Chapter IV. The Suprise
 

Through all this talk between the young lady of the store and the father who was buying something for his son's Christmas, to help busy Santa Claus, the White Rocking Horse never said a word. But he was doing as much thinking as a wooden horse ever did; I am sure of that.

"I'll get some big sheets of paper and wrap the horse up for you," said the young lady clerk to the man. "Are you sure you can get him in your auto?"

"Oh, yes," the man answered. "I have plenty of room. There will be no one in the car but the horse and myself. We shall have a nice ride together. It will seem rather funny to be giving a horse a ride in an automobile. I have often seen a horse pull a broken or stalled automobile along the street, but I never saw a horse in an auto before," he said.

"And I never did, either," replied the young lady, with a laugh, as she went to get the wrapping paper. "But then you know," she added, "this is not a regular horse."

"No, he is a rocking chap," said the man. Then he turned to another part of the toy department.

And as the young lady clerk was gone to get the paper and as the man was around the corner, over near the table where the checkers and dominoes were arranged in piles, the toys about which I have been telling you were left to themselves for a moment. And, of course, as there was no one to see them, they could move about and talk, if they wished. And they certainly did.

"Where do you suppose you are going?" asked the Calico Clown of the

White Rocking Horse.

"I haven't the least idea," was the answer. "But I know one thing: I am very sorry to leave you, my friends. We have had some jolly times together. Only think--last night the Elephant and I were having a friendly race!"

"Yes, and I wish I could have seen the finish of it," said the Bold Tin Soldier. "I am sure you would have won. A Rocking Horse is always faster than an Elephant."

"I am not so sure about that," said the Monkey on a Stick. "I believe the Elephant would have beaten."

"Well, we can't have the race now, that's sure," neighed the Horse. "I shall soon be leaving you."

"Maybe I could race with the Elephant," suggested the woolly Lamb. "I have wheels on, and if the Elephant wears his roller skates that will make us both even. We could have the race to-night, perhaps."

"Well, I hope you have jolly times when I am gone," said the White Rocking Horse. "Try to amuse yourselves."

"We will," answered the Calico Clown. "But perhaps you will come back to see us, as the Sawdust Doll once did."

"I'm afraid not," neighed the Horse. "You see, the Sawdust Doll came back because the little girl, whose mother bought the toy, carried the Doll in her arms. But I am too big to be carried in a boy's arms."

"Yes, that is so," agreed the Bold Tin Soldier. "Horses have to travel along by themselves, or else ride in autos. But perhaps, my dear friend, you may get a chance to gallop back here to see us some night."

"I should like to," the White Rocking Horse said; "but I don't see how it can be done. Some one would be sure to be looking."

"Hush! Quiet, everybody!" whispered the Calico Clown. "The man is coming back!"

And back he came, having finished looking at the checkers and dominoes. The young lady clerk also returned, with some large sheets of wrapping paper and a ball of string.

The toys could talk among themselves no longer, but of course they could still think, and each one who was to be left behind thought how lonesome it would be with the White Rocking Horse gone.

As for that wonderful chap, he was soon covered from the sight of his friends in the wrappings of paper. One sheet was put over his head, so he could see nothing more. Then his body and legs were wrapped in other papers, and the red saddle and bridle of real leather were covered up, as were the mane and tail of real hair.

"There, I think he will ride very nicely in my auto now," said the man, as he paid the clerk for the White Rocking Horse. Then the man carried the Horse down in the elevator.

At first it made the White Rocking Horse a little dizzy to be carried down in the elevator. He had not ridden in one for a long time--not since he was first brought to the big store from the Land of the North Pole, where he had been made in the work-shop of Santa Claus. Then the White Rocking Horse had been carried up to the toy department in a big freight elevator, with many others like himself. But that freight elevator went more slowly than the passenger one in which the man now carried down his boy's Christmas present, thus helping St. Nicholas, who was to be very busy that year.

As the man went outside the store with his bundle the White Rocking Horse felt a cold chill run over him. He was so used to the warm store that he had forgotten the cold weather outside. It was snowing, too, and one or two white flakes sifted in through cracks of the wrapping paper, and fell on the Horse.

"Well, this is certainly a strange adventure," thought the White Horse; "being carried along this way, out into a storm. I wonder what will happen next?"

And the next he knew he was put in the back of an automobile and away he rode, faster than he ever could have traveled by himself--faster even than he had gone while racing with the Elephant on roller skates.

The ride in the automobile through the snow made the White Rocking Horse rather sleepy, so he really did not know much about what happened on his trip through the storm. All he remembered was that he went quite fast and at last the car stopped.

Then he felt himself being lifted out of the automobile, and he heard voices.

"Is Dick out of the way?" the man asked.

"Yes, he and Dorothy are up in the playroom," was the answer in a lady's voice. "You can carry the Horse right up to the attic. He can stay there until Santa Claus is ready to put him under the Christmas tree."

"All right," said the man. "As long as Dick and Dorothy are out of the way I'll bring the Horse in. I don't want them to see it until Christmas."

"Dorothy! Dorothy!" thought the Horse to himself. "Where have I heard that name before? I guess some little girl who was called that must have come to the toy department at one time or another. Well, now to see what happens next!"

He felt himself being carried along. Dimly he saw lights, and he felt that he was in a warm place--as warm as the store had been. Then, suddenly, the wrapping papers were taken off him.

"Oh, what a beautiful Rocking Horse!" exclaimed the lady. "I am sure Dick will be pleased. It's the same one I saw in the store. I am glad you got that one!"

Now the White Rocking Horse was still rather dazed and still rather sleepy from his ride in the cold. Or else perhaps he would have been prepared for the surprise in store for him. Dimly he seemed to remember having heard that lady's voice before, and dimly he recalled having seen her before.

Then, when his wrapping papers had been taken off, he was set down on the floor near a warm chimney in rather a bare and cheerless attic, and left to himself in the darkness.

But the White Rocking Horse could see in the dark. And when he knew that no human eyes were watching him he spoke, in the make-believe language of toy land.

"Is any one here--any toy to whom I can talk, and with whom I can have a little fun?" asked the White Horse out loud.

There was no answer for a moment, and then a voice said:

"You can talk to me, if you like, but it has been many years since I have had any fun. I am old and broken and covered with dust."

"Who are you?" asked the White Horse.

"I am an old Jumping Jack," was the answer. "Here I am, over by the chimney."

"Oh, now I see you!" said the Horse. "But what is the matter? Are you so very old?"

"Oh, yes, I am almost five Christmases old," was the answer. "My two legs are broken, and one of my arms, and the spring by which I used to jump is all worn out. So, as I am no longer of any use in this world, I am in the Attic Home. That is the last resting place of broken toys, you know."

"I have heard of it," said the Rocking Horse rather sadly. "I hope I am not kept here."

"Indeed you will not be," said the old Jumping Jack. "You are new, and are going to enjoy your first Christmas! Ah, how well I remember that! But there is no use worrying. I had some good times, I once made a little boy happy, and now I am content to stay here in the dust and darkness. I shall be glad to know that you are going to have a jolly time."

"Thank you," said the White Rocking Horse.

Then he and the old Jumping Jack talked together for some hours in the attic. All the next day they were together, and the White Rocking Horse told how he had once lived in a big department store, and how he had been given a ride in an automobile. And the Jumping Jack told his story, how he used to leap about and cut funny capers.

The next night, after dark, a light was seen gleaming in the attic. The White Rocking Horse and the Jumping Jack had just begun to talk together, and the Horse was showing his friend how fast he could rock, when they had to stop, because the man came up. The lady was with him.

"Dick and Dorothy are asleep now," said the lady. "We can take the Rocking Horse down, and leave him for Santa Claus to put under the big Christmas tree."

"Yes, we can do that," the man said. "And here is an old Jumping Jack. It is broken, but the paint on it is still gay. I'll dust it off and take it down for the Christmas tree. It will make it look more jolly." And to his own great surprise the Jack was taken down with the White Rocking Horse.

As for the Rocking Horse, so many things happened at once that he hardly knew where one began and the other left off. He saw some gleaming lights and red, blue, green and golden-yellow balls that seemed brighter than the sun. He saw a big, green tree. He saw many toys scattered under it. And one, in particular, made him open his eyes in wonder.

For there, sitting on the carpet near him, was the Sawdust Doll! The very-same Sawdust Doll who had lived in the toy store with him!