Chapter IX. Two Bad Men
 

Dick jumped off his Rocking Horse.

"What did you say Carlo had?" he asked his sister.

"I don't know," Dorothy answered. "But I was down in the kitchen, and Mary had just given me some bread and sugar, and I saw Carlo under a chair. He had something in his mouth and he was shaking it. And it was brown and fuzzy and maybe it's a mouse. You'd better come, 'cause Mary's standin' up on a chair and hollerin' awful loud. It's fun."

"Oh, I'll come!" cried Dick. "But where's Mother?"

"Oh, she's in the parlor with some ladies," answered the little girl. "I didn't tell her."

"That's right," said Dick, hurrying over to a closet in the playroom.

"What are you going to do?" asked Dorothy. "You'd better hurry if you want to help Carlo catch that mouse."

"I am hurrying," Dick said. "But I want to get my soldier cap and my pop gun."

"What for?" the little girl wanted to know.

"'Cause I'm going to make believe I'm a captain, and the mouse is an enemy, and I'm going to capture the enemy. Like in war."

Down to the kitchen the children hurried. They could hear their dog Carlo barking and growling, and they could hear Mary, the cook, laughing.

"She isn't very scared, I guess," said Dick.

"Well, she was, and she was up on a chair," declared Dorothy. "Come on, Dick!"

Together they hurried into the kitchen. Mary was no longer standing on a chair. Instead she was sitting down in one, laughing as hard as she could laugh.

Carlo was out in the middle of the floor, tossing up into the air something brown and fuzzy.

"Where's the mouse?" cried Dick. "I want to see if I can shoot it with my pop gun."

"Mouse? There isn't any mouse, Dick!" laughed Mary.

"Dorothy said there was," he declared.

"Yes, and I thought there was, too," went on the cook. "But it was only a piece of fur that Carlo had. It's one of the tails off Martha's fur neck-piece. She dropped it, and Carlo found it. I guess he thought it was a mouse, and I did, too, at first."

"Bow wow! Gurr-r-r-r-r!" growled the poodle dog, as he shook and tossed the fuzzy thing. And as it fell near Dick the boy looked and saw that, indeed, it was only a piece of fur, as Mary had said.

"I thought it was a mouse," said Dorothy. "And I guess Carlo did, too."

"If it had been I could have made it run back to its hole when I banged my pop gun at it!" declared Dick. "Now I guess I'll play I'm a soldier captain on a horse. I'm going to ride my Rocking Horse," he went on, as he hurried back to the playroom.

"I'll take my Sawdust Doll," said Dorothy, "and we'll have some fun."

All day long the children played, and after supper, when it was time for them to go to bed, Dick pulled his Rocking Horse out into the hall.

"Are you going to leave him there all night?" asked his mother.

"Yes," he answered. "I want to put my railroad track down in the playroom in the morning, and there isn't room if I have the Rocking Horse in there too. I'll make believe the hall is his stable."

"Then I'll not leave my Sawdust Doll out there, for she cannot sleep in a stable," said Dorothy.

Dick's mother intended to move the White Rocking Horse out of the way, for it took up too much room in the hall, but she forgot about it when callers came that evening, and, when the family went to bed, the Horse was still out near the head of the stairs that led down to the first floor.

The house became quiet, only a dim light gleaming in the upper hall, and the White Rocking Horse drew a long breath.

"Now I can be myself," he thought. "I can come to life. I wish I could see the Sawdust Doll and talk to her," he said half aloud.

"Well, here I am," and the Sawdust Doll came out of Dorothy's room. "The little girl is asleep," went on the Sawdust Doll, "so I came out to talk to you. I want to hear all that happened in the toy hospital. I haven't had a chance to ask you since you got back."

"And I haven't had a chance to talk to you," went on the White Rocking Horse. "It is nice and quiet, now, and we can talk as long as we like; or at least until morning comes."

"It must be a funny place--that hospital," said the Sawdust Doll.

"It is," answered the Rocking Horse. "But I would much rather be here with you."

"Thank you," replied the Sawdust Doll.

Now, while the toys were thus talking together in the middle of the night, two bad men were prowling around the house where Dick and Dorothy and their father and mother lived. The two bad men were called burglars, and they wanted to get in, and take the silver knives, forks, and other things that were in the dining room, and perhaps some rings from the dresser in the room of Dorothy's mother.

And as the White Rocking Horse and the Sawdust Doll were talking together at the head of the stairs the two bad men made their way into the house by unlocking the front door with a false key one of them carried.

"Hush! Don't make a noise!" said the big burglar.

"No, we must be very quiet," said the little burglar.

But, quiet as they were, and whisper as softly as they did, the White Rocking Horse heard them.

"Some one is coming," said the Horse to the Sawdust Doll. "We must stop talking now. We dare not talk or move if human eyes look at us, and some one is coming."

"Then I had better hurry back to Dorothy's room," said the Doll.

"Too late! They are coming up the stairs," whispered the Horse. "Stay where you are and I'll stay here too!"

So the Sawdust Doll flopped down on the carpet and the Rocking Horse remained very still and quiet right at the edge of the top step.

Up the stairs came the big burglar walking slowly and softly.

"Look out!" whispered the little burglar, who remained at the foot of the stairs. "I see something white! Look out!"

"It is only a Rocking Horse," whispered back the big burglar. "A White Rocking Horse! And a Sawdust Doll is here, too. I guess the children must have forgotten and left them in the hall. And that Sawdust Doll is just what I want. I know somebody I can give her to. I'll take her!"

The Sawdust Doll would have screamed and run away if she had dared, but she could not while the burglar was looking at her. The bad man reached out to pick up the Sawdust Doll, but his foot slipped, and, to save himself from falling, he made a grab for one of the legs of the White Rocking Horse.

Now whether the Horse kicked out; or not, I cannot say. It may be that he did, and, again, it may be that he did not. Anyhow, all of a sudden the White Horse toppled right over on top of the bad burglar, and down the stairs they went, bumpity-bump! all in a heap, right toward the little burglar standing at the foot. Down the stairs rolled the big burglar and the White Rocking Horse.

"Bang! Bing! Bung!" was the noise they made.