Part 2 out of 2
With shouts of delight, Ann and Peter stooped to gather these, but
Rudolf cried out: "Oh, look, look! Don't let's stop here. It's
prettier yet farther on!" So on they ran, all three of them, over the
yellow ground, over a stretch of green and blue checks, across a
lavender meadow, and found themselves at last in a wonderful pale
blue field scattered all over with bunches of little pink roses.
"This is the prettiest yet," exclaimed Ann, "though of course it is
very old-fashioned. I wonder what it reminds me of? Ruddy, do you
remember that picture of Aunt Jane when she was little in such a funny
dress with low neck and short sleeves--"
The children had been wandering across the field as Ann spoke,
stopping to pull a rose here and there, too busy and too happy to
notice where their feet were taking them. All at once they looked up
and saw that they had come to the end of the pale blue field where it
bordered on a broad brown road. Just ahead of them stood a little
white tent, and from the door of the tent two tin soldiers suddenly
sprang out, shouldered arms, and cried: "Halt!"
Of course the children halted. There was nothing else to do, so
astonished were they to meet any one when they had supposed themselves
to be in quite a wild and uninhabited country. Besides, though these
were small and tinny-looking, yet soldiers are soldiers wherever you
meet them, and have an air about them which makes people feel
respectful. These two handled their little guns in a most businesslike
manner. The taller of the two, who seemed by his uniform to be a
superior officer, now stepped forward and snapped out: "Give the
The children stood still and stared, Peter with his thumb in his
"We haven't got any, sir, so we can't give it to you," said Ann at
"Silly! He means _say_ it," whispered Rudolf in her ear.
"We can't say it either," Ann went on, "because we don't know it. But
we know lots of other things," she added, looking pleadingly at the
officer. "Rudolf, he can say the whole of ''Twas the night before
Christmas, and all through the house not a creature was stirring, not
even a mouse'--and I can say 'The Gentle Cow all Red and White I Love
with all my Heart',--and Peter he says 'I have a Little Shadow',--he
knows it all, every word!"
The little officer turned sharply to his companion. "Make a note of
that, Sergeant," he snorted. "Head it, suspicious information: first
prisoner, probably dangerous burglar burgling on Christmas eve; second
prisoner, cattle thief; third prisoner--"
"But we aren't anything like that," broke in Rudolf hastily. "You're
entirely mistaken, we--"
"Say what you are, then," snapped the officer, "and where you have
come from and where you are going and what you are going to do when
you get there; say it, quick!" And raising his little gun, the officer
pointed it straight at Rudolf's nose.
"We have come from Catnip Island where we were captured by the cat
pirates," began Rudolf, stumbling over the words in his excitement,
"and we--we don't know exactly where we are going, and we--we aren't
doing exactly anything!"
"Aha!" The officer turned to his sergeant with a triumphant
expression. "Just what I thought. Anybody that can't give a better
account of himself than that had better be locked up. Spies--aha!
Another of you came ashore a while ago--a glib-tongued, story-telling
gentleman who fooled us into letting him off, but we've got _you_ safe
and sound and here you'll stay! Sergeant, arrest these spies!"
"Certainly, sir," said the sergeant, making a note of it in his book,
"but please, sir, how do they be spelled, Captain Jinks, sir?"
"S-p-i-s-e, spies, of course, idiot!" snapped the captain. "Now then,
off with 'em. Separate cell for each prisoner, bars to the windows.
Heavy chains on this gentleman in particeler," pointing to Rudolf.
"Bread and water, on a Sunday. Off to the jail with 'em--march 'em
"Beg pardon, sir," interrupted the sergeant who was glad of an excuse
to stop at a very difficult bit of spelling. "We'll have to wait a
bit. I hear the Queen's band playin'--"
"Then stand at attention and hold yourself answerable for the
prisoners!" With this command, Captain Jinks faced about to the road,
and stiffened all over till he looked like a little tin statue. For
some time the children had been hearing the sound of music, at first
faint and far-away, now growing louder and louder. The sergeant
pulled them hastily to the side of the road, and bade them in a gruff
voice, "Keep quiet, or he'd settle 'em!" Then he, too, stiffened all
over just as Captain Jinks had done, and both of them presented arms.
The head of a procession was coming in sight.
MEETING A QUEEN
First came a large company of soldiers almost exactly like Captain
Jinks and the sergeant, except that their uniforms were a little
shabbier-looking, and their arms a little less brightly polished. They
held themselves stiffly and marched very well, in spite of the fact
that many of them had suffered severe injuries, such as the loss of a
leg or an arm at the least, in some former campaign, and all of them
were rather the worse for wear. After the soldiers came the band,
playing shrilly on their tiny instruments, and next, to the children's
delight and astonishment, rolled a number of little carriages drawn by
mechanical horses. Rudolf was so keenly interested in the working of
these mechanical horses, that he hardly noticed the fine ladies who
sat stiffly on the cushioned seats of the carriages, very grandly
dressed, and holding beautiful pink and blue parasols over their
Suddenly Ann grabbed his arm and whispered: "Look, look! Did you see
them? Marie-Louise and Angelina-Elfrida, my _own_ dolls, and they
never so much as bowed!"
"Perhaps they didn't know you," whispered Rudolf.
"They did, too," returned his sister angrily. "They just laughed and
turned their heads the other way, horrid things! Just wait, I'll tell
them what I think of them; but, oh, Rudolf, here come more carriages
and more dolls in them, and how queerly they are dressed, these last,
I mean! I never saw any dolls like them before. See their poke
bonnets, and their fringed mantles, and their little hoop-skirts,
but, oh, look, _look_, can that be the Queen?"
Ann's voice sounded disappointed as well as surprised, and in her
excitement she spoke so loud that Captain Jinks himself turned his
threatening eye on her and called out: "Silence!" But Ann paid no
attention to him, nor did the other children; the eyes of all three
were fixed upon a little figure who rode all alone at the very end of
the procession. They knew she must be the Queen by the respectful way
in which Captain Jinks and the sergeant saluted, but she was very
different from what they had imagined a Queen to be. The wooden horse
which she rode was not handsome, indeed one of his legs was missing,
but he pranced and curvetted so proudly upon the remaining three that
it seemed as if he knew he carried a Queen upon his back. The royal
lady kept her seat with perfect ease, and when she came opposite the
children, she checked her steed, halted, and gazed down upon them.
"Have you forgotten me?" she said. Then she smiled and they knew her
at once. It was the corn-cob doll! Though she had grown so much larger
and seemed so much grander, yet she looked just the same as when they
had taken her out of Aunt Jane's sandal-wood box from which, the
children now remembered, certain tin soldiers and a three-legged
wooden horse had also come! The Queen still wore her flowing
greeny-yellow gown, her hair was braided in two long braids that hung
over her shoulders, and she carried her quaint little head high, in
truly royal fashion.
Now she dismounted gracefully from her horse and came toward the
children, holding out her hand. They dared not look her in the face.
They were all three ashamed to speak to her, and especially Rudolf who
remembered only too clearly all the unkind things he had said about
the corn-cob doll, and how very, very near he had come to roasting her
over the nursery fire! Whatever would happen, thought he, if any of
her subjects who seemed to stand in such awe of her, should find out
that attempt on their Queen's life? Captain Jinks would probably think
imprisonment on bread and water entirely too good for him, probably it
would be slow torture.
"Answer her majesty," muttered the captain in his ear, "or I'll have
your head cut off!"
Still Rudolf, blushing fiery red, and not knowing what to say,
continued to stare down at his toes. Peter put his thumb in his mouth,
Ann hung down her head; neither of them was any better off.
The little tin captain stepped eagerly forward. "Shall I give orders
to prepare for the execution, your Majesty?" he began, in a voice
full of pleased excitement. "These suspicious persons are already
under arrest. They would furnish very excellent targets for the
artillery practise? If it should please your Majesty to offer a prize
for the best shot? Or, if your Majesty is in a _hurry_, now, a nice
dip in boiling oil would finish them off very neatly!"
"Be quiet, Jinks," said the Queen frowning. "You talk so much I can't
think. If it wasn't for those tiresome revolutions in my capital city,
I believe I'd banish you. Let me see, how many of them have you
suppressed for me?"
"Exactly twelve, your Majesty," answered Jinks with a low bow, "and I
beg to announce that we are at this moment on the brink of the
thirteenth--baker's dozen, your Majesty."
"Oh, it's the baker this time, is it?" asked the Queen with a sigh.
"What's the matter with _him_, Jinks?"
"Same old trouble, your Majesty. Your court, those doll ladies in
particular, have become so haughty--"
"Naughty, you mean, Jinks," corrected the Queen.
"So haughty _and_ naughty, your Majesty, that they've absolutely
refused to eat their crusts. Did anybody, I ask your Majesty, ever
hear the likes of that?"
There was a moment's silence. The Queen shook her head. The children
tried to appear at their ease, but they were not. Ann looked
particularly uncomfortable. She was not fond of her crusts.
"Well, go on, Jinks, what else?" said the Queen.
"Well, your Majesty, this keeps the baker busy day and night baking
'em bread, not to speak of the cakes and pies, and he says he feels he
hadn't orter stand it any longer. He's going to strike. As for the
populace, your Majesty, they only get the stale loaves or none at
all, and they're wild, your Majesty, very wild indeed."
"I suppose they are, Jinks," sighed the Queen.
"And the worst of it is, your Majesty, we're very short of soldiers.
The Commander-in-Chief"--both Jinks and the sergeant drew themselves
up and saluted at the name--"has taken a whole company to the seaboard
for to repel the cat pirates, and very fierce them pirates are, I've
heard tell. We may have to send him reinforcements at any time."
"The Commander-in-Chief, Jinks," said the Queen haughtily, "is a great
general. He will manage the pirates and the baker, too, if you can't
do it. And if the worst should come to the worst before he gets back,
why I'll just abdicate, that's all, and the baker can be king and much
good may it do him." She turned to the children and smiled at them.
"Now," she said, "you shall come with me and I will show you where I
used to live before I was a Queen."
The corn-cob doll waved her hand, gave an order, and immediately the
carriage in which sat Marie-Louise and Angelina-Elfrida was turned and
driven back to where the children stood.
"These ladies will enjoy a walk," said the Queen.
Very sulkily the two elegant doll-ladies got out of their carriage,
not daring to disobey, and passed by Ann, noses in the air, without so
much as a nod.
"Never mind them, dears," said the Queen kindly. "They don't know any
better. Now jump in!"
The children obeyed, hardly able to believe in their good luck, and in
another moment, much to the surprise and indignation of Captain
Jinks, they were rolling away from him, the Queen riding close beside
"You are safe now," said she, "at least until the revolution begins.
If Jinks should fire his cannon, that's a sign it's starting, but
don't worry"--as she saw that the children were looking rather
alarmed--"I dare say it will blow over without a battle. And now I
want you to look about you, for I don't think you have ever seen
anything like this before."
They had not indeed, and as their shyness wore off, the children began
to ask the Queen a great many questions. Was this her capital city
they were coming to? Were those the stores where all the dolls'
clothes in the world came from? Was it real water in the little
fountain playing in the middle of the square? All this time they were
being carried swiftly through the streets of the neatest, prettiest,
little, toy town any one could wish to see. Both sides of the main
street were lined with little shops, and as the children leaned out of
the carriage for a brief glimpse into their glittering windows, they
saw sights that made them long to stop and look more closely.
There were clothing shops, shoe shops, candy shops, a very
grand-looking milliner's establishment where the children were amused
to catch a glimpse of Angelina-Elfrida and Marie-Louise trying on
hats, and a gaily decorated doll theater where a crowd of dolls were
pushing their way in to see a Punch and Judy show. There were markets
where busy customers thronged to buy all sorts and kinds of doll
eatables, turkeys and chickens the size of sparrows and humming-birds,
yellow pumpkins as big as walnuts, red-cheeked apples like
cranberries, cabbages fully as large as the end of your thumb, and
freshly baked pies as big around as a penny.
Peter's eyes nearly popped out of his head as he passed all these good
things without hope of sampling any of them! The last shop they passed
was that of the royal baker, and they noticed that its windows were
boarded up, while a crowd of common dolls stood about in front of the
door, muttering angrily.
But now the business part of the town was left behind, and the
children were being driven through street after street of gaily
painted, neatly built, little houses with gardens full of tiny
bright-colored flowers, stables, garages--everything complete that the
heart of the most exacting doll in the world could desire. Ann and
Peter were quite wild about it all, and even Rudolf condescended to
admire. Now the houses were left behind and they entered a little
park, where tiny artificial lakes glittered and stiff little trees
were set about on the bright green grass. In the center of this park
stood the doll palace. It was pure white, finished in gold, and had
real glass windows in it, and white marble steps leading up to it, and
high gilded gates where a guard of soldiers turned out to present
arms, and a band was beginning to play. The rest of the procession
turned in at the gates of the palace, but rather to the children's
disappointment, the Queen gave their coachman orders to drive on.
"You may see my palace afterward, if we have time," she said, "but I
want to take you first of all to see my dear old home where I used to
live when I was a girl, when the little mother took care of me."
The children looked at one another. Then Peter said boldly: "Was that
when you were Aunt Jane's doll? You weren't a Queen _then_, were
"No, indeed," answered her majesty, smiling. "I was just an ugly
little doll, the happiest, best-loved little doll in all the world,
and with the dearest little mother. But here we are, and you shall see
for yourself what a snug home I had."
The old doll house looked neat enough from the outside, to be sure,
but I am afraid if the children had run across it in the attic at Aunt
Jane's they would have taken it for a couple of large packing-boxes
set one upon the other. Once inside, however, they forgot how
impatient they had been to see the palace and its gorgeous
furnishings, they were so interested and amused by the homely
furnishings and neat little arrangements so proudly displayed to them
by the Corn-cob Queen.
She led the children through one room after another, explaining each
thing as they passed it. Those little muslin curtains at the windows,
the little mother had hemmed them all herself. It was she who had made
that wonderful cradle out of cardboard, with sheets from a pair of
grandfather's old pocket-handkerchiefs, she who had pieced that
tiniest of tiny patchwork quilts! In the kitchen that neat set of pots
and pans made from acorns and the shells of walnuts was the work of
her hands, assisted, perhaps, by the penknife of a certain little boy.
That blue and white tea-set on the pantry shelves--the children
recognized it at once as having come out of the sandal-wood box--why
it was almost worn out from the number of cups of tea the old doll and
her little mother had taken together in the good old days!
"It's just the dearest little house in the world," sighed Ann, when,
after having seen and admired everything to their heart's content,
they took their places in the carriage again, "and we don't wonder you
love it! The things that come straight from the toy shops are not
really half so nice as the things you fix yourself--we understand now.
But I suppose," she added thoughtfully, "you find it much grander
being a Queen?"
"Grander, perhaps," sighed the corn-cob doll, "but a great deal more
of a nuisance. However--"
Just then the pop of a toy cannon interrupted the Queen's speech. They
had driven back almost to the palace, and could see a crowd of common
dolls of all kinds and sizes gathering on the green in front of the
gilded gates. At the same moment a troop of soldiers, headed by the
little tin captain, came running from the direction of the town
evidently with the intention of putting a stop to the disturbance.
"The revolution," said the Queen calmly, "just as I expected. Now I am
afraid I shall have to send you out of town."
"But why?" Rudolf began in his arguing voice. "We don't _want_ to go.
We want to stay and fight on your side, and I'm sure we'd be very
useful! Why I'd just as lief command your army as not, and--"
"Thank you very much," said the Corn-cob Queen, "but what would
Captain Jinks say to that? He is in command, you know. And if he
_should_ fail me, why the Commander-in-Chief will soon be back from
capturing the cat pirates."
"Who is this fellow you call the Commander-in-Chief, anyway?" Rudolf
The Queen looked him straight in the eye. "I hope," she said, "that
you may all be allowed to see him some day, if you are good. He is a
_great_ soldier. He never sulks, and always obeys without asking
questions. That is more than some little boys do." Rudolf hung his
head, and the Queen added hastily: "But now I see that Captain Jinks
and the baker are going to hold a conference. I must go and join them.
Your coachman will drive you out of town the back way. Now where would
you like to go?"
"Back to our Aunt Jane, please," said Ann quickly. "Can you tell us
"No," said the Queen, "I mustn't, but I have a friend who is a
dream-keeper just over the border, and I think he may be able to help
you. I'll tell the coachman to drive you there. Now good-by!"
"Good-by, good-by!" called the children. The coachman touched up the
horses, they were whirled away in a cloud of dust through which they
looked back regretfully at the queenly figure on the little wooden
horse who waved her hand again and again in kindly farewell. They saw
her joined by Captain Jinks and by a stout person in a white cap and
apron who handed the Queen what seemed to be some kind of document
printed upon a large sheet of pie crust.
"That was the Baker, I guess," said Rudolf, "and I dare say what he
was handing her was the declaration of war! Oh, what a shame it is we
are going to miss all the fun!"
"And the refreshments," sighed Peter. "We _always_ do! I never did
taste a declarashun of war, but it looked awful good. The very next
time I see one, I'm going to--"
But what Peter was going to do Ann and Rudolf did not hear, for at
that moment they were all three nearly spilled out of the little
carriage by the furious rate at which their driver turned a corner.
They had left the dolls' city far behind them and were out on the long
brown road that led past the little tent where the children had been
arrested by Jinks and the sergeant. Now they were out in the open
country hurrying past the wonderful bright-colored plains, past fields
of pink and purple, blue and green and yellow, white and scarlet,
faster and faster all the time, the horses rushing along with such
curious irregular jerks and bounds that it was almost impossible for
the children to keep their seats, and they expected at each moment to
be dumped in the middle of the road.
"Look out!" shouted Rudolf to the coachman. "Don't you see you are
going to upset us?"
The coachman was a very grand-looking person in a white and gold
livery. He never even turned his powdered head as he shouted back:
"Didn't have no--or-ders--not--to!" And for some time they tore on
faster than ever.
At last Ann leaned forward and caught hold of one of the coachman's
little gold-embroidered coat tails. "Oh, do take care," she cried,
"you might run somebody down!"
"That's it,"--the coachman's voice sounded faint and jerky, and the
children could hardly catch the words that floated back to them:
The horses were no longer galloping, now they were slowing up, now
they stopped, but with such a sudden jerk that all three children were
tumbled out into the road. They had been expecting this to happen for
so long that the thing was not such a shock after all, and somehow
they landed without being hurt in the slightest. They picked
themselves up, and saw the little carriage standing at the side of the
road, the horses perfectly motionless, each with a forefoot raised in
the air, the coachman stiff and still upon his box, _gazing_ straight
in front of him.
"He'll stay like that," said Peter mournfully, rubbing the dust from
his knees, "till he's wound up again. I wish we had the key!"
"I wish we did," said Rudolf crossly. "You know what Betsy says
about--'If wishes were horses, beggars could ride'--well, they aren't,
so we've got to walk now. I wonder where we are?"
Looking around them, the children saw that they had come to the very
last of the many colored fields, where the brown road ended in a
stretch of creamy-yellow grass. Just beyond a thick woods began, but
was divided from the creamy field by a broad bright strip of color,
like a long flower bed planted with flowers of all kinds and colors
set in all sorts of different patterns--stars, triangles, diamonds,
"That's the border," shouted Ann, "and over there somewhere we'll find
the person the Queen said would help us get back to Aunt Jane. Come
on!" As she spoke she bounded off across the field, the two boys after
her, and in less time than it takes to tell it they had run through
the tall yellow grass, jumped the border, and stood upon the edge of
THE GOOD DREAMS
A thin screen of bushes was all that hid from the children's eyes the
people whose voices they could hear so plainly.
"Maybe it's some kind of picnic they're having in there," cried Peter,
pushing eagerly forward. "Come on quick!"
"No, you don't, either," whispered Rudolf, catching him and holding
him back. "Don't let's get caught this time, let's peep through first
and see what the people are like."
"Yes, do let's be careful," pleaded Ann. "We don't want to get
arrested again, it's not a bit nice--though I suppose if this is where
the Queen's friend lives, it isn't likely anything so horrid will
happen to us."
"Do stop talking, Ann, and listen. Whoever they are in there, they
are making so much noise they can't possibly hear me, so I'm going to
creep into those bushes and see what I can see."
As he spoke Rudolf carefully parted the bushes at a spot where they
were thin and peeped between the leaves, Ann and Peter crowding each
other to see over his shoulder. They looked into a kind of open glade
not much larger than a good-sized room and walled on all sides by tall
trees and thick underbrush. It had a flooring of soft green turf, and
about in the middle lay a great rock as large as a playhouse. This
rock was all covered over with moss and lichens, and the strange thing
about it was that a neat door had been cut in its side. Before this
door, talking and waving his hands to the crowd that thronged about
him, stood a man--the queerest little man the children had ever seen!
He looked like a collection of stout sacks stuffed very tightly and
tied firmly at the necks. One sack made his head, another larger one
his body, four more his arms and legs. His broad face, though rather
dull, wore a good-humored expression, and he smiled as he looked about
A pile of empty sacking-bags lay on the ground beside him, and from
time to time he caught up one of these, ran his eye over the crowd,
chose one of them, and popped him, or it, as it happened to be, into
the sack which he then swung on his shoulder and heaved into the open
doorway in the big rock, where it disappeared from sight. He would
then taken another sack and make a fresh selection, looking about him
all the while with sleepy good humor, and paying little if any
attention to the cries, questions, and complaints with which he was
attacked on all sides.
What a funny lot they were--this crowd that surrounded the little man!
The children could hardly smother their excitement at the sight of
them. Not people or animals only were they, but all kinds of odd
objects also, such as no one could expect to see running about loose.
A Birthday Cake was there, with lighted candles; a little pile of
neatly darned socks and stockings, a white-cotton Easter Rabbit with
pink pasteboard ears, a Jolly Santa Claus, a smoking hot Dinner, a
Nice Nurse who rocked a smiling baby, a brown-faced grinning
Organ-Man, his organ strapped before him, his Monkey on his shoulder.
There were too many by far for the children to take in all at once,
but at the sight of one particular member of the crowd, the children
gasped with astonishment; and Peter's excitement nearly betrayed
them. There, lounging by the side of a mild-faced School-Mistress
Person, still smoking his chocolate cigarette, was--the False Hare!
"Look alive now!" the little man was crying out. "Who's next, who's
"Me, me, me--take me next, Sandy!" A dozen little voices cried this at
one and the same time. There was a scramble, bursts of laughter,
followed by a sharp rebuke from Sandy. "No, you don't either. Stand
back, you small fry. No shoving!"
When Peter had seen and recognized the False Hare he had been so
excited that it had been almost impossible for Rudolf and Ann to keep
him quiet. Now, as he watched the scramble and the rush and the fuss
the funny crowd was making about the little man, he laughed out so
loud that it was too late even to pinch him. The children's presence
was discovered, and two, tall, silver candlesticks jumped from a
satin-lined box and ran to draw them into the middle of the glade.
Sandy, as the little man appeared to be called, paused in his
business, turned round, and smiled at the children.
"Now then," said he, "what are you doing here? Don't you know this is
my busy night? Who are you, anyway? Not on my list, I'll warrant.
Who's dreams are you?"
"Nobody's," began Rudolf. "The Corn-cob Queen sent us to see if you
could tell us any way to get back to our Aunt Jane--"
"Nobody's?" interrupted the little man. "Did you say you were Nobody's
dreams? Don't see him in the N's." And he took a printed list out of
his pocket and ran his eye anxiously over it. "Are you sure--"
"Please, he means we're not dreams," said Ann, stepping forward, "at
least we don't think so." She hesitated a second and then added: "It
depends on what happens to them. Are these all dreams?"
"All perfectly Good Dreams, or my name's not Sandman," answered the
baggy fellow briskly. "We don't handle the Bad Ones here, not us!"
Peter looked interested. "Where does the Bad Ones live?" he asked. "I
wants to see them."
The Sandman shook his head at Peter. "Oh, no, you don't, little boy,"
he said. "No, you don't! Don't you go meddling in their direction or
you'll get into trouble, take my word for it. They live way off in the
woods and they're a bad lot. They've got a worse boss than old Sandy!
No, no;--the good kind are trouble enough for me. What with the hurry
and the flurry and the general mix-up, something a little off color
will slip in now and then. Everybody makes mistakes _sometimes_!"
As he made this last remark Sandy cast a doubtful look at the False
Hare, who grinned and tipped his silk hat to him.
"I told Sandy _all_ about myself," said the False Hare, winking at the
children. "I told him I was just as good as I could be!"
The children could not help laughing. "I'm afraid you don't know him
as well as we do, Mr. Sandy," said Ann.
"Oh, I know about as much as I want to know about him," said Sandy,
pretending to frown very fiercely. "I've almost made up my mind to get
rid of him, but the truth is I don't really know just where he
"Doesn't matter to _me_ whether I spend the night with a bald-headed
old gentleman or a bird-dog--all the same to _me_," said the False
Hare meekly. This speech sounded so like him that the children looked
at one another and burst out laughing again, at which the False Hare
gave a kind of solemn wink, sighed, and touched his eyes with a little
paper handkerchief he held gracefully in one paw.
The Sandman turned his back on the silly fellow, and went on with his
explanations to the children: "We have a very select set of
customers," he said, "and it's our aim to supply 'em with the finest
line of goods on the market. Wears me to a frazzle sometimes, this
business does," he stopped to wipe from his brow a tiny stream of sand
that was trickling down it, "but I've got to keep at it! All the
folks, big and little, like Good Dreams, and want 'em every night, and
if they get mixed up or the quality's inferior, or there's not enough
to go around, I tell you what, it makes trouble for Sandy! But just
step a little nearer, and you shall see for yourselves how the whole
thing is managed."
The children followed Sandy, who walked back to the pile of empty
sacks, picked one up, compared the label on it with a name on his
list, and called out in a loud voice: "Mrs. Patrick O'Flynn, Wash
Lady--excellent character--never misses on a Monday--six
children--husband not altogether satisfactory. Here, now,
Noddy--Blink! I'll want some help, boys."
As he called out these two names, two very fat, sleepy boys, looking
like pillows with strings tied round their waists, slouched from
behind the rock where they had been waiting, and stood sulkily at
attention. There was a scramble and a rush and a fuss among the Good
Dreams, just as there had been before when the children first peeped
into the glade, each one struggling and pushing and crowding to get
ahead of the next, without any regard as to whether or not it was
wanted. It took a tremendous effort on the part of Sandy, together
with all the help the sleepy sulky boys would give, to get the right
collection of dreams into the Wash Lady's sack, and to keep the wrong
"Letter from the Old Country," Sandy cried. "That's it, boys, more
lively there. Tell that Pound of Tea to step up--No, no pink silk
stockings to-day, thank you. Tell that Landlord the rent's paid, I'll
let him know when he's wanted. Hand over that pile of mended
clothing--and the pay envelope, mind it's the right amount--all the
rest of you, step aside!" Waving away a gay bonnet with a bird on it,
a bottle marked "Patent Medicine," and the persistent pink stockings,
the Sandman closed the mouth of Mrs. O'Flynn's sack, and swung it on
his shoulder, nodding to the children to watch what would happen.
Much excited, they crowded round the open door in the side of the big
rock and peered down into what seemed to be a kind of dark well with a
toboggan-slide descending into it. Sandy placed the Wash Lady's sack
at the top of the slide, and before the children could so much as
wink, it had slid off into the darkness and disappeared from sight.
"Oh, my!" cried Ann, "Is it a shoot-the-chutes? Does it bump when it
"No, no," said the Sandman. "No bumps whatsoever, the most comfortable
kind of traveling I know, in fact you're there the same time you
start, and I'd like to know how you can beat that? I ought to know,
for I use this route myself on my rounds a little earlier in the
evening." He walked back to his pile of sacks, and picked up another
of them. "Now then," said he, examining the label, "who's next?
Aha--Miss Jane Mackenzie!"
The children could hardly believe their ears. "Oh, Ruddy," whispered
Ann in Rudolf's ear, "what kind of dreams do you suppose Aunt Jane
"Sh! Listen, he's going to tell us," answered Rudolf.
The Sandman was gravely consulting his list.
"M-hm--Cook-that-likes-living-in-the-Country! Step this way, ma'am,
and don't take any more room than you can help. New Non-fadable Cheap
but Elegant Parlor Curtains--One Able-bodied Intelligent Gardener,
with a Generous Disposition--hurry the gentleman forward, boys, he's a
curiosity! What's next? Aha! One niece, two nephews--three perfectly
good children." Sandy paused, stared about him at the throng of
jumping, pushing dreams--then added: "Don't see 'em."
"Why, yes you do!" Ann was pulling impatiently at the Sandman's
sleeve--"Here you are." Then she turned to Rudolf and whispered
excitedly: "Don't you see? We must make the Sandman believe we are
Aunt Jane's Good Dreams, and then he'll send us back to her."
"I'd like a ride on that slide, all right!" returned Rudolf.
"But I doesn't want to go back to Aunt Jane yet," came the voice of
Peter clearly from behind them. "I shan't go till I've seen the Bad
"Nonsense!" Rudolf turned round on him angrily. "Of course you'll go.
You're the youngest, and you've _got_ to mind us." And then without
paying any more attention to Peter, Rudolf thrust himself in front of
the Sandman. "Here we are," he said. "We're all ready."
The Sandman looked the boy up and down, consulted his list again,
smiled and shook his head very doubtfully.
"I'm sorry," he said, "but I'm afraid you don't exactly answer. Just
listen to this." And he read aloud: "Number one. Boy: polite and
gentlemanly in manner--brown hair neatly smoothed and parted--Eton
suit, clean white collar, boots well polished--Latin grammar under
He stopped. Rudolf, in his pajamas, with his ruffled locks, tin
sword, and angry expression, did not answer very closely to
this description. The Cook-who-liked-living-in-the-Country, the
Gardener-with-the-Generous-Disposition, and several other Good Dreams
burst out laughing. Only the False Hare kept a solemn expression, but
Rudolf knew very well what _that_ meant.
The Sandman continued: "Number two. Little girl: modest and timid in
her manners, not apt to address her elders until spoken to--hair
braided neatly and tied with blue ribbon--white apron over dark
dress--doing patchwork with a pleased expression. Has not forgotten
Here Sandy was interrupted by the Cook and the Gardener, who declared
that if he didn't stop they'd die a-laughin', that they would! The
False Hare wiped away a tear, and none of the dreams seemed to
consider the description correct. Sandy shook his head again, as he
glanced at Ann in her nighty, her ruffled curls tumbling over her
flushed face--Ann without patchwork, thimble, or pleased expression!
"Afraid you won't do, miss," said he, looking quite sorry for her.
"Let's see what's next. Number three"--he read--"Very small boy: clean
blue sailor suit--white socks--looks sorry for--"
All turned to look at Peter, but Peter was not looking sorry for
anything--Peter was not there! Ann gave a hasty look all round the
glade, then burst into tears.
"Oh, Rudolf," she cried, "what shall we do? He's gone--he's slipped
away to find those Bad Dreams all by himself--you know how Peter is,
when he says he's going to do anything, he _will_ do it. Oh, oh, I
_ought_ to have watched him!"
"Don't cry," said Rudolf hastily. "It's just as much my fault. You
stay here and I'll go fetch him back. I have my sword, you know."
"No, no," sobbed Ann. "Don't leave me. It was my fault--I promised
mother I would always look after Peter. We'll go together. The Sandman
will tell us where the Bad Dreams live, won't you?" she added, turning
"There, there, of course I will," said the little man kindly. "I'd go
along with you, if there wasn't such a press of business just now, but
you can see for yourselves what a mess things would be in if I should
leave. You must go right ahead, right into the thick of the woods.
Follow that path on the other side of the glade. You needn't be afraid
you'll miss those Bad Ones--they'll be on the lookout for you, I'm
The children thanked Sandy for all his kindness, and turned to leave
him. "One moment," he cried, and he ran ahead of them to draw aside
the wall of prickly bushes and show them the little path he had spoken
of which wound from the Good Dreams' glade toward the heart of the
"Keep right on," said Sandy, "and don't be afraid. Remember--they're a
queer lot, those fellows, but they can't hurt you if you are careful.
Don't answer 'em back and don't ask 'em too many questions. One thing
in particular--if they offer you anything to eat, don't taste a
mouthful of it. If you do it'll be the worse for you!"
Rudolf and Ann thought of Peter and his passion for "refreshments",
and they started hastily forward.
"Just _one_ thing more," called Sandy after them. "About that
consignment of your aunt's, you know! I'll hold that over till you get
back, and we'll see what can be done. Maybe we can fit you in yet,
somehow. Now good-by, and good luck to you!"
"Good-by, and thank you!" Rudolf and Ann called back to him, and then
they plunged into the path. The wall of bushes sprang back again
behind them, and cut them off from the shelter of the Good Dreams'
glade. As the path was very narrow, Rudolf walked first, sword drawn,
and Ann trotted behind him, trying not to think of what queer things
might be waiting behind the trees to jump out at them, trying only to
think of her naughty Peter, and how glad she would be to see him
ENTER THE KNIGHT-MARE
At first it was easy enough for the children to follow the narrow
winding path which the Sandman had pointed out, but soon they came to
a part of the wood where the underbrush grew thicker and their path
lost itself in a network of other little paths spread out as if on
purpose to confuse them. Rudolf and Ann hurried along as fast as they
could go, but it was hard work to make their way through the tangled
undergrowth where the twisted roots set traps for their feet--and
caught them, too, sometimes--while overhead the tall trees met and
mingled their branches. From these hung down great masses of trailing
vines and spreading creepers like long, lean, hairy arms stretched
out to bar their way. Rudolf had to stop now and then to hack at these
arms with his sword before he and Ann could pass through. Worst of
all--the thick growth of trees made the wood so dark that they could
not see more than a few feet ahead of them.
"Oh, Ruddy, I'm sure we're not on the right path any more," said Ann
at last. "Peter is so little--he never, never could have pushed his
way through here!"
"N-no," admitted Rudolf. "Perhaps he couldn't, but maybe he stuck to
the right path, Ann, and if he did he's there by this time."
"But I don't want him to get there!" poor Ann cried. "That would be
much worse for him than being lost. If he's just around the wood
somewhere we can find him and bring him back and then coax Sandy to
send us all home by the toboggan-slide to Aunt Jane, but if he's found
the Bad Dreams or they've found him--Oh, Ruddy, how do we know what
awful things they may be doing to him!"
"Don't be a goose, Ann," said Rudolf stoutly, though he was really
beginning to feel worried himself. "You know they are only dreams if
they _are_ bad. What can a dream do, anyway? They're not real."
"Oh, they're real enough," sighed little Ann. "Sometimes the things in
dreams are real-er than real things. I'm 'fraid enough of real cows,
but _they_ can't walk up-stairs like the dream cows can--and, oh, I
remember the dream I dreamed about the Dentist-man, after I had my
tooth pulled, the one father gave me the dollar for--and--"
"Bother!" said Rudolf. "I've had lots worse dreams than cows and
dentists. P'licemen and Indian chiefs, and--oh, heaps of things, and I
didn't really mind 'em, either, but then I'm braver than--"
"Sh!" interrupted Ann, stopping and catching at Rudolf's arm. "I hear
something--something queer. Listen!"
[Illustration: "I hear something--something queer."]
Rudolf listened. "I don't hear anything," he said at last. "What was
"Oh, such a creepy, crawly sound, and--Oh, Ruddy--there is a face--see
it? A horrid little face peeping out at us from behind that tree!"
Rudolf saw the face too, a winking, blinking, leering, little face
much like the one that had grinned at Ann from the post of the big bed
not so very long ago.
All at once as the children looked about them, they began to see faces
everywhere, faces in the crotches of the trees, faces where the
branches crossed high above their heads, faces even in the undergrowth
about their feet. It reminded Rudolf of the puzzle pictures he and Ann
were so fond of studying where you have to look and look before you
can find the hidden people, but when once you have found them you
wonder how you could have been so stupid as not to have spied them
long before. He heard distinctly now the noises Ann had heard. It was
as if the hidden places of the wood were full of small live things
which were gathering together and coming toward the children from
every direction, closing them in on every side. Then somebody laughed
in a high cracked voice just behind them, one of Ann's curls was
sharply pulled, and Rudolf's precious sword was plucked from his hand
and tossed upon the ground. Still they could see no bodies to which
the little faces could belong, and they began to feel very queer
Then came the laugh again, repeated a number of times and coming now
from directly over their heads where the branches of a great beech
tree swept almost to the ground. Rudolf and Ann looked up just in time
to catch sight of the queer little creatures who were looking down at
them from between the beech leaves. It was no wonder they had been so
hard to see, for they were dressed in tight-fitting suits of fur
exactly the color of the bark, and had small pointed fur hoods upon
their heads which made them look very much like squirrels. Even now
that the children had spied them out, it was impossible to examine
them closely for they were never quiet, never in the same place more
than an instant, but swung themselves restlessly from bough to bough,
then to the ground and back again in two jumps, peeping, peering,
racing each other along the branches, all the time without the
slightest noise other than was made by their light feet among the
leaves and the two laughs the children had heard.
Rudolf picked up his sword, and said in as bold a voice as he could
manage--"Please, could any of you tell us the right path to--"
A burst of sharp squeals, shrill laughs, and jeering remarks
interrupted his question. The whole company of queer creatures dropped
to the ground at the same time, and instantly formed a circle about
the children, snapping their little white teeth, and grinning and
chattering like monkeys.
"Are you the Bad Dreams?" asked Rudolf. Then, as a burst of laughter
contradicted this idea--"Who are you, then?"
"Who are we? Who are we?" mocked the creatures. "O-ho, hear the human!
Doesn't know us--never got scolded on _our_ account, did he, did he?
_Oh_, no; _oh_, no! Bite him, snatch him, scratch him! _Catch_ him!"
Closer and closer the horrid little things pressed about the two
children. "What do you mean, anyway?" cried Rudolf, keeping them back
with his foot as best he could. "Who are you? You're squirrels--that's
all you are!"
"Squirrels!" The leader of the little wretches seemed furious at the
idea. "No, no," he screamed, making a dash at Rudolf's leg with his
sharp teeth. "We're Fidgets, Fidgets, Fidgets! Don't you know the
Fidgets when you see 'em, you great blundering human, you? An old,
_old_ family, that's what we are. Guess Methuselah had the Fidgets
sometimes, guess he did, did, did!" With every one of the last three
words he made a snatch at Rudolf, trying his best to bite him, and at
the same time dodging cleverly the blows Rudolf was now dealing on all
sides with his sword.
Ann had picked up a little stick and was doing her best to help Rudolf
in his battle. "I know you," she cried, turning angrily on the
Fidgets, "you horrid little things! I've had you often, in school just
before it's out, and in church, and when mother takes me out to make
calls--you've disgraced her often--" Then she stopped, really afraid
of saying too much. The Fidgets, with a wild squeal, now began a mad
sort of dance round and round the two children, giving them now a nip,
now a pinch, now a sharp pull till they were dizzy and frightened and
weary of trying to defend themselves against such unequal numbers.
All at once, above the shrill cries of their enemies, the children
heard a new sound, a crackling rustling noise in the bushes as if some
large creature was making its way through the wood. The Fidgets heard
it, too, and in a twinkling they had hushed their shrill voices,
broken their circle, and completely hidden themselves from sight. It
was all so sudden that Rudolf and Ann had no time to run, but stood
perfectly still, gazing at the bushes just in front of them from which
the noises came.
As they looked the bushes were parted, and a long lean head poked
itself through, a large black head with a white streak down its nose,
and two great mournful eyes that stared into theirs. Ann gave a little
scream and shrank closer to Rudolf. The creature opened a wide mouth
that showed enormous, ugly, yellow teeth, and said in a rough but not
unfriendly voice: "Hullo! Oats-and-Broadswords--if it's not a couple
of lost colts! Where'd you come from, youngsters?"
Without waiting for them to answer, it crashed through the bushes and
stood before them, a curious sight, indeed the strangest they had yet
seen in the course of their adventures. What they had thought was a
horse from the sight of its head, was a horse no farther down than the
shoulders, all the rest of him was a Knight, a splendid knight in full
armor of shining steel. He was without weapon of any kind, and even
while the children shrank from the sight of his big ugly head with its
sad eyes and long yellow teeth, they saw that this was not a creature
to be much afraid of.
"Well, I scared 'em away, didn't I?" he asked triumphantly, and then,
hanging his head a little, he added in rather a humble tone, "It's
pretty poor sport hunting Fidgets, I know, but it's about all I can
get nowadays. Hope they didn't hurt you?" he added politely.
"Not a bit," said Rudolf, "but I'm sure I'm glad you came along when
you did, for I don't know how we ever would have got rid of the
beastly little things. Only when we first saw you, we thought--"
"Oh, I know," interrupted the stranger hastily--"you thought it was
something worse. That's it, that's just my luck! I'm the gentlest
creature in the world and everybody's afraid of me. My business," he
explained, turning to Ann, "is to redress wrongs and to see after the
ladies, but--bless you--they won't let me get near enough to do
anything for 'em!" A great tear rolled down his long nose as he spoke,
and he looked so silly that Ann and Rudolf could hardly help laughing
at him, though they did not in the least want to be rude.
"And then," continued the creature, sobbing, "I'm so divided in my
feelings. If I were only _all_ Knight, now, or even all Mare, I'd be
thankful, but a Knight-mare is an unsatisfactory sort of thing to be."
"A Knight-mare--Oh, how dreadful!" cried Ann, drawing away from him.
"Is _that_ what you are?"
"There! You see how it is!" exclaimed the Knight-mare, tossing his
long black mane. "Nobody's got any sympathy for me. How would _you_
like it? Suppose you were a little girl only as far as your shoulders
and all the rest of you hippopotamus, eh?"
"I wouldn't like it at all," said Ann, after thinking a moment.
"Then no more do I," said the Knight-mare, and sighed a long sad sigh.
"Would you mind telling us how it happened?" asked Rudolf politely.
"Not at all," said the Knight-mare. "You see I was a great boy for
fighting in the old days--though you mightn't think it to see me
now--and I used to ride forth to battle on my coal-black steed, this
very mare whose head I'm wearing now. Well, of course I was a terror
to my enemies, used to scare 'em into fits, and I suppose it was one
of those very fellows that got me into this fix, dreamed me into it
one night, you know, only he got me and my steed mixed. We've stayed
mixed ever since, and the worst of it is I oughtn't to be a Bad Dream
at all. I was the nicest kind of a Good Dream once--why I belonged to
a lady who lived in a castle, and she thought a lot of me, she did!"
"It's too bad," said Rudolf sympathetically; "but isn't there anything
you can do about it?"
"Nothing," groaned the Knight-mare, "nothing at all. At least not till
I can find a way to get rid of this ugly head of mine. If there was
anybody big enough and brave enough, now, to--" He interrupted his
speech to stoop down and snatch up something from the grass. It was
Rudolf's sword which he had dropped from his hand in his weariness
after his battle with the Fidgets. "What's this?" the Knight-mare
cried. "Hurrah, a sword!"
"My sword," said Rudolf, stretching out his hand for it.
"Just the thing for cutting heads off!" cried the Knight. "Will you
lend it to me, like a good fellow? Mine is lost."
"What for?" asked Rudolf suspiciously.
"Why, to cut my head off with, of course, or better yet, perhaps
you'll do it for me. Come, now! Just to oblige me?"
Rudolf took back his sword, while Ann gave a little scream and seized
both the Knight's mailed hands in hers. "I'm sorry not to oblige you,"
said Rudolf firmly, "but I can't do anything of the sort. I never cut
anybody's head off in my life, and the sword's not so awful sharp,
you know, and then how can you tell a new head will grow at your time
"Oh, I'd risk that," said the Knight-mare lightly. "I do wish you'd
think it over. If you knew what a life mine is! All my days spent
browsing round on shoots here in the wood, without a single adventure
because nobody's willing to be rescued by the likes of me! And then
the nights! Oh"--groaned the poor fellow--"the nights are the worst of
"What do you do then?" asked Rudolf and Ann.
"Oh, I'm ridden to death," sighed the Knight-mare. "As if it wasn't
bad enough to scare folks all day _not_ meaning to, without being sent
out nights to do it on purpose!" He looked over his shoulder as if he
was afraid some one might be listening, and then added in a low
voice, "And it's not my fault, either, I swear it's not. _They_
actually make me do it!"
The children shivered, for they guessed at once that "they" meant the
Bad Dreams. Then they suddenly recollected poor little Peter, whom
their last adventure and the Knight-mare's talk had quite put out of
"I tell you what," said Rudolf suddenly, "I'll make a bargain with
you. My little brother has run away to find the Bad Dreams, and we
have got to find him and bring him back. If you'll lead us to him and
help us all you can, why--why--I won't promise--but I'll see what I
can do for you."
The Knight-mare gave a loud triumphant neigh. "Ods-bodikins and bran
mash!" he cried. "You're worth rescuing for nothing, the whole lot of
you! But"--he added mournfully--"I ought to warn you to keep away
from that crowd--they're a bad lot. You'd do better to cut along
"We can't do that," cried Rudolf and Ann together.
"Then come with me," said the Knight-mare. "It's only a short way
He was suddenly interrupted by a fresh commotion in the wood. Heavy
bodies were parting the undergrowth back of where they stood. Before
the children could think of escape, four strange figures sprang on
them from behind, their arms were seized, they were tripped up, and
they landed very hard upon the ground. Both knew in a moment what had
happened. The Bad Dreams had caught them!
THE BAD DREAMS
At first the children's view was entirely shut off by the size and
heaviness of the things that were sitting on their chests. They had
been completely taken by surprise and they had not even breath enough
left to cry out, but lay still and listened to what was going on about
them. This is what they heard:
"Ye arre arristid in the name of the Law!" a gruff voice was saying.
"Move on, move on, move on."
"One moment, Officer," a second voice interrupted. "Imprison these
young persons, if you are so disposed, but pray allow me first my
little opportunity to practise on them. This young lady--ahem! We will
begin by extracting that large molar on the upper left-hand side, we
will then have out two or three--"
"Ugh--ugh!" A series of hoarse grunts, and what had been sitting on
Rudolf rose up and rushed at the last speaker. "No, no! Big Chief
first! Big Chief Thunder-snorer take two fine scalp--ha! ha!"
There was a confused sound of struggling and voices arguing, and in
another moment Ann was relieved of her burden which, with a mighty
moo, got up and joined the others. Ann sat up and clung to Rudolf,
while the Knight-mare who was standing close beside her, laid a
protecting hand upon her shoulder. When she saw what had been holding
her down, she gave a little shriek. It was a small spotted cow in a
red flannel petticoat. She wore stout button boots on her hind feet,
and she now reared herself upon these to flourish two angry hoofs
over the sleek head of a little man in a white linen coat who held a
tiny mirror in one hand and a pair of pincers in the other. Ann took a
great dislike to this little man at once, and felt more afraid of him
than of the Cow or of the handsome Indian Chief in full
war-paint--feather head-dress and all--who was brandishing his
tomahawk, sometimes in the face of the Little Dentist, again under the
turned-up nose of a large fat Policeman who stood with folded arms,
the only calm member of that much-excited group.
The Knight-mare stepped forward and put himself between the children
and the Bad Dreams. "Look here, you fellows," he said quietly, "you
may as well stop this nonsense first as last. You haven't got any
business here, and well you know it. If the Boss finds you've been
disposing of any prisoners without his permission--well--_you_ know
That the Bad Dreams did know was to be seen by their foolish scared
expressions. The Indian Chief, with a disappointed grunt, replaced his
tomahawk in his belt, and seated himself cross-legged on the grass,
drawing his blanket closely about him. The Policeman stopped murmuring
"Move on!" The Cow dropped clumsily on all fours and began to crop the
bushes. Even the Little Dentist put his pincers back into his pocket,
though he still looked wistfully at Ann, who avoided his eye as much
as she could. This was a very terrifying company in which the children
found themselves, and in spite of the comforting presence of the
friendly Knight-mare, they felt very doubtful of their present safety,
not to speak of what might be done to them when once they were in the
clutches of that dreadful "Boss", whom even the Bad Dreams seemed to
be afraid of.
"He has all the fun, anyway," snorted the Cow, switching her tail.
"All the choice bits of torturing. Why, I've not had so much as a
single toss since I've been on this job; no I haven't!" And she shook
her sharp curved horns at Ann.
"Not a tooth out yet!" complained the Dentist, "not a single one." He
sighed, glancing from Ann to Rudolf and from Rudolf back again to Ann,
as if he expected they might be coaxed into presenting him with a full
"'Tis himsilf does all the arristin'," muttered the Policeman sadly.
"Big-boss-chief take all good scalp," Thunder-snorer, the Indian,
The children began to think this "Boss" must indeed be a terror.
"Now, come, come," continued the Knight-mare soothingly, "it's not so
bad as that. You all get plenty of fun, but you mustn't mix it up with
business. We're in a row now, every one of us, for being out of
bounds. Better move along and have it over, that's my advice."
The Policeman looked more cheerful. "That's it," cried he. "Move on!"
Ann put her little arms around the Knight-mare's neck and whispered
something in his ear. He turned to the Cow and said:
"Madam, this young lady wishes to know if anything has been seen or
heard of another prisoner, a small fat one called Peter?"
"Sir," said the Cow, "he was taken just a little while ago. That's why
we four went off in a huff. We wanted a little fun with him, just a
bit of our pretty play, you know, but the Boss wouldn't have it. He's
saving him up for the Banquet, and not one of us is to be let at him
till after that."
Rudolf and Ann looked at each other, both suddenly remembering the
Sandman's warning that on no account were any of them to taste the Bad
Dreams' food. Could Peter be expected to refuse any kind of
refreshments at any time? They knew that he could not.
"Come," cried Rudolf, pulling at the Knight-mare's arm. "Take us to
him, please. We've got to hurry."
The Knight-mare obligingly stepped forward, leading Ann by the hand,
and the Bad Dreams--to the children's surprise--rose meekly to
accompany them. It was decided that the Cow should go first, to clear
a way through the forest by her simple method of trampling down
everything before her. The Indian walked next, stepping softly and
silently on his moccasined feet, and turning now and then to make a
horrid face at the children who followed behind him, one on either
side of the Knight-mare. The Dentist and Policeman, walking arm in
arm, brought up the rear. The party had not gone a great distance
through the wood, before Ann and Rudolf noticed that the underbrush
was growing thinner and the trees beginning to be taller and farther
apart. At last they could see through a veil of branches the light of
a fire burning on the ground not a great distance ahead of them, and
soon they came close to the enormous oak tree under which this fire
was kindled. Its flames were a strange bluish color, and as they shot
up into the darkness which was almost complete under the shade of that
great tree, the children could plainly see strange figures showing
black against the light, leaping and dancing around the fire.
"The party's begun, but not the Banquet," whispered the Knight-mare.
"You can come a little closer, but you mustn't interrupt till it's
In silence they all moved a little nearer to the cleared space under
the tree, but not so near as to be discovered. Rudolf and Ann gazed
anxiously at the scene before them. First of all they noticed that the
fire was not an ordinary fire, but a huge blazing plum pudding which
accounted for the queer color of its flames. It was stuck full of bits
of crackling holly and dripped sweet-smelling sauce in every
direction. On the other side of the fire, just opposite to them, was a
moss-grown log, and on this log sat Peter. His big brown eyes, shining
with excitement, were fixed on the dancers passing before him, his
little nose sniffed the burning plum pudding with great satisfaction.
As soon as her eye fell on her little brother, Ann started toward him,
but the Knight-mare held her back.
"No use," said he. "Wait a bit, and I'll tell you when the real
trouble's going to begin."
The children had no choice but to obey, and their attention was soon
occupied by the strange sights before them. As one odd figure after
another sprang out of the dark into the firelight, capered and
pranced, and then disappeared into the blackness again, Ann and Rudolf
drew closer together and squeezed hands, very queer feelings creeping
up and down their back-bones. The strangest part of it all was that
among that crazy company were many whom the children did not see for
the first time, who were old acquaintances of theirs! There--grinning
and brandishing his stick--was the Little Black Man who had worried
Rudolf many a night as far back as he could remember. There was the
Old Witch on the Broomstick, whom Ann had often described to him.
There again, were other Bad Dreams that made the children almost smile
as they remembered certain exciting times. The Angry Farmer--Rudolf
had seen him before; he remembered his fierce expression, yes, and his
short black whip, too! Also the Cross Cook, her fat arms rolled up in
her apron, and "I'm going to tell your mother," written plainly on her
round red face. A great white Jam Pot danced just behind the Cook, and
was followed by a dozen bright Green Apples. A Dancing-master came
next, bowing and smiling at Peter as he passed him, then a Bear
paddling clumsily along on its hind legs, its great red mouth wide
open to show its long white teeth, then a Gooseberry Tart marked
"Stolen", then an Arithmetic with a mean sort of face, rulers for
legs, and compasses for arms; then a Clock that had been meddled with
by somebody (Rudolf felt certain it was not by him) and kept striking
all the time; then a Piano with a lot of horrid exercises waiting to
be practised; then last of all a familiar clumsy figure with one red
glaring eye--their old enemy, the Warming-pan!
As Rudolf was trying to take in these, and many others in that curious
throng, he felt himself sharply pinched by Ann. "Look, look," she
whispered, "over there where it's so dark, close to Peter. Oh, don't
you know _now_ who their Boss is?"
Rudolf looked. Clearly enough now he saw two flaming green eyes and a
clumsy black figure crouching on the ground. Before this figure every
one of the dancers made a low bow as he passed.
"Don't you know him?" repeated Ann, shivering with excitement. "It's
"Oh, well, what if it is?" whispered Rudolf. "I stopped bothering
about _him_ years ago. He's only for babies."
Ann was not deceived by Rudolf's cheerful tone. Manunderthebed might
not amount to much at home with nurse and mother to frighten him away,
but here in his own country it was not pleasant to meet him.
"He's horrid," said she. "Oh, look, Ruddy, what is he doing now?"
Manunderthebed had stretched out a long black arm and pointed to the
fire. Instantly the Bad Dreams stopped their dance and vanished into
the darkness. When they came again into the firelight the children saw
that the Cook, the Dancing-master, and several others carried large
dishes in their hands which they now presented with low bows to
"It's the Banquet!" whispered the Knight-mare nervously. "If he
touches a morsel, he's lost. He'll go to sleep and dream Bad Dreams
forever and a day--which won't be pleasant, I assure you."
Ann and Rudolf had not waited for the Knight-mare to finish his
speech. They rushed on Peter, just as he had helped himself to an
enormous slice of mince pie, and while Ann threw her arms about his
neck, Rudolf snatched the tempting morsel out of his hand and cast it
in the fire. Of course Peter struggled and fussed and was not a bit
grateful, but Rudolf and Ann did not care, for the Knight-mare's
warning rang in their ears. Meanwhile the Bad Dreams had gathered
round the three children in an angry circle, and Manunderthebed
"Seize 'em, some of you! Where's that fat Policeman?"
"Here, sorr." Very much against his will the Policeman had been pushed
forward till he stood in front of the children, hanging his head and
looking very uncomfortable.
"Arrest 'em, why don't you?" shouted the Boss.
"Please, sorr, Oi have," muttered the Policeman humbly, shifting from
one foot to the other and looking more and more unhappy.
"Then do it all over again, and be quick about it--or--"
Manunderthebed made a terrible face at the Policeman, who shivered,
and edging up to Rudolf, laid a timid hand on his shoulder.
"No you don't!" cried Rudolf. "I'm not afraid of _you_!" And he gave
the Policeman a poke with his sword, just a little one, about where
his belt came. The Policeman gave a frightened yell, doubled up as if
he had been shot, and ducking under the shoulders of the crowd made
off into the darkness. Manunderthebed was furious. The children heard
him roar out a command, and then the Bad Dreams advanced on them in a
body. The leaping dancing flames of the plum-pudding fire showed their
angry faces and strange figures.
Rudolf was not really afraid now, for he saw at once that the Bad
Dreams were not much at fighting, yet there were so many of them that
by sheer force of their numbers they were slowly but surely pushing
the three children back, back, until they were crowded against the
trunk of the great oak tree where Manunderthebed had been crouching.
He had run to fetch a great branch of burning holly from the fire, and
holding this like a torch above his head, he pressed through the
crowd toward Rudolf and dashed it almost into his eyes. Rudolf shrank
back, half blinded by the glare, and bumped sharply into Peter, who in
turn was pushed violently against Ann, who had set her back firmly
against the tree trunk. The tree, as she described it afterward,
seemed to give way behind her, and she fell backward into soft
smothery darkness. Peter fell after her and Rudolf on top of Peter.
The little door which had opened to receive them snapped to again, as
if by magic, and from the other side of it the triumphant howls of the
Bad Dreams came very faintly to their ears.
IN THE HOLLOW TREE
At first it seemed perfectly dark inside the tree, but after the
children had rubbed out of their eyes the soft powdery dust which
their fall had stirred up, they made out the dull glow of a dying
fire, a real one in a real fireplace this time, and no plum-pudding
affair. From the amount of furniture they knocked against in moving
about they knew they must be in somebody's house.
"Oh, dear," whispered Ann, "I hope the owner is not at home!"
Rudolf said nothing, for he was groping about after the poker. He
found it presently and stirred the embers into quite a cheerful blaze.
By this light the children were able to see dimly what the room was
like. It was circular in shape and the walls and ceiling were covered
with rough bark. The floor was of earth, covered with a thick carpet
of dry leaves. There were several chairs and a round table all made of
boughs with the bark left on and the mantel-piece was built of
curiously twisted branches. On it stood a round wooden clock and a
pair of wooden candlesticks. A pair of spectacles lay on the top of a
pile of large fat books upon the table.
"I'd like to know whose house this is," said Rudolf.
"It's Manunderthebed's house," said Peter calmly.
"How do you know?" cried Ann and Rudolf.
"'Cause I _do_ know," said Peter.
"Oh, Peter, you naughty boy, you are so provoking!" exclaimed Ann,
hugging him. "Tell sister what you mean, and what you've been doing
and why you ran away to find those horrid creatures!"
"Aren't horrid," said Peter, wriggling away from her, "and '_tis_
Manunderthebed's house, 'cause he came out by the little door when the
Bad Dreams brought me. He came out of his little door, and he said
'Peter, will you come to my party?'"
"But there isn't any little door now," interrupted Rudolf, "anyway,
_I_ can't find it." He had taken a candle from the mantel-piece, had
lighted it at the fire, and was making a careful search of the walls.
No trace of a door or any opening except the fireplace could be seen.
"It's a magic door," said Peter cheerfully. "Manunderthebed touched
something with his foot and that opened it and then he pushed you and
you pushed me and I bumped into Ann, and here we are."
"He's shut us up on purpose!" cried Ann. "It's just like him."
"He's shut us up to starve us into submission, like they do in books,"
said Rudolf gloomily.
"I'm starved now," began Peter, "and that was the very _nicest_ pie!"
But the other two were much provoked with Peter for having led them
into such a fix, and they would not listen to him any longer. By
Rudolf's orders, Ann lighted the other candle and both searched again
with the greatest care for some trace of the secret door. At last
Ann's sharp eyes spied not a door, but a small opening in the wall far
above their heads, like a little round window not much bigger than a
knothole. Rudolf climbed upon the table, but found he was hardly tall
enough to look through, so he was obliged to hoist Peter upon his
shoulders and let him have first look. When the little boy got his
eye to the window he gave such a shout of surprise that he nearly
knocked Rudolf and himself completely off the table.
"Hush," warned his brother, "you mustn't make a noise! Can you see
what the Bad Dreams are doing?"
"Yes, I can see 'em," whispered Peter.
"They're all sitting round the fire and Manunderthebed is making a
"What's he saying?" asked Ann anxiously.
"I can't hear, but he's awful cross. Now the Little Black Man has
gone--now he's come back again, and--oh!"
"What is it? What is it?" cried Ann and Rudolf.
"He's got three animals on a chain--a bear, an'--an'--a lion--an' a
great big white wolf!"
"Oh, Peter, darling, you _know_ they're only dream animals!" Ann
hastily reminded him.
"Well, they're most as nice as real ones, they're awful fierce--"
"What's the Little Black Man doing with 'em?" interrupted Rudolf.
"He's letting them loose," said Peter, "and they're smelling round--"
"He's putting them by the tree to guard us--that's what he's doing,"
broke in Rudolf.
"To swallow us up if we ever do escape!" wailed Ann, now thoroughly
frightened. "Oh, Rudolf, whatever shall we do?"
Rudolf hastily lowered Peter to the floor and got down off the table.
"Ann," said he, "there must be another way out. In books there always
are two ways out of secret rooms, and this," he added cheerfully, "is
the bookiest thing that's happened to us yet. Come, let's look again
He and Ann began the search once more, going over and over the walls
by the light of their candles, but without any success. Peter was
nosing about by himself in a little recess by the fireplace, and soon
the other two heard him give a gleeful chuckle.
"What is it? Have you found the spring of the secret door?" cried
Rudolf, running to him.
"Nope," said Peter. "It's nicer than that, it's a cake. I found it
right here on this little shelf that you went past and never noticed."
"Oh, Peter," Ann scolded, "I think you are the very greediest little
boy I ever knew!"
"That cake belongs to Manunderthebed, and you know it," said Rudolf
sternly. "It's a dream cake, of course, a Bad-dream cake, so you can't
Peter clasped the small round cake tightly to his breast.
"It's a nice seed-cake like Cook makes," he said stubbornly, "and I
_must_ eat it."
"The seeds in it are poppy-seeds," explained Rudolf, "and you'll go
to sleep and dream Bad Dreams forever, like the Knight-mare said, so
you _sha'n't_ eat it!" He tried to get the cake away from his naughty
little brother who only grasped it the more tightly. There would have
been a quarrel, and a fierce one, if it had not been for Ann.
"I tell you," said she, "let's try it on the animals!"
This seemed a really bright idea, and Rudolf agreed at once, though
Peter considered it wasteful. Ann had to coax some time, but at last
she persuaded him to part with his cake. Rudolf would not trust Peter
with the distributing, so he piled three fat dictionaries that lay on
the table one on top of another and climbed upon them himself,
managing in this way to bring his eye to the level of the little
window. The plum-pudding fire was burning very low by this time, and
Rudolf could barely make out the forms of some of the Bad Dreams who
were stretched on the ground around it.
Suddenly he gave a great start and nearly tumbled off the
dictionaries, for he found himself staring down into the yellow hungry
eyes of the big white wolf. Peter had described him truly, he was very
fierce, wolfier-looking, Rudolf thought, than any of his kind the boy
had seen in the dens at the park. Now the beast gave a low growl and
opened his great red mouth. Rudolf dropped a generous bit of cake
straight into it. The big jaws closed with a snap, and the white wolf
looked up for more. By this time the other beasts had discovered the
presence of refreshments, and came slinking forward, squatting
themselves one on either side of their companion.
Rudolf could hardly help a squeal of surprise at the sight of the
yellow lion and the big shambling bear. He remembered in time, though,
to smother it, and hastily divided the rest of the cake between the
two animals. When they had licked it up greedily, Rudolf turned his
attention again to the white wolf, and this time he could not suppress
an exclamation of delight.
"Oh, what _is_ it, tell us," cried Ann, while Peter jumped up and down
impatiently, begging to be allowed to see.
"He's going to sleep--the white wolf is," whispered Rudolf. "He's
rocking from side to side--he can hardly stand up--his red tongue is
hanging out of his mouth--he looks too silly for anything--now he's
rolled over on his back--now he's snoring!"
"And the other animals--the lion and the bear?"
"They are lying down, too, they will be asleep in a moment! There,
Peter, didn't I tell you it was a dream cake?"
But even then Peter did not appear grateful. He went back to the shelf
where he had found the cake and stood looking at it wistfully, as if
he hoped he would find another. Rudolf came up behind him and looked
over his shoulder.
"It's no use," said Peter mournfully, "there isn't any more."
"There's this!" cried Rudolf triumphantly, and reaching over Peter he
pressed a little round knob of wood half hidden under the shelf.
Instantly the whole shelf, together with a large piece of the wall,
swung aside, and the children were standing on the threshold of just
such another little door as that by which they had entered, only on
the other side of the tree. For a moment the three children
hesitated, half afraid to believe in their good luck, and then,
taking hold of hands they stepped softly out of their prison. Almost
at their feet lay the great white wolf, the yellow lion, and the
shaggy bear, all snoring in concert. Carefully avoiding them, the
children made for the thick woods ahead, not caring where they went so
long as they could escape from their enemies. The big tree was now
between them and the plum-pudding fire around which the Bad Dreams lay
asleep, so it really seemed as if they had a good chance of getting
"Hurry, hurry," Rudolf whispered, dragging Ann by the hand. "If we can
only get to those thick trees I am sure we shall be safe."
"If they only don't wake up!" she panted.
Just at that exciting moment Peter had to make trouble--as usual. He
stumbled and fell over a twisted root, hurt his knee, and gave a loud
angry squeal. Rudolf clapped a hand over his mouth and dragged him to
his feet, but it was too late--they were discovered. A tall form shot
up out of the grass just behind them, and instantly a loud war-whoop
rang through the woods.
"It's Thunder-snorer--it's the Indian," Rudolf cried. "Run for your
The Bad Dreams were all aroused by Thunder-snorer's war-whoop, and in
an instant the whole pack of them, headed by Manunderthebed, were at
the children's heels. Rudolf and Ann ran as fast as ever they could,
dragging Peter after them, but it was both difficult and dangerous to
run fast through that dark wood, especially as they had no idea in
what direction they ought to go. Each moment they expected to be
overtaken, each moment they seemed to feel Manunderthebed's long black
arm stretched out to drag them back to their prison--or to something
Then suddenly from just ahead of them came the sound of a great
crashing and rustling among the bushes and the tramp of approaching
feet. Some new danger--perhaps something worse than what was behind
them--seemed to threaten the children, but they were too breathless,
too bewildered even to try to avoid it. On they ran--straight into the
arms of a tall figure who was hurrying to meet them, a knight dressed
in shining armor wearing a plumed helmet on his handsome head. At the
same moment a troop of little tin soldiers broke through the bushes
and rushed past the children to attack the Bad Dreams. All of them
were quickly put to flight except their leader, Manunderthebed, who at
first sight of the soldiers had hidden himself behind a tree. As soon
as they had passed he crept forth and made a dart at the children. But
they had a protector now! The tall knight stepped in front of them and
raised his glittering sword. Before he could bring it down, the
cowardly King of the Bad Dreams gave a horrible yell and turned to
run. He might have escaped, but as he passed Rudolf the boy put out
his foot and tripped him up. There the rascal lay on his back, kicking
wildly, while the Knight stood guard over him. Seen close by,
Manunderthebed was not quite so dreadful as when he crouched in his
dark haunt near the hollow tree, but still his shaggy fur, sharp white
teeth, and gleaming green eyes were very terrifying to Ann, who gave a
little shriek and turned her face away. "Don't be afraid," cried the
Knight. "This is the end of Manunderthebed!" And he stooped and caught
hold of the shaggy fellow by the shoulder. A crack, a rip, and the
whole silly disguise came away in one piece, fur suit, teeth, claws,
and green glass eyes. The terrible King of the Bad Dreams was just a
big naughty boy in knickerbockers who kicked and cried and begged to
be let go! The children had to laugh, they could not help it, to hear
him blubber and whine and promise over and over again that he'd never,
no, _never_ frighten little girls and boys any more! So at last the
Knight let him scramble to his feet and rush off through the woods as
fast as he could go.
"That's the last of _him_" said the children's protector smiling, "but
now tell me, you three, what do you think of the change in _my_
For a moment the three children stared up at the tall figure, admiring
yet puzzled, then Ann clapped her hands and shouted: "Oh, I know _now_
who you are--you're the Knight-mare!"
The tall figure swept off his helmet and made Ann such a low bow that
his fair curling locks brushed the ground, fluttering like yellow
plumes about his ruddy face. "I'm all knight now," cried he, "and none
of me mare. I'm a Good Dream now, and I've no doubt she'll be rather
pleased to get me back--the lady I belong to in the castle, you know.
I'm wearing her glove, as you may perceive."
"But how did it happen?" asked Ann, fingering the helmet with the
"Well," said the Knight, "as soon as you children were imprisoned in
the hollow tree I managed to escape from those fellows and rushed off
to Sandy to get you help. I found he had already sent to the Corn-cob
Queen for rescuers and just as we were talking they arrived. I agreed
to guide their leader through the woods to Manunderthebed's place if
he would first settle a certain little matter for me--that one your
brother wasn't very anxious to tackle, you know. Well, when I asked
him if he'd cut off my head, _he_ said he'd just as lief as not!"
All three children burst out laughing.
"There's only one person we've met as fierce as that," said Ann, "and
that's Captain Jinks."
"Captain Jinks--at your service," snapped a sharp voice at her elbow,
and turning, Ann found the little tin captain standing beside her. "I
have to report," said he, wheeling around to Rudolf and saluting him
stiffly--"the enemy--routed completely!"
Never, never had the children expected to be so glad to meet the
little captain again! They thanked him heartily for his part in their
splendid rescue, and asked him what he thought it was best to do next.
"Sound a recall," answered the officer, "and return in good order
according to commands."
"Whose commands, Captain Jinks?" Rudolf wanted to know, but Jinks
would not answer any more questions just then. He recalled those of
his fierce little soldiers who, with the sergeant at their head, were
still chasing the last remnants of the Bad Dreams back to the depths
of the wood, formed them into marching order, and taking the head of
the procession himself, placed the children directly behind him under
the protection of the Knight. They were anxious to have the little
captain explain all the particulars of their rescue, but found it very
hard indeed to make him talk while on duty. He marched so fast that
they had to trot to keep up with him, and stared straight ahead
without winking an eye. "Queen's orders," was all they could at first
get out of him.
"But, Jinks, dear, who was it brought the message to the Queen?" Ann
"Traveling Gentleman!" The little captain made a disgusted face.
"_He's_ a nice one! Said nobody was being shut up nowhere, nor didn't
_want_ to be rescued."
For a moment the children were puzzled, then Rudolf called out, "Oh, I
know--the False Hare!"
They all laughed and Ann said: "I suppose Sandy didn't know any better
than to send him, but I should think he'd make a pretty funny
"Make a better pie," said Jinks grimly, and not another word could
they get out of him after that. They were now coming to that part of
the wood Ann and Rudolf remembered so well, where the kindly Knight
had rescued them from the attack of the tiresome Fidgets. They looked
about for signs of the little creatures' presence in the branches
overhead, and listened for their chattering laughter, but the coming
of so large a company must have scared the cowardly Fidgets away, for
not a trace of them was to be seen.
At last the procession struck the little path Sandy had pointed out to
the children, and in another moment it was being met and greeted by a
whole troop of Good Dreams who had rushed to welcome the returning
party and escort them back to the glade. Here they found the whole
family assembled: the Cook-that-liked-living-in-the-Country, the
Gardener-with-the-Generous-Disposition, the Pink Stockings, the Nice
Nurse, the Good Baby, the Easter Rabbit, the Birthday Cake, the Organ
Man, the Tall Candlesticks, and the Jolly Santa Claus--one and all of
the Good Dreams, with Noddy and Blink, the two fat boys, and--best of
all--old Sandy himself, a twinkle in his sleepy eyes, a grin on his
round good-humored face.
"Well, well, well," cried he. "Glad to see you back again, my
friends! Guess _you've_ had enough of the bad 'uns--eh, young man?"
And he gave Peter a kindly dig in the ribs. Peter grinned and looked
rather foolish but said nothing. "And now," went on Sandy, pushing
aside the excited dreams that crowded round him, "make way, all of
you! Let these young people see who's come to welcome them." He led
the children across the glade to where, throned on a pile of sacks,
sat the Corn-cob Queen! There she was in her greeny-yellowy gown, her
little head erect, her sweet face smiling, her tiny hands stretched
out to greet the children. They could have hugged her, but they didn't
dare, she looked, in spite of being just a doll and an old-fashioned
one at that, so truly like a Queen. Back of her majesty stood a group
of doll ladies-in-waiting dressed in their gayest clothes, and among
them were Ann's very own children, Marie-Louise and Angelina-Elfrida!
They did not look haughty or naughty or cross any more, but smiled
sweetly at their little mother.
"Yes," said the Queen, "I have come to welcome you back, dears, and to
say good-by, for I suppose you would like to go home to your Aunt Jane
now, wouldn't you?"
"Oh, yes, indeed, please your Majesty," cried Rudolf and Ann in one
breath--but Peter said nothing. He was gazing rather regretfully at
the False Hare who lounged near by, smoking his chocolate cigarette
and polishing the nap of his silk hat with the back of his paw. The
False Hare winked at Peter and edged a little closer to him. "Mighty
glad to see the last of you, old chap," he whispered. Then Peter
smiled all over, he was so pleased.
"Yes, I suppose it's time for you to be going, if go you really
must," sighed Sandy. "And since you're in such a hurry, I'm happy to
be able to include you in that consignment of your aunt's after all.
She"--and he bowed gallantly to the Queen--"says it's all right, and
what she says goes, though to be sure, it's out of order, slightly out
of order!" As he spoke he took his list out of his pocket and ran his
eye over it once more. "Hullo," said he in a surprised tone, "there's
one more item on Miss Jane Mackenzie's and it seems to be missing!
Comparatively unimportant, but I like to have my things complete. 'One
lost Kitten!' Now what can have become of that, I wonder?"
It was Captain Jinks' voice that broke the silence. "Prisoner of War,
sir! Taken with others by the Commander-in-Chief in the recent
glorious victory of the tin soldiers over the cat pirates. Here you
are, sir!" He motioned to two of the soldiers who stood on guard
over something in a dim corner of the glade. The soldiers hustled the
object forward. It was Captain Mittens! Mittens despoiled of his
scarlet sash, his turban, his sword and pistols, even of his fierce
expression! Mittens, no longer a bold and bloody robber of the seas
but a humble repentant kitten who let himself be cuddled into Peter's
arms without so much as a single scratch.
Peter stroked the pirate--and the pirate purred!
"Now then, all ready? All aboard!" It was Sandy's voice who spoke and
Sandy's were the arms that lifted the children gently into the
enormous sack held open by Noddy and Blink, and placed them at the top
of the toboggan-slide--but they were feeling too curiously tired and
sleepy to understand exactly what was happening. Rudolf, still
clasping his tin sword--that invaluable weapon--pillowed his sleepy
head on the shoulder of the Generous Gardener. Ann rested comfortably
on the large lap of the Cook-who-liked-living-in-the-Country, and
Peter snuggled close beside her, holding Mittens tightly in his arms.
[Illustration: "Now then, all ready?"]
They thought the new non-fadable curtains were packed in somewhere,
they thought they saw the kindly face of old Sandy peeping into the
mouth of the sack at them while the whole troop of Good Dreams pushed
and crowded one another to peer at them over his shoulder. Among all
the familiar faces were some they had almost forgotten but were not
sorry to see again: the Lady Goose, waving her spoon; the Gentleman
Goose, and Squealer and Squawker, his two little duck apprentices; the
cheerful grinning countenances of Prowler and Growler, the mates, with
Toddles and Towser the common sea-cats. But at the last all grew dim,
faded, melted into mist until two figures only stood out clearly and
distinctly. One was the Corn-cob Queen smiling and waving her tiny
hand in loving farewell, the other that of a little boy in long
trousers and a frill collar, a merry-faced boy with a toy sword
buckled round his waist and a toy ship in his hand. Though they had
not seen him until now, the children recognized him at once. It was
the little boy Aunt Jane had told them of--the Little Boy who Went
Away to Sea. It was also the Commander-in-Chief of the tin soldiers,
whom the Queen had said they might be allowed to see, if they were
Just then the children began to feel it impossible to keep their eyes
open any longer. They heard the voices of all their friends calling
"Good-by", but they could not answer. They tried to get one more
glimpse of the Good Dreams, but their eyes dropped shut--they were far
In the morning Aunt Jane woke to find all three children in her room.
Ann jumped into bed on one side of her, Peter, holding Mittens,
snuggled himself on the other, and Rudolf bestrode the foot.
"Why, good morning, dears," she said. "Did you sleep well in the big
The children looked at one another thoughtfully.
"Did you have good dreams?" asked Aunt Jane politely. "I did, I dreamt
about you three all night."
"We had funny dreams," said Rudolf, "at least, I suppose they were--"
He stopped, looking very puzzled.
"We woke up laughing," Ann said, "and we got right out of bed to come
quickly to tell you something awful funny that happened to us, but
"Now we've forgotten it!" finished Rudolf sadly.
Peter said nothing at all. He looked very grave and thoughtful and
squeezed Mittens just a little--only a little too hard. The kitten
gave a slight squeak.
"Will you be good now?" whispered Peter in his furry ear. "Will you
never run away no more--_never_?"
But Mittens would not answer.