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JENNIE by Paul Gallico

Contents

1 How It Began

2 Flight from Cavendish Square      

3 The Emperor’s Bed       

4 A Story is Told        

5 When in Doubt - Wash       

6 Jennie         

7 Always Pause on the Threshold      

8 Hoodwinking of an Old Gentleman     

9 The Stowaways        

10 Price of Two Tickets to Glasgow      

11 The Countess and the Crew      

12 Overboard!        

13 Mr Strachan Furnishes the Proof      

14 Mr Strachan’s Proof Leads to Difficulties    

15 The Killers        

16 Lost in the Clouds       

17 Jennie Makes a Confession      

18 Mr Grims Sleeps        

19 London Once More       

20 The ‘Élite’ of Cavendish Square      

21 Reunion in Cavendish Mews      

22 Jennie Makes a Decision

23 Lulu – or, Fishface for Short

24 The Informers

25 The Search

26 Jennie, Come Out

27 The Last Fight

28 How It All Ended

Poussie, Poussie, Baudrons

‘Poussie, poussie, baudrons,

Whaur hae ye been?’

‘I’ve been tae London,

Tae see the Queen’

‘Poussie, poussie, baudrons,

Whit gat ye there?

‘ I gat a guid fat mousikie,

Rinnin’ up a stair!’

‘Poussie, poussie, baudrons,

Whit did ye dae wi’ it?’

‘I pit it in ma meal-poke,

Tae eat tae ma breid.’

OLD Scottish Nursery Rhyme

CHAPTER ONE

How It Began

PETER guessed that he must have been hurt in the accident

although he could not remember very much from the time he

had left the safety of Scotch Nanny’s side and run out across the

street to get to the garden in the square, where the tabby striped

kitten was warming herself by the railing and washing in the

early spring sunshine.

He had wanted to hold and stroke the kitten. Nanny had

screamed and there had been a kind of an awful bump, after

which it seemed to have turned from day to night as though the

sun were gone and it had become quite dark. He ached and

somewhere it hurt him, as it had when he had fallen running

after a football near a gravel pile and scraped nearly all the skin

from the side of one leg.

He seemed to be in bed now, and Nanny was there peering at

him in an odd way, that is, first she would be quite close to him,

so close that he could see how white her face was, instead of its

usual wrinkled pink colour, and then it would seem to fade and

become very small like seen through the wrong end of a telescope.

His father and mother were not there, but this did not surprise

Peter. His father was a Colonel in the Army, and his mother was

always busy and having to dress up to go out, leaving him with

Nanny.

Peter might have resented Nanny if he had not been so fond

of her, for he knew that at eight he was much too old to be hav-

ing a nurse who babied him and wanted always to lead him

around by the hand as though he were not capable of looking

after himself. But he was used by now to his mother being busy

and having no time to look after him, or stay in and sit with him

at night until he went to sleep. She had come to rely more and

more upon Nanny to take her place, and when his father, Colonel

Brown, once suggested that it might perhaps be time for Nanny

to be leaving, his mother could not bear to think of sending her

away, and so of course she had stayed.

If he was in bed, then perhaps he was sick, and if he was sick,

perhaps his mother would be with him more when she came

home and found out. Maybe now they would even give him the

wish he had had for so long and let him have a cat all of his own

to keep in his room and sleep curled up at the foot of his bed,

and perhaps even crawl under the covers with him and snuggle

in his arms on nights that were cold.

He had wanted a cat ever since he could remember, which was

many years ago at the age of four - when he had gone to stay on

a farm near Gerrards Cross, and had been taken into the kitchen

and shown a basketful of kittens, orange and white balls of Huff,

and the ginger-coloured mother who beamed with pride until

her face was quite as broad as it was long, and licked them over

with her tongue one after the other. He was allowed to put his

hand on her. She was soft and warm, and a queer kind of throb-

bing was going on inside of her, which later he learned was

called purring, and meant that she was comfortable and happy.

From then on he dearly wished for a cat of his own.

However, he was not allowed to have one.

They lived in a small flat in a Mews off Cavendish Square.

Peter’s father, Colonel Brown, who came home occasionally on

leave, did not mind if Peter had a cat, but his mother said that

there was enough dust and dirt from the street in a small place,

and not enough room to move around without having a cat

in, and besides, Scotch Nanny didn’t like cats and was afraid

of them. It was important to Peter’s mother that Nanny be

humoured in the matter of cats, so that she would stay and look

after Peter.

All of these things Peter knew and understood and put up

with because that was how it was in his world. However, this

did not stop his heart from being heavy, because his mother,

who was young and beautiful, never seemed to have much time

for him, or prevent him yearning hungrily for a cat of his own.

He was friends with all or most of the cats on the Square, the

big black one with the white patch on his chest and green eyes

as large around as shilling pieces, who belonged to the caretaker

of the little garden in Cavendish Square close to the Mews, the

two greys who sat unblinking in the window of Number 5 4

throughout most of the day, the ginger cat with the green eyes

who belonged to Mrs Bobbit, the caretaker who lived down in

the basement of Number 11, the tortoiseshell cat with the droop-

ing ear next door, and the Boie de Rose Persian who slept on a

cushion in the window of Number 27 most of the time, but who

was brought into the Square for an airing on clear warm days.

And then of course there were the countless strays who in-

habited the alley and the bombed—out house behind the Mews, or

squeezed through the railings into the park, tigers and tabbies,

black and whites and lemon yellows, tawnies and brindles, slip-

ping in and out behind the dustbins, packets of waste paper, and

garbage containers, fighters, yowlers, slinkers, scavengers, home-

less waifs, old ’uns, and kittens, going nervously about the difficult-

cult business of gaining a living from the harsh and heedless city.

These were the ones that Peter was always dragging home,

sometimes kicking and clawing in terror under his arm, or limp

and more than willing to go where it was warm and there might

be a meal and the friendly touch of a human hand.

Once in a while, when he evaded Nanny, he managed to

smuggle one into the cupboard of the nursery and keep it for as

much as two whole days and nights before it was discovered.

Then Nanny, who had her orders from Mrs Brown as to what

she was to do when a cat was found on the premises, would open

the door on to the Mews and cry - ‘Out! Scat, you dirty thing! '

or fetch a broom with which to chase it. Or if that did not work

and the stowaway merely cowered in a corner, she would pick it

up by the scruff of the neck, hold it away from her, and fling it

out into the street. After that, she would punish Peter, though

he could not be worse hurt than he was through losing his new

friend and remembering how happy it had been safe in his arms.

Peter had even learned not to cry any more when this happened.

One could cry inside of one without making a sound, he

had found out.

He was feeling that way now that he was sick, only this was

different because he seemed to want to cry out this time but

found that he could not utter a sound. He did not know why

this should be except it was a part of the queer way things had

been since whatever it was had happened to him when he had

darted away from Nanny who was talking to the postman, and

run across the road after the striped kitten.

Actually, it was a coal lorry that had come speeding around

the comer of the square that had struck Peter and knocked him

down just as he had stepped off the kerb without looking and

had run in front of it, but what happened after that, the hue and

cry, the people that gathered after the accident, Nanny’s crying

and wailing, the policeman who picked him up and carried him

into the house, the sending for the doctor and the trying to find

his mother, and later, the trip to the hospital, Peter was not to

know for a long, long time. So many strange things were to

happen to him first.

For, unquestionably, events seemed to be taking an odd turn

what with night appearing to follow day at such rapid intervals

that it was almost like being at the cinema with the screen going

all dark and light and Nanny’s face seeming to be on top of him

first and then sliding away into the distance only to return once

more with the lenses of her spectacles shining like the headlamps

of an approaching motor-car.

But that something really queer was about to take place Peter

knew when after Nanny had faded into the distance and his bed

had seemed to rock like a little boat in the waves and when she

had begun to return again, it was no longer the face of Nanny

but that of the tabby striped kitten that had been washing itself

by the park railings and that he had wanted to catch and hug.

Indeed, it was this dear little cat now grown to enormous

size, sitting at his bedside smiling at him in a friendly manner,

its eyes as large as soup tureens, large, luminous, and shiny, and

resembling Nanny’s spectacles in that he could see himself mir-

rored in them.

But what was puzzling to him was that although he knew it

to be himself reflected therein, still it did not seem to look like

him at all as he was accustomed to seeing himself when he passed

the tall cheval mirror in the hallway, or even in Nanny’s glasses

in which he could frequently catch a reflection of his curly head

of close—cropped auburn hair, round eyes, upturned button nose,

stubborn chin, and cheeks as red—and—white and rounded as two

crab-apples.

At first Peter did not try to make out exactly who or what he

looked like because it was pleasant and soothing just to lose him-

self in the cool green pools of the kitten’s eyes, so calm and deep

and clear that it seemed like swimming about in an emerald lake.

It felt delightful to be there bathed in the beautiful colour and

surrounded by the warmth of the smile of the kitten.

But then soon he began to notice the effect it was beginning to

have upon him.

Sometimes the picture would be hazy and then for a moment

it would grow quite clear so that he could see how the shape of

his head had altered and not only the shape but the colour. For

whereas he was familiar with the reddish—brown curly hair and

apple cheeks, his fur now seemed to be quite short, straight, and

snow white.

‘Why,’ said Peter to himself, ‘I said "fur" instead of hair.

What a strange thing to do. It must be looking into the cat’s eyes

that is changing me into a cat, if that is what is happening.’

But he continued to look there because he found that for the

moment he could not take his gaze elsewhere, and when it grew

hazy, his image seemed to quiver as though things were happen-

ing to it from inside, and each time it grew clear he noted new

details, the queerly slanted eyes that were now no longer grey

but a light blue, the nose that had changed from an uptilted

little sixpenny-bit into a rose-pink triangle leading to a mouth

that was no more like his than anything he could think of. It

now curved downwards over long, sharp white teeth, and from

either side sprouted sets of enormous, bristly white whiskers.

The head was square, the slant—set eyes large and staring, and

the sharp-pointed ears stood up like dormers. ‘Oh,’ thought

Peter, ‘that is how I would look if I were a cat. How I wish I

were one.’ And then he closed his eyes, because this queer, un-

usual image of himself was now so clear and unmistakable that

it was a little frightening. To wish to be a cat was one thing. To

seem very much to be one was quite another.

When he opened them it seemed for a moment as if he had

broken the spell of the cat’s—eye mirror, for he was able to avoid

staring into it and instead managed to look down at his paws.

They were pure white, large and furred, with quaint, soft pink-

ish pads on the under side and claws curved like Turkish swords

and needle-sharp at the end.

To his astonishment, Peter saw that he was no longer lying in

the bed but on top of it. His whole body, now long and slender,

was just as soft and white as the ermine muff his mother used to

carry when she dressed up and went out in the winter, and what

seemed to be a blank and eyeless snake curving, moving, twitch-

ing, and lashing at the end of it was his own tail. From ear—tip

to tail-tip he was clad in spotless white fur.

The tiger—striped kitten who with his smile and staring eyes

had apparently worked this mischief on him had vanished and

was nowhere to be seen. Instead there was only Nanny, ten times

larger than she had ever appeared before, standing over the bed

shouting in a voice so loud that it hurt his ears -

‘Drat the child! He’s dragged in anither stray off the street!

Shoo! Seat! Get out!’

Peter cried out- ‘But, Nanny! I’m Peter. I’m not a cat.

Nanny, don’t, please!’

‘Rail at me, will ye?’ Nanny bellowed. ‘ ’Tis the broom I’ll

take to ye then. She ran down the hall, and returned carrying

the broom. ‘Now then. Out ye go !’

Peter was cold with fright. He could only cower down at the

end of the bed while Nanny beat at him with the broom, and

cry: ‘Nanny, Nanny, no, no! Oh, Nanny! ’

‘I’ll miaow you!’ Nanny stormed, dropped the broom, and

picked Peter up by the scruff of the neck so that he hung there

from her hand, front and hind legs kicking, while he cried

miserably.

Holding him as far away from her as she could, Nanny ran

down the hallway muttering, ‘And it’s to bed without any sup-

per for Peter when I find him. How often have I told him he’s

no' to bring in any more cats!’ until she reached the ground

floor entrance to the flat from the Mews.

Then she pitched Peter out into the street and slammed the

door shut.

CHAPTER TWO

Flight from Cavendish Square

IT was miserably cold and wet out in the Mews, for when the

sun had gone down a chill had come into the air, clouds had

formed, and it had begun to rain in a heavy, soaking, steady

downpour.

Locked outside, Peter let out such a howl of anguish and

fright that the woman who lived opposite said to her husband,

‘Goodness, did you hear that? It sounded just like a child!’

He parted the curtains to look, and Peter cried - or thought

he cried to him — ‘Oh, let me in! Please let me in! Nanny’s put

me out, me-out, me-out ! ’

Peter then heard the husband say as he dropped the curtains:

‘It’s only another stray, a big white tom. Where do they all come

from? You never get a minute’s rest with their yowling and

caterwauling. Ah there! Boo! Scat! Shoo! Go ’way!’

The boy who delivered the evening newspapers came by on

his bicycle, and hearing the shouting to scare away the cat

outside the door decided to assist him in the hope of earning a

tip.

He rode his bicycle straight at Peter, crying, ‘Oi! Garn! Scat!

Get along there!’ and then, leaning from the saddle, struck Peter

across the back with a folded-up newspaper. Peter ran blindly

from this assault, and a moment later, with a roar and a rumble,

something enormous and seemingly as big as a house went by on

wheels, throwing up a curling wave of muddy water that struck

him in the flank as he scampered down the Mews into Caven-

dish Square, soaking right through his fur to the skin under-

neath.

He had not yet had time even to look about him and see what

kind of a world this was into which he had been so rudely and

suddenly catapulted.

It was like none he had ever encountered before, and it struck

terror to his heart.

It was a place that seemed to consist wholly of blind feet clad

in heavy boots or clicking high heels, and supplied with legs that

rose up out of them and vanished into the dark, rainy night  

above, all rushing hither and thither, unseeing and unheeding.

Equally blind but infinitely more dangerous were wheels of  

enormous size that whizzed, rumbled, or thundered by always  

in twos, one behind the other. To be caught beneath one of those  

meant to be squashed flatter than the leopard-skin rug in their

living-room.

Not that the feet weren’t of sufficient danger to one in the  

situation in which Peter now found himself, cowering on the

wet, glistening pavement of the square, standing on all fours,

and not quite ten inches high. Eyeless, and thus unable to see

where they were going, the shoes came slashing and hurtling by

from all directions, and no pair at the same pace.

One of them stepped on his tail, and a new and agonizing

pain he had never felt before shot through Peter and forced an

angry and terrified scream from his throat. The foot that had

done this performed an odd kind of slithering and sliding dance

with its partner for a moment, while down from the darkness

above thundered a voice: ‘Dash the beast! I might have broken

my neck over him. Go on! Clear out of here before somebody

hurts himself ! ’

And the partner foot leaped from the pavement and flung

itself at Peter’s ribs and shoulders where it landed a numbing

blow.

In sheer terror Peter began to run now, without knowing

where he was going or what the end was to be.

It seemed as though suddenly all London had become his

enemy, and everything that formerly had been so friendly, inter-

esting, and exciting, the sounds, the smells, the gleam of lights

from the shop windows, the voices of people, and the rush and

bustle of traffic in the streets, all added to the panic that began to

grip him.

For while he knew that he still thought and felt like and was

Peter, yet he was no longer the old Peter he used to know who

went about on two legs and was tall enough to be able to reach

things down from over the fireplace without standing on tip-

toes. Oh no, That Peter was gone and in his place was one who

was running on all fours, his ears thrown back and flattened

against his head, his tail standing straight out behind him,

dashing wildly, hardly looking or knowing where he was going

through the rainswept streets of London.

Already he was far from his own neighbourhood or anything

that might have looked familiar, and racing now through

brightly lighted and crowded thoroughfares, now through pitch-

black alleys and crooked lanes. Everything was terrifying to him

and filled him with fear.

There was, for instance, the dreadful business of the rain.

When Peter had been a boy he had loved the rain and had

been happiest when he had been out in it. He liked the feel of it

on his cheeks and on his hair, the rushing sounds it made tumb-

ling down from the sky, and the cool, soft touch of it as it

splashed on to his face and then ran down the end of his nose in

little droplets that he could catch and taste by sticking out his

lower lip.

But now that he seemed to be a cat the rain was almost un-

bearable.

It soaked through his thick fur leaving it matted and be-

draggled, the hairs clinging together in patches so that all their

power to give warmth and protection was destroyed and the cold

wind that was now lashing the rain against the sides of the shops

and houses penetrated easily to his sensitive skin, and in spite of

the fact that he was tearing along at top speed he felt chilled to

the marrow.

Too, the little pads at the bottom of his feet were thin and

picked up the feel of the cold and damp.

He did not know what he was running away from the most —

the rain, the blows and bruises, or the fear of the thing that was

happening to him.

But he could not stop to rest or find shelter even when he felt

so tired from running that he thought he could not move an-

other step. For everyone and everything in the city seemed to be

against him.

Once he paused to catch his breath beneath a kind of chute

leading from a wagon and which served to keep the rain off him

somewhat, when with a sudden terrible rushing roar like a land-

slide of stones and boulders rolling down a mountainside, coal

began to pour down the chute from the tail-gate in the wagon

and in an instant Peter was choking and covered with black coal

dust.

It worked itself into his soaked fur, streaking it with black,

and got into his eyes and nose and mouth and lungs. And be-

sides, the awful noise started his heart to beating in panic again.

He had never been afraid of noises before, not even the big ones

like bombs and cannon fire when he had been a little boy in the

blitz.

He had not yet had time to be aware that sound had quite a

different meaning to him now. When noises were too loud it was

like being beaten about the head and he could now hear dozens

of new ones he had never heard before. The effect of a really

thunderous one was to make him forget everything and rush off

in a blind panic to get away from it so that they would not hurt

his ears and head any more.

And so he darted away again to stop for a moment under a

brightly lighted canopy where at least he was out of the dreadful

rain. But even this respite did not last long, for a girl’s voice

from high above him complained:

‘Oh! That filthy beast! He’s rubbed up against me, and look

what he’s done to my new dress ! ’

It was true. Peter had accidentally come too close to her, and

now there was a streak of wet coal grime at the bottom of her

patty gown. Again the hoarse cries of ‘Shoo! Scat! Get out!

Pack off! Go ’way ! ’ were raised against him, and once more the

angry feet came charging at him, this time joined by several

umbrella handles that came down from above and sought to

strike him.

To escape them, shivering and shaking, his heart beating

wildly from fright and weariness, Peter ran under an auto-

mobile standing at the kerb where they could not reach him.

It was to be only a temporary sanctuary from rain and pur-

suit, and an unhappy one at that, as the water was now pouring

through the gutters in torrents. For the next moment from

directly over Peter’s head there sounded the most appalling and

ear-splitting series of explosions mingled with a grinding and

clashing of metals as well as a shattering wail of the horn. Hot

oil and petrol dripped down on Peter, who was nearly numb

with terror from the shock of the noise. Summoning strength

from he knew not where, he darted off again, and just in time, as

the car started to move.

He seemed to have struck a kind of second wind of panic

strength, for he ran and ran and ran, bearing towards the darker

and more twisted streets where there was less wheeled traffic to

menace him and less likely to be humans abroad to abuse him.

And thus he passed on into the poorer section where the

streets were dirtier and horrible smells arose from the gutters to

poison his nostrils and make him feel sick, mingled with the

odour of coffee and tea and spices that came from the closed-up

shops. And nowhere was there any shelter, or friendly human

voice, or hand stretched forth to help him.

Hunger was now added to the torments that beset him, hunger

and the knowledge that he was fast approaching the end of his

strength. But rather than stop running and face new dangers,

Peter was determined to keep on until he dropped. Then he

would lie there until he died.

He ran. He stopped. He started again. He faltered and kept

on. ·He thought his eyes would burst from his head, and his chest

was burning from his effort to draw breath. But ever when he

came to pause, something happened to drive him on-a door ‘

banging, a shout, a sign waving in the wind, some new noise

assaulting his sensitive ears, dark threatening shapes of build-

ings, a policeman glistening in his tall helmet and rain cape,

hideous bursts of music from wireless sets in upper-storey win-

dows, a cabbage flung at him that went bounding along the

pavement like a head without a body, drunken feet staggering

out of a pub door, a bottle thrown that crashed into a hundred

pieces on the pavement close to him and showered him with

glass.

He kept on as best he could, but running only weakly now as

exhaustion crept up on him.

But the neighbourhood had changed again, the little shops

and the lighted upstairs windows were gone, and Peter now

entered a forbidding area of huge black sprawling buildings, of

blank walls and deserted streets, of barred doors and iron gates,

and long, wet, slippery steel rails he knew were railway tracks.

The yellow street lamps shone wetly on the towering sides of

the warehouses and behind them the docks and the sides of great

ships in the Pool, for it was to this section of London down by

the Thames that Peter’s wild flight had taken him.

And there, just as he felt that he could not run or stagger an-

other step, Peter came upon a building in which the street light

showed the door standing slightly ajar. And the next moment he

had slipped inside.

It was a huge warehouse piled high with sacks of grain which

gave forth a warm, comfortable, sweetish smell. There was straw

on the floor and the sacks were firm and dry.  

Using his sharp, curved claws to help him, Peter pulled him-  

self up on to a layer of sacks. The rough jute felt good against

his soaked fur and skin. With another sack against his back,

it was almost warm. His limbs trembling with weariness, he

stretched out and closed his eyes.

At that moment a voice close to him said: ‘Trespassing, eh?

All right, my lad. Outside. Come on. Quick! Out you go!’

It was not a human voice, yet Peter understood him perfectly.

He opened his eyes. Although there was no illumination in the

warehouse, he found he could see clearly by the light of the

street lamp outside.

The speaker was a big yellow tomcat with a long, lean, stringy

body, a large head as square as a tiger’s, and an ugly, heavy scar

running straight across his nose.

Peter said: ‘Please, I can’t. Mayn’t I stay here a little while?

I’m so tired - ’

The cat looked at him out of hard yellow eyes and growled,

‘You heard me, chum. I don’t like your looks. Pack off !’

‘But I’m not hurting anything,’ Peter protested. ‘All I want

to do is rest a little and get dry. Honestly, I won’t touch a

thing - ’

‘You won’t touch a thing,’ mocked the yellow cat. ‘That’s rich.

I’ll wager you won’t. I work here, son. We don’t allow strangers

about these premises. Now get out before I knock you out.’

‘I won’t,’ said Peter, his stubborn streak suddenly showing

itself.

‘Oh, you won’t, won’t you?’ said the yellow tom softly, and

gave a low growl. Then, before Peter’s eyes, he began to swell as

though somebody were pumping him up with a bicycle pump.

Larger and larger he grew, all lumpy, crooked, and out of plumb.

Peter continued to protest: ‘I won’t go. There’s plenty of

room in here, and besides-’ but that was as far as he got, for

with a scream of rage the yellow cat launched his attack.

His first lightning buffet to Peter’s head knocked him off the

pile of sacks on to the ground, his second sent him rolling over

and over. Peter had never dreamed that anything or anyone his

size could hit so hard, His head was reeling from the two blows,

and he was sick and dizzy. The floor seemed to be spinning

around him; he tried to stand up, but his legs gave way and he

fell over on his side, and at that moment the yellow tom, teeth

bared, hurled himself upon him.

What saved Peter was that he was so limp from the first

punishment he had taken that he gave with the force of the

attack, so that the big bully rolled with him towards the door.

Nevertheless he felt teeth sink into his ear and the needle—sharp

claws rip furrows in his side. Kick, kick, kick, one-two-three,

and it was like thirty knife thrusts tearing his skin. More blows

rained upon his bruised skull. Over and over they rolled, until

suddenly they were out of the door and in the street.

Half blinded by the blood that had run into his eyes, Peter felt

rather than saw the yellow cat stalk back to the warehouse door,

but he heard his hard, mocking voice saying: ‘And don’t come

back. Because the next time you do, I’ll surely kill you.’

The water running in the gutter helped to revive him a little,

but only for a moment. He knew that he was bleeding from

many wounds; he could hardly see out of his eyes, there was a

rip in his ear, and he felt as though every bone in his body was

broken. He dragged himself on a hundred yards or so. There

was a hoarding advertising Bovril a little further down the street,

and he tried to reach it to crawl behind it, but his strength and

his senses failed him before he got there. He fell over on his side

by a pillar box, with the rain pouring down in torrents and

bounding up from the pavement in glistening drops. And there

Peter lay quite still.

CHAPTER THREE

The Emperor’s Bed

WHEN Peter opened his eyes again it was daylight and he

knew that he was not dead. He was also aware of something

strange, namely that he was no longer in the same place where

he had fallen the night before shortly before he had lost his

senses.

He remembered that there had been a hoarding with a poster,

a pillar box, and a long, low wall, and now there were none of

these to be seen. Instead, he found himself lying on a soft mat-

tress on an enormous bed that had a red silk cover over it and a

huge canopy at one end with folds of yellow silk coming down ·

from a sort of oval with the single letter ‘N’ on it, written in a

manner and with a kind of a crown over it that Peter found

vaguely familiar.

But now he was only concerned with the wonderful comfort

of the great bed, the fact that he was warm and dry, even though

he ached from head to foot, and wondering how he had got to

where he was.

For now that his eyes were fully opened, he noticed that he

was in a dark, high-ceilinged chamber into which only a little

light filtered from a small grimy window at the top with one  

pane out- it was really more a bin than a chamber, because it

had no door and it was filled with furniture of every description,

most of it covered with dust sheets, and piled to the ceilings,

though in some cases the covers had slipped down and you could

see the gilt and the brocade coverings of chairs and sofas. There

were a lot of cobwebs and spider webs about, and it smelled

musty and dusty.

All the horrors of the night before came back to Peter, the

pursuit, the noises, the hounding, and the fright, the terrible

mauling he had suffered at the hands of the yellow tomcat and,

above all, his plight. Turned into a cat in some mysterious man-

ner and thrown out into the street by Nanny by mistake —how

was she to know that he was really Peter? - he might never again

see his mother and father, his home, and Scotch Nanny from

Glasgow who, except for hating cats, was a dear Nanny and

good to him within the limits of a grown-up. And yet the won-

derful feel of the bed and the soft silk under him was such that

he could not resist a stretch, even though it hurt him dreadfully,

and as he did so, to his surprise a small motor seemed to come

alive in his throat and began to throb.

From somewhere behind him a soft voice said, ‘Ah well, that’s

better. I’m glad you’re alive. I wasn’t sure at all. But I say, you

are a mess !’

Startled, for the memory of his encounter with the yellow cat

was still fresh, Peter rolled over and beheld the speaker squatted

down comfortably beside him, her legs tucked under her, tail

nicely wrapped around. She was a thin tabby with a part-white

face and throat that gave her a most sweet and gentle aspect

heightened by the lively and kind expression in her luminous

eyes that were grey-green, flecked with gold.

She was so thin, Peter noticed, that she was really nothing but

skin and bones, and yet there was a kind of tender and rakish

gallantry in her very boniness that was not unbecoming to her.

For the rest, she was spotlessly clean, particularly the white

patch at her breast which gleamed like ermine and (along with

her remark) made Peter acutely conscious for the first time of

his own condition. She was quite right. He was a mess.

His fur was dirty, matted with blood and streaked with mud

and coal dust. To look at him, no one would ever have known

he had once been a snow-white cat, much less a small boy.

He said to the tabby, ‘I’m sorry. I’ll go away as soon as I am

able. I don’t know how I got here. I thought I was going to die

in the street.’

‘You might have,’ she said. ‘I found you and brought you

here. I don’t think you’re very well. Hold still, and I’ll wash you

a bit. Maybe that will make you feel a little better.’

Although Peter had acquired the body and the appearance of

a white cat, he still thought and felt like a boy, and the prospect

of being washed at that moment did not at all appeal to him,

and particularly not at the hands, or rather tongue, of a bone-

thin, scrawny tabby cat even if she had a sweet white face and a

kind and gentle expression. What he really wanted was to stretch

out on the heavy silk of the covers on the comfortable bed and

just stay there and sleep and sleep.

But he remembered his manners and said, ‘No, thank you.

I don’t want to trouble you. I don’t really think I would care - ’

But the tabby cat interrupted him with a gentle ‘Hush! Of

course you would. And I do it very well, too.’

She reached out a scrawny part-white paw and laid it across

his body, kindly but firmly, so that he was held down. And then

with a long, stroking motion of her head and pink tongue she

began to wash him, beginning at his nose, travelling up between

the ears and down the back of his neck and the sides of his face.

And thereafter something strange happened to Peter, at least

inside him. It was only a poor, thin, stray alley cat washing him,

her rough tongue rasping against his fur and skin, but what it `

made him feel like was remembering when he had been very

small and his mother had held him in her arms close to her. It

was almost the very first thing he could remember.

He had been taking some of his early running-walking steps .

and had fallen and hurt himself. She had picked him up and

held him tightly to her and he had cuddled his head into the

warm place at her neck just beneath the chin. With her soft

hands she had stroked the place where it hurt, and said, ‘There,  

mother'll make it all better. Now - it doesn’t hurt any more!’  

And it hadn’t. All the pain had gone, and he remembered only

feeling safe and comfortable and contented.

That same warm, secure feeling was coming over him now as

the little rough tongue rasped over his injured ear and down the

long deep claw furrows torn into the skin of his shoulder and

his side, and with each rasp, as her tongue passed over it, it

seemed as though the pain that was there was erased as if by

magic.

All the ache went out of his sore muscles too, as her busy

tongue got around and behind and underneath, refreshing and

relaxing them, and a most delicious kind of sleepiness began to

steal over him. After all the dreadful things that had happened

to him, it was so good to be cared for. He half expected to hear

her say, ‘See, mother’s making it all better! There! Now it

doesn’t hurt any more . . .’

But she didn’t. She only kept on washing in a wonderful and

soothing rhythm, and shortly Peter felt his own head moving in

a kind of drowsy way in time with hers; the little motor of con-

tentment was throbbing in his throat. Soon he nodded and went

fast asleep.

When he awoke it was much later, because the light coming

in through the grimy bit of window was quite different; the sun

must have been well up in the sky, for a beam of it came in

through a clear spot in the pane and made a little pool of bright-

ness on the red silk cover of the enormous bed.

Peter rolled over into the middle of it and saw that he looked

almost respectable again. Most of the coal grime and mud was

off him, his white fur was dry and fluffed and now served again

to hide and keep the air away from the ugly scars and scratches

on his body. He felt that his torn ear had a droop to it, but it no

longer hurt him and was quite dry and clean.

There was no sign of the tabby cat. Peter tried to stand up

and stretch, but found that his legs were queerly wobbly and that

he could not quite make it. And then he realized that he was

weak with hunger as well as loss of blood, and that if he did not

get something to eat soon he must surely perish. When was it he

had last eaten? Why, ages ago, yesterday or the day before, Nanny

had given him an egg and some greens, a little fruit jelly, and a

glass of milk for lunch. It made him quite dizzy to think of it.

When would he ever eat again?

Just then he heard a little soft, singing sound, a kind of

musical call — ‘Errrp, purrrrrrow, urrrrrrp!’ - that he found

somehow extraordinarily sweet and thrilling. He turned to the

direction from which it was coming and was just in time to see

the tabby cat leap in through the space between the slats at the

end of the bin. She was carrying something in her mouth.

In an instant she had jumped up on to the bed alongside him

and laid it down.

‘Ah,’ she said, ‘that’s better. Feeling a little more fit after your

sleep. Care to have a bit of mouse? I just caught it down the

aisle near the lift. It’s really quite fresh. I wouldn’t mind sharing

it with you. I could stand a snack myself. There you are. You

have a go at it first.’

‘Oh, n—no . . . No-no, thank you,’ said Peter in horror. ‘N-not

mouse. I couldn’t -

‘Why,’ asked the tabby cat in great surprise, and with just a

touch of indignation added, ‘What’s the matter with mouse?’

She had been so kind and he was so glad to see her again that -

Peter was most anxious not to hurt her feelings.

‘Why, n-nothing, I’m sure. It’s . . . well, it’s just that I’ve

never eaten one.’

‘Never eaten one?’ The tabby’s green eyes opened so wide that

the flecks of gold therein almost dazzled Peter, ‘Well, I never!

Not eaten one! You pampered, indoor, lap, and parlour cats! I

suppose it’s been fresh chopped liver and cat food out of a tin.

You needn’t tell me. I’ve had plenty of it in my day. Well, when

you’re off on your own and on the town with nobody giving you l

charity saucers of cream or left-over titbits you soon learn to

alter your tastes. And there’s no time like the present to begin.

So hop to it, my lad, and get acquainted with mouse. You need

a little something to set you up again.’

And with this she pushed the mouse over to him with her paw

and then stood over Peter, eyeing him. There was a quiet force-

fulness and gentle determination in her demeanour that made

Peter a little afraid for a moment that if he didn’t do as she said,

she might become angry. And besides, he had been taught that

when people offered to share something with you at a sacrifice to  

themselves, it was not considered kind or polite to refuse.

‘You begin at the head,’ the tabby cat declared firmly. '

Peter closed his eyes and took a small and tentative nibble.

To his intense surprise, it was simply delicious.

It was so good that before he realized it, Peter had eaten it up

from the beginning of its nose to the very end of its tail. And

only then did he experience a sudden pang of remorse at what

he had done in his moment of greediness. He had very likely

eaten up his benefactress’s ration for the week. And by the look

of her thin body and the ribs sticking through the fur, it had

been longer than that since she had had a solid meal herself.

But she did not seem to mind in the least. On the contrary,

she appeared to be pleased with him as she beamed down at him

and said, ‘There, that wasn’t so bad, was it? My tail, but you

were hungry ! ’

Peter said, ‘I’m sorry. I’m afraid I’ve eaten your dinner.’

The tabby smiled cheerfully. ‘Don’t give it another thought,

laddie! Plenty more where that one came from.’ But even

though the smile and the voice were cheerful, yet Peter detected

a certain wan quality about it that told him that this was not so,

and that she had indeed made a great sacrifice for him, gener-

ously and with sweet grace.

She was eyeing him curiously now, it seemed to Peter almost

as though she was expecting something of him, but he did not

know what it was and so just lay quietly enjoying the feeling of

being fed once again. The tabby opened her mouth as though

she were going to say something, but then apparently thought

better of it, turned, and gave her back a couple of quick licks.

Peter felt as though something he did not quite understand

had sprung up to come between them, something awkward. To

cover his own embarrassment about it, he asked: ‘Where am I?

— I mean, are we?’

_ ‘Oh,’ said the tabby, ‘this is where I live. Temporarily, of

course. You know how it is with us, and if you don’t, you’ll soon

find out. Though I must say it’s months since I’ve been dis-

turbed here. I know a secret way in. It’s a warehouse where they

store furniture for people. I picked this room because I liked the

bed. There are lots of others.’

Now Peter remembered having learned in school what the

crown and the ‘N’ stood for, and couldn’t resist showing off. He

said, ‘The bed must have belonged to Napoleon, once. That’s his

initial up there, and the crown. He was a great emperor.’

The tabby did not appear to be at all impressed. She merely

remarked, ‘Was he, now? He must have been enormously large

to want a bed this size. Still- I must say it is comfortable, and I

don’t suppose he has any further use for it, for he hasn’t been

here to fetch it in the last three months and neither has anybody

else. You’re quite welcome to stay here as long as you like. I

gather you’ve been turned out. Who was it mauled you? You

were more than half dead when I found you last night lying in

the street and dragged you in here.’

Peter told the tabby of his encounter with the yellow tomcat

in the grain warehouse down by the docks. She listened to his

tale with alert and evident sympathy, and when he had finished,

nodded and said:

‘Oh dear! Yes, that would be Dempsey. He’s the best fighter

on the docks from Wapping all the way down to Limehouse

Reach. Everybody steers clear of Dempsey. I say, you did have a

nerve, telling him off! I admire you for that even if it was fool-

hardy. No house pets are much good at rough-and-tumble, and ‘

particularly against a champion like Dempsey.

Peter liked the tabby’s admiration, he found, and swelled a ·

little with it. He wished that he had managed to give Dempsey

just one stiff blow to remember him by, and thought that per-

haps some time he would. But then he recalled the big tom’s last -

words: ‘And don’t come back. Because next time you do, I’ll

surely kill you,’ and felt a little sick, particularly when he thought

of the powerful and lightning-like buffets of those terrible paws

that had so quickly robbed him of his senses and laid him open

for the final attack which but for a bit of luck might have "

finished him. Assuredly he too would steer clear of Dempsey, ·

but to the tabby he said:

‘Oh, he wasn’t so much. If I hadn’t been so tired from run-

ning-'

The tabby smiled enigmatically. ‘Running from what, laddie?’ ‘

But before Peter could reply, she said: ‘Never mind, I know ;

how it is. When you first find yourself on your own, everything

frightens you. And don’t think that everybody doesn’t run. It’s  

nothing to be ashamed of. By the way, what is your name?’  

Peter told her. She said, ‘Hm   Mine’s Jennie. I’d like to

hear your story. Care to tell it?’

Peter very much wanted to do so. But he found suddenly that  

he was a little timid because he was not at all sure how it would

sound, and, even more important, whether the tabby would believe

him and how she would take it. For it was certainly going

to be a most odd tale.

CHAPTER FOUR

A Story is Told

BY and large, Peter made about as bad a beginning as could be

when he said:

‘I’m not really a cat, I’m a little boy. I mean actually, not so

little. I’m eight.’

‘You’re what?’ Jennie gave a long, low growl, and her tail

fluffed up to twice its size. .

Peter could not imagine what he had said to make her angry,

and he repeated hesitantly, ‘A boy — ’

The tabby’s tail swelled another size larger and twitched

nervously. Her eyes seemed to shoot sparks as she hissed: ‘I

hate people!’

‘Oh!’ said Peter, for he was suddenly full of sympathy and

understanding for the poor thin little tabby who had been so

kind to him. ‘Somebody must have been horrible to you. But I

love cats ! ’

Jennie looked mollified, and her tail began to subside. ‘Of

course,’ she said, ‘it’s just your imagination. I should have

known. We’re always imagining things, like a leaf blowing in

the wind being a mouse, or if there’s no leaf there at all, then we

can imagine one, and when we’ve imagined it, go right on from

there and imagine it isn’t a leaf at all but a mouse, or if we like,

a whole lot of mice, and then we start pouncing on them. You

just like to imagine that you’re a little boy, though what kind of

a game you can make out of that I can’t see. Still- ’

‘Oh, please,’ said Peter, interrupting. He could feel somehow

that the tabby very much didn’t want him to be a boy, and yet,

even at the risk of offending her, he knew that he must tell her

the truth. ‘Please, I’m so sorry, but it is so. You must believe me.

My name is Peter Brown, and I live in a Hat with my mother

and father and Nanny, in a house at Number 1A, Cavendish

Mews. Or at least I did live there before — ’

‘Oh, come now,’ protested Jennie, ‘don’t be silly. Anybody can

see that you look like a cat, you feel like a cat, you smell like a

cat, you purr like a cat, and you - ’ But here her voice trailed off

into silence for a moment and her eyes grew wide again. ‘Oh

dear,’ she said then. ‘But there is something the matter. I’ve felt

it all along. You don’t act like a cat -

‘Of course not,’ Peter said, relieved that he might be believed —

at last.

But the tabby, her eyes growing wider and wider, wasn’t listen-

ing. She was going back over her acquaintance with Peter and

enumerating the odd things that had happened since she had ·

found him exhausted, wounded, and half dead in the alley and .

had dragged him to her home, for what reason she did not

know.

‘You told off Dempsey, and right on his own premises, where

he works. No sensible cat would have done that, no matter how

brave. And besides, it’s against the rules.’ She almost seemed to

be ticking the items off of the ends of her claws, though of ’

course she wasn’t. ‘And then you didn’t want to eat mouse when  

you were literally starving - said you’d never had one, and then

you ate it all up at one gobble, with never a thought that I  

might be hungry too. Not that I minded, but a real cat would

never have done that. Oh, and then, of course—that’s what I `

was trying to remember! You ate mouse right on the silk -

counterpane where you’ve been sleeping, and you didn’t wash `

after you’d finished . . .’

Peter said, ‘Why should I? We always wash before eating. At

least, Nanny always sends me into the bathroom and makes me

clean my hands and face before sitting down to table.’

‘Well, cats don’t!’ declared Jennie decisively, 'and it seems to

me much the more sensible way. It’s after you’ve eaten you find

yourself all greasy and sticky, with milk on your whiskers and

gravy all over your fur if you’ve been in too much of a hurry.

Oh dear!’ she ended up. ‘That almost proves it. But I must say

I’ve never heard of such a thing in all my life ! ’ .

Peter thought to himself, ‘She is good, and she has been kind

to me, but she does love to chatter.’ Aloud, he said, ‘If you

would like me to tell you how it all happened, perhaps - ’

‘Yes, do, please,’ said the tabby cat and settled herself more

comfortably on the bed with her front paws tucked under her,

‘I should love to hear it.’

And so Peter began from the beginning and told her the whole

story of what had happened to him.

Or rather he began away back before it began, really, and told

her about his home in the Mews near the square and the little

garden there inside the iron railings where Nanny took him to

play every day after school when the weather was fine, and about

his father who was a Colonel in the Guards and was away from

home most of the time, first during the war when he was in

Egypt and Italy, and then in France and Germany, and he

hardly saw him at all, and then later in peacetime when he

would come home now and then wearing a most beautiful uni-

form with blue trousers that had a red stripe down the side,

except that as soon as he got into the house he went right into

his room and changed it for an old brown tweed suit which

wasn’t nearly as interesting or exciting.

Sometimes he stayed a little while for a chat or a romp with

Peter, but usually he went oi with Peter’s mother with golf

clubs or fishing tackle in the car and they would stay away for

days at a time. He would be left with only Cook and Nanny in

the flat and it wasn’t much fun being alone, for even when he

was with friends in the daytime, playing or visiting, it got very

lonely at night without his father and mother. When they

weren’t away on a trip together, they would dress up every even-

ing and go out. And that was when he wished most that he had

a cat of his own that would curl up at the foot of his bed, or

cuddle, or play games just with him.

And he told the tabby all about his mother, how young and

beautiful she was, so tall and slender, with light-coloured hair

as soft as silk, that was the colour of the sunshine when it came

in slantwise through the nursery window in the late afternoon,

and how blue were her eyes and dark her lashes.

But particularly he remembered and told Jennie how good she

smelled when she came in to say good night to him before going

out for the evening, for when Peter’s father was away she was

unhappy and bored and went off with friends a great deal seek-

ing amusement.

It was always when he loved her most, Peter explained, when

she came in looking and smelling like an angel, with clouds of

beautiful materials around her, and her hair so soft and fragrant,

when he so much wanted to be held to her, that she left him and

went away.

Jennie nodded. ‘Mmmmm. I know. Perfume. I love things "

that smell good.’

She was indignant when Peter came to the part about not

being allowed to have a cat because of the mess it might make

around a small flat, and said, ‘Mess, indeed! We never make p

messes, unless we’re provoked, and then we do it on purpose.

And can’t we just- !’ But strangely enough she took Nanny’s

part when Peter reached the point in his story about Nanny

being afraid of cats and not liking them.

‘There are people who don’t, you know she explained, when .

Peter expressed surprise, ‘and we can understand and respect ·

them for it. Sometimes we like to tease them a little by rubbing

up against them, or getting into their laps just to see them _

jump. They can’t help it any more than we can help not liking

certain kinds of people and not wanting to have anything to do

with them. But at least we know where we stand when we come

across someone like your Nanny. It’s the people who love us, or _

say they love us and then hurt us, who . . .’

She did not finish the sentence, but turned away quickly, sat

up, and began to wash violently down her back. But before she

did, Peter thought that he had noticed the shine of tears in her

eyes, though of course it couldn’t be so, since he had never heard

of cats shedding tears. It was only later he was to learn that they

could both laugh and cry.

Nevertheless, he felt that the tabby must be nursing some

secret hurt, perhaps like his own, and in the hopes of taking her

mind away from something sad, he launched into a description

of the events leading up to his strange and mysterious trans-

formation. ·

He began by telling about the tiger—striped kitten sunning and

washing herself by the little garden in the centre of the square,

and how he had wanted to catch her and hold her. Jennie

showed immediate interest. She stopped her washing and in-

quired: ‘How old was she? Was she pretty?’

‘Oh yes,’ said Peter, ‘very pretty, and full of fun . . .'

‘Prettier than I?’ Jennie inquired, with seeming nonchalance.

Peter had thought she had been, for she was like a round ball

of fluff as he remembered, with most proud whiskers and two

white and two brown feet. But he wouldn’t for anything have

offended the tabby by telling her so. The truth was that for all

her gentle ways and the kindly expression of her white face,

Jennie was quite plain, with her small head, longish ears, and

slanted, half-Oriental eyes, and what with being so dreadfully

thin making her bones stick out, Peter felt she was really nothing

much to look at as cats went. But he was already old enough to

know that one sometimes told small white lies to make people

happy, and so he replied: ‘Oh, no! I think you’re beautiful!’

After all, he had eaten her mouse.

‘Do you really?’ said Jennie, and for the first time since they

had met, Peter heard a small purr coming from her. To cover

her confusion she gave one of her paws a few tentative licks and I

then with a pleased smile on her thin face inquired: ‘Well, and

what happened then?’

And Peter thereupon told her all the rest of the story right to

the end.

When he had finished with ‘. . . and then the next thing I

knew, I opened my eyes and here I am’, there was a long silence.

Peter felt tired from the effort of telling the story and reliving all

the dreadful moments through which he had come, for he was

yet far from having regained his full strength, even with rest and

a meal.

Jennie, undeniably taken aback by the tale she had heard,

appeared to be thinking hard, her eyes unblinking, and a far-

away look in them which, however, was not disbelief. It was

clear from her demeanour that she apparently accepted Peter’s

word that he was not a cat really, but a little boy, and the queer

circumstances that had brought this about, and that it was some-

thing else that was occupying her mind.

Finally she turned her too—small, slender head towards Peter

and said: ‘Well, what's to be done?’

Peter said, ‘I don’t know, I’m sure. I suppose if I am a cat, I

will just have to be one — ’

` The tabby put her gentle paw on his and said softly, ‘But,

Peter, don’t you see, that’s just it! You said yourself that you

didn’t feel as though you were a cat at all. If you’re going to be

one, you must first learn how.’

‘Oh dear,’ said Peter, who never did much enjoy having to

learn things, ‘is there more to being a cat than just liking to eat i

mice and purring?’

The little puss was genuinely shocked. ‘Is there more?’ she re-

peated. ‘You couldn’t begin to imagine all the things there are!

There must be hundreds. Why, if you left here right now and I

went out looking like a white cat, but feeling inside and thinking

like a boy, I shouldn’t be inclined to give you more than ten

minutes before you’d be in some terrible trouble again - like last

night. It isn’t easy to be on your own, even if you have learned Z

to know everything or nearly everything that a cat ought to

know.’

Peter hadn’t thought about it that way, but there was no

doubt she was right. If he had been himself in shape and form

and had been locked out of the house, or had got lost from

Nanny at a fun-fair, or in the park, he would have known

enough to go straight up to a policeman and tell him his name

and address and ask to be taken home. But he couldn’t very well

do this in his present condition as a white cat with a slightly

droopy left ear where it had been ripped by a yellow tom named

Dempsey. And what was worse, now that the tabby had called it

to his attention, he was a cat and didn’t know the first thing _

about how to behave as one. He began to feel frightened again,

but different from the panic of the night before- it was a new

kind of shakiness as though the bed and the ground and every- ·

thing beneath his four paws was no longer very steady. He said I

somewhat piteously to the tabby: ‘Oh, Jennie- now I’m really ,

frightened! What shall I do?’ i

She thought for a moment longer and then said, ‘I know! I’ll

teach you.’

Peter felt such relief he could have cried. ‘Jennie dear! Would

you? Could you?’

The expression on the face of the cat was positively angelic, or

so Peter thought, and now she actually almost did look beautiful

to him as she said: ‘But of course. After all, you’re my responsi-

bility. I found you and brought you here. But one thing you

must promise me if I try . . .’

Peter said, ‘Oh yes, I’ll promise anything — ’

‘First of all, do as I tell you until you can begin to look after

36

yourself a little, but most important, never tell another soul your

secret. I’ll know, but nobody else need- to, because they just

wouldn’t understand. If we get into any kind of trouble, just let

me do the talking. Never so much as hint or let on in any way to

any other cat what you really are. Promise?’

Peter promised, and Jennie gave him a comradely little tap on

the side of his head with her paw. Just the touch of her velvet

pad and the simplicity of the caress made Peter feel happier

already.

He said, ‘Won’t you tell me your story now, and who you

are? I know nothing about you, and you’ve been so good to

me . . .’

Jennie withdrew her paw, and a look of sadness came over her

gentle face as she turned away for a moment. She said, ‘Later,

perhaps, Peter. It is hard for me to speak about it now. And

besides, you might not like it at all. Since you say you are human

and really not a cat at all, you would not be able to understand

the way I feel and why I will never again live with people.’

‘Please do tell me,’ Peter pleaded. ‘And I will like it, I’m sure,

because I like you.’

Jennie could not resist a small purr at Peter’s sincerity. She

said, ‘You are a dear - ’ and then fell into reflective silence for a

moment. Finally she seemed to make up her mind and said:

‘See here, what is really important at the moment is for you to

begin to learn something about being a cat, and the sooner we

j begin, the better. I shudder to think what might happen to you

if you were alone again. How would it be if we had a lesson

first? And of course nothing is more pressing than for you to

learn how to wash. Afterwards, perhaps, I will be able to tell you

my story.

Peter hid his disappointment because she had been so kind to

him and he did not wish to upset her. He merely said, ‘I’ll try,

though I’m not very good at lessons.

‘I’ll help you, Peter,’ Jennie reassured him, ‘and you’ll be sur-

prised how much better you will feel when you know how.

Because a cat must not only know how to wash, but WHEN to

wash. You see, it’s something like this . . .’

CHAPTER FIVE

When in Doubt – Wash

‘“WHEN in doubt —any kind of doubt· Wash!" That is Rule

Number 1,’ said Jennie. She now sat primly and a little stiffly, J

with her tail wrapped around her feet, near the head of the big .

bed beneath the Napoleon Initial and Crown, rather like a `

schoolmistress. But it was obvious that the role of teacher and  

the respectful attention Peter bestowed upon her were not un-  

endurable, because she had a pleased expression and her eyes

were again gleaming brightly.

The sun had reached its noon zenith in the sky in the world  

that lay outside the dark and grimy warehouse, and coming in ‘

slantwise through the small window sent a dusty shaft that fell

like a theatrical spotlight about Jennie’s head and shoulders as

she lectured.

‘If you have committed any kind of an error and anyone

scolds you - wash,’ she was saying. ‘If you slip and fall off some- `

thing and somebody laughs at you - wash. If you are getting the

worst of an argument and want to break off hostilities until you

have composed yourself, start washing. Remember, every cat

respects another cat at her toilet. That’s our first rule of social

deportment, and you must also observe it.

‘Whatever the situation, whatever difficulty you may be in you

can’t go wrong if you wash. If you come into a room full of

people you do not know, and who are confusing to you, sit right

down in the midst of them and start washing. They’ll end up by

quieting down and watching you. Some noise frightens you into .

a jump, and somebody you know saw you were frightened- ‘

begin washing immediately.

‘If somebody calls you and you don’t care to come and still

you don’t wish to make it a direct insult — wash. If you’ve started

off to go somewhere and suddenly can’t remember where it was  

you wanted to go, sit right down and begin brushing up a little.

It will come back to you. Something hurt you? Wash it. Tired

of playing with someone who has been kind enough to take time

and trouble and you want to break off without hurting his or

her feelings? Start washing.

Oh, there are dozens of things! Door closed and you’re burn-

ing up because no one will open it for you — have yourself a little

wash and forget it. Somebody petting another cat or dog in the

same room, and you are annoyed over that—be nonchalant

wash. Feel sad — wash away your blues. Been picked up by some-

body you don’t particularly fancy and who didn’t smell good -

wash him off immediately and pointedly where he can see you

do it. Overcome by emotion — a wash will help you to get a grip

on yourself again. Any time, anyhow, in any manner, for what~

ever purpose, wherever you are, whenever and why ever that you

want to clear the air, or get a moment’s respite or think things

over –  w a sh !

‘And,’ concluded Jennie, drawing a long breath, 'of course you

also wash to get clean and to keep clean.

‘Goodness!’ said Peter, quite worried, ‘I don’t see how I

could possibly remember them all.’

‘You don’t have to remember any of it, actually,’ Jennie ex-

plained. ‘All that you have to remember is Rule 1: "When in

doubt—WASH!” ’

Peter, who like all boys had no objection to being reasonably

clean, but not too clean, saw the problem of washing looming up

large and threatening to occupy all of his time. ‘It’s true, I re-

member, you always do seem to be washing he protested to

Jennie, ‘I mean all cats I’ve seen, but I don’t see why. Why do

cats spend so much of their time at it?’

Jennie considered his question for a moment, and then replied,

‘Because it feels so good to be clean.’

‘Well, at any rate I shall never be capable of doing it,’ Peter

remarked, ‘because I won’t be able to reach places now that I am

a cat and cannot use my hands. And even when I was a boy,

Nanny used to have to wash my back for me . . .’

‘Nothing of the kind,’ said Jennie. ‘The first thing you will

learn is that there isn’t an inch of herself or himself that a cat

cannot reach to wash. If you had ever owned one of us, you

would know. Now watch me. \We’ll begin with the back. I’ll do `

it first, and then you come over here alongside of me and do as

I do.’

39

And with that, sitting upright, she tumed her head around

over her shoulder with a wonderful ease and grace, and with

little short strokes of her tongue and keeping her chin down

close to her body, she began to wash over and around her left

shoulder blade, gradually increasing the amount of turn and the

length of the stroking movement of her head until her rough,

pink tongue was travelling smoothly and firmly along the region

of her upper spine.

‘Oh, I never could!’ cried Peter, ‘because I cannot twist my

head around as far as you can. I never know what is going on

behind- me unless I turn right around.’

‘Try,’ was all Jennie replied.

Peter did, and to his astonishment found that whereas

when he had been a boy he had been unable to tum his head

more left and right than barely to be able to look over his

shoulders, now he could swivel it quite around on his neck so

that he was actually gazing out behind him. And when he

stuck out his tongue and moved his head in small circles as

he had seen Jennie do, there he was washing around his left

shoulder.

‘Oh, bravo! Splendid!’ applauded Iennie. ‘There, you see!

Well done, Peter. Now turn a little more — you’re bound to be a

bit stiff at first - and down the spine you go !’

And indeed, down the spine, about half-way from below his

neck to the middle of his back, Peter went. He was so delighted

that he tried to purr and wash at the same time, and actually

achieved it.

‘Now,’ Jennie coached, ‘for the rest of the way down, you can

help yourself and make it easier-like this. Curve your body

around and go a little lower so that you are half sitting, half

lying. That`s it! Brace yourself against your right paw and pull

your left paw in a little closer to you so that it is out of the way.

There ,... Now, you see, that brings the rest of you nicely

around in a curve where you can get at it. Finish off the left side

of your back and hindquarters and then shift around and do the

other side.’

Peter did so, and was amazed to find with what little effort the

whole of his spine and hindquarters was brought within ample

reach of his busy tongue. He even essayed to have a go at his tail

from this position, but found this a more elusive customer. It

would keep squirming away.

Jennie smiled. ‘Try putting a paw on it to hold it down. The

right one. You can still brace yourself with it. That’s it. We’ll

get at the underside of it later on.’

Peter was so enchanted with what he had learned that he

would have gone on washing and washing the two sides of his

back and Hanks and quarters if jennie hadn’t said, ‘There, that’s

enough of that. There’s still plenty of you left, you know. Now

you must do your front and the stomach and the inside of your

paws and quarters.’

The front limbs and paws of course proved easy for Peter, for

they were within ample reach, but when he attempted to tackle

his chest, it was something else.

‘Try lying down iirst,’ Jennie suggested. ‘After a while you’ll

get so supple you will be able to wash your chest sitting up just

by sticking your tongue out a little more and bobbing your head.

But it's easier lying down on your side. Here, like this,’ and she

suited the action to the word and soon Peter found that he

actually was succeeding in washing his chest fur just beneath his

chin.

‘But I can’t get at my middle,’ he complained, for indeed the

underside of his belly defied his clumsy efforts to reach it, bend

and twist as he would.

Iennie smiled. ‘ "Can’t" catches no mice,’ she quoted. ‘That is

more diilicult. Watch me now. You won’t do it lying on your

side. Sit up a bit and rock on your tail. That’s it, get your tail

right under you. You can brace with either of your forepaws, or

both. Now, you see, that bends you right around again and

brings your stomach within reach. You’ll get it with practice.

It’s all curves. That’s why we were made that way.’

Peter found it more awkward to balance than in the other

position and fell over several times, but soon found that he was

getting better at it and that each portion of his person that was

thus made accessible to him through Jennie’s knowledge, experi-

ence and teaching brought him a new enjoyment and pleasure of

accomplishment. And of course Jennie’s approval made him very

proud. ‘

He was forging ahead so rapidly with his lesson that she

decided to see whether he could go and learn by himself. ‘Now

how would you go about doing the inside of the hindquarter?’

she asked.

‘Oh, that’s easy,’ Peter cried. But it wasn’t at all. In fact the

more he tried and strained and reached and curved, the further

away did his hind leg seem to go. He tried first the right and

then the left, and finally got himself tangled in such a heap of

legs, paws, and tail that he fell right over in such a manner that

Iennie had to take a few quick dabs at herself to keep from

· laughing.

‘I can’t - I mean I don’t see how . . .’ wailed Peter, ‘there isn’t

any way . . .’

Jennie was contrite at once and hoped Peter had not seen she

had been amused. ‘Oh, I’m sorry,’ she declared. ‘That wasn’t

fair of me. There is, but it’s most diflicult, and you have to know

how. It took me the longest time when my mother tried to show

me. Here, does this suggest anything to you -Leg of Mutton?

I’m sure you’ve seen it dozens of times,’ and she assumed an odd

position with her right leg sticking straight up in the air and

somehow close to her head, almost like the contortionist that

Peter had seen at the circus at Olympia who had twisted himself

right around so that his head came down between his legs. He

was sure that he could never do it.

Peter tried to imitate Jennie but only succeeded in winding

himself into a worse knot. Jennie came to his rescue onoe more.

‘See here,’ she said, ‘let’s try it by counts, one stage at a time.

Once you’ve done it, you know, you’ll never forget it. Now —

‘One - rock on your tail.’ Peter rocked.

‘Two - brace yourself with your left forepaw.’ Peter braced.

"l'hree—half sit, and bend your back.’ Peter managed that,

and made himself into the letter C.

‘Four — stretch out the left leg all the way. That will keep you

from falling over the other side and provide a balance for the

paw to push against.’ This too worked out exactly as jennie

described it when Peter tried it.

'Five — swing your right leg from the hip - you’ll find it will

go - with the foot pointing straight up into the air. Yes, like

that, but outside, not inside the right forepaw.’ It went better

this time. Peter got it almost up.

‘Six - Now you’ve got it. Hold yourself steady by bracing the

right front forepaw. so ! ’

Peter felt like shouting with joy. For there he was, actually

sitting, leg of mutton, his hindquarter shooting up right past his

cheek and the whole inside of his leg exposed. He felt that he

was really doubled back on himself like the contortionist, and he

wished that Nanny were there so that he could show her.

By twisting and turning a little, there was no part of him

underneath that he could not reach, and he washed first one side

and then, without any-further instruction from Jennie, managed

to reverse the position and get the left leg up, which drew forth

an admiring, ‘Oh, you are clever ! ’ from Jennie — ‘it took me iust

ages to learn to work the left side. It all depends whether you are

left- or right-pawed, but you caught on to it immediately. Now

there’s only one thing more. The back of the neck, the ears, and

the faoe.’

In a rush to earn more praise Peter went nearly crosseyed try-

ing to get his tongue out and around to reach behind him and

on top of him, and of course it wouldn’t work. He cried — ‘Oh

dear, THAT must be the most complicated of all.’

‘On the contrary smiled Jennie, ‘it’s quite the simplest. Wet

the side of your front paw Peter did so. ‘Now rub it around

over your ears and the back of your neck.’

Now it was Peter’s turn to laugh at himself. ‘How stupid I

am,’ he said. ‘That part is just the way I do it at home. Except I

use a wash-rag, and Nanny stands there watching to make cer-

tain I go behind the ears.

‘Well,’ said Jennie, ‘I’m watching you now . . .’

So Peter completed his bath by wetting one paw and then the

other, on the side and in the middle of the pads, and washing

first his ears, then both sides of his face, the back of his neck, his

whiskers, and even a little under his chin, and over his nose and

eyes.

And now he found that having washed himself all over, from

head to foot, the most wonderful feeling of comfort and relaxa-

tion had come over him. It was quite a different sensation from

the time that Jennie had washed him and which had somehow

taken him back to the days when he was very little and his

mother was looking after him.

43

This time he felt a kind of glow in his skin and a sense of well-

being in his muscles as though every one of them had been

properly used and stretched. In the light from the last of the

shaft of the sun that was just passing from the window of the

storehouse he could see how his white fur glistened from the

treatment he had given it, as smooth as silk and as soft.

Peter felt a delicious drowsiness. His eyes began to close, and

as from a distance he heard Jennie say: ‘It’s good to take a nap

after washing. I always do. You’ve earned it. I’ll join you, and

after we’ve slept a little, perhaps I’ll tell you my story as I

promised.’

Just before he dropped off to sleep, Peter felt her curl up

against him, her back touching his, warm and secure, and the

next moment he was off in sweet and dreamless slumber.

When he awoke, Jennie Baldrin was stretching and yawning

at his side, and he joined her, imitating her movements, first put-

ting out his forepaws as far as they would go and stretching

backwards from there and then arching his back in a high in-

verted ‘U’.

‘There,’ Jennie said when she had done. ‘How do you feel

now?’

‘Ever so much better,’ Peter replied, and he really felt like a

new boy, or rather cat. Then he continued, for he had not for-

gotten what she had promised- ‘Now won’t you please tell me

about you? Please, Jennie, I should so love to hear it . . .’

The tabby could not resist a small purr at Peter’s sincerity,

but immediately after she became serious. ‘Dear me,’ she said, ‘I

didn’t think I’d ever be telling of this to anyone as long as I

lived. Still- since you really wish it, so be it.’

And she began: .

CHAPTER SIX

Jennie

‘MY name,’ said. the tabby, ‘as I told you, is Jennie. Jennie

Baldrin. We are partly Scottish, you know—’ she added with

considerable pride and satisfaction. ‘My mother was born in

Glasgow, and so was I.

‘I say "partly" Scottish, because of course way back we came

from the continent. Africa, I mean, and then across into Spain.

Several of our branch of the family were ships’ cats aboard ves-

sels of the Spanish Armada. My mothefs ancestor was wrecked

on the coast of Scotland, which is how we came to settle down

there. Interesting, isn’t it?’

‘Oh yes,’ replied Peter. ‘I’ve read about how Drake defeated

the Spanish Armada and a storm came up and wrecked all the

galleons. But I didn’t know about there having been any cats . . .’

‘Indeed,’ said Jennie Baldrin. ‘Well, there were-dozens of

them. Actually we go much further back than that, Kaffir Cats,

you know, from Africa—Nubia, Abyssinia — places I’m sure

you’ve heard about. Someone named Julius Caesar is supposed

to have brought some of us to Britain in 55 to 54 B.c. But that

wasn’t our branch of the family. We were in Egypt two thou-

sand years before that when, as you’ve no doubt read, cats were

sacred. A lot of people try to be or act sacred, but we actually

were, with temples and altars, and priests to look after us. I sup-

pose you have noticed how small my head is. Egyptian strain.

And t.hen of course this.

And here Jennie rolled over on to her Hank and held up her

paws so that Peter could inspect the undersides of them. ‘Why,

they’re quite black,’ Peter said, referring to the pads. He then

looked at his own and remarked, ‘Mine are all pink.’

‘Naturally,’ Jennie said, quite pleased. ‘Wherever you come

across black pads - that’s it, the Egyptian strain again. Have you

ever seen the relief from the tomb of Amon-Ra in the British

Museum, the one with the sacred cat on it? They say I look

quite like her.’

45

‘I’ve been to the British Museum with Nanny,’ Peter said,

‘but I don’t think I ever-· ’

‘Ah well, never mind,’ Jennie went on. ‘It isn’t really import-

ant, especially today when it is what you are that counts, though

I must say it is a comfort to know who you are, particularly at

times when everything appears to be dead set against you. If you

know something about your forebears, who they were and what

they did, you are not quite so likely to give up, especially if you

know that onoe they were actually sacred and people came

around asking them for favours. Still- ’ and here Jennie Baldrin

paused and gave four quick washes to the end of her tail.

Peter was afraid she might not go on, so he coaxed - ‘Yes, and

after you were bom . . .’

‘Oh,’ said Jennie, leaving off her washing and resuming her

narrative, ‘we came to London from Glasgow on the train in a

basket, my mother and brothers and sisters and I. We travelled

at night. I didn’t get to see much because I was in the basket all

of the time, and anyway, my eyes weren’t open yet because I was

very young. That’s my earliest recollection.

‘We were a family of Eve kittens, two males and three females,

and we went to live in the cellar of a boarding house in Blooms-

bury. My mother was owned by a printer who had been working

in Glasgow and came back to London. It was his mother who

managed the boarding house in Bloomsbury. I don’t know if

I’m making myself clear . . .’

‘Oh yes,’ said Peter, ‘quite !’

‘Our mother was wise and good. She fed, washed, cuffed, and

taught us as much as she thought necessary. She was proud of

our family and our strain, and said that wherever we were, our

dignity and ancestry would bring honour to whoever might be

looking after us. She most emphatically did not believe it was

beneath her to be living in a boarding house or belong to a prin-

ter. Do you?’

Peter was somewhat taken aback by the unexpected question,

but replied that he did not, particularly if the people were kind.

‘Exactly,’ said Jennie, and appeared to be relieved. ‘Our

mother said that some of us might go no higher than to be a

grocer’s cat, or belong to a chimney sweep or a charwoman,

while others might come to live in a wealthy home in Mayfair,

46

or even a palace. The important thing was that they were all

people and we were who we were, and if there was love and

respect between us, no one could ask for anything better.

‘One day, when I was seven months old, it happened to me.

Some people came to our house and took me away with them.

I was adopted.

‘How fortunate I was, or at least I thought so at the time. I

went to live with a family in a house near Kensington High

Street, a father, mother, and little girl. And there I grew up and

stayed for three years with never a cloud in the sky.’

Peter asked, ‘What was the little girl like?'

Jennie paused while a tear moistened her eye again, but this

time she did not trouble to conceal it with a wash. ‘She was a

dear,’ Jennie replied. Her voice had taken on the tender tone of

remembering someone who had been good and beautiful, and

her glistening eyes were gazing backwards into the past. ‘She

had long, wavy brown hair and such a sweet face. Her voice was

soft and never harsh on my ears. Her name was Elizabeth, but

she was called Buff, and she was ten years old. I loved her

so much that just thinking about it was enough to set me to

purring.

‘We weren’t rich, but we were quite well off. I had my own

basket without a cushion in it and was allowed to sleep in Buff’s

room. The Pennys, for that was their last name, saw to it that I

had some of the meat from their ration, and I had fish every

other day and all the milk I could drink. When Buff came home

from school in the afternoon I would be waiting for her at the

door to jump up into her arms and rub my cheek against hers

and then lie across her shoulders and she would carry me around

as though she were wearing a fur.’

Peter felt sad as he listened to her story, for exactly as she was

"telling it was how he would have wished to have had it in his

own home—a sweet and friendly puss to be there when he re-

turned, who would leap up on to his shoulder and rub against

him and purr when he stroked her and be his very own.

Jennie sighed now as she told about the good times. The first

thing in the morning when the maid came in to part the cur-

tains, the little cat would leap up on to the bed, calling and purr-

ing to say good morning and begging Buff to play the pounoe

47

game which they both loved. This was the one in which the child

would move the fingers of one hand under the blankets while

Jennie would watch the mysterious and tantalizing stirrings be-

neath the covers and finally rear up and land on the spot, always

careful not to use her claws, and Buff would scream with laugh-

ter and excitement. What a wonderful way to start the day.

‘Oh, and Christmas and New Years,’ Iennie continued, ‘pack-

ages arrived tied up in tissue paper and I was allowed to get into

boxes that had been emptied, and the whole house smelled of

good things to eat. On my own birthday, which, if you would

like to remember it, is on April 22nd, I always had new toys and

presents, and Buff gave a party for me. Of course I was spoiled

and pampered, but I adored it. Who wouldn’t have done so?

‘Those were the three happiest years of my life. I was with

Buff or her parents every minute that they were home, and I

loved them with all my heart. I even leamed to understand a

little of their language, although it is very diflicult, harsh, and

unmusical. I’ve forgotten most of it now, but then, between the

words that I recognized and their expressions or tone of voice,

I always knew whether they were pleased or displeased and what

they wanted of me.

‘One day, early in May, just about two years ago, I noticed

that everyone seemed to be very busy and distracted and occu-

pied with themselves and that something strange was going on

in the house.’

‘Oh dear,’ said Peter, beginning to be quite upset, ‘I was

afraid something would happen. It was just too perfect . . .’

Jennie nodded. ‘Yes. It seems it’s always that way. I went

around peering into their faces, trying to make out what might

be going to happen. And then one morning, trunks, bags,

valises, holdalls, canvas sacks, suddenly appeared from the attic,

boxes and crates, and barrels full of straw and sawdust were

brought into the house, and men in rough clothes, aprons, and

peaked caps came in to pack them, and of course after that I

knew. They were going to move. But whether it was to be to a

house in another part of the city, or a place in the country, or

abroad, I had no means of knowing or finding out.

‘Until you’ve been a cat yourself, Peter, and have gone through

it, you will never understand what it means to sit by, day in and

48

day out, while everything which is familiar and to which you are

attached, furniture, and things on mantelpieces and tables, dis-

appear into crates and boxes for shipping, and not know.

‘Not know what?’ asked Peter.

‘Whether or not you are going to be taken along.’

‘Oh, but of course you get taken along!’ Peter burst out,

thinking how he would act under the same circumstances if he

had ever had a cat as sweet and good—natured as Jennie Baldrin.

Why, nobody would think of going away and leaving you be-

hind, even — ’

He stopped in mid-sentence because Jennie had turned away

abruptly and was washing furiously. There was a kind of des-

peration in her movements that touched Peter’s heart and told

him more plainly than words that she was suffering. He cried:

‘Oh, poor Jennie Baldrin I’m so sorry. It can’t be true. Nobody

could be so cruel. Tell me what happened.’

Jennie left off her washing. Her eyes were quite misty and she

looked leaner and bonier than ever. She said, ‘Forgive me, Peter.

I think perhaps I’d better stop for a little. It hasn’t been easy,

remembering back and living over those beautiful days. Come.

Take a walk with me and we’ll poke about a bit to familiarize

you with this place so that you’ll know the ins and out of it, as

well as the secret entrance, and then I can tell you the rest of the

story of what happened to me that fatal May.

Peter was terribly disappointed at the interruption, but he did

not wish Jennie to know this, he felt so sympathetic because of

the tragedy in her life, even though he could not imagine how

people as good and kind as the Pennys seemed to be could go off

and leave her behind. But he kept his counsel, and when Jennie

jumped down from the bed he followed her. He was feeling

much stronger now and had no difficulty keeping up with Jennie

as she squeezed through the slats at the end of the bin and turned

left up the corridor.

They prowled down a long, dark corridor, on either side of

which were storage bins such as they had just left. They turned

into several passageways, went down a flight of stairs, and came

around a corner into a place where the room was illuminated

by an electric bulb that hung from a wire overhead. It was

an enormous enclosure where the ceiling was three times the

49

height of their own and it was filled from top to bottom in the

strangest manner, not only with all kinds of things but also with

places.

There was a kind of glittering palace, and right next to it

some wild stretches of the Scottish Highlands with huge rocks

and boulders piled up and menacing trees throwing dark arms

to the sky. Then there was somehow a view of the blue sea with

some distant mountains, a trellised garden, a cottage with a

thatched roof, a row of Arabian nomad tents, a gloomy piece of

jungle all overhung with creepers and vines, a railway station, a

piece of Greek temple . . .

Peter cried, ‘Why, I know what it is. It’s theatrical scenery,

like they use in the Christmas Pantomime. I suppose this is

where they store it.’

‘Is that what it is?’ said Jennie Baldrin. ‘I didn’t know, but I

thought it might interest you. I often come here when I feel the

need of a change. Let us go over there and sit on that rock in

the Highlands, because it reminds me of where we came from, at

least the way my mother used to describe it.’

Of course they couldn’t actually sit on the rock, since it was

only painted on canvas in an extraordinarily lifelike manner, but

when they had squatted down and curled their tails around

them right next to the rock, it was really, Peter felt, almost like

being in that part of Scotland about which his Nanny too had

so often told him.

When he and Jennie had settled, Peter said, ‘Jennie dear . . .

Do you think perhaps you might go on now . . .?’

Jennie closed her eyes for a moment as though to help herself

to return once more to those memories that were so painful to

her. Then she opened them again, sighed, and took up her narra-

tive:

‘It was a large house, you know,’ she said, ‘and it seemed to

take perfect ages to get everything packed and sealed and ready

to be moved.

‘I walked around and into and over everything and smelled

and fretted and tried to feel- you know how we can sometimes

acquire bits and pieces of information and knowledge just

through the ends of our whiskers’ — (Peter didn’t, but he also

didn’t wish to interrupt at this point, so he did not reply and

Jennie went on)- ‘but it was useless. I couldn’t make out the

slightest hint where everything was going to, or even when,

though I knew it must be soon, because for several days the

family had not been sleeping there, since all the beds were taken

down and crated. Mrs Penny and also Buff would come back

during the day and pack, and of course feed me.

‘In the evening they would take my basket upstairs to the top-

floor sewing-room under the eaves of the roof and leave me

there with a saucer of milk and one of water for overnight. The

sewing-room was quite bare. I didn’t even have any of my toys.

I shouldn’t have minded that if only I hadn’t been so worried

and upset by not knowing. Of course, I imagined that very likely

the Pennys were stopping with friends or at a hotel where per-

haps they couldn’t have me until the new house should be ready

wherever it was. But then, on the other hand, how could I be

sure they weren’t going far away somewhere over the sea where

I could not go along?’

Peter knew all about moving. In military circles people were

always packing up their belongings and starting off for India,

or Australia, or Africa. And he thought too that he understood

the anxiety Jennie must have felt. For he remembered enduring

nights of terror and sudden panic himself when the thought had

come to him from nowhere at all, as it were, ‘What if Mummy

were not to come back to me ever? Supposing I wake up in the

morning and she isn’t there?’ And then he had lain fearful and

wide awake in the darkness, listening and straining with his ears

and all his senses for the sound of her key in the front door and

her footsteps in the corridor going past his room. And not until

A this had come to pass, and more often than not it was well after

midnight, would he be able to fall into a restless and troubled

sleep.

Jennie’s voice brought him back from these memories. 'One

morning,’ she was saying sadly, ‘they did not come back; nor did

they ever. I never saw them again, my dear, beloved Buff, or Mrs

Penny, or Mr Penny. They had gone away and cold-bloodedly

abandoned me.’

Peter gave a cry of sympathy. ‘Oh, poor Jennie Baldrin I ’ But

then he added: ‘I can’t believe it. Something must have hap-

pened to them . . .’

‘I only wish I could think so,’ Jennie declared, ‘but when you

grow older — I mean, after you have been a cat for a while, you

will come to understand that people are always doing that. They

keep us while we are convenient to them, and not too much

trouble, and then, when through no fault of ours it becomes

inconvenient, they walk out and leave us to starve.’

‘Oh, Jennie,’ Peter cried again, quite horrified at such cruelty,

‘I would never go away and leave you . . .’ _

‘You wouldn’t perhaps,’ Jennie said, ‘but people do, and

THEY did. I remember that morning. I couldn’t believe it at

first when the time came and they were not there. I watched at

the window. I listened at the door. Time passed. Then I started

to shout, hoping perhaps that somehow they had managed to

slip into the house without my hearing them.

‘I cried myself hoarse. I threw myself against the door. I

tried desperately to open it, but it was one of those slippery

doorknobs instead of a latch I might have worked. Morning

turned into afternoon and afternoon into evening. I hardly

slept at all, but kept pacing the floor of the empty sewing-room

the whole night hoping against hope that they would come the

next day.

‘On the morrow something much more terrifying occurred.

They didn’t come, but the moving—men did. From the window

I could see their van drawn up in front of the house. All day

long they went in and out of the house, removing the furniture,

crates, boxes, and barrels. By late afternoon everything was

loaded and tied on behind with ropes. Then they climbed into

the front seat and drove away. And that night there wasn’t any

milk or water left, and I had nothing to eat or drink, nor the

next, nor the one after that.’

‘Poor, poor Jennie!’ Peter said. ‘Weren’t you awfully hungry?

‘The pain wasn’t in my stomach, Peter,’ Jennie replied, ‘it was

in my heart. I only wished to die of longing, misery, loneliness,

and sadness. More than anything, I wanted my Buff to be hold-

ing me in her arms close to her and giving me the little squeezes

she used to because she loved me.

‘And then suddenly to my horror I found myself hating her.

I wanted to bite, scratch, claw, and kill her for having aban-

doned me. Yes, I learned to hate, Peter, and that is worse than

being sick, or starved, or thirsty, or in pain. It replaced all the

love I had felt for Buff. I had no hope of ever getting out of that

room alive, but I swore that if I did I would never again trust a

human being, or give them love or live with them.

‘And then one morning, when I was nearly dead, release came.

I heard someone at the front door and then footsteps. I knew it

wasn’t their footsteps, and yet I hoped that somehow I was mis-

taken and they had come, and I was all ready to welcome them

and purr and even try to reach Buff’s shoulder to show her I had

forgiven her. Oh, I would have put my paws to her face and

kissed and kissed her if she had only come back and not for-

gotten me.’

Peter said, ‘I do wish she had, Jennie . . .’

‘It wasn’t, of course,’ Jennie continued. ‘It was just people,

two women, very likely come to look at the house. One of them

made sympathetic sounds and picked me up. But I was weak

and dizzy from starvation and nearly out of my mind with

worry, and didn’t know what I was doing. I bit her. She dropped

me, and I was so frightened I found the strength to run out of

the door and down the stairs. Or rather I fell more than ran

down them and didn’t stop until I got to the bottom and out the

front door. That was the beginning . . .’

‘Of what?’ Peter asked.

‘Of being independent of human beings, of never again asking

for a favour, of spitting and growling whenever one tried to

reach down and stroke me or pick me up, of never again enter-

ing a house to live with them.’

Peter wanted to show her how sorry he was it had all turned

out so badly, but he could not think of anything to say, because

if it was really true that her family had abandoned her so heart-

lessly he felt very much ashamed that they were human beings.

Instead he arose, went over to her, and bestowed a few licks on

the side of her cheek.

Jennie gave him a winning smile and purred for a moment.

‘That was sweet,’ she said, ‘but I like the life of a stray now,

really. It’s a rough one, and sometimes it isn’t easy, but at least

no one can hurt me any more. I mean inside, where you can’t

get at it and it never heals up. There isn’t much that is open

to cats that I haven’t seen or done in the past two years. I

5 3

found this place months ago. It’s wonderful, because people

hardly ever visit here. Come along, and I’ll show you my secret

entrance . . .’ A

They left the Highland scenery, walked by the Pyramids and

the Sphinx, skirted the rooftop of a penthouse in New York,

wound their way in and out of a drawing—room in Mayfair and

a castle on the Rhine, and retraced their steps down the long,

dark, musty corridors.

But just before they turned the corner to enter that part of the

warehouse where Jennie’s home was, she stopped, gave a low

growl, and Peter saw her tail fluff up to twice its size. He halted

behind her and heard voices, footsteps, scrapings and bumpings,

and was all for running around the corner to see what it was,

when Jennie whispered- ‘Get down, Peter! If they see us, we’re

in for it. It’s our home! They’re moving it out. Looks like your

friend Napoleon has come for his bed.’

Peter felt it might embarrass her if he were to reveal that

Napoleon had been dead for more than a hundred years, and

anyway, it did not make much difference; more to the point, it

was no longer there,and everything else in the bin was also being

moved out either to a sale or an exhibition.

‘Pity,’ said Jennie. ‘It was a nice home. I’d grown rather fond

of it, particularly your friend’s bed. Ah well, one can always

find another somewhere else.

‘There must be dozens of storage bins we passed where we

might be cozy,’ Peter said.

‘Won’t do. Not in here,’ Jennie said decisively. ‘Once people

show up, you’ve had it, and if you are wise you will clear out.

When the movers get those things into the light they’ll find evi-

dence of our having lived there. Your hairs and mine. And the

mouse business. Then there’ll be a hue and cry and a hunt for us

all through here— lights up and dust swirling, and men poking

about with torches and sticks. No, trust me, Peter, I know. As

soon as they have finished we’ll use my emergency exit. There’s

still plenty of daylight left to look about for a new place to stay

the night. Keep out of sight until I give the word.’

Peter did as she bade him, for he very well appreciated that

Jennie was more experienced and must know what she was talk-

ing about. ‘

54 p

And then, what with all the dust about, the washing and the

talking and not having had anything to drink after all that run-

ning through London, Peter fell prey to a most dreadful thirst,

and it suddenly seemed to him that he would perish if he did

not soon feel something cool and moist going down his throat.

CHAPTER SEVEN

Always Pause on the Threshold

‘I’M awfully thirsty, Jennie,’ Peter whispered.

They had been crouching there around the bend of the ware-

house corridor for the better part of an hour waiting for the men

to finish the work of carrying out the furniture from the storage

bin.

Jennie flattened herself and peered around the corner. ‘Soon,’

she said. ‘There are only a few pieces left.’

‘How I wish I had a tall, cool glass of milk,’ Peter said.

Jennie turned her head and looked at him. ‘Dish of milk, you

mean. You wouldn’t be able to drink it out of a glass. And as for

milk- do you know how long it is since I have seen or tasted

milk? In our kind of life, I mean cut off from humans, there

isn’t any milk. If you’re thirsty you find some rainwater or some

slops in the gutter or in a pail left out, or you can go down the

stone steps to the river landings when they are deserted at night,

if you don’t mind your water a little oily and brackish.

Peter was not at all pleased with the prospect and he had not

yet got used to the fact that he was no longer a boy, with a home

and family, but a white cat with no home at all and no one to

befriend him but another scrawny stray.

He was so desperately thirsty and the picture drawn by Jennie

so gloomy and unpleasant that he could not help bursting into

tears and crying, ‘But I’m used to milk! I like it, and Nanny

gives me some every day . . .’

‘Sshhh!’ cautioned Jennie, ‘they’ll hear you.’ Then she added,

‘There’s nobody goes about setting out dishes of milk for strays.

You’ll get used to not having it eventually.’

But Peter didn’t think so, and continued to cry softly to him-

self while Jennie Baldrin watched him with growing concern

and bewilderment. She seemed to be trying to make up her mind

about something which apparently she did not very much wish

to do. But finally, when it appeared that she could bear his un-

happiness no longer, she whispered to him, ‘Come, now . . . don’t

5 6

take on so! I know a place where I think I can get you a dish of

milk. We’ll go there.’

The thought caused Peter to stop crying and brighten up

immediately. ‘Yes?’ he said. ‘Where?’

‘There’s an old watchman lives in a shack down by the tea

docks,’ Jennie told him. ‘He’s lonely, likes cats, and is always

good for a titbit, especially for me. He’s been after me to come

and live with him for months. Of course, I wouldn’t dream of it.’

‘But,’ said Peter, not wishing to argue himself out of milk but

only desiring to understand clearly the terms under which they

were to have it, ‘that is taking it from people, isn’t it?’

‘It’s taking, but not giving anything,’ Jennie said, with that

strange, unhappy intenseness that came over her whenever she

discussed anything to do with humans. ‘We’ll have it and then

walk out on him.’

‘Would that be right? Peter asked. It slipped out almost be-

fore he was aware of it, for he very much wanted the milk and

he equally did not wish to offend Jennie. But it was just that he

had been taught certain ways of behaviour, or felt them to be so

by instinct, and this seemed a poor way of repaying a kindness.

Clearly he had somewhat put Jennie out, for she stiffened slightly

and with the nearest thing to a cold look she had bestowed upon

him since they had met, said, ‘You can’t have it both ways,

Peter. If you want to live my kind of life, and I can’t see where

you have very much choice at the moment - ’

‘But of course I do!’ Peter hastened to explain, ‘it’s just that

I’m not yet quite familiar with the different way cats feel from

the way people feel. And I will do as you say, and I do want to

learn . . .'

From her expression, Jennie did not appear to be too pleased

with this speech either, but before she could remark upon it there

came a loud call from the movers: ‘That’s the lot, then,’ and

another voice replied, ‘Right-ho!’ Jennie peered around the

corner and said, ‘They’ve finished. We’ll wait a few minutes to

make sure they don’t come back, and then we’ll start.’

When they were certain that the aisle was quite deserted again,

they set off, Jennie leading, past the empty bin and down the

corridor in the direction the men had taken, but before they had

gone very far Jennie branched off to the right on a new tack

5 7

until she came to a bin close to the outside wall of the ware-

house, filled with horrible, new, modem kind of furniture,

chrome-bound leather and overstuffed plush. She led Peter to

the back where there was a good·sized hole in the baseboard. It

looked dark and forbidding inside.

‘Don’t be afraid,’ Jennie said. ‘Just follow me. We go to the

right and then to the left, but it gets light very quickly.

She slipped in with Peter after her, and it soon grew pitch

black. Peter now discovered that he was feeling through the ends

of his whiskers, rather than seeing where Jennie was, and he had

no difficulty in following her, particularly inasmuch as it soon

became light enough to see that they were in a tunnel through

which a large iron pipe more than a foot in diameter was run-

ning. Then Peter saw where the light was coming from. There

was a hole in the pipe where it had rusted through a few feet

from where it gave exit to the street.

Apparently the pipe was used as some kind of air-intake, or

had something to do with the ventilation of the warehouse, for

it had once had a grating over the end of it, but the fastenings of

that had long since rusted and it had fallen away, and there was

nothing to bar their way out.

Peter was so pleased and excited at the prospect of seeing the

sun and being out of doors again that he hurried past Jennie

and would have rushed out into the street had not the alarm

in her warning cry checked him just before he emerged from the

opening.

‘Peter! Wait!’ she cried. ‘Not like that! Cats never, newer

rush out from places. Don’t you know about Pausing on the

Threshold, or Lingering on the Sill? But then, of course, you

wouldn’t. Oh dear, I don’t mean always to be telling you what

to do and what not to do, but this is really Important. It’s

almost Lesson Number 2. You never hurry out of any place, and

particularly not outdoors.’

Peter saw that Jennie had quite recovered her good nature and

apparently had forgotten that she had been upset with him. He

was curious to find out the reasons for her warning. He said, ‘I

don’t quite understand, Jennie. You mean I’m not to stop before

coming in, but I am whenever I go out?’

‘Of course. What else?’ replied Jennie, sitting down quite

58

calmly in the mouth of the exit and showing not the slightest

disposition to go through it and into the street. ‘You know

what’s inside because you come from there. You don’t know

what’s outside because you haven’t been there. That’s common

ordinary sense for anyone, I should think.’

‘Yes, but what is there outside to be afraid of, really?’ in-

quired Peter. ‘I mean, after all, if you know where you live and

the street and houses and all which don’t change — ’

‘Oh, my goodness,’ said Jennie, ‘I couldn’t try to tell you them

all. To begin with- dogs, people, moving vehicles, the weather

and changes in temperature, the condition of the street, is it wet

or dry, clean or dirty, what has been left lying about, what is V

parked at the kerb, and whether anybody is coming along, on

which side of the street and in how much of a hurry.

‘And it isn’t that you’re actually afraid. ifs just that you want

to know. And you ought to know, if you have your wits about

you, everything your eyes, your ears, your nose, and the ends of

your whiskers can tell you. And so you stop, look, listen, and

feel. We have a saying, "Heaven is overcrowded with kittens who

rushed out of doors without first stopping and receiving a little."

‘There might be another cat in the vicinity, bent on mischief,

or looking for a light. You’d certainly want to know about that

before you stepped out into something you weren’t prepared for.

Then you’d want to know all about the weather, not only what

it’s like at the moment, but what it’s going to be doing later, say

an hour from then. If it’s going to come on to rain or thunder,

you wouldn’t want to be too far from home. Your whiskers and

your skin tell you that.

‘And then, anyway,’ Jennie concluded, ‘it’s a good idea on

general principles not to rush into things. When you go out

there are very few places to go to that won’t be there just the

same five minutes later, and the chances of your getting there

will be ever so much better. Come here and squat down beside

me and we’ll just have a look.’

Peter did as she suggested and lay down directly in the open-

ing with his paws tucked under him, and felt quite natural doing

it, and suddenly he was glad that Jennie had stopped him and

that he hadn’t gone charging out into goodness knows what.

Feet went by at intervals. By observation he got to know some-

59

thing about the size of the shoes, which were mostly the heavy

boots belonging to workmen, their speed, and how near they

came to the wall of the warehouse. The wheeled traffic was of the

heavy type — huge horse—drawn drays, and motor-lorries that

rumbled past ominously loud, and the horses’ feet, huge things

with big, shaggy fetlocks, were another danger. Far in the dis-

tance, Peter heard Big Ben strike four. The sound would not

have reached him as a human being, perhaps, but it traveled all

the distance from the Houses of Parliament to his cat’s ears and

informed him of the time.

Now he used his nostrils and sniffed the scents that came to

his nose and tried to understand what they told him. There was

a strong smell of tea and a queer odour that he could not

identify, he just 'knew he didn’t like it. He recognized dry goods,

machinery, musk and spices, and horses and burned petrol, ex-

haust gases, tar, and soft coal smoke, the kind that comes from

railway engines.

Jennie had got up now and was standing on the edge of the

opening with only her head out, whiskers extended forward,

quivering a little, and making small wrinkly movements with

her nose. After a moment or so of this she turned to Peter quite

relaxed and said, ‘All clear. We can go now. No cats around.

'There's a dog been by, but only a mangy cur probably scared of

his own shadow. There’s a tea boat just docked. That’s good.

The Watchman won’t really have any responsibilities until she’s

unloaded. Rain’s all cleared away. Probably won’t rain for at

least another forty—eight hours. Goods train just gone down into

the docks area. That’s line. Means the gates’ll be open, and

besides, we can use the wagons for cover.’

‘Goodness!’ Peter marveled, ‘I don’t see how you can tell all

that from just one tiny sniff around. Do you suppose I’ll ever — ?’

‘Of course you will,’ Jennie laughed, and with a bit of a purr

added, ‘It’s just a matter of getting used to it and looking at

things the way a cat would. It’s really nothing,’ and here she

gave herself two or three self-conscious licks, for, truth to tell,

she was just a trifle vain and nothing delighted her so much as

to appear clever in Peter’s eyes, which was only feline.

‘Well, I don’t understand — ’ Peter began, saying just the right

thing and giving her the lead which she was quick to take up.

‘It’s really quite simple,’ she explained. ‘For instance, you can

smell the tea. Well, that wasn’t around last time I was outside.

Means a tea boat has come in and they’ve opened the hatches.

No cats about- I don’t get any signals on my receiver, at least

not hostile ones. The dog that went by, well, goodness knows,

you can smell him. If he had any class or self-respect that might

lead him to chase cats, he’d be clean, and a clean dog smells

different. This one was filthy, and that’s why I say he’s nothing

to worry about. He’ll be slinking along down back alleys and

glad to be left alone. And as for the goods train that went by,

after you get to know the neighbourhood it’ll be easy for you too.

You see, the smoke smell comes from the left, down where the

docks are, so of course it went that way. And you know it was a

goods train, because you can smell everything that was in the

wagons. There, you see how easy it is?’

Peter again said the right thing, for he was learning how to

please Jennie ‘I think you’re enormously clever,’ he told her.

Her purr almost drowned out the sound of a passing horse-

drawn dray. Then she cried to him gaily, ‘Come along, Peter!

We’re off ! ’ and the two friends went out into the cobbled street.

CHAPTER EIGHT

Hoodwinking of an Old Gentleman

THE pair went on down the busy commercial street towards

their destination not at a walk, lope, trot, or even a run, but a

series of short, swift charges, a kind of point-to-point dash, and

again Peter learned something about the life and ways of a

homeless city cat that has no friends and must fend for itself.

For, as Jennie explained and he could very well see, in a city

that was stony, hostile, and full of all kinds of moving vehicles,

rushing people, bicycles, delivery hand-trucks, carts, lorries,

wagons, hardly heeding one another, much less anything that

might be so close to the ground as a cat, it would never do to be

caught simply carelessly walking along or even running.

‘You never leave one place of shelter,’ was the way Jennie had

explained it to him, ‘until you have the next one ahead of you

picked out where you are going to go in case of trouble of any

sort. And then the best thing to do is to make a dash for it and

not linger between them. Of course, when you’re in your own

neighbourhood you know all sorts of spots to get to in a hurry,

and you can afford to be more relaxed. But when going through

strange territory, always play for safety.’

And so they made their way from point to point and cover to

cover in little short rushes that Peter found most exciting and

exhilarating until they reached the gateway to the dockyard

where everything was exactly as Jennie had said it would be.

The great iron gates to the yards stood open, a goods train had

been through, indeed the last of the trucks and the brake van

actually were not yet inside the gate, though the train had

stopped, so long was it. And here too they no longer needed to

indulge in the short rushes, for the goods wagons, vans, tankers,

box and refrigerator wagons gave them excellent cover and they

were able to trot along beneath them in perfect safety and at a

rapid pace. ` V

The shack was far down at the very end of the docks, but on

the land side of the sheds, and consisted of a little wooden house

of but one room with a door leading into it, two windows, one

on either side, of which several panes were broken and stuffed

with rags, and a crooked stove—pipe that emerged from the tin

roof instead of a chimney.

In spite of its drab surrounding amidst coils of rope and

cable, rusting steel rails and oddments of wood, weatherbeaten

and sagging as it was, the shack looked cheerful and even home-

like, because on either side of the door, on the ground, were two

long green boxes with earth in them, and in the boxes bright

red geraniums were growing. From the open doorway as Peter

and Jennie approached came the appetizing smell of frying

liver.

‘He’s in, and cooking his tea,’ said Jennie ‘The first thing to

do is let him know we are here,’ and forthwith she emitted a

plaintive and heartbreaking ‘Meeeeeeeow !’

In a moment an old man dressed in shabby clothes and with a

stained and untidy moustache stood framed in the doorway with

a saucepan in one hand.

‘ ’Ullo!’ he said, ‘if it isn’t Tabby Puss come back to pay a

visit to old Bill Grims! And brought a pal with ’er this time.

Here then, puss, puss, puss!’ `

He had, Peter noticed, snow-white hair that hung down

almost to his shoulders it was so long uncut, and fierce, bushy

white eyebrows that framed a pair of the mildest blue eyes that

Peter had ever seen, eyes that had in them a look of great kindli-·

ness and at the same time sadness. His cheeks, bristled with

white stubble, were apple-red from the warmth of the shack, his

hands gnarled, knotted, and quite dirty.

Peter thought: ‘How very odd. He’s old, yes, quite -and yet

what he really looks like most is a little boy. He really doesn’t

seem to be much older than I am, at least that’s the way he feels

to me. I think I am going to like him.

The watchman’s expression was so friendly as he put away

the skillet and leaned down and said: "There now, you are a fine

fellow! Come over ’ere and let’s ’ave a look at you,’ that Peter

wanted to go to him right away, even if his clothes and hands

were dirty, but Jennie cautioned him:

‘No, no, Peter! Let me handle this. If you give in right away

you don’t get any milk,' and with that she sent up another

63

plaintive series of miaows, a tone which even to Peter’ s ears was

filled with the most false and evident pathos.

But apparently it struck the proper and necessary chord in the

heart of old Mr Grims, for he said at once: ‘Reckon as ’ow the

two of you could do with a bit of milk, eh? Don’t you go ’way,

and I’ll fetch some right away,’ and he turned back into the

inside of the shack.

‘Aha !’ said Jennie with a triumphant look on her face. ‘You

see? I heard the word "milk". I didn’t understand the rest.’

‘I did,’ said Peter. ‘He said we weren’t to go, he was going to

fetch some immediately.

Jennie stared at Peter as though she couldn’t believe her

ears. ‘Peter! You mean you can understand everything he

says?’

‘But of course I can. Why not? He spoke in plain English. If

he spoke in French or German I’m sure I shouldn’t know a

word, though Daddy says next year I’m to begin to learn

French . . .’

‘Well, I never! ’ Jennie said, and sat down and blinked several

times. ‘This wants thinking over. I never would have believed it.

Then you really are a little boy . . .’

‘But I told you I was,’ Peter insisted.

‘Of course you did,’ Jennie admitted, ‘and I believed you,

though not entirely. But now here’s the proof for once and all.

For if you were entirely a cat you wouldn’t understand all of his

language, and I must say - ’

But what Jennie felt compelled to say at that point was lost,

due to the fact that Mr Grims returned to the door with a large

flat saucer in one hand, a bottle of milk in the other.

‘Here we are, then,’ he said, and called to them — ‘Come

pusses. Nice fresh milk . . .’ And he poured a generous helping

into the saucer and held it up.

Peters throat was so parched that he could hardly refrain

from jumping for it, and he craned and stretched his neck and

too uttered plaintive miaows.

Jennie said: ‘See if you can get him to give it to us outdoors.

I’d rather not go inside if I can help it.’

They both cruised back and forth in front of the door, their

tails straight up in the air, reaching and crying. But Mr Grims

64

said, ‘Come in if you want it, pusses. I’m just about to ’ave me

tea.’

Peter translated for Jennie, ‘He says we’re to come inside if we

want it.’

She sighed and gave up. ‘Ah well . . . come along then,’ and

treading cautiously over the sill and giving a sniff or two, she

led the way with Peter following.

At once Mr Grims closed the door behind them and set the

saucer of milk on the floor where Peter with a little glad cry

that was half a purr, hurled himself upon it, buried his face in

it, and tried to suck it up. The next moment he was sneezing,

coughing, and choking with milk up his nose and into his eyes

and his lungs full of it.

‘Oh, oh, eh!’ cried Mr Grims as Peter backed away from the

dish, ‘easy does it . . .’

Jennie said, ‘Oh dear!’ and struggled not to laugh. ‘I didn’t

want to say anything, but I was afraid something like that would

happen. Poor Peter . . . of course you can’t drink milk that way.

Horses can suck, but we have to lap it up.’

‘Ugh-ick-kachoo!’ Peter coughed and sneezed the last of the

milk from his lungs and nose, and with the tears still running

from his eyes from the effort, begged, ‘Show be how to do id,

please, Jeddie! I dever tried . . .’

Jennie squatted down at the side of the saucer, her head just

over it and lowered to the level of the milk. Then her little pink

tongue emerged and vanished with incredible speed. The level of

the milk in the saucer began to fall. ~

Mr Grims of course misunderstood completely what was hap-

pening and laughed, ‘Ho, ho, ho! ’Ad to ’ave a bit of a lesson in

manners from your girl friend, eh, Whitey? ’Appens to the best

of us. Now it’s your turn.’

But when Peter tried to get a drink of milk from the saucer he

had no better luck. This time all the liquid splashed on to the

floor next to the saucer and not a drop could Peter get into his

parched mouth. He was almost in despair when Jennie, who had

been watching and studying him closely, cried:

‘Oh! Now I know! You must curl your tongue under when

you lap. We don’t curl it up and around, but down, around and

under.’

‘But it doesn’t make any sense,’ Peter protested. ‘Curling it up

makes it like a spoon, except it all runs out on to the floor.

Turning it down under it would never hold anything. And be-

sides, I’m sure I couldn’t possibly do it, or learn. Our tongues

just don’t go that way.’

‘Yours don’t, but cats’ do,’ Jennie replied, ‘and whatever you

once were, you are most certainly a cat now, so try it. Think of

your tongue curling under, and see what happens.’

So Peter went at it again, and thought hard of curling his

tongue downwards, and almost at once, to his great surprise, it

was bending in that direction quite as though he had been drink-

ing milk in that fashion all his life, and the cool, sweet drops

were splashing into his mouth and running down his throat. He

drank and drank as though he would never get enough, but sud-

denly, in the midst of drinking, he remembered what Jennie had

said about cats not being greedy and sharing what they had with

others, and felt a little ashamed, and so, with his thirst still not

completely quenched, he backed away from the dish and said

politely to Jennie: ‘Please, won’t you have some more . . .?’

Jennie rewarded him with her most winning smile, saying,

‘How sweet of you, Peter! I don’t mind if I do,’ and therewith

she returned to the dish and applied herself to it, giving Peter a

chance to look around and see where he was. I

The shack was most simply furnished with a wooden bed at

the far end on which were some rumpled blankets, a few shelves

containing some bare necessities. An unpainted and battered

table was placed against one wall, with a small wireless set and

an alarm clock with the glass broken out of its face standing on

it. There was one rickety wooden chair with most of the slats

out of the back. Right in the centre was a fat, pot-bellied stove,

connected to a rusty pipe that went up through the roof. There

was a fire in it now, a dented tea-kettle was singing on it over to

one side, and the rest of the space on top of it was being used by

Mr Grims to finish the job of cooking his slice of liver that he

was planning to have with his tea.

All of the furnishings in the place, Peter noticed, were poor

and shabby and worn out, and yet the room looked as gay and

cheerful as a palace, for everywhere there was a place or a ledge,

shelf or level spot to put it, stood a flowerpot with growing

flowers in it—geraniums of every kind and variety, from pure

snow white to darkest glowing crimson, some the colour of

apple—blossoms, pink and white, and others all shades of pink

verging on salmon, puce-coloured ones, and every variation of

red from brick to blood to sunset. And the scent of them filled

the shack and was stronger even than the odour of frying

liver.

And while waiting for Jennie to finish the rest of her share of

the milk, Peter wondered about Mr Grims, who he had been and

what kind of a life he had led, what had happened to him that

he was compelled to spend the end of it as a watchman in a

mean little shack, and what had become of his family. It was a

game Peter liked to play, trying to guess what people were by

looking at them — but he could not make up his mind about Mr

Grims except that he was very old and lonely and seemed to

have nobody at all, for there were no pictures of any kind up on

the wall.

Peter also remembered what Jennie had said, that Mr Grims

had offered her a home and had been trying to persuade her to

` come and live with him for months, and suddenly, he did not

know why, his heart felt heavy and intolerably sad. He set to

washing himself violently down his back to see if it would make

him feel any better, as Jennie had said it would. He found that it

did somewhat, but not entirely.

‘Cleanin’ up, eh?’ said Mr Grims in his friendly voice. ‘Maybe

you’d be wanting to wait a bit with that . . .’ He moved over to

the shelf, got the bread and cut himself several slices, poured the

tea, and transferred the liver from the skillet to one of his

cracked plates. ‘It ain’t often I have company for tea. I might

be able to spare a bit o’ liver for me pals. Share and share alike is

my motto.’ And with that he took a knife, divided the piece of

liver exactly in two, and commenced to cut up one of the halves

into very small pieces.

‘He’s going to give us liver,’ Peter announced to Jennie with

considerable excitement. Previously, when he had been living at

home and he had been made by Nanny to eat liver to make sure

he was getting enough vitamins, he hadn’t liked it particularly,

but now the smell, the look of it, and particularly the prepara-

tions sent him into a perfect fever of expectation and delight.

67

Jennie had a kind of pleased and satisfied smirk on her coun-

tenanoe as she too cruised back and forth near the table where

the cutting was going on, as though to say: ‘You see, I told you

this would be a little bit of all right.’

At last, the portions were ready. Mr Grims divided them

into two even heaps, one on either side of a plate, and set the

dish down on the floor. Peter and Jennie at once squatted down

comfortably on either side and fell to eating without further

ceremony.

On his part, Mr Grims poured himself a cup of tea, smeared

a slice of bread with margarine, and sitting down to the table

with knife and fork commenced to eat what was left of his liver

with cheerful gusto and a running commentary of conversation

addressed partly to no one in particular and partly at his two

visitors.

Said he, spearing a piece of the liver and conveying it to his

mouth, ‘It ain’t much, but what I say is-you’re welcome to

what I’ve got. It ain’t often we get to see a bit o’ fresh meat like

this now, and I’ll wager you both are wondering ’ow I’ve come

by it.’ He wagged his head and said, ‘Ah, well, you’ll find old

Bill Grims still ’as a friend or two.

‘Mr Tewkes the butcher says to me: " ’Ere you are, Mr Grims,

a fine fresh bit of English lamb’s liver I’ve set by for you, for I

says to myself, it’s not much meat you gets to see on your ration

book."

‘I says to him: "Right you are, and I only wish there was

something I could do for you some day."

‘Then he says to me: "Well, now that you mention it, Mr

Grims, there is a little something. I’ve a nephew very anxious to

get into the docks to have a word with the foreman about a job,

and I says to him, ‘Mr Grims the watchman can give you a ’and

there — ’ eh, Mr Grims?"

‘And I says to him: "Quid pro quo, meaning one good turn

deserves another! Quid pro quo, Mr Tewkes, and thank you

very much." And ’ere we all are sitting down to liver for tea like

the King himself in Buckingham Palace.

‘It’s quiet living here, but comfortable, pusses, with nobody

coming to disturb you for weeks on end if there isn’t a call for

cargo to be shifted or a ship to unload or clear. Not that it don’t

get a bit lonely at times, but then the three of us would find

plenty to say to one another, I reckon.

‘Merry as grigs we three’d be in here, that is providin’ as ’ow

you liked flowers. But then I’ve never seen a puss as didn’t like

flowers, always sniffling’ and smellin’ around them and steppin’ so

nice and dainty with their feet so as not to ’urt them.

Here he arose and went over to the shelf from which he took

down a jampot. He scraped down into the bottom of it with a

knife, but scratch and try as he would, not a single smidgen of

jam came forth therefrom on the end of the knife, showing that

the pot was quite empty.

‘Ah well,’ said Mr Grims, still in utmost good humour, ‘it

comes and it goes. But never fear that YOU two wouldn’t be

well looked after. Ol’ Bill Grims would see to that. Cereal in the

morning with a bit off the top o’ the milk ration. And some-

times when a ship comes in from the Argentine, a bit o’ real

beef right off the ’oof as it were. The run o’ the docks and stor-

age ’ouses with me, and WOT parcels, crates, bales, and packages

to hinvestigate! I don’t know where they all don’t come from.

Hindia, China, South Africa, Australia, and Noo York . . .’

He glanced appraisingly about the tiny room and continued:

‘Now I’d shift me bed into that corner, so you’d have the other

one on a pile of something soft and then none of us would inter-

fere with the other comin’ and goin’, that is, pusses, providin’

you’re of a mind to stop and stay a while. It ain’t much, but it

would be ’ome sweet ’ome for all of us, and welcome you’d be.

And that goes for you too, Whitey, as long as you’re a friend o’

hers.

Feasting on the nourishing and delicious liver, satisfyingly full

of milk, warm and comfortable, Peter felt there was nothing he

would have liked better than to stay on with Mr Grims and be

looked after by him. He didn’t mind his being dirty and every-

thing being poor and cracked and shabby, in fact he rather liked

it because there wasn’t any danger of hurting anything. At home

he was always having to be careful of this article of furniture, or

that piece of bric-a-brac ....

‘What has he been saying?’ Jennie inquired of him, her meal

finished, as she began licking her right paw and then carefully

rubbing it over her whiskers and the side of her mouth and face.

Peter told her the gist of Mr Grims’s conversation as best as

he could remember, but with emphasis on the fact that they

were invited to remain there and make their home with him.

Jennie interrupted her washing long enough to remark—‘You

see. Just as I told you. I didn’t like it at all when he shut the

door on us . . .’

‘But he’s so nice and kind . . .’ Peter remonstrated.

‘They all are-at first,’ Jennie replied. ‘Believe me, Peter, I

know. You must trust me. We must watch for an opportunity.

When it comes, do exactly as I say. Now then, get on with your

washing, just as though we were quite content to stay here.’

Peter would not have dreamed of disobeying Jennie, for he

already owed so much to her wisdom and kindness and gener-

osity, including his life, and so he too set about cleaning his face

and whiskers while Mr Grims said cheerily, ‘That’s what I like

to see, pusses, settling down nice and ’omey and ’avin a bit of a

clean—up.’

He gathered all the dishes together and placed them in a

bucket and went outside with them. ‘Water an’ conveniences not

laid on,’ he explained to them, ‘but the tap ain’t far and it’s no

trouble. We’ll all have a wash-up.’ He closed the door behind

him very carefully and was only gone a few moments when he

was back with the bucket full of water which he set upon the

stove. But this time the latch of the door did not quite click.

Peter did not notice it, but Jennie did. She edged over to him

and said: ‘Get ready.’

Peter was just about to whisper, ‘Get ready for what?' when

it happened. A breeze of wind from outside stirred the door and

opened it just a foot.

‘Now!’ cried Jennie. ‘Follow me!’ and was off like an arrow

through the crack, her tail standing out straight and stream-

lined, and ears flattened back.

Peter was so startled that before he knew what he was doing

he was up and after her, right on her tail, through the door and

beyond, running as though for dear life.

Behind him he heard Mr Grims calling — ‘ ’Ere now! No, no!

Don’t go, pusses, ’Ere, come back! Next time you shall ’ave all

the liver. Puss! Whitey! Come back!’

Hard as he was running to keep up with Jennie, Peter yet

managed to turn his head round and look back over his shoul-

der. Mr Grims was standing in the doorway of his shack with

the boxes of red geraniums on either side, waving his hands in a

helpless manner, and looking very bowed and old and lonely

with his white hair and drooping moustache and shoulders.

‘Ah, there, pusses,’ he called once more, ‘don’t go away,

please — ’

Then Jennie ducked around behind a huge pile of oil drums,

with Peter after her, and Mr Grims was lost from sight; and

soon after, as they continued to run, passing from the drums to

piles of green timber and then stacks of ingots of copper and

tin, and finally into a perfect wilderness of piled-up steel rails

where nobody could ever find anyone who didn’t wish to be

found, he passed also from their hearing. And not until then did

Jennie pull up to rest with a ‘Well done, Peter ! ’

But somehow Peter couldn’t manage to feel that they, or even

he, had done well at all.

CHAPTER NINE

The Stowaways

‘WASN’T it a lark?’ Jennie laughed. ‘I’ll never forget the ex-

pression on his face. He looked so foolish when we ran off.

Weren’t you amused?'

‘No,’ said Peter, ‘I wasn’t.’

They were sitting on a string piece down by the Thames-side

near the London Docks, hard by Wapping Wall, watching three

snub-nosed tugboats shoving, hauling, and straining a long

grey—and-white Esso tanker into position against the side of its

pier. To his surprise he found that his tail, of which up to that

moment he had not been particularly conscious, in spite of the

fact that he had never had such an appendage before and it

wanted some getting used to, was lashing back and forth,

squirming and twitching and writhing like something separate

and alive that did not belong to him at all.

Jennie noticed it the same time he did, probably because she

was just a little shocked at his brusque tone in reply to her ques-

tion, for she said, ‘Oh dear, Peter, your tail! I’m afraid you’re

angry with me. Have I done anything wrong?’

‘No,’ Peter replied. ‘At least I don’t suppose you meant to.

I’m sorry about my tail, but it’s something that seems to be

going on in spite of me. It’s just that I feel such a rotter.’

‘But why, Peter? After all — ’

‘After all,’ Peter repeated, ‘he did give us half his rations when

he was probably hungry himself. And he didn’t look foolish or

funny when we ran off, he looked disappointed and lonely and

miserable.’

‘But, Peter,’ Jennie protested, ‘don’t you see, he wanted some-

thing from us. That’s why he gave us the milk and the liver.

He was trying to bribe us to come and live with him in that

dirty, stuffy little house. You wouldn’t let yourself be bribed,

would you?’ she concluded, with what almost amounted to self-

righteousness.

‘It wasn’t a bribe,’ Peter said with some indignation. ‘He gave

it to us because he liked us. Couldn’t you hear the way he spoke

to us? And I think it was mean of us to run away from him as

soon as the door opened a little bit.’

A queer glitter came into Jennie Baldrin’s eye, her ears began

to flatten back on the top of her head and her tail to twitch

ominously. ‘I think it was mean of HIM to shut the door on us.

That should have given away to you what he was up to, if

nothing else.’

Peter said stubbornly, ‘Perhaps he shut the door on account of

his flowers. He couldn’t have been wicked and meant us any

harm and kept so many flowers.

Jennie gave a low growl. ‘All people are wicked and I don’t

wish to have anything to do with them. I told you that when we

first met, and why. And I still feel the same way.’

"Then why do you continue to have anything to do with me?’

Peter asked. ‘I’m a person, and - ’

‘You are not! ’ Jennie cried, ‘you’re an ordinary white cat and

not a very nice one at that,after all I’ve done to — Oh dear, Peter,

do you realize we’re having our first disagreement? And over a

human being! You see what happens when they come into your

life?’

Peter did realize that he was quarrelling with Jennie, and it

made him feel ashamed because she had been so good to him and

cared for him when he had been weak and injured, and so he

said: ‘Dear Jennie Baldrin, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to be angry

with you. You’ve been so kind and gentle to me. And if it upsets

you to think or talk about people or Mr Grims, we won’t do it

any more.’

Jennie’s eyes softened, her tail quieted, and she said: ‘Peter,

you are a dear, and I’m sorry I flattened my ears at you.’ She

turned her ·head away and fell to washing vigorously, and in a

moment Peter felt compelled to join her.

After they had washed themselves out of the embarrassment

caused by the mutual show of emotion, Peter noticed that Jennie

was staring at him with a most curious expression on her soft

white face, almost like, well, if he had been a boy instead of a cat,

he would have said almost like a cat that had swallowed the

mouse. She seemed to be hatching up an idea that gave her a

great deal of pleasure and excitement.

‘Peter,’ she began, just as a large steamer with a buff-and-

green smokestack came around the bend of the river and gave a

deep-throated hoot. ‘You are so awfully clever. Can you read

writing as well as understand everything people say?’

‘Why, of course,’ replied Peter, ‘I should jolly well think so.

I’ve been going to school for two years. I can read nearly every-

thing, I mean if the words aren’t too long and mysterious.’

‘Oh, Peter. show me! Read something for me. What does it

say on the boat, for instance — the little one just pushing . . .'

‘Maude F. O’Reilly, Thames Towing Co. Limited, Lime-

house,’ Peter read without hesitation.

‘And the one that’s being pushed?'

‘Esso Queen, Standard Oil Company, Bayonne, N.J.’

‘And the one out in the river, just going by . . .?’

‘Ryndam, Amsterdam. But I don’t know what that one

means . . .’

Jennie gave a great sigh, and the look she turned upon Peter

was positively doting. ‘Oh,’ she said, ‘you couldn’t possibly be

making all of those up out of your head, could you?’

‘Certainly not,’ Peter replied in some wonder. ‘You asked me

to read them to you, and I did. If you don’t believe- ’

‘Oh, but I do, Peter, I do ...’ said Jennie in a voice that

sounded absolutely thrilled, ‘I just almost didn’t dare. Oh, I am

lucky. Don’t you see what it means?’ ·

Peter tried to, but it was obvious to Jennie from his baffled

expression that he didn’t, so she told him. ‘It means that we are

free. There is no place we cannot go or nothing we cannot do

that we want to . . .’

But Peter still didn’t quite understand.

The sun was now a red ball sinking down over the West of

London and making a lurid crimson background for the forest

of masts and funnels of the ships in the London Docks behind

them, and the dark turrets and walls of the Tower of London

rising up from Tower Hill in the distance. And as it dropped

low in the sky and prepared to vanish behind the spires and

chimneys of the city, a chill wind sprang up from the river,

ruffling Peter's fur and reminding him that as yet they had not

found a place to stay for the night where they would be warm

and safe.

He started to ask Jennie, 'It will be dark soon. Where will we

go for the night . . .?’ but she wasn’t listening to him. She had a

rapt expression on her face and a far-away look in her eyes. And

then she said to him in a most momentous tone of voice:

‘Peter . . . how would you like to go off on a little trip with

me?’

At once Peter was interested, nay more, captivated, for he

loved going places and was happiest when he was travelling.

‘A trip? Oh, I’d love it! Where to? When?’

‘Now. At once. Tonight, I mean, or whenever it goes. But we

can look for it tonight. To Scotland. I’d love to go back and

visit Glasgow, the city where I was born. And all the relatives I

have at Balloch and Garelochhead and Balmaha. Oh, Peter,

Peter, wouldn’t it be the most fun . . .’

Peter’s eyes were now quite as wide with excitement as were

Jennie’s as he listened to the names of the places that sounded so

far off and so fascinating, for Nanny had often told him all

about Glasgow, and he cried, 'But, Jennie, how can we? We

haven’t any money, or tickets . . .’

‘Oh, that part, that’s simple,’ said Jennie. ‘We’ll take a job and

work our way north to Glasgow . . .’

‘A job,’ Peter repeated, bewildered. ‘But what can we

do?’

‘Plenty,’ Jennie replied. ‘We’ll find a ship bound for Glasgow

and sign on as ship’s cats — after they discover that we’re aboard.

It’s easy.

It was now Peter’s turn to look with wonder and admiration

at his companion. ‘Jennie!’ he said, ‘do you mean to say you’ve

done it already, you’ve been away to sea?’

‘Oh, yes, several times,’ she replied, falling into that careless

nonchalance that she could not seem to help adopting whenever

Peter admired her, ‘but the trouble was I could never tell where

I was going. I wanted very much to go to Egypt to visit the

tombs of my ancestors, and instead I landed up in Oslo. Did I

ever get tired of eating dried fish! And once I went all the way

to New Orleans and back. I thought that one would never

end. Twenty-eight days at sea. Such a bore .... But now that

I know you can read the names of ships and where they are

going . . .’

A sudden thought struck Peter. ‘But, Jennie,’ he said, ‘being

on ships—isn’t that being with people, after all, I mean, you

know what you said about not caring to -— ’

‘Not at all,’ Jennie replied coolly. ‘It’s quite different. You’re

working for your living, and believe me, you work. Anything

you get you earn, keeping down the mice and rats, forecasting

the weather, locating leaks and bad smells, and bringing good

luck and whatnot you’re called upon to do. It’s all on a strictly

business basis. The sailors and mates and masters have their

work to do, and precious little time over it leaves them to try to

get sentimental with you. And you have yours, and that keeps

you occupied, and there’s an end to it. The food isn’t too bad,

and what’s important, it’s regular—no worries about it, and

plenty of it. You get your sea legs after a day or so, and outside

of a certain monotony if you stay out of sight of land too long,

it isn’t a bad life. What say, friend?’ And the look that she threw

him was both eager and pleading as well as challenging.

‘Right-ho ! ’ Peter cried. ‘I’m for going.

‘Bravo, Peter!’ Jennie called, giving a little croon of delight.

‘I knew you would. We’ll search these docks back here in the

basin first. Your job will be to read off the names. I’ll pick the

one we want to go on.’

They set off immediately from Wapping Wall to the London

Docks. At each ship they passed berthed in the Old or New

Basin and the seemingly endless Dock area, Peter would gaze up

at the wondrous, alluring names lettered in gold beneath the

taffrail, with their home ports, and read them off to Jennie.

‘Raimona — Lisbon,’ he read.

‘Lisbon is full of cats - my type,’ Jennie commented.

‘Vilhialmar - Helsinki . . .’

‘No more dried fish, thank you,’ Jennie remarked, a little

acidly.

‘Isis — Alexandria . . .’

Jennie went all dreamy, and even appeared to hesitate for a

moment as though on the verge of changing her mind, but then

said, ‘Some day, perhaps, but not now. When we come back,

maybe. Alexandria, Cairo, then up the River Nile. Bubastis is

where I want to get to. We really were sacred there . . .’

Ship after ship they inspected whose home ports were dotted

76

all over the globe from Suez to Calcutta, from Singapore to

Colon, and from Bangor, Maine, to Jamaica, West Indies, and

Tampico, Mexico. And then, right at the end of the largest

basin, almost at the entrance to St Catherine’s Docks, they came

upon a little one squatting low and lumpy alongside its berth,

and its letters weren’t in gold, but plain white, and that so

smudged and dirty from smoke and grime that Peter could

hardly make them out and had to squint up a second time

through the growing darkness, but when he did read it his heart

gave a leap of excitement.

‘Jennie! It says: "Countess of Greenock —— Glasgow" !’

‘Lumme!’ Jennie whooped, a little inelegantly, ‘that’s our

ship. There’s your new home for the next few weeks or so,

Peter.

Peter’s enthusiasm cooled somewhat as he looked her over, for

she was far from a thing of beauty. Her hull was black and

rusted red in spots, squat and ugly, with a stubby bow from

which rose a short mast with an enormous cargo boom that was

engaged at the very moment lifting crates and packing-cases and

huge nets filled with barrels and drums from the dockside and

lowering them into her interior.

She had an island bridge amidships with a wheelhouse a-top

in several different shades of brown, that reminded Peter of a

large slice of chocolate layer cake. Another mast and busy boom

stuck up behind this, and then back of the second cargo hold

rose the brief cabin section with quarters, two lifeboats fastened

on either side, and to cap it a long, thin, dirty smokestack in

part buff topped with black. Thick smoke was pouring from this

funnel, and from it there came a soft-coal smell so raw, acrid,

and pungent that Peter sneezed violently several times.

‘Bless you,’ Jennie said, and then added with feeling: ‘It’s

going to be a job to keep ourselves clean aboard her. But of

course you know what it means when she’s smoking like that.

Probably getting up steam to sail tonight. We’re just in time.

You see they’re loading as fast as they can.’

Jennie studied the situation for a moment and then observed:

‘Looks to me like they’re loading general cargo. Which means

plenty of work for us, especially since there’ll be foodstuffs.

Well, Peter, are you ready to go aboard? We might as well, while

they’re busy, and pick ourselves a spot to stow away until they

cast off.’

Peter could hardly keep his teeth from chattering from pure

excitement. But he said to Jennie, ‘What if when they find us

they are angry and decide to throw us overboard? For he re-

membered reading that it went hard very often with stowaways

found aboard ship after sailing.

‘What?’ said Jennie, a little scornfully, ‘sailors? Throw us

overboard? You forget that we are cats and they are supersti-

tious. Now then! We shan’t want to risk getting stepped on

where they’re loading. There ought to be a third gangway aft to

the officers’ quarters. The mere sight of the vessel had been

sufficient to turn Jennie’s speech quite nautical. She continued:

‘If I know anything about the discipline aboard, the way this

tramp seems to be kept, there won’t be any watch on it. The

crew is probably mostly ashore having a last fling. Come along,

we’ll have a look.

They crept around the darkened portion of the pier to the

stem of the Countess of Greenock, where, sure enough, a small

gangway led up from the dock to the head of a narrow com-

panionway on the lower deck. And as Jennie had prophesied,

there was no sailor on watch duty at either end, in fact there

wasn’t so much as a soul about.

‘No time like the present,’ said Jennie cheerfully, having

inspected the set-up thoroughly. She took a few more cautious

sniffs all around, and then,_without further ado, trotted up the

gangplank with Peter following her close behind.

CHAPTER TEN

Price of Two Tickets to Glasgow

ONCE aboard, Jennie’s experience and knowledge of ships stood

her in good stead. She called for the point—to-point method of

procedure again, for she was particularly anxious not to encoun-

ter any humans before the ship had cast off, and while she her-

self could melt and blend with the shadows in comers and be-

hind things, she was worried over the conspicuousness of Peter’s

snow—white coat. But she followed her nose and her instincts as

well as her memory of the other steamships on which she had

served, and soon was leading Peter down a narrow companion-

way that led to a small dining saloon and thence to the

galley.

Tea was long since over, all of the crew and officers were on

deck engaged with the cargo and preparations for leaving, and

Jennie counted on finding that part of the ship deserted. She

was right. The galley fires were out and there was no immediate

sign of cook or scullery man. Also no doors were shut anywhere, V

which gave Jennie further indication as to what kind of a craft

it was, and she led him from the galley through the pantry to

the small storeroom where the immediate supplies were kept. At

the end of this room was a doorway, and a narrow iron staircase

that descended to another passageway, on one side of which was

the refrigeration room and on the other a large dry-stores en-

closure where the ship’s supplies in bulk were kept-—sacks of

flour and beans and dried peas, tins of fruit and vegetables,

boxes of biscuits, tea, coffee, etc.

The slatted door to this also stood wide open. It was dark, but

an electric light burning far down the passageway shed sufficient

light so that with their acute vision they soon accustomed them-

selves and could see their way about the boxes and cartons and

barrels as well as though it were broad daylight.

And it was there in the storeroom, well concealed behind a

case of tinned tomatoes, that Peter saw and missed his first

mouse, revealing what might have been a fatal weakness in their

79

plans. It had never dawned on him, and Jennie too had quite

neglected to think about it and take into consideration that for

all his looking like and appearing to be, and learning to behave

like a cat, Peter had not the faintest idea how to go about the

difficult and important business of catching a mouse.

Indeed, it was only through the lucky break that in the last

moment more cargo arrived and the Countess of Greenock did

not sail that night, nor the next night either, that they were able

to remedy this deficiency at least partly, for superstition or no, a

cat that proved itself wholly unable to catch marauding rodents

might have received short shrift aboard such a craft.

The awkward discovery came when Jennie called his attention

to the little scratching, nibbling sort of noise from the other side

of the storeroom, whispering— ‘Ssh! Mouse! There he is over

by the biscuit box. Let’s see you get him.’

Peter concentrated, staring through the gloom, and there in-

deed he was, just edging around the corner of the large tin

marked HUNTLEY & PALMER LTD, READING, a long, greyish

chap with a greedy face, impertinent whiskers, and beady black

eyes.

Peter was so anxious to show off to Jennie what he could do

as a cat if given the chance, that he hardly even set himself to

spring, or paused to measure the distance, the obstacles, and the

possible avenues of escape open to the mouse. Without a mo-

ment’s thought or plan, he launched himself through the air in

one terrific pounce, paws spread wide, jaws open to snatch him.

There was of course no mouse there when Peter landed.

And not only that, but his teeth clicked together on empty air,

there was nothing beneath his paws and, in addition, having

miscalculated the distance, or rather not calculated it at all, he

gave himself a nasty knock on the head against the side of the

tin box, all of which did not help the feeling that he had made a

perfect fool of himself.

But while the mouse had saved itself momentarily, it also

committed a fatal error by failing to dodge back behind the tin.

Instead, gripped by panic, it emitted a squeak and went the other

way, and the next instant, like a streak of furred lightning,

Jennie had hurled herself through the air, her front paws, talons

bared and extended, striking from side to side in a series of

short, sharp, stunning hooks, even while she was in passage. The

blows, as she landed, caught the mouse, knocking him first to

one side, then back to the other, dazed and bewildered, then

tossed him up in the air, batted him a couple before he came

down, at which point Jennie seized him in her mouth and it was

all over before Peter had even so much as recovered his balance

as well as from his confusion.

‘Oh dear,’ Jennie said, dropping the mouse. ‘I hadn’t thought

of that. Of course you wouldn’t know how. Why should you?

But we shall be in a pretty pickle if we’re caught here before you

know something about it. And I don’t know how much time we

shall have. Still . . .’

Peter at last found his tongue and emitted a cry of anger and

mortification. ‘Goodness,’ he said, ‘isn’t there anything I can do?

Does EVERYTHING have to be learned?’

‘It’s practice, really,’ Jennie explained. ‘Even we have to keep

practicing constantly. That, and while I hate to use the expres-

sion — "know-how". It’s like everything else. You find there’s a

right way and a wrong way. The right way is to catch them with

your paws, not your mouth, and of course the preparation is

everything. Look here, I’ll show you what I mean . . .’

Here she crouched down a few feet away from the dead mouse

and then began a slow waggling of her hindquarters from side to

side, gradually increasing the speed and shortening the distance

of the waggle. ‘That’s what you must try, to begin with,’ she

explained. ‘We don’t do that for fun, or because we’re nervous,

but to give ourselves motion. It’s ever so much harder and less

accurate to spring from a standing start than from a moving

one. Try it now and see how much easier it is to take off than

the other way.’

Peter’s rear-end waggle was awkward at first, but he soon be-

gan to find the rhythm of it - it was almost like the ‘One to get

set, two to make ready, and THREE to go’ in foot—racing, ex-

cept that this was even better because he found that what Jennie

said was quite true and that the slight bit of motion did start

him off the mark like an arrow.

Next he had to learn to move his paws so that, as he flew

through the air and landed, they were striking left, right, with

incredible speed, a feat that was much more difficult than it

sounds since he could not use them to land on but had to bring

up his hind part in time while lashing out with the front.

His second mouse he missed by a hair’s breadth, owing to

over-anxiousness, but Jennie praised his paw—work and spring,

criticizing only his judgement of distance and haste. ‘You rarely

lose a mouse by waiting just a little longer,’ she explained, ‘be—

cause a mouse has a one-track mind and will keep on doing what

it started out to do provided it isn’t disturbed, and if it is dis-

turbed it will just sit there and quake so that you have all the

time in the world really . . .’

But his third mouse Peter caught and killed, one-two-three,

just like that. Jennie said that she could not have done it better

herself, and when Peter made her a present of it she accepted it

graciously and with evident pleasure and ate it. But the others

they saved because Jennie said that when they came to be dis-

covered it would be a good thing to have some samples of their

type of work about them.

And so for the rest, Peter practiced and hunted busily, and

Jennie advised him to keep the mouse alive and in the air as

long as possible, not to torture it, but to gain in skill and accur-

acy, and train his muscles to react swiftly at the slightest move-

ment.

It was the second night before they sailed that Peter awoke to

an uncomfortable feeling. There was a new and unpleasant

odour in the storeroom, one that tended to make him a little

sick. And suddenly from a far corner he saw glowing two evil

looking red eyes. Before he could stir, he sensed through his

whiskers that Jennie was awake too, and for the first time using

this means of communication with him so that there should not

be a sound, she warned: ‘Rat! It is serious, Peter, and very dan-

gerous. This is something I cannot teach you or help you with.

You’ll just have to watch me and try to learn as best you can.

And above all now, whatever happens, don’t move a muscle,

don’t stir, and don’t make a sound, even if you want to. Now

remember. I’m off.

Through the shadowing gloom, Peter watched the stalk, his

heart thumping in his chest, for this was different from the gay,

almost lighthearted, hunt of mice. Jennie’s entire approach and

attitude was one of complete concentration, the carriage of her

body, the expression of her head, flattened forward, the glitter

in her eyes, and the slow, fluid, amazingly controlled movement

of her body. There was a care, caution, and deadly earnestness

about her that Peter had never seen before, and his own throat

felt dry and his skin and moustache twitched nervously. But he

did his best to hold himself rigid and motionless as she had told

him, lest some slip of his might bring her into trouble.

The wicked red eyes were glowing like two hot coals now, and

Peter’s acute hearing could make out the nasty sniffeling noises

of the rat and the dry scrabbling of its toes on the storeroom

floor. Jennie had gone quite flat now, and was crawling along

the boards on her belly. She stopped and held herself long and

rigid for a moment, her eyes intent upon her prey, measuring,

measuring . . .

Then, inch by inch, she began to draw herself up into a little

ball of fur-covered steel muscles for the spring. The rat was

broadside to her. She took only two waggles, one to the left, one

to the right, and then she was in the air, aimed at the flank of

the rat.

But lightning-fast as she was, the rodent seemed to be even

faster, for his head came around over his shoulder and his white

teeth were bared in a wicked, slashing movement-and Peter

wanted to shout to his friend: ‘Jennie, LOOK OUT!’ but just in

time he remembered her admonition under no circumstances to

make a sound, and choked it down.

And then he saw what seemed to him to be a miracle, for

launched as she was and in mid-air, Jennie saw the swift move-

ment of the rat and, swifter herself, avoided the sharp, ripping

teeth and making a turn in the air, a kind of half-twist such as

Peter had seen the high divers do in the pool at Wembley one

summer, she landed on the back of the rat and immediately

sank her teeth in its spine, just below the head.

Then followed a dreadful moment of banging and slamming

and scraping and squealing, and the sharp snick of teeth as the

rat snapped viciously and fought to escape while Jennie hung on

for dear life, her jaws clamping deeper and deeper, until there

was a sharp click and the next moment the rat hung limp and

paralyzed and a few seconds later it was all over.

Jennie came away from it a little shaken and agitated, saying,

83

‘Phew! Filthy, sickening beasts! I hate rats — next to people ....

'They're all unclean and diseased, and if you let them bite you

anywhere, then you get sick, for their teeth are all poisoned, and

sometimes you die from it. I’m always afraid of that . . .’

Peter said with deep sincerity, ‘Jennie, I think you are the

bravest and most wonderful person —I mean cat—I ever saw.

Nobody could have done that the way you did.’

For once Jennie did not preen herself or parade before Peter,

for she was worried now since it was she who had coaxed him

into this adventure. She said: ‘That’s just it, Peter. We can’t

practice and learn on the rats the way we did on the mice, be-

cause it’s too dangerous. One mistake and, well — I don’t want it

to happen. I can show you the twist, because you have to know

how to do it to avoid that slash of theirs, but the spring, the dis-

tance, the timing, and above all just the exact place to bite them

behind the neck to get at their spines- well, you must do it one

hundred per cent right when the time comes, and that’s all there

i is. If you get them too high on the head they can kick loose or

even shake you off. Some of the big fellows weigh almost as

much as you do, and if you seize them too far down the back

they can turn their heads and cut you.’

‘But how will I learn, then?’ Peter asked.

‘Let me handle them for the time being,’ she replied, ‘and

watch me closely each time I kill one. You’ll be learning some-

thing. Then if, and when, the moment comes when you have to

do it yourself, you’ll either do it right the first time and never

forget it thereafter, or- ’ Jennie did not finish the sentence but

instead went into the washing routine, and Peter felt a little cold

chill run down his spine.

When they were finally discovered it was some seven hours

after sailing, as the Countess of Greenock was thumping her

slow, plodding way down the broad reaches of the Thames Estu-

ary. When the cook, an oddly triangular-shaped Jamaican negro

by the name of Mealie, came into the storeroom for some tinned

corned beef, they had a bag of eight mice and three rats lined up

in lieu of references and transportation. Three of the mice were

Peter’s, and he felt inordinately proud of them and wished there

could have been some way whereby he might have had his

name on them, like autographing a book perhaps- ‘Caught by

84

Peter Brown, Storeroom, Countess of Greenock, April 15th,

1949.’ _

The negro grinned widely, increasing the triangular effect, for

his face and head were narrower at the top than at the bottom,

and he said: ‘By Jominy, dat good. Hit pays to hodvertise. I tell

dat to Captain,’ and forthwith went up on to the bridge, taking

Jennie’s and Peter’s samples with him. It was the kind of a ship

where the cook did go up on to the bridge if he felt like having a

word with the captain. There he told him the story of finding

the two stowaways, and then added: ‘But by Jominy they pay

possage already. Look you dat ! ’ and unrolling his apron showed

him the fruits of their industry.

The captain, whose name was Sourlies and who was that rare

specimen, a fat Scotsman, looked and felt ill, and commanded

Mealie in no uncertain language to throw the mess over the side

and go back to his galley. It was the beginning of his time of

deep unhappiness, anyway, for he hated the sea and everything

connected with it and was reasonably contented only when in

port, or near it, or proceeding up and down an estuary or river

with plenty of land on both sides.

He carried this queer notion to the point of refusing even to

dress the part of a ship’s captain, and conducted the affairs of

the Countess of Greenock wearing a tweed pepper-and-salt busi-

ness suit with a gold watch-chain across his large expanse of

stomach, and a mustard-coloured fedora hat, or trilby, with the

brim turned up all round.

However, as Mealie was leaving, he did decree that inasmuch

as the cats seemed to have got aboard and appeared inclined to

work their passage they might remain, but to shift one of them ,

to the fo’c’sle as the men had been complaining of the rats there.

But Mealie took his time going aft, and told his story and

showed the bag to everyone he met, with the result that there

arrived back in the storeroom quite a committee consisting of

Mr Strachan, the first mate; Mr Carluke, the second; Chief

Engineer McDunkeld; and the bosun, whose name appeared to

be only Angus.

They held a meeting, the gist of which Peter tried to translate

rapidly for Jennie’s benefit, and before they knew it the two

friends found themselves separated for the first time, with Jennie

85

sent forward to live with the crew and Peter retained, chiefly

through the insistence of Mr Strachan, in the officers’ quarters.

Jennie had only time to say to Peter, ‘Don’t worry. We’ll find

ways to get together. Do your best. And if you come across a

rat, don’t hesitate and don’t play. Kill ! ’

Then the bosun picked her up by the scruff of the neck and

carried her forward.

CHAPTER ELEVEN

The Countess and the Crew

WHEN Peter had been a boy at home, Nanny had often told

him stories about the small steamers that used to tie up at

Greenock and Gourock, the two port towns outside of Glasgow,

P where she used to live when she was a little girl. But never, Peter

decided, could there have been such an odd ship with such a

strange and ill-assorted crew as the Countess of Greenock and

her motley band of officers, sailors, and deckhands whom he now

learned to know, as the Countess loafed lazily along the south _

and west coasts of England, thrusting her stubby, rust-eaten

bow into port apparently at the slightest opportunity and even

when there did not seem to be a legitimate reason for her doing

so.

For nobody on board, as far as Peter could make out, seemed

to make much sense. With the exception of the second engineer,

who was absolutely not to be separated from the ancient and

clanking machinery that somehow still managed to propel the

Countess at jellyfish pace through the choppy waters of the

Channel, each and every one appeared to have some peculiarity

or hobby which interested him and took up more of his time

than was devoted to the necessary duties connected with keeping

the ship afloat and guiding it to its destination. V

To begin with, there was the Captain, Mr Sourlies, and when,

in their spare time during the afternoon, Peter and Jennie used

to foregather in the cargo hold just abaft the island bridge, or

keep a rendezvous astern to gossip and exchange notes on their

work, adventures, and the people they had met, they agreed that

from everything they had seen and heard they had never en-

countered a queerer one than he.

His dislike of the sea and everything and everyone connected

with it, Peter learned through listening to the officers and mem-

bers of the crew discussing him, stemmed from the fact, accord-

ing to Mr McDunkeld, the chief engineer, that Captain Sourlies

came from a long line of seafarers. But when it came his turn to

87

take up the profession, he had run away from home in Glasgow

to a farm, for what he was really interested in was agriculture.

Mr Fairlie, the radio operator, to whom Mr McDunkeld told

this story, said that he had often heard of farm boys running

away to sea, but never in all his born days had he known of a

sea-type running away to a farm. Peter then heard Mr McDun-

keld say that as far as he knew it was true, and that Captain

Sourlies’s father had been very angry when he found him in the

midst of a lot of cows and chickens and pigs, and brought him

back, shipped him off to sea, and forced him to take a master’s

ticket. When his father had passed on, he had hung the final

anchor around his son’s neck by willing him the controlling in-

terest in the Countess of Greenock. Captain Sourlies’s Scottish

thrift and business acumen would not permit him to entrust her

to others, and so he, who so loved the land, was doomed to a life

at sea.

By keeping the Countess in the coastwise trade, and causing

her to call at as many ports, almost, as there were between Lon-

don and Glasgow, he managed to avoid the sea as much as

possible, as well as pick up a great deal of business. While en

route between ports he was silent, gloomy, irritable, and un-

happy, and kept to himself in his cabin where he studied the

subject of agriculture. He rarely appeared on the bridge. Any

delay encountered at sea between ports, such as engine trouble,

or fog, or headwinds, would see him show his head at his door

for a moment to inquire into the cause thereof, and then, no

matter what the reason, retire to his cabin in a huge and abso-

lute tantrum whidrh manifested itself in his breaking every bit of

glassware or crockery that happened to be within reach at the

time.

Peter and Jennie estimated that the captain weighed close on

twenty—two stone, which would be over three hundred pounds.

He had smallish eyes, somewhat deep—set and knowing, like a

pig’s, and a series of chins that rippled out from a small and

petulant mouth, reminding Peter of the concentric rings that

formed in a pond when you throw a stone into the water. But

what astonished them both the most was that instead of the deep

and thunderous rumble one would expect to have emerged from

such an enormous frame and cavernous chest, his voice when he

88

spoke was high-pitched and cooing like a dove, and the angrier

he became over anything, and most things when he was at sea

made him angry, the higher and sweeter and more softly he

cooed. He never appeared on the bridge or anywhere on deck

without his mustard-coloured trilby hat, and in bad or wet wea-

ther he wore not oilskins and sou’westers as did the rest of the

crew, but a tan mackintosh. He only cheered up and appeared

for occasional meals aft when the Countess was running up river

somewhere, or landlocked in an estuary.

Quite the opposite was Mr Strachan, the first mate, a tall,

youngish fellow with red hair, narrow blue eyes, and a low fore-

head, who, as Jennie pointed out, was not very bright, but who

loved the sea and considered everything that took place on or

about it to be an adventure, great or small. This naturally was

bound to bring him into conflict with the captain, and truth to

tell, the two men did not get on too well. But since, at any rate

at sea, Captain Sourlies left practically the entire operation and

management of things to Mr Strachan, this did not matter too

much.

Peter soon discovered that Mr Strachan, in addition to his

profession, had two major interests in life. One was indulgence

in the art of fence —and he faithfully attended the sessions of a

fencing club when he was ashore both in Glasgow and London -

and the other was a passion for telling not entirely credible yarns

tinged with a ‘believe-it—or-not’ flavour, of miraculous things

and adventures that had happened to him in his life at sea and

various foreign ports.

When the listener expressed wonder or even polite doubt that

such an occurrence could have taken place, Mr Strachan would

present ‘proof’ of the incident by, for instance, exhibiting a

burnt—out matchstick, or a small pebble, or a bit of paper, and

saying ‘. . . ond this verra bit o’ paper I’m showing ye here was

in me pocket at the verra instant all this was hoppening to me.’

He was always busy collecting such odd bits and scraps to be

used for this purpose, and he was quite upset with Mealie, the

cook, for eventually obeying Captain Sourlies’s orders and drop-

ping the rats and mice that Peter and Jennie had caught over the

side, as he felt that the corpses of the rodents would have fur-

nished incontrovertible evidence of the story of the two cats who

89

had stowed away aboard ship and when found had their passage

money ready in this form.

Quite fascinating to Peter who, as a boy, had always had a

fondness for reading stories and seeing pictures of swordplay,

was Mr Strachan’s fencing practice during the voyage. It took

the form of attacking a dummy that Mr Box, the ship’s carpen-

ter, had made for him, and which he set up on the after cargo

hatch when the weather was fine, and belaboured with a sword.

This dummy was known to one andall aboard the Countess

of Greenock as ‘Auld Sourlies’, for whether the carpenter had

intended so or not, he had somehow managed to make him in

considerable resemblance to the stout captain both in face and

in figure. Auld Sourlies, the dummy, that is, had a wooden arm,

canvas—covered, with a powerful spring in the wrist to which

was attached his sword, an epée with three needle—sharp little

steel points. When Mr Strachan struck it preparatory to making

an attack upon him it would waggle almost as though Auld

Sourlies was vigorously defending himself.

And so when he was off duty, there would be Mr Strachan on

the canvas-covered after—hatch, bare to the waist and sword

in hand, shouting ‘Hah!’ and ‘Heh!’ at Auld Sourlies set up

dumbly facing him, and ‘Oh, ye would, would ye? Alez, then

take thot and thot and thot ! ’ as he leaped in and out iabbing the

point of his sword into the dummy’s canvas body, while Peter

and Jennie, when they also happened to be off duty at the same

time, sat a little distance away and watched him, enthralled, their

eyes bound to the flashing point and their heads moving as it

moved, forwards and backwards, or side to side, almost like

patrons at a tennis match.

Once, quite early in the voyage, when Mr Strachan made a

particularly violent attack and lunge, he apparently missed

parrying the dummy’s riposte somehow, when the blade snapped

back and Auld Sourlies’s point then laid his arm open almost

from wrist to elbow, wounding him grievously. All the crew and

officers of the Countess promptly dropped whatever they hap-

pened to be doing at the moment and came to look, including

Captain Sourlies who had the first—aid kit and put six stitches in

Mr Strachan’s arm. He did so, it seemed to Peter, with consider·

able satisfaction. ln fact, it appeared to both Peter and Jennie

that the captain was almost pleased with what had happened and

was acting in a way as though it had been he who had done it to

Mr Strachan instead of the dummy, as he swabbed and stitched

the injured arm, murmuring that he hoped that this would be a

lesson to Mr Strachan.

To the mate, however, it was another miraculous yarn to tell

of himself being probably the only fencer in the world ever to be

defeated and seriously wounded by a dummy, and what was

more, there was the proof of it on his arm which he would carry

to his grave.

But Peter’s real favourite among the officers was the second

mate, little Mr Carluke, who looked somewhat like an ino.(fen—

sive stoat, and who wrote Wild West and cowboy and Indian

stories for the tuppenny dreadfuls and serial magazines in his

spare time to eke out his income and prepare for the day when

he would retire from the sea and devote his entire time to liter-

ature. He had never seen an Indian except in the pictures, or

been west of the Scilly Isles, but he had read a great deal about

cowboys and their ways and was given to acting out some of his

dramas in the seclusion of his cabin between watches, before

setting them down on paper.

He was fond of cats, and so Peter was able to spend many a

pleasant and exciting hour sitting on the table where Mr Car-

luke was writing one of his tales. It was, he told Jennie later,

almost as good as going to the cinema. For the little second

mate would lay down his pen and quite suddenly and dramatic-

ally leap to his feet, clap both hands to his sides in the action of

one extracting two horse pistols from their leather holsters, and

then, pointing his forefingers with thumbs cocked like the ham-

mers of a pair of six-shooters, he would say in a tense voice,

‘Dinna ye move, thar, Luke Short, ye no-good hoss thief, or I

doot not I’ll be lettin’ some ventilation through ye with my twa

double oction forty—five colibre gats, forbye ! ’ T hen he would go

quickly back to his desk and write it all down exactly as he had

said it, which Peter found quite miraculous. Or he would pick up

a kitchen knife and go through the motions of lifting the scalp

I of an imaginary redskin, and even imitate the sound of the chase

when the cavalry cameto the rescue by slapping his hands briskly

in rhythm against his legs, thup-athup, thup-athup, thup-athup.

Since Jennie’s domain was the forecastle where during the

night watches she constituted herself a very terror among the

giant rats which inhabited it, to the delight and satisfaction of

the members of the crew who had to live there, she was more

familiar with the characters up for’ard and brought Peter tales

she had managed to glean of some of the strange people in that

part of the ship.

There was, she told him, a sailor who had once been a hermit

and lived in a cave for ten years until one day he thoughtbetter

of it, another who had operated a perrnanent—wave machine in a

beauty parlour in Edinburgh until something had unhappily

gone wrong with it and he had toasted a client’s hair to a crisp,

so that it had all fallen out and he had been discharged, and a

third who used to give exhibitions at Brighton of staying under

water for extraordinary lengths of time holding his breath.

Through practice and association, jennie was becoming more

conversant with human speech again, and her most remarkable

story was of Angus the bo’su.n and how he occupied his spare

time when not on watch or engaged in other duties. What did

Peter suppose he did?

Peter had seen Angus, an enormous giant of a man, whiskered

like a Highlander, with arms like the branches of oak trees,

horny hands with red, bony knuckles, and fingers as big and

thick as blood—pudding sausages. When Peter said that he

couldn’t imagine what his hobby would be, she told him-

‘Embroidering.’ He embroidered beautiful iiowers with coloured

thread on a linen cloth stretched over a wooden hoop. They were

really exquisite, for she had spent one entire morning watching

him, and so lifelike one could almost smell them.

One of the new men on board had been so foolish as to sneer

at Angus and mock him, whereupon Angus had stretched him

unconscious on the deck with one blow, and thereafter there was

no more laughter. When the fellow returned to consciousness,

after several buckets of water, the men had told him that he had

been foolish to ridicule Angus, not because of the blow he had

received but because he ought to have known that when the

Countess of Greenock arrived in Glasgow, Angus took the

embroidery to a certain place and received three pounds ten

for it. ‘

It was remarkable that in spite of the strange mixture of men,

interests, and hobbies, the crew of the Countess of Greenock and

the officers, with the exception of the captain and the first mate,

got along quite nicely with one another and somehow managed

to perform their duties sufficiently well to get her from port

to port along the coast without breaking down, running her

aground, or getting lost too often. Jermie said that of all the

ships she had travelled on she had never seen a more inept or

ineHicient bunch of sailors, and naturally with nearly everybody

aboard having some kind of sideline or other interest, from the

captain down, nobody had much time or inclination to keep the

Countess either clean or shipshape. But since Captain Sourlies

did not seem to care whether his ship looked like a pigsty, no-

body else did either, and so they all lived quite happily and con-

tentedly in the mess. Jennie found it rather distasteful, but Peter

being part boy thought it a real lark to be some place you simply

couldn’t get dirty because it was already so,and he only bothered

to keep himself clean because of not wishing to let Jennie down.

But outside of this, Jennie had few complaints to make, and

Peter none at all. She had been quite right about the routine

aboard the ship. Everyone attended either to his job or to his

private affairs, whichever happened to interest him the most,

and no one had either the time or the inclination to be loving or

sentimental with the two cats. Mr Carluke would sometimes

timidly rub Peter’s head a little when he sat on his desk, but

otherwise they were left quite to themselves.

It was not necessary for them to eat their kill, for twice a day,

morning and evening, Mealie the Jamaican cook set out a pan of

delicious food for them - cereal with tinned milk over it, or salt

meat chopped up, or a bit off the frozen joint mixed up with

some vegetables. They were protecting his stores from the depre-

dations of mice and rats, and he was grateful and treated them

with the respect due to regular crew members who were doing

their job. In the morning when he came in to make the galley

fire he would call down the companionway to Peter below: ‘Ho,

you Whitey! How many you cotch los’ night?’ Then he would

come and look down to where Peter would have the nighfs bag

of mice neatly laid out at the foot of the ladder.

He would laugh and call down, ‘Ho, ho! You Whitey, you do

93

good job. I give you and your gorl—friend good brokfost this

morning. How you like to have a piece fry bacon?’

Peter and Jennie were on duty at night only, since by day the

wary rodents kept out of sight, particularly after the news got

around, which it did very quickly, that not one but two cats

were on board. They then slept most of the morning after they

had had breakfast and met in the late afternoon either in one of

the cargo holds amidships, or when the weather was clear and

sunny and the sea calm, on deck aft where they could breathe

the fresh, invigorating salt air while the Countess of Greenock,

pouring black smoke and cinders from her funnel, wallowe·d

close enough to the emerald-green pastures and dark rocks of

the English coast for them to see the purple haze of the vast

bluebell patches, and, further south, the clifltops dotted with

yellow primroses.

But they did not neglect their lessons and practice either, and

in bad weather when it was blowing and raining, or when the

Countess was held up by fog, they repaired to a clear space in

the Number 2 cargo hold where jennie resumed her labour of

love to try to teach Peter all of thefthings he would need to

know if he were to become a successful and self—supporting cat.

CHAPTER TWELVE

Overboard!

USING the smooth sides of a huge packing case as a practice

ground, Peter learned the secret of the double jump-up, or

second lift, or rather, after long hours of trial with Jennie coach-

ing, it suddenly came to him. One moment he had been slipping,

sliding, and falling back as he essayed to scale the perpendicular

sides, and the next he had achieved it, a lightning-like thrust

with the hind legs, which somehow this time stuck to the sides

of the case and gave him added impetus upwards, and thereafter

he could always do it.

jennie was most pleased with him, for, as she explained it,

this particular trick of leaping up the side of a blank wall with-

out so much as a crack or an irregularity to give a toe-hold, was

peculiar to cats, and it was also one that could neither be wholly

explained, demonstrated, or taught, The best she was able to tell

him was: ‘You think you’re way to the top, Peter. You just

know you are going to be able to do it, and then you can.’

Well, once the old Countess had taken a bit of a roll in the

trough of a sea, and that helped Peter a little and gave him con-

fidence. And the next time he felt certain he was going to be able

to do it, and he did.

jennie was endlessly patient in teaching Peter control of his

body in the air, for she maintained that few things were of so

much importance to cats. With her he studied the twist in mid-

air from the spring so that once he had left the ground he could

change his direction almost like flying, and Peter loved the sense

of power and freedom that came to him when he turned himself

in the air like an acrobat or a high diver,*and this he practised

more than anything. And he had to learn, too, how to drop from

any normal height and twist in falling so that he would always

land on his feet, and soon, with Jennie’s help he became so ex-

pert that he could roll off a case no more than a yard from the

ground and still, turning like a flash, whip round so that his

four paws touched the deck first and that without a sound.

95

But their free time was not all devoted to hard work and prac-

tice. There were quiet hours when they rested side by side on a

hatch combing and Peter would ask Jennie questions, for in-

stance, why she always preferred to perch on high things and

look down, and she would explain about the deep instincts that

survived from the days millions and millions of years ago when

no doubt all cats were alike in size and shape and had to learn to

protect themselves to survive. To escape the dangers that lurked

on or near the ground from things that crawled, slithered, or

trampled, they took to living high up in rocky caves, or perched

along branches of trees where they could look down and see

everything that approached them.

In the same manner, Jennie explained, cats liked to sleep in

boxes, or bureau drawers, because they felt completely sur-

rounded on all sides by high walls, as they were deep in their

caves, and therefore felt relaxed and secure and able to sleep.

Or again, Peter would say: ‘Jennie, why, when you are pleased

and happy and relaxed, do your claws work in and out in that

queer way? And once back home, I mean when we lived in the

warehouse, I noticed that you were moving your paws up and

down, almost as though you were making the bed. I never do

that, though I do purr when I am happy — ’

Jennie was lying on her side on the canvas hatch cover when

Peter asked that question, and she raised her head and gave him

a most tender glance before she replied: ‘I know, Peter. And it

is just another of those things that tell me that in spite of your

shape and form you are really human, and perhaps always will

be. But maybe I can explain it to you. Peter, say something sweet

to me.’ ,

The only thing Peter could think of to say was: ‘Oh, Jennie, I

wish that I could be all cat — so that I might be more likeyou . . .’

The most beatific smile stole over Jennie’s face. Her throat

throbbed with purring, and slowly her white paws began to

work, the claws moving in and out as though she were kneadjng

dough.

‘You see?’ she said to Peter. ‘It has to do with feeling happy.

It goes all the way back to our being kittens and being nursed by

our mothers. We cannot even see at first, but only feel, for when

we are first born we are blind and our eyes open only after a few

96

weeks. But we can feel our way to her breast and bury ourselves

in her soft, sweet—smelling fur to find her milk, and when we are

there we work our paws gently up and down to help the food

we want so much to iiow more freely. Then when it does, we feel

it in our throats, warm and satisfying; it stops our hunger and

our thirst, it soothes our fears and desires, and, oh, Peter, we are

so blissful and contented at that moment, so secure and peaceful

and . . . well, just happy. We never forget those moments with

our mothers. They remain with us all the rest of our lives. And,

later on, long after we are grown, when something makes us very

happy, our paws and claws go in and out the same way, in

memory of those early times of our first real happiness. And that

is all I can tell you about it.’

Peter found that after this recital he had need to wash himself

energetically for a few moments, and then he went over to where

Jennie was lying and washed her face too, giving her several

caresses beneath her soft chin and along the side of her muzzle

that conveyed more to her than words. She made a little soft,

crooning sound in her throat, and her claws worked in and out,

kneading the canvas hatch cover faster than ever.

But likewise, during the long days of the leisurely voyage, and

particularly when they were imprisoned in Dartmouth Harbour

for two days by pea-soup fog, there was mock-fighting to teach

Peter how to take care of himself should he ever find himself in

any trouble, as well as all the feline sports and games for one or

two that Jennie knew or remembered and could teach him, and

they spent hours rolling about, growling and spitting, locked in

play combat, waiting in ambush to surprise one another, playing

hide-seek—and~jump—out, or chasing one another madly up and

down the gangways and passages below deck, their pads ringing

oddly on the iron floors of the ancient Countess, like tiny gal-

loping horses.

And here again, Peter was to learn that not only were there

methods and strict rules that governed play as well as the more

serious encounters between cat and cat, but that he needed to

study as well as practise them with Jennie in order to acquire by

repetition the feeling of the rhythms that were a part of these

games.

Thus, Jennie would coach him: ‘I make a move to attack you,

97

maybe a pass at your tail, or a feint at one of your legs; raise

your left paw and be ready to strike with it. That’s it. That

makes me think twioe before ooming in. No, no, Peter, don’t take

your eyes off me iust because I’ve stopped. Be ready as long as I

am tense. But you’ve got to feel it when I’ve changed my mind

and relaxed a little. You can drop your left paw, but keep watch-

ing. There! l’ve looked away for a moment — now WASH! That

stops everything. I can’t do anything until you’ve iinished except

wash too, and that puts the next move up to you and it’ s your

advantage.’

Most difficult for him was the keeping of the upper hand by

eye and body position and acquiring by experience the feeling of

when it was safe to relax and turn away to rest, how to break up

the other's plans by washing, luring and drawing the opponent

on by pretending to look away and then timing his own attack

to the split second when the other was oif balance and unpre-

pared for it, and yet not violate the rules, which often made no

rhyme or reason to him at all.

None of these things Peter would have done instinctively as a

boy and he had to learn them from Jennie by endless repetition,

and often he marvelled at her patience as she drilled him over

and over: ‘Crouch, Peter. Now sit up quickly and look away . . .

WASH! Size up the situation out of the corner of your eye as

you wash. I’m waiting to jump you as soon as you stop washing.

Then turn and get ready. Here I come. Roll with it, on to your

back. Hold me with your forepaws and kick with the hind legs.

Harder   harder .... No, stay there, Peter. I’m coming back

for a second try. Chin down so I can’t get at your throat. Kick.

Now roll over and sit up, paw ready and threaten with it. If I

blink my eyes and back away, WASH. Now pretend you are

interested in something imaginary. That’s it. If you make it real

_enough you can get me to look at it, and when I do, then you

spring!’

jennie had a system of scoring these bouts, so many points for

buffets, so many for knockdowns and roll overs, for breakaways

and washes, for chases and ambushes, for the amount of fur that

flew by tufts to be counted later, for numbers of back-kicks de-

livered, for bluifs and walk-aways, feints and ducking, with

bonuses for position and length of time in control, and game

98

plus one hundred points called any time one manoeuvred into

position to grip teeth on the throat of the other.

And gradually, almost imperceptibly at first, the scores drew

nearer level, and soon Peter found himself winning regularly

over jennie in the training ring they had arranged among the

crates and boxes in the forward hold. And when this proved to

be the case and Peter won almost every time, none was prouder

and happier over it than jennie. ‘Soon,’ she said with satisfac-

tion, ‘you’ll be cat through and through.’

And yet when the tragedy happened it was just as well that

Peter was not all cat,

In a way it began when Peter caught his first rat. The Coun-

tess of Greenock was ploughing the Irish Sea ’twixt the Isle of

Man and the Cumberland coast, close enough inshore that one

could see the peaks of the Cumbrian mountains inland, shining

in the sun. The ocean was Hat, calm and glassy, and the only

cloud in the sky was the one made by the black smoke poured

forth by the Countess and which, owing to a following breeze

over the surface, she carried along with her over her head like an

untidy old charwoman shielding herself from the sun with an

old black cotton umbrella. They were on the reach between

Liverpool and Port Carlisle on the Scottish border, and Captain

Sourlies was in a great hurry to make it before nightfall, which

was why the Countess was under forced draught, emitting

volumes of soft-coal smoke and shuddering from the vibrations

of her hurrying engines.

Peter had an appointment with jennie on the after—deck at

six bells of the early afternoon watch, or three o’clock, for he had

quickly learned to tell the ship’s time from the strokes of the bell

struck by the look~out on the bridge. This was always a kind of

do—as—you-please time aboard the Countess, for then Captain

Sourlies would be taking his afternoon nap in his cabin, Mr Car-

luke, torn from his latest literary composition, which he was

calling The Bandit of Golden Gulch, was on duty on the bridge,

and everybody else followed his hobby or loafed by the rail or

snoozed in the sun. And since Mr Strachan, the first mate, still

had a badly aching arm from the stitches taken in it, his dummy

lurked in a corner in disgrace and the red-haired mate on this

day was yarning with Mr Box, the carpenter, about an episode

99

that had happened to him in Gibraltar during the war, and as

proof produced an 1890 Queen Victoria copper penny that he

had happened to be carrying on his person at the time of the

adventure.

K jennie was already dozing in the soft spring sunshine, squatted

down atop the stern rail. She liked to perch there because it was

fairly high and gave her an overall view, and also to show her

superiority, for everyone was always prophesying that some day

she would be knocked or fall off from there into the sea. But of

course there never was a cat more certain or surefooted than

Jennie Baldrin.

Peter awoke promptly at ten minutes to three — he found that

he could now awake at exactly any time he desired — and made a

rough toilet with his tongue. He stretched and strolled casually

from the lower storeroom which was his quarters and which it

was also his job to keep clear of vermin. Up to that moment

there had been only mice, which Peter had kept down quite

handily.

He should have smelled the rat long before he saw it, but then,

although his smell senses were feline and quite sharp, his mind

was still human and he had been thinking that he must tell

jennie about a member of the black gang, a stoker who fed the

furnace, who was such an admirer of Winston Churchill that he

had a picture of him tattooed on his chest, cigar and all. And so

he had not been alert. When he saw the rat, he was in a very bad

position.

The beast was almost as large as a fox terrier and it was

cornered in a small alcove made by some piled—up wooden cases

of tinned baked beans from which several boxes had been re-

moved from the centre. Also it was daylight, Peter wasn’t stalk-

ing, and the rat saw Peter at the same time that Peter saw him,

and uttered an ugly squeal of rage and bared long yellow teeth,

teeth that Peter knew were so unclean that a single scratch from

them might well poison him beyond help. And for the first time

he really understood what people meant by the expression ‘iight

like a cornered rat', or rather he was about to understand. For in

spite of the fact that Jennie had warned him never to go after a

rat except when it was out in the open, he meant to attack this

one and prove himself.

He was surprised to find that now in this moment of danger

he was not thinking of lessons he had learned, or what he had

seen or heard or what Jennie had said, but that his mind seemed

to be extraordinarily calm and clear and that, almost as though

it had always been there ready and waiting, his plan unfolded

itself in his mind. It was only much later he found out that this

was the result of discipline, study, patience, and practice that he

had put behind him at Jennie’s behest.

His spring, seemingly launched directly at the foe, appeared

to be sheer folly, and the rat rose up on his hind legs to meet

him head on, slashing at him viciously. But not for nothing had

Peter learned and practised the secret of continuing up on a

smooth wall from a single leap from the floor. A split-second

faster than the rat, his fore and hind legs touched the slippery

sides of one of the piles of cases for an instant and propelled him

high into the air so that the flashing incisors of the rodent like

two hideously curved Yataghans whizzed between his legs, miss-

ing him by the proverbial hair’s breadth.

The extra impetus upwards now gave Peter the speed and

energy to twist not half but the whole way around in a complete

reverse and drop on to the back of the rat, to sink his own teeth

deep into its spine just behind the ears.

For one dreadful moment Peter felt that he might yet be

beaten, for the rat gave such a mighty heave and surge, and

lashed so desperately to and fro, that Peter was thumped and

banged up against the sides of the boxes until he felt himself

growing sick and dizzy and no longer certain whether he could

hold on. And if once he let go, the big fellow would turn on him

and cut him to ribbons.

In desperation he set his teeth with all his might, and bit-

one, two, three times hard, and at the third felt the rat suddenly

stiffen. The swaying and banging stopped. The rodent kicked

twice with its hind legs and then was still. It never moved again.

Peter unclamped his aching jaws and sat down quickly and did

some washing. He was badly shaken and most emphatically

needed to recover his composure.

Nevertheless it was exactly at six bells that he came trotting

on to the after—deck carrying the rat in his mouth, or rather

dragging it, because it was so large that when he held it in the

middle, its head and tail hung down to the deck. It was so heavy

that he could barely lift it. But of course he managed because he

simply had to show it off to Jennie and anyone else who hap-

pened to be around. n

It was Mr Box who saw him first and let out a yell- ‘Blimey,

looka there! The white un’s caught a bloomin’ Helephantf

Mr Strachan also gave a shout, for Peter passed quite close to

him and the rat dragged over his foot causing him to jump as

though he had been stung. The cries brought several deckhands

over on the run to see. They also woke up jennie Baldrin.

She had not meant to fall so soundly asleep, but the peaceful

sea and the warm afternoon sun had lulled her deeper than she

had intended, and now the sudden cries sent alarms tingling

down her spine. And when she opened her eyes they fell on

Peter and his rat, and in the first confusion she was not certain

whether the rat was carrying Peter or vice versa, whether it was

alive or dead, whether Peter was still engaged in lighting it. The

sound of running feet added to her confusion and she recoiled

from the unknown and the uncertain and the thought of pos~

sible danger to Peter.

But there was no place to recoil to from her precarious perch

on the ship’s rail, and with an awful cry, her four paws wide·

spread, and turning over once in the air, she fell into the sea and

was swept away in the white salt froth of propeller wash.

‘Cat overboard ! ’ a deckhand cried, and then laughed.

‘Good—bye, Pussy,’ said Mr Box. ‘Arskin’ for it, she was,

l perched up there loike that.

Mr Strachan stared with his mouth open.

The sailor who had been a hermit said to Peter: ‘There goes

yer pal, Whitey. Ye’ll no see Coptain Sourlies tairnen his ship

aboot to rrrrrrescue a wee puss baldrin - ’

But Peter was no longer there. There was only a white streak

of fur as he dropped the rat, leaped to the rail, and from it, long

and low, shot straight into the sea after Jennie.

CHAPTER THIRTEEN

Mr Strachan Furnishes the Proof

SPLASH ! Into the water Peter went!

It was roiling and boiling and full of sizzle and foam, surges,

lifts, thrusts, and undertows from the powerful strokes of the

Countess’s propeller just beneath the surface. Also it was shock- `

ingly cold.

Peter felt himself caught in the grip of an irresistible whirl-

pool; he was pulled down, rolled over, thrust head over heels,

then shot to the surface, and before he could gasp his lungs full

of air, sucked down again into the green depths. With his chest

near to bursting from want of air, he fought and struggled to

rise, swimming with all four feet, and at last reached the surface

sufficiently far behind in the wake of the ship. to be no longer

subject to the forces stirred up by her machinery. The whirlpool

died away, the choking white foam vanished, and he was swim-

ming at last on top of the chill, salt, green, and glassy sea.

Off in the distance, perhaps fifty or sixty yards away, he saw

a tiny pinpoint of an object moving in the water and tried to

call out - ‘Jennie! Don’t be afraid! Hold out. It’s me, Peter. I’m

coming’ — but succeeded in getting only a mouthful of salt water

which tasted horrible, and thereafter he decided to keep his

mouth closed and concentrate on reaching her side. But he

thought he heard a faint answering cry from her, and finding

that he had no difficulty in staying up now and holding his head

out of the water by lifting his chin, he swam as rapidly as his

four legs would take him in her direction.

What would happen when he reached her, he did not know,

or at least he was not minded to think about, since it was certain

that the sailor was quite right and the last thing Captain Sourlies

would do was put the Countess about and stop her, losing pre-

cious time for no better purpose than to snatch two vagrant cats,

who were aboard quite uninvited, at that, from a watery grave.

But at least, whatever happened, they would be together, he and

the kind and gentle little cat who had first saved his life and

then been so devoted to him. They would be together to swim to

the mainland that glittered so green and enticing in the distance,

and if they could not reach it—well, then, at least they could

comfort one another in their last moments and would not be

separated.

Now Peter had halved the distance between Jennie and him-

self and to his dismay saw that she was barely making headway

in his direction. Her little head, with the ears thrown back, sleek

and wet, was hardly borne above the surface, and she was swim-

ming but weakly. Even then he heard her call to him, though it

was barely audible — ‘Peter, go back! You shouldn’t have come.

I can’t hold out any longer. Good—bye, Peter dear — ’

And with that, her head vanished beneath the water. It re-

appeared once more, and now Peter was close enough to see the

despairing look in her eyes before she went down again — she was

gone. He redoubled his efforts, making his paws fairly foam

through the water, while his breastbone parted the sea in the

shape of an arrow or an inverted ‘V’ on either side of him, in a

frantic effort to reach her in time, but now he could no longer

see her or where she had been. Indeed, he would have lost her

for ever, had not just at that moment the tip of her tail ap-

peared above the surface like a buoy marking the spot. The next

instant, more human than cat, he dived beneath the water, his

eyes wide open, settled his teeth gently in Jennie’s skin at the

back of her neck, and quickly pulled himself and her with him

back to the surface again.

By swimming slowly now, that is, just moving his feet, he was I

able to keep his head as well as hers above water, limp and ap-

parently senseless as she was, but he knew that there was no

longer any question of their reaching the mainland a good two

or three miles away. Indeed, the immediate question was how

long would his own strength hold out to enable him to keep

them on top of the sea. For he just now realized that he had been

severely strained by his fight with the giant rat, while the thump-

ing and battering he had taken against the sides of the cases had

bruised him and further drained his strength. For the first time

he began to have serious doubts as to whether they could man-

age to save themselves, and he had a treacherous moment given

over to wondering whether it would not be easier to give up and,

side by side with jennie Baldrin, to sink for ever beneath they

waves, or whether it was worth the struggle to keep on swim-

ming and try to test out the old adage that while there was life

there was yet hope.

Up to that moment, Peter had not even looked after the

Countess of Greenock, for the sight of the ship diminishing in

the distance and cruelly abandoning them to their fate would

have been too painful to be endured, but now with the know-

ledge that it was only a matter of minutes before his own

strength, taxed by the added difhculty of holding up Iennie,

must give out, he began to swim in a small circle and permitted

himself one despairing look to see just how far away it was she

had sailed since he had leaped from her deck into the sea.

To his utter surprise and joy he saw her floating, stock still

and motionless except for the black column of smoke pouring

straight skyward from her funnel, not more than a hundred

yards away. Turned broadside, her hull rising like a wall from

the smooth surface of the water, she looked larger than pictures

he had seen of the Queen Mary, and twice as handsome. And

what was ten times more beautiful was the sight of the lifeboat

manned by eight straining sailors, commanded by Angus the

bo’sun and with Mr Strachan perched in the bow, already half-

way between the rusted sides of the Countess and himself and

jennie. True, as a display of oarsmanship it was shocking, for

no two of the blades dipped, pulled, or emerged from the water

in the same time; the lifeboat rocked alarmingly on the dead-

calm sea, threatening to pitch both Angus and Mr Strachan over

the side at any moment, and it resembled nothing so much as an

inebriated porcupine trying to stagger along the roof of a glass-

house conservatory. Nevertheless, it was making definite head-

way and giving a convincing demonstration that the miracle had

happened. The Countess of Greenock had gone about, circled

and stopped, put forth a boat, and they were about to be rescued.

A few moments later, urged! on by the shouts of Angus and

the directions given by Mr Strachan from the bow, the lifeboat

drew alongside. Mr Strachan was armed with a long pole, to the

end of which was attached a dip—net. Leaning over the side, he

thrust it through the water beneath Peter and Jennie, and with a

triumphant cry of ‘Hah! Got ’em!’ swept them both out of the

sea and into the bottom of the lifeboat, where Peter moved

feebly, trying to disentangle his paws from the mesh of the net

and feeling like crying from sheer relief and gratitude, and

Iennie Baldrin moved not at all.

‘Ready all!’ bawled Angus—‘Feather your oars! Port row,

Starboard hold! Now then, mr and PULL.,

All of the sailors put their oars in and out of the water ex-

actly as they pleased, but somehow in spite of them the lifeboat

managed to turn round after nearly upsetting in the process and

forthwith set out upon its disorderly progress back to the wait-

ing Countess of Greenock.

In the bow, Mr Strachan squatted, fondly gazing upon Peter

and the still limp and motionless Jennie, and murmured: ‘ ’Tis

a meeracle and an exomple of the wonders of nature. They’ll

nae be able to deny me the proof o’ this tale in Glasgie at the

Crown and Thustle,’ and he began to rehearse — ‘Unable to stond

the sicht o’ his little sweetheart droonin’ in the cruel sea, yon

braw and bonnie white tomcat, overcooming its notural aveer-

sion to water, indoolged in a grand and dying leap over the side

to swim to the rrrrrrescue o’ his ain true love . . .’

Mr Box, the carpenter, who was rowing stroke oar, sniggered

and said: ‘ ’E won’t arf catch it from the old man when he gets

back. Wait until old Sourlies wakes up from his nap and finds

out that Strachan has stopped ’is ship, wasted time, coal, and

money, and missed ’im the tide. Ow, ’e won’t arf smash all ’is

dishes, ’e won’t.’

The sailor who had been a hermit said: ‘Aye, that he will, but

’twould have been bad luck to let the wee puss baldrin droon,

and though I` canna give Muster Strachan full marks for his

motives and pairpose in effecting the rrrrrrescue. Yet the resoolts

are what count, though I am afeered that the breath o’ life has

gone out o' the wee one.’ i

Peter was desperately afraid of the same thing, for Jennie lay

there, soaked and limp like a wet dishcloth, and nothing what-

soever seemed to be stirring beneath her thin ribs.

Also it was apparent that Mr Box had been right and their

reception at the Countess of Greenock was not to be a happy

one. For waiting at the gangway which had been lowered just

beside the falls to enable the crew to make their way back on

board from the lifeboat before it was drawn up out of the water

via the davits, and looking like an enormous swollen thunder-

cloud that was carrying just about as much thunder and light-

ning in its midst as it could without letting go, was Captain

Sourlies. His pepper—and-salt tweed suit buttoned tightly about

him, his purple necktie stood out belligerently from the nar-

row celluloid band that encircled his throat like the collar on a

St Bernard, and the mustard-coloured trilby hat was perched on

top of his head in the exact centre. His little eyes were screwed

up with rage, and his tiny mouth drawn together in the smallest

possible ‘o’ that could be imagined. All of his chins were quiver-

ing.

His temper was not improved by the fine mess the crew made

of getting the lifeboat alongside, nearly ramming the Countess,

and breaking an oar in the process, but with the aid of much

shouting from Angus it was finally accomplished.

Peter found himself picked up by Mr Strachan and held

under one arm. Under the other the mate carried the uncon-

scious form of jennie, head clown. A small stream of water ran

out of her. Then he marched up the steps of the gangway and

aboard the Countess of Greenock to face the Master.

Loaded though he was with pent-up ire, nevertheless, Cap-

tain Sourlies drew in a long, deep breath before he spoke. By all

odds, the volume of angry sound that was about to pour forth

ought to have rattled the funnel stays, collapsed the mizzen

cargo boom, and blasted Mr Strachan clear to the Cumbrian

peaks that formed the distant background to this drama of the

sea.

Instead, there emerged a thin, treble piping, a reedy, duloet

squeak — ‘Well, MUSTER Strachan! Would ye then care to on-

tertain me with your vairsion of oxactly why ye gave orders to

halt my shup and ongage in rowing exercises over the sairface of

the sea when Mr McDunkeld is nearly taking the boilers out of

her in an effort to make tide . . .?’

Unfortunately, Mr Strachan elected to try out the yarn as he

planned to tell it at his favourite pub, the Crown and Thistle in

Stobcross Street, in Glasgow, when he went on leave after

arrival there. Acquainting Captain Sourlies with the events that

had caused jennie to fall overboard, he went into his speech be-

ginning — ‘Unable to stond the sicht o’ his little sweetheart

droonin’ in the cruel sea ...’ and which he concluded with-

‘Under the saircumstanoes it seemed only richt an’ proper to

heave to, stand by, lower away, and go to the rrrrrrescue.

Captain Sourlies inhaled another forty cubic yards of air, and

then cooed— ‘In holy St Andrew’s name, Mr Strachan, WHAT

FOR? For two mangy strays thot — ’

Mr Strachan drew himself up — ‘The proof, sor, of one of the

true meeracles of nature. Who would have believed thot yon

puss would have forsaken the safety and comfort of this vessel

, to ioin his mate in the mairciless sea? But here they bath are,

and who will be able to dispute the proof?’

‘Proof! ROOF!’ turtle—doved Captain Sourlies, though by

the amount of oxygen he took in and the empurplement of his

features the sound at the very least should have split the Coun-

tess amidships—‘PROOF! ye clobberhead! What proof have ye

got but one dead cot and anither that is half dead? Ye big, red-

headed gossoon, ye could exhibit those in the market square

from now until Michaelmas and not an iota of proof would ye

have for yer blosted fairy tale . . .’ .

Peter thought that his heart would break with grief at the cap-

tain’s words that Jennie was dead. Tucked under Mr Strachan’s

arm, he saw the puzzled expression spread over the face of the

mate as he tried to comprehend the captain’s argument.

‘But, sor,’ he protested, ‘what more proof could anyone want

than thot I’m the mon, stonding before their verra eyes, that

fished the two oot of the drink, and here are the verra pusses

they will have just heard aboot - ’

‘Muster Strachan! MUsTER!’ said Captain Sourlies, in the

last extremity of indignation, anger, and outrage, which caused

his voice to fall away to a mere trill—like gurgle - ‘Ye will oblige

me by carrying out my orders. Ye will retire to yer quarters, re-

lieved of all duties as of this unhoppy moment. On the way ye

will drop yon dead cot over the side, and for all of me, the ither L

one with it. Upon our arrival in Glasgie, ye will hond me yer

papers ondtprepare to sever all further connexion with this craft.

Dismissed.’

At the order to drop poor Jennie over the side, Peter managed

A to squirm out of Mr Strachan’s arms on to the deck, prepared to

fight to prevent this, unaware, of course, that Mr Strachan had

no intention whatsoever of carrying out the captain’s command.

At that particular moment the mate was less distressed over the

fact that he had been summarily dismissed from his iob than

over the doubt the captain had cast over the nature and validity

of his proof of quite the most wonderful yarn through which he

had ever lived or actually played a part.

Having given his orders, Captain Sourlies turned on his heel

and marched to his cabin, from which thereupon issued the

sound of smashing glass and crockery and which continued for

a long time, four and three-quarter minutes, to be exact, for Mr

Box timed it by the biscuit watch he carried in his trousers

pocket attached to a leather thong. Since Mealie had not yet

removed the luncheon dishes, nor for that matter the breakfast

things either that day, he had rather more ammtmition than

usual, and he was likewise a good deal angrier than he had ever

been before.

The engines of the Countess of Greenock rumbled, shud-

dered, and pounded, the propeller thrashed, the column of dirty

black smoke ascending straight up into the air flattened out and

again became an umbrella. She thrust her blunt nose northward

once more and resumed her wallowing progress towards her

ultimate destination.

Mr Strachan, with Jennie still under his arm, started back aft

to his quarters with Peter trotting at his heels, prepared to

spring at the back of his neck and bite and paralyse him as he

had done the rat at the first sign of dropping Jennie over the

side. The mate, however, was sorely baflled, and needed time

and quiet to think things out. In the meantime, he had no in-

tention of disposing of the proof no matter what the captain

had said, and anyway, since he had been discharged, what dif-

ference did it make what he did?

And so with Peter still at his heels he went inside his cabin,

tossed the body of Iennie Baldrin on to a mat in one corner, and

sat down at his desk to try to think. Here, however, he was over-

taken by the thought of the injustice of it all, the contrariness of

Captain Sourlies, and the fact that he had lost his job. And

because he was young and such things are very serious at such a

time, he put his head down upon his arm and gave himself up to

the pleasures of being genuinely sad over the unhappy turn that

events had taken.

But Peter truly mourned over his good, kind, and dear friend,

and the tears that fell from his eyes as he sat over her who had

once been so lively and animated and full of the spirit of adven-

ture and independence, and saw how small and still she now

was, were no less salty than the sea water that matted her poor

coat.

And Peter thought that as a last respect to his lost friend, he

would wash her.

He began at her head and the tip of her nose, and washed and

washed, and in every stroke there was love and regret and long-

ing, and the beginning the awful loneliness that comes when a

loved one has gone away. Already he was missing and wanting

and needing her more than he ever dreamed he could when she

had been alive.

The salt on her fur stung his tongue, the ceaseless motion of

his head added to the other efforts he had made that day brought ·

on fatigue and weariness almost beyond endurance; he wanted

to close his eyes and crawl away and sleep for ages, but he was

caught up in the rhythm of the washing, a kind of perpetual

motion, almost as though by continuing he could wash her back

to life again.

Darkness fell, lights sprang up in the other cabins of the lum-

bering Countess, but Mr Strachan remained at his desk with his

head buried in his arms, without moving, and Peter washed and

washed.

He massaged her shoulders and neck, and the thin bony chest

beneath which the stilled heart lay, her lean sides and long

flanks, her soft white muzzle, the eyes, and behind the ears,

stroke after stroke, in a kind of hypnotic rhythm that he felt he

could not have left off even had he wished to do so.

Wash, wash, wash. There was no sound in the darkened cabin

but the even breathing of Mr Strachan and the rasping of Peter’s

tongue over Jennie’s coat. `

Until someone sneezed.

Peter thought his own heart would stop. For he was quite cer-

tain that it had not been his sneeze, and it was by no means a »

large enough one for Mr Strachan to be the author of it.

Wildly hoping, yet not really daring, Peter redoubled his

efforts, rasping, scraping, massaging, working around under

Jennie’s shoulders and over the breast-·from beneath which

now came a small flutter. And then there were two more quite

distinct sneezes, and Jennie in a faint voice called—‘Peter . ..

Are you there? Am I alive or dead?’ _

With a glad shout that rang through the cabin and caused

Mr Strachan to raise his head from his arms with a start, Peter

called- ‘Jennie! Jennie dear! You are alive! Oh I’m so glad.

Jennie, they all thought you were dead, but I knew you weren’t,

that you couldn’t be.’

At the noise Mr Strachan leaped up from his desk and

switched on the cabin light, and there on the mat where he had

dumped her lifeless form was Jennie, blinking in the light,

sneezing a few more times to clear her lungs of the last remain-

ing drops of the salt sea, and even managing to stagger weakly

to her legs for a moment and give herself a few licks. And at her

side was the big white cat still washing and ministering to

her.

Making a queer kind of noise in his throat, Mr Strachan bent

over jennie, stroked her, and said, ‘For a’ the siller in the

National Bonk o’ Scotland, I wouldna ha believed it. ’Tis the

last and final meeracle and the grrrand finish to the yarn. Now

will they nae believe the proof that’s before their eyes?’ and

scooping Jennie up into his arms he ran out of the cabin with

Peter after him.

Up the passageway, down the steps, across the after cargo

hatch, up the iron steps, and on to the bridge ran Mr Strachan

with Jennie clutched to his broad chest where she lay quietly,

being yet too weak to struggle against such close contact with a

human, and when he arrived there he shouted, ‘Coptain, Cop-

tain Sourlies, look here, sor!’ just as though nothing had ever

happened between them. _

And when the captain stepped out of his cabin, prepared to

quiver once more with rage, Mr Strachan solemnly showed him

Jennie, now stretching and making small sounds of protest and

craning her head around to try to see Peter who was right at his

feet. And in the voice of one who is discussing Higher things,

the mate said:

‘What sae ye now that I nae ha proof? Raised from the dead

she has been by the tender meenistrations of her mate, in my

cobin before my verxa eyes, and here’s the proof, yawning and

stretching before ye, and whoever else says it did not hoppen,

there’ s the proof in the twa of them for him too . . .’

Strangely, Captain Sourlies no longer found it possible in his

heart to be angry with Mr Strachan, since it was obvious that he

was never going to be able to grasp the simple idea that an object

was not and rarely could be proof of a happening long after the

happening was over, but remembering how Jennie had looked

hanging head down in the mate’s grasp earlier, with the water

running out of her, and how she appeared now with the sparkle

back in her eyes, her nose pink once more, and her whiskers

standing out stiff and straight, he suddenly felt better than he

had in a long time, and besides, the lights of Port Carlisle were

just ahead and they were going to make the tide after all.

And strangely, too, word had got around the ship that Jennie

was not dead, but alive, and there was a kind of gathering of the '

men in the forward cargo well just beneath the chocolate layer-

cake bridge, and when Mr Strachan came out and showed them

Jennie there was a big cheer went up, and everybody suddenly

grew lighthearted and began slapping his fellow on the back and

shouting, ‘Well, well,’ and "Tis woonderful,’ just as though

something splendid had happened to them.

The sailor who had been a hermit called for three cheers and

hip-hip-hooray for the white ’un, to which Mr Box said ‘ ’Ear,

’ear,’ and they were given with a will, and Peter had never felt

quite so proud and happy in all his life.

And the captain forgave Mr Strachan and said no more about

turning in his papers and leaving the ship, and after the mate

had ordered Mealie to open a tin of condensed milk and gave

jennie a big dish of it, he put her to bed in his cabin on his own

bunk and resumed his duties on the bridge of the Countess with

Peter happily purring at his feet. And that is where the Carlisle

pilot found them when he came aboard to steer the ship into

port.

CHAPTER FOURTEEN

Mr Strachan’s Proof Leads to Difficulties

BY the time the Countess of Greenock had been warped into her

berth at the foot of Warroch Street in Glasgow, Jennie had quite

recovered from her experience and was in fact, Peter thought,

looking better than she ever had before. The sea air, the regular

hours, the lack of worry as to where the next meal was to come `

from, had agreed with her.

She had filled out so that her ribs and flanks were no longer

as lamentably lean and close together, her face was rounder and

more full, which diminished the size of her ears somehow and

gave her a more pleasing aspect, and of course what with the

daily cleanings she bestowed upon herself, her coat was now in

much better condition, softer even than velvet and with a fine

sheen and glisten to it.

Had Peter been asked now, he would most certainly have

called her beautiful, with her oriental eyes slightly slanted, the

long, aristocratic dip of her head from ears to muzzle, the sweet

pink of the delicate little triangle of her nose matching the trans-

lucent rose of her ears. While her head might appear too small

to some, it fitted now in better proportion to her body, and when

she stood straight, with her tail nicely curving away from her, t

she looked not only lovable but handsome and distinguished,

with breeding evident in her long, graceful lines.

Iennie had prepared Peter and briefed him for their arrival in

Glasgow as they sailed up the Firth of Clyde and turned the

corner into the River Clyde, past the grimy red—brick towns of

Gourock and Greenock scattered over the south bank, and the

round green hills rising to the north. They were to lie low to-

gether until the Countess made fast and put out her gangways.

Then, in the confusion attendant to unloading, they would seize

the first moment when nobody was watching them or the gang-

plank to whisk ashore and run off. In a way, Peter was sorry at

the anticipation of leaving the ship and those aboard her, but

the prospect of seeing new plaoes and encountering new and

exciting adventures quite made up for any regrets, and as the

river narrowed and they passed the great factories on its banks,

and the famous shipyards and the big grey city drew near, he

could hardly contain himself, and asked Jennie a dozen times

when they should find the first opportunity to get ashore un-

noticed.

Mr Strachan, however, had other ideas, for just before the

Countess approached within shouting distance of the dockside,

· he came down from the bridge for a moment, seized both Peter

and Jennie, and shut them up in his cabin and thus they were

forced to view the fascinations of the entire landing operation, as

performed with the usual inefficiency and raflish style by the

crew, from the somewhat limited vantage point of the porthole.

However, they were able to see that no sooner had the gang-

plank been raised from the pier to the side of the Countess than

Captain Sourlies was upon it and running down, making- it

sway, bounce, and clatter with his weight and the speed of his

descent. Once ashore, he immediately hailed a passing taxi,

jumped into it, causing it to sag heavily on one side and proceed

slantwise on two wheels, as it were, and drove oE without an-

other backward glance at the Countess of Greenock or anything

or anyone aboard her.

‘Now what do we do?’ Peter fretted. ‘W'e shan’t ever be able to

get away if Mr Strachan keeps us locked up here all the time .... ’

But Jennie was unworried. She said: ‘He can’t keep us for

ever, and anyway, we shall be able to slip out sometime. I have

‘yet to hear of a human that was able to keep a cat in a room

when he didn’t want to stay. And besides, I don’t think he means

to keep us here at all. He acts very much to me like somebody

who has something on his mind. At any rate, we shall soon find

out and watch our opportunity to escape. I am most anxious to

get in touch with my relatives.

It was shortly after the stroke of four bells had announced six

o’clock in the evening that Mr Strachan turned his duties over to

Mr Carluke and came aft, letting himself into his cabin quickly

so that there was no chance for either Peter or Jennie to duck

between his legs, and besides, since one would not have dreamed

of going without the other they had to watch for the chance

when both could slip away together.

He greeted them with: ‘Ah there, pusses. I ha’ nae doot ye’ll

be ready for a bit o’ shore leave an’ as soon as I’ll have me jacket

an’ kit we’ll be off. W/e’ll be stoppin’ by for a moment at the

Crown and Thustle for a pint o’ bitter, after which it’s

hame we’ll go while I introduce ye to the Mussis who’ll be

proud to know ye when I tell her the saircumstances in con-

nexion.’

Peter translated this piece of information quickly for Jennie’s

benefit and the little tiger tabby looked reiiective but not too dis-

turbed. ‘They always want to take you home — if they don’t first

want to kick you or throw things at you. Of course THAT won’t

do. We must get away as quickly as we can.’

But it began to look as though the opportunity was not going

to be easy to come by. Mr Strachan changed his jacket to one of

a more shore-going cut with a belt at the back, set a blue cap on

his red curls, picked up an old leather valise in his left hand, and

tucking both Peter and Jennie together under his right arm he

went out and down the gangplank, hailed a cruising hack, and

ordering the proprietor to drive to a public house by the name of

the Crown and Thistle on Stobcross Street, near Queen’s Dock,

North Basin, climbed in, holding the two cats firmly.

Jennie had been inside of a public house before, since she had

found them to be fertile places for a handout, particularly around

closing time when the occupants might be counted upon to be

mellow and in a mood to bestow largess of crumbs and scraps,

but Peter had only looked in from the outside, and now, perched

up with Jennie on the long, smooth mahogany bar of the Public

Room of the Crown and Thistle, he found himself immensely

intrigued with what he saw, heard, and smelled. It was quite like

what he had always imagined from looking in through the doors

from the outside.

It was a largish, noisy, comfortable place all done up in

browns, with brown tables and chairs, panelling, and a long and

gleaming mirror behind the bar reflecting rows and rows of

bottles. The handles of the beer pumps looked like some of the

levers from the machinery of the Countess, and round electric

globes in clusters overhead shed a soft yellow light. The room

was full of men clad in rough work clothes, some sea-, some

shore—going, who occupied all of the tables as well as the space

in front of the bar, and of course there was a darts game going

on at the board at the far end. ·

Jennie wrinkled up her nose, but Peter found he liked the 4

warm, cosy beer smell, man smell, clothing smell, and off-stage

cooking smell. So busy was the place that both a man and a

woman, a buxom, elderly person with hairs growing in tufts and

bunches from the strangest places on her face, served behind the

bar. The man, who wore a corduroy waistcoat and had his

sleeves rolled up, frowned at the presence of the two cats on the

bar, but the woman thought they were ducky, and every time

she passed close by she stopped to chuck them under the chin.

The room was stylishly decorated with beautifully printed and

coloured advertisements for beer, ale, stout, and porter, and

calendars and chromos of ships supplied by the big steamship

companies. There had as yet been no opportunity for Jennie to

give the signal for them to cut and run, since the door was shut

to keep in the steamy, pleasant warmth, and there was too much

danger of their being trampled underfoot if they tried to get out

during the brief periods of its opening and closing.

Mr Strachan, with one pint of dark in his system and another

at his elbow, was standing next to a little fellow, a factory—hand

with a needle nose, in a peaked tweed cap, while beside him there

was an enormous docker, his badge still pinned to his braces;

also a commercial man, several sailors oif a destroyer, and the

usual roster of beer drinkers and nondescripts.

It was the little needle—nose who eventually provided the open-

ing for which Mr Strachan had been waiting. Nodding towards

Peter and Jennie he said, ‘Huish, that’s a line pair o’ puissies

ye have there. I’ll reckon ye are no little attoched to them . . .’

‘Oh aye,’ said Mr Strachan, and then added in a slightly

louder voice: ‘Would you say now, just standin’ there lookin’ at

them, that there was onything verra extraordinary aboot the

twa?’

This question naturally provoked the large clocker and the

commercial man to turn and look too, as well as those sitting at

the nearest tables. Challenged, the factory worker remarked, ‘Noo

then, I wouldna like to say exoctly or draw comparisons twixt

yin and th’ ither, though it strikes me the white one might verra

well be a superior specimen. What had ye in mind?’

‘Would ye believe it?’ asked Mr Strachan in a still louder

voice which centred practically the attention of all except those

who were watching the darts game upon him, ‘if I were to tell

you that yon pair . . .’ and without waiting for any further ex-

pressions from his audience launched full tilt into the tale of

Peter and Jennie, that is, from his point of view and as he had

seen it.

He told how they had been found stowed away in the store-

room of the Countess of Greenock with a supply of mice and

rats laid by as an offering to pay their way, of the size of the rat

that Peter had overcome and the subsequent disaster to Iennie,

Peter’s uncat—like and heroic act of going over the side to join

her, the rescue by the lifeboat crew with Jennie given up for

dead, and the final resurrection accomplished by Peter.

He told it quite well, it seemed to Peter, and listening to it he

found himself rather enjoying the narrative plus being the centre

of many pairs of interested eyes. There were a few details here

and there he should have liked to have filled in, or elaborated

upon somewhat, but in the main he felt that the mate was doing

a good job and had done them justice. And if the truth be told,

Jennie likewise seemed far from averse herself to being

the centre of attention and even preened herself a little, washing,

and turning her head this way and that so that those in the

rear of the room who were now craning their necks could get a

better look, as Mr Strachan concluded his yarn with a iiourish:

‘. .. thus providing an exomple of unparalleled fidelity, love,

and devotion far beyond the call of duty in the onimal kingdom,

and the proof of which ye see here stonding on the bar before

your verra eyes . . .’

The needle-nosed factory worker with the peaked cap took a

swallow of his beer, wiped the back of his hand across his lips,

and said just one word, which unfortunately was ‘Tosh!’

‘Eh?’ said Mr Strachan. ‘I dinna believe I heered ye correctly.’

‘Oh yus ye did,’ said Needle—nose, who really, Peter decided,

had a most unpleasant face and close-set distrustful eyes. ‘I said

"Tosh", to which I will be glod to add "Bosh" and "Fosh". I

will also say that I have never heered such a pock of lies and

fobrications in a’ me life . . .’

Several of the bystanders sniggered, but one of them said,

‘Ah’ve heered stranger things before and, like he says, yon’s the

proof before ye . . .’

This support was all that Mr Strachan needed to restore some

of the confidence that Captain Sourlies had so badly shaken, and

he drew himself up to a good height with ‘Bosh and tosh, is it?

Sith an’ if ye no can take the evidence of yer ain eyes letting

alone the fact that I was in commond of the verra lifesaving

craft that bore down upon them struggling for their lives in the

sea . . .’

Needle—nose now turned and put his face, on which there

rested a most unpleasant sneer, quite close to Jennie and Peter

as though inspecting them minutely.

Jennie turned suddenly, squatted down on the bar with her

head veered towards the door, and said very quietly: ‘Peter, I

don’t understand all they’re saying, but I know the signs of how

people behave- there is going to be a jolly little dust-up in here

in just a minute. Whatever you do, don’t leave the bar while

they’re fighting. Wait until the constables come and then follow

me.’

Needle-nose, having completed his investigation, turned his

face to Mr Strachan again and said: ‘I have inspected your cots,

and I no can find onything writ on them neither by hond nor in

fine print to the effect that on such and such a day sairtain hop—

penings took place. Ontil such time as such becomes legible, ye

wull forgive me if I say- Tosh! ’

Mr Strachan had had it. He was rubbed raw. The captain had

badly upset him and his faith in himself, and now this nasty bit

of work was proposing to ruin the best yarn he had ever told —

with proof. ‘Ah weel,’ he said softly, with a kind of sigh, ‘per—

hops this will improve your veesion,’ and he carefully poured his

untasted pint of dark over the head of Needle-nose.

The large docker next to him, with the badge, thereupon

turned sadly upon Mr Strachan and said in a mildly reproving

voice, ‘Now then. Ye shouldna ha’ done that to little Jock who

lacks the height of ye. Ye’ll have some of your ain back then,’

and without further ado he poured his beer over Mr Strachan

who at the same time received a punch in the stomach from

Needle-nose.

The stranger who had originally taken Mr Strachan’s part

now reached for the docker, but in so doing jostled the two

sailors, causing them to spill their grog. Mr Strachan, aiming a

retaliatory blow at Jock, hit the commercial man instead, who

fell into the nearest table showering the neighbouring one with

the upset drinks.

And the next moment, to Peter’s horror, everybody in the bar

seemed to be fighting everybody else while the barman went up

and down behind the bar with a bung-starter looking for heads

to crack at, and the bar—woman screamed murder at the top of

her lungs.

‘Stand fast!’ Jennie cautioned. ‘Don’t let them push you off

the bar, or they’ll trample you to death. It won’t be long now.’

Faster and faster came the blows, the shouts, the cracking of

chairs and tables knocked over and splintered, while Peter and

Jennie leaped this way and that to avoid some of the swings

aimed at no one in particular. Half the room was siding and

fighting with Mr Strachan, the others had nominated themselves

S partisans of Needle—nose, and the gauge of battle turned first to-

wards one, then the other. Somebody threw a bottle that went

crashing into the street through the window. And then all of a

sudden the door flew open and in marched the largest constable

that Peter had ever seen, backed by a smaller one who stood in

the open doorway.

‘ ’Ullo, ’ullo, ’ullo, ’ullo,’ boomed the first constable. ‘What’s a’

this?’

His voice and words had a most amazing effect, just like in a

fairy pantomime Peter had once seen when the wizard had

spoken magic words and waved his wand and everybody had

frozen stock still in whatever position or attitude they happened

to be in, or whatever they were doing.

For as much as five seconds, nobody moved in the public bar.

Some stood with arms drawn back, others half ducked, others

still with their fingers intertwined in the hair of opponents, and

the last thing Peter remembered was that Jock, the Needle-nosed

one, had climbed half-way up Mr Strachan and was perched

there like a monkey on a stick when Jennie said — ‘Now !’

In a flash they were both off the bar, on to the floor, and out

the door and running together down the street as fast as they

could.

CHAPTER FIFTEEN

The Killers

Moms and more, Peter was aware of a change that seemed to

have come over jennie Baldrin. She did not appear to be her old,

gay, talkative self any longer, but was given over to falling into

moods and long silences, and several times he caught her appar-

ently staring off into space quite lost in some inner contempla-

tion. Once when he had offered her the traditional penny for her

thoughts she had not replied to him, and the sudden switching

and twitching of her tail had warned him not to pursue the

matter. Peter set it down to the shock of her experience when

she had fallen overboard from the Countess and nearly drowned.

Not that her behaviour towards Peter had changed, except to

become more loving and tender and somewhat dependent as

more and more he learned the things that were necessary to be

a free and masterless cat and less and less leaned on the memories

of when he had been a boy. There was no doubt that she looked

up to him ever since he had saved her life, and that she enjoyed

doing so. Peter, in turn, had experienced some of the dangers of

going off half-cock in this new and exciting life, and was always

ready and willing to listen and profit from his clever little com-

panion who had learned so well how to take care of herself with-

out the help of human beings.

If Peter was disappointed in their life in Glasgow, having ex-

pected goodness knows what of the city to whom its distance.

had lent enchantment, Jennie was not, for she had already found

out that for the poor and underprivileged the slums and back-

waters and dock areas of one city are exactly like another, and

this Peter was now, too, observing from experience.

It was one thing to arrive in a new city or place, or country,

with your parents who would thereupon engage a victoria, fiacre,

barouche, or taxicab, and drive around to visit the points of

interest: the parks with their fine statues reared to the memories

of famous heroes and scientists, the main shopping streets with

their glittering store fronts, the residential areas Hlled with beau-

tiful villas and huge, ornate hotels, the museums, art galleries,

exhibitions, churches, and ruins, as well as the Strand or Corso

or Mall where the band was playing. It was quite another to be

alone and penniless, without food or shelter or a friend, in a

strange city with somehow life to be preserved and a living to be '

won from it, particularly when, like Iennie, you were unwilling

to pay the price of giving up your liberty in return for food,

shelter, and a home.

Under those circumstances you remained away from the more

attractive centres of the city where a stray was most likely to

collect abuse, kicks, and blows, with the possibility even of a

trip to the Pound and loss of life in the gas chamber, and con-

fined yourself to those less favoured sections of the city where

the inhabitants had enough to think upon to get along them-

selves without chivvying and worrying fellow unfortunates in

the animal world.

To Peter, the docks along the Clydebank, the smells, the noise,

the buildings, the hoists and derricks and tall cranes, the piles of

ropes and cables, and the miles of railway trackage were very

like those on the Thames in London, and the slums, warehouses,

and stern neighbourhoods in their vicinity quite alike.

Jennie taught him the art of working the cover off a dustbin

to get at the scraps of food and disposed-of garbage remainders.

It was done by standing up on the hind legs and pushing up-

wards with the nose under the rim of the can. The trick, as

Jennie figured it out, was not to become discouraged if at the

first attempt it could not be budged, but to try all around at

various places on the circumference of the bin until sooner or

later one found the weak spot where the cover was more loosely

attached and would yield a trifle to the first shove. Once it began

to go, it was only a question of patience and energy before it

could be lifted off.

Peter soon became an adept at this, for he had had a good,·

sturdy little body as a boy and now was powerfully built as a

cat, long and lean in the flank and strong and heavy in the

shoulders. Too, in time, he came to be able to recognize a fellow

vagrant at once by the tiny bald strip across the bridge of the

nose where the hair was quite worn away from pushing up the

iron rims of the lids.

Once the lid was off, a few snilfs were as good as a bill of fare

to reveal the contents and its state of preservation, and they

went at it with their paws or, if what appeared to be tempting

and with a possibility of nourishment lay buried too deep, Jennie

had worked out a refinement that lay open to the two cats work-

ing in concert in such a partnership as was shared between her-

self and Peter. It was just that the two leaped up and clung both

to the same side of the bin as close together as they could, and

usually their combined weight was enough to tip it over with a

terrific crash and clatter, spilling its contents on to the ground.

Too, they learned to haunt the butcher’s shop, the iishmonger,

and the greengrocer, as well as the alleys behind restaurants and

hotels, when the big vans from the wholesale houses came to

make their deliveries, for the chance to snatch at scraps that

might fall off or be dropped between lorry and store, and make

off with it for a meal which invariably they shared equally. For

they ate not only bits of meat and fish when they could get it, or

chewed up old bits of bone, but also any pieces of fruits or vege-

tables, biscuit, bread, stale oatmeal, anything and everything, in

short, that could be chewed, swallowed, and digested. y

And here again, Peter was discovering that it was one thing to

be fastidious about your food and complain because Nanny had

not cut all the fat off his lamb chop, or refuse to eat his spinach

because there was a bit of grit in it, or dawdle over a banana

sliced thinly on to cereal with plenty of sugar and milk, and

indeed quite another never to have enough in your stomach and

not know when or where your next meal was to come from. Of

course, being a cat, his palate was quite different from what it

had been when he was a human being, but as Iennie pointed out,

the average pampered house cat turned loose in a city to fend for

itself would soon starve to death if it did not learn to subsist on

anything and everything.

They ate old carrots and onions, bits and pieces of melon

rind, raw cauliflower and old bread crusts, cooked turnips and

cabbage stumps, mysterious leavings `from cocktail parties, cake

crumbs from tea, bits of haddock skin and heads and tails of

smoked herrings, beef gristle and lamb bones that had been

boiled until they were white; they licked out the inside of

corned—beef tins to get at the fat, and learned to go down to the

quayside where the foreign ships from Sweden and Norway,

Finland and Spain and Portugal, dumped their more interesting

garbage overboard, and fight the screaming and enraged gulls

for some of the bits and pieces that floated alongside the stone

jetty steps and which they could fish up out of the water with

their paws.

But, as in London, it proved to be a hard, rough, hazardous

life, albeit an adventurous one, and rarely tempered by any soft-

ness or luxury. Compared to it, as they ranged up and down the

Clyde, along the Broomielaw, Anderson, and Custom House

Quay, and then across the big steel-and-iron Glasgow Bridge

to the southern part of the city, life aboard the Countess of

Greenock had been palatial. Glasgow was a manufacturing city,

and the smoke and grime drifted down and got into their fur

and skin and it was difficult to keep clean, besides which it

rained a great deal and they were hard put to find places to keep

dry. _

Nevertheless, Jennie seemed to find this quite a normal way to

live and did not complain or seem to mind except for those

moody silences already referred to and the something which

seemed to be occupying her mind.

Nor had the quest for her family prospered particularly or

seemed likely to, until at last they came across a grey, scarred—up

Maltese tabby who appeared to be a distant relative.

There had been one of those cold, penetrating, misting

showers for which the Scots city is famous, and Peter and

Jennie sought out a dry place under one of the arches of a bridge

over the Clyde when they were warned by a low, throaty growl

and a disgruntled, petulant voice saying, ‘ ’\Ware. You’re tres-

passing!’

‘Oh, I beg your pardon,’ said Jennie politely, ‘we did not

mean to.’

Peter, as usual when they had to do with another cat, held his

tongue so as not to say something wrong, as he had promised

Jennie. The speaker, he saw, was a somewhat weatherbeaten,

darkish-grey Maltese with bright yellow eyes and the scars of

battle on her ears and nose, and of course the well-known sign

of the dustbin ridge. She was not particularly large or formid-

able looking, and he and Jennie together might well have routed

her, but Jennie always insisted upon the politeness and amenities

of cats even though frequently they seemed to be superfluous.

There was room enough for a hundred or ten times that many

Cats beneath the span, but because the grey had got there first, by

all the rules the territory belonged to her, particularly if she

chose to make an issue of it. It all seemed very foolish to Peter,

but he knew that Jennie would have insisted upon the same

rights had she been there first and that this was a part of the lore

of being a cat.

‘We will, of course, be leaving at once,’ Jennie said. ‘I was just

looking for some relatives of mine. My name is Jennie Baldrin

and this is my friend Peter. The Baldrin is on my father’s side,

of course. Pure Scot for generations, and Highland at that. On

mother’s side we’re almost a hundred per cent Kaifir. But then

you’ll have recognized that, naturally. The usual route, you

know. Central Africa, Egypt, Morocco, Spain, and then that

Armada business.

The grey did not seem to be too much impressed. She said:

‘Well, we came by way of the Bosphorus originally, but long

before the Turks laid siege. We were in Malta already when the

Knights of St John came. Our family got to Scotland with one

of Nelson’s captains after he took the Island. There’s a remote

connexion between us, probably on the Baldrin side. Where did

you say you were from?’

‘Well,’ Jennie replied, ‘we’re up from London on a visit, but

my mother came from Mull. And of course you know the

Baldrins were all Glasgow cats . . .’

The Maltese stiffened perceptibly. ‘London, eh? What have

they in London that we haven’t twice better here?’

Peter could not resist chiming in- ‘Well, for one thing, it’s

ever so much larger, and — ’

‘Size isn’t everythingf the Maltese said curtly and added: ‘I’ll

wager you have no shipyards the match of ours. We have no

need of any London cats to come up here and lord it over us . . .’

‘But I wasn’t meaning to lord — ’ Peter began to protest when

Jennie interrupted him to say: ‘Of course, Glasgow is most

beautiful and I’m glad I was born here. Do you know where any

others of the family are?’ `

The Maltese looked down the side of her nose. ‘Can’t say I

bother much. They’re all over the place and many of them are

no better than they should be. There’s a branch supposed to

have gone to Edinburgh, but of course wa don’t have any deal-

ings with anybody on the East Coast. Provincial. Why did you

clear out of here? W/asn’t good enough for you, I suppose.

‘Oh, no,’ Iennie replied. ‘I was taken in a basket. And then, of

course, being brought up there one gets used to things being . . .

well, different. But one does like to come back — ’

‘... and put on airs,’ concluded the Maltese unpleasantly.

‘But they say that’s what the family is coming to. Our side ofiit

always found Glasgow good enough for them . . .’

Jennie said, ‘Well, I guess we’d better be going . . .’

‘Never mind,’ said the Maltese, but not at all graciously. ‘You

may bide a while. I was just going myself. At any rate, you

haven’t lost your manners in London, which is something,

though I can’t say as much for your friend. Good day to you,’

and she arose and left.

It was just in time, for Jennie’s tail was lashing and waving

violently ....

‘Oh!’ she cried, ‘what a thoroughly odious person. If that’s

what my relatives are like, I shan’t be wanting any more of

them. And did you hear her—"What’s London got that we

haven’t twice better?" And she dared to talk about someone

being provincial. Of course she isn’t really Scottish at all, with

all that Italian blood in her. The Scottish are kind and hospit-

able, once they get to know you . . .’

The words ‘kind’ and ‘hospitable’ suddenly made Peter feel

very sad. For, truth to tell, he was missing the friendly com-

panionship of the weird crew of the Countess of Greenock, and

even though he was learning to look after himself and had

Jennie constantly by his side for company he knew that there

was something lacking and that cats were not meant to live as

they were living.

And besides, it was cold, wet, and drizzly, and in spite of their

being beneath the arch of the huge bridge where the rain could

not get at them for the moment, the wind was blowing the

damp in from the water and they had had bad luck and had not

eaten for the last twelve hours. Peter began to think not of home

and his mother and father and Nanny, oddly enough, but of

what it would be like to belong to someone who had a nice cosy

place by the Iireside for him, who would rub his head and stroke

his back and scratch him under the chin, feed him regularly and

let him sleep on a cushion, someone who would love him and

whom he could love.

‘Jennie! I wish . . . oh I wish we belonged to somebody .... ’

The words came out in spite of himself and knowing how Jennie

felt about people and having anything to do with them. But

oddly enough she did not become angry with him, but only gave

him a long and searching look. She opened her mouth as though

about to speak, and then, apparently thinking better of it, closed

it again without uttering a sound.

Encouraged, Peter was just about to say, ‘Jennie, don’t you

think you might try just once more — ’ when without a moment

of warning, baying, barking, and slavering, three dogs burst

upon them from out of the gloom around the stone and steel

abutment of the suspension bridge, and were almost upon them

before they could move.

There w·as a snap of teeth and a shrill scream from Jennie:

‘Peter! Run! They’re killers . . .’ and he saw her flash upwards,

a giant pit bull at her heels, and the next moment, gripped by

absolute terror and panic he saw the other two bearing down

upon him. Long after, he could remember only the horrible

burly effect of them made by their massive chests and the small,

long, snake—lil<e heads with the cropped ears and slanted eyes,

now blazing with the quarry in sight. Their jaws were open,

tongues lolling, white sabre teeth shining, and the sound of their

feet and toenails scrabbling and pounding on the stone was hor-

rid. And then he was off, running for his very life, around the

stone abutment in which was set the tall steel south tower of the

suspension bridge.

What had become of Jennie he did not know, nor in hispanic

could he so much as even think, but he knew her warning to be

a supreme effort on her part to save him. For if the dogs once

caught them, they would destroy them as cleanly and as quickly

as he and jennie had killed their rats and mice. A snap, a wrench,

a toss, and it would be all over.

Never was there a sound as horrible as the hoarse, throaty

growl, a murderous cry if ever there was one, and it was coming

nearer as with each stride the long—legged, powerful brutes

gained on Peter. There was a snick and something touched one

of his hind feet, yet still managed to miss a hold. He felt their

horrible breath as they closed in.

And thereafter Peter could remember nothing but going up,

up, up, straight up into the air. His feet, urged on by panic,

touched stone and steel, first rough then slippery and knobbed,

slanted and crossed and riveted, a network of iron as it were, ris-

ing to the clouds, and as fast as his paws touched they were up

and away, giving him new impetus, even higher and higher so

that he did not seem to be climbing, but rather iiying up and

ever upwards.

The fog and the rain shrouded him in so that he could see

neither where he had come from nor the next few yards higher,

yet he kept on, driven by the fear that would not permit him to

stop until gradually he became aware of the fact that the ter-

rible growling and barking was no longer in his ears, nor the

sound of the pursuing feet, nor, for that matter, any sound

whatsoever but the distant hooting of boats somewhere, and far,

far in the distance, the roar of trafhc.

Only then did he dare to slow down to listen. For safety’s

sake he gave a couple of more spasmodic leaps still higher and

then came to rest at last, but trembling from head to foot. There

was no more pursuit, no dogs, nothing of anything.

He seemed to be wedged into a kind of an angle of several

short lengths of riveted steel that came zigzagging up out of the

swirling mists and vanished into the thicker fog above. There

was a penetrating wind all about him too that seemed to pluck

at him. Peter realized that he did not have the faintest idea

where on earth or heaven, or between the two perhaps, that he

was- or how he had got there. He wedged himself more closely

into the angle of the steel and clung there with all four feet.

CHAPTER SIXTEEN

Lost in the Clouds

TIME went by, how much, Peter could not tell. In the distance

he heard at last a clock striking six, and then another and an-

other, ahnost as though for some reason he could suddenly hear

all the clocks in the world announcing the hour. But whether it

was in the evening or in the morning he had no way of telling,

for the shock of the sudden attack and escape had frightened

him completely out of his wits.

However, now they were beginning to return to him. What-

ever the hour, the gloom of darkness, fog, and rain was still im-

penetrable and he was aware that there was nothing for him to

do but remain perched where he was until he shouldbe able to

determine where it was he had got to in his frantic rush of panic.

At that moment he heard a faint call, a dear and well-

remembered voice coming from out of the darkness, apparently

a little below him. He shouted — ‘Jennie! Jennie, where are you?

Are you all right?’

She replied at once, and although Peter could not see her, he

could hear the relief trembling in her voice. ‘Peter! Oh, I am so

glad, I could cry. I was frightened to death they had caught you.

Are you sure you aren’t hurt?’

‘Not at all,’ he replied, ‘except that I got terribly scared. But

where are you? And for that matter, where am I? I want to

come to you.’

There was a moment of silence and then Jennie’s voice came

through the fog, quite tense. ‘Don’t stir, Peter. We’re up in the

towers of the suspension bridge. Way up high, I think.’

‘Up in the tower,’ Peter repeated in amazement. ‘Why, I don’t

remember anything but just running-yes, for a moment I did

seem to be flying .... I say, how exciting . . .’

‘Peter . . .’ Jennie’s voice was a little plaintive now. ‘Can you

forgive me for leaving you that way? I couldn’t help it. It’s the

one time when cats just don’t think.’ And then before he could

reply, she continued: ‘It’s all my fault—being so upset over

that foolish Maltese, with all her talk about Turks and Knights

of St john and Lord Nelson. Of course, she doesn’t come from

the Island of Malta at all. Trying to pull the wool over my eyes

with her grand ways. They just call those short—haired greys

Maltese. And then the way she talked about you. But even so,

I should have smelled those dogs long before they got close

enough to surprise us, and we could have taken steps, except

that I haven’t been myself these past days at all. Oh, Peter, I’m

so sorry for all the trouble I’ve brought to you.’

‘Trouble . . .’ Peter repeated in amazement. ‘But, Jennie, you

haven’t . . .’

‘Peter,’ she cried, her voice full of despair this time, ‘you don’t

know what I’ve done. Everything is my fault.’

Peter didn’t know, and what was more, couldn’t even think

what she meant, except that something was troubling her about

which she had not yet told him. When she did not speak to him

further, he thought it best to remain quiet himself, and he settled ·

down on the narrow, slanting piece of steel and clung there,

cramped, cold, and shivering.

An hour or so later, the rain stopped, a breeze sprang up, and

the fog about Peter began to swirl and thin, drifting in wisps,

shredding, permitting him almost to see and then closing in

again, only at last to be pierced by the yellow rays of the mount-

ing sun. Then the blue sky appeared overhead, the last patches

of mist were dissolved and he could see everything. Jennie had

been quite right. They were up in the towers of the Clarke Street

Suspension Bridge.

They were high up too, almost at the top, with Jennie a few

yards lower than he, stretched out on one of the upward-slanting

girders of the twin neighbouring tower that paralleled the one

he was on. Below them, like a map, lay all Glasgow, threaded by

the grey ribbon of the Clyde and marked with the ugly patches

of the Central and St Enoch’s stations with their lines of rail-

way tracks emerging from them like strands of spaghetti from

a package.

Here, Peter thought, was the perfect bird’s-eye, or to be more

modern, aeroplane—pilot’s-eye view of the great grey city. To the

east lay the pleasant emerald gem of Glasgow Green, to the west

the broadening river, the docks, and the shipping, among which

he could even make out the shabbry but loved lines of the Coun-

tess of Greenock, and he saw that there was black smoke pouring

from her thin funnel which meant that she must be getting ready

to sail. On and on his eyes travelled, like glancing over a page in

a geography book. There were blue mountains and lakes in the

misty north, and he was certain that he could see storied Ben

Lomond rising among them.

To his surprise he found that the height made him neither

dizzy nor frightened, and he could enjoy the view and the sur-

roundings as long as he did not try to move. It was when he did

so, as he wished to descend at least to Jennie’s level, that he

found himself in difiiculties. He discovered that he could go

I neither up nor down.

Peter called over to his friend: ‘Jennie—I’m all right. But

how do we get down from here? I’m sure the dogs have left by

now. If you go first, I’ll try to follow you.’ He thought perhaps

if he saw the way she did it he might be able to take heart, or

copy her the way he had in so many other things.

It was some time before she replied, and in the ensuing

silence he could see her looking up at him with an odd kind of

despair in her eyes. Finally she called to him: ‘Peter, I’m sorry,

but I can’t. It’s something that happens to cats sometimes. We

get up on to high places and lose our way and can’t get down ——

even from trees or telegraph poles where we might manage to get

a grip with our claws. But this horrible, slippery steel—ugh! I

just can’t think of it. I’m terrified. Don’t bother about me, Peter.

Try to get down.’ A

‘I wouldn’t leave you even if I could, Jennie,’ Peter said, ‘but

I can’t. I understand what you mean. I’m the same way. I

couldn’t move an inch. What will happen to us?’

Jennie looked quite grim, and averted her eyes. ‘We’re for it,

Peter. We stay up here until we starve to death or fall off and

are dashed to pieces below. Oh, I wish I were dead already, I’m.

so miserable. I don’t care about myself, but when I think of what

I have done to you, my poor Peter . . .’

Peter found that his immediate concern was less with the dan-

gerous situation in which they found themselves, than with

jennie. For assuredly this was not the old, brave, self—possessed

friend he had known who had a solution to every difficulty and

the right answer to every question. Obviously something was

troubling her deeply and robbing her of her courage and ability

to think and act in emergencies. He could not imagine what it

was, but since it was so, it was his place then to assume the bur-

den of leadership and at least tty to support her as she had him

so often. He said:

‘Oh, come. At least we’re still alive, and we have each other

and that’s all that matters.

His immediate reward was a faint smile and a small, soft

purr. Jennie said wanly, ‘I love you for that, Peter.’

‘And besides,’ Peter continued stoutly, ‘sooner or later some-

one is bound to see us marooned up here and come to fetch us

down.’

jennie made a little sound of despair in her throat- ‘Oh!

People! My Peter, you don’t know them as — ’

‘But I do,’ Peter insisted. ‘At least I know one is always see-

ing pictures in the papers of people gathered round and firemen

climbing ladders to fetch cats down out of trees — ’

‘Trees perhaps,’ jennie said, ‘but they’d never bother about us

way up here . . ." p

‘\X'/ell,’ said Peter, even though he did not feel at all certain

that anyone would trouble to help them even if they were seen,

‘I’m for trying at least to attract somebody’s attention. and in-

haling his lungs full of air he emitted a long, mournful siren

howl in which from time to time Jennie joined him even though

she did not believe it would do much good.

And indeed, it appeared as though her pessimism was justi-

fied. Far below, the busy city came to life. Traffic began to How

through the streets, from which arose a kind of muted and dis-

tant roar that drifted up to the two fixed to their precarious

perches and tending to drown out the cries by which they

sought to draw attention to themselves. On the suspension

bridge, footwalkers crossed in a steady stream between Portland

Street and St Enoch’s. People walked along the embankment

and in the busy sidestreets. But no eyes turned upwards towards

the sky and the top of the towers. Not any time that whole long

day.

And all through that next night, Peter called down words of

courage to Jennie and comforted her to try to keep her spirits

up. But by the following morning both he and Jennie were per- P

ceptibly weaker. Their voices were nearly gone from shouting, i

and Peter felt that his grip on his girder was not as strong and ,

secure as it had been. Nevertheless, he refused to give up, and

said to Jennie: ‘Look here-we must make some kind of an  

attempt. I ’ll go first and you watch what I do and follow me.’

But Jennie moaned, ‘No! no! I can’t, I can’t, I can’t. I’d Q

rather have the dogs get me. I can’t bear coming down from  

high places. I won’t even try . . .’

Peter knew then that there was nothing to do but stay there i

until the end. He closed his eyes, determined to rest and con-  

serve his strength for as long as he could. `

He must have fallen asleep, for it was many hours later that he

was suddenly awakened by a confused shouting and cries from

below, and the sound of engines and sirens and the clanging of

bells. There was a crowd gathered on the south bank of the river

on the square giving entrance to the bridge, people swarming `

like ants about trucks and wagons glistening with brass and gear `

and machinery, and new apparatus kept arriving, fire engines “

dashing along Portland Place, and police cars and equipment

lorries from the light and telephone and bridge maintenance

companies.

‘Jennie! Jennie!’ Peter called. ‘Lool< down. Look below you (

and see what is happening. `

She did and her reply came floatingvback to him faintly:

‘What is it? There must have been some kind of an accident on .

the bridge, What difference does it make?

And now that she looked more carefully she could indeed see Q

that all the white faces in the dark mass of the huge crowd »

that had gathered were turned upwards, that fingers were point- ~

ing up at them and men running about and policemen trying to

clear a space about the bridge abutment from which rose the

twin steel towers; ladders were being raised and apparatus ·

hauled into place.

‘There, you see!’ Peter crowed. ‘It’s all for us. Oh, I say, but

we are important! Look, they have quite everybody come out

to try to rescue us . . .’

Jennie stirred on her girder and the look that she sent up to

him was absolutely worshipful. ‘Oh, Peter,’ she said, ‘you are

wonderful. It’s all your doing. If it hadn’t been for you we both

should have perished here, and all because of me . . .’

Peter enjoyed being admired by Jennie, though he did feel

that she was allowing him rather too much territory, since he

had done nothing but say, or hope, that they might eventually

be rescued. However, before he could reply there was a rush and

a roar and a small aeroplane dived at them out of the sky, and

just as it seemed about to crash into them, wheeled upwards

again over and away, revealing a young man leaning out of the

fuselage pointing a box at them. The next moment it was gone.

jennie gave a small scream. ‘Ohl What was that?’

‘Taking our pictures for the papers, no doubt Peter ex·

plained, thrilled to death.

‘Oh dear,’ Jennie said, ‘and me a perfect fright, just when one

ought to look one’s best. Do you suppose he’ll come back?’ And

as far as she could, without disturbing her balance, she com-

menced to wash.

But Peter was far too excited and fascinated by the rescue

operations to devote even a moment to this function at such a

time.

First, the electric light and telephone wagons tried it, but their

towers weren’t nearly tall enough toreach Peter and Iennie, even

when they were cranked as high as they would go.

The maintenance wagons were moved away with a good deal

of noise and shouting, and the fire laddies had a go next. They

raised their tallest rescue ladder as well as the water tower and

sent up two firemen, the sun glinting handsomely on their brass

helmets and belt buckles, as well as a large, red—faced police con-

stable in a blue uniform.

But firemen and constable both remained stuck a good twenty

feet below Peter and Iennie, for their equipment did not reach

either, and jennie was just about to despair when Peter, who

really was having the time of his life, pointed out that now in

the centre of the throng still further preparations were going

forward.

This time it was two of the bridge maintenance men who had

fitted themselves out with their climbing shoes, grappling—hooks,

safety webs, sliding belts, gloves, helmets, sacks, and ropes.

Ready at last, each, simultaneously placed his foot in one of the

girders of the twin steel pillars and, as though at a given signal,

started their ascent together to the accompaniment of a faint

cheer. _

First one would be leading in what developed into a race up-

wards, and then the other. Soon the sporting members in the

crowd began to shout encouragement and lay bets at the same

time: ‘Go to it, Bill! Ye’ve got him, Tam! A little more leg

there, Tammas lad! Odds on Bill reaches the white ’un afore

Tam climbs to the little puss. Three to two Tam’s first down

with hisn’. Bravo, Tam! Well climbed, Bill! Hooray!’

‘We’re saved!’ Peter called down joyously to Jennie. ‘This

time they’re going to make it.’

‘Oh dear, oh dear,’ Jennie lamented. ‘I just know I’m going to

bite and scratch when he comes, and I won’t mean to. That’s the

kind of thing that gives cats a bad name, and we can’t help it.

I’m nothing but a bundle of nerves and hysteria right now, and

I suppose that wretched aeroplane will be along to take the pic-

ture just at the moment I have my hooks entangled in Tam’s

hair. No, no, no! Let go! I WON’T COME! MMMMFFF!’

This last was a kind of strangled protest and muffled cry as 4

Tammas appeared on the girder alongside her, snapped on his  

safety belt to free his hands, plucked her, spitting, growling, !

clawing, and fighting, from her perch and popped her into his J

bag. . A

A Peter was just about to cry out to her- ‘Be brave, Jennie!’  

when Bill had him by the scruff of the neck, into the sack he `

went, and down they started.  

It was a horrible sensation inside the sack, dark and stifling,

coupled with the awful motion of the descent, but Peter was

more worried how poor Jennie must be taking it than by any dis- ~

comfort he himself was experiencing. However, it was soon over J

and the increasing volume of ringing cheers made it obvious

they were approaching the ground, and then at last, amidst ¥

shouts and cries of congratulation, he was let out of the bag to

see Jennie quivering in Tam’s grasp while he was held by Bill.

Policemen, firemen, and citizens crowded around, the men grin-

ning and the women cooing ‘Oh, the pretties. Isn’t the little one `

sweet? Up there all the night, the poor things. Wonder who they `

belong to . . .’

Peter would have been delighted to have been the centre of

such attention if he had not been so concerned about Jennie

who, even now that she was safe and sound, continued to reveal

the most miserable and unhappy expression upon her counten-

ance, even as photographers arrived to take more pictures and a

reporter interviewed both Tam and Bill, asking them what it felt

like to be up there hundreds of feet above the heads of everyone

risking their lives for the sake of two stray cats. Tam said: ‘Ah

didn’ feel nowt but ’er digging of ’er claws into me ’ide,’ while

Bill declared modestly, ‘Aw, it was naethin’.’

But the adventure was drawing to a close. For the firemen had

packed up their ladders and lowered the water tower, the utili-

ties maintenance wagons had cranked down their platforms, and

now with a great grinding and roaring and chuffing of motors,

clanging of bells, and muttering of sirens, the apparatus and

vans and lorries and squad cars all started pulling away, backing,

turning, and starting up with a good deal of advice from the

spectators.

Tam and Bill, once the pictures had all been taken, dropped

Jennie and Peter to the ground where they crouched close to the

stone abutment to keep from being trampled on, climbed aboard

their equipment truck and drove away. And as fast as the crowd

had gathered, now it began as quickly to melt. With all the ex-

citement over, people returned to their business. Now and then

one would stop to reach over and pat Peter on the head, or give

Jennie a chuck under the chin, and say: ‘Feeling better now, eh,

puss?’ or ‘Pretty lucky they got you down from there, old

man . . .’ and then on they would go. Now that the suspense was

over and they were safely down, no one thought to offer them

something to eat, a drink, or shelter, and in a few minutes all

the thousands of people had vanished, and except for the occa-

sional passers—by bound for the bridge and who, being late-

comers did not even know what had happened and therefore

paid no attention to the two cats squatting on the walk beneath

the shelter of the arch, Peter and Jennie were left quite to them-

selves.

‘Goodness,’ said Peter, ‘but that was exciting . . .’

But from Jennie there issued only a long, deep sigh. She was

still far from a happy little bundle Of fur crouched down hard

by the great stone abutment where two nights before their

terrifying experience had begun. Peter looked at her curiously.

‘Jennie,’ he said, ‘aren’t you glad that it all turned out so well

and we were rescued and everything?

Jennie bent her large, liquid eyes upon him and Peter noticed

that they seemed to be almost on the verge of tears again and

that she had rarely looked so desperately appealing.

‘Oh, Peter,’ she moaned, ‘I’ve never been so miserable or un-

happy in all my life. I’ve made such an awful mess of things . . .’

‘Jennie dear I ’ Peter went over to her and sat down next to her

and right close so that his Hank touched hers in a comforting

way. ‘What is wrong? Won’t you tell me? Something has been

upsetting and worrying you for so long.’

She gave herself two quick licks to get a grip on herself and

crowded close to him. ‘I don’t know what I should do without

you, Peter. You have been such a comfort to me. It’s true. I

have something dreadfully important to tell you about changing

my mind, but I feel like such a fool. That’s why I haven’t Q

told you before. But now I’ve been thinking about it for  

days, and after everything that happened I can’t hold it back  

any longer . . .’  

‘Yes, Jennie,’ Peter coaxed sympathetically, wondering what  

on earth it could be. ‘What is it . . .’

‘You promise you won’t be angry with me?’  

‘I promise, Jennie.  

‘Peter,’ jennie said, ‘I want to go back and live with Mr i

Grims,’ and then pushing quite close to him began to cry softly.

CHAPTER SEVENTEEN

Jennie Makes a Confession

PETER looked at Jennie as though he could hardly believe his

ears.

‘Jennie! Do you really mean it? We could go and live with

Mr Grims? Oh, I’d love to.’

jennie stopped crying and put her head down close to Peter’s

side where it was half hidden from him so that he could not see

how upset and ashamed she was.

‘Oh, Peter Jennie said in a low, soft voice — ‘then you’re not

angry with me?’

‘Angry with you, jennie? But of course not. I liked Mr

Grims enormously, he was so cheerful and jolly and kind, and

all the Bowers in his little house and the way the tea—kettle sang

on the stove and his offering to share everything he had with us.

And besides, he seemed to be so awfully lonely —— ’ ·

‘Peter- don’t,’ Iennie wailed, interrupting him, ‘I can’t bear

it. It’s been on my conscience ever since we left him. It was a

dreadful thing I did. Old people are always so very much more

alone than anyone else in the world. I’ll never forget the way he

looked, standing there in the doorway, kind of lost and bent,

calling to us and begging us to come back. It nearly broke my

heart . . .’

‘But, Jennie,’ Peter said, ‘you were angry with me when I said

the same thing after we ran away. You remember I said I felt

like a rotter . . .’

‘My Peter, of course I was,’ jennie said, still hiding her head,

‘because you were right and I knew you were. I was being mean

and nasty and infeline and hard, and just hateful. And you were

being sweet and kind and natural and wanting to do what was

Fight, and of course it made me look and feel all the more horrid.

That was why I made you come away with me to Glasgow . . .’

Peter felt quite confused now, and said: ‘But I thought you

said you wanted to see your relatives and where you were born

and - ’

Jennie’s head came up with a toss and she said, ‘Oh, bother ‘

my relatives. You saw what that one was like we happened to

meet. And I suppose I have literally thousands of them up here

who don’t care any more about me than I do about them. But _

I thought if we went off on a little trip together it would take

your mind off Mr Grims and what I had done and- oh dear, I .

guess what I really thought is that it would take my mind off it.

A I was running away from having been a perfect pig.

She leaned a little closer to Peter and continued with her con-

fession. ‘And, of course, I couldn’t get away at all. Wherever I

was and wherever I went, down in the storeroom with you, up ’

in the forecastle in the dark, waiting for a rat, I’d see him again

and the expression on his face when he was begging for us to

come back, and even during the biggest noises I would keep_

hearing his voice and remembering how I had behaved and re-

paid his hospitality. And then I tried to tell myself the reason I

acted that way was because of what Buff had done to me. Then

I would hear you saying that she couldn’t have done that to me,

that something must have happened, that it wasn’t her fault, and `

I would have the most awful feeling that perhaps you were right ,

and I had been wrong all the time and maybe she had come back

there looking for me sometime, perhaps the next day even, and

how she would have cried when she didn’t iind me . . .’ .

Peter felt sorry for Jennie, but in a way he was relieved too,,

for th.is was beginning to be like the old Jennie again, who loved ~

to talk and talk and explain, and besides, he was terribly happy _

about her wanting to go back to Mr Grims.

‘And then,’ Jennie continued, having drawn a deep, full breath ;

and taken one desultory lick at her side, ‘when I fell overboard I ;

thought that it was the punishment being visited upon me for all i

my sins and that I deserved to be made an end of, and so when

I found myself in the water I didn’t much care any more and

didn’t really try very hard to keep up because I knew the ship

would never turn around and come back to pick me up. Theni

YOU came to me and it was too much to bear, because I knew

that I was to be the cause of your end too. After that I didn’t re-

member anything more until I found myself in Mr Strachan’s

cabin and you were washing me. But then and there I resolved

to go back and live with Mr Grims and try to make him happy

and keep him company because I knew that until I did I would

never have another peaceful moment.

‘I know,’ Peter said. ‘I thought about him a lot myself.’

‘And then I was ashamed in front of you, Peter’ Jennie said,

‘so very ashamed that I didn’t know when or where or how to

begin and tell you about wanting to go back. When we got

marooned up there I kept thinking if we ever got down alive I

would tell you at once and then perhaps I would stop leading

you into such awful trouble and dangers — ’

Peter interrupted — ‘Yes, but we always get out of them.’

‘Some time we won’t,’ Iennie said grimly. ‘The humans have

made up a sort of supposedly funny saying that a cat has nine

lives, which is, of course, utter nonsense. You are entitled to just

so many narrow escapes in your life and then the next time you

are going to catch it. I don’t want there to be any next time. If

we can find some way to get back to London, soon . . .’

‘Jennie!’ Peter cried excitedly, ‘why not now -— right away, if

it isn’t too late?’ -

‘What do you mean, Peter . . .?’

‘Why, the Countess of Greenock. I could see her when we

were up on the tower. She was still there this morning with a lot

of black smoke coming out of her smokestack, the way it was the

day we went aboard her in London. She’ll be going back again.

Maybe if we hurry we won’t be too late and can catch her before

she sails.’

Jennie gave a great sigh and pressed close to Peter for a

moment. ‘Oh dear,’ she said, ‘it’s so good to have a male about

who knows what to do.’ Then she leaped to her feet. ‘Come on,

Peter, let’s run. She might be casting off any second.’

Away they went then, tossing rules and ordinary feline dis-

cretions to the winds, not bothering to take cover, or employ the

point—to—point system, but bounding, leaping, Hying over ob-

stacles with not only the speed and agility of cats, but with that

extra something that is lent to the limbs and the feet when a

great weight has been lifted from the spirit.

Under the railway and George V bridges they charged, past

the steamboat wharf where passengers were queueing for trips to

Greenock and Gourock and Inverary and Ardrishaig, down the

busy Broomielaw, with ships loading freight and cargo for all

sorts of interesting places, but not an instant did they linger now

for they knew that when the black smoke belched from her fun-

nel the Countess might depart any second.

On to the Quay they flew, along the Clyde, Cheapside, and

Piccadilly, and, sure enough, there a hundred yards ahead of i

them was the Countess of Greenock pouring forth her soft—coal

cloud which ceased for a moment and was replaced by a squirt  

of white steam that curled around her stack like a feather, and Q

they heard her hooter go.

‘Oh,’ cried Peter, ‘she’s leaving. Faster, faster, Jennie. All

you’ve got.’ And they both Hattened their ears back, let their tails y

streamline straight out behind them and fairly ate up the yards,

a white blur and a dark brown one. How they ran!

And at that, they would have been too late if the crew of the

Countess had not managed to get the gangplank stuck in the last

moment when they came to unfasten it from the side of the

little freighter preparatory to having it drawn back down on to

the dock.

Mr Box, the carpenter, had had to be summoned with his »

tools, his hammers and chisels and sledges, saws and wrenches

and drills and augers, ratchets and levers, and he grew red in the

face and beat at it and prised, hoisted, and pushed with a series

of ‘Blimeys’ and ‘Lummies’ and ‘Coo’s’, and could do absolutely

nothing with it. For a moment it looked as though the Countess

was either bound to the pier by the gangplank for the rest of her

life, or would have to sail with it sticking out of her side. .

At this point Mr Box wholly lost his temper and arising from

his knees where he had been poking, sawing, chiselling, and pris-

ing, he aimed a violent and vicious kick at the offending gang-

way which landed squarely on it and caused it to come loose

quite easily, showing that that was what it had wanted all along,

though the damage to Mr Box’s boot and toe was later assessed

as considerable.

‘There you are, lads! ’ he shouted to the navvies waiting down

on the dock. ‘Haul away.

And haul away they did at the precise moment that Peter and

Jennie came whipping on to the pier and up the gangway. There

was already a gap of several yards between the end of the gang-

way and the side of the ship, but at the speed that Peter and

Jennie were travelling it was as nothing and they flew across the

space like a couple of furred birds and landed kerplurnp on

Mr Box’s chest knocking him flat on his back, since he was

off balance anyway at the time due to hopping around on

one foot. `

‘Blimey!’ groaned Mr Box ——~‘oh blimey. THEY’RE bacl<!’

And back indeed they were on the iron deck of the dear,

messy, smelly Countess. Everything was just the same as when

they had left it, and in a way it was just like home. From the

cabin of Captain Sourlies came the tinkle, crash, and clatter of

breaking glass and crockery. Mr Strachan was on the bridge, in

charge, his blue cap set well back on his brick-red curls so that

it was not at all diflicult to see the still visible remains of what

must have been the father of all black eyes. From the galley aft

came drifting the mournful strains of Mealie’s voice as he ren-

dered in song a lament upon leaving. Mr Carluke was just

emerging from his cabin, the fingers of his right hand pointed

and cocked like a pistol, and his left swinging and manipulating

an imaginary lariat.

And the crew, under Angus who was roaring up by the steam

winch for’ard, was making a beautiful, beautiful mess of the

departure, casting off the wrong ropes and cables, making other

wrong ones fast, turning things off when they ought to be turn-

ing them on, tripping over chains, coming near to letting the

anchor go, permitting the Countess to get her stern caught in

the tide so that she almost sideswiped an excursion boat bound

for the Isle of Man, causing her captain to say a few words, and

thus with the hooter hooting, black smoke pouring from her,

and close to complete chaos reigning on board, she managed to

cast off, back out into the Clyde, and eventually set a course,

down the river and towards the open sea once more.

Peter and Jennie did not linger but went right on aft to see

Mealie who welcomed them with a shout, after which he

punched a hole in a fresh can of evaporated milk, cut some cold

lamb off a joint in the larder, and invited them to dine with a

‘By Iomminy, you just cotch ’im up in time, hey? By Jomminy,

YOU hungry, good and some. You bring possage money again,

h€Y?’ and he roared with laughter. ‘How many rots and mouses

for one ticket? I think you hokay. By Jomminy, you want more

lomb? How much you can hold? I give you what you got . . .’

and he proceeded to cut them some more, and eventually, still

laughing, turned the bone over to them which Peter and jennie

each at one end gnawed contentedly in the first good meal they

had had since they had quit the ship.

The return trip to London was without incident and was

spent mostly in eating, sleeping, resting, and sunning, since there F

was little work to do. Word had got about in Glasgow as to the  

reign of terror that had been in effect aboard the Countess, no  

doubt spread by some lone survivor, and the rat and mouse

population left her strictly alone, those ashore scheduled for a j

trip aboard her cancelling out and giving her a wide berth. i

Mr Strachan, who apparently was having guilty feelings with `

regard to his actions towards Peter and Jennie and what had

taken place, treated them rather diiiidently and appeared to be

avoiding them almost as though he were afraid that someone

might find out from the two where, how, and why, he had t

acquired the black eye, but Mr Carluke became very friendly to 5

both, scratching under their chins .and rubbing their heads, and

Peter and Jennie used to spend hours in his cabin watching him l

prepare a new work for Pipshaw’s Western Rider Stories, some- Q

thing he was calling Rootin Tootin Roger of Rabbit Gulch. P

Roger shot his enemies with a pistol over his shoulder by look- `L

ing into a mirror, thus taking them completely by surprise. Peter ,

explained all this carefully to Jennie as Mr Carluke acted it out Y

in front of his shaving—mirror, and she was just as impressed as

Peter. ‘

It seemed almost no time at all before they were rounding the V

North Foreland with Broadstairs and Margate plainly visible to r

starboard, picked up Mouse Lighthouse 05 the port bow, which,

of course, because of its name held an especial fascination for

Peter and jennie who stared and stared as it blinked on and off,

and soon were steaming into the mouth of the Thames and then

up the broad river itself. Only this time Peter and Jennie took A

no chances, and when three hours from their destination they I

went off and hid together down below the coal bunkers, close to .

the propeller shaft, where nobody could find them. .

They remained there long after the Countess docked in Lon-

don, and at live o’clock in the afternoon, when no one was about

aft, they sneaked ashore via the gangway where, as usual, there

was no watch, and found themselves once more upon terra firma.

Trembling with excitement and anticipation they set out to re-

turn over the way they had come from the lonely geranium·

scented shack of Mr Grims ....

CHAPTER EIGHTEEN

Mr Grims Sleeps

F OR, all the way home on the Countess of Greenock, Peter and

Jennie had been talking about how pleased and surprised Mr

Grims would be when he saw that they had returned and learned

that they had come to stay with him for good.

The pair had discussed just howiit might happen, and Jennie

said it would be nice if they could get back around tea the way

it had been the first visit and he would surely invite them in

again, only this time when he left the door open, or had to go

out, they would stay, and perhaps rub up against him, or settle

down in a corner all curled up to show him that they were now

his cats.

Peter thought that it might be even more fun if Mr Grims

were away from his shack on the rounds of his docks and goods

storage spaces and they might be able to get inside, either

through the door left unlatched, or possibly through a window.

But at any rate, as he imagined it for Jennie, they would be

there, perhaps one sitting in each window by a pot of geraniums

when he opened the door.

And he told Jennie how, when Mr Grims came in from out

of doors, his eyes would not yet be accustomed to the change of

light and very likely he would not see them at all at first if they

kept very still, and then they would both miaouw a shout of

‘Surprise! Surprise!’ as had happened once to Peter at one of

his birthdays when there had been a surprise party given him.

Jennie liked this idea too, enormously, particularly when Peter

took pains to describe the pleased and happy expression that Mr

Grims would have on his face when at last he realized what had

happened to him. Then they fell to talking and planning what

life would be like when they had settled down and belonged

wholly to Mr Grims.

Because he was a boy, Peter dwelt more on the wonderful fun

they would have exploring Mr Grims’s domain over which he

held undisputed sway at night, the hundreds of different kinds

of bales, boxes, sacks, packages, crates, cartons, and bulk cargoes

there would be to explore, shipments from the Orient done up in

parcels of plaited straw, heavy with the mysterious fragrance of

the East; huge piles of nuts from Brazil in which to play and

slide, and sacks of coffee; piles of tobacco that would make them

sneeze, and teas that would intoxicate them. Female—like, Jennie

was more concerned with the domestic arrangements and how to

make Mr Grims comfortable at home and accustom themselves

to his method of living. For there was more to being someone’s

cat, Jennie revealed, than just accepting meals and being about

the house occasionally, or coming up with a mouse or two when

it suited one. Jennie explained that they must get used to his

hours of rising and going to bed, and work, and leisure, and

adjust their own so that they would be at hand whenever he

wanted them; they would have to study whether he liked them

most on his bed, or on his lap, or at his feet, or curled up near

the stove, or perhaps in the windows,'and whether he cared more

to fondle them and scratch their heads or preferred it when they

came and rubbed up against his legs, or jumped into his lap and

pushed against him. There were many things to be learned, and

adjustments to be made, Jennie said, so that they could all live

in harmony.

Now the realization of these pleasant plans and dreams

seemed to lie just ahead of them as they hurried along the docks

and through the back streets, with Peter almost as skilled as

Jennie now in negotiating the busy streets and the heavy and

congested traHic.

And here, seeing Jennie so eagerly straining on to reach their

destination, Peter felt a sudden fear and premonition come over

him. What if Mr Grims should be no longer there? What if he

had lost his job, perhaps, and had gone away and they were

never able to find him? Or worse still, supposing something had

happened to him and he had been taken off to a hospital? He

was a very old man, Peter remembered, and a tumble or a knock,

or an illness, might fall to his share at any time. In their talks

and plan—makings aboard ship, he and Jennie had neither

thought of nor discussed such an eventuality, and all Peter could

think of was what a dreadful shock and disappointment it would

be to Jennie were something to go amiss.

Something of this feeling seemed to have communicated itself

to Jennie too, for although her feet were sore and tired from

pounding along the rough cobbles and stone pavements she hur—_

ried forward now at even greater speed until at last, just after

nightfall, they arrived at the iron gates of the docks, which were

shut, indicating there was a quiescent period when no shipments

or cargoes were arriving or being unloaded for distribution in

the interior.

The locked gates presented no problem to Peter and Jennie

since they were able to squeeze through the spaces of the orna-

mental grille—work at the bottom, and in a moment they found

themselves on the other side and in the huge dock area itself.

Except for a string of half a dozen goods wagons on a siding, it

was quite empty, and the long ark—shaped sheds loomed like a

mountain chain in the meagre light of a half—moon and the

handful of early stars powdering the sky.

Jennie had already seen something that caused her to pause

and give a little gasp of excitement. ‘Look, Peter, look!’ she,

cried — ‘Down there, at the end.’

Peter did look where Jennie indicated. Far, far away at the

extreme end of the enclosure, the darkness was pierced by one

tiny pinpoint of yellow light.

‘That’s it,’ Jennie said breathlessly. ‘It comes from the shack.

That means he must be there. Oh, Peter, I’m so relieved.’

But now that the goal towards which they had so strained was

in plain sight, they did not rush forward to it, headlong and

pell-mell, but for some reason that they could not fathom until

long afterwards, walked forward slowly and soberly in the direc-

tion of the beckoning yellow light.

The illumination indeed came from the shack, as they saw

when they had approached almost to the door a single, un-

covered electric bulb hanging from the ceiling. And as they drew

nigh they also heard loud voices emerging therefrom as though

an argument of some kind were going on, but they could see no

one, and otherwise to all intents and purposes the shack was

exactly as they had left it. There were the two long boxes of red

geraniums on either side of the door, and through the window

they could even see some of the pots of pink, white, salmon, and

orange-coloured blooms. But except for the mysterious voices,

none of which sounded like Mr Grims’s, there was no sign of  

life about the place.

But the mystery of who was speaking inside was cleared up

just as they approached the threshold, when the voices changed

to a burst of music, a gay little musical comedy marching song.

Peter said, ‘It’s the wireless. Perhaps he’s gone away and left

the light burning and the wireless turned on because he intended

to come right back. Maybe we can surprise him after all, Jennie.

Oh, I do hope the door is open . . .’

But Jennie in reply only uttered a low growl deep in her

throat, and Peter turning to her saw that her tail was Huffed and

that her hair was standing straight up at the back of her neck,

‘Jennie!’ he cried - ‘What’s the matter . . .?’

‘I . . . I don’t know,’ she replied. ‘Oh, Peter, I just know I’m

afraid . . .’

Peter said manfully, ‘Well, I’m not,’ though he was not too

certain of it. ‘What is there to be afraid of? I’ll go in first,’ and

he went up to the door and leaned on it with his shoulder. The

latch had iust failed to catch, and now with the pressure it

yielded with a loud click and with a gentle creaking the door

swung aiar sufficiently for Peter to look inside.

The room was clean and neat and the table was bare, as

though that night Mr Grims had not had anything to eat.

Everywhere the geraniums in their pots were full, rich, ripe,

and blooming juicily, the leaves thick and velvety, and each

blossom shedding fragrance so that the room was filled with the

Sweet, pungent, and slightly peppery geranium scent.

Then the pupils of his eyes having adjusted to the brightness

of the single light hanging overhead, Peter saw Mr Grims. He

had gone to bed and lay there quite still, his wom, gnarled hands

outside the covers, and apparently deeply asleep. And somehow,

at the sight, Peter felt touched to his heart. Something very close

to tears rose to his eyes, for he thought he had never seen any-

One look so beautiful. ,

First, the thought came to his mind: ‘He looks like a saint,’

and then was replaced by a much more daring one —- ‘Oh no. He

looks like God.’ For the snow—white hair fell back from his brow

and there was an extraordinary sweetness about the mouth and

the gentle manner in which the closed eyelids lay over the eyes .

that Peter knew contained so much kindliness. The white mous-

taches now fell in two gentle lines about his lips, and with the

_thin arch of his nose and the pose of his head upon the pillow

gave to his face the grave, tender mien of a patriarch, but filled

at the same time with a sense of overpowering peace and majesty.

From the clear, untroubled brow to the relaxed and resting

hands there was not a line of bitterness or protest at his fate.

Something had come to touch Mr Grims with nobility.

Peter did not know how long he stared, for it seemed he could

not take his eyes from him. Then the wireless, which had been

playing away, stopped for a moment and brought him back.

Peter turned to Jennie who was behind him and spoke in the

low voice that one uses when a child is sleeping.

‘Shhhhhhhh. He’s asleep. We can still surprise him. When he

wakes up, we’ll be here for him to see . . .’ P

But Peter was wrong. Mr Grims was not asleep.

All through the night, with the burning eye of the electric

light upon them, Jennie huddled miserably in a corner and wept

for the old man who had been kind and befriended her and now

would never know that she had come back to him. Peter sat by

her and tried to comfort her with words, or an occasional sym-

pathetic lick or two of washing, or just silently pressed his body

close to hers. He could feel her trembling with sorrow and

wished that there was more that he could do for her. In a way it

seemed strange to him that Mr Grims should be so contented

and serene and Jennie so shaken with misery.

The wireless played steadily on until midnight, when it shut

down, only to come on again at very early in the morning and

awaken Peter from sleep into which he had fallen in spite of

himself. And with the dawn came voices and footsteps outside

the door, and a moment later someone called -

‘Oi there, Bill. Wotcher doin’ with yer light on and yer wire-

less goin’ at this hour. It’s just the keys we’re after.

It was one of the foremen accompanied by two of the dock

workers, and seeing the door was open they started to come in

when the foreman said — ‘ ’Ullo-’ullo~! Steady there, boys. I don’t

like the looks of this at all. Here, Bill! Bill Grimsl Are ye

ill?’One of the dock hands said, ‘If ye ask me, it looks loike the

poor old chap’s ’ad ’is last illness.’

‘Aye. And that’s the truth ye’ve spoken.’

All three removed their caps and came inside hesitantly and

awkwardly, as if now that there was no longer any possible

chance of their doing so they were afraid they might disturb Mr

Grims. The foreman, with a grave look of sympathy and con-

cern on his seamed and leathery face, studied the strange scene,

the quiet figure on the bed, all the gay and gracious—coloured

plants, the two cats, one tiger-striped brindle with small head,

shining, liquid eyes and snow-white throat and mask, and the

other a creamy tom with broad head and shoulders and not a

single mark or blemish on him.

Then he snapped off the wireless set and at the same time

extinguished the light so that nothing but the early dawn glow

came in through the windows. ‘Aye,’ he said, ‘ ’tis so. And none

but his two faithful pets here to ease the loneliness of his last

hours and be at his side when the stunmons came.’

The foreman’s words gave Peter a wrench at his heart. He

took some comfort that Iennie could not understand all the fore-

man had been saying and was glad likewise that he did not know

that even that solace had been denied Mr Grims, and that when

the call had come he had taken to his cot by himself and faced it

alone.

The foreman gently drew the cover over Mr Grims’s shoul-

ders and head, and then went about the place performing the

last offices of tidying up a little. One of the dockers bent down

before he left and rubbed Peter’s ears for a moment. ‘Aye, pusses,

Y6 know, don’t ye,’ he said. ‘Ye’ll be in need of a new home now

and someone else to feed and look after ye, Ah well .... First

there’s to see that he’s properly cared for and then we’ll think of

What’s to be done for ye. Old Bill would have wanted his friends

remembered . . .’

He and the two dockers went out quietly, leaving the door

ayar.

Peter said to Jennie: ‘He’s going to be looked after. I heard X

the foreman say so. You mustn’t grieve so. We came as quickly

as we could. . .’

But Jennie refused to be comforted. She said: ‘He shared his

food and broke bread with us. He spoke to us sweetly and kindly

and begged us to stay with him. And I laughed at him and made

you run away. Peter, Peter . . . How can I ever forgive myself?

Don’t you see, if it hadn’t been for me and the way I acted, if we

had stayed, it could all have been different? He might even have

had something to live for again, instead of falling ill and just

lying down to die. And even so, we would have been here by his

side, or maybe we could have run and got help for him. Oh, I

wish I were dead . . .’

She fell silent again and Peter, squatting down beside her be-

thought himself of what to do. He felt that unless there was

some way that he could distract her mind, she might well remain

there mourning and brooding over something which could now

no longer be helped, and perhaps even grieve and starve herself

to death. He knew that neither he nor she would ever forget, that

a thoughtless cruelty can be too late repented of, that life does

not take cognizance of how one feels or what one would like to

do to make up for past errors, but moves inexorably, and that

the burden is more often ‘too late, too late’ rather than ‘just in

time . . .’ A good deed or a right action wanted much immediacy

in its performance. He also knew that he must help Jennie at

once.

He said finally, ‘Jennie . . . there is nothing further we can do

here. I have a wish . . . I want to go home . . .’

‘Home?’ she said, as though the word had a strange and un-

familiar ring in her ears.

‘To Cavendish Mews,’ Peter said, and then added- ‘Just to

visit. . . , Perhaps I could see Mummy and Daddy and Nanny,

from the outside, for a moment. We might just walk by and

look in . . .’

‘Yes,’ said Iennie, in a dull, hurt voice, ‘you must go.’

‘But I can’t go alone, jennie. I don’t dare. You must come

with me. I need you. Don’t you see? . . . Just as you needed me

to go to Glasgow, I need you to help me here. I’m not yet

enough cat to get around London by myself. I’d get lost, I’m

not sure I could even find my way, or get a meal, or secure a

place to sleep at night. Jennie, please help me. I do so want to

see them just once more . . .’

A change came over jennie. Her lithe body lost the sick, slack,

slumped crouch and pulled itself together again. As usual, when

She was much moved, she sat up and gave her back a few licks.

Then she said, ‘If you really think you need me, Peter . . .’

‘Oh, but, Jennie, I do . . .’

‘Then I’ll go with you, whenever you say.’

Peter jumped up and looked out of the window. Off in the

distance, down by the goods wagons on the siding, he could see

a group of people approaching, the foreman, the two dockers, a

man carrying a black bag, and several others.

‘I think we’d better go now,’ he said, ‘before they come back.

Without another word, Jennie arose and they slipped out of

the door, but it was significant that this time it was Peter who

led the way and Jennie who followed him. They quickly slipped

around behind the shack, and then alternately running and

walking down the water side of the docks and sheds, soon

reached the iron gates of the pier which now stood open, and

went through them out into the street again.

CHAPTER NINETEEN

London Once More

Ir was only half true that Peter wanted to go home.

For boy and cat were becoming so intermingled that Peter was

not at all certain any longer which he really was.

More than once during his voyage aboard the Countess of

Greenock and the subsequent adventures, Peter had thought of

his mother and father and Scotch Nanny and wondered how

they were, if they were missing him, and whether they had any

explanation for his mysterious disappearance. For certainly,

none of them, not even Nanny, who had been right there at

the time, could be expected to guess that he had changed sud-

denly from a boy into a snow-white tomcat under her very eyes

almost, and had been pitched out into the street by her as a

stray.

He thought it was probable that they would have notified the

police, or perhaps, believing that he had run away, placed an

advertisement in the ‘Personal’ columns of The Times saying:

‘Peter: Come home, all is forgiven - Mummy, Daddy, and

Nanny,’ or possibly it might have been more formally worded:

‘Will anyone who can give information as to the whereabouts of

Master Peter Brown, vanished from Number lA Cavendish

Mews, London, wc2, kindly communicate with Colonel and

Mrs Alastair Brown of that address. Reward!’

But in the main, when he thought of those at home he did

not believe that he was much missed except by Nanny who, of

course, had been busy with him almost from morning until

night, leaving out the hours when he was at school, and now

that he was gone would have nothing to do. His father was

away from home so much of the time that except for their

occasional evening romps he could hardly be expected to notice

the difference. And as for his mother — Peter always felt sad and

heavy—hearted when he thought about his mother, because she

had been so beautiful and he had loved her so much. But it was

the kind of sadness that is connected with a memory of some-

thing long ago that was. Looking back to what life had been like

in those now but dimly recollected days, he felt certain that his

mother had been a little unhappy herself at first when he was

missed, but then, after all, she never seemed to have much time

and now that he was gone perhaps it would not have taken her

long to get used to it.

Q Really it was Jennie who had come more and more to mean

family to him and upon whom he leaned for advice, help, com-

panionship, trust, and even affection. It was true, she talked a

great deal and was not the most beautiful cat in the world, but

there was an endearing and ingratiating warmth and grace about V

her that made Peter feel comfortable and happy when they slept

coiled up close to one another, or when even he only looked at

her sometimes and saw her sweet attitudes, kindly eyes, gamin-

wise face, and soft white throat.

The world was full of all kinds of beautiful cats, prize speci-

mens whose pictures he had seen in the illustrated magazines

during the times of the cat shows. Compared to them, Iennie

was rather plain, but it was an appealing plainness he would not

have exchanged for all the beauty in the world.

Nor was it his newly acquired cat-self that was seeking a

return to Cavendish Mews in quest of a home, though to some

extent the cat in him was now prey to curiosity as to how things

were there without him and what everyone was doing. But he

knew quite definitely that his mother and father were people

who had little or no interest in animals, did not appear to have

any need of them, and hence would be hardly likely to offer a

haven to a pair of stray cats come wandering in off the streets,

namely Jennie and himself.

Peter’s suggestion that Jennie accompany him on a trip home

to Cavendish Mews was perhaps more than anything born out

of the memory that when he had been unhappy and upset about

their treatment of Mr Grims at the time of the first encounter

with him, she had managed to interest and distract him by pro-

posing the journey to Scotland. When he saw her sunk in the

depths of grief and guilt over the fate of the poor old man, Peter

had plucked a leaf out of her book of experience in the hope that

it would take her mind off the tragedy, and particularly what she

considered her share in it. By instinct, he seemed to have known

that nothing actually would have moved her from the spot but

his expression of his need for her.

Whatever, it was clear after they had set out for Cavendish

Mews that she was in a more cheerful frame of mind and

anxious to help him achieve his objective.

It is not easy for cats to move about in a big city, particularly

on long journeys, and Jennie could be of no assistance to Peter

in finding his way back to Cavendish Mews, since she had never

lived or even been there and hence could not use her homing

instinct, a kind of automatic direction—finder which communi-

cated itself through her sensitive whiskers and enabled her to

travel tmerringly to any place where she had once spent some

time.

Peter at least had the unique—·from a cat’s point of view-

ability to know what people around him were saying, as well as

being able to read signs, such as for instance appeared on the

front of omnibuses and in general terms announced where they

were going. One then had but to keep going in that direction

and eventually one would arrive at the same destination or

vicinity. In his first panic at finding himself a cat and out in the

street, Peter had Hed far from his home with never any account

taken of the twistings and turnings he had made. However, he

was quite familiar with his own neighbourhood, and knew if he

could once reach Oxford and Regent Streets he would find his

way.

However, when it came to the lore of the city and how to pre-

serve one’s skin whole, eat, drink, and sleep, Jennie as usual

proved invaluable.

En route he learned from her all the important things there

were to know about dogs and how to handle them, and that for

instance he must beware of terriers of every kind, that the aver-

age street mongrel was to be despised. Dogs on leashes could be

ignored even though they put up a terrific fuss and roared,

threatened, growled, and strained. They only did it because they

were on the leash, which of course injured their dignity, and

they had to put up a big show as to what they would do if they

were free. They behaved exactly the same when sighting another

dog, and the whole thing, according to Jennie, was nothing but

a lot of bluff, and she for one never paid the slightest attention

to them.

‘Never run from a dog if you can control it,’ she admonished

Peter, ‘because most of them are half blind, anyway, inclined to

be hysterical, and will chase anything that moves. But if you

don’t run, and stand your ground, chances are he will go right

by you and pretend he neither sees you nor smells you, par-

ticularly if he has tangled with one of us before. Dogs have long

memories.

‘Small dogs you can keep in their places by swatting them the

way we do when we play—box, only you run your claws out and

hit fast and hard, because most of them are scared of having

their eyes scratched and they don’t like their noses clawed either,

because they are tender. Here for instance is one looking for

trouble, and I’ll show you what I mean.’

They were walking through Settle Street, near Whitechapel,

looking for a meal, when a fat, overfed Scottie ran barking from

a doorway and made a good deal of attacking them, barking,

yelping, leaping, and charging in short rushes with an amount

of snapping of its teeth, bullying, and bravado. ·

Jennie calmly squatted down on the pavement, facing the foe ,

with a kind of humiliating uninterest which he mistook for fear

and abject cringing, and which gave him sufficient courage to

close in within reach and risk a real bite with his teeth at

Jennie’s flank. Like lightning flashes her left paw shot out three

times, while she leaned away from the attack just enough to let

the Scottie miss her. The next moment, cut on the end of his

nose and just below the right eye, he was legging it for the cover

and safety of the doorway, screaming ‘Help, murder. Watch! !’

‘Come on,’ Jennie said to Peter. ‘Now wave got to move out.

You’ll see why in a minute.’ Peter had long since learned not to

question her, particularly when it was something that called for

split—second timing, and he quickly ran after her out of range,

lust as the owner of the dog, a slatternly woman, evidently the

Droprietress of the dingy greengrocery, came out and threw a

dishpan full of water after them, but missed, thanks to Jennie’s

wisdom and speedy action.

Tm out of practice,’ Jennie said, with just a touch of her old-

time showing off for Peter, ‘I missed him with my third.

Still .... They’ll run off screaming for help, and if you stay

around you’re likely to catch it, as you saw, though not from

them .... And you don’t always have to do that. Quite often

they’ve been brought up with cats, or are used to them, and are

just curious or want to play, and come sniffing and snutlling and

smelling around with their tails wagging, which as you know

means that they are pleased and friendly and not angry or agi-

tated or nervous over something as it does with us. Then you

can either bear up under it, and pretend not to notice it, or tty

to walk away or get up on top of something they can’t reach. I,

for one, just don’t care for a wet, cold, drooly nose messing

about in my fur, so I usually give them just a little tap with the

paw, unloaded, as a reminder that we are after all quite totally

diiferent species and their way of playing isn’t ours.’

‘But supposing it’s a bigger dog,’ Peter said. ‘Like the ones in

Glasgow . .,.’

Jennie gave a little shudder. ‘Ugh!’ she said. ‘Don’t remind

me of those. As I told you then, any time you see a bull terrier,

run, or better still, start climbing.

‘But a great many of the others you can bluff and scare by

swelling up and pretending to be bigger than you actually are.

Let me show you. You should have been taught this long ago,

because you can never tell when you are going to n`eed it.’

They were walking near Paternoster Row, in the wide-open

spaces created by the bombs before St Paul’s Cathedral, and

Jennie went over a low coping and into some weeds and fire-

flowers that were growing there. ‘Now,’ she said, ‘do just as I

do. Take a deep breath, that’s it, way in. Now blow, but hold

your breath at the same time. Hard! There you go.’ J

And as she said, there indeed Peter went, swelling up to

nearly twice his size, just as Jennie was, all puffed out into a

kind of lopsided fur ball. He was sure that he was looking per-

fectly enormous and quite out of plumb, and he felt rather

foolish. He said as much to Jennie, adding ‘I think that’s silly?

She answered, ‘Not at all. You don’t realize it, but you really

looked quite alarming. It’s sort of preventive warfare and, on the

contrary, makes a good deal of sense. If you can win a battle

without having to fight it, or the enemy is so scared of you that

he won’t even start it, and goes away and there is no battle at all,

that’s better than anything. It doesn’t do any harm, and it’s

always worth trying, even with other cats. For in spite of the

fact that you know it’s all wind and fur, it will still give you the

creeps when someone does it to you.

Peter suddenly thought back on Dempsey and how truly

terrifying the battle—scarred veteran of a thousand fights had

looked when he had swelled up and gone all crooked and menac-

ing on him.

‘And anyway,’ Jennie concluded the lesson, ‘if it shouldn’t

happen to work, it`s just as well to be filled up with air because

then you are ready to let out a perfect rouser of a battle-cry, and

a very often that does work, provided you can get it out of your

system before the other one does. A dog will usually back away

from that and remember another engagement.

In the main, on this walk across a portion of London, Peter

found cats to be very like people. Some were mean and small

and pernickety, and insisted upon all their rights even when

asked politely to share; others were broadminded and hospitable,

with a cheery ‘Certainly, do come right in. There’s plenty of

room here,’ before Jennie had even so much as finished her

gentle request for permission to remain. Some were snobs who

refused to associate with them because they were strays, others

had once been strays themselves, remembered their hardships,

and were sympathetic; there were cantankerous cats always

spoiling for a iight, and others who fought just for the fun of

fighting and asserting their superiority, and many a good-

natured cat belonging to a butcher, or a pub, or a snack—bar, or

greengrooer, would steer them towards a meal, or share what

they had, or give them a tip on where to get a bite.

Also Peter learned, not only from Jennie but from bitter ex-

perience, to be wary of children, and particularly those not old

enough to understand cats, or even older ones with a streak of

Cruelty. And since one could not tell in advance what they

would be like, or whether they would fondle or tease, one had no

choice, if one was a London stray, but to act in the interest of

one’s own safety.

This sad piece of knowledge Peter acquired in a most distress-

ful manner as they threaded their way past Petticoat Lane, in

Whitechapel, where a grubby little boy was playing in the gutter

outside a fish and chip shop. He was about Peter’s age, or at

least the age Peter had been before the astonishing transforma-

tion had happened to him, and about his height, and he called

to them as they hurried by, ‘Here, puss. Come here, Whitey . . .’

Before ever Jennie could warn him, or breathe a ‘Peter, be

careful!’ he went to him trustingly, because in a way the boy

reminded him of himself and he remembered how much he had

loved every cat he saw in the streets, and particularly the strays

and wanderers. He went over and held up his head and face

to be rubbed. The next moment the most sharp and agonizing

pain shot through his body from head to foot so that he thought

he would die on the spot. He cried out half with hurt and half

with fear, for he did not know yet what had happened to him.

Then he realized that the boy had twined his fingers firmly

about his tail and was pulling. Pulling HIS tail. Nothing had

ever hurt him so much or so excruciadngly.

‘Nah there,’ laughed the boy, nastily, ‘let’s see yer get away . . .’

With a cry of horror and outrage, and digging his claws into

the cracks in the pavement, Peter made a supreme effort and

managed to break loose, certain that he had left his tail behind

him in the hand of the boy, and only after he had rim half a

block did he determine that it was still streaming out behind and

safely attached to him.

And here Peter discovered yet another thing about cats that

he had never known before. There was involved not only the

pain of having his tail pulled, but the humiliation. Never had he

felt so small, ashamed, outraged, and dishonoured. And all in

front of Jennie. He felt that he would not be able to look at her

again. It was much worse than being stood in a corner when he

had been a boy, or being spoken to harshly, or having his ear

tweaked or knuckles cracked in front of company.

What served to make it endurable was that Jennie seemed to

understand. She neither spoke to him sympathizingly, which at

that moment Peter felt he would not have been able to bear, nor

even so much as glanced at him, but simply trotted alongside

minding her own business and pretending in a way that he was

not there at all, which was a great help. Gradually the pain and

the memory began to fade, and finally, after a long while, when

Jennie turned to him and out of a clear sky said: ‘Do you know,

I think it might rain tonight. What do your whiskers say?’ he

was able to thrust his moustache forward and wrinkle the skin

on his back to the weather-forecasting position and reply:

‘There might be a shower or two. We’d better hurry if we

want to reach Cavendish Square before it starts. Oh, look there!

There’s the proper bus just going by now. We can’t go wrong if

we keep in the same direction.

It was a Number 7, and the sign on the front of it read ‘Oxford

Street and Marble Arch'.

‘For Oxford Street crosses Regent Street, and then comes

Prince’s Street, and if we turn up Prince’s Street we can’t help

coming into Cavendish Square,’ Peter explained, ‘and then it’s

only a short step to the Mews and horne.’

Jennie echoed the word ‘home’ in so sad and wistful a voice

that Peter looked at her sharply, but she said nothing more and

proceeding quickly by little short rushes, from shop door to

shop door, as it were, the two soon had passed from Holborn

through New Oxford Street into Oxford Street, and across

Regent Street to Prince’s Street where they turned up to the

right for Cavendish Square.

CHAPTER TWENTY

The ‘Elite’ of Cavendish Square

Now that they were at last in Cavendish Square, Peter was all

afire to hasten on to the Mews. Here once more were all the

familiar sights close to home that he knew so well, the small

oval park surrounded by tall green shrubs, planted hedge-like so

close together that they formed a palisade barring out all but

cats and giving entrance actually only through the iron gate at

the north.

Here, likewise inside the little gardens, were the nursemaids

knitting by their prams, the children playing, safe from the

traflic passing through the streets outside. Around the oval he

recognized all the sleepy, dignified-looking houses on three sides

of the square, elegant even to the one that had been fire-bombed

and gutted and hid its wounds and empty spaces behind its un-

touched outer walls, doors, and boarded-up windows, that all

the more gave one the impression that it had shut its eyes and

did not wish to be disturbed.

There, standing in front of it too, was Mr Wiggo, the Police

Constable, tall and comforting-looking in his round blue helmet,

dark blue cape, and clean white gloves; Mr Legg, the Postman,

was coming out of Number 29; the delivery wagon from the

Co-Op was just turning the corner; it seemed to Peter that any

moment he must see Scotch Nanny wearing her crisp, starched,

blue—and—white Glengarry bonnet with the dark blue ribbons

streaming from it, come marching into the square from the

Mews, with perhaps even himself being held by the hand and

dragging a bit maybe because he did not like being babied.

There it all was. Only a bit further and he would be seeing the

home that he had left what seemed like such a long, long time

ago. He said to Jennie, ‘Hurry, Jennie. Come along; W/e’re

almost there.’

But much as she disliked having to do so, Jennie had to cau-

tion him and restrain his impatience, for this was after all new

territory into which they were coming as strangers, and it be-

hoved them to tread softly, make their manners, get acquainted,

and above all answer questions politely and listen to what the

residents had to say. Thereafter they would be free to come and

go as they pleased provided they were accepted by the important

members of the community. But to go rushing pell-mell through

a district which obviously housed a large cat population, with-

out pausing for amenities, could only lead them into trouble.

‘It will only be a little longer, Peter,’ Jennie said. ‘But every-

body would be most upset if we didn’t stop and make ourselves

known. Remember, we are strangers here. Come, walk quietly

with me around the right side of the square and we’ll see what

they are saying. We’ll tune in on them.

,Peter did not wholly understand what Jennie meant by this

until they passed the area—way of Number 2A where lived the

janitor who was also the caretaker and keeper of the key for

the tiny gardens. And there for the first time he encountered the

wonders of feline communication by Whisker antennae. It was

like broadcasting. They thought something, and in a moment

you knew what they were saying, or thinking of saying, at any

rate, because it came in through your whiskers or the vibrissae

or feeler hairs growing out from above your eyes. Then you

thought the reply, and it went out to them. It operated only over

short distances and one actually had to be close to the cat with

whom one was communicating, but work it did.

For _while_the caretaker was not at home, his cat was, seated

behind the window, and Peter was delighted to recognize the big

black tom with the white patch on his chest and the enormous

green eyes that he had seen so often when he lived near the

Square. It was then he realized that the cat behind the window

was broadcasting to them, for the window being closed he

couldn’t hear him, but he knew as plain as day that he had

said: ‘Mr Black is the name. Blackie, for short. I rather run

things around here. Are you strays, or home cats from another

neighbourhood visiting?

Peter felt Jennie reply politely, ‘Strays, sir.’

‘Hm!’ The large round eyes were staring at them fixedly

through the glass of the window-pane as Mr Black radioed the

next question: ‘Just passing through, or were you thinking of

stopping off ?’

Peter could contain himself no longer, and quite forgetting _

Jennie’s early admonition, sent out on his own wavelength.

‘()h, but I live here. I mean, just north in the Mews. Don’t you

remember me? I’m Peter Brown from Number 1A.... My

father is Colonel Brown, and —— ’

Mr Black interrupted. He had a most suspicious look on his lg

face. ‘Peter Brown, eh? Can’t say I’ve ever seen you before in ,

my life, and I rather know everybody around here. Never knew ;

the Browns to keep a cat. They used to have a small boy, but

he’s gone away. Look here, my smart friend, if you’re trying  

to crash this neighbourhood under false pretences, let me tell t

YOU ·· ,  at

But here, fortunately, the quick-thinking jennie intervened  

wit.h, ‘Please, sir, it’s what my friend imagines. Thafs his  

imagining game. He’s always playing it . . .’  

‘Ah well,’ said Mr Black, ‘as long as that’s all it is. We’re not

snobs in this neighbourhood, but we’re rather full up on strays

at the moment.?

‘We’re just back from Glasgow; Jennie commented, rather Q

irrelevantly it seemed to Peter, who had yet to learn how well ·

she knew what she was about and that above all cats must be  

kept interested. Q

Mr Black was interested. ‘Glasgow. You don’t say. I used to f

know some cats there. How did you come down?’ _·

Peter had recovered from his mistake and felt that he could ‘

answer this. Proudly he sent forth: We shipped out,’ using a  

phrase he had learned from listening to the sailors aboard the E

Countess. ‘Countess of Greenock — Glasgow —London . . .’  

Mr Black looked impressed. ‘Well, well,’ he said. ‘Ship’s cats.  `;

You two probably know your way about, then. I used to belong .

to a sailor once- well, a kind of sailor, perhaps more of a deck- l

hand person. He worked on the ferry that runs between Devon—  

port and Torcross. Did you know that that operated on a cable ll

that ran under the water from one shore to the other?’  ’

Jennie indicated politely that she d.idn’t, and that she had  

never heard of such an amazing thing!  

‘\X'/ell, it did,’ insisted Mr Black. ‘I don’t suppose you would l

call that sailing, exactly, but it does give us something in com-

mon in a way, so I suppose it will be all right for you to stay. ,

The bombed premises at Number 38 is where most everyone

lives. You tell them I said it was all right for you to be there.

And mind you, see that you obey the rules of the neighbourhood,

or out you go, both of you. The principal one to remember is no

tipping over of dustbins at night. The residents don’t like it and

complain to Mr Clegg. He’s the man who does for me. He owns

the park and the square and everything. And no fighting! That

disturbs the residents too. If you must iight, go over to Wigmore

Street, or Manchester Square. There’s fighting goes on there all

the time. We try to keep our neighbourhood quiet and respect-

able. There are two spinsters who live down at Number 52 who

are susceptible and will give you milk occasionally if you ask

piteously enough. What did you say your names were?’

‘Jennie Baldrin,’ Jennie replied. ‘I’m part Scottish, you know,

and my friend’s name is Peter, and — ’

‘Right you are,’ interrupted Mr Black. ‘Oarry on then ...’

and he fell to washing vigorously. _

‘There now,’ Jennie said with quiet satisfaction as they went

on slowly. ‘You see? Now we know we have a place to go, just

in case. Greetings to you, my dears. Long life and good health

to you both.’

These last two remarks were addressed to the two greys with

the ring tails and lyre markings on their heads, who sat spin-

ning in the ground-floor window of Number 5 just as they

always had when Peterlived in the neighbourhood, washing,

blinking, purring, and with their eyes following the people who

came and went.

Their reply to Jennie’s polite salutation as it came wafted

through the window was soft and sleepy and often it was diffi-

cult to tell which one was talking.

‘I’m Chin

‘I’m Chilla.’

‘We’re twins.’ ·

‘We’re actually Ukrainian?

‘We’re never allowed to go out of the house.

‘Have you talked to Mr Black?

Since this was the first question addressed to them and seemed

to emanate from both, Peter took it upon himself to reply and

said, ‘Yes, we have. He was very kind and said we might stay.’

If a sniff can be broadcast, that was what seemed to come over

to Peter’s and Jennie’s whiskers next. ‘Hmph! Well! We

always say we don’t know what this neighbourhood is coming

to. It was different when we moved in. Exclusive.

‘Remember, no tipping over of dustbins . . .’

‘Strays! ! !’

‘Long life and good health to you both!’ Jennie murmured _

once more, politely, as they passed out of sight, and then added

—‘Stupid snobs . . .!’ From Number 5 came the vibrations of

low and angry growling. . I

‘Pedigree indeed said Jennie. ‘l’d like to know how far back

they go and what their ancestors looked like when mine were

gods in Egypt. And where is the Ukraine, anyway?’

‘I think it’s in Russia,’ said Peter, who was not very sure, ‘or

maybe Turkey.’ ~

‘Russians!’ Jennie said indignantly. ‘And they talk about

what the neighbourhood is coming to . . .’

‘Long life, good health, and much comfort to you,’ Peter said

as he had been taught, to the ginger cat with light green eyes, 4

squatted behind the iron rail in front of Number ll, with its

tail neatly wrapped around it. This he knew was the cat of Mrs »

Bobbit, the caretaker. He had seen it there often and had even V

stroked it. But now he went up and touched noses. V

The ginger said, ‘Well spoken, youngster. It’s nice to End

somebody left with manners these days. You’ve been properly

taught. Remember, there’s nothing quite like manners to get you  

on in the world. I’ve been very cross this morning, and would

as soon have knocked you ears over tail as not, until you spoke

so softly. Wuzzy is the name. I suppose you’ve seen Mr Black?’

Jennie told their names. She was nearly bursting with pride at

the praise Peter had earned from the ginger—coloured one.

Wuzzy said to Jennie- ‘Jennie Baldrin, eh? That’s Scottish.

But there’s more to you from the look of you. Good breeding.

Egyptian, probably—from your ears. I’m such a mixture no-

body can say where it started. Come back and tell me all about `

you after you’re settled . . .’ I

‘Now THERE; said Jennie Baldrin firmly, ‘is one of the nicest

cats I’ve EVER met. I must have a long talk with 'her,’ and she

looked so pleased and gay and cheered that Peter was indeed

glad that even for just a little he had managed to take her mind

off poor Mr Grims.

As they went on, they were conscious of a soft call from some-

one above somewhere, giving them greetings, long life, and milk

with every meal. They looked up to see a tortoiseshell cat en-

sconced in the bay window of Number 18.

‘Do stop a minute,’ she pleaded. ‘I’m so bored. You two look

as though you’ve been places.’ (‘Haven’t we just,’ was Peter’s

thought to himself.) ‘My name’s Hedwig. I’ve got everything in

the world, and I’m very unhappy. I belong to a childless couple.’

‘Oh dear,’ Jennie sympathized. ‘That cn be just too bad.’

‘It is,’ said Hedwig, ‘believe me. Carry me around all day. On

my back in their arms just like a baby. And cluck and coo and

make noises that I can’t make head or tail out of. I’ve a basket

with a blue ribbon, and pillows and scratching—posts and toys,

just drawers full of things. And I’m so sick of them all. I used to

be pretty handy in an alley myself before they picked me up. If I

can get out for a few minutes later I’ll be over to the bombed

house. I’m dying to hear how it is on the road.’

‘You see,’ Jennie remarked to Peter, as they went on towards g

the top of the square, ‘it isn’t all cream and chopped liver . . .’

They continued and met a stunning, rose—coloured, pedigreed

Persian who talked of nothing but show business and Blue Rib-

bons; a long-haired grey named Mr Silver who assured them

that there was nothing like belonging to a bachelor for the very

best kind of life; and three assorted tabbies who lived with the

two spinsters said, if you didn’t mind too much not being

allowed up on things, there really was nothing like living with

two old maid sisters because nothing ever changed or happened

to frighten or worry one.

And in this manner it was that Peter, accompanied by Iennie

Baldrin, went all the way around Cavendish Square and made

the acquaintance of the friends and neighbours living there and

was accepted by them as one of them, as Jennie had wished it,

and having been so, he came at last to the street that led to the

Mews.

Now, strangely enough, he was no longer in a hurry as he

had been before, but paused for a moment at the entrance to the

narrow little pocket or blind alley, as it were, that was the Mews.

Yet for all of being a cat, and understanding them better than

he had ever before, the thought that soon he would be able to see.

his mother and father made him very happy. He said to jennie  

Baldrin, ‘We did it, Jennie. Here it is. And just down there is  

our house . . .’  

Jennie’s sadness had returned, for she had grown to love Peter  

very much. She said, ‘Yes, Peter. And perhaps just down there

a little way is where you and I will have to part.  

‘Oh, Jennie!’ said Peter. ‘Jennie dear! Don’t you know that it

whatever happens, I’ll never leave you? Never, never, never! ’

But jemiie was a better prophet than she knew. Except that it  

didn’t at all turn out as she thought it would, that which awaited  

them at the tiny, narrow Mews ....

CHAPTER TWENTY-ONE

Reunion in Cavendish Mews

AND now that they were there at last, Peter found that he did

not quite know what to do, or rather, that he really had no plan.

For this was not like a regular visit where you went up to the

front door and rang the bell, and when someone came to answer,

you sent in your card with a message scribbled on it — ‘Mr Peter

Brown, late of Number la Cavendish Mews, solicits the honour

of an interview with his mother and father, Colonel and Mrs

Brown. Or you didn’t even go bursting through the front door,

granting that it was off the latch, shouting — ‘Mu.mmy!

Mummy! I’m home. I’m back again. Have you missed me?’

He couldn’t even reach the doorknob, much less the bell. He

had the shape and form of a large white cat and had lost the

power to speak to human beings, though he could understand

them, and even had he been able to talk to his mother and father

or Nanny, who was afraid of eats to begin with, the idea of try-

ing to persuade them that actually he was Peter to whom some··

thing very odd had happened did not seem to him to be very

sensible. He might have been able to explain it to someone of his

own age without any difficulty, but a grown—up would be more

likely to say: ‘Stuff and nonsense. Small boys don’t turn into

cats,’ and there would be an end of it.

But now that the moment had come he thought it might be

nice if they just went and sat in front of the house for a while

and looked. Perhaps his father was home and he could see him

through the window on the ground floor if the curtain was not

drawn, or his mother and Nanny might come in or out of the

house and he would have the opportunity to observe that they

were well and in good health, and above all to show his mother

to Iennie Baldrin. He very much wanted Jennie to see how

beautiful his mother was. And that is what he decided to do.

‘It’s there,’ he said, ‘the little one on the far side of the Mews.’

It was easy to point out to Jennie because it was such a small

one, no more than two storeys high and rather huddled next to

its neighbour, a much larger house of white granite that had

been repaired recently, and into which some new people were to

move just about the time whatever it was had happened to him

to cause him to be changed into a cat.

Theirs was a pretty house, and had a beautiful black door

framed in creamy wood, and on it his father had had fastened

a shiny brass plate with his name on it- ‘Col. A. Brown’ be-

cause people were always having trouble finding the Mews,

much less anyone who lived in it.

Yet now, even before they crossed the street, Peter could see

that there was something odd about the door, or rather different,

yes, and something wrong with the sitting—room window too,

giving on to the street, which always boasted of stiff, starched,

lacy curtains through which one could just see the pie#crust

table on which stood the small bronze statue of Mercury.

Peter saw now what was different. The brass plate was no

longer on the door, nor were there any curtains in the window,

or any furniture whatsoever in the room, for one could now look

right in and see that it was empty. But in the corner of the win-

dow was a small white card with some black lettering on it, and

what it said was that the premises were vacant and to let, and

interested parties should address themselves to Tredgemore and

Silkin, in Sackville Street, or inquire of the superintendent. It

was quite clear that the Browns had moved away and no longer

lived at Number lA Cavendish Mews, and as to where they had

gone there was not one single, solitary clue.

Peter’s first reaction was that he was not at all surprised. They

always seemed to be moving from one place to another. He re-

membered that, and it had something to do with his father being

in the Army and shifting his station.

His second emotion was one of bleak disappointment. It had

not seemed so bad being a cat, particularly after Jennie had

found him and taken him under her protection, and their adven-

tures together he had enjoyed thoroughly. But suddenly he be-

came aware that always in the background of his thoughts had

been the comforting fact that no matter where he was, or what

happened, his parents were there, living in the little Hat in the

Mews, and when he did think about them he could imagine just

what it was they were doing. Above all it held out the promise

that he could see them again any time he wished to go back,

even though they could not recognize him.

And now they were gone.

Peter sat down in front of the black door and the empty

window, and blinked his eyes hard to keep back the tears. Not

even washing would have been a solace for the grief he felt. He

had been so eager that his new accomplishments might be made

manifest and that he would have been able to show his mother

and father some of the things that he had learned to do, and let

them know that this was no longer the same Peter who had to

be held by the hand by Scotch Nanny when crossing the street.

He could now go about London quite well, almost by himself.

And he had taken a trip to a strange city on a steamship, been

7 chased up a bridge by dogs, he could kill rats and mioe, and earn

his keep and the admiration of a man like Mr Strachan, the first

mate, and altogether he had become a very important person.

He might have been able to control himself, but the quick-

witted Jennie, even without being able to read, had guessed what

had happened and tried to comfort him. ‘Oh, Peter,’ she said,

brushing up close to him, ‘they’ve gone away and left you. I’m

so sorry. It’s just like . . . well, when my people went away and

left me. It must be. I do understand.

Reminded thus of her own tragedy, Jennie felt on the point of

weeping herself, but holding back with an effort she fell to

washing his face firmly and lovingly with that sweetly gallant

movement of her head which Peter found so touching, and of

course this caused him at once to burst into tears.

Even so, he was sorry too for Jennie that she had been re-

minded of the great tragedy of her life, and so partly to try to

recover his own composure, as well as to make known his sym-

pathy for her, he reciprocated by washing her face at the same

time she was washing his, with the result that now Jennie also

lost control of her emotions. In a moment they were both sit-

ting on the pavement in the Mews, lamenting piteously, seeking ·

relief from their grief in loud, mournful song, and of course

doing the one thing against which Mr Black had warned them,

namely, making a noise and disturbing the residents, even

though it was broad daylight and not yet two o’clock in the

afternoon.

For upstairs on the second floor of the large white granite

house next door, a window went up and somebody said, ‘Oh

hush, kitties. Go away. You make me sad.’

Thereupon a head appeared at the window, looking out and

down upon the two unhappy cats, an extraordinarily pretty one

belonging to a young girl whose long, wavy brown hair, tied

with a red ribbon, tumbled down on either side of a fresh and

sweet face featuring a tender mouth and soft, endearing brown

eyes.

This was what was revealed to Peter as he gazed upwards

through his tears, but Jennie saw something else that made her

recoil as though she had come face to face with a ghost. She

stared at the apparition quite frozen into immobility for an

instant with one paw upraised and the strangest expression on

her face.

And simultaneously, the soft eyes of the girl went all round

and alight with wonder, her mouth formed into an ‘O’ of sur-

prise and momentary disbelief, and then she cried out — ‘Jennie!

Jennie Baldrin! Oh, my darling! Oh wait! Wait! I’m coming

to you . . .’

Then she was gone from the window, and both Peter and

Jennie, heard the sound of hurried footsteps running down the

stairs inside, and before Peter had time to say more than-

‘Jennie, she knew your name, she called you by it,’ the door to

the street burst open and through it ran the child all flushed and

panting and gathered Jennie into her arms and was hugging and

kissing her, holding and rocking and crying over her and saying,

‘Jennie, my dear, dear, DEAR Jennie! Oh it is you. I’ve found

you at last. Or was it you who found M E, you clever, clever cat.

My darling, darling Jennie, you do know me, your own Buff,

don’t you, dearest? Oh I must kiss you all over again . . .’

And there was no doubt that Jennie did know her, for in an

instant and with a look of complete bliss and happiness on her

face she had draped herself about Buff’s shoulders like a long,

live, limp fur—piece, and set up a purring louder than any aero-

plane motor in the sky.

Now Buff shouted upstairs, as other windows in the Mews

began to open and people poked their heads out in curiosity

at the noise—-‘Mummy, Mummy! Jennie’s come back to me.

She’s found me. Mummy, come down and look. I’m sure it is

Jennie.

Thereupon Buff’s mother came downstairs, and she turned

out to be a tall, sweet—faced woman who resembled Buff, and at

the same time, Peter thought with a pang at his heart, re-

sembled his mother too, so that for a moment he was not quite

certain which was which, but she had no eyes for him whatso-

ever, as indeed neither did Buff, and now both fell to hugging

and stroking and fondling Jennie, and talking together and to

her, and to the nearest heads that were poked out of windows,

marvelling, recounting, explaining the miracle of it all and how

it had happened in the first place that they had come to lose

Jennie three years ago. t

But the thing was, of course, that Peter understood every

word of what they were saying, and it made his heart swell with

joy, because it did prove that they had not abandoned Jennie.

It seemed from what he could piece together that when they

moved away from their old home they had had to go to a hotel

for a few nights, as the paint in the new place was not yet quite

dry. The morning that they were to move in and had planned to

come back and call for Jennie Baldrin, Buff had been taken vio-

lently ill and had been rushed to the hospital where for three

days and three nights her life was despaired of. Doctors and

nurses, her mother and father, had watched constantly at her

bedside, and in the excitement Jennie was forgotten.

At last, when Buff had been pronounced out of danger and on

the road to recovery, Mrs Penny had remembered Jennie, but

more than five days had passed and when she hastened back to

the old house it was to find Jennie gone.

Peter felt it was terribly important that Jennie should know

this at once, and while all of the excitement and talking and cry-

ing was still going on he called up to Jennie, perched high and

happily on Buff’s shoulder, ‘Jennie! I’ve the best news for you.

I’ve been listening to what they’ve been saying. They didn’t go

away and cruelly leave you behind. Buff was taken ill and had to

go to a hospital . . .’ and as quickly as he could he told her the

whole story, and concluded—‘I knew that people who really

loved cats, and particularly you, couldn’t be like that. Aren’t you

glad about it . . .?’

Strangely, although she smiled down at him quite happily and

dieamily, Jennie did not appear to be impressed with the story

or particularly elated over it, though no doubt she was pleased it

had turned out that way, for she said only: ‘It doesn’t really

matter to me any more, Peter, what happened, or how, now that

I have her back again and she loves me. You see, I could for—

give her anything . a .’

This was a point of view so wholly feminine that Peter found

it quite baffling and for a moment felt the forerunner of a real

and awful pang of pain and loneliness which he quickly sup—

pressed, for he wanted to entertain nothing but happiness that

things had turned out so well for Jennie at last. But what Jennie

said next was characteristic of her, and reassuring. She called

down to him with that soft, crooning sound that was reserved

only for their more intimate exchanges of thoughts -— ‘Oh, Peter,

we’re all going to be so happy now. For I know they’ll love you

just as much.’

But this was a dream that was soon shattered. For, as it

turned out, Butt and her mother were hardly even aware of

Peter’s presence, and when at last the first excitement of greeting

and crying over Jennie had begun to calm down, and all the

heads that had popped out of windows in the Mews had drawn

back inside again, Buff, with Jennie still draped lovingly about

her shoulders and with one paw gently caressing her smooth

cheek, turned and made her way inside Number 2 Cavendish

Mews, the big granite house with the rich-looking vestibule

where all of Jennie’s troubles were to cometo an end, and, quite

naturally, Peter followed. But here Buif’s mother, seeing a large

white stray attempting to get through the door, bent down and

gave him a gentle shove out into the street saying, not unkindly,

‘No, no, old chap. Sorry, not you. We can’t have every cat

inside. You run along home now . . .’

There was a slam and a click, and for a second time a door in

Cavendish Mews was shut in Peter`s face leaving him standing

alone and deserted on the outside.

It all happened so quickly that for the moment there was

nothing he could do but stand there and look at the cold, blank,

mahogany door, quite benumbed by what had taken place.

Except that this time he was not entirely deserted, for first he

heard Jennie’s wild cry from inside - ‘Peter! PETER? and then

he felt the waves of her thought broadcasting to him coming

over so strongly as though she were standing next to him —

‘Peter·! Don’t go away! I can’t come now, but I’ll manage

things somehow. Don’t worry. Go to the bombed house at

Number 38 and wait for me. I’ll come as quickly as I can. They

don’t understand about us. Promise me . . .’

Peter sent back his promise, and after that it was quiet in the

Mews. '

CHAPTER TWENTY—TWO

Jennie Makes a Decision

PETER was so stunned by everything that had transpired in the

Mews, the disappearance of his parents, and subsequently the

loss of Jennie due to her finding her family again, that he did

not go immediately to the hostel at Number 38 Cavendish

Square, the bombed-out house where the stray cats of the neigh-

bourhood foregathered, but instead wandered in a dazed manner

in and about the square.

He watched the children playing hopscotch on the walk in-

side the park, leaping on one foot over the chalk marks from one

square into another, and he could not help but think how short

a time ago it was that he himself had been hopping there with

them in the same manner. He recognized several of them and

wondered what they would say if they knew that he had sud-

denly been turned into a cat.

He saw Mr Wiggo, the constable, his thumbs smartly inserted

in his belt, conversing with somebody’s nursemaid, and remem-

bered that he used to stand in exactly the same way when he

talked to Nanny and himself when they would come into the

gardens, saying, ‘\\Vell, and good morning toyou, ·Master Brown.

And how are you this fine day, Mrs McInnis?’ which was

Nanny’s name. Peter realized that if Mr W/iggo saw him now he

would chase him, as neither dogs nor cats were permitted inside

the enclosure, and the constable would never suspect that the

big white cat that was trespassing was Peter Brown to whom he

used to wish such a cheery good morning.

To forestall this catastrophe, Peter slunk under a bush and

hid until Mr W/iggo passed on along the pram-lined walk on his

rounds. But just the fact that he had to slink and hide from the

policeman made Peter feel his plight and loneliness all the more.

Sparrows twittered in the shrubs and hopped and pecked

about the street. Taxicabs coming around the corner went ‘Honk—

honk’ as their drivers squeezed the rubber bulb of their horns;

from Oxford Street came the hum of the heavy traiiic. Although

it was getting on in the afternoon, there was still a sun shining,

the trees in the square were freshly green, and the air had lost its

sharpness. It was May in London, but not for Peter.

He thought of Jennie safe and happy at last with Buff and

the Penny family she loved so much, how she would be taken

care of now, have her comfortable basket again to sleep in, fresh

milk to drink, and all the good things to eat she wanted, with

never again a worry or a care, and Peter wondered whether it

might not be best if he were simply to vanish out of Jennie’s life

and never turn up at the hostel at all. Then she would no longer

have to trouble or bother about him.

The more he thought about this, the more he considered put-

ting it into execution for Jennie’s sake. He had but to turn and

run away from Cavendish Square as he had done once before

and the city would swallow him up for ever. Jennie would grieve

for him at first when he did not keep the rendezvous at the

hostel, but in her happiness with Buff she would get over miss-

ing him after a time, just as his mother had. What became of

him was not important as long as Jennie was well off. With his

new-found self-reliance and all that he had learned from Jennie,

he would make out somehow.

In spite of the pang of loneliness at his heart and the misery

induced by the thought of never seeing Jennie again, Peter

rather fancied the sacrihce he was considering, and its nobility

had a certain attractiveness that tended to obscure his better

sense.

He was saved from this foolish step when it came to him, just

in time, that he had promised to meet Jennie. And he remem-

bered from when he had been a boy that nothing in the whole

world hurt quite so much as a broken word. Once his mother

had promised him that on his birthday she would spend the

entire day with him. And then in the last moment something

had come up which had prevented her from keeping it. Remem-

` brance of the pain this had caused him was so keen that, huddled

under the bush, Peter shook himself to try to drive it away.

Then, quickly pulling himself together lest he should yet suc-

cumb to the temptation, he went arotmd to Number 38 Caven-

dish Square, located the place where the board was loose at the

bottom of the door, and slipped inside.

And when he got there he found Jennie waiting for him.

He was so glad he could have run up and kissed her. As a

matter of fact he did, in spite of the assortment of strays of all

sizes, kinds, and colours sitting or lying about in odd nooks,

crannies, and perches of the burned—out house, that is, he rushed

up and touched noses with her and began washing her face as

Iennie laughed and said:

‘Well! I thought you were never coming. I’ve been here just

hours, I was beginning to get worried that something had hap-

pened to you . . .’

‘But, Jennie,’ Peter said — ‘I never thought you would be here

so soon.’

‘Ho!’ she scoffed. ‘You know me and being kept indoors.

When I make up my mind I want to get out-well! Anyway,

now you’re here, you must come and meet everyone. There are

some really interesting cats here. I’ve been having a chat with

them while I waited for you. Let’s see, we’ll start at the bottom

and go around. This is Hector, here—the name, of course,

doesn’t fit him a bit. He once belonged to a coal miner, and he’s

actually been way down deep in a mine. Later on you must get

him to tell you all about it.’

Hector was a lemon—yellow cat with a faint white stripe and a

somewhat sour expression on his face, and who, Peter noticed,

was not too clean. But he was evidently so pleased by the intro—

duction that Jennie had given him that he was disposed to be

pleasant and gave him rather a lengthy greeting which enabled

Peter to look about and see the kind of place to which he had

come.

The house had been gutted by the blaze that followed the fire-

bomb that dropped on it during the war, and there was little left

but the four walls and a few of the larger beams going across

from one side to the other. However, the steps leading to the

second Hoor were of stone and they had been preserved, as well

as part of the stone landing which still clung to the wall. There

were cats up on the landing, and several squatted comfortably

on the stairs from which vantage point they could look down

with their big green or yellow eyes and take note of everything

that was going on.

But really the best places were in the ruins of the foundations.

Some of the cellar walls and partitions were still standing, now

overgrown with weeds and the purple fire—iiowers, and some of

the corners were covered over, which was fortunate as there was

no roof to the house and when it rained these nooks gave some

shelter. But the way they were cut up by cross-walls and parts of

the older foundation it was almost like small private flats, and

the nice thing was that one always had a little piece of wall at

one’s back, or a corner in which to curl up, and to cats living the

life of strays this was doubly important. J

But Hector was finished saying how pleased he was to meet as

travelled a cat as Peter (Jennie had evidently been laying it on

thick in his absence) and Jennie was now continuing:

‘Well now, this is Mickey Riley who was thrown out in the

streets when he was a kitten and who never had a home. If

there’s anything you ever want to know about London and the

best places to go to make a living, ask Mickey, There’s just

nothing he doesn’t know . . .’

Mickey, a big dark chap with a tiger stripe and an enormous

square head, lapped up Jennie’s Hattery and practically took a

bow as he said: ‘Quite, quite. Be glad to answer your questions.

As Jennie Baldrin says, there isn’t much I haven't seen or done.

Though I will admit I’ve never been to Glasgow on a boat, or

fallen overboard. I’d like to hear about that sometime, youngster.’

How wonderful Jennie was, Peter thought, at always saying

just the right thing and making everybody feel good and purry.

‘This is Ebony,’ Jennie said, introducing Peter to a lean-

flanked, jet-black cat. ‘Isn’t she beautiful? Not a touch of white

on her anywhere, not a single hair. That’s quite unusual, you

know. Ebony used to belong to an old widow, a tobacconist in

Edgware Road. When she died, nobody took her on. She had

been devoted to her, too. Eight years. You would think the

woman would have made some provisions for her. Ebony

learned the streets the hard way, didn’t you, dear?’

Ebony showed a tiny piece of pink tongue at the centre of her

Coal—black mask and quickly gave herself a couple of self-con-

scious licks. She was so pleased she didn’t know whether to stand

up or lie down.

‘And this’ (who proved to be a brindle cat with white face and

whiskers somehow reminiscent of Father Christmas)

Pounce Andrews, who really has had a lot of hard luck. Started `

in a butcher’s shop and it closed down, got a job with a tailor  

and he went out of business, then went into a boarding—house A

and it burned down, and then a private house where he was

staying was hit by a bomb — the only one in the block. Well, you F

know how people talk and how ridiculously superstitious they  

are, especially about cats. Word got arotmd, and nobody, but 7

literally nobody, would have Pounoe around, no matter how  

many mice he brought in. He’s been on his own ever since. And j

he does deserve better, because none of it was his fault . . . Q

‘Oh, and of course,’ jennie continued, ‘I mustn’t forget. This 7

sweet little grey girl is Limpy. She has had a hard time of.it. Or- ‘z

phan. Never even knew who her mother was. Lost her in a flood  

almost before her eyes were open. Country cat, you know. How  

she ever survived I’ll never know. AND then getting her foot T

caught in a trap. And actually moved to the city and learned to

make a go of it. When you are talking about real, true—blue cour-

age...well-’ f

Limpy fell over on her side and did some violent washing. It  

was true. Peter saw that the toes of her left hind foot had been  

crushed. But he was given no time to linger over this tragedy,  

for jennie was spinning merrily on —  

‘Now these two dears are sisters, Putzi and Mutzi. From the *

Continent. Vienna, I think they said. They have known true  

sorrow. Came over here in 1938 with some refugees. Their house  

caught it in ’forty—four. Flying—bomb. Luckily Putzi and Mutzi  

were out visiting in another block. \‘Uhen they came back there f

was nothing, just a hole. They didn’t even find any small pieces  

of their people. And after that, nobody thought of taking them ,·

in. The wonder is that they got on so well in London, I mean

being really foreigners and not knowing our ways at all. Dar-

lings, I think you are really marvellous . . .’  

Putzi and Mutzi, who were a pair of quite ordinary short- `l

haired tabbies with identical looks and expressions, except that

one was a little thinner in the face than the other, purred ;

modestly, and Putzi said: ‘Ach, it is really nothing. What shall

one do? One does the best one can, no?’

And so, one after the other, Peter met them all, including

Tiggo, a half—Persian black with a white mask who had had a

home and was now a stray because he liked it and preferred to `

vagaboncl it than live the soft life, and Smiley, who was a big,

cheerful—looking mottled grey-and—white tomcat who had be-

longed to a bachelor who had got married to a woman who could

not abide cats.

At the end of Jennie"s list of introductions and her recital of

the accomplishments, trials, tribulations, and individual virtues

of each inhabitant of the hostel, there was not a cat in the place

but was reduced to a state of complete adoration of her. And

thus Peter learned that there was more than one way of extract-

ing a living and a night’s shelter and safety from the streets of

London, and that a winning nature and blarneying tongue were

quite as valuable as a sharp claw in a swift paw.

For they soon found themselves settled by the mutual con-

sent and urging, as it were, of all the residents of the hostel, in

the best ground—Hoor suite of the ruined building, a secluded

little dugout made by the rear stairs leading to the cellar and a

corner of a brick wall. The steps were already overgrown with a

kind of fungus—lil<e moss that made a soft bed, and they were

sheltered on three sides by the remains of a brick wall with a

ledge overhead in case it rained. It had been occupied previously

by the two Viennese sisters and Ebony and Limpy who, how-

ever, insisted that Peter and Jennie take it over all to themselves.

And as for dinner, it was a question of choosing from the

many gifts brought to them, and dividing up the rest so that

everybody had something. Mickey Riley brought a bone, G.

Pounce Andrews had a mouse put away that had not been too

much used, Limpy contributed a fish head, and Tiggo had salv—

aged an entire half lobster carcase, legs attached and all, out of a

nearby dustbin.

After supper was over, they all had a general community

wash-up and get together talk—feast, after which some of the

strays who liked night prowling went out through the place

where the board was loose. Others stayed around to chat a little

longer and exchange experiences, and then wandered oif to their

various quarters to sleep.

Down through the top of the roofless house shone a three-

quarter moon, its silvered disc filling the inside of the building

with soft light that made the angles of the ruins stand out

sharply shadowed, and reflected in cold pools of emerald and

topaz from the eyes of the cats who were still awake and had

them open.

Peter, snug against his bit of wall, heard the clock strike eleven

from nearby All Souls’ church tower. His heart was heavy within

him, for any moment now he knew that Jennie would have to be

leaving him and returning to her people. She seemed, however,

to be quite content to remain where she was, and when she

neither made any move to go, nor any mention of having to do

so, Peter himself, no longer able to bear the suspense, brought up

the subject.

‘Jennie,’ he said, ‘won’t you be, I mean, oughm’t you to be

getting back to Buff and the Pennys? Surely Buff will have

missed you when she went to bed . . .! ’

Jennie did not reply for a moment. However, she raised her

sleek head and Peter saw the soft moonshine on her white throat

and mask, and the glitter of her eyes. Then she spoke, saying in

a strange kind of voice, ‘Peter, I’ve been out on my own too long

to go back. I shan’t be returning. I’ve come back to you to stay.

Do you mind very much?’

How very much like Jennie for her to put it that way. Did he

mind her coming back! And dismissing with the simple declara-

tion that she had been a free cat too long to be able to return to

domestication, the depth of the sacrifice she was making for him.

For Peter had no doubt whatsoever that had the Pennys

understood that he and Jennie were together and taken him in

with her she would have been happy to remain there with the

child who had been her first and only real love among human

beings. What she was saying so simply and without any fuss

whatsoever was that she was giving up everything she loved for

him. l

And he was deeply touched by it. But being that inside of him

he still thought like a little boy, he could not help but think of

the sorrow and disappointment that must be the share of Buff,

the little girl with the long brown ringlets and the sweet face.

Aloud, he said to Jennie — ‘Jennie, dear. It was so lonely with-

out you. Nothing seemed the same any more, and I thought that

was how it was always going to be, and I didn’t know what to

do. But won’t it be just too dreadful for poor Buff? She was so

happy to have found you again. Jennie, why does someone

always have to be unhappy?

Peter saw the shining in Jennie’s eyes before she turned her

head away for a few washes as seemed indicated by the emo-

tional content of the moment, and they were brighter and more

glistening than even the moon could have evoked. But she said

after she had smoothed her fur down somewhat and gained con-

trol of herself and her voice:

‘BuH isn’t a child any longer, Peter, and doesn’t need me as

much as she once did. She is almost fifteen now. People change

too, Peter, and as they grow older things no longer mean the

same to them. She will cry when I don’t come back, but she will

get over it, because she has other things that interest her now,

and above all she will remember that I did come back once and

that I understand that she didn’t abandon me on purpose. And

actually,’ she added with that queer and sometimes frightening

wisdom she seemed to possess, ‘what made Buff most unhappy

all the three years was the thought that I believed she had de-

serted me. \Vhich of course I did, because I was a fool, until you

came along and taught me what people really can be like . . .’

She gave herself a long stretch and an inverted ‘U’ bend, and

concluded, ‘Well, anyway, that’s all over and done with. And

now here we are together again. But oh, Peter, for a little you

gave me a bad turn. I was so afraid you might be going to do

something foolish for my sake and not keep your promise to

come and meet me here. Never, never do that, Peter . . .’

Peter thought it best not to say that he had been tempted for

Jennie’s sake. Instead he gave a great sigh. He was very happy

now. They lay down side by side, curled up together, and soon

went fast to sleep. As the disc of the moon slid away from the

opening of the roof, the soft light went out from the inside of

the bombed house and all its ruins and sleeping cats vanished in

the shadows of the night.

CHAPTER TWENTY—THREE

Lulu - or, Fishface for Short

THE next morning was a fine day. Peter awakened to find Jennie

curled up in a tight ball, one paw over her eyes to keep out the

light, and emitting just the tiniest of snores. Although the roof

overhead was now the blue sky, and soon the sun would be

streaming into the hostel, she was still fast asleep. Most of the

other cats were already up and about their business. Some had

departed, others were sitting about making their toilet with a

serious wash, or giving themselves a lick and a promise, depend—

ing upon the state of their personal pride and how low they had

come down in the world.

Peter thought he would go out and forage. It would be nice

if when Jennie woke up there he would be with maybe a mouse,

if he could Hnd one, or perhaps a bone dug out of last night’s

refuse from some of the better houses on the square, or even a

bit of melon rind of which jennie was extraordinarily fond.

And so, moving quietly in order not to awaken her, he stole

away from her side, bade an amiable good morning to Putzi and

Mutzi who were tidying up close to the door, slipped through

the narrow spot at the bottom, and found himself in Cavendish

Square just as the All Souls’ clock struck nine.

Simultaneously with the chime of the steeple clock, Peter was

aware of a little shriek close by and then the most extraordinary p

voice he had ever heard: ‘Oh, I say. You did give me a turn.

I wasn’t expecting anyone. Lumme, but you are tall, white, and

handsome. Whooooooooooeee! Where do you think we all ought _

to go, then?"

Peter himself was startled, because the voice was so deep, i

husky, and disturbing, and turned around quickly to see who it

was had spoken. And what he saw was the most astonishing and

beautiful creature on which he had ever laid eyes, either as boy

or cat.

She was a small puss, much smaller than Jennie, but with a

wonderfully firm and compact body that was coloured a kind of

smoky pearl, or biscuit, or maybe it was more cream—coloured,

or the colour of coffee with a lot of milk in it, and he had never

in all his life seen a cat exactly that shade.

But this was only the beginning of the surprises for Peter, for

she had a seal-coloured face and mask, coal-black triangle of a

nose, cream head, and dark brown ears. She also had four almost

black feet, and tail. But the most marvellous and beautiful of all,

out from the middle of the dark face gleamed two of the loveliest,

shining, liquid, and deep blue eyes he had ever seen. They

weren’t violet and they weren’t sapphire; they weren’t really the

colour of the sea, nor did they quite match the sky; one couldn’t

exactly describe what shade of blue they were, except that

having once seen them one could only think of blue being that

colour thereafter. Peter also noticed that they were slightly

crossed, but this in a way added, rather than detracted, from

the interest and beauties of her countenance. He was quite aware

that he was standing there dumbstruck staring at this lovely

vision, and also that it seemed as if he could do nothing else.

The spell was broken by the little creature herself who skipped

three steps sideways and three steps back again, bushed her tail,

and said, ‘Good evening! I know it’s morning, but I don’t care.

I say what I please. In the evening I say ‘Good morning" if I

feel like it, and I never say "good afternoon". Well?’

The last being a direct question addressed to him, Peter felt

he must reply, but was so bewildered by the charm of the cat as

well as her odd way of speech that he could think of nothing to

say but ‘Good evening, Miss,’ which brought another shriek

from her and this time she jumped straight up into the air, and

when she came down she cried — ‘Oh, I say, you are going to be

fun. My name is Lulu, but all my friends call me Fishface for

short. 'That’s because when I eat bloaters, or kippers, or have a

little hake, brill, cod, or pollock my breath always smells of fish.

Here, I’ll show you. SMELL, And she came over quite close to

Peter and breathed in his face. The aroma of fish was unmistak-

able, but somehow, perhaps now that he was a cat, Peter did not

find it unpleasant.

` He smiled and said, ‘My name is Peter, and -— ’ but could get no

further, for Lulu made a backwards and forwards dash almost

simultaneously and cried ‘Peter, Peter! There was a poem that

started that way, but I’ve forgotten the rest. Anyway, I think up

my own poetry. I am thinking of one now about thimbles. Very

well then, I’ll recite it for you,’ and here she sat down with her

tail folded about her and a most sanctified look on her face that

reminded Peter of some of the saints he had seen on the stained-

glass windows in church, and recited as follows:

"Thimble,

Thimble,

Thimble,

Thimble,

THIMBLE!

‘You see,’ Lulu explained to him after she had finished, ‘unlike

most poetry, it ALL rhymes. Whoooooeeee!’ With a leap and a

bound she was away, chasing a wholly imaginary leaf, whirling,

striking at it with her swift, dark paws, then finally imagining

that it had been blown back close to Peter where she landed on it

with a terrific pounce and crouched there, looking up intensely

into Peter’s face as she said: ‘Do you like tea? Do you like

coffee? I love olives. Wasn’t it a nice day next Thursday?

‘Never mind answering!’ she cried in her deep voice before

Peter could even so much as think of a reply, and got up and

danced away from him with one shoulder all hunched up and

crooked — ‘Come on, dance with me, all sideways and twist-

about. Up you go, and down you go, and AROUND you go; now

RUNIP

Swept away, Peter found himself dancing sideways beside

her, then leaping up into the air and turning all about before he

came down, and then when he landed on the pavement, running,

running, running with her as hard as he could. He could not

remember when he had ever had so much fun or been in the

presence of such a wholly fascinating and enchanting creature.

They did this several times, after which Lulu threw herself

down on her side, stared at Peter out of luminous blue eyes and

announced: ‘Of course, you know I’m Siamese. My father was

a King and my mother a Queen, and all my brothers and sisters

Princes and Princesses. I am a princess myself. Aren’t you glad?’

And again, before Peter could reply that he was indeed very glad,

she half sat up and recited as though it was something she had

once learned out of a book- ‘I’m not like a cat; I’m not like a

dog; I’m more like a monkey, really, but mostly I’m like ME,

and nothing else. I get along with EVERYBODY., Then she con-

cluded rather irrelevantly — ‘I can wear hair ribbons,’ and got up

and began walking down the block in the direction of Portland

Street. When she had proceeded some distance, she stopped and

looked back over her shoulder.

‘Coming?’ she called to Peter. »

Without a second thought, indeed, he could not have helped

himself had he wished it, so enchanted with her had he become,

Peter went trotting after her.

‘Where are we going?’ he asked.

‘Oh,’o cried Lulu with one of her little side jumps. ‘How will

we be able to tell until we get there? Some place exciting. I

haven’t been off like this for ages. I’m so glad I found you. We

can do everything together . . .’

Progress with Lulu, Peter found, was wonderful, enthralling,

exciting, and somewhat nerve wracking. One moment she would

be shrieking with laughter and leaping along the street stiff—

legged, or flying along the top of a fence at full speed, her ears

laid back, tail streaming out behind her, commanding Peter to a

game of ‘Follow My Leader', and the next she would be sitting

down in front of a perfectly strange house, miserably sad and

woebegone, with the tears streaming from her magnificent eyes

and announcing to Peter in heartbreaking tones that she was all

alone in a strange country, thousands and thousands of miles

away from Siam and all the Siamese. ‘You don’t know, you can-

not know what it is to be so far away, so very far away from

everyone . . .’

Peter felt his own heart would break too, she was so pathetic

in her plight and separation from her loved ones. He tried to

comfort her by saying, ‘Oh, poor Lulu. Tell me about your far-

off home and where you were born. Perhaps talking about it will

make you feel better.

‘Who me?’ Lulu chirped, her tears as suddenly drying up as

they had started. ‘Why, I was born in London, of course. Where

else would anybody of any importance be born? My whole

family, too. We have a pedigree longer than our tails. I told you,

all Kings and Queens, didn’t I? Have you a pedigree? Well,

never mind. Your being cute makes up for a lot of things. You

came along at just the right moment. You know, I was so bored.’ ’

Here her hoarse voice sank to a quite confidential whisper- ‘I if

live with very rich people on the Square. Number 35. VERY

rich. He has Shares. Don’t look so sad, Peter. Pm really quite

marvellously happy now. And off she would go, leaping, twist-

ing, dancing, and shouting at the top of her lungs, and of

course Peter would be after her full tilt, laughing madly at her .

funny ways.  

Thus in many starts and stops they found themselves at last,  

after climbing steadily for some time and proceeding up many

curvy blocks of small houses one just like another, on a sort of  

plateau, an open space with a rail around it, almost like being on

the top of a mountain. For when you looked over the edge, there

was all of London spread out beneath your feet and stretching

for mile upon mile of streets and houses and spires, and the sil-

ver winding of the Thames, and the millions and millions of

chimneypots on the rooftops, the endless rows of grey houses,

and in the distance the occasional spots of green that marked the

little parks in the squares. There was the big patch of green that  

was Regent’s Park, another that was Hyde Park, and a third that

was Kensington Gardens; tall chimneys and cranes far off that

marked the docks and factories and warehouses on the Thames

and, after that, the whole trailing off and vanishing into a kind

of blueish haze of distance and mist and smoke. ig

‘Hampstead Heath!’ Lulu announced. ‘Isn’t it picturesque?

often like to come up here just to meditate and with that she

threw herself down on the ground, closed her eyes, and was

quiet for just five seconds, when she was up again, gave herself a

couple of fierce and energetic- washes on both sides of her neck  

and said, ‘There! Now that_I’ve meditated, where shall we go

next? Oh, I want to have fun, fun, fun! One can’t be serious all  

the time you know . . .’ °

It was well on towards noon, for the journey up to the Heath

had taken considerable time, and Peter ventured to remind Lulu  

that it was getting late. ‘Oughtn’t you to be thinking about get- I

ting back?’ he asked- ‘I mean, your people, you know. Won’t

they miss you ?’ I

Lulu stopped and looked at him as though she could not

believe her ears.

‘Miss me? Of course they will. They’ll bust when I don’t

come back. Why, that’s half the sport. What fun would it be if

they didn’t care? I’m sure they’ll have notified Mr. Wiggo the

Constable already. They hate me to be out. Sometimes I don’t

come back for days if I don’t feel like it. I think I don’t feel like

it right now. I think I feel like staying away for maybe three

whole days, just to see what that would be like. I’ve never done

that before. They will be upset. Oh listen, Peter. It sounds like

music somewhere. Let’s go THERE ! ’

It was quite true. As Peter pitched his ears forward to listen,

he could hear borne on the wind the strains of the gay and strid-

ent music that sometimes comes from a carousel. Somewhere in

the vicinity there was a Fun Fair.

They set off, following the direction of the sound, and sure

enough pretty soon they came to a large collection of tents from

which gay pennants were flying, booths, roundabouts, coconut

shies, ice-cream counters, aeroplane whirls, auto dodgems, shoot-

ing galleries, shove—ha’penny boards, darts games, sideshows with

dancing girls, fortune tellers, strength-testing machines, and all

the gay and noisy paraphernalia of the itinerant Carnival.

There were crowds of people thronging the fairgrounds.

‘Hurry, hurry!’ Lulu shouted to Peter, scampering along and

looking back over her shoulder at him every so often. ‘Isn’t this

luck? I’ve never been to anything like this. I’ll bet there are all

sorts of good things to eat inside. Here we are. You lead the way

just in case anything should go wrong, and I’ll follow you . . .’

Peter had been to a small fun fair once when he had been by

the seashore on holiday, but he had certainly never been to one

by himself, that is, without somebody holding him by the hand

and telling him where to go and where not to go, and of course

never had he been anywhere in the company of a creature so

beautiful, charming, and wholly captivating as Lulu.

They went by a man who specialized in selling big inflated

balloons attached to a stick coloured red, yellow, blue, and green

for the young folk, and of course Lulu had to reach up and bat

one with her paw, and since she had neglected, or even out of

pure mischief refrained from pulling in her needle-sharp claws,

the balloon, a large crimson one, went off with an appalling ex-

plosion, knocking Lulu head over heels and frightening her so

that when she got to her feet she tried to go in three directions at

once, with the result that she went nowhere at all, but remained

practically in one spot, causing Peter to shout with laughter. But

the man who was selling the balloons did not think it was at all

amusing to have a sixpenny one ruined and dangling a limp bit

of torn rubber on the end of a stick, and he snatched it up and

would have beaten Lulu with it except at just that moment she

found her feet and went darting away like an arrow out of a bow

with Peter after her, still laughing. When he caught up with her

. finally, however, she was furious at him, not only for laughing

at her, but also for breaking the balloon which she accused him

of having done just to frighten her, and which of course was

quite untrue.

But so under her spell was Peter that he did not even mind

that, though when he had been a boy, nothing had made him

quite so miserable or unhappy as to be unjustly accused. Instead,

he apologized to her just as though he had done it, and to make

up for it offered to take her where they might get some ice cream.

Lulu, who never seemed to be able to stay in any mood very

long, at once stopped being angry and even rubbed up against

Peter twice, most lovingly, and said: ‘Ice cream! Oh, ice cream!

I just LOVE ice cream. If you can get me some ice cream I’ll

never forget you as long as I live,’ and then she added quickly:

‘You know, we have ice cream every day at our house, every

single day and twice on Sunday. That’s because my people are

so rich. Shares, you know. Or did I tell you?’

Peter did not quite believe this, else why would she be so very

eager to have some, but he was not able to find fault with any-

thing that Lulu chose to do or say, and besides, he did think he

knew where to get it. His sharp eyes, now trained never to miss

an opportunity for a snack or a full meal, had noticed that right

in the vicinity of where they had stopped was an ice-cream

booth served by a girl in a white apron, with bright yellow hair

the colour of straw, jaws that never stood still, and eyes that also

moved constantly roving over the crowd. The jaw movement no

doubt was due to the use of American chewing gum, but since

her eyes were constantly wandering over the crowd looking for

a personable young man she did not quite pay attention to what

she was doing, with the result that every time she served up a

gobbet of ice cream, which she got out of a cylinder-shaped tin

with a metal scoop and flopped it on to the wafer cornet before

handing it to a customer in exchange for threepence, large drib-

bets of it would fall to the floor behind the counter at her feet. It

was on these drippings that Peter intended to concentrate.

The problem was how to get behind the counter without being

noticed, but that was not too difficult when it developed that it

was only oilcloth around the bottom of the booth, and not

fastened too securely at that. In a moment he had showed Lulu

where to nip under, and only after she had achieved it safely

without attracting any attention did he follow her himself.

There was one opening on the other side by the feet of the girl

and this was immediately filled by Lulu whose dark tail stuck

out straight behind her as she squatted there and licked and

lapped and sucked up all the ices that dropped down beside her

like manna from heaven. While Peter waited patiently for his

turn, she had some chocolate and vanilla and some cherry flav-

our, then a bit of pineapple and strawberry, followed by orange,

pistache, coffee, and lemon, as well as raspberry, peach, and

blackberry. This took quite a long time, as sometimes there

would be a considerable wait between customers and nothing

would come down. But it was steady feasting at that, and from

where he sat and waited, Peter was sure that he could actually

see Lulu’s sides distending.

Had Peter thought of Jennie at that moment, which he did

not, he might have wondered that Lulu had not offered to make

a little room for him so that he too could enjoy the delights his

wits had provided. But the sad truth was that not once since he

had first laid eyes on Lulu had Jennie crossed Peter’s mind. He

was completely bedazzled by the gay, fascinating, and irrespon-

sible little Siamese.

Not only did Lulu fail to offer to share, but when her sides

were really so ballooned out that Peter was beginning to be

afraid that she might burst, she emitted a resounding burp, fol-

lowed by a deep sigh, and turning away from the hole said to

Peter: ‘Oh! I simply couldn’t lap another tongueful, That was

delish. Where do we go now? I think I’d like to see the animals

if it was quite safe. Come on. You lead the way. You’re so clever.’

Peter would have loved to have had some ice cream, and, as

it happened, a big, thick, gooey gob of chocolate dropped into

the opening at that moment, but Lulu had already turned and  ,

ducked out of the booth by the opening through which they had  

come and Peter perforce had to let the treat go and follow her,

for he could not bear to let her out of his sight. ,

Opposite was a large tent with some glaring posters outside `

depicting in four colours the wild denizens of the African jungle, ’

and they had no difficulty whatsoever slipping under the sides of  

the tent.  ~

Within, it was not quite as exciting as outside, for the adver-

tised denizens of the jungle proved to be but three in number.  

The show consisted of three cages built into wagons, containing

one thin and shabby-looking lion who looked in need of re-  

upholstering, a mangy hyena, who smelled bad, and a small "

Capuchin monkey with a sad face and unhappy eyes who hung

by his tail from a bar, .  

However, there was nothing anaemic about the roar the lion

let out when he saw Lulu and Peter, and he paced up and down

his cage, pushing his shoulder against the bars and rubbing his

already worn pelt to further tatters.

Trembling with fear, Lulu crowded as close as she could to

Peter and said, ‘Oh! Isn’t it wonderful to be so frightened? ;

Don’t you love it? I could just stay here the rest of my life and

tremble. Isn’t it thrilling?  

But soon she said: ‘I’m afraid; I want to sleep against you.’

T They went round behind the lion’s cage and, obediently, Peter,

lay down beside her. She immediately whipped around, curled j

against him, put both paws in his face and went to sleep. Peter ii

held himself statue—still, for he did not want to disturb her, but

the paws were tickling him and one of them was interfering with

his breathing and so at last he shifted ever so slightly which ‘

brought an immediate and raucous protest from Lulu.

‘No, no, No! ’ she cried, her blues eyes coming wide awake at

once and glaring at Peter reproachfully. ‘I LIKE sleeping with

my paws in your face. It’s so much softer. Do hold st:ill.’ This

time she managed to put them in his ears, but he dared not

move, and eventually the long, exciting day through which he  

had been took its toll and he fell asleep too, but not very soundly.

The following morning, awakened by the roaring of the lion

who was shouting for his breakfast in exceeding bad temper,

Peter saw that not only was Lulu sitting up, not at all fright-

ened, but she was yawning so that he could see right to the back

of her pink throat.

‘Aren’t you frightened any longer?’ he asked her.

‘What, of that poor old thing in a cage?’ Lulu replied. "That

was yesterday, and yesterday is never the same as today. Don’t

you think tomorrow is really the best of all? Today I’m not

frightened of the lion any longer, I don’t want any more ice

cream, and I’m tired of the fun fair. Let's go somewhere else.

You know about everything. You lead the way.’

But as he started to crawl out from beneath the tent, she went

by him with a whisk, a roll, and a flash, and was ten yards ahead

of him and waiting by the time he had got free of the canvas.

‘Goodness,’ she said, ‘I’ve been waiting for hours. I thought

you were never coming. Do you hate rain ?’

There was some logic in her last remark, for now that he was

outside the tent, Peter found that it was a grey, unpleasant day

with a fine, early-morning drizzle coming down from the sky.

He replied, ‘Yes, indeed I do. I don’t like it at all. My fur gets

all wet and cakey, and then it gets dirty and — ’

‘Pity,’ Lulu interrupted. ‘I LOVE the rain. All cats hate water

but me-us, I mean. I once dived right off a punt into the

Thames at Henley. It was Regatta Day and everybody ap-

plauded. Rain makes my eyes bluer. Come on, let’s take a nice

long walk in it.’

They left the fun fair and the Heath and promenaded steadily

north through Highgate to Queen’s Wood Priory Road. Here

the drizzle changed to a downpour, but Lulu, who ordinarily

proceeded only by leaps and frisks, now seemed to enjoy walk-

ing at a sedate stroll while blinking her eyes up into the down-

pour so that, as she apparently believed, they would get bluer.

Peter was hideously wet; he had never been quite so thoroughly

rained on before, and yet somehow wandering along beside Lulu

it didn’t seem to matter too much. If it really did make her eyes

bluer, it was quite worth it.

Towards early afternoon the rain stopped, the sun came out

again, and nothing would do for Lulu but they must go on, and

so they wandered across Finsbury Park and east through Clap-

ton to the Leytone Marshes, where they played for a while in the

vicinity of the waterworks before they struck north again as far

as Epping Forest which they reached by nightfall and where

they found an astonishing amount of trees and foliage consider-

ing that they were yet within the limits of London.

Peter was beginning to be tired and quite hungry, for some-

how it always worked out that there was somewhere they had

to go or something immediate they had to do just as he was

about to catch a bite or a snooze for himself, but Lulu was too

excited and enthralled at being in the woods and country, and

fairly begged him to join her in the excitement.

For the stars had come out overhead and the moon was now

nearly full, and so bright that one could hardly bear to look it in

the face.

The moonlight, of course, had a most marvelous effect on

Lulu. She leaped; she danced; she shouted; she turned somer-

saults and ran up one side of a UGC and down the other without

ever stopping, her cream body flashing in the silver light. And

whatever she did, Peter had to come and do it too, and they

chased in and out the trees and shrubs until Peter thought he

would drop, at which point Lulu cried —

‘Now! We’re going to run right up a moonbeam. I’m the only

one who knows how to do it. Follow me! ’ t

Of course she didn’t, but the way she gathered and hurled

herself moonwards, her little feet working furiously in the air,

it seemed to Peter as though she actually were, and he wore him-

self breathless and ragged trying to follow and imitate her. Fin-

ally she seemed to exhaust herself for a moment and lay panting

at the foot of a great beech, but only for a moment, for when

Peter threw himself on the turf beside her, ready to drop off to

sleep, she said: ‘Moonlight makes me so sentimental. Would

you like me to sing you a Siamese song?’ And without waiting

for him to answer, she sang in her odd, cracked little voice:

‘Eeny-meeny-miney-MO

I-Iokey-Pokey Bangkok Joe ! ’

She repeated it several times, but her voice was growing sleepy.

Finally she said: ‘There! Tomorrow I’ll teach it to you. Now

ifs bedtime. Watch over me, Peter. Strange places make me

nervous at night. Somebody ought to keep an eye out while

we’re sleeping. You do it.’ She lay over on her side and soon the

regular movement of her flanks showed that she was off. Peter

gazed down at her and thought he had never seen anyone sleep

so gracefully, and the position of trust she had endowed him

with as her guardian thrilled him to the core. Let anything come

out of the forest, no matter what, a lion, a tiger, or even an ele-

phant, and he would protect her—that is, provided he could

manage to keep awake.

Fortunately there were only a few hours left of the luminous

night, and shortly after the moon dipped beneath the trees, the

sun once more mounted the sky, and Lulu awoke. She stretched,

blinked, and gave one of her paws a nip as Peter watched her en-

chanting movements. And then with a swift stirring, as though

she had suddenly remembered something, she sat bolt upright

and stared at Peter in the strangest imaginable way, almost as

though she had never seen him before in her life. She even got

up and walked over to him and peered at him. Then she shook

herself once and asked in a kind of dazed and faraway

voice: ‘Where on earth are we? Where have you brought me

to? What has happened to me?’ And although she actually did

not pass her paw across her brow, the expression on her face was

exactly as though she had.

Peter, taken aback by this strange behaviour of his erstwhile

gay and carefree companion, said: ‘I’m not certain, but I think

we’re in Epping Forest . . .’

Lulu gave a little shriek and sprang away from him as though

he were contaminated. ‘Gracious! I remember nothing. I must

have been drugged. What day is this, and since when?’

Peter counted. It had been Tuesday, he remembered, when

they had gone away together. ‘Thursday or Friday, I think. I’m

not sure.’

Lulu gave a loud cry — ‘Thursday or FRIDAY! Oh, what have

you done? My poor people. I must get back at once. The poor,

poor dears; how very upset they will be. I mean more to them

than anything. They will be worried ill, you wretch . . .’

‘But . .. but . . .’ stammered Peter, commencing now to be

completely bewildered, ‘you told me yourself that you wanted

them to worry, that that was half the fun, and that- ’

‘Oh!’ Lulu said in a shocked voice. ‘How can you be so hor-

rid and so wicked? Luring me away from home with soft words

and promises, plying me with ice cream to stupefy me and then

trying to shift the blame on to me; having all the fun and then

making ME responsible. I don’t think I ever want to see or speak

to you again. I’m going home at once. The mercy is they’ll be so

glad to see me they won’t scold me at all perhaps when I come

back. By now they’ll surely think I’m dead, And I might be for

all of you.’

Peter was stunned by the attack and even more so by the sud-

den fear of losing Lulu.

‘Lulu!’ he pleaded, ‘don’t go back. Stay with me-for ever.

I’ll get you ice cream every day, and mice, and wash you as often

as you like, only don’t leave me . . .’

‘Oh!’ said Lulu again, and once more, ‘OHHHHHH!’ and

now her voice was really shocked as well as angry. ‘How dare

you? How do you imagine such a thing? Don’t you know that

I’m a princess? Stay with you indeed! What I ought to do is

hand you over to the nearest policeman. I shan’t do it, because I

am too good—hearted, Everybody says I have the disposition of a

saint. But don’t you dare to presume upon it. I am going home .

at once now, and don’t wish to be followed. Good—bye.’

And with that she turned and went scampering off through

the trees in swift, galloping leaps, leaving Peter sitting there, too

dazed and stricken to speak, move, or even call after her. But

after she had gone about twenty yards she paused suddenly and

looked around, and called back: ‘It was fun, though, wasn’t it?’

Then she turned once more and ran and ran as fast as she could,

her tail streaming out behind her, and in a few moments she was

quite out of sight.

And that was the last time that Peter ever laid eyes on her.

CHAPTER TWENTY-FOUR

The Informers

Yes, when Lulu’s dark tail vanished around a clump of shrub-

bery, that was the last of her, and when Peter, hurt and bewil-

dered no less by the sudden desertion of his new-found friend

and comrade as by the accusations she had made against him,

trotted to the edge of the park where the monotonous line of

two-family houses, as alike as two peas in a pod, began once

more, and looked down the street, there was no sign of her. She

had not reconsidered She had not waited for him. She had

not changed her mind. She had gone home without him.

And quite naturally now that he was alone for the first time

and the peculiar spell of Lulu over him was broken, or at least

loosened somewhat, since even though she was no longer there,

the echoes of her presence, the faintly crossed blue eyes glowing

out of the dark, velvety mask, the compact, tight little cream

body with the dark feet and tail and ears, and above all the

hoarse, haunting, challenging voice, were all about him, Peter

thought about jennie Baldrin, and once he did think about her

and remembered how he had left her without a word as to where

he had gone or when he would be back, it had to be admitted

that his conscience was very bad indeed.

He thought of her waking up in the hostel and not seeing him

at her side and then going out to look for him and not finding

him, and no one about to tell her where he had gone or give her

a message from him. Then she would look for him all over in

the square and about the neighbourhood, and when she failed to

locate him and he had not come back at night, or the next night,

either, goodness knows what she might think. She might believe

that he had gone off so that she could go back to Buff; or even

worse, she might fear or suspect that he, Peter, for whom she

had just made the supreme sacrifice of leaving the family she

loved so much for his sake, had the very next morning run off

with someone else.

Of course, Peter told himself, actually this was not so, and he

heard himself making a speech to her when he should return to

the hostel and find her waiting for him, in which he explained

everything to her exactly how it had happened so that she would

not misunderstand, and in which he began with: ‘You see, I

thought it would be nice if when you woke up I had a fresh

mouse for you and so I went outside to have a look around and

see where I might find one. Well, there she was, just the other

side of the door, this extraordinary, beautiful, gay, mad person.

Really, Jennie, I had never encountered anyone like her before

and she lured me away by coaxing me to dance with her and we

went to a fun fair together and slept in the animal tent, and after

that we stayed in a stable and . . .’ But Peter never got much be-

yond that because it had a kind of a hollow ring, and worse, it

sounded perfectly absurd, not to mention cruel and fickle on his

part, and he could not imagine himself really saying anything

like that to Jennie for all the world. Well, then, what would he

say?

And the more he thought about it, the less certain and happy

he became about the whole business, because it wasn’t as though

he had just stayed away for a few hours, or a day at the most,

but three days. And the really dreadful thing was that just before

Lulu had deserted him he had begged her not to return home to

her people, but to go off with him on a kind of perpetual outing

and holiday—camping trip. Of course Jennie need not know

about that, but the fact remained that he knew it, whatever hap-

pened, and at the moment he felt that it was not a very nioe

thing to know.

For a while he succumbed to the temptation of thinking up a

story to tell Jennie that would cover his heartless desertion of

her, something dramatic, possibly with catnappers, two spivs

with checkered caps and neckerchiefs who had scooped him up

from the square with a net iust as he had been about to pounce

on a fine medium—sized mouse which he intended to bring to

her, and who had then whisked him off in a high-powered car.

There would then be a good deal more about a mysterious

house with drawn blinds in Soho, a silent, evil-looking China-

man with a long knife who was his jailer, and the masked leader

of the gang with the villainous leer and the scar on his face who

had bargained with the dealer in illicit furs, a fat, greasy·looking

fellow with a bulbous nose and bloated face. With the odds at

more than twenty to one against him, he, Peter, had finally man-

aged to elude his captors and fight his way out of the dungeon

and escape from the house to return to her at last.

But he knew that he could not do that, either. First of all, he

was quite well aware that it would not be possible for him to lie

to jennie even if he really wished to do so, which, deep down, he

did not. And, secondly, the story was not a very good one.

And the conclusion to which he finally came was that there

was only one thing to do and that was to go back to Cavendish

Square—though goodness knows actually where he was now

and how long it would take him to find his way, and once he

had got there to march into the hostel, confront Jennie, and

make a clean breast of the whole business and ask her to forgive

him.

He found he felt a little better immediately he had come to

this decision, and not pausing even to make his toilet or forage

for something to eat, he set off at a swift trot, alternating with

darts and rushes, in the direction his instinct told him was south

by south-west and Cavendish Square. But he had not realized

actually how far it was possible to come in three days, even stop-

ping off as often as he and Lulu had, and it was close to night-

fall before, tired, hungry, and footsore, the tender pads on his

feet worn almost to bleeding from pounding along the hard

stone pavement, Peter arrived at last at his destination. Entering

the square from the north, along Harley Street, he turned at once

to the hostel at Number 38 and, squeezing in through the nar-

row opening, found himself once more inside, his heart beating

in his throat and a very uncomfortable feeling in his middle.

What he discovered inside did not tend to make him feel

much more comfortable. It was the hostel all right; he had made

no mistake in the address, and besides, there was but one bombed

house in the row, and yet it was not the same at all. It looked as

it had before in the twilight with the shadows falling over the

walls and cornices and overgrown bits of rubble and ruin, but it

felt quite different.

And then Peter saw why. The inhabitants seemed all to have

changed. The lemon-yellow Hector was no longer there, nor was

Mickey Riley. He failed to see Ebony, or G. Pounce Andrews, or

little grey Limpy, Tiggo, or Smiley. There seemed to be as many

cats in and about the place, and some of them even resembled his

old friends, but when he saw them closer he noted differences in

colour and marking, shape, and size, but above all in their be-

haviour towards him. He was a stranger. They did not know

him. There had been apparently a turn—over in the population of

the hostel.

With a sinking heart Peter went back to the snug little den

that he and Jennie had occupied the night of their arrival. There

was someone in it, but the eyes that glared out at him from

under the shelter of the cornice were not the soft, liquid, melting

ones of jennie, but nrvo cold, arnber—coloured, hostile orbs, and

he was greeted as he approached with a low growl and the old,

well remembered cry - ‘ ’Ware! You’re trespassingf

The hostel was free ground and open to all, but Peter was not

in a mood to argue the point with the new occupier, a big,

hard—faced, cherry-coloured tom with dirty white saddle mark-

ings and battle scars.

‘Excuse me,’ Peter said, ‘l didn’t mean to. I was looking for a

friend. We were here together - I mean we had that place three

days ago, and — ’

‘Well, you haven’t now,’ the cherry—coloured cat said unpleas-

antly. ‘I was assigned to this by old Black himself. If you want

to make something of it, go and see him . . .’

‘Yes,’ said Peter, ‘I know. But I was really only looking for

my friend. Do you happen by any chance to know where she

is? Her name is jennie Baldrin.’

‘Never heard of her,’ the cherry-coloured cat said curtly. ‘But

then l’ve only been here since yesterday. There was no one here

by that name when I came.

· Peter felt himself growing sicker and sicker, and the empty,

scared feeling about his heart grew greater all the time. Picking

his way carefully through the hostel, upstairs as well as down, he

searched it thoroughly from top to bottom. But there was no

Jennie Baldrin, nor anyone who remembered her or had seen

her. One brindle tabby did recall somebody mentioning Jennie’s

name, and that was all. This seemed to have happened two days

ago. Peter had the horrid feeling that somehow he had been be-

witched, that not three days but three years or perhaps even

three centuries had passed, that in some manner he had left the

planet to wander elsewhere and now that he had returned every-

thing had changed and, most terrible of all changes, Jennie Bal-

drin was no longer there. She had vanished and no one knew

where she had gone or what had become of her.

just at that moment his ears were caught by the faint scrap-

ing sound as two cats made their way into the hostel from out-

side, two twin tabbies with identical markings and expressions,

except that one was slightly thinner in the face than the other.

Dark as it was growing, with a great leap of his heart Peter rec-

ognized them, and with a glad shout ran over to them calling —

‘Putzi! l\»lutzi! Oh, how glad I am to see you both. It’s me,

Peter. You remember me, don’t you?’

The pair stopped at his approach and stared first at him and

then they exchanged a look between themselves. They did not

seem at all to share his enthusiasm at seeing them, or to return

it. For a moment it appeared even that they were going to turn

away without speaking to him, but then Putzi eyed him coldly

and said: ‘Oh ho! So you have come back, have you?’

But Peter was too elated to have found someone who knew

him and who would be able to tell him where Jennie had gone,

to notioe anything, and said:

‘Yes. And I’m looking for Jennie Baldrin, but I can’t find her

anywhere. Can you tell me where she is?’

Putzi and Mutzi exchanged another look, and now it was

Mutzi who replied in a voice that was filled with primness and

distaste. ‘No, we can not. And even if we knew, we would not

tell you, so there.’

The little pang of fear and discomfort was returning to Peter

now, and besides, he was feeling quite bewildered. ‘But why?’

he asked. ‘I don’t understand. Where did she go? And why

wouldn’t you tell me?’

‘Because,’ replied both Putzi and Mutzi together now in

chorus, ‘We saw you’

All the worst possibilities now crowded to Peter’s mind, but

he managed to stammer - ‘You saw me what . . .?’

‘You and that foreigner from Siam Putzi replied, lifting her

nose high in the air, in which scornful motion she was joined by

Mutzi — which was a little strange seeing that they too were both

foreigners. ‘Your dancing with her and carrying on right in the

middle of the street, and staring like wass coming right out from

your head your eyes. Oh yess. We saw you.’

‘And putting your nose right up to hers and listening to the

silly poetry. We heard you too,’ Mutzi chimed in.

‘Und then so to running off with her,’ Putzi continued. ‘WE

went at once and told Jennie.

‘Oh!’ said Peter, feeling now quite sick and sad in his heart.

‘What did she say?’

The sisters smiled prim little satisfied smiles. Putzi an-

nounced: ‘She said she didn’t believe us, and that it iss some

kind of a mistake.’

Mutzi added: ‘We advised her to go right away because you

were not good enough for her. In spite of everything we tell her

she says she will stay and wait because she knows you will come

back soon.’

‘But WE knew you wouldn’t,’ Putzi said triumphantly. ‘We

told her so. That Foreigner! Everybody in this neighbourhood

knows her. Ach! Only a man could be so stupid. So now you

have it. In the night she realize how we are right, because in the

morning she iss gone. We have not seen her since, und we think

it serves you right.’

Mutzi added acidlyz ‘I suppose now you want her back.’

'Oh yes,’ said Peter, not even caring that this self-righteous,

gossipy pair should see his pain and his misery — ‘Yes, I do want

her back. Most awfully.’

‘Well,’ said both in chorus again, ‘you won’t get her. She’s

gone away for good.’ And then turned away with their tails high

in the air and twitching slightly with their indignation as they

picked their way over the rubble and through the weeds to the

rear of the hostel, leaving Peter alone.

Never had he felt so badly, not even when he had been turned

into a cat and Nanny had pitched him out into the Mews. For

that had been before he had met Jennie Baldrin. He knew now

how much lonelier and unhappy one can feel after one has lost

someone who has grown dear, than ever could have been possible

before. And he knew, of course, that he deserved it.

But the real ache in his heart was for Jennie, who had thought

only of him even to the point of leaving home and loved ones

with whom she had just reunited, for his sake. For Peter had DOI

been deceived by the casual manner in which she had dismissed

her gesture. He knew that Jennie had made a decision that had

cost her much, but she had been able to do it because she loved

him. And this was how she had been repaid.

Peter went out from the hostel hardly realizing what he was

doing, or seeing where he was going, for he was quite blinded by

tears of remorse for his thoughtlessness and irresponsible be-

haviour, and as the lamps came alight in Cavendish Square he

walked slowly along making a vow that somewhere, somehow, he

would find her if he had to search for her the rest of his life, just ~

so that with his last breath he could tell her that he had meant

nothing by what he had done and that he cared for her and for

her only.

Surely some place he would hnd her again, but his spirits sank

when he thought of the magnitude of the city of London with

its teeming millions of people and houses, and all the places

where a small tabby cat with a white throat and mask, and

gentle, loving eyes could crawl away to hide a broken heart.

Still, there must be a beginning made. And perhaps, oh per—

haps, she had gone back to Buff around the corner in the Mews.

Why had he not thought of that before? Surely, surely, deserted

by him, that is what jennie would have done.

Hope lifted him again, and with a little run and a skip he

went dashing across the Mews, to see.

CHAPTER TWENTY-FIVE 

The Search

PETER sat on the pavement and watched outside Buff’s house  if

in the Mews, all through the long night with a heavy heart, for

while it did not seem as though Jennie were there, he could not 7

really be sure until the next day.

Lights were on in the house, first on the lower floors, then Q

later spreading to the upstairs parts, and once he saw Buffs ¥

brown head framed by the window and against the yellow lamp-  

light, but there seemed to be no Jennie draped about her shoulders.  

Then one by one the windows went dark, not only in Penny’s “

house, but all over the Mews, until soon the only illumination  

came from the street lamp at the corner and the moon overhead.  z~

Peter began calling to Iennie, softly at first, then louder and with  fi

all the misery and mournfulness that was in his heart, but there

was no reply from her and not even the faintest hint of her pre-  

sence coming in over the sensitive receiving—set of his whiskers

and vibrissae. The only result of his wailing was that a window

on the Mews was opened and someone cried-‘Oh hush up,  ~

kitty. Be quiet! Go away?  

Thereafter he dared not call any longer, for he remembered  `

the strictures placed by Mr Black on their welcome in the neigh-  

bourhood depending upon their remaining quiet and not dis—  it

turbing the residents. But remain there he must, just in case gi

Jennie had not replied because she was angry with him and thus  

there might still be hope of seeing or learning something about ~

her on the morrow. .

It was a long and lonely vigil out there on the pavement, but i

it passed at last with the coming of the milkman, and the dark— L

ness lifted from the east and turned first to grey, then to pearly _j

pink, and thereafter shortly the sun arrived and brought with it _`

the daylight. j `

There were yet many weary hours to wait until the Mews ‘

woke up, prior to beginning the new day.

At last the door to Number 2 opened and a gentleman wear-

ing an important-looking homburg hat and carrying a black

leather dispatch case emerged and hurried off in the direction of

the Square. Peter judged that this was probably Buff’s father on

the way to his business. Anyway, there was not much to be

learned from him, but a short time later the door opened again

and this time it was Bud who came out, accompanied by her

mother. She was carrying her school bag, books, and lunch.

So excited and eager did Peter become at the sight of her that

he quite forgot himself and ran across the street to them crying —

‘Buff ! Buff, please. Have you seen jennie? Do you know where

she is? I’ve been horrid to her and I must find her and tell her

I’m sorry.

But of course Buff could not understand a word he was say-

ing. All she saw was a large and somewhat soiled—lool<ing white

cat running across the street to them mewing piteously. For a

moment there seemed to be something familiar about him as

though she had seen him somewhere before, and she gave Peter

a long and fixed look as she passed by as though she was trying

to remember something. ·

But Peter heard her say to her mother, ‘Mummy, why do you

suppose that Jennie went away again after coming to find me?

And do you think she will ever come back again? It’s been days

now . . .?’

He heard her mother reply: ‘Buff, are you sure it really was

Jennie? After? all those years .... It may have been only another

cat that was like Jennie.’

‘Oh, Mummy, now . . . There was only one cat in the whole

world like Jennie — ’ And here her voice trailed off as she and her

mother walked out of earshot and turned the corner into the

Square, leaving Peter’s heart as cold and weighted as the cobble-

stone on which he crouched, and in his ears the echo of Buff’s

last remark; ‘. . . there was only one cat in the whole world like

Jennie. How well he knew this to be true now that he had lost

her, perhaps for ever.

There was no use waiting or looking any longer in the Mews.

And besides, deep down, Peter had always known that even if

Jennie had been angry at him she would have answered his call

had she been there.

But where to search next? In a panic lest she might have re-

turned to the hostel in the meantime, he went charging around

the corner and in through the broken board, almost tearing an

ear in his haste, but of course she was not there. He would even

have been glad to have been abused by the two sisters once more

just because they had last had contact with Jennie, but they had /

gone out and there were only a few strangers in the hostel, most

of the residents having gone about the business of the day.

It was then the conviction came over him that he must look

elsewhere, and probably far from there, that she must have left

the neighbourhood which had brought her unhappiness.

He thought now that he would go back and look around their

old haunts on the docks as the most likely place where Jennie

might go. He moved both by day and by night, and because his

mind was so occupied by his quest, Peter was not even aware

what an experienced and practiced London cat he had become

thanks to Jennie’s teaching and training. Sights and sounds and

sudden noises no longer frightened him; he seemed to know how

to avoid trouble automatically; he could melt away and hide at _

a moment’s notice, instinctively, no matter where he was he

always picked out and marked a place of safety to which to go

in case of sudden danger, something to get under, or on top. But ,

of course he was doing these things without realizing it at all.

For right then he was going through that awful stage of seeing

Jennie in every tabby cat curled up in a shop doorway, or wash-

ing in a window, or gliding across the top of a fence or hoarding. V

Because the yearning for her was ever in his mind, it seemed v_

to him that each time he turned a corner his heart leaped

high with hope that he might come upon Jennie, and if there

was a cat there at all tiger striped, no matter what her size,

shape, or colour, he suffered first from the hope—born illusion

that it was Jennie and then from the oft-repeated disappoint- ’

ment when it was not.

And from this he passed to the stage where he had the strong-

est feeling that surely now he must and would find her just

around the next corner, and so he would dash at full speed to get

there and look. There would be nobody there, only some child-

ren playing in the gutter, or women queuing up at the fish store

or the local sweet shop, or perhaps only a dog scavenging in the

streets. Then the conviction would seize hold of Peter that he

had just managed to miss her, that she had been there but prob-

ably had just nipped around the next corner, and that if he ran

as fast as he could he might be in time to catch her there.

This sort of thing of course soon led to a state approaching

exhaustion, particularly since he was not stopping to eat or

drink, except as he came upon a pool of dirty water still remain—

ing from the last rain in some depression of the street, and what-

ever scraps of anything edible happened to come his way during

his pell-mell, headlong, conscience-driven search. He had let

himself go physically and personally as well, not stopping to

wash or clean up, and soon his white fur lost its gloss and be-

came matted and dirty, his pink skin began to collect grime and

itch him, and it was not long before he was the counterpart of

the scrawniest, mangiest stray that ever slunk along the back-

waters of London Town and the river reaches. V

And still he kept on, with night merging into day and day

into night again. He slept when he could not go on any longer

out of sheer weariness, and wherever he happened to be, and

always when he had had a little rest there was the memory of

the sweet and unforgettable face of Jennie with its white throat

and soft pink-lined muzzle, and the glowing, liquid, tender eyes,

as well as all her individual mannerisms; her smile, the quick

way she would look over at him to make sure that everything

was well with him, her dear motions when she washed herself,

her gay carriage. And there were her little weaknesses such as

her family and ancestry and her desire to show off and look well

before Peter’s eyes, and at the same time all her strength, her

lithe sureness, muscular paws, and quiet, efficient action when

it came to the hunt, or any kind of emergency. And it drove him

on and on and on, ever searching.

When he reached the dock section once more he found that he

remembered his way about somewhat better, and he went to the

shack where Mr Grims had lived on the chance that Jennie

might possibly have returned there to mourn for her friend, or

drawn by her memories of the old man.

It was a grey, cold day, and raining again, when Peter went

slinking along beneath the cover of the lined—up goods wagons in

the late afternoon as he had that day so long ago with Jennie and

thus came at last to the shack with the tin roof and the crooked- —

pipe chimney sticking out of it.

But, alas, what a difference. Gone were the red—blooming ger-

aniums from either side of the door and from the windows. It I

looked dirty, dismal, and more tumbledown than ever, and when  

Peter crept near and looked inside through the half-opened door X

he could see a mean»eyed, sniveling—looking little fellow wearing  

a dirty neck cloth, sitting on the cot with an upraised gin bottle ;

held to his mouth, and the whole place smelled of gin and sweat  

and dirt. And of course there was no sign of Jennie. ’  

The man removed the bottle from his lips, and since he had  

drained it empty, he sent it flying through the door where it  

crashed into a thousand pieces almost where Peter was sitting. i

Had it been another inch or two to the left, it would have hit  

him. Peter wished it had. He dragged himself away from  

there ....  

As a kind of last hope, he found his steps turning towards the  

basin,east of the London docks, where the Countess of Greenock  

had been berthed. Surely, oh surely that was where Jennie must i

have gone. And the terrible part of his punishment was that each Q

time he had such a thought about where she might be, it be-  

came at once the place where she must be and then he became

all of a fever to get there, and as he went his mind would delude  

him with the picture of exactly where he would find Jennie, and

how she would look, and what he would say to her, and what ,3%

she would reply. And soon he would convince himself that it was  

all true and that he had only to hasten his steps to reach the

Countess to find all as it was before — Mr Strachan slashing at  

his dummy with his sword, Mr Carluke cocking his fingers and

firing off imaginary pistols at imaginary bad men and Indians,  

the crash of smashing crockery emanating from Captain Sour-  

lies’s cabin, and Jennie perched up on her favourite place - the  

flag locker on the after—deck.  

The Countess was indeed in port, warped to her dock in the ;

usual slovenly manner, but outside of the mournful strains of

singing coming from amidships, there were no signs of life

aboard her, the entire crew and officers having apparently gone

ashore leaving no kind of watch whatsoever and no one aboard

except Mealie, the cook.

He was sitting on a stool on deck at the head of the gangway,

shining black and round-eyed, chanting a doleful blues, but his

sharp and rolling eyes missed nothing, and when Peter poked his

head around the corner of the gangplank and looked up, he

ceased singing at once and shouted down — ‘Hollo, you Whitey!

Hollo you. I know you. I know you. I never forget NO one.

Where you been, hey? Where you gorl friend? You looking for

you gorl friend, hey? She ain’ been aroun’ here .... Why you

both no come back? We got plandy mouse and rot on board

again.

Peter was so stunned by the news that Jennie was not there,

that for the moment there was nothing he could do but stand,

almost frozen by despair. He had been so certain that Jennie

would be at the ship, that this was truly the last place where she

could be, and he could only look up at Mealie in silent misery.

It was astonishing how the big negro seemed to understand

him. He arose from his stool, shaking his head and saying:

‘Don’t you look at me thot way, big Whitey. I tol’ you I ain’ seen

your gorl friend. Where you leave her, hey? Maybe she come

along later . . .’ Now he made clucking noises and advanced half-

way down the gangplank and called: ‘You Whitey! You come

bock and work, hey? I pay you good wages for cotching rot and

mouse. Roas’ lamb on Sunday and watchu like .... Plandy milk

too. What you say, Whitey? You look like you plandy hongry

inside . . .’

Now Peter became afraid that Mealie might pick him up,

take him back aboard the Cowziess, and lock him up in the gal-

ley, and so before the cook could come any nearer he turned

away and ran and ran, his eyes again scalded by tears of misery

and disappointment. He ran as fast and as far as he could, but it

was no great distance, for it had been so long since he had

eaten anything that he was quite weak and even felt that he was

perhaps going a trifle light in the head since he now began to

take to imagining things.

This took strange forms, such as finding himself at places with

the feeling that he had been there before, and of course in the

company of Jennie. Under the spell of this imagining, Peter

would even turn to speak to Jennie, only to find that she was not

there and the street a strange one in the wilderness of London.

He was staggering late one night, still looking, hunting, and  

searching in the grim neighborhood of the great warehouses  

and storage yards and buildings near the basins and the river by t'

Wapping, when again he was impressed with the sense of famili-

arity as he passed a large hoarding advertising Bovril, not far

from a pillar box. Surely he had been here before, but in his

exhausted condition he could not remember when.

He felt ill and weak, and was sure that another imagining was

upon him. But he gave himself up to it because of the strong  

feeling that Jennie was somewhere nearby and the comfort it  

brought him for the moment. g

He had had so many bad dreams and horrid nightmares dur-

ing the endless days and nights of looking for Jennie, that he

welcomed this good one that seemed to have been granted him

for the moment, and this was that the drab, grimy, blackened

brick wall of the warehouse along which he was dragging himself ‘

at the moment would soon contain an aperture or hole, about the

size of a dinner plate, a foot or two above the pavement, and

that the grating which belonged over it would have rusted at the  

catches and fallen away so that if one wanted one could get out

of the hole — or into it...

Yes, it was a good dream that had come over him, for sure  

enough, there was the so-familiar hole, metal lined, and on either

side the small indentations to show where once the grating had  

fitted over it.  

Such a dream, Peter felt sure, was meant to be followed, and

with an effort he leaped upward and into the entrance. Oh yes,  

indeed, no more than three feet along inside the iron pipe and la

there was the rusted-out spot, a smaller hole leading off into the

dark tunnel at the left, just as he had known it would be.  

It was so good, and so comforting, not to feel quite so lost and  

aimless any mote, to seem to be knowing where he was, or at  

least which way to go at the behest of this kindly, benevolent  

fantasy, left—now right and then left again, and if the dream S

was truly his friend and comforter, surely there would be the bin

with a little light filtering into it from a grimy window near the  

top that had one pane out of it, and it would be filled with red l

and gilt furniture, covered with dust sheets piled right to the  

ceiling. In the centre would be an enormous bed with a red silk

cover on it and a high canopy at one end with folds of yellow

silk coming down from a kind of large oval medallion with the

single letter ‘N’ over it in script, with a crown above ....

Sweet and dear dream, thought Peter, for there indeed was the

room, exactly as it had been before. And would the dream hold

now, would it grant him the final grace by letting him imagine

that he had but to leap up on to the red silk cover to find Jennie

waiting there for him, or would he waken or return to his senses

to find himself cold, hungry, miserable, wet, and shivering in

some wretched alley in the slums, alone and no nearer to Jennie

than he had been at the beginning of his search?

For a moment almost he dared not move lest it fade, and then

came the queerest feeling that he was no longer dreaming, but

that maybe . . . maybe . . .

The next instant he made one leap up on to the bed, and

found himself face to face with Jennie And it was no dream.

No, not even an imagining. It was true. He had found her at

last.

‘Jennie! Jennie!’ Peter cried—‘Oh, Jennie, I’ve looked and

looked for you. Jennie, have I really found you?’

Jennie said: ‘Hello, Peter. I’m glad to see you. I’ve been wait-

ing such a long time. I knew you’d come here in the end to find

me.’ And then she went over to him and touched noses and

kissed his eyes, But the next moment she said: ‘Peter .... How

thin you’ve grown. And your coat! Oh, my Peter, what has been

happening to you? You haven’t been eating. You’re starved,

Peter, you must let me give you some mouse at once. I’ve a

lovely one I caught earlier in the day . . .’ She leaped down to

where she had cached the prize and returned to the bed with it

and laid it in front of Peter. ‘See, he’s just the right size, and

nice and fat too. But don’t eat too fast, Peter, if you haven’t had

anything for a long time.’

There was a quiet pride in her eyes when Peter carefully took

it down on to the floor to eat, and even more when after he had _

finished half he withdrew and offered her the rest. ‘No, my dear,’

she said, ‘you finish it. You need it more. I’ve had plenty . . .’

Peter felt strengthened at once. He was so wildly happy at

having found Jennie, at seeing her once more, or he would have

been had he not felt so ashamed, and worried about how he

would explain to Jennie, and what he should say and how to

begin.

But somehow the final miracle happened too, for it just never

came to that at all. Because when he started to wash after his

meal, partly from realizing what a mess he was again and how -

he must look to Jennie, and partly because of his embarrassment,

Jennie came over to him and said: ‘Peter, you’re so tired. Let, ‘

me do it for you. Just lie down and close your eyes . . .’ Q

It was plain to Peter now that she had forgiven him, and all »

the shame and misery and conscience feeling that was in him Y

seemed to be swept away by a great Hood of loving her that ;

seemed to pour through him and dispel all the darkness, un-  

happiness, and sorrow that had been his share for so long.  

He lay on his side and, closing his eyes as she had bade him,  

gave himself up to the delicious medicine and balm of her rough, Q

busy little tongue, soothing, massaging, healing his worn, tired, g

aching limbs as she washed him thoroughly and lovingly from  

head to tail~tip just as though nothing at all had happened.  

CHAPTER TWENTY-SIX

Jennie, Come Out

AND just — well, almost — as though nothing had happened,

Peter and Jennie resumed life among the Napoleon furniture in

the storage bin.

Without mentioning why she had left the hostel on Cavendish

Square by herself, Jennie merely recounted that she had made

her way back to the warehouse almost directly, and to her sur-

prise when she arrived there had found _all the furniture back

again and the bin exactly as it was before. It seemed probable

that it had been removed originally to be presented at some ex-

hibition or other and had been returned when the exhibition

closed.

She did not tell Peter the reason why she had come there,

namely because this was where they had first met, as it were, and

where they had been so happy together in the early days of their

friendship when Peter was learning how to be a cat. But there

was no need to do so, for Peter quite well understood, and he

was ashamed that he had not thought of the same thing, and had

not come back to their first home immediately to see if she were

there instead of running almost blindly and unreasoningly about

London, searching for her everywhere she was not. He was of

course too young to understand that there was an essential dif-

ference in the way that she thought about things as compared to

the way that he did and that could not be accounted for. Never-

theless he was instinctively wise enough to permit her to labour

under the little white deception that having exhausted all the

other familiar and remembered places where she might have

been, he had come to their own home on purpose, instead

of staggering upon it almost by accident in a kind of dream—

delirium induced by not having enough to eat.

Important was that they were together again and that Jennie

seemed to bear him no grudge of any kind. She listened with

great interest to the tales he had to tell her of what he had over-

heard Buff say to her mother, of the melancholy change that had

come over the shack of their departed friend, Mr Grims, and the

new and unpleasant occupant thereof, and about the Countess of

Greenock and Mealie, and she laughed when he told her of

Mealie’s complaint that there were again plenty of mice and rats

aboard and that they were wanted back on the job.

No, the diderence, and Peter was quite well aware that there

was a difference, lay not in Jennie’s comportment and demean-

our towards him, but in a certain preoccupation, an occasional

absent-mindedness and staring off into the distance with a wor-

ried expression on her countenance, certain unexplained ab-

sences from their home by herself from which she returned even

more disturbed and filled with an underlying sadness.

If anything, she was even kinder and more loving towards

Peter than she had been before, more generous, thoughtful, and

solicitous about his welfare and health (which now that he was

eating regularly again, bloomed up quite rapidly), quick to smile

upon him or try to anticipate anything he might wish to do.

Sometimes, he noticed, that for what appeared to be no particu-

lar reason, Iennie might suddenly get up and come over to him

and give him two or three little licks over his eyes or the sides of .

his cheeks, or between the ears. Then she would look down upon

him with the tenderest and most loving expression imaginable,

but also with a great sadness that seemed to lie behind her lus- i

trous liquid eyes. It was clear that Jennie again had something

preying on her mind, something secret that was troubling her -

. deeply and Peter could not fathom what.

And it was also true that since the episode of his adventure

with Lulu a certain shyness and reserve had come between them x

in that they did not care to inquire too closely into one anothefs

thoughts lest they invade some compartment marked ‘Private’,

the opening of which might permit the escape of old and wound- ·

ing memories. And for this reason Peter felt in a way shut off

from coming right out and asking her what was the matter and

whether there was not something he might do to help. For as the

time went by she seemed to be growing more and more unhappy,

And then one day, after Jennie had been away for a particu- _

larly long time, she returned home more than usually troubled.

She greeted him kindly, but almost immediately retired to a cor-

ner of the bed and crouched there, her forefeet tucked under her,

staring straight ahead, the way he knew one did as a cat when

one was miserable or did not feel very well. Only from time to

time would she tum her head slightly to look at him, and then

Peter noticed that her eyes were swimming with tcats and that

she was looking utterly despairing.

Thereupon, he could stand it no longer. He went over to her

and washed her face tenderly, tasting the salt of her tears on his

tongue, and said to her: ‘Jennie, dear. What is the matter? You

are so unhappy. Won’t you tell me? Perhaps there is something

I could do to help you. There is nothing I would not try to do

to make you happy again . . .’

But jennie only cried the harder and crawled nearer to him

and gave herself up to his ministrations for a little until he had

soothed her. She seemed then to recover somewhat and also to

come to a decision, for she arose, shook herself, and made a few

tongue strokes down her back as though to win herself a few

moreymoments of respite to reflect over what she was going to

say. Then at last she turned to Peter, her face grave and filled

with concern, but now backed with what seemed to be a deci·

sion that could be no longer postponed, and she said:

‘Peter .... Listen to me and do not be hurt. Something has

happened .... The time has come when I must leave you . . .’

Peter felt a pang at his heart as though a knife had been in-

serted in it at these words.

‘Leave me, jennie? But why? How can you? I don’t under-

stand. Where would you go? Why can’t I come with you?

Wherever you go, that’s where I want to be . . .’

Jennie hesitated before replying as though she were searching

within herself if there were yet not some way of escape, or even

some manner of telling it that might hurt Peter less, or which he

could be made more easily to understand. Then she sighed and

said:

‘Peter, I cannot help it. I must. Dempsey has spoken for me.

I must go away with him.’

For a moment, Peter did not even know of whom or what she

was speaking. And then suddenly he emitted a long, low growl

and his tail began lashing furiously. For now he remembered the

big, cruel yellow cat he had encountered in the grain warehouse

right at the beginning of his strange adventure, the lean, hard

fellow with the scar on his face. He recalled his arrogant, trucu-

lent voice and his brutal attack upon him. He was reliving the

stunning buffets and the terrible charge that had bowled him

over, the sharp teeth that had ripped his ear, and the claws like a

hundred knives tearing at his chest and stomach, and in particu-

lar there came back the mocking, sneering cry of the big tomcat

as Peter had painfully dragged himself away, torn and beaten to

within an inch of his life: ‘. . . and don’t come back. Because

next time you do, I’ll surely kill you . . .’

But mixed in with his anger at the memory of the pain and

humiliation he had suffered was still bewilderment at what .

Jennie was saying, for he did not quite understand. He said:

‘Jennie! Go away with Dempsey? But I don’t understand why.

I don’t want you to leave me . . .’

She replied: ‘It’s our law, Peter. When you are spoken for by

Dempsey or someone like him you must go with him. He refuses

to wait any longer, and so I must.’ ,

‘But, Jennie,’ Peter protested, ‘l will speak for you. I have,

long ago, haven’t I? You belong to me . . .’ _

Strangely, Jennie made no reply to this, but just stared at Peter

miserably. He asked her: ‘Jennie, do you want to go away with i

him?’ and this brought an anguished wail of protest from Jennie. .

‘Peter! How can you ask such a thing? I hate him. I have ‘

begged him to let me go a hundred times, but he will not. He

says his mind is made up and I must come with him, and this is  

the law. Don’t you see, Peter, I can do no other than obey . . .’  

And now for the first time Peter had the odd feeling that there

was something that Jennie was holding back, that she was not :

telling him the whole story, and that in some manner she was  

still protecting him. He knew many of the laws that regulated

the life and living of cats that Jennie had taught him through if

their days together, and all of them seemed right and logical and ~

were easy to understand after you learned the reason why they `

were made, all except this one, and he felt certain that there I

must be something else about it that Jennie had not told him. _

He said, ‘I don’t want you to go. I won’t let you go, Jennie,

, because I love you. What can I do under The Law to make you

stay with me? Jennie, tell me the truth, or I will go to Dempsey

and ask him . . .’

And now jennie saw that Peter had grown and changed. He

loved her very dearly, and because of this she could no longer

conceal the truth from him, much as she would have wished to

do so, and she replied Hnally in a small, frightened voice: ‘If

you really want me, Peter, under The Law, you may iight Demp-

sey, and if you beat him then I need not go with him, but can

come with you wherever you go,’ and with that she began to

cry bitterly again.

Peter, however, said at once: "I`hen I will fight with Demp-

sey, because I want you to stay with me always, jennie. I can

fight, because you taught me how.’

And here, to his surprise, Jennie wept more miserably than

ever until he begged her to stop and tell him why, whereupon

she explained: ‘I’m so frightened, Peter . . . if you fight him. For

this is different from anything else. He has spoken for me, and

you must either kill him or he will kill you. It can end in no

other way. And oh,‘Peter, Dempsey is so big and strong and

terrible, and no one has ever been able to beat him. If he were

to kill you, I should die. And that’s why I think it would be

better if I went away with him. Peter, I couldn’t bear to have

anything happen to you, don’t you see? Let me go . . .’

‘I am strong, too,’ Peter said.

‘Of course you are,’ Jennie said quickly, ‘but oh, my Peter,

you have a secret that only I know, that you are not really a cat,

but a boy,'which, perhaps, I think is why I love you all the

more. Dempsey is all cat and knows every foul trick of fighting

and killing. No, Peter, I won’t let you. You’ll be able to forget

me in a while after I’m gone . . .’

‘No,’ Peter said, ‘I will not let you go. I will fight for you

under The Law, and I will kill Dempsey and then he added, in

spite of himself, ‘or he will kill me .. .’ because the truth was

that he did not feel too coniident that he might win. A certain

understanding had come to him and he knew now that it was

one thing to engage in play fights or even half serious ones in

arguments over priorities or squatters’ rights, or passage through

certain disputed territories, in which the battles were all con-

ducted strictly under the Rules of the Game, and could even be

broken off, and quite another to face Dempsey to decide with

whom Jennie Baldrin was to remain for ever.

Ah yes, this would be quite different. For in this one there A

would be no rules or etiquette whatsoever, no pretending, no  

looking away, no washing when it was needful to call a halt, no  

playful giving of handicaps or advantages to make the sport '

more thrilling and exciting, no generous gestures or chivalrous `

behaviour- just rip and tear with tooth and claw, until one or g

the other was finished for ever — kill or be killed.  

And he understood now, too, everything about Iennie Baldrin’s 4

behaviour, how much she loved him, her terrible dilemma, and _

how she had tried to solve it by giving up everything to shield Q

him. But he knew also that there remained nothing else for him i

to do but fight Dempsey and, for Jennie’s sake as well as his E

own, strive with his utmost to the very last that was in him, to  

conquer.  

And Peter was conscious of yet another emotion. Although he  

was not at all certain that he could triumph over such a seasoned  

and formidable opponent, as he thought back over the hurt,  

humiliation, and indignities that Dempsey had inflicted upon  

him in their first meeting, Peter discovered that whatever the A

outcome might be, destroy or be destroyed, he was not at all  

averse to the encounter and, almost, he looked forward to it. It  

would be something to get a little of his own back from Demp- _l

sey before he perished .... i

‘Don’t worry, Jennie,’ Peter said. ‘You shan’t have to go away  

with Dempsey. I’m not afraid of him?  

And here it was that Jennie turned quite suddenly from pro-  

tectress to the protected, for she stopped crying and came over i

and looked up at Peter with almost a worshipful expression in  

her eyes as she said: ‘Oh, Peter, I know you are Hot. You never  

were afraid of anything, right from the beginning. I am sure  

that is what I first liked about you. Oh, it is so good to have  

someone one can rely on.’  

At her words, something transpired in Peter now, a kind of f

calm acceptance of whatever it was that fate had in store for  

him. For not only was a life lived without Iennie unthinkable  

and certainly not much worth preserving, which he had known  

from the very first and which had been confirmed over and over  

during the long days and nights of his search for her, but there Y

was also the personal matter of the little score he had to settle »

with the big, ugly yellow tom who was a sneak and a bully as

well as a tyrant and despot. For he, Peter Brown, for all of his

white tail, four feet, and furry ears, his cat’s eyes and whiskers

and body, was still inside of it and in his thoughts and ways

very much me human being, a small boy, and the son of a

soldier. His father had taught him never to accept an insult and

to fight for what he thought was right and against any kind of

oppression, no matter what the odds were. Important was that

here was clearly a case where he must fight, and therefore the

consequences became quite secondary.

He explained this to Jennie, or at least tried to as best he

could, and to his surprise, once he had put it that way, she dried

her tears, ceased her objections and self—accusations, and almost

from one minute to the other became an entirely different per-

son. What Peter had won back by the moment and method of

his decision was his old comrade, partner, and standby, the

Jennie he had first met and knew and come to love—loyal,

steady, faithful, coolly intelligent, and as always wise and effici-

ent, and thoroughly capable and self-possessed.

‘Very well, Peter,’ she said in quite a different tone of voice,

for the time for weeping, fretting, and sentimentally lamenting

was over for her now, ‘there is at least one way in which I can

help you. I can show you a few things you won’t lind in the

book, and maybe that Dempsey hasn’t seen either, and prepare

you. You will have to harden yourself, Peter, and forget every-

thing, because I am going to hurt you and you must be prepared

to hurt me, for this is serious. When the time comes, and you

face him, there will be no quarter given or asked. We have a little

less than three days, for that is when Dempsey has said he will

be coming to get me. It isn’t much, but at least we can get in

some training and hard work. Dempsey doesn’t know about you,

so he won’t prepare, though he’s lighting nearly all the time and

is always in condition. Still . . .’

· ‘When and how will it be when he comes?’ Peter asked.

‘At night,’ Jennie replied. ‘At night of the third day. He will

come and call to me at the mouth of the iron pipe from the

street. He will be angry and impatient for me to come. Anything

or anyone who gets in his way at that moment he will try to

kill.’

‘Ah,’ said Peter, ‘I see. You won’t come out, but I will. There’s

room in the street . . .’

‘That will be in Dempsey’s favour,’ Iennie said, ‘he’s the

greatest street—iighter ever seen in this neighbourhood for gen-

erations back. But that can’t be helped. He’s too experienced an

old campaigner to be lured in here. Otherwise you could try to ’

I ambush him in the tunnel and kill him there.’

Peter stared for an instant in astonishment at his friend and

companion, and then said — ‘But that wouldn’t befair. I couldn’t

do that.’

Jennie said: ‘Oh, Peter, in this kind of battle there is no such

thing as fair and unfair. There is only life and death, the van-

quished and the survivor. Rest assured that Dempsey won’t

trouble about being "fair" . . .’

‘Well,’ said Peter, ‘I don’t care about him. I shall.’

jennie emitted a great sigh. There were certain things in Peter,

certain facets of being human that she could never learn to

understand. They just had to be accepted.

‘Very well,’ she said, ‘let’s go into the gymnasium and

begin . . .’

The gymnasium proved to be a large and wholly empty stor-

age bin about five down from where they had their home, and to

which they repaired at once.

‘Now,’ Jennie said, withdrawing a slight distance from him,

‘I’m coming at you. Give a little with the charge, and stop me

with claws out. Hit hard, Peter!’ She Hew at him like a small »

cannonball of furred fury. '

Peter yielded ground as she had directed, but he countered

her attack with no more than a gentle play—pat, a budet only half

delivered with all talons sheathed. He on his part suddenly felt

a sharp stab of pain in his right flank and a stinging in his nose.

He backed away, blinking. His tender nose was scratched, and

when he ttuned his head to look, a small fleck of red was

already showing near his shoulder where Jennie’s claws had

dug.

Jennie was standing a few feet away from him, her eyes nar-

rowed down to slits, her tail hushed and lashing. ‘I warned you ! ’

she said. And then, only for an instant, and the last time, she

softened and the love-sound was in her throat. ‘Oh, my Peter,’

she said, ‘you must .... It’s for YOUR sake . . .’ Then she cried —

‘ ’Ware ! ’ and charged in again.

This time Peter defended himself with tooth and claw.

Then began what was a kind of nightmare to Peter — three days

of grim and bitter lessons in therart of self—preservation and

other—destruction. From the lore of cats from time immemorial

culled from jungle, rocky motmtain caves, and desert, jennie

brought up her memories of every trick of attack and defence,

augmented by her deep knowledge and experience of the seamy

side of London and the hardbitten customers to be encountered

there.

It was not that Peter could not take it, but when he first saw

the telltale Hecks of crimson on Jennie’s white throat and sweet

muzzle and mask, for which he knew he was responsible, he

came close to breaking down and weeping because so deeply and

tenderly did he love her that he could not bear to hurt her.

But she was as hard as steel, and far more tough than he at

that moment, for she knew that her own skin was of no account

at this time and that he needed the training if he was to survive

the battle to come. And she was merciless to him, too: she made

him protect his vital spots, or suffer the consequences. Herself,

her own person, she offered to the augmenting of his skill in

combat almost as a sacrifice to ensure his victory. Since she

could not by their Law enter the fray and battle at his side, she

took her hurts in this manner and cherished them, because each

drop she shed, each nick or bite, cut or scratch she suffered for

him and thus it was no suffering at all,

At night they lay down side by side on the great Napoleon

bed and washed and licked one another’s wounds so that they

would be clean and healed by the next day when the horrid

lessons were resumed, and Peter, learning quickly, now im-

proved by leaps and bounds in speed, deadliness and agility ....

And if he noticed that he was less injured now during the train-

ing affrays, while Jennie’s face and body was a mass of bites,

cuts, scars, and bruises, he said nothing, for she had likewise

managed to instil in him a feeling of the danger and the deadly

earnestness of the light into which he was going. Time was so

short, and it would be for her happiness as well as his that he

would be doing battle.

But the third day there was no training, nor would Jennie let

Peter eat anything, for she knew that one fought best on an

empty stomach. But all day long she made him sleep, curled up

and relaxed on their bed, and when he showed signs of being

fretful or restless as the hour approached she soothed him with

washing and massage until he slept again.

And so the sun girded that part of the hemisphere and the

light faded away from the broken pane of glass in the tiny win-

dow in their bin and Peter slept, calmly and deeply, the sleep

that repairs all ravages to mind and body and brings renewed ·

strength. _

It was shortly before Dempsey came and called that Peter

roused out of the depths of his sleep at once, and awake all over,

alive and clear-headed, and tingling in every nerve and muscle.

It was pitch dark, but the light of a single stat that came in

through the broken pane was enough for his cat-sensitive eyes to

orient themselves. Jennie was nearby. He felt her presence rather

than saw her. He stretched once, and then crouched and listened.

Then he heard it, muffled by its passage through the walls and

windings of the warehouse, via the tunnel and aisles, but un-

mistakably the voice of Dempsey. Peter remembered it now. He

would have known it anywhere. And it was calling to Jennie.

‘Come out . .. Jennie, come aaaaaaout naaaaow! Naaaaaaaow,

Jennie, come aaaaaaout . . .’

A low, deep, nearly inaudible growl formed itself in Peter’s

throat. He flattened himself almost on to his stomach and began

to slink forward. The last thing he heard was J ennie’s deep sigh

from the bed, and he felt rather than heard her wish to him —

‘Good hunting, oh, my Peter . . .’

Then, he was down from the bed, and with the fur from his

belly almost brushing the iloor, every movement controlled so

that he seemed to flow along the ground, he went down the dark

aisle of the warehouse in the direction of the tunnel from whence

came that call that raised every hackle and hair on his body —

‘Jennie, come aaaaaaaaaout naaaaaaow, come aaaaaaout, come

aaaaaaaaaaout ! ’

CHAPTER TWENTY—SEVEN

The Last Fight

‘MY Jennie, come aaaaaaaout! Naaaaaaow naaaaaaow come

aaaaaout ! ’

The low—pitched, insistent cry from the street penetrated the

pitch—black tunnel where Peter was crawling slowly but steadily

towards the exit orifice. And now that the moment was so close

at hand when he must face Dempsey, Peter knew that he was

very lonely and very much afraid. Nevertheless, he kept on.

When he had been together with Jennie, in the safety and

security of their home, he had had the comfort and aid of her

presence to keep him from dwelling too long in his mind or

imagination upon the consequences of the encounter that lay

ahead of him. Also, for the world he would not have let Jennie

see that he perhaps might be worried or apprehensive.

But here in the dark of the tunnel, by himself, with no one to

see him, with none for whom to put up the front of bravery and

careless courage, he could yield to being horribly afraid. He was

frightened of what awaited him on the outside in the street.

Nevertheless, he kept on moving in that direction.

He felt fear of everything that might be about to happen, the

lacerating pains of bite and tear, the dizzying buffets and crush-

ing holds, the indignities of the assaults about to be launched

upon his person as well as his own loss of humanity in that in a

few moments he would be trying his best to destroy the life of a

fellow. He did not realize it at the moment that these were quite

human thoughts, for in spite of his cat body and keen eyes and

ears, sharp claws and teeth, he was still Peter, and it was really

a boy who would some day become a man, and not a cat at all,

who was preparing to go into a fight. But even had he so realized,

it would not have helped him very much, or minimized the

dangers, or the awful figure of Dempsey that loomed up in his

mind.

For there in the darkness, creeping ever nearer to his enemy,

Peter found himself magnifying the powers and proportions of

Dempsey beyond all bounds. In his mind he became as large as

the lion he had seen at the fun fair, with claws of steel, curved

and as long and sharp as surgeons’ knives, and with terrible yel-

low fangs dripping poison. Dempsey’s eyes were larger around

than dinner plates, and devastating lightnings flashed therefrom.

i Nevertheless, without ever for a moment halting, or even con-

templating turning back, Peter continued to move steadily on-

ward in that wonderfully controlled slow-motion approach that

Jennie had taught him when there was something to stalk, and »

always closer to the battleground where the horrible apparition

he was thinking up for himself awaited him. ,

Thus he came from the tunnel behind the baseboard to the `

hole where the intake pipe was rusted through, and thence into

the pipe itself where a few feet ahead he could see the exit into J

the street illuminated by the pale rays from the lamp a little

down the block.

And at this point, quite suddenly he ceased to be afraid, or ,

rather, to be more accurate, he stopped bothering about it, for  

now he had other and more important things on his mind-  

which was to make his exit on to the street and face Dempsey  

without being caught at a disadvantage, He contemplated what  

might happen if Dempsey suddenly took a notion to stick his  

head into the entrance of the pipe to see whether or not Jennie  

was coming, and he had a momentary vision of the entire dia- ii

meter of the pipe iilled with the huge, square, scarred, sneering  

face. But then he remembered Jennie’s assurance that Dempsey  

was too old and experienced a customer to go sticking his head  

into anything he did not know, particularly at night, and besides  

at that moment he heard the old iighter’s cry again-‘Come  

aaaaaaout, Jennie . . .’  

Peter, therefore, as he had been taught to do, settled down  

almost at the mouth of the pipe to sniff things out and receive  

through the ends of his whiskers all the messages of where and  

how things were and what were the conditions on the battle-  

ground-to-be.  

The church-tower clock of St Dunstan’s began to chime and  

Peter counted the strokes almost automatically. ‘Six-seven—eight—  

nine—ten-eleven—twelve.’ Midnight, then. He twitched his sensi—  

tive moustaches and felt the presence of Dempsey, but not in  

the immediate vicinity of the exit from the warehouse. He could

not tell exactly how far, but he felt sure that his enemy was

squatted some little distance away from the aperture, at least a

few yards.

His whiskers told him there was not a human in the street,

and not another animal, dog or cat, or sleeping sparrow.

There was no footfall. No vehicle moved. The sky was over-

cast with the stars and the waning moon hidden, and there was

a hint of rain to come.

‘Come aaaaaaout naaaaaaaaaow, my Jennie, come ~ ’

Peter stepped out into the street and Dempsey’s call was cut

off as though someone had slipped a noose around his throat. He

was sitting several yards from the mouth of the hole leading into

the warehouse. He did not look as big as a lion. He did not look

like anything but what he~was, a strong, compactly—built tomcat

with a broad, Hat head and powerful shoulders. He did not look

any larger or stronger than Peter himself, for in the days of his

vagabondage and travels with Jennie Peter had grown, filled out,

and strengthened. i

There he sat, the street lamp showing up his dirty yellow

colour and the scar that ran across his nose, and the battle—torn

ears, lean and rakish and sinister enough, but at that moment

frozen into immobility by sheer surprise. And for that brief

second Peter had the advantage and should have hurled himself

across the intervening space straight at Dempsey’s throat before

he could recover from his astonishment, or even realize that a

battle was impending. But this Peter could not bring himself to

do. Instead he said — ‘Jennie isn’t coming. But Pm here . . .’

The growl of rage and hatred that came from the throat of

Dempsey as he arose and backed away from the wall sounded

almost infeline in its quivering depth, passion, and intensity.

Then hoarsely he inquired — ‘You! Who are YOU?’

Peter was not at all afraid any more. At the moment Dempsey

was nothing more than a rather ordinary—looking alley cat put

considerably out of countenance. Peter had seen bigger cats on

his travels. He said to him: ‘Look again. You ought to remem-

ber me after doing me the dirty as you did. I’m taking care of

Jennie Baldrin now.

Another terrible growl, more fiend than feline, issued from

Dempsey’s throat, and he spat: ‘Oh . . . YOU! I remember you

now! My warehouse. Trespassing. I warned you then if ever

you crossed my path again I would kill you. I’m going to kill

you now!’ And with that he began to go crooked, bush his tail

and swell up until he really did begin to look enormous, menac-

ing, and twice his size.

But Peter said — ‘Pooh! I know that trick. There isn’t actu-

ally any more of you. It`s nothing but wind, really,’ and he be-

gan to blow and swell up himself until he too was Dempsey’s .

size, and for a few moments they faced one another thus until ‘

Dempsey, looking a little nonplussed at being met at his own

game, deflated, and Peter rather carelessly did the same, but

without paying too much attention to where he was or in what `

position. _

And in this, and also in rather underestimating his foe now

that he saw him face to face and discovered that he was no .

super-cat, Peter made his mistake. He should have remembered

at all times that Dempsey was the veteran and the victor in hun-

dreds of battles, and that not for nothing does one win such a r

reputation as was his in one of the hardest neighbourhoods in all A

the world. I

For quietly and cleverly, without in the least giving himself  

away, the cunning old champion had manoeuvred himself out i

along the pavement close to the gutter and away from the wall,  

putting Peter between him and the sheer, dark sides of the ware- 4

house, cutting off one of the cardinal planes in which Peter  

needed to move. And the next instant, without another sound, ,

threat, warning, or battle cry, Dempsey launched his attack, j

and a few desperate moments later Peter found himself fighting ,

tar his use e 3

Lightning-fast as Dempsey had been, Peter had still antici- ;

pated the rush and accurately gauged its length and power. But,

alas, when he went to give and roll with it to rob it ofits initial

force and sting, preparatory to launching his own counter, he  

found himself blocked by the wall just behind him. The shock of  

the contact with the object he had not realized was there or that i

he was so close to it, further distracted him, and Dempsey was  

in on him with two brutal, sweeping blows and a bite. Because a

the blows rocked Peter’s head from side to side, the bite follow-  

ing too swiftly missed its mark of the throat, but sank deep into

his shoulder.

Peter felt an agonizing pain as the bone snapped, followed by

something, in the circumstances, much worse — a horrible numb-

ness and loss of feeling. His own right paw and shoulder, his

best weapon, was useless.

He was badly hurt and handicapped from the outset, and

Dempsey knew it.

Now the attacks came with a dreadful and horrid insistence:

tooth, nail, and blow, bite, scratch, kick, and buffet that yielded

not a moment of respite. Gone were all of Peter’s carefully laid

and rehearsed plans of combat, of defence and attack, of clever

duelling and manoeuvring. Battered, dizzied, panic close at hand,

Peter could only reply weakly with a kind of despairing, scramb-

ling, futile blows with his good paw that had no power behind

them, weak evasions and ever more desperate twists and lurches,

as pinned against the wall by the vicious and never-ending surge

of Dempsey’s attack he could feel his strength ebbing from him

and knew that in a short time he must be done for.

There was blood in Peter’s eyes now, blinding him, his Hesh

had been ripped in a dozen places, there was an injury to one of

his hind legs as well, he could hardly breathe so raw. and burn-

ing was the sensation in his chest; in less than a minute he had

been all but destroyed, and still the relentless attacks continued

without let—up.

And this then was to be the finish of the proud undertaking to

protect and defend Jennie Baldrin from the tyrannical brute

who had claimed her for his own. The end would be soon for

him, he knew, but at least one could struggle and fight to the

finish, And he was still fighting, he realized, not too effectively,

and taking ten times more injury and punishment than he could

mete out, and yet, even in his desperation, he had apparently

accomplished something — for Dempsey also was now no longer

whole or free from wounds. An eye was damaged, an ear fur-

ther torn, one paw bitten through and bleeding heavily. These

things Peter noted almost like flashes in a dream, the awful

nightmare of what was happening to him. But they did serve to

give him courage and he even then was able to win a moment’ s

respite when, squirming and slipping down along the wall

against which he was pinned, he managed to get on to his back,

» and when Dempsey hurled himself upon him, Peter raked him

fore and.aft with his one good hind leg and ripped at his head

with his left paw, until at last it was so that Dempsey had

enough of that and broke off the combat long enough to tear

himself away from Petefs painful embrace.

But now it was the presence of that same wall that suddenly

served to embarrass and distract Dempsey, and before the big

tom could quite recover himself to launch the final attack which

would surely have spelled the end for his opponent, Peter man-

aged to pull himself around and on to his feet, away from that

deadly contact, and with his bared white teeth showing in an

angry and menacing snarl, and left paw upraised, at least he

stopped Dempsey for the moment and caused him to pause and

study his adversary for his weakest points before again advanc-

ing to the kill. V

No more pitiful figure could be imagined than Peter, slashed

from head to foot, his fur stained and matted, back on his

haunches, shaking and trembling, one paw out of commission

but the other still upraised to do battle. And it was to make an

end of him that Dempsey now advanced for the last time.

His brain clearing for a moment, Peter saw him coming, his

narrow, slanted eyes slitted with hatred, his moustache pushed

forward, and for an instant he was struck by the strange resem-

blance that Dempsey looked not at all like a cat but like a rat.

And he thought of the rat that he, Peter, had fought so well and

successfully deep down in the bowels of the Countess of Green-

ock, and what he had done, and with his last remaining strength,

as Dempsey charged him, he leaped into the air, twisted his body

around and came down squarely on Dempsey’s back.

And as he did so, he buried his teeth deep into the back of

Dempsey’s neck, and with all his might and main strove to reach

the same vital spot in the spine that had spelled the finish for the

rat.

Dempsey gave a shattering cry of anguish and fright, for in all

his hundreds of battles he had never once been attacked in this

fashion before. Then he began to struggle madly to dislodge

Peter. Right and left he leaped, up and down. He rolled over. He

‘ smashed himself up against the wall. He stood clawing and

screaming on his hind legs. And always deeper and deeper Peter

pressed his jaws, searching, probing, clinging with might and

main, dizzied and sickened by the battering he was receiving,

for Dempsey was many times stronger than the rat had been and

there were times when he felt he must be flung off, and that he

had not one ounce of strength left to hang on. And just at those

times he became stubborn, and where his strength lacked, his

courage and spirit did not. ,

And quite suddenly, and even unexpectedly, he found bone

and nerve and gave a crunch, and Dempsey without another

struggle fell over on his side, limp. His legs and tail twitched

once, and after that he never moved again.

Peter had won. But at what a cost. For, stretched out now

across Dempsey’s still and rigid body, bleeding. from a hundred

wounds, Peter knew that his own course had but a short time to

run. He had triumphed and saved Jennie, but his own end was

only a matter of minutes. He had been too badly bitten and

mauled to survive. Wherever it was that his enemy had preceded

him, he, Peter, would not be long in following. Victor and van-

quished would soon be lying side by side upon the same dust

heap. -

Nor did Peter find that he minded particularly. He was so V

tired and hurt in so many places. When death came there would

surely be rest and an end to pain. But before it happened he

wanted to see Jennie Baldrin just once more to say good-

bye.

With a supreme effort, he lifted himself up from his still and

fallen foe, and for the last time looked down upon one who had

named himself his enemy and had dealt with him so harshly. He

was filled with the pity that the soldier who has triumphed in

battle feels for his vanquished enemy who has fought valiantly

and to the death, a pity which to Peter’s surprise was almost

akin to love. The poor, still form that had been so handsomely

alive with shining eyes and vibrant muscles rippling beneath the

tawny pelt was now a grotesque sack of skin and bones, and

Peter, looking at his work, felt the strong wish for an instant

that somehow he might undo it and bring him back to life again.

Then he remembered that he too must die because of this quar-

rel, and so with what little remained of his ebbing strength he

commenced the long, tortuous crawl in through the pipe and

along the dark tunnel to their home.

Because his right shoulder was broken and his left hind leg

injured, Peter could no longer stand, but had painfully to drag

himself inch by inch through the dirt and dust and cobwebs

across the floor of the tunnel until he came to the hole in the

baseboard. He wondered why Jennie did not come to help him,

until he remembered that under The Law of Fair Combat she

must not, but was constrained to remain where she was until one

or the other of them came to fetch her.

Besides, he knew he was too weak even to cry out to her. He

inched forward down the dark and gloomy aisles until finally

after what seemed like many hours he came to the bin that had

been their home, and with the goal in sight he now summoned

his last reserve of strength, and squeezing through the slats he

pulled himself up on to the bed and collapsed over on to his

side to the edge as Jennie rushed to him crying — ‘Peter! Peter!

Oh my poor, poor Peter! What has been done to you?’

Then she was washing and licking his wounds, ministering,

gentling, and crying over him.

Peter raised his head and gasped, ‘I’ve killed Dempsey. But I

think he has killed me too. Good—bye, Jennie.’

And then a little later he said, ‘Jennie   Jennie . . . where

are you? I can’t see you . . .’

For the bed, the room, the piled—up furniture, the canopy,

everything began to turn and spin about him and lose clarity.

He seemed to go shuddering off into a kind of groaning dark-

ness from which he tried to fight his way back just once more to

see the love and tenderness glowing in Jennie’s tear—filled eyes.

Then the darkness wholly engulfed him, but even though he

could no longer see her, he heard her anguished, frightened,

pleading voice reaching through the heavy, swimming murk,

calling him back to her, begging him not to go away . . .

~ ‘Peter, my Peter, don’t leave me! Don’t leave me now,

Peter . . .’

But if it was so and he was back with them again, how were

they able to recognize him when he was not Peter at all, but a

cat? It was certain that he had not changed, because now that he

was looking about and had somewhat accustomed himself to the

light he could see his white forelegs and paws on the counter-

pane. It was all so very confusing.

He was still a cat, then, but somehow they seemed to have

found him and brought him to wherever he was and put him to

bed, and his mother knew him again and was crying over him.

Sudden panic gripped him. Where was Jennie Baldrin? Why

had they not brought her too? Or was this vision of his mother’s

face gazing down at him only a part of another dream from’

which he would awake to find Jennie once more at his side? If

this was a fantasy, it was a most vivid one, for Peter felt two of

the tears falling from her eyes strike gently on his cheek. He shut

his eyes quickly again to give the dream a chance to change and

bring his Jennie back to him.

This time the mists were only grey and luminous, and no-

where could he find Jennie. But then a curious thing happened

to him. He. was unable to see through the pale void in which

momentarily he seemed to be suspended, nor was it penetrated

by any sound. And yet all of it and him as well appeared sud-

denly to be permeated with Jennie Baldrin. He could not find

her face or form, or any longer hear her voice, and yet, unseen,

unheard, she was so strongly felt that it was almost as though

the greyness enveloping him was Jennie, or she a part of it, that

he, was somehow inside of her and then again it would appear

to him that Jennie was all locked away within himself. For a

moment he gave himself up to the enthralling sweetness of the

emotion. Jennie . . . Jennie ....

But the other dream would persist, and when he returned to it

again by opening his eyes once more he saw that strangers were

bending over him, a woman in starchy white with a white cap

on her head and a man in a linen coat. Why, it must be a doctor

and a nurse. This seemed qui·te clear. He had been injured in his

fight with Dempsey, and of course they were attending him. He

remembered now. He could not move his left hind leg, or front

right paw, because Dempsey had bitten them throughand bro-

ken them.

The nurse leaned to him. She was wearing a shiny breastpin

with a smooth, flat surface, and with a shock Peter saw himself

in it. For he was not a cat any longer. HE was HIMSELF

AGAIN! _

Or at least he was half himself, for in the tiny mirror he had

seen his face, and it was the face of,Peter the boy. How frighten-

ing and confusing it all was, because while the features were as

he used to be, he seemed to be still partly white cat about the

head. And what was the meaning of the white paws on the

counterpane?

The doctor bent closer and looked into his eyes in a kindly

and searching fashion. Then he said: ‘He has passed it. He has

come back. He is going to be all right now.’ Peter heard his

mother, who was standing just behind him, crying softly, thank-

ing God and calling him darling over and over again.

All that part of it was true, then. His father was there too. He

was wearing his uniform and looking very grim and pale. He

came over to the bed now and said to Peter: ‘I’m proud of you.

You made a good fight, old man . . .’

Peter wondered how his father knew about his battle with

Dempsey and how when beaten and nearly dead he, Peter, had

rallied and turned the tables on his terrible opponent. Surely his

father had not been there. How was one to know or understand

anything?

Peter raised one of his paws, his left one, and saw to his in-

tense surprise that there were not sharp, curved claws at the

end of it, but instead, five pink fingers. In amazement he moved

them and then touched the fur of his injured right limb. But it

was not fur at all he was feeling. It was rather something stiff

and harsh, the texture of which he remembered —or would re-

member in a moment ....

And then it came to him. It was tightly wrapped bandage.

Now he knew for certain. He was cat no longer, anywhere. He

was all boy. And then, rushing, tumbling, cascading like water

when the sluicegates are opened, everything seemed to come

flooding back to him: Scotch Nanny, the morning in the

Square, the striped tabby kitten sunning itself by the park, his

running across the street and Nanny’s shriek; then the grinding

bump and thud of the accident. And thereupon Peter burst into

tears and cried and cried most bitterly, as though his heart

would break.

He wept for many reasons, none of which he wholly under-

stood: for his parting from Jennie Baldrin and the world in

which she lived, the sense of loss of a beloved companion, fright

due to what had happened, his present plight of finding himself

in cast and bandages, but mostly, perhaps, his tears were shed

because it was his first encounterwith that depth of human sad-

ness that comes with waking from a dream of aching and throat-

catching beauty to find it already fading and the clear partner

thereof lost beyond recall. For this it seemed to him, now that

he returned once and for all, had been the true substance of

Jennie, and the long figment through which they had adven-

tured together so gallantly and tenderly was done, and he was

never to see her again.

There was a kind of commotion, and through his tears Peter

saw that Scotch Nanny had come into the hospital room and

now approached his bedside holding something in her arms,

something that moved and struggled there. It was a black-and-

white cat, a young one, barely out of the kitten stage, with lean,

stringy flanks, three white feet and one black, and a queer black

smudge just above the muzzle of its black-and—white face as

. though it had just dipped its nose in the inkpot.

Nanny was bending over him and trying to put it beside him,

saying: ‘There, ma puir, bonny jo. Dinna ye greet so. Look ye,

this wee poussie baudron’s for ye tac keep for your ain.’

But Peter only turned his head and cried- ‘Take it away! I

don’t want it. I want Jennie Baldrin. Jennie, Jennie! Jennie!’

and he would not leave off crying.

His mother knelt by his bedside, took him to her breast, and

laid her cheek to his and held him there in her arms gently and

lovingly while she whispered:

‘There, there, my darling. Don’t cry so, my dearest. Who was

it you wanted? Was there someone? Tell your mother. You are

safe here, my Peter. Oh, so safe. There is nothing I will not try

to do to make you happy if you will just get strong and well

once more. There now, my darling, see — nothing hurts any

more . . .’ and she kissed his tearstained eyes.

And for Peter, for an instant, it seemed as though Jennie had

returned and had kissed him over the eyes as she used to do, and

again he was filled with an overpowering sense of her presence,

somewhere, everywhere, the dear, tender, loving spirit, the es-

sence of her that remained to fill the awful gap of his loss of her

and for which he had wept so bitterly. Yes, now he was certain.

Jennie was gone, the sweet companion of his adventures. Her

physical presence, the soft, gentle, yet wiry little furred body,

the white feet with their telltale black underpads confirming her

superior ancestry, the lightning speed and graceful carriage, the

small aristocratic head, her luminous eyes and the peculiarly en-

dearing expression of her face, these things he saw and remem-

bered for the last time before they faded away and vanished, and

in their stead left something that was neither memory nor dream

nor fantasy but only a wonderfully soothing sense of homecom-

ing, well—being, and happiness.

It was true that nothing hurt any more, nothing at all, any-

where, not even the loss of jennie Baldrin, for it seemed as

though he had found her once and for all and would never again

be wholly without her, now that she was all about   in the

gentle, loving pressure of his mother’s arms cradling him to her,

the velvet of her fragrant cheek against his, the expression of her

face and the soft touch of her lips to hi_s eyelids.

And then a most strange thing happened, though perhaps not

so strange at all when one considers. The black-and-white kitten

in Nanny’s arms, and which he had rejected, gave a little cry,

and Peter heard her and understood.

He understood, and he knew — oh, not what she was actually

saying, for with his return to being a boy all knowledge of the

language of cats had been wiped from his memory as though it

had never existed. But he recognized the wistful melody of the

plaintive little mew, the cry of the waif, the stray, the unloved,

and the homeless that he had come to know so well. It was the

forlorn and lonely heart begging to be taken to his own, there to

be warmed and cherished.

In it, he felt, was contained all of the misery, hurt, and long-

ing he seemed to have known for so long, and, for a moment,

harsh, vivid memories of things that had happened to him and

places where he had been during his illness came back for the

last time.

It was as though it was crying to him to be saved from those  

very terrors he had left behind him, the appalling fear engen··  

dered by finding oneself one small, helpless object loosed in a  

gigantic and overpowering world, the desperate hunger and `

thirst that surpassed any other, the yearning, and the need to be-

long, to be loved, to be surpassingly important to someone. Hers

was the call of the loneliness of the rejected, the outcast of the

granite heart of the unheeding city.

For that instant, all the sights and sounds and smells were

there again, the filthy cobbled street, the rtmning gutters, the ,

terrifying shouts and cries and street noises, the crash and clatter

of things being hurled at one, and the dreadful blind panic of

endlessly fleeing. It was as though the cry of the waif had made

it possible just once more for him to peer through the closing

. door into that other world he had left for ever, to see the

shadowy four—footed figures slipping soundlessly from cover to

cover in the streets of the hard city, standing on hind legs

outlined against the faint silver cylinder of some dustbin to

scavenge for a meal, or licking their wounds and sores in the A

shelter of a deserted ruin. And then it was gone. The door shut

and he could see no more.

Again Peter heard the plaintive note of the black-and-white

kitten, but now it no longer evoked the dark phantasms. It

only went directly to his core. Why, why had he ever rejected

hw the Hrst time? I-Ie could not seem even to remember that

now as he focused his attention on the forlorn little animal.

He felt only that he must have her now, that he loved her

already.

‘Oh, Nanny, give her to me, please. I want her , . .’

. Nanny came back and placed the cat on his bed. She crawled

at once on to Peter’s chest, placed her head beneath his chin, as

so many cats were to do all though Peter’s later life, as though

they knew and understood him at once as one of their own. And

there it cuddled and started so loud and contented a purr that it

seemed to shake the whole bed. _

Peter lifted the good arm that he could still use and with the

fingers that emerged from the ends of the bandage he gently

stroked the kitten’s head, rubbed the side of her cheek and

scratched her under the chin, as though seemingly by instinct he

knew all the things to do and places to touch to make a cat the

most pleased and comforted.

The nondescript black—and—white purred louder and longer

and more ecstatically, and moved her little body even closer and

more lovingly to his neck and face in complete and worshipful

surrender.

Peter" s mother said: ‘Why, she’s a darling. What will you call

her?’

Peter thought for a moment, searching his mind for what to

call her. Surely there was something he had once heard or

thought of should he ever have a cat, a name with which he had

been so familiar and had known almost as well as his own.

He looked at his mother and then at the little stray again,

and nothing, not so much as a faint echo, came welling up out

of the past to aid him. Now he was not even sure that he ever

had known a name. .

But with the closing of the door had come a wonderful sense

of peace and security. Behind it were locked all the dark terrors

conjured up by his fantasies and his fears. He was afraid of

nothing any longer, not the strange hospital room in which he

found himself, or the dull ache of his injuries, or loneliness, or

anything. It was as though during the long hours that he had

been asleep and dreamed the dream that he could no longer re-

member, they had taken fear away from him and he could never

, again experience it in the same form as before. He felt that never

in his life had he been quite so happy,

At last he said, speaking from the innocence and comfort that

filled him now, ‘Oh, Mummy! Isn’t she sweet! Look how she

loves me. I shall call her Smudgie because of the black spot on

her nose. And please, may she sleep with me?’

And he smiled up at all the people crowded around his bed.



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