Laura Lee Hope

The Story of a China Cat

Illustrated by Harry L. Smith

The China Cat Has a Ride in Nodding Donkey's Wagon.


Toot! Toot! Tootity-toot-toot!

'Goodness me! who is blowing the horn?' asked the Talking Doll, as she sat up on the shelf in the toy shop. 'This isn't Friday; and we don't want any fish!'

'Speak for yourself, if you please,' said a large, white China Cat, who had just finished washing a few specks of dirt off her shiny coat with her red tongue. 'I could enjoy a bit of fish right now.'

'I should rather have pie,' said the Talking Doll. 'But who blew the horn? That is what I'd like to know. No one has a horn in this toy shop that I know anything about.'

'It wasn't a horn-that was a trumpet,' said another voice. 'I'll blow it again!'

Then there sounded a jolly noise through the quiet toy shop, which was in darkness except for one electric light in the middle of the store.

Toot! Toot! Tootity-toot-toot! echoed the merry notes.

'What a pretty sound,' said the Jumping Jack, as he jerked his arms and legs up and down, for he had just awakened from his long day of sleep.

'Isn't it nice,' agreed Tumbling Tom, a queer toy who never could stand up, because he was made in such a funny way that he always fell down. 'I wonder if there is going to be a parade?'

'Who is blowing that horn, anyway?' asked the Talking Doll.

'I tell you it isn't a horn-it's a trumpet, and I am blowing it,' said a voice in the front part of the toy store. 'I came in only to-day, but I thought perhaps you other toys would like a little music, so I tuned up my trumpet. But please don't call it a horn. I am not a fish man!'

With that there came walking along the shelf, from the front part of the store, a little man wearing a blue coat, dark red trousers, and a hat with a long, sweeping plume. I say he was a little man, but I mean he was a toy, dressed up like a man such as you see in fairy stories. In his hand he carried a little golden trumpet.

As he walked along the shelf, where the other toys stood, the Trumpeter, for such he was, blew another blast on his golden instrument.

And the blast was such a jolly one that every toy in the store felt like dancing or singing. The Jumping Jack worked his arms and legs faster than they had ever jerked about before. The Talking Doll swayed on her feet as though waltzing, and even the China Cat beat time with her tail.

'That certainly was very nice,' said the Talking Doll, when the Trumpeter had finished the tune. 'Did you say you just came here to be one of us?'

'Just to-day,' was the answer. 'I came in a large box, straight from the workshop of Santa Claus, at the North Pole, and I-'

'Oh! The North Pole!' suddenly mewed the China Cat.

'What's the matter? Does it make you chilly to hear about the North Pole, where I came from?' asked the Trumpeter.

'No,' answered the Cat. 'I was just thinking of a friend of mine who once lived there. You remember him,' she added, turning to the Jumping Jack. 'I mean the Nodding Donkey.'

'Of course I remember him!' said the Jumping Jack. 'I should say I did! A most jolly chap, always bowing to you in the most friendly way. He isn't here any more.'

'No, he was bought for a little lame boy who had to go on crutches,' said the Talking Doll. 'I remember the Nodding Donkey very well. I say he was bought for a little lame boy. But the truth of the matter is that the lame boy got well, and now is just like other boys. Once the Nodding Donkey's leg was broken and he was brought back here for Mr. Mugg to fix.'

'Who is Mr. Mugg?' asked the Trumpeter, as he rubbed his horn to make it more shiny. 'Excuse me for asking, but I have not been here very long, you know,' he added.

'Mr. Horatio Mugg is the man who keeps this toy store,' explained the China Cat. 'He and his daughters, Angelina and Geraldine, keep us toys in order, dust us off and sell us whenever any one comes in to buy playthings.'

'Then it seems I am not to stay here always,' went on the Trumpeter. 'Well, I like a jolly life, going about from place to place. I had fun at the North Pole, and now I hope I shall have some fun here. That's why I blew my trumpet-to start you toys into life.'

'We always come to life after dark, and make believe we are alive when no one sees us,' explained the China Cat. 'That is one of the things we are allowed to do. But as soon as daylight shines, or when any one comes into the store to look at us, we must turn back into toys that can move only when we are wound up. That is, all except me. I have no springs inside me-I move of myself whenever make-believe time comes,' she added, and she switched her tail from side to side.

'Well, I have springs inside me,' said the Talking Doll, 'and also a little phonograph. When it is wound up I can say 'papa' and 'mama' and 'I am hungry.' But when we are by ourselves, as we are now, I can say what I please.'

'I, too, have springs inside me,' said the Trumpeter. 'That is how I blow my trumpet. But now, as we are by ourselves and it is night, why not have some fun? Let's do something. Perhaps, as a newcomer, I should let some one else start it. But I could not bear to lie on the shelf, doing nothing, especially when it is so near the jolly Christmas season. So I just blew my trumpet to awaken you all.'

'And I'm glad you did,' said the Jumping Jack. 'I say let's have some fun! Shall I show you how well I can jump?' he asked. 'If this is your first night here,' he said to the Trumpeter, 'you do not know all the tricks I can do.'

'I should be most happy to see you do some,' replied the Trumpeter.

'Oh, that Jumping Jack. He thinks he is the only one who can jump!' whispered a Jack in the Box to Tumbling Tom. 'If I could get out of this box I'd show him some jumps that would make him open his eyes!'

'And as for tumbles!' said Tom. 'Why, I can beat him all to pieces! But we must be polite, you know, especially before strangers-I mean the Trumpeter. Don't let's have a quarrel.'

'All right,' agreed the Jack in the Box, or Jack Box, as he was called for short.

'Now watch me jump!' cried Jumping Jack. 'Clear the shelf, if you please. The Trumpeter has never seen any of my circus tricks!'

So the toys in the shop of Mr. Horatio Mugg got ready to have a jolly night. Just as the China Cat had said, the toys had the power of making believe. They could pretend to come to life, and talk among themselves, and do things they never would think of doing in the daytime. This was when no human eyes saw them.

'Attention now, everybody!' called the Jumping Jack, just like the ringmaster in a circus. 'First I will climb to the top of the highest shelf, and then I will jump down.'

'Won't you hurt yourself?' asked the Trumpeter.

'Oh, no, I'll land on a big rubber ball and bounce,' the Jumping Jack answered. 'If you want to, Trumpeter,' he added, 'you can blow a blast on your horn to start me off. It will be more exciting if you do that.'

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