THE TOY LANGUAGE

Tommy stood with his little nose pressed flat against the pane. He was
very tired, and also very hungry, for he had walked ever and ever so
far. How far, he did not know. At first, he had thought it would take
only a day to reach the city, and now, he could not remember how long
it had taken. A good many days, of that he was certain.

Over hills and through fields and forests he had travelled, sleeping
at night in the lee of some rick of hay, or on the soft moss beneath
low hung fir boughs. Sometimes, a shepherd or a forester had shared
with him his simple fare of bread and cheese. At other times, he ate
berries, or such of the wild fruits as were then ripe, and once, or {4}
twice, he had gone to sleep hungry. But here he was, at last, in the
big city and before the most wonderful window into which a boy ever
looked. It was evening, and the window, with its bright lights, seemed
like a bit of fairyland, for in it were all manner of the finest games
and toys imaginable.

Tommy did not know that this was Mr. Peter Poodle’s famous toy shop.
He did not even know the toys were for sale. He had never been in a
big city and knew nothing about stores. He thought this was merely
somebody’s fine house, and when he lifted his eyes from the toys and
saw a big card that hung beneath one of the lamps, he was more than
ever filled with wonder.

“BOY WANTED!”

Those were the words on the card. Tommy spelled the letters twice to
make sure; “I suppose the people inside must be lonely,” he thought “I
will go in and visit them, and perhaps they will tell me how to find
the King.”

Mr. Poodle, a kindly little man with gray hair and bright twinkling
eyes, answered the rap at the door.

“Please sir,” said Tommy, “do you live here and are you lonely?
Because, if you are, I can come in and play with you; but by and by,
I must go and find the King. Please, can you tell me where the King
lives? Because the kind lady, who took care of me when I was sick, is
very poor. Did you know that once I was very sick? When I was sick
the kind lady told me all about the Fairy King. I am well now, and I
am going to find the Fairy King and get some gold and jewels for the
kind lady. Would you like me to come in and play with you a little
while? I am too tired to play very much, because I have been walking
all day. {5} And tonight, when I came through a dark street, a bad,
rough man chased me, and I ran so fast that it made me more tired.
Don’t you think I am a fast runner to get away from the man? Please,
shall we play games now? Perhaps you don’t want to play with a little
boy that has such raggedy clothes. Would you rather have a little boy
that has fine clothes and wears shoes and stockings? I am sorry you are
lonesome. I think you are a nice man and I like you; but perhaps you
don’t want such a raggedy boy.”

The twinkling laughter had left the little man’s eyes and the corners
of his mouth twitched when he tried to speak. Then he quickly stooped
and held out both arms. “I do want a raggedy boy” were the words that
came from his trembling lips, and the next second, Tommy’s curly head
was nestling on the little man’s shoulder.

“What game shall we play now?” asked Mr. Poodle.

“I don’t know,” said Tommy. “Sometimes, when I was sick and the kind
lady gave me bread and milk, she said we were playing dinner party.
That is the only game I know how to play. Please, sir, shall we play
dinner party?”

The twinkle came back again into Mr. Poodle’s eyes. “Yes, my boy, we
_will_ play dinner party,” he said. “I think dinner party is a fine
game.”

Mr. Poodle now spread the cloth on the table. “O me, O my,” said he;
“this cloth has a hole right in the corner! O, well, that is soon
mended.” Then, what did he do but tear right off the whole corner.
“There!” said he; “now we have a cloth without any hole.”

“Here is a pitcher of milk,” he added, as he sat it on the table;
“and, here are two mugs. O dear, O dear, why this mug has no handle!
Now how could that handle ever {6} have jumped right off the mug and we
not see it! The first thing tomorrow, I must get a new handle.”

“Please, sir,” said Tommy, “the handle is gone from the pitcher, too.”

“No, you don’t mean to tell me that that handle also is gone?” said
Mr. Poodle, taking the pitcher. “Yes, it certainly has. Now, how could
that have happened? Oh, I know. Those two handles were lonely the same
as I was lonely, and the mug handle said to the pitcher handle: Mr.
Pitcher handle, you can stay in this house if you wish, but as for me,
why was I trimmed all up with colored paint and made so handsome, if it
wasn’t for some little boy; and now, there is no boy in this house, so
I am just going to leave! Of course, then the pitcher handle thought
he would be very lonely without the mug handle, and so they went away
together.”

Tommy laughed merrily. “You are a very funny man,” he said. “Handles
couldn’t say all that, but it was just a fine story. Please tell it to
me again.”

“Well, if I tell all that again,” said Mr. Poodle, “why then our roast
turkey will be getting cold.”

Tommy laughed gaily. “You certainly are a very funny man,” he said.
“This isn’t roast turkey, this is bread!”

“Let me see,” said Mr. Poodle. “Well, so it is. Now, how could I ever
have made such a silly mistake.”

“Never mind, sir,” said the boy. “I am sure the bread is very nice, and
I just love milk. Can we play now?”

“Yes indeed,” answered Mr. Poodle.

When Tommy had eaten the bread and milk, Mr. Poodle took him in his
arms to the big easy chair. “What shall we play now?” asked the
toymaker. {7}

[Illustration: Helen.]

Tommy’s eyes were almost closed. “I don’t know,” he answered. “Please,
sir, I am very sorry, because I wanted to play and make you happy, you
are so kind to me, but I am pretty tired. If I could go to sleep for
only a minute, then when I awake I would be all rested and could play
some more. Please, may I go to sleep for only a minute?”

“Yes, indeed you may,” said the toymaker.

Tommy’s tired eyes looked timidly up into Mr. Poodle’s. “Please sir,
may I kiss you for being so good to me?” he asked. {8}

Mr. Poodle bowed his head. “Good night, boy,” he said. “Good night,
sir,” answered Tommy.

This was the manner in which Tommy Piper came to Peter Poodle’s toy
shop. Who he was and from where he came, Mr. Poodle could not learn;
only this much—that he had been found unconscious in the forest by a
poor wood chopper, and tenderly nursed during a long illness by the
wood chopper’s good wife.

As for Mr. Poodle, he was the kindest and jolliest little man you ever
did see. His business was the making of toys for little girls and boys,
and he had a fine big shop all littered with yellow, curly shavings,
blocks of wood and bits of colored cloth. In this shop, the first thing
the next morning, Tommy went to play.

He had on a nice new suit of clothes which Mr. Poodle had provided, and
he was glad indeed to be dressed so finely, for right in the midst of
the floor, sat a little girl.

“Good morning, Helen,” said Mr. Poodle.

“Good morning, Mr. Poodle,” Helen answered, and then turning to Tommy,
she said: “Good morning, little boy.”

That was the beginning of good times in Peter Poodle’s work shop.

Helen lived in a fine big house around the corner on the next street,
but each day she came to play in the curly shavings with Tommy, and
together they watched Mr. Poodle make his toys.

Certainly those were fine toys Mr. Poodle made. Helen’s mamma said
there never was such a fine toy maker anywhere as Mr. Poodle. She said
that he loved to sit at his bench and make the toy people, and that he
put every bit of his heart into his work; and of course, when he loved
his work so much, why some of his heart and some of his love had to
pop right out and jump into the toys. Helen’s mamma said that was why
Peter {12} Poodle’s toys were the best in all the world, and moreover,
they were not painted with cheap colors that would come off the minute
you put them in your mouth, or stuck together with bad smelling glue
that would never hold more than a day or two.

Sometimes when Mr. Poodle was making a toy he would be singing such
a funny song that Tommy and Helen had to stop their play and have a
good laugh. Then Mr. Poodle would look at them over the tops of his
spectacles, and make believe he felt very cross because they laughed.
But Tommy and Helen could see the twinkle that went jumping around in
Mr. Poodle’s eyes, so they knew he wasn’t one bit cross; he wasn’t
either, for he thought it fine to hear little boys and girls laugh.
Why, sometimes he would be so glad that he would take his brush and
paint a smile right on the face of one of the toys he was making, and
the smile would always stay there, so the toy could be very happy as
long as it lived. That was the kind of a man Mr. Poodle was.

Of course, Mr. Poodle’s toys were not the common everyday sort. No,
indeed! why some of them looked as if they could truly walk and talk
like real people. Mr. Poodle said that really and truly toys could walk
and talk.

Tommy and Helen laughed when Mr Poodle spoke that way, and Tommy said:
“Why, Mr. Poodle, toys can’t talk, they haven’t any tongues.” Then you
should have heard Mr. Poodle laugh. “Prut,” he said, “didn’t you know
toys don’t have to have tongues to talk? Now you listen and I will ask
Master Rolie Polie to sing for you.” Master Rolie Polie was the name
of a little clown. Mr. Poodle had a name for every one of his toys; he
said boys and girls {13} wouldn’t like to go through the world without
names, and neither did toys; and moreover, having names made them much
more sociable. Then Mr. Poodle introduced the clown to Helen and Tommy:
“Master Rolie Polie,” he said, “this lady and gentleman would like to
have you sing them a song. Let it be something funny, something jolly.”

Tommy and Helen now listened very quietly, and Mr. Poodle tilted back
his chair and beat time with his finger while he hummed the words of a
little song, just as if he were repeating them after the clown. When
he finished, he nodded his head approvingly and said: “Very good! Very
good, indeed! Thank you, Master Rolie Polie; that was a fine song and
no mistake.”

Helen and Tommy laughed at the funny song, and thanked Mr. Poodle.
“We liked the song very much,” said Tommy. “But I think, Mr. Poodle,
we never would have heard one single word if you had not been singing
also.”

Mr. Poodle then patted both of them on the head very kindly and said:
“Never mind, it certainly is a little hard in the beginning to hear
what the toy people say, because not having any tongues they cannot
talk plainly. But by and by, if you only try to learn and are patient,
you will get to know the toy language, and then you can understand
every bit as well as I do.”

Helen and Tommy thought that would be fine, and said they were sure
they could be patient.

After that, Mr. Poodle had two little soldiers, Captain Hinkle Pinkle
of the infantry and Captain Noddle Poddle of the cavalry, lead their
armies in a wonderful battle.

During the excitement of this battle no one noticed the entrance of a
stranger. Had Tommy looked, he would {14} have seen the man to be that
same big ruffian who had chased him through the dark street the night
he came to the toy shop. A sly look appeared in the man’s eyes as he
caught sight of Tommy, and a wicked smile twisted the corners of his
mouth. Then he turned to the door, and, lifting the latch, quickly left
the toy shop.

[Illustration: After the Battle.]

Helen was glad when the war ended for it frightened her and besides she
did not like battles, so she thought she would go home to her mamma.
But Tommy said: “Don’t you be afraid Helen, I was holding your hand
and I would not let any of the soldiers hurt you.” {15}

“Did the soldiers really and truly fight, Tommy?” Helen asked, when
they were again seated in the pile of yellow, curly shavings. “Didn’t
Mr. Poodle move them about with his hand, and wasn’t it he who blew
upon the trumpet?”

“O, yes, the soldiers certainly were fighting,” said Tommy. “When Mr.
Poodle moved them, he did only what the captains ordered. Didn’t you
hear Captain Pinkle and Captain Poddle shouting their commands, Helen?”

“Yes, I think, I did,” said Helen. “Which captain do you think was the
best fighter, Tommy?”

“I believe captain Poddle was the best fighter,” said Tommy. “Don’t you
think Captain Poddle was the best, Helen?”

“I don’t know,” said Helen. “I think Captain Pinkle was a very brave
fighter, too, and I wished he had a horse to ride, like Captain
Poddle’s.”

“Yes,” said Tommy, “Captain Pinkle was a brave fighter. I think
they were both brave fighters; don’t you think they were both brave
fighters, Helen?”

When Mr. Poodle heard these words of the children, he said: “Well,
well, well, you certainly are getting clever at learning the toy
language. I think you must know it now nearly as well as I do. That is
because you love the toy people and they love you. What do you say to
our taking a trip tomorrow to Toyville?”

“Toyville?” asked Helen and Tommy. “Please, Mr. Poodle, where is
Toyville?”

Mr. Poodle laughed when he heard that question. “O, dear,” he said,
“the idea of any little boys or girls not knowing about Toyville! that
really is most absurd. Why, Toyville is the finest and jolliest little
city to be found {16} anywhere in the whole world. I thought everybody
knew about Toyville.”

“Won’t you please tell us some more?” asked Helen and Tommy. “Is it
very far away, Mr. Poodle? Can we really and truly go there?”

“Yes,” said Mr. Poodle, “we can really and truly go there. Toyville is
only a little way beyond the Hills of Troubleland; it lies in the Vale
of Joy, which, by some people is called the Valley of Happiness. Once
upon a time, so long ago, indeed, that nobody living now can remember
exactly how long, there wasn’t any Toyville. Then, one day, some of the
Toy people made the perilous trip through the Hills of Troubleland, and
upon coming into the Vale of Joy, found the land so beautiful that they
at once set about the building of a little city. By and by, other Toy
people came that way, and the city grew and grew until it covered all
the valley.”

“Will Captain Pinkle, Captain Poddle and Rolie Polie go there to live
some time?” asked Tommy.

“And will my dolly go there, too, Mr. Poodle?” asked Helen.

“Yes,” said Mr. Poodle, “all the Toy people go there sometime unless
they get lost by the way, somewhere in the Hills of Troubleland. You
see, first of all, the Toy people came into this world to live with
little boys and girls to play with them and make them happy. Some of
the Toy people go to one city, some to another, and some even go to
live in the country. The Toy people never care to what house they go if
there is only a boy or girl living there, but houses that are without
children are much too lonesome. {17}

“Sometimes boys and girls get tired of playing with the Toy people,
or they grow up and get so big feeling they think the games the Toy
people play are silly. And sometimes boys and girls are rough with the
Toy people, tossing them about until their joints get loose or even
broken, and their heads battered. Then, the Toy people, knowing there
is no longer a welcome for them, in those houses, feel sad and go off
to hide in a drawer somewhere, and by and by, even get up in the attic
hidden away behind boxes or trunks. They wait patiently for perhaps
almost a year, hoping every day to hear the children call for them;
but the children have forgotten all about their old playmates. Then,
one day, when it is raining and nobody can go out of doors, somebody
thinks about the Toy people and goes to search, first, in the drawer,
then in the attic. Alas, it is too late! the Toy people have gone, gone
for ever. Gone through the Hills of Troubleland into the Valley of
Happiness, where they are now living peacefully in their beautiful city
of Toyville.”

“Do the Toy people play and have fun in Toyville, Mr. Poodle?” asked
Tommy.

“Fun!” How Mr. Poodle did laugh when he repeated that word. “Yes,
indeed, they have fun,” he said. “Of course, the older people have
work to do; like flower gardens to plant; and orchards and such things
to tend; but the little Toy people have more fun than I can ever find
words to tell about. Why, everybody can sing and laugh and have ever
and ever so much sport. Nobody in Toyville cares one single mite how
much noise is made. They all think it the finest kind of fun to see
the little Toy people have a good time. If the little Toy people want
to, {18} they can get down on their knees and play, and never wear out
their stockings. If the little Toy people want to dig in the dirt and
make mud pies, or build forts, or play grocery store, their clothes or
their hands and faces never get at all soiled, because the dirt there
is not one bit dirty. Yes indeed, Toyville is certainly a fine place in
which to have fun.”

Mr. Poodle now looked at the clock. “O me, O my,” said he; “it is
almost supper time, and here I am talking away as if we never had to
bother about eating. Run along now, but come back early to-morrow and I
will have everything ready for our journey to Toyville.”

That night when Helen’s mamma was tucking her up cosily in bed so she
would have happy dreams, Helen said: “Mamma, to-morrow Mr. Poodle is
going to take Tommy and me for a visit to Toyville.”

“That will be lovely,” said Helen’s mamma. “Toyville is a very fine
place, indeed.” Then she kissed Helen good-night, and soon the little
girl was fast asleep.

Helen was at the toymaker’s bright and early the next morning. She
brought a little basket in which were some nice chicken sandwiches and
two rosy red apples for herself and Tommy.

Helen told Tommy her mamma thought that on a trip to Toyville they
would need some lunch. “And,” she continued, “Mamma said we might
remain in Toyville all day if we wished, and Mr. Poodle is willing.”

Mr. Poodle’s eyes went twinkling again when he heard Helen talking
to Tommy. Then he told Helen her mamma was very thoughtful and kind
to prepare such a fine lunch, {22} and he said there was no telling
what might happen on a trip of this kind, though he expected to find
plenty of good things to eat in Toyville. “Everything is now ready,”
said he. “I have sent a Messenger ahead to tell the Toy people we are
coming, and I expect they will greet us with a royal welcome. The Mayor
and his councillors, or, at least, a company of the Toyville Guards
will probably meet us at the gates on the other side of the Hills of
Troubleland.”

While Tommy was busily engaged packing the lunch into a little express
wagon, Mr. Poodle left the work room to wait upon two customers who had
just entered the shop. He did not at all like their looks and began to
wonder what might be their errand, as they were certainly ruffians and
could hardly have come to buy toys.

His first thought was a desire to be rid of them, and with this in
mind, he made some apology about it being early and the shop not yet
open for business.

At first, the men seemed somewhat ill at ease, but before Mr. Poodle
could finish speaking, the smaller and coarser of the pair turned upon
him roughly. “We will stay right here until we are through with you,”
he said; “and don’t give us any more of your fine talk either. Do you
hear?”

Meanwhile his companion had glanced into the back room and saw Tommy.
“Leave this to me,” he whispered. “The boy is here and I have thought
of a plan.” Then he turned to the toymaker. “You are right, sir,” he
said, in a voice smooth and oily. “The day certainly is young. We beg
your pardon for having disturbed you so early. You see, we are about to
leave the city and would like {23} a few toys to take to the children
at home; say this, and this, and that,” and throwing, as he spoke, a
gold piece upon the counter. “Never mind the change. Perhaps you have
a boy who will deliver these. Pray send him soon, as we depart in an
hour. Send to the Inn at the sign of the Black Lion.” Then, without
waiting for a reply, they opened the door and were gone.

Mr. Poodle looked at the gold piece: “A big price to pay for a few
toys,” he thought. Then he looked at the toys. Captain Hinkle Pinkle,
Captain Noddle Poddle and Rolie Polie were the ones the man bought. Mr.
Poodle did not like to sell these, they were such friends of Tommy and
Helen. But now it was too late, he had the money and there was nothing
he could do except to put them in a box for Tommy to take to the Black
Lion Inn.

Tommy was glad to help Mr. Poodle by going the errand and said he would
hurry, so as not to delay the journey to Toyville. Then taking the box
of toys he trudged off up the street and soon came in sight of the big
Black Lion sign hanging over the door of an old brick and timbered
house.

“Why this is the street where the man chased me,” he thought, “and this
is the house where I first saw him. I will be glad when I get back
again to Mr. Poodle’s toy shop.” Just then a company of soldiers came
galloping around a corner further down the street. Tommy turned to
lift the latch, but before he could do this, the door swung open and a
hand grabbed him roughly and pulled him over the threshold, while the
door was quickly closed and barred. The big room in which he now found
himself, was lit only by one sputtering candle which winked and {24}
blinked upon the wall like the eye of some evil monster. By this dim
light he could make out four rough men.

Tommy was now thoroughly frightened. His heart was beating very loud.
He did not like to seem to be a coward, but he felt sure those rough
men meant to harm him. “I will drop the basket and run,” he thought.
Then he remembered about the door being locked.

[Illustration: Tommy.]

“Ha, ha, ha!” laughed one of the men. “So my little bird would spread
his wings and fly, would he? Well, we must clip those wings then.” As
he spoke, he clutched Tommy roughly by the shoulder.

Now whether the man pulled Tommy off his feet, or whether the little
fellow’s trembling knees would no {25} longer support him, I do not
know. But in a moment he was lying on the floor with his head against
the edge of the toy box.

His head felt very numb, and he was very sleepy, and he wondered why
the men were binding him with such a heavy cord. Then he wondered why
there were so many horses galloping out in the street, and why there
was such loud beating on the door. He thought he heard someone call to
him, but by some other name he had heard long ago. At last he went to
sleep.

CRASH!

What was that? Tommy opened wide his eyes. There were confused voices
in his ear; then he heard a whisper. “Be quiet, be brave; we will help
you. I am Rolie Polie. Captain Hinkle Pinkle and Captain Noddle Poddle
are with me. We will rescue you.”

“Can you fight? Can you save me? Why how can you save me?” asked Tommy.
“You are only toys?”

“Hush!” said Rolie Polie. “Don’t speak, or they will hear you. Get on
your feet and follow us.”

Tommy wasn’t long in obeying. Hinkle Pinkle and Noddle Poddle had
swords drawn and led the way. Out through the back rooms they went,
into the kitchen then on into the back yard. From the yard to a side
street and off to the toy shop, they hurried with all possible speed.

“Is everything ready for the journey?” Tommy called, the minute he saw
Mr. Poodle.

“Yes, everything is ready,” answered the toymaker.

“Then we must hurry,” said Tommy. “The ruffians are after us.” {26}

“All right,” said Mr. Poodle, “give the order and we will start.”

Tommy assisted Helen to mount to the back of her beautiful horse,
called Snow White. And, after mounting Coal Black, his own fine
charger, he gave the order:

In quick response to Tommy’s command, the whole company started. First,
of all, walked Mr. Poodle; next, came Tommy and Helen riding their
beautiful horses; then, Captain Noddle Poddle, who rode at the head
of his company of cavalry; and after him, came Captain Hinkle Pinkle
leading his brave command of infantry. Next, in line, was the express
wagon; and last of all rode Rolie Polie, sitting astride a funny little
donkey.

At first, Mr. Poodle hesitated about having the little clown
accompanying them; he thought Rolie Polie was such a tricky fellow he
would be sure to get into no end of mischief. But he finally yielded to
the wishes of Helen and Tommy, much to their delight. {30}

Presently, Mr. Poodle spoke earnestly with Captain Pinkle and Captain
Poddle, cautioning them to keep their soldiers near at hand and be
ready in case of any attack from pirates, or bandits, or ruffians.

Tommy jumped when Mr. Poodle said that. “Why, Mr. Poodle,” he asked,
“are there pirates and bandits in Toyville?”

“Well,” said Mr. Poodle, “I don’t think we will find any in Toyville,
but there may be some lurking in the hills by the way. The crusty King
of Grumbletown does not like the people of Toyville very well; he is
always threatening to make war on them and keeps his ruffians and
bandits spying around to see what is happening in Toyville. I suppose
when he hears that visitors are on the road, he will be more angry than
ever, for he will not want a boy and girl to go to Toyville and teach
the Toy people new tricks.”

“Is Grumbletown near Toyville, Mr. Poodle?” inquired Tommy.

“Oh yes,” said Mr. Poodle, “Toyville is at the lower end of the valley,
and Grumbletown is at the other end, but the valley bends about a big
hill which lies between the two realms.”

“I do not think Grumbletown is a pretty name,” said Helen. “Why is it
called Grumbletown, Mr. Poodle?”

“Well dear,” said Mr. Poodle, “the name came about in this way: one
time it fell to the luck of some toys to go and live with boys and
girls who were always complaining or fault finding, and who never were
contented and happy. Of course, when this happened, the toys were
sure to learn all manner of disagreeable ways, and became {31} ill
behaved and grumbly. Then, by and by, they ran away to the Hills of
Troubleland, and in place of going on to the happy and prosperous city
of Toyville, went further up the valley and founded a new realm, which,
because of all its subjects being grumble toys was given the name of
Grumbletown.”

“Are there many people living in Grumbletown, Mr. Poodle?” asked Tommy.

“Yes, there are,” said Mr. Poodle, “I am sorry to say it is quite a
large realm and is constantly growing larger, because the toys of
children who complain and find fault always go to Grumbletown in place
of Toyville. The King of Grumbletown is a sly and crafty old pirate,
called Red Beard, and sometime, if he becomes too powerful, he will
make war on the peaceful, contented Toy people.”

It was a long, long way the happy little company now travelled; through
winding valleys they went and over towering hills until at last,
after crossing one high hill, there spread before them, all at once,
the broad walls and beautiful gate at the entrance to the Valley of
Happiness. On the gate there was painted a black rooster, and standing
on guard at each side, was a brave little soldier.

As soon as Mr. Poodle and his company came in sight, the two soldiers
saluted, then holding their muskets at present arms, waited for the
visitors to approach.

When Mr. Poodle reached the gate, he lifted the heavy knocker and gave
three loud raps. At the third rap the gate swung open, and there they
were right on the edge of the Kingdom of Toyville, with the sounds of
the city coming faintly through the hills from far down in the little
Valley of Happiness. {32}

Mr. Poodle now seemed very much surprised and the look in his eyes
showed that he was also a little worried.

“What is the matter, Mr. Poodle?” asked Tommy, kindly. “Haven’t we come
the right way?”

“Oh, yes,” said Mr. Poodle, “this is the right road to Toyville; but
I am very much surprised that none of the Toy people are waiting to
meet us. I expected to find a company of cavalry at this gate and even
thought the Mayor and some of the Nobles would come to escort us to the
city. It is certainly most strange that no one is here, for I sent a
Messenger to tell them we were coming. It is not at all like the Toy
people to treat guests in this way. I hope the Messenger has not been
captured by the bold brigands or bandits.”

When Mr. Poodle stopped speaking, Tommy and Helen thought they heard
someone laughing behind a clump of bushes not far away; but as Mr.
Poodle either did not hear it, or if he heard, he paid no attention,
they said nothing about the matter, but followed him through the gate
and into the new land.

Now we must leave the little company, for one chapter, and tell of what
happened to that little Messenger Peter Poodle had sent on ahead to
Toyville.

It would have been as well for Peter Poodle and his happy company to
have searched a little in the bushes, before travelling further on
their journey. Had this been done, it is more than probable it would
have led to a surprising discovery.

When Mr. Poodle told Tommy and Helen that the King of Grumbletown had
ruffians and bandits lurking about, spying in the hills, he spoke what
was certainly true, but {36} he told only one half of the story. He
did not know that Red Beard had sent not only his bandits, but also his
three bold and crafty Buccaneers, who, having recently returned from
a pirate cruise, were anxious for a little fighting and plundering on
land.

Now, as oft happens in this world, a body sometimes has Luck tripping
along for his wayfellow, and sometimes it is Ill Luck that goes kicking
up the dust at his side. Ill Luck was the fellow that went travelling
with the Messenger Peter Poodle had sent to Toyville, and this is what
happened: No sooner had the three Buccaneers entered the Hills of
Troubleland than they saw coming down the road, the little Messenger.

“Oh, ho!” cried Big Bill, the captain, “here is our chance to take a
captive!” Then he ordered his men to advance, and the next minute the
messenger was captured and Big Bill had found the message to the Mayor
of Toyville.

The captain of the three Buccaneers was not much at spelling out
letters, so it took him a long while to get to the end of the message.
But finally, after reading it all, he laughed long and loudly.

“Ha, ha, ha! my hearties,” said he (which is the way a Buccaneer
captain always speaks to his men when there is something of importance
afoot). “Ha, ha, ha! Here is a fine kettle of fish for sure and
certain, and all ready to be cooked! I guess we are the fellows to
do the cooking, too! Listen, my hearties: Peter Poodle, that little
toymaker from over the hills, is going to visit Toyville. Here is a
message he sends to the Mayor, and it says he is going to bring a boy
and a girl with him. What do you think our King in Grumbletown would
say to that?” {37}

The two Buccaneers looked at Big Bill, their captain, and neither one
knew what to answer.

“I will tell you, my hearties, what our King would say. He would say,
‘We don’t want any boy and girl going to Toyville to teach the Toy
people new tricks, so Bill, you must capture them.’ That is what the
king would say. Now, what I want to ask, my hearties, is this: how are
we going to make the capture?”

The two Buccaneers again looked at Big Bill, and again neither one
could answer.

Big Bill thrust his two hands into his pockets and walked to and fro
in deep thought. Finally a bright idea came to him. “I have it now, my
hearties,” he said. “We must find a good place to hide by the roadside,
and make an ambush; then when they pass by, most likely this boy and
girl will be lagging along behind, looking at the sights, and we can
spring out and take them by surprise; after that we will carry them
captive to Grumbletown.”

The two Buccaneers looked at each other with eyes almost bulging out
of their heads. “My, oh my, Bill, but you certainly are a fine one at
making plans!” they said. Then taking hold of Big Bill’s hands the
three began to dance and skip about like crazy people.

Big Bill now unfastened the bonds of the Messenger, and bowing politely
to him, said he was very sorry they had treated him so harshly. “You
see,” said he, “there are so many ruffians and bandits lurking about
in the hills, we have to be careful whom we allow to pass. We hope
you will forgive us, and that you will accept our invitation to have
something to eat before travelling any further along the road to the
city of Toyville.” {38}

Big Bill spoke to the Messenger, just the politest that could be, for
he wanted to get rid of him without his being suspicious, and yet he
wanted to delay the delivery of the message until its arrival would be
too late for the Mayor to send anyone to meet Mr. Poodle.

The Messenger said he certainly would be glad to have something to eat
with Big Bill and his companions, and as for blaming them for handling
him so roughly, he could never think of doing that, because he knew it
must be important to have such good guards in Toyville to protect the
city from the wicked ruffians of Grumbletown.

The two Buccaneers expected Big Bill would give the Messenger a good
drubbing for speaking that way, but though their captain looked a
little glum, he did no more than order them to build a camp fire and
prepare a good dinner. After eating a hearty meal, the Messenger
thanked Big Bill for the entertainment and again took up his journey
down the road to Toyville.

Big Bill and one of his men set out to find a good place for the
ambush, the other Buccaneer was left behind at the gate to watch for
the expected visitors so he could warn Big Bill of their approach.
His laughing was the sound that Helen and Tommy heard when Mr. Poodle
expressed the hope that his little Messenger had not been captured by
bandits.