The policeman who had rescued the China Cat from the flood in the basement of the negro tenement stood and looked at the sergeant behind the desk in the station house. Then the policeman looked at the China Cat which he had set on top of the desk.
"What's the matter with you? Why are you acting so funny?" asked the sergeant of the policeman.
"Funny? I'm not acting funny. You are," the policeman laughed.
"How am I funny?" the sergeant wanted to know.
"Why, you're calling that cat, and asking her to catch mice, and--"
"Of course I'm asking her to catch mice," said the sergeant. "There's a lot of mice around here and--"
"Ha! Ha!" laughed the policeman. "That cat will never catch any mice. She's a toy, a China Cat, and she was stolen from that toy shop where there was a fire yesterday. It was Horatio Mugg's place. A lot of the toys were set out on the sidewalk, and some negroes who live near by walked off with quite a lot. Mr. Mugg, after the fire, made out a list of his toys that were missing, and among them was this China Cat. I had one of the lists.
"Then, when I was sent to rescue the people from the flood, I saw this Cat on the mantel. I brought her here, as I do with all stolen things I find, and you can send her back to Mr. Mugg."
The sergeant put on his glasses, for he was rather an elderly man, and looked carefully at the China Cat.
"Bless me!" exclaimed the sergeant, "she is a China Cat after all. I took her for a real black and white pussy."
"Oh, dear me!" thought the China Cat. "He thought I was partly black! I must be very dirty indeed. My toy friends would never know me! Oh, shall I ever be clean again?"
"Yes, it is only a toy China Cat," said the policeman who had rescued the pussy, as well as the negro family. "I guess she was pure white once. But she got blackened in the fire, and it didn't wash off in the flood, though goodness knows it rained enough!"
"I should say so," agreed the sergeant. "Well, leave the China Cat here, and I will send her back to Mr. Mugg. You didn't see any of his other stolen toys, did you?"
"No," the policeman answered, "I did not. There was a little Cloth Dog on the same shelf, but he had no tail and one eye was almost gone, so I knew he didn't belong in the toy store, and I let him stay there."
"Poor little Cloth Dog!" thought the China Cat. "I wonder what will become of him?"
However, she never heard, nor did she ever again see her little friend without any tail. But I might tell you that the little Cloth Dog was still on the mantel when the flood went down and Jeff and the family moved back into their basement. The Cloth Dog was not drowned, and he lived for many years after that, even without his tail, though I cannot say he was very happy.
"Well, you take care of the China Cat. I am going to get my breakfast," said the policeman who had brought the white pussy into the station house.
"I'll take care of her, and send her back to Mr. Mugg as soon as I have a chance," the sergeant promised.
Then he set the China Cat off the top of the big desk, and on a smaller one, so she would not get broken. All the remainder of the morning the China Cat was in the police station, though she was not arrested, you understand. Oh, my, no! She had done nothing wrong, even though she was very dirty. But of course being dirty was not her fault.
The China Cat saw many strange sights as she sat in the police station, and some of the sights were sad ones. She heard much about the flood, too, for it was a very high one, the river having overflowed its banks in many places.
At last all the poor people were rescued, and the police sergeant, who had been very busy, was given a few moments' rest. He leaned back in his chair and looked at the China Cat.
"I think I shall telephone Mr. Mugg and tell him to come here and get his China Cat," the sergeant said. "This may not be his toy. It may have been stolen from some other store. But I'll soon find out."
So the police sergeant telephoned to Mr. Mugg. The toy-store keeper and his daughters, Angelina and Geraldine, were very busy, getting things to rights after the fire. It had not been as bad as was at first supposed, being down in the basement. Some smoke and water got up on the main floor, however, but this was soon cleaned up and the store put to rights again.
"What's that?" cried Mr. Mugg over the telephone, though of course the China Cat could not hear what he said. "You have my white China Cat? Oh, I am so glad! I'll be right down to get her."
"All right," answered the sergeant. "She is here waiting for you. Though I would not call her very white," he added as he hung up the telephone.
"What do you think of that, Geraldine--Angelina!" called Mr. Mugg to his two daughters. "Our China Cat, that was stolen when the toys were carried out on account of the fire, has been found!"
"Oh, I am so glad!" said Geraldine.
"Where is she?" asked Angelina.
"In the police station," her father replied. "I am going down to get her."
"I'll go with you," offered Geraldine. "I want to see the China Cat again. I hope she isn't chipped. Who had her?"
But this Mr. Mugg did not know, for the sergeant did not tell him the whole story over the telephone. A little later Mr. Mugg and Geraldine were in the police station.
"I have come for my China Cat," said Mr. Mugg, rubbing his hands and looking over the tops of his glasses.
"Here she is," said the sergeant, and he handed over the pussy who had been rescued from the flood.
For a moment the toy-store keeper looked at the plaything. Then he sadly shook his head.
"No, I am sorry to say that is not my China Cat," he said.
Well, you can just imagine how the China Cat felt. Her heart, such as she had, was beating with joy when she saw Mr. Mugg and Geraldine come into the station house. But now to hear Mr. Mugg say she was not his Cat! Oh, it was terrible, I do assure you!
"Not your Cat?" exclaimed the sergeant. "Why, I understood a lot of toys were stolen from your shop after the fire, and a China Cat was among them."
"Yes, that is so," answered Mr. Mugg. "But my China Cat was a white one, and this is black and white. No, she does not belong to me."
He turned away, and the China Cat would have shed tears if China Cats ever cry. But Miss Geraldine stepped forward.
"Please let me look at that toy," she said.
The sergeant handed her the China Cat. Geraldine looked closely at her. Then she gave a joyful cry.
"Why, of course she is our Cat, Father!" said Geraldine. "She is just grimy and dirty. That's the reason you think she is black and white. If I could only wash her you'd see that she is our own China Cat."
"Do you think so?" asked Mr. Mugg, hopefully.
"I'm sure of it!" declared his daughter. "Oh, if I only had a little soap and water."
"We can let you have some, lady," said the sergeant. "You may take the cat to the washroom and clean her."
This Miss Geraldine did. Under the stream of water, when some soap had been rubbed on the China Cat, a great change took place. Off came the grime of the smoke! Off came the spots of sticky molasses! Off came the soiled marks made by Jeff's dirty hands! The White Cat, not coming to life while Miss Geraldine had her, of course got no soap in her eyes, as would have happened if she had been real.
Soon all the black, the grime, and the dirty spots were washed away. Geraldine dried the China Cat on a towel the sergeant gave her, and then held the plaything up in front of her father.
"Now isn't that our Cat?" asked Miss Geraldine.
Mr. Mugg looked carefully over the tops of his glasses. He ran his hands through his hair and then through his whiskers, and then rubbed his hands together.
"Why--er--yes--er--my dear--that is our China Cat!" he said. "We'll take her right back to the store! Oh, I'm very glad to get her back. Thank you, very much," he said to the police sergeant.
"You are welcome," replied the officer. Then Geraldine and her father hurried back to the toy shop, carrying the China Cat.
As for the white pussy, you can imagine how glad and happy she was to be clean again. Nothing else mattered for the time, and she would have mewed out a song if she had been allowed to do so. But of course she could not.
"Put her in the window," said Mr. Mugg, when he and his daughter reached the toy shop. "That little girl who was going to buy her may see the Cat and come in for her."
So the China toy was again put in the show window of the shop, which had been cleaned and put to rights after the fire. In the same window was some doll's furniture, and on the bureau was a looking glass. The China Cat caught a glimpse of herself. She was as clean and white as a new snowball.
"Oh, how glad I am!" she said to herself.
She looked all around. There in the window with her were most of the toys she had known for a long time. They did not seem to have been burned or scorched by the fire. In fact, though some of his playthings were damaged, Mr. Mugg did not, of course, put any of these in his show window.
Near the China Cat was a Jumping Jack, a Jack in the Box, the Talking Doll, a Policeman and a Fireman--not the same Policeman and Fireman who had been in the basement, but some just like them. Throughout the store was a smell of smoke; but this could not be helped.
The China Cat would have liked very much to speak to some of the other toys, but she was not allowed to do so.
"But when night comes," she said to herself, "I shall have a chance. Then we can all talk about the fire. I wonder if any of my friends had such adventures as I had?"
But the China Cat did not get the chance she hoped for. That very afternoon, the same day that she had been put in the show window, a little girl and a lady came to a stop outside the toy shop, to look in through the glass.
"Oh, Aunt Clara! See!" cried the little girl. "There is the China Cat you were going to buy for me! Mr. Mugg thought she was smashed in the fire, but she wasn't and here she is. Oh, please take me in and get me the China Cat!"
"Very well, my dear," said Aunt Clara. "I promised you the toy and you may have her."
The China Cat heard what was said, and, looking out of the window, she saw the same nice little girl who had once held her in her hands.
"Oh, I hope nothing happens this time," whispered the Cat. "I should like to live with that nice little girl."
"We have come for the China Cat, Mr. Mugg," said Aunt Clara, as the toy man came forward to wait on his customers. "We called right after the fire, but everything was so upset we did not come in."
"Oh, wasn't that fire dreadful!" sighed Mr. Mugg, raising his hands. "I thought my whole place would burn! But the firemen carried out a lot of the toys, and though this white China Cat was stolen, I have her back. So you want her, do you, little girl?" he asked.
"Oh, I want her very much!" said Jennie Moore, and the China Cat was placed in her hands.
"Now for some new adventures," thought the toy, as she felt the nice little girl softly rubbing her white head.