Written by Laura Lee Hope.
“Catch me! Save me! Catch me before I fall off the shelf and break to pieces!” squeaked the Rolling Mouse.
“Don’t be afraid! I’m right here!” trumpeted the Stuffed Elephant.
On his sturdy legs, big and round and stuffed with cotton, the Elephant stepped to the edge of the shelf. As quickly as the waving Cat could blink her eyes, the Elephant reached across with the tip of his trunk and caught the Rolling Mouse just as she was going to slip over the edge of the shelf.
Holding her very gently, so as not to squeeze the breath out of the Mouse, the Elephant lifted the tiny creature up in the air, keeping her there until her spring ran down. Then, in a spirit of fun, he reached around and set the Mouse down on his broad back.
“There you are!” laughed the Stuffed Elephant in his hearty voice. “There you are, Miss Mouse!”
“Yes, but where am I? Oh, so high up as I am! Oh, where am I?” squeaked the little mouse.
“You’re up on my back,” laughed the jolly Elephant toy. “Don’t be afraid. Stay there and I’ll give you a ride to where you came from. Which shelf do you belong on?”
“Oh, put me down! Oh, I’m so afraid I’ll fall off!” cried the tiny mouse. “It is almost as high up here, on your back, as it would be to fall to the floor from the shelf. Do please put me down, kind Mr. Elephant!”
“Don’t be silly, Miss Mouse!” brayed the Nodding Donkey. “The Elephant is good and strong, and he is also careful. He will not let you fall.”
“Are you sure?” asked the little Mouse, trembling.
“Of course I will not let you fall!” chuckled the Elephant. “Just stay quietly on my back, and I’ll take you where you came from.”
“But maybe her wheels will go around again and make her roll off,” remarked the Sawdust Doll.
“No, the spring unwound as I slid across the shelf,” said the Rolling Mouse. “I’m all right now. Mr. Mugg wound me up to-day to show me to a little boy. But the boy wanted a pair of skates, and not a mouse like me. So Mr. Mugg put me down on the shelf without letting my spring unwind. He stuck me up against a Tin Soldier, and the Soldier kept me from rolling around. But just now the Soldier came out to look at the new Stuffed Elephant and that left nothing to hold me back, and away I rolled.”
“Oh, I’m sorry,” said the Tin Soldier, touching his red cap in a salute to Miss Mouse.
“It’s okay, I know you didn’t mean to do it,” said the Mouse toy, with a smile that made her whiskers wiggle. “But I do wish you’d put me down, Mr. Elephant. I am nervous up on your back, broad and big as it is.”
“All right, Miss Rolling Mouse, I’ll lift you down,” trumpeted the Elephant. “And here you are at your own place on the shelf.”
The big toy, stuffed as he was with cotton, reached back with his trunk, gently picked up the mouse in it, and set her down where she had started to roll from. As she had said, the wheels no longer whizzed around, as the spring which made them move had all uncoiled. It had “run down,” as it is called.
“There you are!” went on the Elephant, after he had gently put down the Mouse toy. “Any time you are afraid of falling off the shelf, just call for me and I’ll save you with my trunk.”
“You are very kind,” said the Mouse. “And so big and strong!”
“Isn’t he big, though!” giggled the Sawdust Doll. “I wonder if he is strong enough to give me a ride on his back?”
“Of course he is!” brayed the Nodding Donkey.
“Do you want a ride on my back, Miss Sawdust Doll?” asked the good-natured Elephant. “All right! Up you go!”
With a swing of his trunk he set the Doll on his back as he had done with the Mouse. Then the Stuffed Elephant carefully walked around among the other toys, taking care not to step on any of them.
“I’m glad the Elephant has come to stay with us,” whispered another little Doll. “I’d love to ride on his back, but I don’t like to ask him.”
“I’ll ask for you if you’re too shy to do it,” said the Calico Clown, and he did.
“Why, of course I’ll take you for a ride, too, Little Doll,” chuckled the Elephant. “I’ll give you all a ride in turns—that is all but the very largest toys. They might make my seams come open and the cotton stuffing puff out.”
For the Elephant was made of gray cloth, you know, and he was sewn together, his tusks of wood being stuck in on either side of his trunk.
“I thought Elephants were always afraid of mice,” said the Little Doll, when she was having her ride.
“Pooh! Me? Afraid of a little mouse!” laughed the big Elephant. “I guess not! What made you think that?”
“It’s in some of the story books,” went on the tiny Little Doll. “The story says real, live elephants are afraid of mice because they fear the tiny creatures will crawl up their nose holes in their trunks.”
“That may be all right for real, live elephants,” laughed the big, stuffed toy. “But I am only make-believe, you know, like the rest of you toys. The Rolling Mouse couldn’t get up my nose.”
“And if I could I wouldn’t, because you have been so kind to me,” squeaked the little mouse toy. “Next time I ride on your back I shall not be so afraid.”
“Would you like to ride now, Miss Mouse?” asked the Elephant, as he set down with his trunk a Fuzzy Duck who had just been given a ride around the shelf.
“Oh, no, thank you; not now,” answered the Mouse. “And I think it will soon be time for us to stop our make-believe fun. It will be morning in a little while, and you know we can’t talk or laugh or do anything in daylight, when Mr. Mugg or his daughters or any customers are in the store.”
“I hope the Elephant will have time to tell us a little of what has happened in the workshop since we came away,” said a Rocking Horse, who had been in the toy store a long time.
“Yes, do tell us!” begged the other playthings.
“I will,” said the Elephant.
So the Elephant, swaying on his four big legs, in the same way that real elephants do, told the latest news from the workshop, where he had recently come with the box of other toys.
“Is Papa Sam as jolly as ever?” asked the Tin Horse.
“Just as jolly!” replied the Elephant. “More so, if anything. His whiskers are a little longer, and his cheeks are a little redder, but that is all. I heard him tell some of his workmen, as they packed me in the box, that he hoped I’d like it in this toy shop.”
“You’re sure to like it,” said the Nodding Donkey. “A brother of mine used to be in this store, and he was given to a boy who took very good care of him.”
“And a sister of yours is owned by a little girl named Dorothy,” a Cloth Rabbit said to the Sawdust Doll. “She has lovely fun, your sister has.”
“You’ll very likely go to some boy. It seems to me you are too big a toy for a little girl,” said the Calico Clown to the Stuffed Elephant.
“I don’t think so, but what will happen then?” the Elephant asked.
But just then Mr. Mugg came in to open the shop for the day, and the toys had to stop talking and pretend to be stiff and unable to move. They always had to be this way when any one looked at them.
“Well,” said Mr. Mugg, as he and his daughters began dusting the toys, ready for the day’s business, “Time to open soon, and we shall be losing some of our toys.”
“You mean people will come in to buy them,” smiled Geraldine.
“Yes,” her father answered.
“Well, I hope this lovely, big Stuffed Elephant goes to someone who will take good care of him,” remarked Angelina, as she moved the big toy farther front on the shelf. “Oh, my!” she exclaimed. “His back is all dusty!”
“Dusty!” cried Geraldine. “Did you let him fall on the floor?”
“Indeed I did not! He hasn’t been off this shelf or moved since he was taken out of the box last night.”
“Then I wonder how this dust got on his back.”
“I haven’t the faintest idea,” answered Angelina. “But I’ll take it off with a brush.” And this she did.
Of course you know how the dust got on the Elephant’s back. It came from the toys who rode him along the shelf. And, though neither of the Mugg sisters knew it, the Elephant had moved from his place on the shelf. He had walked all about it.
People began to come into the store to look about and see what they could find.
Among those who passed by the shelf on which the Stuffed Elephant stood, was a jolly-looking man, wearing a big heavy coat, for the day was cold and it was snowing outside.
“Oh!” exclaimed the man, as he saw the Stuffed Elephant. “This is just what my son Archie wants—an Elephant! I’ll get this for him, as he told me he wanted a Stuffed Elephant more than anything else.”
“This Elephant is just in from the workshop,” said Angelina Mugg, as she stepped up to wait on the man.
“Is he, indeed?”
“Yes, he was taken out of the box only last night. He is well made and strong, and he has heaps and heaps of cotton stuffing inside him. Even if he fell over on a little baby, this big Elephant would do no harm, as he is so soft.”
“He is, indeed,” said the man, feeling the toy. “I suppose he doesn’t bite?” he added, looking at Miss Angelina and smiling.
“Oh, of course he doesn’t bite!” laughed Miss Mugg. “Shall I have him sent to your house so your son Archie can have him?”
“Thank you, but I think I will take the Elephant with me,” said Mr. Dunn. “I have my car outside, and the Elephant will not catch a cold.”
“I’m glad of that,” said Miss Angelina. Very often she used to make believe the toys were real, and alive, and could catch a cold, and become sick. Of course she did not know that the toys really could move about after dark, when no one saw them.
“Yes, I’ll take the Elephant with me,” went on Mr. Dunn. That boy of mine just loves animal toys!”
A little later the Stuffed Elephant was standing in among some other packages in the back of the car. On the front seat Mr. Dunn was guiding the car through the storm, for it was snowing hard.
“My! This reminds me of the workshop” thought the Elephant, as he looked out of the windows of the car and saw white flakes swirling about. “The ground is covered, too!”
It had been snowing some time before Mr. Dunn went into the toy store, and now he was having hard work to make his car plow through the drifts on the way home.
“They took me away in such a hurry I had no time to say good-bye to any of my toy friends,” thought the Elephant, as he snuggled down in the blanket in the rear of the car. For elephants need to be kept warm, you know—that is, real ones, and this Stuffed Elephant made believe he was real.
“But of course I shouldn’t have dared say anything with people around,” thought the toy. “I hope I see some of them again, for it wasn’t very polite to go away as I did without saying goodbye.”
All at once, as the car was rolling along quite fast, it came to a sudden stop, with a bump and a jerk.
“Hello! We’re stuck!” cried the man. “I must see if I can break through this snowdrift.”
He backed the car and started ahead again, with the motor going full speed.
Bang! The car struck the snowdrift. There was a crash of glass.
“Oh, dear!” whispered the Elephant to himself, for he went toppling, legs over head, out through a broken window of the car. Into a deep snowdrift stuck the poor Stuffed Elephant.
“Oh, this is terrible!” sighed the toy. “Oh, I am so cold!”