For a few moments after this wild shouting in the street there was no sound in the negro basement where the China Cat and the Cloth Dog without any tail were perched on the shelf. The rain pelted down harder than before, a regular flood in itself, and to the noise of the drops was added the roar from the flooded river.
Presently there came a pounding on the basement door of the tenement where Jeff, the colored boy, lived.
Bang! Bang! Bang! came the loud knock.
"Who's dat?" asked Jeff's mother from the bedroom where she was sleeping. "Who's dat knockin' at de do'?"
Bang! Bang! Bang! came the sound again.
"Can that be thunder?" whispered the China Cat to the Cloth Dog.
"No, this isn't a thunderstorm," answered the Dog. "It is much worse than any thunderstorm I ever heard. There is going to be a bad time here, with a flood and everything."
"Who's dat?" asked the voice of Jeff's mother again, as the pounding at the door sounded a second time.
"The police!" was the answer.
Jeff, who had been awakened, heard this answer. He covered his head with the clothes, and cowered down in the bed.
"Oh, mah good land!" thought Jeff when he heard this. "De p'lice has done come to git me 'cause I took de China Cat! Oh, good land! I ain't so smart as I thought! Oh, dey's gwine 'rest me suah!"
But the police had not come to get Jeff. Once more the officer pounded with his club on the basement door.
"Come there!" he cried. "Get up and dress and skip out if you don't want to be drowned! The river is rising. It will flood all these basement tenements! You'll have to clear out--all of you! Wake up and get out! We'll help you! Open the door!"
"Oh, massy me! A flood!" cried Jeff's mother. "Does yo' heah dat, Rastus?" she called to her husband. "Dere's a flood an' we's done got to run out! Git up an' open de do' an' I'll roust up de chilluns!"
"I'll open the do,' Ma," said Jeff, slipping out of his bed, and as he swung the door open there stood a policeman.
"Come, boy; lively!" cried the officer. "You were long enough answering my knock. You've all got to leave here! How many of you are there?"
"Ten," answered Jeff, and he looked over the mantel shelf to see if the officer noticed the China Cat.
But the policeman had something else to do just then. He and others had been sent to the tenement district, near the rising river, to rouse and save the poor people from the flood.
"Ten, eh?" cried the policeman. "That's quite a family. Well, don't stop to put on more than a few clothes. There isn't any time to save things. The river will be pouring in here soon."
"Some of it's heah already," remarked Jeff, as he saw the water on the floor.
"Lively now!" called the policeman again. "Here, let me take some of those," he said, as Jeff's father came out of a bedroom carrying in his arms two sleepy little colored girls.
The policeman wore a big rubber raincoat, which was dripping wet, and in the gleam of a light, which Jeff's father made, the wet rubber coat glistened brightly.
The policeman took the two little sisters of Jeff, and tucked them under his rubber coat. They were too sleepy to cry, having just been lifted from bed.
"This will keep you dry," said the officer. "I'll put you in the wagon and send you to the station house."
"Is yo'--is yo' gwine to 'rest 'em?" asked Jeff.
"Arrest 'em? No. What for?" asked the officer, with a smile, as he splashed, with his rubber boots, into the puddle of water on the tenement floor. "They haven't done anything, and you haven't done anything to be arrested for, have you?"
Jeff looked at the White China Cat, but did not answer.
"I'll just carry these youngsters out to the wagon, and then come back for more," the policeman went on. "You'll all be kept safe in the station house, or some place, until the river goes down."
Jeff breathed easier. He was afraid it had been found out that he took the China Cat. He darted quickly back into his bedroom and began putting on his shoes. That was all he had taken off when he curled up to go to sleep. He had only a few clothes, and he slept in them. So did most of the other children of the tenements in cold weather.
Out into the rain splashed the policeman carrying the two little colored girls. They were softly crying now, but he comforted them as best he could, and kept them dry under his coat. The rain was coming down harder than ever and the roar of the rising river was louder. When Jeff's father and mother and the other children were ready to be taken out, the water on the floor of the tenement was up to the policeman's knees.
"You'll have to hurry!" he called to the frightened family. "We have to rescue a lot of other people. Skip out and get into the wagon and you'll be safe."
As Jeff and the others made their way up the steps to the sidewalk they saw and heard more of the terrible storm. There was water in the streets. With the rising of the river and the rain, the streets were almost like little creeks themselves. Outside the tenement stood the police patrol wagon. As many of the poor people as possible had been crowded into it, Jeff and his folks among them.
"Are any more left in your rooms?" asked the officer who had pounded with his club on the door to awaken the sleepers.
"No, we's all out," answered Jeff's mother.
"Think I'll take a look and make sure," said the policeman. Back through the flood he waded in his rubber boots, and down he went into the basement where the lamp was still burning.
"Any one here?" asked the officer.
He listened, but there was no sound save the pelting of the rain, the roar of the river, and the trickle of water as it rose higher and higher in the basement. Up on their shelf the China Cat and the Cloth Dog sat and looked down. They had not dared to speak or move while any one was in the room. But they had just begun to feel that it was time for them to do something to save themselves when the policeman came in again. Then they had to remain quiet, though they were much afraid of being drowned in the flood.
"Hello!" suddenly exclaimed the police officer as he saw the China Cat. "Seems to me I know you! I remember about you! I wonder how you got here? You were among the toys taken from Mr. Mugg's shop during the fire. Well! Well! To think of finding you here, Miss China Cat! I shouldn't be surprised but what that oldest colored boy might know something about you. But I'll take you along, and hand you back to Mr. Mugg, where you belong."
With that the policeman reached up, lifted down the China Cat, and thrust her into an inside pocket, where his rubber coat would keep her nice and dry.
"Though if he only knew it," thought the China Cat, "I'd just as soon be rained on a little, to clean me off. Oh, but I am so dirty!"
However, the policeman did not stop to think that perhaps the Cat might like to be cleaned. In fact, he did not think she had any feelings at all, for it was a long while since he had been little enough to play with toys and enjoy make believe games.
Into his pocket went the China Cat. Then the policeman looked at the Cloth Dog on the shelf.
"You never came from the toy shop, that's certain," said the officer. "No use taking you!"
So he left the poor Cloth Dog, without any tail, alone on the kitchen shelf, but he took the China Cat away with him in his pocket, the policeman did.
Out into the rain-soaked street the officer made his way once more.
"Nobody left in here, Jim," he called to the other officer on the police wagon. "Get those people to the station, and then come back. There's a lot more who will have to be rescued this night. It's going to be a bad flood."
And so it was, though the China Cat saw little of it, for she was safe and snug in the officer's pocket. It was black and dark in there, but it was warm, though a bit smothery. And it was clean, which the China Cat liked best of all.
"Though I am very dirty myself," she said. "I hope I get somewhere so I can wash."
All night long the rescue of people from the flood was kept up. Jeff and his family were taken to a place of refuge where they were given something to eat and beds on which to lie down. All night long the policemen worked, and when morning came all those who had been in danger were saved.
The officer who had the China Cat in his pocket walked into his station house just as day was breaking.
"Here is something you'll like to hear about," said the policeman to the sergeant behind the desk, as he set the toy on the top of it.
"A cat! My land! where'd you get her?" asked the sergeant. "She'll be just what we want to catch mice around here! Here, puss, puss!" he called.
"Oh, my! he thinks I'm alive," said the China Cat to herself.