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The Admiral's Caravan
by Charles E. Carryl
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"If we begin to grow now," said the Admiral's voice in the dark, "we'll all be squeegeed, sure!"

* * * * *

"What an extraordinary thing!" exclaimed Dorothy; for they had come out into a street full of houses.

"What I want to know is what's become of the door," said Sir Walter, indignantly, staring at a high wall where the door had been, and which was now perfectly blank.

"I'm sure I don't know," said Dorothy, quite bewildered. "It's really quite mysterious, isn't it?"

"It makes my stomach tickle like anything," said the Highlander, in a quavering voice.

"What shall we do?" said Dorothy, looking about uneasily.

"Run away!" said the Admiral, promptly; and without another word the Caravan took to their heels and disappeared around a corner. Dorothy hurried after them, but by the time she turned the corner they were quite out of sight; and as she stopped and looked about her she discovered that she was once more in the Ferryman's street, and, to her great delight, quite as large as she had been when she left the Blue Admiral Inn.



CHAPTER XI

THE DANCING ANIMALS

It seemed to be evening again, and, although the Ferryman was nowhere in sight, Dorothy knew the place the moment she looked up and saw the peaked roofs outlined against the sky. The houses were quaint, old-fashioned-looking buildings with the upper parts jutting far out beyond the lower stories and with dark little doorways almost hidden in the shadows beneath; and the windows were very small casements filled with diamond-shaped panes of shining green glass. All the houses were brilliantly lighted up, and there were great iron lamps swung on chains across the street, so that the street itself was almost as bright as day, and Dorothy thought she recognized it as a place she had once read about where nobody but astrologers lived. There was a confused sound of fiddling going on somewhere, and as Dorothy walked along she could hear a scuffling noise inside the houses as if the inhabitants were dancing about on sanded floors. Presently, as she turned a corner, she came upon a number of storks who were dancing a sort of solemn quadrille up and down the middle of the street. They stopped dancing as she came along, and stood in a row gazing gravely at her as she passed by and then resumed their quadrille as solemnly as before.

The strangest thing about the fiddling was that it seemed to be going on somewhere in the air, and the sound appeared to come from all directions at once. At first the music was soft and rather slow in time, but it grew louder and louder, and the fiddles played faster and faster, until presently they were going at such a furious rate that Dorothy stopped and looked back to see how the storks were getting on in their dancing; and she could see them in the distance, scampering up and down the street, and bumping violently against one another in a frantic attempt to keep time with the music. At any other time she would have been vastly amused at this spectacle; but just then she was feeling a little afraid that some of the astrologers might come out to see what was going on, and she was therefore quite relieved when the storks presently gave up all hope of finishing their quadrille, and rising in the air with a tremendous flapping of wings, flew away over the tops of the houses and disappeared. Strangely enough, the sound of the fiddling followed them like a traveling band, and grew fainter and fainter until it finally died away in the distance.

But the scuffling noise in the houses continued, and Dorothy did just what you'd suppose such a curious little child would have done—that is, she stole up and peeped in at one of the windows; but she could see nothing through the thick glass but some strange-looking shadows bobbing confusedly about inside. Of course you know what she did then. In fact, after hesitating a moment, she softly opened the door of the house and went in.

The room was full of animals of every description, dancing around in a ring with the greatest enthusiasm; and as Dorothy appeared they all shouted, "Here she is!" and, before she could say a single word, the two nearest to her (they were an elephant and a sheep, by the way) seized her by the hands, and the next moment she was dancing in the ring. She was quite surprised to see that the elephant was no bigger than the sheep; and, as she looked about, it seemed to her, in the confusion, that all the animals in the room were of precisely the same size.



"Isn't it rather unusual—" she said to the Sheep (it seemed more natural, somehow, to speak to the Sheep)—"isn't it rather unusual for different animals to be so much alike?"

"Not in our set," said the Sheep, conceitedly. "We all know who's who. Of course we have to mark the pigs, as they're so extremely like the polar-bears;" and Dorothy noticed that two pigs, who were dancing just opposite to her, had labels with "PIG" on them hung around their necks by little chains, as if they had been a couple of decanters—"only," she thought, "it would have been 'SHERRY' or 'MADEIRA' instead of 'PIG,' you know."

"I suppose you all came out of a Noah's Ark," she said presently, at a venture.

"Of course. Largest size, I believe. How very clever you are!" said the Sheep, admiringly. "By the way," she added, confidentially, "do you happen to know what a tapir is?"

"I believe it's something to light, like a candle," said Dorothy.

"Does it ever go out of its own accord?" inquired the Sheep.

"It ought not to," said Dorothy.

"Then that accounts for the trouble we've had," said the Sheep, with a satisfied air. "Those two tapirs dancing over there are always in everybody's way, and we've had to put them out over and over again."

This sounded like a joke; but the Sheep was so serious that Dorothy didn't dare to laugh, so she said, by way of continuing the conversation, "I don't see any birds here."

"Oh dear, no!" exclaimed the Sheep; "you see, this is really a quadrupedrille. Of course you're all right, because it's precisely as if you were dancing on your hind feet. In fact," she added, nodding approvingly, "you look almost as well as if you were."

"Thank you!" said Dorothy, laughing.

"There was a seal that wanted to join," the Sheep went on. "He pressed us very hard, but he never made the slightest impression on us;" and there was a twinkle in the Sheep's eyes as she said this, so that Dorothy felt morally certain it was a joke this time; but, before she could make any reply, the Elephant called out "Recess!" and the animals all stopped dancing and began walking about and fanning themselves with little portfolios which they produced in such a mysterious manner that Dorothy couldn't see where in the world they came from.

"Now, look here," said the Elephant,—he seemed to be a sort of Master of Ceremonies, and the animals all clustered about him as he said this,—"why can't she dance with the Camel?" and he pointed out Dorothy with his portfolio.

"She can!" shouted the animals in chorus. "Come on, Sarah!"—and the Camel, who had been moping in a corner with her head against the wall, came forward with a very sulky expression on her face.

"Her name is Sahara," whispered the Sheep, plucking at Dorothy's frock to attract her attention, "but we call her Sarah to save time. She's kind of grumpy now because the other Camel stayed away, but she'll titter like a turtle when she gets to dancing."

"I don't know what relation she is to Humphrey," thought Dorothy, as the Camel took her by the hand, "but she's certainly big enough to be his great-grandmother ten times over." Before she had time to think any more about it, however, the Elephant called out, "Ladies change!" and the dancing began again harder than ever.

It was a very peculiar dance this time, and, as near as Dorothy could make it out, consisted principally in the animals passing her along from one to another as if they were each anxious to get rid of her; and presently she discovered that, in some unaccountable manner, she had been passed directly through the fireplace into the next house; but as this house was quite as full of dancing animals as the other, this didn't help matters much except that it got Sarah out of the way—"and that," said poor little Dorothy to herself, "is certainly something!"



Just then the Elephant, who had mysteriously appeared from a pantry in one corner of the room, shouted out, "All cross over!" and the animals began to crowd out of the house into the courtyard, and then, pushing in great confusion through a large gateway, rushed across the street and into the house on the other side of the way. Dorothy was quite taken off her feet in the rush, but, watching her chance, she hid behind a large churn that was standing conveniently in the middle of the street; and when they had all passed in, she ran away down the street as fast as she could go.

She ran on until she had got quite out of the Ferryman's street, and was walking along in the open country, feeling quite pleased with herself for having so cleverly escaped from the dancing-party without having to take the trouble of saying "Good night" to the Elephant, when she saw, in the moonlight, something white lying beside the road, and going up to it, she discovered it was a letter.



CHAPTER XII

THE CARAVAN COMES HOME

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

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

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

THE CARAVAN.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Nor cats," put in the Highlander.

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

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

"Excused?" exclaimed Dorothy, very much surprised.

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

"Unconquerabubble awersion to cages," explained the Admiral.

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

* * * * *

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

"It pours into picnics and swishes the dishes,"

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



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

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



THE END.

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