Written by Laura Lee Hope.
Hearing the shouts of the children as they hurried back into the room where they had been playing, Archie’s mother came to see what the matter was.
“Oh, Mother!” exclaimed Archie. “Look! The Clown is riding on my Elephant’s back! Isn’t he funny?”
“He looks very odd!” said Mrs. Dunn. “Who put him up there? Did you lift Sidney’s Calico Clown to your Stuffed Elephant’s back, Archie?”
“Oh, no, Mother!” Archie answered. “It wasn’t me.”
“It wasn’t me,” said Elsie.
“And I didn’t, either,” said the other children in turn.
“Well,” said Mrs. Dunn, looking from one to the other, “of course the Clown couldn’t have gotten up on the Elephant’s back by himself, and of course the Elephant couldn’t have lifted him there with his trunk. Though I know a live clown could jump on a live elephant’s back, and a live elephant could lift a live clown up in his trunk. But these are only toys. They must be moved about.”
“Well, I didn’t put the Clown there,” said Archie again.
“Nor I!” echoed the other children.
And while this talk was going on the Elephant, the Clown, and the other toys were very much worried that their part in the fun would be found out. Of course we know how the Clown got on the Elephant’s back, but Mrs. Dunn did not, nor did the children. They didn’t know that the toys had the power to make believe come to life when no one was watching them.
“If they had only stayed out of the room a little longer, I would have had a chance to slip down off of the Elephant’s back, and all would be well,” thought the Calico Clown. “But, coming in so quickly, they caught me! I hope they never find out about us having fun when they are out of the room, or they will never leave us toys alone.”
“How do you s’pose that Clown got on my Elephant?” asked Archie of his mother, a little later.
“I think some of you children must have put him there, and forgotten about it,” said Mrs. Dunn.
“No! No!” the children cried.
“Well, then Nip must have been playing with the Clown and just dropped him on the Elephant’s back,” said Mrs. Dunn. Nip was Archie’s dog, a great big fellow, but very kind and good, and especially fond of children. He was called Nip because he used to playfully nip, or pretend to bite, cats. He never really bit them, though.
“But Nip isn’t here to take the Clown up in his mouth and put him on my Elephant,” Archie said.
“Oh, I guess your dog ran in here while you were out in the other room, eating the cake and drinking the milk,” Mrs. Dunn said. “Then Nip ran out again, after dropping the Clown. Anyhow, we don’t need to worry about it. Go on with your fun.”
This the children did. And having seen the Clown on the Elephant, Dorothy wanted to have her Sawdust Doll ride in the same way. So the Clown was lifted off and the Doll was lifted on.
“Oh, I’m having my wish! I’m having my wish!” joyfully thought the Sawdust Doll to herself, as she was put on the Elephant’s back, and Archie pulled the big, stuffed animal around the room.
The Elephant, too, was glad to give his friend the Doll a ride on his back as he had carried the Rolling Mouse and the other toys, though of course he could not speak and tell her so, for there were children in the room. The Doll, too, would have been glad to thank Mr. Elephant, but it was not allowed.
So all the Stuffed Elephant could do was to swing his cloth trunk to and fro, as Archie pulled him over the smooth floor, and all the Sawdust Doll could do was to wave her arms a little.
The children thought it was such fun to give the smaller toys rides on the back of the big, Stuffed Elephant that they shouted and laughed with glee, making a great deal of noise. And there was more noise when Richard, who owned the White Rocking Horse, came over with his friend Herbert, who had a toy Monkey on a Stick.
“Oh, my dear children! You are making so much noise!” called Mrs. Dunn, entering the front room. “Don’t you want to go out in our big barn and play?”
“Isn’t it cold out in the barn?” asked Mirabell, as she looked from the window and saw the big snowflakes falling. “I wouldn’t want my Lamb to catch a cold.”
“Oh, It isn’t cold in our barn,” Archie answered. “It has steam heat, ’cause my father doesn’t want the horses to catch a cold. And he doesn’t want the water in our car to freeze, either, so he has steam heat in our barn.”
“And it’s warm and cozy,” added Elsie. “Oh, out there we can have a lot of fun!”
“Let’s go out there then,” said Joe. “My Donkey likes it in barns, I guess.”
“And so will my Elephant!” called Archie.
A little later the children were running over the snow to the big barn on Mr. Dunn’s country estate. The gardener had shoveled a path through the snow from the house to the barn; so the children would not get their feet wet. Each child carried some toy, and Archie had all he could do to clasp the big elephant in his arms. For Archie was a small boy and the Elephant was one of the largest toys.
Once, on the way from the house to the barn, Archie, carrying the Elephant, stumbled and nearly fell.
“Oh!” cried the little boy, as he slipped along the snowy path. “Oh!”
The Elephant wanted to cry “Oh!” also, but he dared not. He felt shivery and frightened, though, as he saw the banks of snow on either side of him.
“I don’t want to be thrown into another drift, head first,” he thought to himself.
But Archie did not fall, and the Elephant did not get a second bath in the snow, for which he was very glad.
Into the warm barn trooped the children with their toys, some old and some new. Jake, the man who looked after the horses, giving them oats from a big bin, and hay from the loft, opened the doors for the children, and laughed to see how happy they were.
“We’re going to play here and have a lot of fun, Jake!” called Archie. “See my big Elephant! I just got him!”
“He is a fine fellow,” Jake agreed. “Shall I put him in a stall as I do the horses?”
“No, we are going to keep him here to play with,” said Archie. “And I think I’ll get a little hay to make believe feed him.”
“Well, be careful,” warned Jake. “Don’t fall off the haymow.”
The haymow was a big place in the barn where the dried grass (which is what hay is, you know) was stored away. While the other children were having fun with their toys, Archie climbed to the mow to get some hay for his Elephant.
Now dried hay is slippery, as you know if you have ever tried to climb up a pile of it in a barn. And no sooner was Archie at the top of the mow than down he slid, on the hill of hay.
“Oh, I’m falling!” he cried, and his sister and the other children came running to see what would happen.
Archie slid down the haymow toward the floor of the barn. And it seemed as if he would get a hard bump. But, as it happened, a lot of the hay slid along with the little boy, and it was under him when he struck the barn floor. So he fell on the hay, which was like a cushion, and Archie wasn’t hurt in the least. In fact he rather liked it.
“Oh, this is fun!” he cried. “I’m going to slide down the haymow some more!”
Again he climbed to the top, and down he slid, sitting upright as though on a chair. Again he slipped over the edge of the mow and fell on the pile of hay on the barn floor.
“Hurray!” shouted Joe, whose leg was no longer hurt and could play like other boys. “I’m going to try that too!”
He did, as did the other boys and girls, and soon they had forgotten their toys for the time being, in the newer fun of sliding down the hay. So the Elephant, the Donkey, and the different make-believe animals were left to themselves in a distant part of the barn.
“This is our chance,” said the Donkey to the Elephant. “Let’s walk around. My legs are stiff, especially the one that was broken and which Mr. Mugg mended.”
“Yes, a little walk will do us good,” agreed the Elephant. “I am a bit stiff myself, and I want to swing my trunk.”
So the Donkey and Elephant, making believe come to life, walked about the barn floor, while the children were farther off, sliding down the haymow.
There were many strange things in the barn—at least strange to the Elephant and Donkey. There were garden tools of all sorts, rakes, hoes, shovels and picks. There were strange pieces of machinery for cutting hay, planting corn and potatoes, and the like.
In one corner was a big wheel, with a rope around it, and for a moment the Elephant thought his friend the Spinning Wheel had come out to the barn to play. But a second look showed that this wheel was larger, stronger and different in every way.
“I wonder what this wheel and rope are for?” said the Elephant to the Nodding Donkey.
“I don’t know, I’m sure,” brayed the nodding toy.
Just then the wheel turned slowly, and the long, dangling rope swayed to and fro.
“I wonder what this is for!” went on the Elephant. Like most animals he was curious about something he did not understand, just as your cat or dog will try to find out what causes a strange noise.
“Why don’t you reach up with your trunk and feel it?” asked the Donkey. “I have heard you say your trunk was almost like a hand to you.”
“It is,” the Elephant answered. “I will feel the rope and wheel and see what it is like.”
As the children were in another part of the barn, having fun in the haymow, and as there were no prying eyes to watch, the Elephant could do as he pleased. He raised his trunk and stretched it toward the dangling rope.
And then, all of a sudden, something happened. The rope turned and twisted like a snake, a loop of it wound around the Elephant’s trunk, and a moment later he felt himself being lifted off the barn floor in the rope’s coils. Through the air, like the pendulum of a big clock, he swayed, and as the rope pulled tighter and tighter the poor Elephant cried:
“Oh, my dear friend Nodding Donkey! I am in a terrible state! The rope is so tight! Oh, what shall I do?”