The Sandman: His House Stories  by Willliam J. Hopkins

The Moving‑Men Story

O NCE upon a time there was a little boy, and he was almost five years old, and his name was David. And there weren't any other children near for him to play with, so he used to play happily all by himself.

He had his cat and his cart and his shovel and his hoe, and he always wore his overalls when he was playing.

They had been building a new house in the field next to David's house, and it was all done, and all ready to be lived in.

It had electric lights and a range which would burn either coal or gas and in cold weather they would burn coal in the range, and in warm weather they would use the gas part.

And the telephone was all in, for the inside-telephone-men had come and put it in. David hadn't seen them do their work, because they had been inside the house all the time, and there wasn't any nice foreman, like Jonathan, who knew him, and who took pains to show him everything there was to show.

But he had seen them go in, carrying the telephone, and he had seen them come out without it, and he had asked them if they had it all fixed so that people could talk, and they had said that they had fixed it, and that it was all right.

Then six great wagons had come. Three of the wagons brought furnace coal and two of them brought range coal, and one brought a load of wood to burn in the fireplaces.

And the furnace coal went in at one cellar window, and the range coal went in at another cellar window, and the wood went in at the cellar door, in a man's arms.

All these different things were being done at once, and there was a tremendous racket with all the coal going down through iron chutes, and all the men had been very busy.

Then the racket had stopped, and the men had taken their chutes and thrown them into the wagons, and they had climbed up into their seats, and they had rattled off, in a procession, but they had left the cellar windows flapping.

Coal men never do fasten the cellar windows unless there is somebody right there to remind them of it. And, in a few minutes, David saw a man come out of the house and lock the door, and walk up the road and turn the corner.

The next day, David watched the new house for a long time, but nothing happened, and he couldn't see that there was anybody there, so he wandered into the thin woods behind his house.

His cat started with him, but two crows came and flew at the cat, and she was frightened and ran home as fast as she could go, with her bushy tail sticking straight out behind her.

David laughed to see her running away from the crows, and he walked along slowly, and he came where were some crusts of bread and other things which the maid at his house had taken out there for the birds.

David's mother had the maid throw out crusts of bread and tie lumps of fat on the trees all winter, because when the snow is on the ground it is sometimes hard for the birds to find things enough to eat.

There was a plenty of things for the birds to eat now, and they were easy enough to get, but some birds were picking at the scraps.

Suddenly the birds flew up into a tree and two gray squirrels came and gnawed at the bread crusts, when the two crows that had chased David's cat came flapping down and tried to get at the scraps.

But the squirrels stopped eating and chased the crows savagely; and the crows didn't fight back, but they just flew up a little bit of a way and hovered there until the squirrels began to eat again.


The squirrel chased the crows.

Then they flapped down on the ground and began to sneak up toward the scraps; and the squirrels darted at them and chased them again.

David wasn't very near, and he had watched the squirrels and the crows for some time.

Then he just happened to look up, and he saw a maid come out of the cellar door of the new house and get some wood from the pile that the carpenters had left.

And she picked out the little pieces and put them in her apron and went in; and, almost as soon as she was in, smoke began to come out of the chimney, and David thought he had better go there and see what was going on.

He walked up past his house, and stopped and got his cart and called his cat. And his cat came running, and he walked along, dragging his cart, with his shovel and his hoe rattling in the bottom of it.

But when he got to the road he looked up to the corner to see if there was anything coming, and he saw what he thought must be the circus just turning the corner.

First there came three great horses, harnessed abreast, and their harness was glittering with chains and little brass things and with ivory rings; and the horses were dragging a great big shiny van which seemed almost as big as a house.

The driver's seat was up high, and the top of the van stuck over and made a little roof for it; and on the side of the van was a picture of two lions, and the lions in the picture were about as big as real lions.

And behind that van came another three-horse van like the first, with lions painted on the side.

And behind that came a smaller van drawn by two horses, and that had lions painted on the side, and a little dog trotted under the two-horse van, and his tongue was hanging out because he had trotted a long way and he was thirsty.

When these three vans had turned the corner, no more came, although David watched for as much as half a minute.

By that time the first van was past him and his cat had caught sight of the little dog and the little dog had caught sight of the cat.

But the cat didn't do anything, and the little dog was too tired to chase her. So he pretended that he didn't see her, and he trotted along under the van as far as the new house.

All the vans stopped at the new house, and the horses backed them up side by side in the gutter. There wasn't any curbstone, and the sidewalk was a new one of gravel, and there would be a border of grass when the grass had time to grow.

As soon as the vans had stopped, the little dog trotted out from under the two-horse one, and went around the house looking for some water.

And he came to the faucet where they screw on the hose, and he saw that there was a drop of water hanging on the bottom of the faucet. So he licked that up and waited until another drop came, and he licked that up.

Then one of the moving-men saw him.

"Poor little Dick!" said the moving-man.

And he went to the faucet and the little dog wagged his stump of a tail and backed away a step and waited.

Then the moving-man turned the handle of the faucet so that a little thin stream of water ran out, and the little dog came up and lapped out of the little thin stream, wagging his stump of a tail very fast. He wagged and he lapped until he had had enough.


He licked up the drops of water.

And the moving-man turned the handle of the faucet the other way, and the water stopped running.

Then the little dog licked the man's hand, and he trotted back to the van, and he went under and curled up and slumped down, and he put his head on his paws, and he drew two or three long breaths, and he went to sleep.

There were three men with each three-horse van and two men with the two-horse van; and they had all got down and taken off their coats, and they had unlocked the great tall doors at the back of each van, and they had opened the doors, and had taken some of the things out.

The things were covered with a great many old soft cloths: old coarse burlaps, and old quilts and comforters. These soft cloths belonged to the moving-men, and they kept them to use in that way, so that the things which they moved shouldn't get scratched or broken.

When they took anything out of a van, they took off the cloths and threw them in a pile on the sidewalk, and they put the things in a sort of a clump, along the front walk of the new house.

David had come up close, dragging his cart, but his cat had run off into the field.

Then the moving-men noticed David standing there.

"Hello," said one of the men. He seemed to be a kind of a foreman. "Do you live around here?"

David pointed to his house.

"I live in that house. Do you know whether there are any little boys coming to live in this house?"

"I think likely," said the moving-man, "but I don't know for certain."

"Well, are you going to take all these things into the house?" David asked again, pointing at the things.

There were a hat-rack, and two wastebaskets filled with little things done up in newspaper, and a little table, and a pasteboard box filled with hats, and two mirrors about as tall as David, and a maid's washstand, and a bundle of pictures tied up in newspapers, and a wooden box full of rubbers, and some crockery things, and a barrel of kitchen things, and a great enormous pasteboard box tied up with tape, and another great pasteboard box with the side broken in, and three kitchen chairs, and a chamber chair, and a bundle of magazines, and some other things and they were all spread out on the walk.

These things were all the things that had been left over and put in last in packing the vans, or little things which filled up chinks.

"We are going to take them in as soon as somebody comes to tell us where to put them," the moving-man answered. "And we want to take in some of the big things first, such as beds and dining-room table and heavy things like those. They are all packed in the bottom of the vans."

David nodded his head.

Just then one of the men took out of a van a little upholstered armchair.

"Hello!" said the moving-man. "That looks as if there was a youngster of some kind coming, either a boy or a girl."

Then another man came with a box of toys, and set it down beside the armchair.

David saw it and smiled.

"That looks so, too, doesn't it now?" said the moving-man. He looked up. "And here he is, I guess."

David turned around, and he saw a very pleasant-looking man coming along, and, holding by his hand, there was a little boy who looked as if he might be almost five years old.

They came near, and David looked at the little boy, but he didn't say anything, and the little boy looked at David, and he didn't say anything either, but he held to his father's hand tighter than ever.

"Well, here we are. You have not been waiting long, I judge. Now I'll go in and you can come along with the things as fast as you like. What will you do, Dick?"

At the sound of his name, the little dog raised his head and wagged his stump of a tail and was all ready to get up; but nobody saw him, for the little boy was whispering to his father, who turned to David.

"I guess that your name is David," he said and David nodded. "I know your father, David. How would you like it if Dick stayed out here with you? You two can play anywhere that you are used to, David, or you can stay and watch as long as you like."

David thought that that would be nice, and he turned his cart around and took out the backboard, and he told Dick that he might sit in it if he wanted to, or he could sit in the little armchair.

Dick chose the cart to sit in, and David sat in the armchair, and they watched the men, who were beginning to carry in the things.


They watched the men.

They had taken some more things out of one of the vans, and they had come to the heavy things.

One man was in the van, unpacking the things and pushing them to the back, where the other men could reach them.

And a man would take as much as he could carry under his arms, and march into the house with it; and another man would come and get his load, and he would march in with it.

There was a procession of men going in with their loads and coming out without any, and Dick's father stood just inside the front door and told each man where to leave his load, and the man went to that room and left it, and came out again.

But when they had all the parts of a bed in the room where the bed was to be, they put the bed together, so that it was all ready to be made up.

Two men carried in the dining-table, and the library table, and the ice-chest, and each bureau, and each dressing-table, and each bookcase, and the tall clock, and each sofa, and each of the washstands, and everything that was either too big or too heavy for one man.

They had come to a lot of boxes, all just alike, each box just about a load for one man. The men were taking them up as fast as they could, and going in, and piling them up in the hall, and they joked about them, they were so heavy.

David was curious about the boxes, and he asked Dick what was in them; and Dick said that books were in them, and his mother and his father packed them, and it took them a long time, for they had to wrap every book in newspaper and stuff newspapers in all the cracks. Then his father had screwed the tops on with a screwer.

And David said it was funny how heavy books were, because they were made of paper, and paper was one of the lightest things there was, and his kitty liked to play with pieces of newspaper, out of doors, where the wind blew them.

Then he got up and called his cat, but she didn't come.

"I'll tell you," David said; "let's go and find her."

So Dick and David each took hold of one handle of the cart, and walked along to David's house, and David called his cat again, but she didn't come.

Then he thought that she must be in the woods, and they would go there and find her.

But first he went into his house and asked the maid to give him and Dick some cookies, and the maid gave him three for Dick and three for himself.

And he gave Dick his three, and the two little boys wandered on into the woods, eating their cookies and dragging the cart behind them, and David thought how much better a real little boy was than a pretend little boy.

And David told Dick about the squirrels and the crows and the other birds that were there, and he showed him where there were some chestnuts; and they picked up some chestnuts and got them out of the burs and put them into the cart.

Then suddenly there was David's cat walking along, with her bushy tail sticking straight up in the air; and she went to David and rubbed against him, and she went to Dick and rubbed against him, and she went to the cart and rubbed against that.

Then she ran on ahead, and they came after, and they went to the place where the squirrels and the crows had been.

But no squirrels were there.

So the two little boys wandered on through the thin woods, looking for squirrels, and sometimes the cat was with them and sometimes she wasn't, and at last they were just behind Dickie's house, for the new house was his house now.

And they looked up and saw the vans just starting away, and the horses were trotting.

They watched until they couldn't see the vans any longer, and they heard them turn the corner.

"I guess I've got to go," said Dickie then.

"Why have you got to go?" David asked. "Aren't you going to live in that house?"

"Yes," Dick said, "I am, but we're going back for to-night. To-morrow the maids will have it all ready, and we'll come and bring my mother and my baby sister."

"Oh," said David.

That was the first time Dick had told him that he had a baby sister.

Dick had already started up to his house, but he stopped and turned around.

"Good-bye, David," he said.

"Good-bye, Dick," said David.

And Dick turned again and hurried to the new house, but David stood, holding the handle of his cart and looking after him.

And he saw Dick's father come around the corner of the house and take Dick by the hand.

Then Dick's father stood for a minute looking at the house, as if he was afraid that he had forgotten something.

But he couldn't think of anything, and he and Dick began to walk away, and Dick was talking to his father and his father was smiling.

David stood still, watching them, until he couldn't see them any longer.

Then he began to gallop along toward his house, dragging his cart, and his shovel and his hoe rattled like everything in the bottom of it; and his cat ran on ahead, with her bushy tail sticking straight up in the air.

And that's the end of this book.