly. “How can he have said such a thing? I never said anything like it.”
“That is what he has given out,” said Peggy. “It[Pg 147] was Rose who made it up. She is as wicked as he is.”
The Queen thought for a little time, looking out of the window at the beautiful view of her own kingdom. Then she looked at Peggy searchingly and said, “Isn’t it true that my people hate me because I am Wax, and want to have a Wooden King and Queen in my place? Rose told me that Selim was going to marry Wooden, who brought you here. I was very sorry to hear that, because I have always liked Wooden, and I didn’t think she would want to take my place.”
“Oh, she doesn’t,” said Peggy, speaking as indignantly as the Queen had done. “Nobody will be more pleased to hear that you are really alive. And she doesn’t want to marry Selim. She hates him. Why, he has actually sent her to prison, because she said she didn’t want to marry him.”
The Queen looked out of the window and did not speak for some time. Then she said, “I was kind to Selim. When he was brought to me after he had been wrecked, and had lost everything that he had, I gave him apartments in my own royal palace, and money every month from my treasury.”
“He is bad and wicked,” said Peggy. “And Rose is bad, too. She used to be mine once, and I never liked her. Now I know why.”
“I didn’t like her either,” said the Queen. “She wanted to be my lady-in-waiting. She said that I ought to have one Composition at least, and not all Waxes round me. But I said no. Perhaps I would have a Wood, so as to please the Woods. I chose Wooden herself, and I was going to appoint her when I fell ill. You are sure that it is not true that the Woods hate me?”
Peggy assured her again that it was not true, and she seemed much relieved. “I will not say anything about Selim and Rose,” she said, in a stately kind of way that was more effective than if she had said how wicked she thought they were. “When I get back my throne, and put on my crown again, I shall know what to do. My people have always been good, and I will not have them taught to tell untruths and to deceive.” She smiled gently at Peggy. “Why, what would you think of us over there?” she asked, “if you could not trust us?”
This made Peggy see how trustworthy dolls really were. If they are ever naughty, it is only because their mistresses like to make them pretend to be, just for fun. And they are never really naughty, and soon get over whatever little trouble there may be with them, and are good and obedient again. Peggy wondered[Pg 149] now whether all this might not be owing to the wise and temperate rule of Queen Rosebud. Perhaps if Selim were to go on ruling it might all be altered, and dolls might become as bad as some human beings.
“I am sure when the people know you are alive,” she said, “they will very soon take you back to your palace. And they will be most awfully glad to have you reigning over them again.”
“Well, you must tell them,” said the Queen. “I can wait here a little longer in patience, now that I know things are to be put right. And I am very pleased to see you here, my dear; but I wish you had come at a happier time.”
Peggy had never before conversed with a Queen, or indeed with any royal person, though she had once seen her own King and Queen driving through London; but she knew somehow that she was being dismissed from the presence. She kissed the Doll-Queen’s hand, which she had read somewhere was the proper way to behave, and went out of the room, leaving Queen Rosebud sitting by the window.
As she went down the five hundred steps, she thought it was rather extraordinary that the Queen had not said anything about the way in which she was to be rescued. She had seemed to take it for granted that[Pg 150] when her people knew what had happened, everything would come right for her. She could leave the details to them.
This seemed to Peggy rather royal, too, and also that she had not grumbled at all about her imprisonment. Though she was only a doll, Peggy had gained a great respect for Queen Rosebud.
Peggy went down to the kitchen. She had time as she went down the five hundred stairs, to make up her mind as to whether she should tell Mr. and Mrs. Emma that the Wax lady on the top floor was the Queen. She decided not to do so just yet, but to wait a little longer and see what happened. They might be very indignant at hearing what Selim and Rose had done, but on the other hand they might be frightened that they would be punished for having let Peggy see such an important prisoner; and in that case they would probably not let her see her again. And Peggy wanted to see Queen Rosebud again.
When Peggy went into the kitchen Mrs. Emma said, “You have been a long time away, but I know it takes a long time to go up and down those stairs. How did you find the lady? I hope she liked the tea I sent her. I gave her some bread and honey instead of bread and butter.”
Peggy thought this rather remarkable, as she remembered the nursery rhyme about the Queen being[Pg 153] in her parlour eating bread and honey. She wondered whether Mrs. Emma had any suspicion of the prisoner being the Queen.
Before she could reply Mrs. Emma went on, “I was just saying to my husband that she is very like what Queen Rosebud was, except for her crown. Queen Rosebud had no sisters, but I shouldn’t be at all surprised if she didn’t turn out to be a sort of cousin. If you think that is likely, I shall ask her to write her name in my birthday book.”
So she seemed to have no suspicion of the truth; but that seemed to be only because the Queen was not wearing her crown.
“It would be nice to have her name in your book,” said Peggy. “Shall I take up the other tray now?”
“Yes, dear,” said Mrs. Emma. “And then will you please bring the keys down? You have been very kind helping us, but of course we must not forget that you are a prisoner.”
Peggy smiled to herself as she went upstairs again. If she took the keys down, their room would not be locked, and she would hardly be a prisoner. But she did not say anything, as she thought that if the door was left unlocked she might take Wooden or Lady Grace, or both of them, up to see the Queen.
The dolls were interested in what she told them, but they were now quite used to the idea of Queen Rosebud being alive, and showed less excitement at her news than Peggy had expected. While she had been away, they seemed to have been talking about the failure of the plan concocted by Teddy and Colonel Jim, and to have agreed that Teddy had not behaved well in telling Colonel Jim that Mr. Emma would say, “With pleasure,” when he asked him if he could go up to the top story. For Mr. Emma had said quite the opposite.
“I always knew Teddy was flighty,” said Wooden, “but I did not think that he would go so far as to tell a story.”
“So many people seem to be telling them now,” said Lady Grace sadly. “It is very dreadful.”
“But Teddy didn’t tell a story,” said Peggy. “He only thought that Mr. Emma would say that, and told Colonel Jim so.”
Wooden’s aunt, who was already very busy with her tea, slapped her knee, and said, with a mouth full of bread and butter, “There now! Didn’t I say the very same thing? I was the only one as stuck up for Teddy. I said he wouldn’t tell a lie, because I knowed he wouldn’t.”
“You didn’t say what Peggy says he told Colonel Jim,” said Wooden’s mother. “Are you sure he said that, dear?”
“Yes,” said Peggy stoutly. “That is what he must have said.”
“Well, I am sure I am very glad to hear it,” said Wooden, with a sigh of relief. “I know you wouldn’t tell a story, dear, and if you say that is what Teddy said, of course he said it. I am very glad he didn’t tell a story, as I shouldn’t like to think ill of him. I suppose you couldn’t tell us what Rose really said, could you? I have never liked her, but you did exchange her for me over there, and I have always felt sorry for her, because the exchange was such a good thing for me. I should like not to think badly of her, if I could.”
“Rose has told nothing but stories,” said Peggy decisively. “She is really wicked, and when Queen Rosebud comes to the throne again I hope she will do something to her. I am very glad I did exchange her for you, dear Wooden, especially now I know what she is really like.”
“Perhaps if she had stayed with you she might not have been so wicked,” said Wooden; and Peggy thought this was a great compliment from a doll, because[Pg 156] in some ways they are better than human beings. Of course they have not so many temptations to be naughty, but I am not sure that they don’t resist the temptations that they do have better than a good many humans. Rose was quite an exception, and as for Selim, he wasn’t a proper doll at all, and had spent his active life in being so harried about a chess board, with hectoring Queens, and heavy Castles, and sliding Bishops, and hopping Knights, and perky little Pawns always giving him check, and he not able to move more than one square at a time, that perhaps it was no wonder that he would do anything to get into a position in which he could really act like a King. However, I am far from excusing his abominable behaviour at this particular time, and think that Peggy was quite right in hoping that he would come to be soundly punished for it.
When they had nearly finished their tea, footsteps and voices were heard coming up the stairs, and to their surprise the Lord Chancellor came into the room, followed by Mr. Emma.
The Lord Chancellor looked annoyed, and Mr. Emma looked frightened. Peggy guessed at once that this was because the Lord Chancellor had found out about Mr. Emma giving her his keys.
She was right. As they came into the room, the Lord Chancellor said, “I dare say the young lady did want to see your baby. Nobody knows better than I do, from long experience of the law, that young ladies like to see babies, and you have nothing to teach me[Pg 158] about that. But you had no right whatever to lend her your keys, and allow her to go in and out of this room as she pleases.”
When he had said this he changed his expression of face completely, and smiled at Peggy and the four dolls. “Well, ladies,” he said, “I am glad to see you all looking so well, and I expect you are glad to see me looking well. I should say now that none of you have been in the least inconvenienced by your visit to this handsome building.”
He said this as if he were inviting them to agree with him, and added, “Why, for part of the time you haven’t even had the door locked, which must have taken away the idea of a prison from your minds altogether.”
Peggy thought this was rather cool, considering they had just heard him scolding Mr. Emma for letting them have the door unlocked. While the Lord Chancellor had been speaking, Mr. Emma had been making signs to her in a pathetic imploring sort of way, pointing up to the ceiling and at her and himself and the Lord Chancellor and the tea-tray on the table, and making words at her with his mouth, none of which she could understand. But suddenly she understood by his signs what he wanted to convey to her. He was[Pg 159] begging her not to tell the Lord Chancellor that she had carried the tray up to the top story. So she nodded her head and put her finger on her mouth to assure him that she would keep his secret, for she did not want to get him into further trouble. He seemed a little soothed by this, but still very dejected, as he stood with his head on one side behind the Lord Chancellor.
“If I had not made it a rule of life never to take tea twice on the same day,” said the Lord Chancellor, “I should feel inclined to ask you for a cup. I assure you that this is better tea than I drank at my own house half an hour ago. Really, I feel inclined to wish that I could be sent to the House of Cards myself, for a short time. I doubt if there is a more comfortable place in the whole of Dolltown. Now, confess, ladies. Haven’t you found it so?”
“We have nothing to complain of in our treatment,” said Wooden, in a polite and simple but yet dignified way. “But nobody likes to be in prison, and I would rather go without my tea altogether than have it and be shut up.”
The Lord Chancellor seemed delighted with this speech. “Now, it is a most extraordinary thing,” he said, “that you should express those sentiments. I[Pg 160] was half afraid, when I came in, that you would be so delighted with your present situation that you would not want to exchange it for another. In fact, I thought you might even refuse to do so. I am very glad indeed that I was mistaken. For I have come to tell you that his most gracious Majesty, moved by one or two things that I have said to him, has instructed me to release you and Peggy. Now, don’t tell me—please don’t tell me—that you would rather stay where you are.”
“No, I shall not,” said Wooden. “I am very glad to be let out of prison. I ought never to have been sent here. None of us ought. Are my mother and aunt and Lady Grace still to be kept here?”
“If she and Peggy go, I go,” said Wooden’s aunt. “That’s flat.”
“You will go by-and-by,” said the Lord Chancellor in a soothing voice. “Leave it to me, and I will arrange it all. But I’m afraid you three others will have to stay here a little longer. Lady Grace is Wax, you see, and the order for releasing Waxes has not yet been given. But it will be. You needn’t have the slightest doubt about that. Just have patience for a little; that’s all.”
“Well, I ain’t Wax,” said Wooden’s aunt. “I’m[Pg 161] Wood, and proud of it. What’s the matter with me being let out?”
“Well,” said the Lord Chancellor, “the fact is that the King is still rather annoyed with you for thinking of such a thing as him marrying you.”
“I don’t think of it no more,” said Wooden’s aunt. “I don’t want to marry the old heathen image. You tell him that, Mr. Lawyer, with Wooden’s aunt’s comps.”
“Certainly, I will,” said the Lord Chancellor, with a polite bow. “It may make all the difference; there’s no telling.”
“Am I to stay in prison?” asked Wooden’s mother. “If so, I think it is very unfair. I’ve done nothing.”
“I hinted as much to his Majesty,” said the Lord Chancellor, “but he said two out at a time was enough. So I shouldn’t worry about it if I were you. You’ll be let out all in good time, and you are so comfortable here that it hardly makes any difference whether it’s sooner or later.”
“You keep on saying that like a Poll-parrot,” said Wooden’s aunt. “I’ve no patience with you. You go back and tell your master that if I ain’t let out of this in an hour’s time I’ll yell the place down. So there now!”
“I will be sure to convey your message, madam,” said the Lord Chancellor, as politely as before. “Now, I think we might make a start, eh?” He turned towards Emma, and his face became severe once more. “As for you, sir,” he said, “I shall have you dismissed from your post. You have given your keys to a prisoner. That is the most serious offence you could have committed.”
Poor Mr. Emma threw himself on his knees and held up his hands in supplication. “Oh, don’t dismiss me, your Honour,” he cried, “I’ve got a wife and a dear little baby, and you wouldn’t want them to starve, now would you? You’ve got a kind face; and a kind heart goes with it—I know it do. Don’t turn me off; please don’t.”
The Lord Chancellor’s face became softer. “It is quite true that I have a kind face,” he said. “Many people have remarked the same thing before now, and some of them have even gone so far as to say that for my age it is a handsome face. Of course that was only said in compliment, I know; I don’t wish to make too much of it; but it does show that there is something in my face that strikes people, and I don’t wonder that it has struck you. Well, now, about dismissing you from your post—if I could find a way out of it——!”
He looked at Peggy, as if he expected her to help him, but for the moment she couldn’t think of anything.
“Of course you have committed a serious fault,” he said to Mr. Emma, who had risen from his knees and was waiting to hear what was to be done to him, with a mournful expression on his face. “Prisoners are entrusted to you, and you are right in treating them as well as you can. But you have treated this young lady as if she weren’t a prisoner at all.”
“But I am not a prisoner,” said Peggy. “You have said yourself that I am not.”
The Lord Chancellor’s face lightened. “Now, why didn’t I think of that?” he said. “It makes all the difference. Mr. Emma, you have committed no fault whatever. In fact, by carrying out his Majesty’s wishes at the earliest possible moment, you have shown yourself a zealous servant of the Crown, and I shall have much pleasure in recommending you for a rise in wages.”
So that matter was settled in the most satisfactory fashion, and Peggy was pleased to see Mr. Emma cheer up and look proud of himself, as if he had done something particularly clever.
She and Wooden said good-bye to the others, who[Pg 164] did not seem so disappointed at still being kept in prison as might have been expected. There are many advantages in being a doll, and one of them is that they have such a lot of time before them that they are a good deal more patient than we are when things are not going well for them. They know that the bad time will end, and are content to wait till it does. Peggy managed to whisper to Lady Grace that she would do all she could to set things right and get the Queen out of prison. Then, of course, she would come out, too, and be restored to her post as lady-in-waiting. Wooden’s aunt was still eating and drinking in great enjoyment, and Wooden’s mother, after kissing them farewell, said that she should have a little nap, and when she woke up perhaps she would be let out.
Peggy had only stayed a very short time in prison, and had been so much interested in all that had happened there that she had hardly been able to think of herself in prison at all, but she was none the less pleased to be in the open street and free to go anywhere. They were going first of all to Wooden’s house, which was in the chief residential quarter of Dolltown, near the royal palace.
The news of the imprisonment of a human child, and of four dolls, two at least of whom were highly respected, must have spread; for as they walked along everybody seemed to recognize them, and they were followed by an ever increasing crowd of dolls, who seemed to be greatly excited by their reappearance. The Lord Chancellor was in a high state of delight at the attention they were receiving. If he had a fault, it was a slight but excusable vanity. By his own labours he had raised himself to his present proud position, and thought it only natural that everybody who[Pg 166] saw him should be extremely interested in him. He was generally accompanied by his secretary when he walked about the streets of Dolltown, so that if he happened to go unrecognized the secretary could tell the people who he was. But this time he had left him behind, to write out the notes he had taken in the Hall of Audience, and walked alone with Peggy and Wooden.
He certainly received a great deal of attention, and was at first very pleased with it, as I have said. But by-and-by he became a good deal less pleased.
For the crowd was not so good-tempered as it had been when they had all walked to prison together. Most of the dolls that composed it made a lot of fuss over Peggy and Wooden, whom they were pleased to see let out of prison, but they did not seem at all pleased to see the Lord Chancellor, and he had to listen to some unpleasant remarks about himself for his share in what had happened.
These remarks caused him a good deal of pain, and, when he understood that he was not sharing in the popularity that Peggy and Wooden enjoyed, he began to explain to everybody who would listen to him that he had been against sending anybody to prison from the first, and that it was entirely owing to him that[Pg 167] Peggy and Wooden had been let out. But nobody did listen to him very carefully, and one rather rude Dutch doll actually said to him, “Oh, dry up, you silly old fool, and don’t talk so much.” This distressed him very much. He had never in his life been called a silly old fool before, and the phrase rankled. He did not try to excuse himself any more, but kept on repeating “silly old fool” under his breath, so as to see if it was really as bad as it sounded.
Wooden’s house was situated in a handsome terrace, which had a gate and a little wooden lodge at each end of it, to keep the houses private. This was a good thing, for the crowd had to stay outside the gates. It was nice to have them so enthusiastic, but they might have made themselves a nuisance if they had swarmed about the house itself, and looked in at the windows, and dirtied the front door steps.
Wooden had told Peggy what a nice house she had, and was pleased to be able to show it to her. It was a handsome, rather old-fashioned, wooden dolls’ house of three stories and six rooms, with a staircase running up the middle. It was nicely furnished, too, with beautifully-made dolls’ furniture and ornaments. Any little girl would have been[Pg 168] overjoyed at having such a dolls’ house given to her to play with. To Peggy it[Pg 169] was even more delightful than if she had had it as a toy, because it was of a size that made it possible for her to use it as a real house. Instead of putting her hand inside the rooms with great care, so as not to disturb the arrangements, she could go into all the rooms herself and use the things in them.
I know that it is not customary in stories to talk about the rooms and furniture of a house before your characters have entered it; but in this case it is all right, because the front of the house stood open, and Peggy saw nearly everything inside it before they went in.
The rooms were a good deal larger than those in most dolls’ houses. I mean not only larger because the house had grown up, so to speak, but because they would hold more dolls and more furniture. In a dolls’ house it is sometimes awkward to have a doll or a piece of furniture that takes up nearly the whole of a room, and even in good ones it does not often happen that the rooms are big enough to accommodate many dolls, or more than a few pieces of furniture. But there was quite a lot of furniture in the rooms of Wooden’s house, and although they were all square, and of the same size, which gave them a certain[Pg 170] lack of variety, they would comfortably hold quite a large number of dolls.
On the ground floor were a kitchen and a dining-room, on the first floor a drawing-room and the best bedroom, and on the top floor a servants’ room and a spare room. Wooden pointed them out as they walked up the terrace, and said that as long as Peggy stayed with her she should give her the best bedroom, because it had the best furniture in it, and use the spare room for herself.
It was just like Wooden to offer to do this, but Peggy said no, she wouldn’t hear of it. She could not see the furniture of the spare room from where they were, as it was too high up, but she was sure it was good enough for her.
It may seem a little odd that Wooden should have spoken as if they were going to stay in Toyland, if not for ever, at least for some time. For Peggy had understood that the dolls who were still played with by children only went to Toyland when it was night—“over there,” as they would have said. But it did not seem odd to her, and in fact she never thought about it. Once in Toyland, the dolls who inhabited that pleasant country behaved as if they always lived there. It seemed to come from the air of the place; and that[Pg 171] explains why Peggy never once thought of going home again as long as she was there, any more than Wooden or any of the other dolls did.
The weather was fine and warm, which would have made it nice to have the front of the house open, although a little wanting in privacy. But Wooden said, “I should like you to go in through the front door, dear. It is a beautiful door, and it seems a pity not to use it. So I think I will have the front of the house shut.”
Two wooden servant dolls, a cook and a housemaid, dressed one in a blue, the other in a black frock, with snowy white caps and aprons, had been standing in front of the kitchen looking out for them. Wooden told them to shut the front of the house, and they came out and did so, pushing it back quite easily. For they were good servants and devoted to their mistress, and kept the hinges well oiled.
When the front of the house was shut it looked very handsome indeed. The door that Wooden was so proud of was inside a fine porch, and had a brass knocker on it. All the windows had little panes of glass, kept beautifully clean, and white curtains looped up inside them. And each of them had a neat iron railing in front of it to hold flowers. It was like a[Pg 172] real house, and yet it was like a dolls’ house, too, which made it all the more fascinating.
They went up two steps under the porch, and Wooden knocked with the knocker, to show that it was a real knocker. The doll housemaid opened the door, and they went in. For the first time in her life, naturally, Peggy was inside a real dolls’ house, with the front shut and even the door shut. Hitherto she had only been able to see what it was like by peeping in through the windows; for of course you know that a dolls’ house can never be quite the same with its front open. It takes away from the make-believe. She felt frightfully pleased; and it really was nice, and not a bit like a real house, although everything in it was of an ordinary real size.
The Lord Chancellor had come in with them. He had told Wooden that he had had a lot of running about and should like to rest a little. But, of course, what he really wanted was to get away from the crowd, and go home later on when it should have dispersed. But Wooden said that it was an honour to entertain him in her own house, which pleased him, and by the time they had got inside he had recovered some of his spirits, and seemed ready to be as talkative as ever.
Wooden led the way up to the drawing-room, which[Pg 173] had a carpet of a very large pattern and a wall paper with enormous roses on it. The furniture was beautifully made, but Peggy felt that she was really sitting on a dolls’ sofa and not on an ordinary one, although it was comfortable, and of an ordinary size. Nothing was quite the same. The mirrors had tin frames, the books on the tables were evidently toy books, with thick leaves and bindings that did not keep quite flat; and there were some packs of cards and some dominoes on another table looking exactly like those very tiny ones which you can buy in shops, but are[Pg 174] so small that you do not want to play with them more than once.
They had hardly sat down, Peggy and Wooden on the sofa and the Lord Chancellor on a large chair, before the doll housemaid opened the door and announced a visitor, by the name of Mrs. Winifred.
Mrs. Winifred was a mature-looking Dutch doll. Most of the wooden dolls in Toyland were of Dutch extraction, even Wooden herself, just like many of the old families of New York, but they were no more Dutch than the New Yorkers are. She came forward and kissed Wooden, and said she was very glad she had come out of prison, and she felt that she must come round at once and tell her so.
Mrs. Winifred had hardly been accommodated with a seat before Mrs. Hilda was announced, and when Mrs. Hilda had said the same as Mrs. Winifred, Captain and Mrs. Louisa were announced. Captain Louisa was an officer in a regiment of wooden soldiers, and wore his uniform. His wife and Mrs. Hilda were wooden dolls like Mrs. Winifred. These were followed by Mr. and Mrs. Joyce, Mr. and Mrs. Ida, Mrs. Mollie, Mrs. Jane, and one or two more, all of the best wooden families of Dolltown, and it was evidently a[Pg 175] source of great pride to Wooden that they should show such a nice feeling towards her.
She introduced them all to Peggy, and those who did not know him to the Lord Chancellor. There were so many of them that it was like a sort of party. The dolls sat rather stiffly in their chairs, and there were other little points about them, such as their knees showing rather prominently through their skirts and trousers, which made it seem like a dolls’ party, and as if they were all playing at something. This pleased Peggy. She felt as if she had set them all down herself on their chairs and on the sofas, exactly where she wanted them to be, as she did sometimes with her smaller dolls in her dolls’ house at home, and pretended that they were talking politely to each other.
The late imprisonment of Peggy and Wooden, and especially of Wooden, naturally formed the chief subject of conversation.
“I must say,” said Mrs. Winifred, “that I was surprised to hear that you had been sent to prison, Mrs. Wooden. We had all heard that such a very different lot had been prepared for you.”
“Yes,” said Mrs. Hilda. “What we heard was that you were to be made Queen and live in the palace.”
“And we were very glad to hear it,” said Mrs. Joyce, a thin, rather vinegary-looking doll, whom Peggy did not very much take to. “We knew that if you were made Queen there would be no more high-and-mightiness at the palace, and you wouldn’t give yourself airs with us.”
“It would be the beginning of a new era,” said Mr. Joyce, who was a members of the Dolls’ Parliament. “The Woodens would be no longer oppressed by the Waxes, and peace and contentment would reign, where before there had been strife and inequality.”
“I’m not sure,” said the Lord Chancellor, “that I quite agree with that observation. As Woods, all this extremely intelligent and entertaining company is naturally pleased at having a Wooden King to reign over Toyland. But under our late lamented Queen Rosebud, as far as my memory carries me back, there was no oppression. And personally I boast intimate friends amongst dolls of all varieties, from Wax to Rag.”
“What I think,” said Mrs. Mollie, a severe-looking doll with a long upper lip, “is that we were a good deal better off under Queen Rosebud than we are likely to be under King Selim. I don’t hold with these foreigners.”
The other dolls seemed to be rather taken aback by this plainness of speech, and the Lord Chancellor said, “Tut, tut! You mustn’t say things like that, my dear lady. It isn’t respectful to the Crown.”
“But it’s what a good many of us are feeling,” said Mrs. Winifred. “At first it was very nice to feel we were considered as good as the Waxes. In this company there’s no harm in saying that Waxes do give themselves airs, and it isn’t nice to feel you are considered common, when you know you are nothing of the sort, but quite the opposite.”
“But all Waxes don’t give themselves airs,” said Wooden, speaking for the first time. “There’s Lady Grace, now. Both of us live with this dear little girl when we’re over there, and we are real friends, and[Pg 179] there’s never a word awry between us. And it’s the same here.”
“I’m sure,” said Mrs. Ida, a young-looking doll who was dressed more fashionably than the rest, “that I have always got on as well as possible with the Waxes. In fact, most of my friends were Wax before they were all sent to prison.”
“I should think you must feel a bit lonely, then,” said Mrs. Jane. “I’ve always associated with Woods myself, and prefer their company.”
“The best company in Toyland,” said Mrs. Winifred, “is to be found amongst the higher classes of Woods. Still, I’m against this sending to prison of all Waxes, whether they give themselves airs or not.”
“It isn’t so much the shutting up of Waxes that I object to,” said Mrs. Louisa. “It’s the shutting up of Woods. How did it come about, Wooden, that instead of marrying the King you were sent to prison?”
Captain Louisa cleared his throat behind his hand. “Manners, my dear, manners!” he whispered to his wife.
“We don’t want to go into all that,” said the Lord Chancellor. “Perhaps a slight mistake was made; but[Pg 180] it has now been put right, chiefly owing to representations made to his Majesty by myself.”
“It hasn’t been put right, and we do want to talk about it,” said Mrs. Mollie. “There are two Wooden dolls still locked up in the House of Cards, to say nothing of a Wax one. What were they locked up for, and when are they going to be let out?”
She addressed her question directly to the Lord Chancellor, and there seemed to be a general opinion amongst the other dolls that it was right to ask it, and that it wanted an answer.
The Lord Chancellor gave one. He gave it at great length, but there was not much in it. It seemed that all they had to do was to trust to him, and everything would come right in the end.
“That doesn’t satisfy me,” said Mrs. Mollie, when he had quite finished. “And it isn’t only Woods either that have been sent to prison, and are being kept there for nothing at all. What about this human child? What was she sent to prison for? I’m against sending human children to prison when they are allowed to come over and visit us. It’s likely to make bad feeling over there.”
There were murmurs of approval at this, and all[Pg 181] the dolls looked sympathetically at Peggy, who felt rather shy.
“You are quite right, Mrs. Mollie,” said Captain Louisa. “And I may tell you in strict confidence that the army feels with you about it. It is the best army to be found anywhere. Leads and Woods alike are devoted to their duty, and quite ready for a war, if a war is forced on us. But we don’t want a war with the people over there. We should win, of course, in the long run, but it would leave bad blood behind it, and while it was going on our women and children wouldn’t be safe.”
“It’s a prospect I don’t like at all,” said Mrs. Winifred. “I have received nothing but kindness from Humans, myself, and I believe the same may be said by most of us here. I say that Peggy ought not to have been locked up, and I hope she will remember that I said that when she goes back. Mrs. Winifred, 4 Prospect Place, Dolltown, are my name and address, and over there I may be found at any time at Top Drawer, Day Nursery Chest, 43 Hamilton Square, London, S.W.”
All the other dolls hastened to give Peggy their names and addresses, except Mr. Joyce, who said,[Pg 182] “My peace-loving sentiments are well known, and nobody over there is likely to make any mistake about them. I agree with the opinion of this assembly to this extent: I believe that a Wood King is the best kind of King we could have for Toyland, but I’m not at all sure that King Selim is the right doll in the right place, or that this reign is likely to be an improvement on the last. Wax or no Wax, Queen Rosebud would never have made the mistakes in foreign policy that have already been made in this reign. If we are not very careful, this young lady, and others who may come over to visit us, will carry back a report that may bring serious trouble. King Selim ought to be told that.”
“For my part, I’ve no patience with King Selim,” said Mrs. Mollie. “I heartily wish Queen Rosebud wasn’t dead.”
“But Queen Rosebud isn’t dead,” said Wooden. “She is locked up in the House of Cards. Peggy took her tea up to her this very afternoon.”
She spoke in a tone of surprise, as if everybody ought to know that Queen Rosebud was alive. Peggy had been wondering whether it would be a good thing to tell the dolls what she had discovered, and now that Wooden had let it out, she was rather glad. She[Pg 183] didn’t much like keeping such a secret to herself, and, of course, a doll is hardly capable of keeping any secret, and Wooden had only not spoken before because she had got used to the idea of Queen Rosebud being alive, and had not thought much about it since.
“Oh, my dear lady!” said the Lord Chancellor, before anybody could speak. “You mustn’t say a thing like that, you know. King Selim has said that Queen Rosebud is dead and of course she must be dead.”
“But she isn’t,” Wooden persisted. “Peggy has seen her.”
“Yes, I did,” said Peggy. “She is in the top story of the House of Cards. Selim and Rose had her locked up there, and they said that if she told anybody who she was they would put her in a dark dungeon. They are both very wicked.”
“Well, that’s beyond everything!” said Mrs. Winifred. “And I should like to know who Rose is, to go locking up the Queen.”
“If Waxes like to give themselves airs, that’s one thing,” said Mrs. Ida. “But for a Composition——! That’s what nobody can stand.”
“There are Compositions and Compositions,” said Mrs. Mollie. “But Rose would be a disgrace to any class. She ought to be locked up herself.”
“And I think you ought to see to it, Lord Norval,” said Mrs. Jane. “According to Peggy, she has told a deliberate falsehood, and that is punishable by law, as I’ve always understood.”
They seemed to be in danger of forgetting all about Queen Rosebud in their disgust for Rose. But this brought them back to the subject.
“I quite agree with you,” said the Lord Chancellor. “It is a most disgraceful affair altogether. I shall inform his Majesty about it at once, and request him to see that Rose is properly punished. What I shall suggest is that she shall take Queen Rosebud’s place in prison. I fancy that would be rather neat, eh? I shall press the point on his Majesty.”
“But Selim is just as bad as she is,” exclaimed Peggy. “He ought to be sent to prison, too. Why do you call him ‘His Majesty’? He isn’t a King at all.”
“Hush, hush, my dear young lady!” said the Lord Chancellor, much shocked. “I know you are human, and to be excused on that account, but if one of us had said that, it would be punishable, you know. Selim is a King. He wears a crown. We have all seen it.”
“He is only a chess king,” said Peggy. “I meant[Pg 185] that he isn’t King of Toyland. He can’t be, if Queen Rosebud is still alive.”
“That’s one way of looking at it, certainly,” said the Lord Chancellor, in a puzzled kind of way. “I shall have to think about it very carefully when I go home. He says he’s King of Toyland. I shall get at it better when I’ve slept over it.”
“But aren’t you going to do anything now?” asked Peggy. “There’s Queen Rosebud still locked up in the House of Cards. I think Captain Louisa ought to take his soldiers at once, and let her out.”
All the dolls had sat with puzzled faces, looking at Peggy and the Lord Chancellor. They had all been ready to talk a great deal, but when it came to doing something they seemed quite at a loss.
Captain Louisa started when his name was mentioned. “If it was my duty, I should do it,” he said. “I should do it very well—nobody better.”
“Well, I think it is your duty,” said Peggy. “Don’t you, Wooden?”
“Well, dear,” said Wooden, “if we all did our duty as well as Captain Louisa, we might be very proud of ourselves.”
Captain Louisa looked proudly at Peggy. “You see what she thinks of me,” he said. “And it isn’t only[Pg 186] me either. My men would follow me anywhere.”
Mrs. Winifred rose from her seat. “I’m afraid I must say good-bye, dear Mrs. Wooden,” she said. “I am so glad you have been let out of prison. And I’m so glad that Queen Rosebud isn’t dead. Somehow, I could never feel that she was.”
All the dolls rose one after the other to say good-bye. They all said they were glad that Queen Rosebud was alive, and some of them said that she ought not to stay in prison a moment longer. But none of them seemed interested in how she was to be got out, or in what should happen afterwards, except that Mrs. Mollie said she hoped Rose would get her deserts, and Mrs. Ida said that they saw now what came of Compositions giving themselves airs. However much they seemed to be different from one another in their way of talking and looking at things, they all seemed alike in having no idea of acting for themselves. They were very nice, but Peggy thought that if she had been the Queen in prison she would hardly have felt so confident as Queen Rosebud had been of her doll subjects getting her out again.
However, the Lord Chancellor, who stayed behind, did seem to think that[Pg 187] something ought to be done, though he seemed disinclined to do it himself. “When the people get to know of this,” he said, “I’m afraid there will be trouble. The question is, how to act so as to save[Pg 188] trouble.”
“I should think the question was how to get poor Queen Rosebud out of prison as soon as possible,” said Peggy.
“Well, certainly there is that side of it,” he said. “The only thing is that if she comes out of prison and goes back to the palace, there will be two of them—a King and a Queen—and that is something that it is very difficult to know how to deal with, without a great deal of careful thought. If King Selim could marry Queen Rosebud, now! How does that strike you as a way of getting over the difficulty?”
“It doesn’t strike me at all,” said Peggy. “Selim has done a very wicked and horrible thing. Queen Rosebud was ill, and she might have died, and if she had it would have been all his fault. He has told heaps of stories about her. She never told him that he was to be King after her at all. That’s one story. And he told the people she was dead. That’s another. And he has sent a lot of dolls to prison for nothing at all. He has done very wrong, and he ought to be punished.”
“That is a very eloquent speech,” said the Lord[Pg 189] Chancellor. “Very eloquent indeed. I wish I could make one like it. But you see the trouble is that the King can do no wrong; so of course you can’t punish him.”
“But he has done wrong,” said Peggy. “And he isn’t the King. You keep on talking about him as if Queen Rosebud wasn’t alive. She is the Queen. Selim is only a usurper.”
“I’m beginning to see it,” said the Lord Chancellor. “It’s a very subtle point, but I’m beginning to see it, or at least some of it.”
Whether he would have seen all of it in time cannot be known, for just at that moment the door was opened by the housemaid doll, and in came Colonel Jim and Teddy.
The moment Teddy came into the room, Peggy felt that the time for action had come. And she had never felt more pleased with him than when he addressed himself straight to the Lord Chancellor, and said, “Now, then, old man, you come along with us to the House of Cards. We’re going to get the Queen out of prison, and we want you with us.”
“I’m sure I’m very glad that you propose to adopt that course,” said the Lord Chancellor, speaking quickly and nervously. “It is exactly what I should have recommended myself. But why do you want me with you? I should have thought—”
“Never mind what you would have thought,” said Teddy. “We want you with us because, now the people have found out that old Selim’s a rascal, and the Queen isn’t dead, they’ve got their dander up. They’ll have some questions to ask, and you can answer them. Colonel Jim and me will be too busy.”
This did not seem to suit the Lord Chancellor at[Pg 191] all. He began to protest vigorously that he had had no more to do with the fraud that Selim had practised than anybody else. But Teddy cut him short. “If you won’t come of your own accord,” he said, “Colonel Jim has a couple of troopers outside who will make you. You’d like to come, too, Peggy and Wooden. We’ve brought gees for everybody. Come along quick. We don’t want to waste any time.”
He led the way downstairs, and the others followed him, Colonel Jim bringing up the rear, and keeping an eye on the Lord Chancellor to see that he did not escape.
Waiting outside the house were several horses. There was Colonel Jim’s black charger, and those of his two troopers. These were of lead. There were also some composition horses, and a couple of shaggy ponies, made of wood and covered with hair, and a beautiful cream-coloured one, with a bridle and saddle-cloth sewn with gold embroidery. They were all toy horses and ponies, but they looked splendidly alive, and Peggy was quite delighted to see that the two shaggy ponies had side-saddles, for she knew at once that one must be meant for her and one for Wooden. She loved riding, and thought it would be great fun to ride through the streets of Dolltown on a toy pony.
Wooden was not used to riding, although Peggy had sometimes put her on her rocking-horse at home, so she was not altogether without practice. But Teddy assured her that he had chosen her a very quiet pony, and she was so nice, in the way that she always did what people wanted her to, that she made no trouble about it, and got on very well when she was once helped into the saddle. Peggy felt quite at home on her pony, and patted its nice shaggy neck. She would have liked to have a gallop on it, but that would not be possible in the streets of the town. Colonel Jim and his troopers mounted their chargers, the Lord Chancellor got on to one of the composition horses, and Teddy leapt on to another straight from the ground, without using the stirrup. A royal servant-doll, dressed in scarlet and gold, led the beautiful cream-coloured pony, which was evidently meant for Queen Rosebud. It was a good idea to have a sort of little procession on horseback to take her from her prison to her royal palace again, and no doubt Teddy had thought of it, for he seemed to be the only one who really did things, while the other dolls only talked about them.
What Teddy said about the inhabitants of Dolltown being excited over what had happened was quite true. The crowd outside the gates of the terrace was[Pg 193] larger than ever, and when Peggy and the dolls appeared amongst them on horseback there was quite a commotion. They cheered them all except the Lord Chancellor, and they were so angry with him that they would probably have pulled him off his horse if he had not been riding between the two troopers, who protected him. They seemed to have taken the affair much more seriously than the dolls who had come to[Pg 194] visit Wooden, but then a crowd always is more excited about things than a few people, because they work each other up. Very likely, if this crowd of dolls had had to do something of their own accord, instead of shouting at those who were doing it, they would not have been very good at it. And if they had pulled the Lord Chancellor off his horse, it is doubtful if they would have known what to do next.
The poor Lord Chancellor was terribly upset at the way the crowd hissed and booed at him. Peggy heard him explaining to the troopers who rode on either side of him that nobody was more surprised than he was, or more glad either, that Queen Rosebud was alive. But they took no notice of him, and the crowd went on booing and hissing all the same.
When they arrived at the market-place, there was a square of lead life guardsmen all round the door of the House of Cards, to keep the crowd off. The market-place was packed full of dolls, shouting and singing, and looking up to the top story, where they had heard that the Queen was imprisoned. Peggy could see the open window at which she had sat; but she did not appear at it.
What seemed more remarkable still was that there was nobody on the balcony of the first floor, either.[Pg 196] It might have been thought that Wooden’s aunt, at least, would have been there, watching what was going on. But there was nobody to be seen.
They rode into the empty space kept by the soldiers. Teddy whispered something to Colonel Jim, who got off his charger and went up the steps and knocked at the door. As he waited for a minute before it was opened, all the dolls on that side of the market-place were quite silent.
The door was opened by Mr. Emma. Peggy could not hear what passed between him and Colonel Jim, but presently Colonel Jim turned sharp round and came down the steps again. “The Queen’s gone,” he said. “So are the other prisoners. Selim and Rose came and fetched them half an hour ago.”
Here was a piece of news! Mr. Emma was summoned, and made to tell exactly what had happened. The Lord Chancellor asked most of the questions, for he was out of reach of the crowd and had somewhat recovered from his fright. Besides, he was used to asking questions, and liked doing it.
It seemed that Selim had come to the prison in a closed carriage, accompanied by Rose; and another empty carriage had come with them. He had seemed to Mr. Emma to be in a very nervous state, but he had[Pg 197] not seen much of him, because he had sat in the carriage all the time, while Rose had gone in to the House of Cards, and fetched the Queen down. Mr. Emma had not known it was the Queen until this moment, for he had kept himself shut up in the House of Cards, with Mrs. Emma and the baby, and had not tried to find out what the crowd outside was so excited about.
The Lord Chancellor asked him what the Queen had said when she had come downstairs.
“She didn’t say nothing, your Honour,” said Mr. Emma. “She looked kind of proud-like, and held her head high. If she’d had her crown on I should have knowed it was the Queen by the way she behaved.”
Well, the Queen had got into the carriage where Selim was, and then Rose had gone upstairs and fetched down Lady Grace, and Wooden’s mother and aunt. Wooden’s aunt had seemed very pleased with herself, according to Mr. Emma. She had imitated a grand lady mincing down the steps, and said to him, “Out of the way, Bobby, we’re going to the palace. Haw! Haw!” This had offended Mr. Emma, for he had left the police force some time before.
Rose had got into the first carriage, with the Queen and Selim, and the other three had got into the second carriage. Then they had all driven away.
That was Mr. Emma’s story, and about all that could be got out of him. The two carriages had driven off in the direction of the palace, and Rose must have told Wooden’s aunt that that was where they were going to. The carriages were not the gilt and glass coaches that were generally used from the palace, but ordinary landaus. They had not stood before the House of Cards very long, and nobody had taken much notice of them. A few dolls had seen the Queen come out and get into the carriage, but they had not known who she was.
Well, what was to be done now? It seemed plain that Selim had found out somehow that the people were beginning to find out all about his wickedness, and had kidnapped the Queen. Why he had also taken off Lady Grace, and Wooden’s mother and aunt, was not quite so plain, but perhaps it was because he thought they knew too much, and he wanted to get them out of the way.
“What we had better do,” said the Lord Chancellor, “is to go back to the palace and interview King Selim. I’m all for prompt action in these matters, and I propose we start at once.”
“Oh, you silly old thing!” said Teddy. “As if he[Pg 199] had gone to the palace! You ought to know better than that, at your age.”
“But Wooden’s aunt said they were going to the palace,” said the Lord Chancellor. “You wouldn’t accuse her of telling a lie, I suppose!”
“Rose told her so,” said Wooden. “You can’t believe anything that she says. Aunt would like to think she was going to the palace, and Rose must have told her that to quiet her.”
It was rather clever of Wooden to think of this, for dolls are apt to believe everything they are told. But when a doll has once made herself disbelieved, as Rose had done, there is an end of their trusting her.
“There is a good deal in what you say,” said the Lord Chancellor. “But if they have not gone to the palace, where have they gone? It might be as well to go there and see if anybody knows.”
They might perhaps have done this, for, although Selim would not have been likely to tell anybody where he meant to go, still, they might have picked up some sort of a clue. But just as they were discussing it, our old friend Mr. Noah pushed his way through the soldiers who were guarding the square. He was, of course, a royal servant, and wore a medal to show it,[Pg 200] so they let him through. He brought the important information that the two carriages had been seen driving fast through the town on the road to the sea.
Directly Teddy heard this, he gave a whoop, and said, “Let’s after them, then, as fast as we can go. Come on, all!” He dug his heels into his horse’s sides, and galloped off. The soldiers parted to let him through, and the crowd scattered away from him on all sides, as he galloped through the streets and was lost to sight.
Now this was all very well. Teddy was anxious to catch up the fugitives, but if he did catch them up he couldn’t very well do anything all by himself. Besides, he seemed to be about the only one who had any ideas in his head—or, at least, ideas that were worth anything—and if he went off all by himself, the others were likely to make a muddle of things. It was his “flightiness” coming out, but he had done so well already that he might be forgiven for it.
However, his going off like that was not so bad as it might have been. If it had been left to the Lord Chancellor to say what was to be done next, it would have taken a long time to do anything, and then very likely what would have been done would have been wrong. And Colonel Jim, though brave as a lion, and[Pg 201] handsome, too, was not intellectual. But Mr. Noah seemed to have a few ideas in his head, and some spirit to carry them out. Of course he was not exactly a doll, though he lived in Dolltown, and he had Oriental blood in his veins, or whatever fluid dolls do have, and this made him rather more clever than might have been expected from his wooden expression. He was angry, too, at having had orders given him about his Ark by Selim, and wanted to get at him and tell him what he thought of him.
Anyhow, as the Lord Chancellor was talking and talking, Mr. Noah cut him short. “What are you wasting all this time for?” he asked. “What we’ve got to do is to go after them as quick as we can, and take the soldiers with us. Give me a horse, and let’s be off.”
There was a horse to spare, and Mr. Noah got on to it. He looked rather funny in his long yellow robe, and being a sort of sailor he was not used to horses. But he managed to stick on all right, and as the horse was fortunately a quiet one, he soon got used to the unusual motion. He said to the others, “Now, you come after me!” and without waiting any longer he trotted off.
The others all followed him. Colonel Jim gave some orders to his men, and they formed themselves into[Pg 202] fours and fell behind. It was quite a gay cavalcade that went trotting through the streets of Dolltown, and this time the crowd cheered them to the echo, and forgot to hiss and boo at the Lord Chancellor.
They trotted along through the streets of the town, and soon got clear of the crowd. But the news of what had happened had spread all over Dolltown by this time, and there were many dolls at the windows and on the pavements to see them pass. They did not know yet that Selim had kidnapped Queen Rosebud, but they knew that she was alive, and that he was a usurper. When they saw all the soldiers they knew that something stirring was going to happen, and by the way they shouted and waved their hands it seemed that Selim had very few friends in Dolltown, and had better look out for himself if he ever came back there.
At the end of the town, where the country began, there was a gate, and a sentry box beside it, where a wooden sentry was keeping guard. They stopped to question him. He remembered the two carriages driving through the gate, and had wondered who they belonged to. It was not his duty to challenge them, as he was there chiefly for ornament; but when Teddy[Pg 204] had galloped up, he had asked him, more out of curiosity than anything else, why he was going so fast. Teddy had said, “Open the gate and I’ll tell you.” So he had opened the gate, and the moment Teddy had got through it he had galloped off again, shouting out to the sentry, “I’m going fast because my horse is.” Of course this was true, but it had made the sentry angry; and he had been still more annoyed when Teddy had jumped himself round on his horse, just as if he had been a rider in a circus, and ridden away backwards, making long noses at him. The sentry said that this was disrespectful to a servant of the Crown, and asked the Lord Chancellor to send Teddy to prison for it. But they had no time to waste over his grievances, and set off again.
They trotted through the country roads, and Peggy enjoyed the ride very much. She felt quite safe, with all the soldiers riding behind them, but thought it was hardly necessary to have brought so many of them, as Mr. Noah and Teddy, to say nothing of Colonel Jim and his two special troopers, would have been enough to take Selim prisoner when they caught up with him. But it was a good thing that they had brought the soldiers, as will presently appear.
By-and-by they came to an inn, which was a farm as[Pg 205] well, and looked very peaceful and comfortable, with its neat toy barns and outhouses among the trees and fields, and the toy animals feeding all about them. They stopped for a minute or two to ask questions of the innkeeper, who was a wooden doll of a rather stolid appearance. When the Lord Chancellor began to ask him questions he went and fetched his wife, and she was more intelligent, and gave her answers well.
She said that the two carriages had stopped at the inn, and a lady in the first one had put her head out and asked for a glass of water. The blinds of the carriage were drawn down, but when the innkeeper’s wife had brought the glass of water she had seen the lady who asked for it give it to another lady inside the carriage. She thought that this second lady had tried to say something to her, but the first lady had put her hand over her mouth and stopped her, and then somebody else in a corner of the carriage—she thought it was a man by the size of his hand—had passed the glass out to her, with a piece of money, and the window had been pushed up at once and the carriages had driven off.
She was rather confused about it all, as it had passed so quickly; but it seemed plain that Queen Rosebud had thought of this way of making it known that she[Pg 207] was being carried off. She must have said that she didn’t feel very well, and would like a glass of water at the next house they stopped at, meaning to tell whoever brought it who she was. But Rose had prevented her. This was one more thing against Rose.
That was not all the innkeeper’s wife told them. As the carriage drove off, a wooden lady had put her head out of the second one and called out, “Here we go round the mulberry bush!” The innkeeper’s wife had thought afterwards that perhaps these were some lunatics—for there are a few lunatics amongst dolls—being taken out for an airing. But, of course, it had only been Wooden’s aunt acting in her usual silly fashion.
But the odd thing was that the innkeeper’s wife had seen nothing of Teddy. She said she must have seen him if he had passed along the road, as she had been in her kitchen, which was in front of the house, all the time. So as they went on they had something to wonder about, as to what had become of Teddy. Wooden thought he had missed the way, but this seemed impossible, as the road ran straight towards the sea. The Lord Chancellor thought that he might have tumbled off his horse, but this seemed more unlikely still, as he was clever enough to jump about on it and ride backwards. What Peggy thought she kept to herself. It[Pg 208] was that Teddy had some clever plan in his head, which they would hear about all in good time, and had never meant to catch up the carriages all by himself. For of course he could easily have done so if he had liked, as he could go much faster than they could.
They went up the road over the hills, which you remember that the river had come through in a gorge, and when they came to the top of it they could see the sea a few miles away. The road ran straight down to it. They could see several specks on the road at a good distance off, but there was nothing that looked like the two carriages.
This was a disappointment, as they had quite expected to catch sight of the fugitives from the top of the hill, and to come up with them before they could reach the sea. If they had already got there, it seemed as if they must have escaped them after all.
But it seemed impossible that the carriages should have got so far ahead. They had not been more than half an hour behind them at the inn, and even if they had not gained on them since, they must have seen them on the road in front, if they had been there. So they must have left the straight road, and the question was what to do next.
As they were talking it over, Peggy thought she[Pg 209] heard a cry in the wood on their right. She listened with all her ears, and then thought she heard another. She told Wooden, and all of them listened.
Yes, there was no doubt about it. The noise was some distance off, and could not be heard very plainly; but it kept on, and seemed to be somebody calling for help. They got off their horse and went into the wood, in the direction from which the call seemed to be coming. As they got farther in among the trees it became louder. It was like a woman calling “Help! Help!” every second or two, but in a strangled voice, as if there were something in the way.
Wooden called out “Coming! Coming!” and they ran on as fast they could.
They came to a little clearing in the wood, and there, sitting on the ground with her back against a great fir-tree, was Wooden’s unfortunate aunt. She had a handkerchief tied over her mouth, and a rope went round her body and tied her tight to the tree. Her hands were behind her, and seemed to be tied too, so that she could not free herself. Altogether, she was in a very sorry plight.
But she did not seem to have altogether lost her spirits, for when she saw them coming towards her she kicked her legs up and gave a little sort of crow, which[Pg 210] sounded rather pathetic, coming through her handkerchief.
Wooden untied the handkerchief, murmuring sounds of distress and sympathy all the time, while Colonel Jim busied himself with the rope, and when he found he couldn’t untie it cut it with his sword. In a very short time, Wooden’s aunt was standing up free, shaking the pine needles off her skirts.
“I thought somebody would come if I yelled long enough,” she said, in quite a cheerful voice, which did her credit, as it showed she had a great deal of pluck, in spite of the numerous faults of her nature.
“But how did you come to be here, dear?” asked Wooden. “And what has become of mother?”
“Oh, yer mother’s all right,” said Wooden’s aunt. “She’s with the quality. I don’t like their ways of going on, so I asked them to kindly drop me anywhere that was convenient.”
“But why did they tie you up like this, dear?” asked Wooden.
“Oh, they thought we was playing Blind Man’s Bluff,” said her aunt.
It was all very well for her to take it in this light-hearted spirit, and Peggy rather admired her for it. But she must have had a very rough time, for her[Pg 211] dress was all torn, and her wrists were scarred where the rope had bound them. As she spoke she was rubbing them, to restore the circulation, and she looked white, and as if she might faint at any moment.
Fortunately, there was a little pool of water quite[Pg 212] near, and Colonel Jim, who showed himself kind and useful in this emergency, filled his helmet with water and gave it to her to drink, as she sat on the ground again with Wooden kneeling by her side and holding her.
“Ah, that’s better,” she said, smacking her lips, when she had had a good drink. “I’ve been looking at that pond and wishing I could get at it. Drat that Selim! I wish I could get at him! I’d mark him.”
She said these last sentences in her usual vigorous way, which showed that she was recovering; and when she had rested a little longer, they got her story out of her.
“They’d said we was going to be took to the palace,” she said, “and at first I didn’t think nothing of going such a long way round. None of us didn’t. But by-and-by Lady Grace says, ‘I wonder who’s in the first carriage,’ she says. ‘Oh, I’ll soon find that out,’ I says, and I pokes my head out of window and hollers out to the driver, ‘Hi, Mister! Who have you got in front there?’”
“Was that before or after you had passed the inn where they got some water?” asked the Lord Chancellor.
“Never you mind whether it was before or after,”[Pg 213] said Wooden’s aunt. “I’m telling this story, and I’m going to tell it in my own way.”
This was not very polite of her, but she had been through a great deal, and her nerves were in an irritable state. The Lord Chancellor asked no more questions, and she finished her story to the end.
She said the coachman told her that it was the King who was in the first carriage, and advised her not to put her head out of window again as he had orders to hit anybody who did so with his whip.
This seemed such an extraordinary order for him to have received that the three dolls in the carriage began to suspect that there was something wrong, especially as they had now been driving for a long time, and when Wooden’s aunt had put her head out of window she had seen that they were getting near the hills, which she recognized. It was not exactly observant of them not to have suspected something before, but, as you know by now, dolls are apt to take everything that happens as a matter of course.
Well, by the time the carriages had reached the top of the hill, the three dolls had come to the conclusion that they were being run away with. Wooden’s aunt said she wasn’t going to stand that, and was going to ask Selim what he meant by it. She said she would[Pg 214] jump out of the carriage as it was going, and run forward to the first carriage. The others said that the coachman would hit her with his whip, but she said she would run the risk of his missing her.
Well, as the carriages came to the top of the hill, she opened the carriage door quickly and jumped out, and ran forward to the first carriage. The driver shouted at her, and gave her a great cut with his whip, which unfortunately did not miss her, but hit her in the face, where there was still an ugly-looking mark. But she hardly felt it at the time, and ran forward to the first carriage, shouting out, “Hi, you there, Selim! Come out and show your ugly face!”
Oh, there was no doubt about the pluck of Wooden’s aunt, in spite of the numerous faults of her character.
The rest was soon told. Selim had been furious with her, and he and Rose had dragged her into the wood and tied her to the tree, and then they had gone off. But before they had left her, Rose had stood in front of her and laughed her scornful laugh, and said, “That’s for calling me Sawdust. Perhaps you’ll be sorry now for crossing the path of Rose, who never forgets and never forgives.”
This was one more thing against Rose.
The Lord Chancellor asked Wooden’s aunt if she[Pg 215] had any idea where the carriages were going, and told her they could not see them on the straight road to Dollport. This was the name of the little town by the sea, where the dolls landed from “over there.”
“Well, silly,” said Wooden’s aunt, “if they ain’t on that road, of course they’re on the other one. It don’t take a pair of specs to see that.”
The Lord Chancellor, slightly annoyed at being addressed in this fashion, said stiffly, “I should have thought of that if I had been given time. We have delayed long enough. Let us at once take the road to Dollfort.” Now, Dollfort was the place in which the wooden soldiers of Toyland were trained. If Selim had gone there, it looked as if he expected the wooden soldiers to be on his side.
The road to Dollfort turned to the right at the top of the hill, and ran for some way through the wood. When it got to the bottom of the hill there was a stretch of open country for about a mile; then there was another thick wood on another hill.
There was no sign of the carriages on the straight bit of road, but the pursuers had been some time freeing Wooden’s aunt and listening to her story, and could hardly have expected to catch them up yet. Wooden’s aunt was riding between Peggy and Wooden. She had nearly recovered from her disagreeable experience, and was inclined to like being on horseback. She said the motion reminded her of being in a small boat on a choppy sea.
When they had got about halfway between the two woods, Colonel Jim halted them with a sharp word of command. “Women and children behind!!” he said, and then ordered his men in front.
It was a good thing that this was done, for as they approached the second wood two armed wooden soldiers[Pg 217] sprang out of it and levelled their rifles at them. They did not fire them, but it would have given Peggy and the dolls a nasty fright if they had been riding in front.
The wooden sentries challenged Colonel Jim, riding at the head of his little troop, with a “Halt!” and a “Who goes there?” He said “Friend!” but they did not say “Pass Friend!” as is the usual custom. They told him that the King had recently gone through to Dollfort, and had told them that they were to let nobody pass until they received further orders from the fort.
Now Colonel Jim engaged in the duties of his profession was quite a different person from the amiable but rather slow-witted person we have hitherto seen. He didn’t tell the sentries that Selim wasn’t the King at all, or engage in any argument with them. He said, “I’m an officer of the Royal Body Guard, so your orders can’t apply to me.” Then he gave them the password for the day, which, as you remember, was the word “pot-plants.”
Now, you must also remember that, although Selim had thought he might be followed in his flight, which was the reason why he had given orders to the sentries to let no one pass the wood, he could not have[Pg 218] known that he would be immediately followed by a troop of Household cavalry, which is, of course, the special protection of a King or Queen. So he had naturally not warned the sentries of this, and as Colonel Jim spoke with authority, they were inclined to obey him.
“Well, I suppose it’s all right for you and your men,” said one of the sentries, “but what about these here civs?” He meant civilians.
The Lord Chancellor now showed considerable resource. The sentries had lowered their rifles, which, strictly speaking, they ought not yet to have done, so he pushed his way to the front, and said in an important voice, “I am the highest official of this country; this gentleman here is the Royal Head Bargeman; this lady is the one the King has asked to marry him, and this is her aunt; and this little girl is a human being, and therefore doesn’t come under your orders at all.”
“Oh, well, I suppose it’s all right,” said the sentry in a grumbling voice. “You can pass through, all of you, and if me and my mate thinks it isn’t all right afterwards, why we can shoot after you.”
“Have you got your rifles in order?” asked Colonel Jim in a sharp voice. “Let’s have a look at them.”
Because he was an officer, and had spoken in a voice[Pg 219] of command, they obediently handed him their rifles to look at.
“Thank you,” said Colonel Jim, and handed the rifles to one of his men. “Now, you take these two and bring them along with us,” he said to another one. The surprised sentries found themselves prisoners, and made to walk by the side of the horses, which now proceeded at a foot’s pace up through the wood.
So far, all had gone well.
They kept a sharp look-out going through the wood, but saw no more soldiers. When they came to the edge of the wood they could see Dollfort across the open downs about a mile away.
Dollfort was a very fine toy fort, something like the one Peggy had seen driving into Dolltown, but much bigger. There were battlements all round it, with gates in them, and on the top of the fort was a large citadel. Outside the walls was a little town of dolls’ houses, where the families of the wooden soldiers lived. None but wooden soldiers occupied this fort, and of course that was why Selim had taken refuge there. He would tell them a great many lies and get them on his side.
The pursuing party remained in the shelter of the wood, where they could not be seen from the fort, even[Pg 221] with a telescope, but they could see the fort themselves quite plainly, and the country that lay between. This was all open grass-land, and woolly sheep were feeding on it. There were no houses between the wood and the fort.
Colonel Jim at once announced that he was going to take his soldiers to the fort and summon Selim to surrender. The Lord Chancellor thought this was a dangerous proceeding, but Colonel Jim refused to listen to him. “I’m in military command here,” he said, “and that is what I am going to do.” No doubt he was in a hurry, not only because of the Queen being shut up there, in the power of Selim, but because his dear Lady Grace was also shut up there. But he did not say this. He left Mr. Noah in charge, and set off with his gallant little band. They watched them ride down the hill, and trot across the open road over the downs, and very fine they looked on their splendid black chargers, with the sun glittering on their helmets and cuirasses, and their white plumes waving in the breeze.
The two captured wooden soldiers had had their hands tied, but when Mr. Noah told them all about Selim’s wickedness, and about the Queen being still alive, they expressed such horror that he allowed them to be untied. They said that if the soldiers in the fort[Pg 222] knew what had happened none of them would be on Selim’s side. They had only been prepared to obey him as King because he was of wood, but they were loyal to Queen Rosebud, and would be glad to have her reigning over them again. They were none of them pleased at the shutting up of all the Waxes, who had done them no harm, and rumours had come through to Dollfort that not only Waxes but some Woods also had been sent to prison, and this had pleased them still less. When the sentries were told that Wooden and her aunt had been two of the dolls in question, they were very interested, and said that their comrades would never fight for Selim, if it came to fighting. Whether this was true or not, you will soon see.
They watched the little troop of soldiers get smaller and smaller, and at last disappear among the houses outside the fort. Then they waited for a long time, while the sheep fed peacefully on the downs in the evening sunlight, and no other signs of life could be seen at all except the smoke rising from the houses round the fort.
They had finished talking, and had been sitting silent for about five minutes, when Wooden’s aunt, whose ears were very sharp, said suddenly, “Hark! What’s that?”
Nobody else had heard anything, but almost immediately Mr. Noah said, “There are guns firing.” And then Peggy distinctly heard some faint pops coming from the direction of the fort.
This was serious, because the life guardsmen had no rifles, but only their swords, and if they were being fired upon by the wooden soldiers it would be difficult for them to defend themselves.
“Look!” cried Peggy in great excitement.
Just where the houses began, a mile away, there was[Pg 224] a flash of sun on bright metal, and no sooner had she spoken than they could all see that it was on the helmets and breastplates of the soldiers. Then they saw the life guardsmen galloping towards them, and directly they had got clear of the houses, they saw the scarlet and white of the wooden soldiers following them, and heard their guns shooting. But none of the horse-soldiers seemed to be hit, and on they came, galloping along the road, and on the grass on either side of it. The foot-soldiers came running after them, but of course they could not go nearly so fast, and presently Colonel Jim and his men galloped up the road into the wood.
By this time the wooden soldiers were about a quarter of the way between the fort and the wood. There seemed to be an enormous number of them. They had left off firing their rifles, but were coming on at a good pace. In not so very long they would reach the wood, and it really seemed as if they must capture not only Colonel Jim and his troop, but Peggy and the Woodens and all the rest of them. Peggy was a little frightened then, for the red and white was coming towards them like a great wave, and all the soldiers had rifles, which they would certainly use if any resistance were offered to them.
Colonel Jim cast one hurried glance round him. “If we had axes,” he said, “we could make a barricade, and keep them at bay until we could send for reinforcements. As it is, I’m afraid we must clear out.”
“What, and leave my sister-in-law shut up there!” exclaimed Wooden’s aunt. “Never! If nobody else stays, I shall. I’ve got a sharp pair of nails, and I can give them a few scratches.”
Now, this was plucky of Wooden’s aunt, and loyal too. She had only mentioned Wooden’s mother, but no doubt she had had the Queen in her mind as well. But she had left out of account the military situation, not knowing much about that sort of thing, and her opinion could not be allowed to stand against that of Colonel Jim, who was quite as brave as she was, but knew when there was a chance of fighting successfully and when it was better to retreat.
“We shall have to go,” he said decidedly. “If they take us prisoners we can’t do any more good, but if we get back to Dolltown we can bring out reinforcements and take the fort. To horse, all of you!”
The wooden soldiers were now about halfway across the stretch of open country. They were not running so fast now, as they must have got rather winded with their first effort, but more and more of them were coming[Pg 226] out of the fort, and it was quite plain that the little band in the wood would have no possible chance against them.
They untied the horses and ponies, and were just preparing to mount, when Wooden’s aunt said, “Hark! I heard a shout.”
She turned towards the interior of the wood, and they all listened. Yes, there was somebody shouting, and they heard the noise of a horse galloping furiously, besides. In a moment there came into sight, among the trees—who do you think? None other than Peggy’s faithful old Teddy.
Teddy galloped up to them and threw himself off his horse. One glance at the advancing wave of wooden soldiers showed him what the position was. There was no time to explain what he had been doing. Every moment was of value. “There’s cavalry and infantry coming up,” he said to Colonel Jim. “We can make a stand here. Better send one of your men back to hurry up the guns.”
But there was no necessity to do this, for as Teddy was speaking they could hear the noise of horses trotting along through the wood, and almost immediately a lot of lead soldiers made their appearance, and came rapidly towards them. They were Lancers, on bright bay horses, and very smart they looked with the little flags fluttering at the tops of their lances.
The Colonel of the regiment rode at the head of them. He came up to Colonel Jim, and saluted. “Just in time, eh, sir?” he said. Colonel Jim saluted,[Pg 228] too, and said, “Are your men ready for a charge, sir? If so, we can keep them off till the guns come up.”
The Colonel of the Lancer regiment threw one glance[Pg 229] at the approaching wooden soldiers. There were thousands and thousands of them, and only a few of his men could come up at a time, by the narrow road through the wood. But odds did not daunt him, and he at once gave the order to charge.
The Lancers who had gathered at the edge of the wood immediately charged down the hill, shouting and singing in the most gallant fashion, the Colonel at their head; and the others who were coming up behind quickened their pace and followed them. They spread out as they got into the open, so as to charge the whole front of the wooden infantry. Colonel Jim held his own little troop back, partly out of politeness to the Colonel of Lancers, partly because their horses were blown.
It had all happened so quickly that Peggy had not had time to be frightened yet. But the noise of the horses galloping and the men shouting got louder and louder, and the wooden soldiers had now got so near that their shouts could be heard too, as they stood to receive the shock of the cavalry. She suddenly shrieked, and clung to Wooden. “Oh, they’re not going to kill each other, are they?” she cried. “Do let’s go away!”
Wooden soothed her. “Of course they’re not going[Pg 230] to kill each other, dear,” she said. “Soldiers don’t do that in Toyland. They only knock each other down; and whichever side knocks most down wins.”
This relieved Peggy’s fears a little, and in any case she was in the thick of it now, and had to see it through. She was really a plucky little girl, and by the time the cavalry got to the bottom of the hill she had partly recovered from her fright, and did not shut her eyes.
The cavalry rode gallantly at the thick mass of soldiers, with their lances levelled, and whenever they hit a wooden soldier, down he went. The wooden soldiers fired their rifles at them as they came down the hill, and knocked over a few. But the bullets, which were small peas, of a kind grown specially for rifle ammunition, were not big enough to do much damage against men and horses coming so fast. It was only when several bullets hit the same soldier, or his horse, that they were knocked over. But the foot-soldiers left off firing and began to use their bayonets when the cavalry got amongst them, and then they did knock over a large number of men and horses, though not nearly so many as the Lancers knocked over of them.
It was most fascinating to watch. The Lancers went on and on through the masses of infantry, and wherever they went, down fell heaps of wooden soldiers.[Pg 231] And when they were knocked down they lay quite still on the ground, and took no further interest in the proceedings. But the farther in the Lancers went the less they became, as men and horses were bowled over in their turn. It was just as if they were being swallowed up in the great mass of red and white, and there were so many of the wooden soldiers that it soon became plain that in a short time the Lancers would all disappear.
Peggy watched the Colonel, who was always in front, fight his way steadily on, dealing lightning blows to right and left of him. But at last he went down, and the red coats were almost as thick as before, and still more were always coming up from the fort.
It was then that Colonel Jim rallied his little troop for a last gallant charge. Teddy had galloped back through the wood, while the Lancers were charging, to hurry up the guns. He now came tearing back, and said to Colonel Jim in a hurried voice, “The guns will be here in a couple of minutes. If you can keep them back till then we shall have them beaten.”
“I’ll try,” said Colonel Jim, looking at his little troop, which seemed almost nothing at all compared to the masses of soldiers advancing on them; and then he gave the word to charge.
It was a desperate effort. The shock of the Lancers’ charge had now spent itself. The wooden soldiers, who had been kept back by it for a time which was short measured by minutes, but of inestimable value to the defenders of the wood, were now forming at the foot of the hill. If they succeeded in getting to the top of it, the little party in the wood would be surrounded and taken prisoners. Could Colonel Jim’s handful of men save them?
The troopers were given instructions to form themselves into a line at the edge of the wood, and then to charge down the hill all together. They rode out of the shelter of the trees, and formed their line with as much coolness as if they were on parade. The foot-soldiers began firing again, and the bullets pattered on their cuirasses like hail, but had no effect upon these heroes, except to sting them up when they caught them in their faces, and to make their horses restive. Peggy could hear the bullets whistling and pattering amongst the leaves of the trees over her head, but she and the dolls had been withdrawn a little into the wood. Owing to the angle at which the wooden soldiers fired, there was no danger for them as long as the firing was from the bottom of the hill.
It took the life-guardsmen a very short time to form[Pg 233] into line, and, as the wooden soldiers had halted to fire at them, the time was not wasted. The moment they were in line, Colonel Jim, who was in the middle, slightly in advance of the rest, gave the word to charge.
Down swept the splendid little band, in an irresistible charge. It was no good firing at them any longer, and the wooden soldiers stood with bayonets fixed to receive the shock. Wooden’s aunt, who had been getting more and more excited at what was happening, ran forward to the edge of the wood to watch, and Peggy and the others went with her.
The sudden leaving off of the firing made a lull, in which the noise of the horses’ hoofs could be heard thundering down the hill. When they reached the bottom, the shock of the encounter was just like hammer blows, as wood met metal.
The front line of wooden soldiers seemed to waver a little as the horsemen approached them. And no wonder! The wooden soldiers were brave enough, and they did not yet know that they were fighting in a bad cause, so there was nothing to make them cowards. But the first line of them, at least, must have known that they would all go down before the irresistible charge, and it spoke well for them that they stood and waited for it, instead of running away.
It was not only the front line that went down under the weight, but the second and third. It really looked for a moment as if that single line of heavy cavalry would push the opposing host back all by itself. And, so far, not a single man or horse of them had fallen.
But the impetus of the furious charge was bound to spend itself. A life-guardsman went down, and then another. But still they struggled on, Colonel Jim in front of them fighting desperately, as the Colonel of the Lancers had done. It was no longer a line of steel destroying everything in front of it as it swept on, but a few scattered horsemen, fighting gloriously against overwhelming odds.
But still they did advance, and for every horse and rider that went down a score or more of foot soldiers bit the dust.
“They’ll do it! They’ll do it!” yelled Wooden’s aunt, dancing about in a state of tremendous excitement.
Teddy, sitting on his horse, was no less excited. “They’re giving way!” he cried. And Peggy distinctly saw a quiver run through the mass of wooden soldiers, like wind passing over a field of corn.
At this very moment there was a roar and a rumble from the wood behind, and the artillery came galloping[Pg 235] up, just in the nick of time. A great shout was raised, which struck terror into the hearts of the wooden soldiers down below. Before the first gun could be unlimbered and pointed at them, the great mass of red coats turned and broke. Colonel Jim, and all that was left of his little troop, took up the shout, and redoubled their efforts. They had it all their own way now. The enemy was flying, and not one wooden soldier tried to knock them down any more, but only to escape their blows, and get back in safety to the fort.
The big guns got to work. One of them was quite near to where Peggy and the Woodens were standing. It was quickly loaded with gunpowder and an enormous pea. She stopped her ears as it was fired, but the noise was not so bad as if it had been a real gun. She distinctly saw the great pea fall in the middle of the fleeing army, and then go bowling along, knocking over lots of soldiers before its force had spent itself.
Orders soon came, however, for the artillery to cease firing. More regiments of cavalry were coming up through the wood. As they arrived they were sent down to pursue the wooden soldiers, and also to ride round them, and cut them off from the fort. There was no necessity to knock down any more of them. If they were surrounded they would be obliged to surrender,[Pg 237] and this would come to the same thing. The guns would be wanted to reduce the fort, and, until further supplies of ammunition came up, they did not want to waste it.
It was a pretty sight to see the cavalry galloping over the downs, outflanking the flying red coats, and presently getting between them and the fort. But a good many wooden soldiers who had only got a little way out when the rout began had already succeeded in making their way back. There would be plenty to defend the fort, if Selim should decide to try to hold it.
The great contest that would be known in the history of Toyland as the Battle of the Downs had been fought and won. But Queen Rosebud was not yet set free, and Selim was not yet captured. There was still stern work to be done. Dollfort must be taken at all costs, and as it was one of the strongest forts in the country that would be no light matter.
The affair, however, was set in hand at once. The artillery limbered up and galloped down the hill and trotted across the downs, making a fine show. There were about twenty guns—quite enough to make a breach in the walls. But when they had done so, infantry would be required to pour in through the breach and complete the work that the guns had begun. The cavalry had already done their share, and would not be of much use for this task For in the valiant army of Toyland it was not customary to use horse-soldiers apart from their horses.
But Teddy, who seemed to have thought of everything,[Pg 239] had asked for infantry to be sent from Dolltown, as well as cavalry and artillery, and almost as soon as the guns had thundered off down the hill the first detachment of foot-soldiers came up through the wood.
If they had had to march from Dolltown they could not have been there in time; but all the available conveyances had been used to bring them up. The first lot arrived in toy motor-cars, and then followed carriages and cabs and carts in quick succession, until quite enough men were there to overcome any resistance the fort might make.
Peggy, and the little group of civilian dolls watched the first regiment form up and march away towards their task at Dollfort. It was a regiment of wooden soldiers, and the Lord Chancellor said he thought that was a mistake, as they would not like fighting against their own sort. But Teddy, who came up to say a word to them now and then, laughed at this. “They are all loyal,” he said. “So will the soldiers at Dollfort be, when they know the truth.”
There was certainly no lack of eagerness shown by this fine regiment, as it marched down the hill with its flag at its head. Peggy was interested to see Captain Louisa marching with one of the companies. He had[Pg 240] said that his men would follow him anywhere, and she was glad to see that he was prepared to fight on the side of the right.
When the first regiment had marched off, Teddy came up to them and said, “I think we might go now. You’d like to see the guns knock the fort down, wouldn’t you?”
Peggy said she should like it very much. She had always liked playing with her boy cousin with his soldiers, and this was just like one of the battles and sieges that they had arranged, only on an enormous, glorious scale. Since she had seen that there was no horrible bloodshed, but only fair and square knocking down, from which none of the soldiers would be much the worse afterwards, she had ceased to feel any alarm at the fighting, and was quite ready to see some more of it.
They rode across the downs towards Dollfort, and now Teddy had time to tell them how he had so luckily been able to bring up the troops, and spoil Selim’s little game.
He had been galloping along the road after the two carriages and must have nearly caught them up, when he had met Japhet, Mr. Noah’s third son. He had been just about to pass him with a wave of the paw,[Pg 241] when Japhet had stopped him, and told him some most important news.
Now Japhet was a mild-mannered, studious young man, whose great hobby was the collection of wildflowers, which he pressed in a book. Whenever he was off duty on the royal Ark, he used to wander about the country picking flowers. Sometimes he went alone, and sometimes with a friend, who shared the same[Pg 242] tastes. This friend was also in the royal service. In fact, he was none other than the driver of the carriage in which Selim had run away with Queen Rosebud. Japhet had made arrangements to meet him that very evening on the road between Dolltown and Dollfort, and have a good long ramble with him.
It was fortunate that it was just on this road that Japhet had arranged to meet his friend. Of course, if he had not come, Japhet would have known that it was because he was on duty; but he would not have known where he was going.
As the carriage passed, Japhet waved to his friend, and asked him where he was going. His friend said “Dollfort.” They both spoke under their breaths, making great movement with their mouths, and the driver also made a movement with his head towards the carriage behind him, and said in the same way, “I’ve got the old man with me.” This was how these two talked to each other about Selim, and was not meant for disrespect, as they would not have done it in public.
Teddy said, “Are you sure he said Dollfort and not Dollport?”
Japhet said he was quite sure, because he had jerked his thumb to the right, where Dollfort was. If he had[Pg 243] meant Dollport, he would have pointed straight ahead.
Then Teddy had seen it all. Selim was not going to try to escape by sea, with Queen Rosebud, but was going to rouse the wooden soldiers of Dollfort, and perhaps try to get the kingdom back with their help. So Teddy turned sharp round, and rode back to Dolltown—but not along the road by which he had come—leaving Japhet standing there in considerable surprise.
When he had told his story, the Lord Chancellor asked him why he had not come back and told them what he had found out. He was annoyed about it. “If it had not been for our own extreme cleverness,” he said, “we might have gone off on a false scent to Dollport, and not known where they had gone to at all.”
Teddy grinned up at him rather impudently. “You wouldn’t have been much loss,” he said. “I knew it would take you about a month to start, if you started at all; and I wanted to take the short cut to the barracks. There was no time to be lost.”
“It’s as well you did,” said Mr. Noah. “The troops only came up just in the nick of time. Five minutes more, and the enemy would have been entrenched in the wood.”
As they rode across the downs, they passed heaps[Pg 244] of soldiers lying on the ground, most of which were wooden soldiers of the attacking party; but some were men and horses of the Lifeguards and the Lancers. None of them were much damaged, but they hated lying there and doing nothing, and implored to be picked up.
But they were told that there wasn’t time for that. The ambulance corps would be sent out as soon as possible, and they must wait for that. The only soldier they did pick up was the Colonel of Lancers, who rode along with them, very glad for his horse to be on its feet again. He was proud of the charge that his regiment had made, but would not take any credit for his own share of it. He said that he had only done his duty as a soldier should.
When they arrived at the houses in front of the fort, the guns had already got to work. The cavalry had gone into the streets, and told all the inhabitants to come away, as in five minutes their houses were going to be knocked down. It was necessary to destroy them, in order to have a clear range at the walls of the fort, and as our little party came up the dolls’ houses of the town were toppling down in dozens as the guns fired at them. All the poor dolls who had been told to leave them were gathered in a body on a low hill[Pg 246] to the right, watching the destruction of their homes, and it was sad to hear the wails and lamentations that arose from them; for they had not had time to bring anything away. Perhaps their possessions were not worth very much, but still, a home is a home to those who live in it. Be it ever so humble, there is no place like it, as the song says, and it was not nice for these poor people to see their homes knocked down by great peas as big as wardrobes. However, the houses would all be put up again as soon as the siege was over, and the poor dolls would not be any the worse off.
The hill on which the refugees were crowded was out of the line of fire, and our party went there to watch what was going on.
It was not quite such an easy matter to reduce the fort as it first appeared. For one thing, the walls had been built to resist such attacks, and would be more difficult to demolish than the houses outside them. And for another thing, the artillery did not have it all its own way. There were, of course, guns in the fort itself, and they were already doing great damage to the attacking forces. The shooting was not quite so good as it might have been, and the artillery-men in the field were very clever in moving their guns about quickly, so that whenever they had fired they would[Pg 247] move away to a new position, and the guns in the fort always had to be finding new ranges.
Still, one field-gun after another was put out of action, and now there were only about half of them left to do the work.
The situation was as follows. The houses in the way had all been knocked down, leaving the battlements of the fort open to attack, but it had cost half the artillery to do it. Would the other half be enough to make a breach in the walls, through which the infantry could pour in and do their work, before they were put out of action, too? And supposing they did, would enough infantry arrive in time to do the pouring in? It was touch and go, as all the episodes of this great battle had been.
As for the infantry, the wooden regiment in which Captain Louisa served had already come up, and was resting under cover waiting till the time came for it to make its attack. And across the downs were marching more regiments, all of lead soldiers. Yes, the infantry would be ready, if the guns could do their work in time.
The artillery now changed its tactics. The time had gone by for moving about and firing guns singly. They would never make a hole in those stout walls,[Pg 248] unless all of them fired at one place together. This then was what they had to do. It was costly, because when once the guns of the fort had found the range, they could knock them all out pretty quickly. But it was the only way.
The Colonel of Lancers explained all this very politely to Peggy, and she watched with breathless interest this exceedingly important phase of the battle.
There was silence from the field artillery while the guns were all being trained on to one place in the walls. But the guns from the fort redoubled their efforts. One of them had the good luck to find the range immediately. The moment the field-guns had galloped up to the position that had been decided on, a great bullet came bounding along and knocked one of the batteries down. Then the others found the range. The field-guns were pointed and loaded wonderfully quickly, but before any of them could actually fire, five of them had been knocked out. Just as the order to fire was given, two more were knocked out. So the great blow was only delivered by three guns.
They might just have done it if the balls had all hit exactly the same spot in the walls. Two of them hit it exactly, but the third went a little wild. Peggy distinctly heard them hit the wall. There was a little fall[Pg 249] of masonry and a cloud of dust. When this cleared away, she looked eagerly for a hole in the wall. But no hole was there. Those frowning battlements stood as whole and nearly as strong as before.
Immediately afterwards the remaining field-guns were put out of action by the guns of the fort. The artillery attack had failed, and a tremendous cheer arose from the soldiers who were crowding the walls of the fort watching the Homeric contest.
But their cheering soon died away, for this was not the end of it. What followed happened so quickly that Peggy could not afterwards remember exactly how it did happen. But almost before she could draw breath the wooden regiment which had come up first was charging towards the fort with lusty shouts. Shots from the guns in the fort mowed them down in long lanes, but still they charged on. They swarmed over the ruins of the houses, and reached the very walls of the fort; and when they got there they began swarming up the walls themselves, just like flies.
It was a most gallant assault. They were under shelter from the guns of the fort, but the soldiers on the battlements could reach them, and made great havoc in their ranks. They climbed up on each other’s shoulders, but directly one of them reached the top[Pg 250] he was knocked down, and then the next one was knocked down, and sometimes a whole line of men was toppled over.
But there were always more to take the place of those who fell. A regiment of lead soldiers came dashing up to help them, and then another and then another still. The advantage of numbers was on the attacking side now, but the advantage of position was very much with the soldiers of the fort, and it seemed impossible that anybody should ever succeed in climbing over the top of the wall.
But a lot of sharpshooters were told off to aim at the soldiers who were manning the walls, and they did their work very cleverly, picking them off one by one. The guns of the fort were trained on them, and they went down in large numbers, but they imitated the tactics of the artillery, and never fired twice from the same spot; and gradually they made an impression. There came a moment when the soldiers on the top of the wall did not seem quite so thick as before. And when that moment came there was a great shout from the regiments below, and from the onlookers. For at last a soldier attacking the wall scrambled on to the top of it.
They saw him stand for a second laying about him[Pg 251] at the defenders, and then he went down. But not before two or three more had climbed over.
After that it was quickly finished. More and more soldiers reached the top, until presently the defence almost ceased, and the defendant forces were driven away from the top of the walls altogether.
Another shout went up when the great gate in front of the fort was seen slowly to roll open. And then the gallant soldiers ceased climbing up over the wall, and poured in through the gate, to finish the work that had been so splendidly begun.
The final reduction of Dollfort would have taken longer than it actually did if the citadel at the top of it had not been closed for spring cleaning. Selim and Rose would certainly have taken refuge there, and would have been defended by those that remained of the wooden soldiers. The citadel was very strong, and it might not have been possible to take it by assault at all. They might have had to starve it into surrender, and that would have taken a long time.
However, by a lucky chance, the commander of the fort, who was rather fussy, had said the day before that he couldn’t have the place looking like a pig-sty, and it was to be thoroughly cleaned out and white-washed. This was being done when Selim drove into the fort, and the fighting had followed so soon that there had been no opportunity of putting the citadel into any sort of shape to resist attack.
Soon after the fort was taken, Peggy and the others were allowed to ride into it through the gateway that had been opened by the attacking party. As they came[Pg 253] into the first narrow street of the fort a wooden officer was standing by the gate. It was none other than Captain Louisa, who saluted his old friends, and said he was very glad to see them there.
Another officer who was standing with him, patted him on the back, and said, “You haven’t told them that it was you who was first over the wall.”
“That was nothing,” said Captain Louisa modestly. “I was only doing my duty as a soldier should.”
They congratulated him heartily on his gallant feat of arms. He had said nothing about it himself, but it was plain that he was pleased at having it known to them. Peggy had thought it rather boastful of him when he had said in Wooden’s drawing-room that nobody would do his duty as a soldier better than he should, but it had turned out to be quite true. Wooden said how pleased his wife would be to hear what he had done, and his friend said that he would be made a Major for it, or perhaps even a Colonel.
They got off their horses at the entrance to the fort, for the streets were too narrow and steep to let them ride any more.
Dollfort was an old-fashioned though a very powerful fort. There were houses and shops in the narrow streets, and as they went up through them they saw[Pg 254] the soldiers taking refreshment in the inns, which were rather foreign-looking, and made Peggy think of the places she had seen in France.
The two sides had already made friends again, and Leads and Woods were eating and drinking at the same tables, and talking in an eager way about the glorious fight they had had. That is the best of a toy army. When one side wins, the other side bears no malice, and of course the regiments that have fought each other today may very well be fighting on the same side tomorrow.
The ambulance corps had already finished its work inside the fort, and was on its way out to the soldiers still lying on the downs. All the defenders of the fort who had fallen had been picked up again, and, to judge by the merry noise they were making, were none the worse for the experience.
Captain Louisa and his friend walked up through the streets with them, and Peggy was interested to learn that the friend, whose name was Lieutenant Napoleon, belonged to a regiment which had defended the fort. He was very indignant at what he had heard about Selim. “Still, it was a good thing we didn’t know what a rascal he was,” he said, “or we shouldn’t have had this glorious scrap.”
That was the spirit of all the soldiers who had been fighting. They often had sham battles, but this had been a real one, and they had thoroughly enjoyed it, especially the knocking down of the houses outside the fort. They would not have been allowed to knock them down in a sham fight.
The exciting and interesting thing now was to find Selim and Rose, and get to know where they had hidden the Queen and Lady Grace and Wooden’s mother.
Lieutenant Napoleon told them that the two carriages had come driving quickly into the fort, and the King had put his head out of the window of the first and told the sentries to close the gates, and to send the Commander of the fort to him at once at the Busby Arms, which was the chief inn in the place. Then they had driven into the courtyard of the inn, and the gates of that had been closed too.
The commander of the fort was General Wellington-Vera. He was an uncle of Lieutenant Napoleon’s, and had taken his wife’s name upon marriage, as is the custom in Toyland. General Wellington-Vera was a brave and capable officer, and had hurried at once to the King, as of course he thought him, to take his orders. These were that the fort was to be stoutly defended to the last man and the last ounce of powder,[Pg 257] against a cowardly and treacherous attack that would shortly be made upon the King’s life by the lead soldiers of Dolltown, who had revolted. That was what Selim had told him, and of course he had believed it.
Orders had quickly been given out that every man should be found at his post. Then General Wellington-Vera had made up his mind that he would not wait to be attacked, but would himself attack first; and Selim had approved of this. The result had been as we have already seen, and we need not go over the same ground again.
Lieutenant Napoleon was his uncle’s aide-de-camp, and had been by his side during the greater part of the battle and the siege. He was now free for a time, because the General, who was an old man, had been somewhat exhausted by his exertions, and had gone home to lie down. He said that his uncle had told him nothing about any ladies being with Selim. He had talked to him in a room alone. In fact, Lieutenant Napoleon was surprised to hear that there were any ladies there at all, and still more surprised to hear that one of them was Queen Rosebud. He had known by this time that she was alive, and that Selim was a usurper, but not that he had tried to run away with her.
“We ought to find them at once,” he said. “I am in command here as long as uncle is lying down, and I shall be pleased to put myself at your disposal.”
They went first of all to the Busby Arms. The gate of the courtyard was still shut, and Lieutenant Napoleon banged on it with the hilt of his sword, and called out that if it was not opened at once he would give orders for it to be blown up with gunpowder.
“You had all better take shelter,” he said, as he was waiting for a reply. “They might try sniping at us. I don’t mind for myself, but I shouldn’t like to see any of you hit.”
So they went behind a wall, all except Colonel Jim and the Colonel of Lancers and Captain Louisa, who, being soldiers, scorned to shelter themselves, and waited with Lieutenant Napoleon.
But there was no occasion for alarm. The gate was soon opened by the innkeeper, who had been terrified by the bombardment of the fort, especially as one of the cannon balls had fallen into the garden behind the inn and broken a cucumber frame.
The innkeeper was as shocked as all the rest when he heard how wicked Selim had really been, and very surprised at being told that one of the ladies who had come in the carriage with him was Queen Rosebud.
“She must have been the one they said was ill,” he said. “Her head was all covered up when they brought her in. They asked for a cup of tea for her, so I went down into the kitchen myself, because, you see, the girl what——”
“Never mind about all that,” said the Lord Chancellor. “Where are they now? Take us to them at once.”
But alas! the innkeeper could only tell them that they had gone.
“The King,” he said—“well, I suppose I mustn’t call him that now—but Selim, he went out with the General when the firing began, and soon after he’d gone the ladies must have slipped off. That’s how I think it must have happened. Anyhow, when I went up to tell them about my cucumber frame they’d gone, and I haven’t set eyes on them since.”
They did not waste much more time at the inn. They set out to make a thorough search of the houses in the fort, under the direction of Lieutenant Napoleon, who now showed himself very zealous on the scent.
There were not, after all, a great many hiding places. It was only in the lower streets of the fort that there were shops and houses. Above that there were only[Pg 260] barracks and defence works, and the citadel at the top of all.
None of the soldiers whom Lieutenant Napoleon questioned had seen anything of Selim since the taking of the fort. Up to that time he had been with General Wellington-Vera, overlooking the defence, and many of them had seen him. Of the Queen, and the other lady dolls, nobody had seen anything, from first to last.
“The only thing left is to search the citadel,” said Lieutenant Napoleon. “I don’t suppose they are there, but I don’t see where else they can be.”
So they set out, and climbed the steep streets up to the top of the fort.
As they went up, they met a lot of female dolls coming down with pails and mops and brooms. These were the char-dolls who had been cleaning up the citadel, and it speaks well for their sense of duty that they had not left off their work during the bombardment. But they were all wives of soldiers, and had been trained to do their duty, whate’er befell.
Peggy was interested in these dolls, who were chattering away at a great rate, and anxious to know what had been happening while they were busy. But, being wives of soldiers, they were too well disciplined to ask[Pg 261] questions of the officers, and nobody took much notice of them except Peggy.
They were mostly dressed in print gowns, but some of them wore big cloaks, because the evening was beginning to get a trifle chilly. Peggy noticed in the crowd of them two who had the hoods of their cloaks right over their heads. One of them was very tall, but was bent, as if she had rheumatism. She had the[Pg 262] arm of the other one, who was carrying a pail, and they were talking with their heads close together, but not speaking to anybody else.
They had just passed, rather quickly, when an idea suddenly sprang into Peggy’s mind. She clutched at Wooden’s arm, and said, “Look at those two! I believe they are disguised.”
It was the remembrance of Colonel Jim’s cloak when he had got in to them in the House of Cards that had made the idea come into her head. And perhaps the same connection of ideas made Colonel Jim himself sharper than he generally was; for the moment Peggy had spoken he called out to the char-dolls to stop.
Most of them, being well disciplined, stopped at once, at the word of command, but the two in cloaks went on, as if they had not heard, slightly quickening their pace, but not running.
That was enough for Teddy. He sprang after them. “Here, you two!” he said. “Let’s have a look at your faces. I’m sure you’ve no reason to be ashamed of them.”
They began to run. But Teddy ran after them, and put his foot in front of the tall one, who tripped and fell sprawling in the road. Teddy tore off the cloak,[Pg 263] and disclosed, not an inoffensive char-doll like the rest, but the gross form and sinister features of the rascally Selim.
There lay the villain who had worked such mischief among the simple and generous inhabitants of Toyland, and, above all, to their noble Queen, who had loaded him with benefits. He lay on the muddy road, blinking and scowling at his captors, well knowing that his game was up and his doom would soon fall. He was a sorry spectacle, in his discovery and disgrace. It was checkmate for him finally, and no further move was left to him.
As for the chief partner in his crimes, who had tried to escape with him—the renegade Composition doll Rose, who had so completely failed to obey the natural instincts of upright dollhood—it was easy enough to recognize her in the other cloaked figure, when once Selim’s disguise had been torn from him. It was Wooden’s aunt who sprang forward and snatched the cloak away from Rose. “So here you are, my beauty!” she exclaimed exultantly. “Got you at last! And if you try to get away I’ll scratch your eyes out.”
But Rose made no effort to get away. She did not cower before them, as the wretched Selim did. He made no effort even to rise from the ground until Lieutenant Napoleon called up two soldiers to seize him and hold him fast. But Rose drew herself up to her full height, and flashed scorn upon her captors from her dark eyes. There was something grand in her, in spite of the wickedness of her behaviour, but it was not the sort of grandeur that it does anybody any good to admire. The only thing that can be said about her is that with such a bold character it is a pity that she had not used her powers to do right instead of wrong. Then they might have led her to great heights. As it was, they had brought her down to ruin.
They questioned her as to what had been done with the Queen and the other dolls who had been carried off; but she would answer them nothing. Her contemptuous look seemed to say, “You may do what you like with me, and I shall only go on despising you. But you will get nothing out of me, so it is waste of time to try.”
The wretched Selim, however, was more amenable to pressure. “If you will let me free to go away,” he whined, “I will tell you everything.”
“Give him a twist of the arm,” said Lieutenant Napoleon,[Pg 266] “and see if that will make him tell us. He isn’t going to be let free.”
One of the soldiers screwed Selim’s arm, not very hard, because it wasn’t necessary. Directly he felt the slightest pain, Selim gave way at once. “Oh, don’t hurt me!” he cried out—the wretched, cowardly creature! “They are in the citadel—quite safe and comfortable. I might have executed them all, but I haven’t touched a hair of their heads.”
“Bring the prisoners along with us,” said Lieutenant Napoleon. “We will go up to the citadel at once.”
They mounted to the top of the fort. The citadel was a great barrack of a place, with one fine hall, and a regular hive of smaller rooms, besides the fortified works. If it could have been used for a final defence of Dollfort there would have been room in it for lots of soldiers, and everything would have been there to enable the defenders to support a long siege. But it had all been cleared out. The courtyard inside the gates was encumbered with furniture, and even the guns had dust-sheets over them. The great hall and the lower rooms had all been thoroughly cleaned, but the char-dolls had not reached the upper rooms yet, and it was to one of these that Selim, who was now eager to tell everything, led them.
He had locked the door, and thrown away the key out the window, as he was obliged to confess, but it did not take long to break it open. Colonel Jim, who was the biggest and strongest of them all, and who was very anxious to rescue Lady Grace as quickly as possible, put his shoulder to the door and gave one mighty push, and it flew open.
The room was very small. It had a narrow, barred window, and the only furniture in it was a low bed and a wooden chair. It was, in fact, a prison cell, used for locking up soldiers who had committed offences. And this was the place in which Selim had locked up the unfortunate Queen, and the other two dolls, without any food or even water. Supposing he had escaped, as he had hoped to do! They would have stayed there all night, and could only have been released if they had managed to attract the attention of the char-dolls who would come to the citadel the next morning.
Colonel Jim was not very quick at understanding things, as we have seen, but he understood this directly his eyes took in what was inside the door he had burst open. He turned round and gave Selim a violent buffet on the side of his face, which made the miserable creature cower away and cry out. He had still to be[Pg 268] punished for his crimes, but this first instalment of his punishment made everybody feel better.
Queen Rosebud was sitting on the chair with her hands on her lap, the picture of stately patience; Lady Grace and Wooden’s mother were sitting on the bed, and it was evident that Lady Grace had been crying.
The Queen rose slowly from her chair. “I wish to be taken away from this place,” she said.
She was very royal, even under the dreadful circumstances in which she found herself, and after all she had gone through. The Lord Chancellor advanced towards her and bowed very low. “If your Majesty will deign to lead your loyal subjects to the great hall,” he said, “justice can be done at once on these malefactors, and in the meantime preparations can be made for your Majesty’s convenience for the night. It will be too late to go back to your Majesty’s Capital until tomorrow.”
The Queen simply said, “Come, Lady Grace,” and walked out of the cell. The wretched Selim tried to draw her attention to himself with a whining prayer for mercy, as she passed him. But she took not the smallest notice. She did, however, make a slight inclination of the head towards Peggy, as she passed her; and Peggy felt proud and honoured, just as if[Pg 269] it had been a real Queen who had taken notice of her. But it cannot be too often repeated that Queen Rosebud was like a real Queen, in all her ways and in all her deeds.
They went into the great hall, and a seat was brought for the Queen at the top of it. All the rest of them stood. Selim, between two soldiers, and Rose, between two others, were brought up before her.
The Lord Chancellor cleared his throat, as if it lay with him to open the proceedings, but he was a very different Lord Chancellor before Queen Rosebud from what he had been in the Hall of Audience before the usurping Selim. When the Queen held up her hand he stopped his preparations for speech at once, and listened respectfully to what she had to say.
She spoke slowly, in a low musical voice, and every word she said could be heard plainly by everybody in the great hall.
“King Selim is to be taken at once to the coast,” she said, “and put into a boat, with oars and a sail, and enough food for several days. He is to row or sail away from my kingdom, and never to come back here. If he does so, he is to be executed. Take him away.”
That was all, and she waited for her commands to[Pg 270] be carried out before speaking again. She had given the miserable creature his title. He was a King, though not King of Toyland. He had been cast on the shores of her island destitute and solitary, and had been right royally treated. And he had repaid her as we have seen. But she made no accusation against him. He was simply to be sent away.
The wretched being was led off by the two soldiers who had guarded him. He went without a word. He knew that his life had been most mercifully spared, for he could row or sail to land in a few hours, or be picked up by a ship. Let us hope that he felt some compunction for his many crimes. He passed out of the hall between the two guards, the great door clanged after him, and he was seen no more.
The Queen’s face changed as she turned towards Rose. Selim was a foreigner, and in getting rid of him she had done all that she needed to do. But Rose was her own subject, and must be dealt with in a different fashion.
“As for you,” she said, “you must stand your trial according to the laws of the land. If you choose to stand it now, with me for your judge, you may do so. Say whatever you please in your own defence, and I will listen to you. If not, I wash my hands of you,[Pg 271] and you will be sent to prison to await your trial by jury.”
It was an extraordinary act of clemency for the Queen to deal with Rose’s case herself, and no doubt Rose knew that she would get more merciful treatment than if her crimes were left to the judgment of a jury of dolls, who could not help being furious with her for what she had done.
But all she said, in a voice of scorn, was, “Oh, try me now, and finish it. I have done what I have done, and I wish I had succeeded. As I’ve failed, do what you like with me.”
The Queen looked at her with her calm, steady gaze, and Rose’s eyes dropped before it. “I am more sorry for you than you are for yourself,” the Queen said. “I know that you have been led away by spite and jealousy, and those are feelings that cause great unhappiness to whoever possesses them. It is your misfortune that you have those bad qualities, but it is in your power to conquer them. It is my hope that you will succeed in doing so. Go! You are free.”
The guards on either side of Rose fell away from her. She stood staring at the Queen with wide eyes, as if she could hardly believe what had been said to her. Then she realized that she was free, to go where[Pg 272] she liked, and that she was not to be punished at all. She covered her face with her hands and burst into tears, and then hurried away out of the hall. Her proud and rebellious spirit would not have quailed before any punishment that might have been meted out to her, but the punishment would have left her no better than she had been before. But the free pardon, which she could never have expected, had broken her down. It was to be hoped that she would really repent of her bad ways now, and be a better doll than she had ever been before.
When Rose had left the hall, the Queen’s face lightened. “All that is left for me now,” she said, “is to thank such of my subjects as have been so active and successful in setting me free from the plots that have surrounded me. And first of all, I must thank the dear little girl who is not my subject, but has come here on a visit to find us in trouble that is now at an end. She must come again. That is the only way in which I can reward her.”
She smiled graciously and sweetly at Peggy, who felt extraordinarily pleased.
Then she turned to Wooden. “You have always had my respect and liking,” she said, “and I had intended to have appointed you today to a post of honour[Pg 273] about my person. I do so now, under the title of Lady-in-Waiting in Ordinary, and Extra Bed-doll of the Royal Chamber. Your duties will bring you into constant relationship with me, and I look forward with pleasure to making you my friend.”
It was most graciously said, and Wooden was so overcome with pride and pleasure that she could only stammer out her thanks, and promise to perform her duties as well as ever she could.
The Queen then called for a sword. Colonel Jim handed her his, and to his great surprise she knighted him with it, and then conferred the same honour upon Teddy, who was even more surprised, as he was the first bear in Toyland who had ever received it.
When she had done this, she rose from her seat, and intimated that she[Pg 275] wished to retire for the night, but before doing so she said a few gracious words to all who were in the hall. She said with a smile to Colonel Jim that she hoped soon to know him under the title of Sir Jim Lady-Grace, which was a happy way of saying that she would forward a marriage between him and her favourite lady-in-waiting. And she told Teddy, who was so overcome with the honour that had been conferred on him that his customary flightiness had departed for the moment, that she thought he ought to get married too, and she should always be pleased to welcome to her Court Sir Teddy and Lady Bear-Wooden’s-Aunt.
It may readily be guessed into what a flutter this suggestion put Wooden’s aunt. While the Queen was[Pg 276] talking to her, and hearing about her having been tied up to the tree by Selim and Rose, she was quiet and respectful. But directly the Queen’s back was turned, and Teddy came up to her with a grin to see whether she liked the idea of marrying him, she cut a caper, and Teddy cut another, so that Wooden’s mother had to remind them both that they would belong for the future to the Upper Ten Thousand, and must learn to behave themselves.
The shades of evening were beginning to close in as the Queen left the hall, and suddenly Peggy began to feel as if she had had a very long day, and would like to go to sleep in her own little bed at home, if only she could get there. She began to wonder if it would be necessary to go over again all the long journey between Toyland and her home, and turned to ask Wooden how they were to get back.
But as she turned, the hall and all the dolls in it seemed to be fading away, and as she opened her mouth to speak——
She awoke, to find herself lying in her own little white bed, with dear Wooden in her arms, and Teddy[Pg 277] with his impudent face lying on the pillow, pointing one paw towards the open window, into which the happy morning sun was shining.
Minor errors and omissions in punctuation and spelling have been fixed, otherwise the text has been left in original condition, except for the below
Page 126: “to use pass-word” changed to “to use the pass-word”