384 THE OLD HOUSE
and roof-gutters running about in the form of dragons and griffins. It was just a good house to look at; and in it lived an old man who went about in leather knee-breeches, and wore a coat with great brass buttons, and a wig which one could at once see was a real wig. Every morning an old man came to him, to clean his rooms and run on his errands. With this exception the old man in the leather knee-breeches was all alone in the old house. Sometimes he came to one of the windows and looked out, and the little boy nodded to him, and the old man nodded back, and thus they became acquainted and became friends, though they had never spoken to one another; but, indeed, that was not at all necessary.
The little boy heard his parents say, ' The old man opposite is very well off, but he is terribly lonely.'
Next Sunday the little boy wrapped something in a piece of paper, went with it to the house door, and said to the man who ran errands for the old gentleman,
' Hark-ye, will you take this to the old gentleman opposite for me ? I have two tin soldiers ; this is one of them, and he shall have it, because I know that he is terribly lonely.'
And the old attendant looked quite pleased, and nodded, and carried the Tin Soldier into the old house. Afterwards he was sent over, to ask if the little boy would not like to come himself and pay a visit. His parents gave him leave ; and so it was that he came to the old house.
The brass bosses on the staircase shone much more brightly than usual; one would have thought they had been polished in honour of his visit. And it was just as if the carved trumpetersófor on the doors there were carved trumpeters, standing in tulipsówere blowing with all their might; their cheeks looked much rounder than before. Yes, they blew ' Tan-ta-ra-ra! the little boy's coming! tan-ta-ra-ra!' and then the door opened. The whole of the hall was hung with old portraits of knights in armour and ladies in silk gowns ; and the armour rattled and the silk dresses rustled ; and then came a staircase that went up a great way and down a little way, and then one came to a balcony which was certainly in a very rickety state, with long cracks and great holes; but out