Monday, August 25, 2008

China Cat A Little Black Boy

So many things began happening at once in the basement of the toy shop, after the train of cars ran over the box of matches, that the China Cat, the Jumping Jack and even the Policeman, who was supposed to keep order, never knew half that took place. All the toys knew was that they began to choke with the smoke from the burning straw, and some of them, who were too close to the box of blazing matches, felt the heat very much.

"Oh, we must hurry out of here!" mewed the China Cat.
"I should say so!" exclaimed the Policeman. "Come on! Move lively! No loitering!" he cried, as he had done that time when he tickled the Nodding Donkey in the ribs with the club. "Everybody get out of the way of the fire!" went on the toy Policeman, swinging his club. "Where are the engines and the firemen?" he called.
"Here we are! I'm coming," cried an excited voice, and there clattered along the basement floor of the toy shop a little fire engine, on which was perched a toy Fireman.
"Let me get at the blaze!" cried this Fireman, who was dressed all in red. "Who started it, anyhow?"
"I did," answered the Engineer of the train of iron cars. "I ran over a box of matches, but I did not mean to."
"Well, it is going to be a bad fire!" said the Fireman. "Everybody must get out."
"Except you and me," added the Policeman, "I have ordered them all back to their shelves, but you and I must stay here. I will remain on guard while you put out the fire!" he said.
"Right!" cried the brave Fireman, as he got down off his engine.
By this time the straw had set fire to some of the wooden boxes which Mr. Mugg had opened that day to take out the toys. The burning straw and wood made more smoke than ever, so that the China Cat choked, and the Talking Doll was coughing so hard she could not speak.
"Hurry with that water!" ordered the Policeman. "Squirt a lot of water from the hose on the blaze, Mr. Fireman!"
But the sad part of it was that there was no water in the toy engine. They are not made that way, though sometimes boys, who get engines for presents, put water in them to play with. But though the Fireman ran out his tiny hose, and pointed it straight at the blaze, no water spurted from the nozzle.
"It is getting too hot here for me!" cried the Policeman. "I'm afraid we can't do anything, Mr. Fireman. We had better run upstairs with the rest of the toys!"
"What about the toys still in the boxes--those that Mr. Mugg has not unpacked?" asked the Fireman. "The toys still in the boxes can not get out to run upstairs."
"No, that's so," admitted the Policeman, stepping back out of the smoke, and scratching his nose with his club. "What shall we do?"
"I'll get my ax and chop open the boxes," the toy Fireman answered. "We fire-fighters have to do that. If only I had water in my engine I could soon put out this blaze."
But there was no use wishing that now, and, just as the Fireman had said, the poor toys, still nailed up in the boxes, were likely to have a hard time.
"Let us out! Please let us out!" begged the Dolls, the toy Dogs, the toy Cats and the other playthings, all shut up as they were. They could smell the smoke, if they could not see the blaze.
"I'll save you! The Policeman and I will get you out!" cried the brave Fireman, as he dashed back to his engine to get the small ax which hung there.
Meanwhile the China Cat, the Talking Doll and some of the Jumping Jacks were hurrying up the basement steps much faster than they had gone down. They wanted to get out of the fire and smoke.
"If only the Nodding Donkey were here, I'm sure he could have ridden me on his back out of danger," thought the China Cat. "He was very fond of me, and I like him. But he is not here!"
There was such a crowd of toys, all trying to get up the basement stairs at once, and the smoke was so thick now, that the Policeman and Fireman had also to run back, and there might have been a sad accident, only that the regular fire department men came along just then.
Some one in the street had seen smoke coming from the basement of the toy shop.
"Fire! Fire! Fire!" was the cry, and this time it was a real shout, and not such as the toys had given. Then the man who had smelled and seen the smoke ran and pulled an alarm box.
There was a clang of bells and loud toots of a whistle. There was a rush of many feet, and then a loud crash as the real firemen burst open the door of the toy shop.
"The fire is in the basement!" cried one fireman, wearing a rubber coat and hat to keep himself dry for the water would soon be spraying from the hose of the real, big engine.
"Yes, it's in the basement," said a real policeman, who had arrived almost as soon as had the firemen. "And Mr. Mugg has a lot of new toys down there. We must carry them out for him!"
Of course as soon as the door of the shop had been burst open, and the real firemen and policemen had come in, not a toy dared move or speak, for they would have been seen.
So they had to stay just where they were. Some were half way up the basement stairs; the China Cat had just reached the middle of the first floor, when she had to come to a stop; the Talking Doll was on the top step of the stairs, and there she had to stay. It was there that a fireman saw her as he was about to rush down into the basement. The firemen carried lanterns so they could see in the darkened store.
"The toys are scattered all about," said the fireman, picking up the Talking Doll. "There must have been an explosion!" Of course he did not know that the toys themselves had gone down into the basement to play, and that the fire was caused by the train running over the box of matches.
"We must carry out some of these toys before we begin to squirt the water, or they will all be spoiled," said the fireman who had picked up the Talking Doll. "Water will ruin them as much as the blaze. Come on, boys!" he called. "Save the toys!"
Here and there about the store, and down in the basement, rushed the firemen and policemen. Toys that were scattered about were hastily piled in open boxes. Then the boxes were dragged out on the sidewalk. Quite a crowd gathered in the street, for more engines, firemen and policemen were arriving all the while.
"Oh, this is dreadful!" thought the China Cat, as a whiff of smoke blew in her face. "I shall be all blackened and ruined!"
Clang! Clang! rang the bells on the real fire engine. Toot! Toot! blew the whistles.
"Here is a toy cat! Put her in that box!" called one fireman to another, who was dragging out a wooden box into which he had tossed the Talking Doll, a Jumping Jack and a dozen Green Pigs. "Take them out; and then we must begin to use the water! The fire is getting too hot!"
The China Cat could feel the heat, and she noticed that the red color on the cheeks of a Painted Doll was all running down, making her look very streaked.
"Oh, what a bump!" thought the China Cat, as she felt herself tossed into the packing box. She landed in between the Talking Doll and a Jumping Jack.
"Out on the sidewalk with that box!" cried the fireman, and he and some others began dragging out the one in which was the China Cat.
There had been a great deal of noise and excitement in the store, but there was five times as much noise out on the sidewalk. Just as the box containing the China Cat was dragged toward the door, a shower of water sprinkled down.
"Oh, dear me!" thought the China Cat. "I can't bear to be wet, and now it is raining! But I hope it will wash from me some of the black smoke."
However, it was not rain that the China Cat felt, but water from the hose of a real engine. The firemen were beginning to squirt water on the blaze, to save as much as they could of Mr. Mugg's store and of his toys, and some of the water from the hose sprayed on the China Cat.
By this time it was getting to be morning, and crowds of men and boys, with a few women, on their way to early work, stopped to look at the fire. Smoke was pouring out of Mr. Mugg's basement, and some one had hurried to the toy-shopkeeper's house to awaken him and his daughters and tell them what was happening.
"Oh, look at the toys!" cried a group of boys, as they came running up the street to see where the fire was. "Oh, look at 'em!"
"Keep back now! Let those toys alone!" warned a policeman who was on guard.
Most of the boys stepped back off the sidewalk, but when the policeman's back was turned a little black boy, who stood somewhat apart from the others, sneaked up to the packing box into which the China Cat and the Talking Doll had been thrown.
"Golly, what a lot ob toys!" murmured the little negro boy, whose name was Jeff. "I reckon as how I kin git one fo' nuffin, if dat p'liceman don't see me."
Jeff, who was dirty and ragged, watched his chance. He had come from his home in a tenement house, not far from the fire, and his eyes glistened when he saw so many toys out on the street.
"Um-ah! Jest look at 'em!" murmured Jeff. "Golly! I kin git one as easy as not outen dat open box! Wait till dat p'liceman turns around."
Jeff watched his chance. The policeman on guard moved off to one side. In an instant Jeff, the dirty little black boy, sneaked up, and, thrusting in his hand, which was black with dirt as well as being covered with black skin, he took up the pure, white China Cat.
"Dis am just whut I want!" whispered Jeff.
"Oh, my, how dirty he is! Oh, I can't bear to have him touch me!" thought the China Cat. "I dread dirt more than I do water! Oh, what shall I do?"
But she had no chance to do anything just then, for, with a quick motion, Jeff, the colored boy, thrust the China Cat inside his dirty, ragged blouse.
"Oh, I'll be smothered!" thought the poor China Cat. "What a dreadful fate to be taken away by a dirty boy! And only an hour ago I was so happy! Oh, dear! Oh, dear! Oh, dear!"

No comments: