Written by Laura Lee Hope.
“Let me go! Oh, please put me down! Where are you taking me?” called the Stuffed Elephant to Nip, the big dog.
Nip did not answer. This was not because he could not speak the toy language or the language of the Stuffed Elephants. But Nip held Archie’s plaything in his mouth, and you know a dog can’t even bark when he has something in his mouth. He can only growl.
Now, Nip was not a bad dog. And though he was playing a trick on the Stuffed Elephant, still Nip was not angry enough to do any growling. So he just kept still, and trotted along the barn floor, carrying the Elephant.
Nip, being a big dog, had no trouble carrying the Stuffed Elephant, though the toy was rather large. Stuffed with cotton, as the Elephant was, he was not very heavy, you see.
“Stop! Oh, please let me go! Where are you taking me?” asked the Elephant again.
But Nip never answered a word. All the dog had said at first was:
“I am going to carry you away!”
And he seemed to be doing this.
Through the barn he trotted with the Stuffed Elephant in his mouth. The Elephant had never been in this part of the barn before. Archie and Elsie never came here to play. It was too dark, and rather dusty and dirty, with cobwebs hanging down from the walls and ceiling.
Down the stairs trotted Nip, still carrying the Elephant. The dog trotted over to a dim and dusty corner, dropped the toy upside down on the floor and then barked:
“There you are! Now let’s see you find your way back! I’ll teach you to scare me by make believing your trunk is a snake!”
“Oh, but I didn’t do that! Really I didn’t!” exclaimed the Elephant, as he scrambled to his feet. He could move about and talk now, because no human eyes were there to watch him. “It was all an accident,” he went on. “The wind blew my trunk! I didn’t wave it at you to scare you by making you think it was a snake. Really I didn’t!”
“Yes, you did!” said Nip, and away he ran, soon being lost to sight in the darkness of this part of the barn.
For a little while the Stuffed Elephant stood there, swaying slowly to and fro, as real elephants do. He reached out with his trunk and gently touched the wooden walls. He could dimly see things all about him, but he did not know what they were.
“Oh, dear!” sighed the poor Stuffed Elephant. “I don’t like this at all! I wonder what I had better do?”
He was trying to think, and wondering if he could walk up the stairs and find his way back to the place where Archie had left him before Nip carried him away, when, suddenly, the Stuffed Elephant heard voices talking.
“Maybe he could settle it,” said one voice.
“Well, I’m willing to leave it to him if you are,” said a second.
“Who is he, anyhow?” asked a third voice.
“Oh, he’s some sort of animal,” went on the first voice. “He isn’t an angleworm, I know that much, but just what sort he is I don’t know. But he looks smart, and maybe he can settle this dispute for us.”
“I am a Stuffed Elephant, that’s who I am,” said Archie’s pet, speaking for himself. “And who are you, if you please? I can’t see any one, but I hear you talking. Who are you?”
“I am the Garden Shovel,” answered the first voice; “and I claim to be the most useful tool in all the world. Without me there never would be any garden, and things would not grow.”
“Nonsense!” exclaimed the second voice. “I am the Garden Rake, and I claim to be the most useful tool the gardener ever uses. Without me the ground would never be raked nice and smooth, so the seeds could be put in. I should get the prize for being the most useful.”
“How foolishly you talk!” put in the third voice. “Everyone knows that I am entitled to the prize. Talk about shoveling the ground, and raking the ground! What can you two do by yourselves, or together, for that matter, if the ground is hard? Answer me that. You must send for me, you know you must!”
“And who are you?” asked the Stuffed Elephant, for this tool had not yet named himself.
“I am the Pick,” was the answer. “And with my sharp points the hardest ground can be made soft, so the Rake and the Shovel can work. I am the most useful tool of all.”
“No, I am!” cried the Rake.
“Indeed you are not! I am!” exclaimed the Shovel.
“Well, there we are! Just where we started!” complained the Pick. “Why not leave it to this gentleman animal here. What did you say your name was?” he asked politely, and then Archie’s toy saw the Pick, the Rake and the Shovel step out from a dark corner and stand in a row before him.
“I am the Stuffed Elephant,” was the answer. “This is my first visit to this part of the barn. What is it you want me to do?”
“If this is your first visit you have never seen any of us before, have you?” asked the Shovel.
“Never before have I seen any of you,” the Elephant replied.
“Just the proper one for a Judge!” declared the Rake. “He will be honest and fair.”
“I’m willing to have him if you two are,” said the Pick.
“What’s it all about?” asked the Elephant. “I don’t understand. What is a Judge?”
“Someone who tells the right from the wrong,” answered the Rake. “Listen, Mr. Stuffed Elephant! Get up on that box, for a Judge must be above everyone else, and we will tell you what the trouble is.”
The Elephant got up on a strong, empty onion crate, and stood there with the Shovel, the Rake and the Pick standing in a row in front of him.
“You must say ‘Ahem!’ and bang on the box, like a real Judge,” said the Shovel.
“Ahem!” coughed the Elephant, as loudly as he could. Then he took up a piece of wood in the end of his trunk, and banged on the side of the onion crate.
“Now this is like a real court,” said the Rake, “and we shall have our quarrel settled.”
“Oh, have you three been quarreling?” asked the Elephant Judge.
“Well, not exactly; and the quarrel is not an angry one,” replied the Shovel. “You see,” he went on, “we three tools work in the garden. Or, rather, Jake, the man, uses us when he works. Now I claim I am the most useful of the three. Jake always takes me out when there is a bit of ground to be dug up, or turned over, when he wants to make the garden in the spring. So I think, Mr. Judge Elephant, Your Honor, that I am entitled to the prize.”
“Hum! Let me see now,” said the Elephant, trying to look very wise. “I suppose I must listen to what the others have to say.”
“Oh, yes, indeed!” exclaimed the Rake. “We must each state our case, as in a real court, and then you shall decide who is right. Now, for myself—Oh, by the way, have you quite finished?” he asked of the Shovel, politely.
“Yes,” was the answer, “I think I said enough to have the Elephant Judge give me the prize. Go on, Mr. Rake.”
“Well,” said the Rake, smiling a little to show his teeth, “I claim to be more useful than the Shovel. It is true Jake uses him to turn the ground over. But before the ground can be turned Jake uses me to take away the dead leaves and sticks that are not wanted. And even after the Shovel is used to turn the ground over, no seeds can be planted, and the garden can not really be made, until I am used again to smooth things over. So I claim to be the most useful tool.”
The Rake stepped back in line with the others, and they all waited for the Elephant to speak.
“Ahem!” said the animal judge very loudly. “There is one more to be heard. Proceed, Mr. Pick.”
The Pick, who had at least two good points in his favor, stepped forward, made a stiff little bow with his handle, and said:
“What my friends Rake and Shovel have told you, of course is true. They are useful, each in his own way. But I do the really hard work of the garden. When the earth is packed hard and dry, so that neither the Shovel nor the Rake can be used, Jake always comes and gets me. I am larger and stronger than either the Rake or the Shovel, though of course the Rake has a longer handle. But it is a very thin handle, and if Jake struck as hard a blow with the Rake as he strikes with me, the Rake’s handle would break. And no matter how hard he digs the Shovel into the hard ground, no earth can be turned over until I first loosen it. So I claim the prize.”
The Pick stepped back in line with the other two, all three bowed politely and waited.
“What am I to do now?” asked the Elephant.
“You must act as Judge and tell which of us is the most useful, to decide who gets the prize,” said the Rake.
“That is it,” chimed in the Pick and the Shovel.
“This is very hard—very hard indeed,” sighed the Elephant. “In fact I never before knew how hard it was to decide between right and wrong. Let me think a minute.”
He passed his trunk over his head, which was beginning to ache with all the talk he had listened to.
“Hum! Let me see now,” the Elephant spoke slowly. “It is true, Mr. Shovel, that you are very useful. Without you the ground could not be turned.”
“There! See! I told you I’d get the prize!” cried the Shovel.
“Wait a minute! I have not finished!” said the Elephant Judge. “What I was going to say was that before I could decide who wins I must see the prize. What is the prize? Bring it here that I may see it, and then I will decide who is to get it.”Oh, the prize!” cried the Shovel.
“That’s so, we forgot all about it!” gasped the Rake.
“What was the prize to be?” asked the Pick. “I declare we did not settle on any. How silly!”
“Until I see the prize I cannot give judgment,” said the Elephant; “so the case will have to ‘go over,’ as I believe they say in Court, until the prize is brought here. Stop arguing now, and get me the prize!”
“Yes! Yes! The prize! The prize!” cried the Rake, the Shovel and the Pick, and they all scurried away.
“Ha! Ha! Ha!” laughed another voice in the corner from where the three tools were.
“What silly chaps!” came in another voice.
“To forget the most important thing of all—the prize!” added another.
“Who are you?” asked the Elephant, stepping down off the onion crate.
“I’m the Hoe,” was the answer of the first. “If I had wished I could have told how useful I am. In fact, I think I would have to try for the prize.”
“I’m just as much entitled to it as you are,” someone else said. “You needn’t think you can get ahead of me!”
“Who are you?” asked the Elephant.
“The Wheelbarrow,” was the reply. “You ought to see the loads I carry. I ought to get the prize!”
“What about me?” asked a third voice.
“Who are you?” asked the Elephant.
“The Lawn Mower. Just think what an ugly place this place would be unless I kept the grass trim and neat. It should be my prize.”
“Oh, my goodness!” exclaimed the poor Elephant. “If there are to be more disputes, and more evidence in this case, I shall go crazy. Stop!” he cried, as the Wheelbarrow, the Hoe, and the Lawn Mower came forward, all talking at once. “Stop! I will do nothing until I see the prize! Court is adjourned!”
And as the Elephant said this the sound of loud barking sounded through the barn.
“Oh, maybe that is Nip coming to carry me back,” thought the Elephant. “I certainly hope so!”