Had Jennie Moore stumbled and dropped the China Cat to the floor of the toy shop that would have been the end of this book. For if the Cat had fallen she surely would have been broken to bits. And, though Mr. Mugg might have been able to glue the pieces together again, the China Cat never would have been like herself, and there would be no story about her.
But, as it happened, there was a soft footstool just in front of the velocipede over which Jennie stumbled, and the little girl fell down on that, still holding the China Cat in her hands. Not once did Jennie let go of the toy she had taken off the shelf.
"Oh, my dear little girl! I hope you did not hurt yourself!" cried Mr. Horatio Mugg, as he sprang forward to raise Jennie from the footstool, across which she had fallen.
"And I hope she hasn't broken the China Cat!" exclaimed Aunt Clara.
"Well," replied Mr. Mugg, with a kind smile, "breaking the China Cat would not have been so bad. I could easily send to the workshop of Santa Claus and get another toy. But nice little girls, if they fall and hurt themselves, are not so easily mended. I am glad you are not hurt, my dear," he went on, as he helped Jennie to her feet.
"And I am glad the China Cat is not broken," said Aunt Clara. "It is a lovely piece of work."
"Yes, it is one of my choicest toys," said Mr. Mugg. "It can not talk, like some of my dolls, nor spring about like some of the Jumping Jacks. But the Cat is so clean and white that it would be an ornament in any home."
"She'll look lovely on my bureau," said Jennie. "Does her head come off, Mr. Mugg?" the nice little girl asked, as her aunt was looking carefully at the China Cat.
"Oh, my, no!" laughed the toy-shop man. "I once had a cat whose head could be lifted off, and burned matches could be dropped down inside her. But this Cat isn't that kind."
"I should hope not!" thought the China Cat, while Aunt Clara was looking her over. "Not that I don't consider my cousin, the Match Cat, as nice as I am," she told herself, "but I'm just different; that's all! I hope I may go to live with this little girl. I shall be able to keep myself spotless and white in her home, I'm sure."
But the China Cat was not yet to leave the toy store. And there were some strange adventures soon to happen, as I shall tell you.
"Well, Jennie," said Aunt Clara, as she again let the little girl take the China Cat, "if you think you want this toy you may have it. But we will not take it with us now. I have some other shopping to do, and if we carry the Cat with us something may happen to her."
"Oh, can't I take her now?" pleaded Jennie.
"No, my dear," her aunt answered. "Mr. Mugg will put her aside for you, and I will come in to-morrow and get her."
"Yes, I'll save the China Cat for you," promised the toy man.
"If I may be sure of having her I don't mind," said Jennie. "But we must be sure and come after her to-morrow, Auntie."
"We will come to-morrow surely," said Aunt Clara, and then, after Jennie had taken one more look at the toy she hoped soon would be hers, she followed her aunt out of the store.
Mr. Mugg and his two daughters were very busy in their toy shop that day. A load of packing boxes arrived, direct from the North Pole workshop of Santa Claus, and these boxes were stored down in the basement.
"We will open those boxes some day next week," said Mr. Mugg to his daughters. "Perhaps among the new toys there may be another China Cat. I certainly hope so, for when Jennie's aunt comes for this one we shall feel lonesome."
Mr. Mugg took a box of matches and went down into the basement to light the gas and see about storing away the cases of new toys. And when the men had opened some, not taking many of the toys out, however, the storekeeper was called up stairs by one of his daughters.
"Leave the cases the way they are," he said to the expressmen. "Don't open any more. I'll do that later in the week."
Then Mr. Mugg turned the gas down low, for he thought he might come back again, and up the stairs he hurried to see what his daughter wanted. As he walked across the basement floor the box of matches dropped out of his pocket, near some straw from one of the packing cases.
"I'll get the matches when I come back," thought the toy man. But the rest of the day he was so busy he forgot all about them.
Back on the shelf, out of sight, the China Cat thought over what had happened that day.
"I surely am glad Jennie didn't let me fall and break," said the Cat to herself. "And I am glad I am going to belong to such a nice, clean little girl." Then, as one could see her, hidden away as she was, the China Cat washed her paws with her red tongue.
Once again night came. The toy store was closed, and all the lights turned out except a small one in the middle of the store. For a time it was quiet, and then, once more, the Trumpeter blew a jolly blast on his horn.
Toot! Toot! Toot! went the trumpet.
"Are you ready for more fun?" asked the Talking Doll.
"Yes," was the answer. "It is now night, no one can see us, and we can do as we please. Let's play tag again," said a number of toys.
"Where is the China Cat?" asked Tumbling Tom. "We don't want to leave her out of the good times."
"Oh, I'm here!" mewed the white pussy. "I'm just sort of hidden away so I will not be sold. I am to go to a little girl named Jennie Moore."
"Hum! Jennie Moore! Seems to me I heard her spoken of by the father of the little lame boy when the Nodding Donkey was brought back here to have his leg mended," said the Jumping Jack. "Wouldn't it be funny, Miss China Cat, if you should go to live in a house near your friend, the Nodding Donkey?"
"It would be very nice, I think," said the China Cat. "But I have something new to suggest," she went on, as she moved out near the edge of the shelf. "Instead of playing tag, why can't all of us go down into the basement?"
"What for?" asked Tumbling Tom.
"I heard it said that a new lot of toys was put down in the basement to-day," went on the China Cat. "Let's go down and call on them. It's always polite to call on new neighbors, you know," she added.
"Yes, let's do that!" shouted the Trumpeter. "We'll make them feel at home."
So down the cellar stairs trooped the China Cat, the Talking Doll, the Jumping Jack, Jack Box and many other toys.
Clip! Clap! Clump! they went down the stairs.
"Hello, new toys!" mewed the China Cat. "We have come to call on you!"
"That is very kind of you," said a Red Fireman, who was one of the new toys that had been taken from the boxes. "We were just wondering what sort of place this was--so dark and gloomy."
"Oh, this is the basement," said the China Cat. "The toy store is up above. You'll be brought up there with us, soon, we hope. But we came to visit you and cheer you up."
"And we are very glad," said a Cloth Doll. "I was getting tired of lying here on my back."
"Let us play some games," proposed the China Cat. "We can ask riddles, have a game of tag, or, those of you who are unpacked, can join in a race."
"I say let's have a race!" cried the Engineer of a toy train of cars on the floor. "I haven't had a race with my engine and cars since Mr. Mugg lifted us out of our box. Come on! I'll get up steam and have a race."
Before any one could stop him, the Engineer started his train of iron cars over the floor of the basement.
Toot! Toot! he blew the whistle.
Suddenly there was a crackling sound and then a flash of flame.
"What's the matter!" cried the China Cat.
"Oh, I have run over a box of matches!" exclaimed the toy Engineer. "They have begun to blaze and the straw from the packing cases is catching! Oh, look what I did, but I didn't mean to!"
Surely enough, the toy cars had run over the box of matches Mr. Mugg had dropped, and now the flames and smoke were filling the basement of the toy shop.
"Fire! Fire! Fire!" cried the toy Policeman, banging with his club.