THE OLD HOUSE 387
with the best of preserved fruits and apples and nuts ; and then the little boy thought no more -oi the Tin Soldier. Happy and delighted, the youngster went home ; and days went by, weeks went by, and there was much nodding from the boy's home across to the old house and back ; and then the little boy went over there again.
And the carved trumpeters blew, ' Tan-ta-ra-ra ! tan-ta-ra-ra ! there 's the little boy, tan-ta-ra-ra !' and the swords and armour on the old pictures rattled, and the silken dresses rustled, and the leather told tales, and the old chairs had the gout in their backs. Ugh ! it was just like the first time, for over there one day or one hour was just like another.
' I can't stand it ! ' said the Tin Soldier. ' I've wept tears of tin. It's too dreary here. I had rather go to war and lose my arms and legs ; at any rate, that's a change. I cannot stand it ! Now I know what it means to have a visit from one's old thoughts and all they bring with them. I've had visits from my own, and you may believe me, that's no pleasure in the long run. I was very nearly jumping down from the shelf. I could see you all in the house opposite as plainly as if you had been here. It was Sunday morning, and you children were all standing round the table singing the psalm you sing every morning. You were standing reverently with folded hands, and your father and mother were just as solemn ; then the door opened, and your little sister Maria, who is not two years old yet, and who always dances when she hears music or song, of whatever description they may be, was brought in. She was not to do it, but she immediately began to dance, though she could not get into right time, for the song was too slow, so she first stood on one leg and bent her head quite over in front, but it was not long enough. You all stood very quietly, though that was rather difficult; but I laughed inwardly, and so I fell down from the table and got a bruise which I have still ; for it was not right of me to laugh. But all this, and all the rest that I have experienced, now passes before my mind's eye, and those must be the old thoughts with everything they bring with them. Tell me, do you still sing on Sundays ? Tell me something about little Maria. And how is my comrade